Monday, August 11, 2014

Iftar!


So wow, this is quite a bit off, but I've been rather busy. All of these events happened around a month ago. So keep that in mind. 

So a bit of background, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. And since they follow a lunar calendar, it gets earlier and earlier each year until it resets. This year it was smack dab in the middle of summer. This can be really rough on people since you're expected to fast during the daylight hours. For those in countries like Sweden, Norway, Canada and Iceland, that could mean that the sun never sets. Or it could mean that you technically are supposed to fast for 22 hours. Obviously this is not possible and so they usually go by the Saudi schedule of fasting. So what do they mean by fasting? This means no drinking, no eating and worst of all (or it seems like it for most Jordanians) no smoking. :P I'm not going to lie, I loved the smoke-free-ness of Amman without the perpetual black haze. 

Oh well. Anywho, so the purpose of this fasting is to become closer to God and to be able to set aside worldly pleasures and focus on a greater cause. This month is also marked with aiding the poor and generally trying to be a better person overall. It's similar to the LDS practice of fasting once a month. Only this is a lot more intense. 

Iftar is the breaking of that fast. It's a time for getting together with friends and family and generally a time to get to know one another. It's a very joyous and festive time. The tradition is to break your fast with a (huge) glass of water and some dates. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that dates were the ideal food and so these are used to break the fast and usher in the time of festivity. Some people then go and pray at this point, but others don't go until they have a larger meal. I've honestly met people who do both so there doesn't seem to be a consensus on it other than you definitely have to break the fast (at least a little bit) before praying. 

Back in the beginning of July, quite a few of us Georgetown people were around and decided to do a get-together. Afaf lives here in Amman and so she invited us over for iftar. It was delicious and so much fun! She's such a wonderful person!

The gorgeous view from her apartment

What we thought was dinner...but was just the starters

Afaf, (her amazing Kibbeh), Andy and Rachel

The main dish-Kabsa! It was so delicious....

Everyone hanging out

Mmmm food

Rachel, Tim and Lena

We all decided that we had such a good time that we needed to do iftar another time. A week or two later, we all decided to gather at the very delicious restaurant near the university called Bab el-Yemen. It is SO good. 
And the view was gorgeous walking there

The wonderful restaurant

View of the table pre-annihilation 

Looking over our choices

Lots of people go out to restaurants for iftar

Nom

Round one of our food

The end result, I think we killed it. 

And if we hadn't stuffed ourselves enough, we decided to go out to get some sweets. So we headed to Habibeh which is a very famous sweet shop. We didn't want to go to the one downtown, so we went to one off of Shaheed and that was nice. 


Kunafa

A special Ramadan treat

Warabat: the tastiest thing this side of the River Jordan


Warabat

From L-R: Ellie, Sacha, Rachel, Melissa? (Ack, I didn't catch her name!), Afaf, Lena, Craig, Myself and Andy!

Again, we had a great time getting together and just having fun. It'll be nice to be back at Georgetown and have an expanded friend base. There's something about sharing in a study abroad experience that brings you closer together. Such a fun group. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

A much better weekend

So after the awful, no good week, I needed something good to happen. As luck would have it, I had a rather awesome weekend which made up for what had happened previously. My roommates and I had decided to have a taco night that Friday. It was just what the doctor ordered. 

We all pitched in, and it was fantastic! Ashley had a bit of fun making the cake and it kinda came out interesting...
It was supposed to be a pineapple...it did taste delicious though. 

We all put our stuff on the table and chowed down to tacos. Just remembering it makes my mouth water. All of us kept making Cafe Rio comments the whole time. 
The whole spread

A closeup of my burrito/taco hybrid

After that wonderful spread, the next day I went to Wasd al-Balad to meet up with a friend and to do some errands. It was a very successful trip and I was able to find a nice duffle bag for 5 JD, a nice dress for the same price and a couple of pairs of swim shorts. (One for me and one for a friend for our Wadi Mujib trip-more on that later!)

After that, I decided to get most of my souvenier/gift shopping done. One great thing about going abroad is that it makes some great gifts. However, it also means that I need to get creative after a while.

Al-Husseini Mosque at the center of downtown

My friend's shop

After shopping, I was talking with my friend, the shop owner, Muhammad. He then invited Allison and I to Iftar. It was neat to finally get to do Iftar in the Balad and we got to hear some of his amazing stories. He used to be a translator for US forces in Iraq and at one point was part of a special operations group from Jordan. He's had some interesting life experiences, that's for su

Muhammad!!

After Iftar, Allison and I were heading to a friend's to pick up something when we passed by Habibeh. EVERYONE says that you HAVE to go to the one in Wasd al Balad because it's the original and the best. Well, whenever we've gone past before, it was PACKED and the line went waaay out onto the street. This time, however, it was a reasonable line os we decided to get some dessert. Neither of us is a big knafa fan (I know, gasp!) but we both love Warabat. So we grabbed some of that and ate it outside. It was delicious. 
The goods

The location

After dessert, we headed over to Rachel's place. She lives in Weibdeh, so close to Wasd al Balad, but up an ENORMOUS set of hills. Thankfully we took the servicĂ© taxi up. The view from her place was gorgeous. 


We had made the trek to pick up a certain package. You see, Rachel was leaving the country soon and couldn't take it. She had been walking outside when this poor, dirty little kitten ran away from boys who were throwing rocks at her, and just started mewing at Rachel until she picked her up. 

Already that week Rachel had seen 2 cats get killed by cars, and she was so little so she decided to take her in. However, because of her time restraints, she couldn't keep her that long. She was getting worried about taking her when my roommates and I decided to take her in. 

Ashley will be here for another 3-4 months and I'm here for another 3 weeks. So...we got a kitten. Her name is Amira and she's an adorable little monster. 


Play?

Allison freaking out over having a kitten


Zonk


Toy?

She's rather active, but fun to be around. And other than the fact that I'm apparently HIGHLY allergic to her, I'm good as long as she doesn't go in my room. I knew my dad and brother were allergic, but I've never had a reaction to a cat before. I just spent a few days at Emily's place in Portland in February and her cat Mal didn't bother me one bit. Whatever, she's here to stay for a bit. And she's adorable. 

Passing out after chasing something. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Well, That Was Interesting...

So I had an eventful weekend, to say the least. Friday night was just a normal night. We all had had a pretty chill day, I had studied a bit for my midterm on Sunday and was actually relaxing with a rare bath. (We finally figured out how to work it, even though I don't want to make it a regular thing to help save on water). 

About 11:30 PM I hear screaming and door slamming. Allison had been in her room and heard noises outside. She went to investigate and saw a guy standing in our garden. So we have this private garden, which incidentally is right next to my window (thank goodness I had my grate down), and connects to her room via a small screened (and barred) in patio. Our walls are rather high, even though there are a few spots where you could jump it if you have some good dexterity. 

Anywho, so she sees this guy, and asks him if he's lost, or a new neighbor. We just had some new neighbors move in and while it was unlikely, it was worth a shot to see if he was lost. However, he was NOT lost and came up to her and was like, oh , no worries, no problem and grabbed her waist and her wrist. That alone was a big no no. So she screamed loudly, ran to the patio and slammed the door in his face while locking it. 

Instead of immediately running, he started shaking the bars on the door, so she continued to scream and he then jumped back over the wall in the garden. Needless to say, it was a rather jarring experience. We've been lucky in that our neighborhood is pretty safe. In all honesty, I don't even think any of us have been out to that garden since like the first few weeks we were here. 

We locked everything up, and made sure to roll down all of the grates on the windows just in case. Even still, Allison and I talked, trying to help calm her down, until about 2 AM. Even still, neither of us really got to bed until 4 because we were so wound up. 

Ashley hadn't really heard the whole details of what happened since she was skyping with her family, and just helped with locking up before going to bed at a normal time. (Keep this in mind for the rest of the story). 

The wall with the newly installed broken glass on top, yay cheap security

About  9 AM, I hear Ashley screaming Allison and my name and going, fire! There's a grease fire! Help!!! Apparently she had gotten up early, as usual, and instead of her normal egg breakfast, decided that she wanted to make some french fries. 

I've not told her that she should avoid them at home since this is now the second bad incident she's had with them. (The first time she got sick for 3 days). 

So neither Ashley nor Allison knew how to put out the fire. I (thankfully) remembered some fun times being dragged along to Scout activities with my brother and remembered sand. So I told Ashley to go across the street (they're doing construction) and grab some to help put it out. As she ran to go do that, I remembered that you can also put baking powder/soda on it because it helps neutralize it since the grease makes the fire extra tricky. 

So I went ahead and dumped the whole container into the pan. Thankfully it went out. Ashley came in and just for good measure, dumped the sand on top as well. 

So the whole apartment had been filled with smoke at this point (all could have been avoided if there had been a fire extinguisher in the apartment...) and it started to really smell chemically. I started coughing like crazy because of the fun stuff that was burning. But since we didn't see a flame, we were confused as to what was still on fire. 

Then plastic dripped down from the overhead component of the stove. The grease fire had then started an electrical fire which was then burning/melting the whole component. 

Dead...
Very dead...

After we saw what was on fire we rushed to put it out with water. About a gallon later, we were able to get it out and only then noticed that it had started to burn our wooden cabinets. That would have been a fun experience to have our kitchen burn down...At least the whole apartment is made of stone so it *hopefully* wouldn't have spread too far. 

So here's a bit of the immediate aftermath: 






We had already called John (our landlord) because of the incident the night before so it was rather convenient that he was there. We explained to him what happened and he called his maintenance guy to come and look at the stove and put in the glass on the wall by our garden. 

The good news is that our oven and stove still work. Yay! The bad news is that the fan, light and electrical component on the top was completely ruined. So they took it out. But the cabinets weren't as badly burned as we thought. So that was some good news. And it's not *as* bad since cleaning it up, but the whole front of the apartment (along with the entryway into the building) still smell like burnt plastic/chemicals. 



What an experience! Needless to say, I emailed my teacher asking for an extension on my midterm, which they both very kindly have allowed. 

So after all of this was cooling down, and the workmen were fixing everything, Allison, Ashley and I were like, uh oh, bad things come in 3's, Casey, You're next! So I was thinking of hiding for the rest of the weekend, but then Allison realized that she was missing 60 JD from her wallet. The likely scenario is that the night before as she was getting out of the cab, she dropped it, and since it was so dark she didn't notice. Unfortunately people pick up money on the streets VERY fast here. I've yet to even see a 5 quirsh coin on the ground. 

After such a day, and Ashley had already had dinner, I treated Allison to dinner at Fuddruckers. A nice American burger, fries and milkshake was in order after such an ordeal. *Knocking on wood* Here's hoping that this is the last of THIS type of adventure while here in Jordan. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Independence Day!

So the fourth of July dawned bright and early and was a nice lovely day. Allison joined me for church since the missionary couple there are the parents of her stake president back home in Utah. Said stake president was visiting since it's the end of his parents' mission and they wanted to see a few of the sites in the holy land together. 

It was nice having a bunch of people, and I got a nice surprise a couple of days before where I saw Matt Bird! He was here in Amman for 2 weeks to work on a film project for the arabic program at BYU. It was a rather nice surprise and it's been great to see him. 

So after church (and running some errands for our party later) we went out to eat.  

Our wonderfully patriotic decorations

We had decided to go with a group of essentially all the BYU/UoU interns and other friends met this summer to eat burgers and fries and watch the soccer match. So we went to a place called Firefly down on Rainbow street and it was AMAZING. 




It was the France vs. Germany game and it was intense! Definitely a good game and nice to watch sports and eat burgers to celebrate Independence Day. (We do what we can when abroad...)

Watching the game

I kinda went into this dinner thinking that it was going to be rather expensive for not that much food (typical of Rainbow street) and I was pleasantly surprised! This picture doesn't really do it justice, but this basket of fries was HUGE. I couldn't finish it all. 


You also can't really see the ingredients since they put them on the bottom here, but I decided to finally try a burger that had a fried egg on it. And it also had tomato, lettuce and (turkey) bacon! I love living in the Middle East. I can actually eat the bacon and pepperoni here since it's all either turkey or chicken or beef products! Yay pork allergy!

Man, you guys. Why have I waited so long to eat a burger this way? It was absolutely DELICIOUS. New favorite way to have a burger. So nommy. 

Yum. (And the whole meal only cost 4 JD. Score!)

So after the game, we left Firefly and headed back to our place for a bit of a party. We wanted to make it a very American experience so I made a cake and the chocolate chip cookies, we improvised on s'mores materials, had chips, watermelon and...jello. (She's from Utah, so that explains it). 

It was definitely an interesting experience having everyone over. The drinking age here is 18 and so quite a few people came to dinner, let alone back to our party already smashed and that was rather interesting. I definitely played babysitter more than once throughout the night. 


The party started off okay, but unfortunately friends of friends of friends kept coming throughout the night. We had only planned on like, 20 people coming total. We ended up having 50-60 people come that night. (Always a pleasant experience when my roommates had only told me the night before that we were having a party at our apartment after dinner-when I thought it was just dinner). 

Luckily there were enough of us who were sober (yay BYU friends helping me!) to keep people in line and I definitely put my foot down on smoking. (Yay another allergy). I made sure that if they were smoking, they were on the balcony. Which was great, but this is how our floor ended up after the party: 

The living room and kitchen also looked like this. 

Not exactly what I was expecting, but it was okay. My roommates agreed that a. they would never host a party at our place again this summer and b. it got way out of hand with who came and ergo they would be clearer in the future on whose responsibility was what/whom they could invite. 

I really did end up having an overall great day, and had a great conversation with Kendra and her husband Phil during the night. (They are 2 years behind me in the arabic program so we never crossed paths before). 

Traditional patriotic picture

I will say that the thing that made me the MOST sad (especially given the news this week that they're moving back to Atlanta!!!!), was that I missed out on the 4th of July fireworks and get together that Drew was able to have with Cam, Ale and Ethan. They had a great time and it made me really miss them, but at least they sent me this great picture of them all hanging out. 


*sigh* It seems that Drew and I are doomed to only have 1 of our siblings live near us at a time. Oh well, maybe they will come up to DC for the 4th in a few years since it IS an awesome show.