Following yesterdays blog post and ice cold shower which was [dare I say] worse than a Jordanian shower, I had some what of a sleep-deprivation induced conniption which included a new apartment search, chatting with the parents about how to prevent flea bites [because we concluded they are, in fact, flea bites...shout out to Godzilla], and me researching where to buy cat poisoning in Israel. Just kidding about that last one, but I think its a much more discreet attempt at cat murder than the previous option of throwing Godzilla out of the window. Once I finally defeated jet lag and fell asleep, I awoke to a beautiful 2 pm "morning" in Jaffa, and all my previous worries from the night before vanished. I started off exploring my neighborhood, which turns out to be in an incredible location, half a block away from the famous Jaffa flea market, with tons of cute cafes and restaurants. I sat outside in the sunny 75 degree weather, people watching, drinking coffee and eating rugelach. From there I walked down to the beach path which was a lot closer than I expected, about a 2 minute walk through the flea market. Walking through Jaffa was great, being a mixed city there are Israeli Jews wearing nothing except a bathing suit and coverup, to Israeli Arabs, wearing a hijab and conservatively dressed. I walked along the beach path which is about a 2.8 km walk into the heart of Tel Aviv. Stopping in my favorite Israeli cafe, Aroma, I bought a salad and coffee [round 2] and decided to man up and practice my hebrew, which involved me saying "shalom" instead of "hello", and than shortly after, "ani lo medabarat evret"[I don't speak hebrew], following her Hebrew response. It's the thought that counts, right. I ran some errands in Tel Aviv, and visited a couple of familiar places, including the hostel which I love and have stayed at in the past. Yes, I was that desperate person who sat in the kitchen conversing with hostel-stayers attempting to make friends. However, it was fairly successful except that the people I ended up meeting were leaving tonight. Regardless I used their internet and shiroteem [bathroom, hey, there's another Hebrew word I know], and then headed back to Jaffa. As soon as I started hearing Arabic again I felt comfortable, like I could actually communicate with people if I needed to. Funny, being Jewish I never thought I'd be more comfortable speaking Arabic in Israel than I do Hebrew. I walked back through the Jaffa market and decided pick up some stuff for the apartment which my room was lacking. I'm not sure if I was more excited because I made friends with the Arab store worker, or because he gave me 20 shekels off, and my total ended up being the equivalent of $13 for about $40 worth of stuff in the states. I went to a small market across from my apartment to get the necessities [coffee and cereal] until I can make it to a bigger market tomorrow. As I was writing this, Ofir called me in to say he made me a burrito [I thought I was dreaming those words], which ended up being one of the best non-Californian burritos i've had. My burrito high was killed when I came back in my room to find damn Godzilla curled in a ball inside my suitcase. Buying cat poisoning tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I tried to think of a witty, metaphorical way to open this blog post, but it failed so now i'm just going to tell you it's my first night in my perfectly-located yet comfortably shitty apartment in Jaffa, Israel. I'm really liking the shitty apartment thus far; My room is breezy and opens up to an outside patio which looks out at a cute Jaffian [that's now a word] street with most of the neighbors being young Israelis, Arabs, students, and foreigners. I have two roommates, Ofir and his psychotic cat. Not much to note about Ofir yet, he's a polite pot-head who works at an NGO part time and as a bartender the rest of the time. But his cat on the other hand, is fucking insane. I'm not a cat person, however usually they have redeeming qualities such as cuteness, or fluffiness, which distracts you from their pointless being on the planet earth. This cat has neither of those redeeming qualities, and instead enjoys pouncing on to your head, clawing your hair whenever it pleases. Ofir described it as, "he likes new haircuts". I've thought about throwing the cat out of the window multiple times, but I feel like it might start Ofir and I's relationship off on a shitty note. After I locked Godzilla out [from here on out we will be referring to the cat by his new name], I decided to take a nap considering I slept two hours on the flight due being used as a personal pillow and/or purse holder for the woman next to me. When I awoke I found my right hand completely swollen, unable to move two fingers. For time being i'm going to tell myself it was a giant ass Israeli mosquito who treated himself to a 5-star American meal, instead of a tick from Godzilla, because I may actually "accidentally" drop off Godzilla at the Jordanian border, or better yet Syrian border, if that was the case. Now i'm laying in a bed of Godzillas' lovely white hair he left behind as i'm pecking at the keyboard with my left hand, holding a donut with my 3 functioning fingers in the other. Godzilla aside, Jaffa is great so far and i'm beyond happy to be back in Israel. There's something about this place that always feels like home.
Posted by Taylor at 12:03 PM
Friday, March 29, 2013
When life gives you 15 pounds of lamb, stuff into a car and have a barbecue in the middle of a Wadi? It actually started out in two cars, headed to a valley filled with fifty Jordanians laying on blankets, while their children waddled around [note the intentional removal of the verb, “swam”...I’ve never actually seen a Jordanian swim] in the “river” [which looks more like the shit-colored-lagoon next to my house in San Diego than a swimmable body of water]. Zaid, my host mom, and Ghada were in the first car while Emad (another host brother), Abdullah (Syrian cousin), Sarah (host sister) and I followed them in the second car, with agraad (the Arabic word for random, only half-useful things I usually like to refer to as crap) piled from our laps up to the ceiling of the car. We began our descent down to the “river,” and by descent I mean half-driving, half-skidding down an eighty degree angle dirt road. I started wondering how the hell we were going to make it back up the thing, but figured worst case scenario, i’d get a great picture of 10 Arab guys pushing a shiny, new red Honda up a dirt road. Apparently that thought didn’t cross their minds. We decided to change locations, going back up the nearly vertical dirt road, resulting in the car stalling [is that the correct car-term?], us sliding down backwards about five feet yelling a mix of English/Arabic cuss words, screams, and some “ALLLAH”s , before Emad remembered there was a thing called an emergency brake. When I looked out the window there were my 10 Arab guys, unfortunately I didn’t get the picture I was hoping for. They opened the doors yelling at us to get out while they each explained [more like yelled over one another] their theory for how Emad should get the car up the hill. Try #2...and #3 were an Epic fail, until Zaid took over and made it up. We continued on our journey, Zaid and Emad passing each other, yelling Arabic through open window for the two seconds their cars were parallel. Eventually Emad got pissed, and decided he wanted to go back home, resulting in us stuffing into one car for the remainder of the trip. We stopped at a gas station, putting straight up gas into a used empty water bottle, which I was informed was going to be used for our barbecue...I don’t know anything about barbecuing, or gas, but it probably would violate twenty laws in America. We ended up going to Al-Salt, the town where my whole host-families-family [more than 3,000 people] live, and own. We found a remote hill in the shade, I suggested the sun but that was quickly shut down as they reminded me of their desire to become pale [darker skin is seen as lower-class and Egyptian]. I guess I fit in here. My host mom and Ghada prepared over 50 skewers of meat [no, seriously] while Zaid barbecued the veggies and Sarah and I were the unemployed photographers, occasionally getting to turn a skewer or peel a vegetable. The whole cooking process took about two hours, where my job description expanded to include hand-feeding pieces of meat and chips to everyone. On to the important part of this story, the meat was THE BEST meat i’ve ever tasted in my life...and i’ve been to some classy steak houses in my twenty years of life. It was infused with Jordanian seasoning, barbecued perfectly on the outside [mabrook, Zaid] and tender on the inside. There were four different kinds of meat including sheep, chicken, beef, and the fourth remaining unknown, i’ve learned it’s better this way. As we were enjoying the food, my host mom promptly stood up and proclaimed, “la, haram!” Easiest translation: no, were good Muslims! We can’t let the neighbors smell the food and not bring them some! So she proceeded to wrap up kababs in pita and head on in to the house next to us. Zaid used the coals from the barbecue to set up arghella [hookah] and we smoked while drinking orange carrot juice, listening to my host mom explain to me what a pinecone is [she thinks we don’t have them in America], but it was extremely entertaining, and she was enjoying it, so I didn’t stop her. After her usual half-Arabic half-charades explanation, we were all worn out and decided to pack everything up and head back to Amman. The spread out buildings and green valleys of Al-Salt were slowly replaced with tall buildings, dirty streets, and the never ending sound of the horn, Jordanians favorite invention. Can you tell i’m happy to be back in Amman?
Posted by Taylor at 1:03 PM
Monday, March 25, 2013
Ok i’m back. Don’t kill me. I’m aware that its been about 3 months, if not more since I’ve last written, and my last attempt at a blog post [a couple weeks ago, you may or may not have seen it], was a complete and utter disaster which was live for a whole 20 hours before deleting it. It was a rant, to say the least, which I realized could’ve been very easily misinterpreted if you had not read my previous posts. I deleted it after getting a nasty comment [directed towards Muslims] from an random person on Google. The Middle East has enough misconceptions, I didn’t want to contribute to it.
It is impossible to sum up the last 3 months. I left Amman for winter break, traveling to Tel Aviv, Paris, and Istanbul for 3 weeks, remembered what first world countries look like, and returned to Amman with a completely different view, and mindset of the place I had been living in for the past 4 months. Not only did I have to leave the Eiffel Tower and Tel Aviv beaches for shit-hole-Amman [comparatively of course], but all of the things that I had previously embraced as “cultural differences” seemed annoying, and often intolerable. I’m not talking about the small things such as “Arab time” (showing up a half hour-two hours after you say you are going to), or peeing in a whole in the ground. Those things don’t bother me. I’m talking about the sexual harassment and the lack of tolerance for diversity. Upon coming back to Amman, I went through a solid month of cultural depression, is that what you’d call it? I hated Amman. I hated men. I hated the 30 second walk to catch a taxi. I hated the taxi driver, who either asked me to marry him, or assumed I was a Russian prostitute. I hated it all. All I wanted to do was get on a plane going anywhere except Jordan.
I was disappointed in myself because I felt like I had failed. I felt that everyone in the past who had given me the “why the fuck are you going to Jordan” look, and wondered what I saw in the Middle East and in Arabs, won. I was questioning whether I could even live in another Arab country after this, and whether I had made the right decision staying the whole year. I thought that if I had left after the first 4 months, I would still have an optimistic and exciting summary of my time here to give to family and friends upon returning to America.
Now I realize that staying the whole year, as challenging and emotionally difficult as it is most days, is the most valuable thing I could have done for myself. I feel that if I had left with my original impression that everything is great and that the not-so-great things should just be accepted, I would have being doing myself and my education an injustice.
As corny as it sounds, there truly always will be a place in my heart for Jordan. I still have “holy shit i’m in the Middle East” moments, and find myself appreciating where I am and why I’m here. However, with a little over a month left, i’m not gonna lie...I am overjoyed to be headed to Israel. I’m ready for long hot showers, being able to wear shorts when I please, and laying on the beach without being dressed like a nun (although I do appreciate Jordanian clothing in the sense that I haven’t gotten sunburned in 8 months).
Going to go enjoy my hotel room, the first time i’ve been alone since...I don’t even know when. مع سلام
Posted by Taylor at 9:11 AM
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Thought I would share some photos with you from this semester since not all of you follow my Facebook page [www.facebook.com/thataylaa], and my posts are usually rather bland. Enjoy!
Volunteering in Iraq Al-Ameer painting a boys school
Mensaf, the traditional Jordanian dish
Sarah, my host sister
What my host sister and I do at night...
After eating the best Indian food ever at Cashmere
Sweet shop downtown
Ali! Our favorite waiter at a sketchy, all men cafe.
Painting at Iraq Al-Ameer
Playing dress up...Arab style.
Souk in Al-Salt
Fruit stand in Al-Salt
Chillin at the hotel in Donna drinking tea with the locals
King Hussein Mosque
Monday, December 24, 2012
Since I have nothing to better to do right now because of my horribly crappy day, I thought I would tell you about my horribly crappy day. Now that I'm done with school, everyone is already off traveling, and i'm literally the only American left in Amman, my days of being an only child and entertaining myself for hours are paying off. Today's big excursion consisted of going to the gym (which, if you read my "brown goop" blog post, is quite a great experience). My luck started going downhill when I was changing in the locker room after my glorious shower and accidentally sprayed perfume in the Jordanian woman next to me's eyes. You can only imagine the dramatic, over-kill reaction when the woman began pacing the locker room while 20 Arab woman gathered around her as she said "the foreigner sprayed me" in Arabic...cue all faces turning and looking at me like I killed their first son. Sorry for the lack of precise aim from YOUR Jordanian perfume made from YOUR Jordanian workers using YOUR wide angle Jordanian sprayer which clearly was made to spray a windshield wiper instead of your wrist. After drama queen calmed down and realized that she wasn't in fact going to die from a slight misting of perfume on the face, I got shwarama to take to ACOR to take an Arabic placement test for next semester. If I haven't mentioned ACOR in a previous post, it's a research center where Americans take advantage of a quiet library and free, unlimited coffee. The only downside to ACOR is that it's located in the top of a freakin mountain, so you can either hike up (it's literally a hike, half of it is a dirt road) or you can try to persuade a taxi driver to drive up there. Seeing as how my day was going, I wasn't about to hike up a dirt road. The taxi driver dropped me off right infront of ACOR when the security guard was saying something to me I didnt understand. I nodded my head like an idiot (yes is the right answer 50% of the time even if you have no idea what they're saying), and went up to the door. Of course, ACOR happens to be closed 2 days (today included) for the 5 freckin Christians in Amman. Of course at this point the taxi was long gone down the mountain and I'm standing there on a dirt road, 50 pound backpack, stranded, like a scene in Breaking Bad, while the security guard is chillin in his stand laughing. So here I go, making my way down the dirt road, wearing black leather boots with the traction of a banana peel. You can probably imagine what happens next: Proud of my achievements of making it down the mountain, I'm almost to the road, pass a cafe with a group of men outside...while my boots fail me and I slip and eat shit. Wonderful. Used to my bad luck at this point, I wave down a taxi, preparing myself to get an asshole taxi driver who thinks i'm a tourist and tries to rip me off until he realizes I speak Arabic. I get in a taxi and make my way to a cafe, thinking of my limited options due to the fact that my computer charger is on the brink of death, and only works in certain outlets, with a sweatshirt piled under it to prop it up. I decide on one which I remember has more outlets than a Best Buy...the odds are in my favor, right? No, indeed they're not. I spend a half hour playing Cranium with my sweatshirt, trying to mold it into different shapes and trying every damn plug in the cafe. Just as I was about to chuck my computer out of the window, the technology gods blessed me and the guy sitting next to me offered me his plug to use. First good thing that happened today. I decided to start my test, which like I said, is an eighty minute, intense Arabic writing exam. 40 minutes in, the internet in the cafe cuts out and I lose everything. I'm too used to my bad luck at this point to emphasize how pissed I was by using caps lock, or exclamation points. Not only did I spend 40 minutes writing about how to exercise (something I wouldn't even be able to explain using English), but everything was lost, and it's a one-time-only test. At this point, i'm going to go home, eat some chocolate, and watch some Homeland...because those two things can make any horribly crappy day significantly less horribly crappy.
Posted by Taylor at 4:36 AM
Friday, December 14, 2012
Jordan is like the Dead Sea; It appears to be rather plain and simple, but when you delve in and explore what it has to offer, you experience things that are sometimes painful and uncomfortable, but in the end are rewarding and worth the experience. Upon coming to Jordan, I didn’t have any expectations for how much I would enjoy it, be comfortable in it, or be able to adapt to its environment. From the surface, Jordan appeared to be simple, boring, and too homogenous for the kind of adventurous study abroad experience I was looking for in the Middle East, yet I have come to learn that quite the opposite is true.
When you first enter the salty water of the Dead Sea, it stings and is uncomfortable, but once you allow yourself to let go of the discomfort, one is able to float and enjoy the experience, similar that of the Jordanian culture. One of the most difficult things that I have had to learn to adjust to in Jordan is the stigma that is attached to being a foreigner, especially being a woman. Woman are perceived as easy, and I feel that there is a huge lack of respect given towards foreign women. Even if you are dressed conservatively, and try to behave as a Jordanian woman would (looking down, avoiding eye contact, and hiding your emotions in public), you will still receive constant cat calls, animal noises, and other disrespectful behavior. It’s degrading, exhausting, and some days extremely frustrating. Now that I have learned to except the reality and not take their actions personally, I am able to ignore the initial discomfort, let go, and float.
The Dead Sea connects two regions which are vastly different in language, culture, and values. The same can be said about Jordan, which appears homogenous but in reality homes bedouins, countryside people, city people, Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians, and other minorities. All speak varying dialects of Arabic, and live greatly different lives influenced by history, tradition, and culture. While they may be connected by geographic borders and close proximity, there are clear divisions and discriminations between these groups, just like the regions surrounding the Dead Sea.
The hot, thick Dead Sea mud at first seems dirty and smothering, but upon staying on your body, becomes somewhat of a comfort blanket, and once washed off reveals a new layer of skin that you didn’t know existed. I never realized how attached I was to Jordan and Arab culture until I went to Israel over Eid break. Being Jewish, and having lived in Israel for five months, I have always considered Israel my second home, and Israelis my people. When I went back, I was confused as to how I felt more comfortable speaking Arabic than I did Hebrew, and felt an instant connection when I saw and interacted with Arabs. I faced an internal struggle, and clash of identities. I had the realization that Arabic is now my comfort blanket, revealing a new part of myself that I didn’t know existed.
While the discomfort doesn’t disappear, and you still feel the stinging of the sea every time you encounter a new experience, you learn to adapt and accept things how they are. You are left with an experience that constantly challenges your Western beliefs and values, is often frustrating and incomprehensible, yet some how makes its way into your heart, and will always remain there.
Posted by Taylor at 6:39 AM