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. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jordan!


Since it's now been about a month since I got here (!!!!!) I figured I might as well finally post about some everyday life things.

I was lucky enough to be here at the same time as my friend Pat! It was great seeing her, hanging out with the teachers she works with and going to church together. The new church building is AMAZING. It is SUPER nice even if the building is still technically under construction. 

One of my favorite things about being back in Jordan is re-experiencing lots of my old favorite foods. Drew and I only discovered Ma'mool near the end of our trip last time and so to make sure I enjoyed it to the fullest, I bought a whole kilo of the stuff and brought it home to share with my roommates. I may have gone a bit overboard on that one. 

Nom. I did share most of them and still have some in the freezer. 

I also remembered the various types of boxed milk. I remembered that my favorite kind was Baladna (especially the chocolate part) and one of those with a vanilla pudding makes for a great breakfast or snack. I know, I'm six years old again. But it tastes so good!!!


I also had the great opportunity to partake of Mizo. It's the Middle Eastern version of Maaza which I LOVED in India. They sell it in cans now which is actually quite a bit cheaper than in the bottles. So yay Maaza!

I've definitely been really good about drinking liquids here. Even though my Georgetown water bottle shattered my second week here (*sob* It was my FAVORITE-but you can't win against stone floors :( ), I was able to make it to Safeway and get another one. Luckily, our landlord got us one of those electric water coolers so we don't have to pump our water out of the massive jug. It's fancy! (And much easier) Bonus, it already comes out cool. Hey, it's the little things in life right?


It's also been nice to remember just how much I LOVE Middle Eastern foods and the lifestyle. We really do have our portions messed up in the United States. Drew and I semi-regularly polish off at least 2 large pizza slices and sometimes even 4 in one sitting. Here, I was craving pizza so I went to pizza hut, and I was completely full with 2 medium slices which in all honesty are still smaller than a US small's slices. I got 3 full meals off of that one medium pizza. 

Anywho, one day I took my roommates to the Al Sufara Bakery near seventh circle. It's nice to visit at least once. Before we went, we stopped at a little restaurant down the street. It was SUPER tasty and the whole meal cost 3 JD ($5) for all 3 of us. And we got all of this:

It was seriously tasty

Up until about last week, I've been mostly hanging out with my roommates. They're both doing internships through the University of Utah. My internship fell through (hence why I was here so early...not doing anything). I don't mind for the most part, as it's given me a chance to learn where I live, relearn the bus system, and get used to speaking and hearing Arabic every day. 

One of the best things I've learned is that I can get down to Wasd al Balad for only 1/2 a dinar if I take one of the larger buses with the numbers on it. Since I'm rather north of the city right now, that would easily be a 3-4 JD ride. So that alone saves me quite a bit of money. 

Downtown (i.e. Wasd al Balad)

So of course, my roommates and I had to go to the traditional downtown place: Hashem's Restaurant. It's the exact same type of food as the place we had near Al Sufara. But tastier. Then we walked around and I showed them where to buy soccer jerseys and we found a nice souvenir shop that wasn't expensive. 


The Nymphaeum 

Another rather fun thing going on right now is the world cup. This is now my THIRD world cup in a row where I haven't seen it in English. The one in 2006, I watched it in Spanish since Cam had (semi)recently returned from his mission and had telemundo on the entire cup. The second world cup, the one in 2010, I was in Jerusalem at the time. We all pitched in to get a special box to watch the games. Of course though, because we were getting it from an Israeli broadcaster, the telecast was in Hebrew. Some of my favorite memories from that summer are of the group watching the games and even having the security guards watching and cheering with us. And now THIS year, I'm watching it while here in Jordan...in Arabic!

This was the opening game. I went with my roomies to Rainbow Street to watch the game. 
L-R Allison, Me, Ashley

While I'm really grateful that I live near Sweileh (and therefore know where I am within the city), Amman is the city of hills. I finally stopped to document the hill that I have to walk up and down to get to and from my apartment. Of course we live almost at the very top. 
View from the bottom of the street

But at least I'm going to have great legs after this summer huh?
View from outside my apartment building looking down the street. 

At least right now when I get to my apartment, this is greeting me. 

I miss Drew, Kirby and Sir Richard terribly, but I am learning LOADS and really enjoying my arabic classes. (A first for a while...) I'm doing well, I'm safe and having as much fun as I can without my favorite boys. Besides, Kirby has been a busy little stinker while I've been gone. :P He's an emotional eater. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Trip to the Dead Sea

So a week after arriving(and having recovered from jetlag), I went with my roommate on a trip with Pat and her friends to the Dead Sea! I've never been a HUGE fan of the Dead Sea (it burns...) but there's a pool next to the public beach where you can actually swim/sunbathe. So we went down to Madaba to meet them up. 
The Dawar(traffic circle) where we got off the bus. Pat had told me to look for the coffe pots. Sure enough. 

Pat has been working in Madaba for the past year teaching English. She actually lived behind the church of the Madaba map. That was kinda neat to find where she lived and meet her fellow teachers/suitemates. They're a fun group of people with a mix from different countries and Arabic experiences. 

After assembling a group of 9 people and grabbing 2 taxis, we headed to the Amman public* beach. 

*public meaning you still had to pay 10 JD to get in

So we go down and swam for about 30-45 minutes. Surprisingly it stops burning after about 20 minutes. :P

Since it was Allison's first time, we had to take a picture. 

And the traditional mud:


It was an absolutely beautiful day:


But then we were tired of the salt and went up to the pool. it was pretty nice. 

Allison loved the sun. 


We decided to stay for the sunset and it was gorgeous. 




It was a super fun day, and even though I reapplied my sunscreen multiple times, I got SO burned. I bought my sunscreen here in Jordan and even though it was SPF 100, this happened:

I want to say that this photo has been retouched...but it hasn't. I looked like a lobster. I was in SO much pain. Thankfully I'm done being a leper and peeling and I've mostly tanned. 

It was nice to spend time with Pat and her fellow teaching friends in Madaba and they're a great group. Allison and I had a great time and we really appreciated the cheap way to experience the Dead Sea!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

London


So I had a 13 hour layover in London on my way to Jordan, and it started at 9 am. So I pretty much knew from the very beginning of my trip that I would try to make it out to the city. Well, I did and it was so worth it! Our flight got in a little bit late (grumble grumble) but not too bad. Luckily I got through security rather fast and was on my way to buy my London Pass when I noticed something that stopped me in my tracks. 

There was the usual number of people who were holding up signs for various individuals. Well, there was a woman there who was holding up a sign for Martin Freeman! 

Yes, that Martin Freeman

I was so surprised that I actually stopped in my tracks to re-read her sign. However, she gave me a death glare so I decided not to waste my precious time for a geeky chance at an autograph. However, it would have been awesome. Alas, apparently he isn't the biggest fan of fans doing that so I guess it's better that I didn't wait. *sigh* Another time maybe. 

So after refocusing on my goal, I went and got my pass, got my day train ticket and hopped on the train to London. I had decided early on that I wanted to go to the Tower of London first as it was the furthest away from the airport. It was a good choice as it was almost exactly an hour from when I stepped onto the train to when I got off at the station for the Tower. 

I am SO glad that I bought the London Pass. It was well worth the price. When I got to the Tower there was a HUGE line for tickets and another huge line for those with paper passes. I was able to walk right up and show them the pass, have them scan it and wave me through. No kidding, I waited like 10 minutes to get in. 

Yay I got in!

A view of the whole complex

I also lucked out to be getting there right as the Yeoman tour started. I'm really glad that I decided to join the group as I got a nice refresher on the history of the location as well as a trip into the church on the grounds. It took a little over an hour, but I thought it was worth it for the history and the sights. 

The "Beefeater"

The Traitor's Gate, originally called the Water Gate

The White Tower

One of the resident 7 ravens

Guard outside the museum for the crown jewels 

After going on the tour, I decided that I didn't want to wait in the hour+ line just to see the crown jewels (which you can't even take pictures of anyways!) so I went over to the White Tower to look at the museum there. 


King Henry VIII's armor 

A beautiful carved German Saddle

Queen Elizabeth's original face mask over her coffin

Lovely view from inside the Tower

Loved the faces on the arch

One last view

Tower Bridge



After finishing up at the Tower, I took a few pictures of the Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge) then headed up the street to go back to the tube station. I was lucky since after passing all of the super expensive touristy restaurants, I saw a Tesco. I know it's a grocery store and they had a 3 pound lunch special. It was a good cheap lunch that could keep me going. From there I made it to the tube station and headed over to Parliament Square. 

The London Eye

Big Ben and Parliament

Another Shot



Oliver Cromwell in front of Parliament

Very patriotic

So after walking around Parliament, I then came upon Westminster Abbey! It's so beautiful and I LOVED it on my trip last time. It was so beautiful and I was so sad that you can only take pictures in very few places. However, other lucky souls have had invitations to take pics, so most of the inside pics are from here or here. Once again I was thankful for my London Pass. It once again saved me at least an hours worth of waiting in line. That was time definitely well spent exploring the abbey. 




Tomb of the unknown soldier with the poppies around it


Sir Isaac Newton's Tomb


The coronation chair

Mary Queen of Scot's Tomb

The Ladies' Chapel 

So gorgeous

Poet's Corner

View of Chaucer's grave (the one the woman's standing in front of)

Shakespeare's memorial

Handel (top right)

Cloisters


We were allowed to take pictures in this section

Beautiful Chapel



As I was exiting to leave, the organist started playing. I spent my time doing the audio tour and listening to every single thing on the list. It was so fascinating. I was honestly looking for an excuse to stay anyways and then they started playing. Oh my goodness. They were practicing for the concert that night, and were playing some of Handel's pieces. I can't tell you how incredible it was to stand there in the near empty abbey listening to the gorgeous music reverberate around the space. I stood transfixed for about 20 minutes until they started shooing people out so that they could then let in people for the concert. 

I couldn't stay, but man, when I return, that's something that I definitely want to do. 

Of course the weather cleared up a bit before I left



From there, I decided that I would do a quick view of Buckingham Palace before heading over to Kensington Palace. Well, two things stopped that. One, I forgot how FAR it is from Westminster to the Palace, and two, the metro stop closest to Buckingham Palace to get to Kensington Palace was closed so I wouldn't have made it over in time anyways. :( boo. I was saddened by that. So I just ended up spending some time (a lot of time) walking and enjoying Buckingham. 




Statue of Queen Victoria


After resting for a bit, I looked at a map and realized that the Wellington Arch was close by. Given that Wellington is my mom's maiden name, I HAD to stop and take a picture. It was another long walk, but worth it to see the beautiful grounds and the monument. 




It was around 6:30 at this point and I knew that I'd need to leave by 8:00 to get back in time for my flight. So I decided that I'd maybe stop by one more place and get something to eat. I decided to head to Trafalgar Square. I remember that the area was great to hang out and see, and it had some good food options. 

So I went and got the traditional british fare:

Fish & Chips (and a milkshake because why not?)

After taking a breather and enjoying my dinner (and the free wi-fi to let my family know I was fine and having fun), I walked around the square some more. 


The National Gallery (would have gone if I had more time :( )


However, it was getting closer to 8 and so I headed back to the tube station to return to the airport. It was a wonderful trip and a nice refresher on some of my favorite places in London. Now I just need to return for an extended stay with my wonderful hubby and it will be perfect!

Soon I was on my flight, and on my way back to Jordan!