26 November 2007

Pics: First Posting

Happy Late Turkey-Day, everybody!

I've finally posted photos to my Flickr account! You can see them here; if that doesn't work, search my username, AMPowell.

These photos are from Aqaba and Petra. I'm afraid they're not all labelled by location. If it's a building, it's Aqaba; if it's rocks, it's Petra. And if there's nothing but dirt and road and the occasional outcropping, then it's the desert in between everything else.

Hope you all enjoy.

21 November 2007

Weather and Jobs


Irbid is dry. And hot. And brown. Technically brown is not part of the weather, but after staring at enough of that same brown dirt and brown buildings and brown dust and brown sky--no wait, the sky is still china-blue--you get to start thinking of it like that. I have to use lotion just to keep my hands from cracking. The humidity has to be in the negatives, regularly, with temperatures in the 80-90 (Fahrenheit) range most days. I liked that weather. It was monotonous, but always good. Sometimes there would be decent winds, for variety.

Then winter started settling in. There is no fall here, unless you count the two weeks of blustery chill before it just goes straight to winter. That was hilarious, when John and I were perfectly fine and every Arab in this city was bundled up for the apocalypse.

Now it's mid-November and I'm sitting in a drafty netcafe unable to fully feel my feet, remembering why I hate winter, and watching the rain outside that's been pouring down almost constantly for the last three days. At three in the afternoon today, the sky looked like evening. It's five now and it's moved on to nine o'clock or even eleven. John's been watching the lightning outside, and the stormclouds are impressive--firstly because there are actually clouds in the sky, and secondly because they haven't left. They're actually pretty wimpy compared to good Pennsylvanian thunderheads.

The moral of the story is that the Middle East does get buttfucking cold, and I need to get to the suq tomorrow for a decent winter jacket.

Yesterday, on Day Two of The Rain, Jordan celebrated Election Day. And I am not kidding when I say "celebrated." There were parties in the streets, chanting and shouting and honking car horns, nine people hanging out the windows of a minivan in kuffiyyas carrying homemade banners for their candidate, people sitting on the windowledges of taxis that had been painted with slogans and candidates' names, people just stuffed into the backs of lorries with Jordanian flags and banners held up high, vehicles racing in victory laps around the college and the town even before the votes had been tabulated. The race was for the Jordanian Senate. The head of state is King Abdullah, who is the actual monarch (not a figurehead), but the Senate has governmental power as well. The people here freaking love Abdullah, too. There are pictures of him everywhere: in offices, outside shops, in people's homes, in people's cars, in cafes, on the street, absolutely everywhere. This is no authoritarian cult of personality either, like the mandatory paintings of Chairman Mao. I've seen the print shops where you can buy your picture of the king in any situation you could think of, and posting them up is (with perhaps the exception of government buildings) entirely a voluntary act of citizens who want enormous posters of their king plastered on every visible surface. You can buy Military Abdullah (in several varieties, including Abdullah Firing a Machine Gun), Family Abdullah with his wife and kids, Abdullah Playing Video Games, Abdullah Surfing the Net, Abdullah in a Kuffiyya, Abdullah in a Western Suit, Abdullah in Jeans, Abdullah Looking Ahead to the Future, Abdullah Eating Dinner, Military Abdullah Looking Approving While Small Military Son (And Heir to the Throne) Shouts Orders, Queen Rania as Dutiful Wife, Queen Rania Loves Her People, and a wide variety of The Face of Our Great King, which come in Stern, Friendly, and Bowed With the Demands of Power. People here just freaking love their freaking king. (So do I; he's got great policies and he was on Star Trek: Voyager And they freaking love voting for Senate. The parties and honking and chaos did not end until sometime in the middle of the night, after the results came out and also after the rain returned. Not exactly the kind of political frenzy that makes CNN.

This one's more of a note than anything else. I'm trying to figure out what to do after I graduate in May. I want to spend the summer on the Nyckel, but I also need to see the friends and family I'll have neglected by that time for eight months straight. And much as I hate it, I'm going to need money and the boat only has volunteer positions. By next November, I need to be employed and able to start paying off my loans, or in some kind of debt forgiveness program. I need to keep travelling, but again, I miss my peeps.

At the moment I'm looking at a few options. I need a job that will send/take me to new places (preferably warm ones) in order to do good, meaningful work to disseminate knowledge or aid to some portion of the world, and pay me for it.

I could try to use my (admittedly small) expertise at sailing the Nyckel--which will be greater after a summer living aboard--to find work as a deckhand on a boat that sails during winter. That seems to mean moving to the West Coast, Caribbean, or some other warm-water area. I don't know how possible that is with less than a year's time shipboard, although I might be able to swing something.

There are also NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).* I need to save the world, and this is a good way to start. Hopefully, they'd want to send me abroad to cool places to help people do cool things.

I'm also thinking about just picking up and moving to another country with flexible immigration standards and finding random work once I get there. I've wanted for awhile to work my way around the world.

The problem is that my internet access, as you may have noticed, is sporadic at best. I need to be able to research my options more fully, and I can't exactly just walk over to their offices and drop off a resume when I have some free time. I'm having a lot of trouble chasing down leads in my designated weekly netcafe time (ie. whenever I can get to it). So if you know of any cool or interesting opportunities, please tell me about them. I'd love to pursue them.

*I always thought this was a stupid label. Most organizations are non-governmental, and most of them are not NGOs. Be more specific, abbreviation-maker people.

18 November 2007

Food Porn

Now that I have a surplus of time to blog today, there's nothing new to say. Living abroad in the Middle East may seem dangerous and exotic, but the reality is mostly boring. I eat, sleep, go to class, do homework, read...with the exception of John and his PS2, it's mostly like any other semester. It's just in another language and the grades don't transfer.

So I'll talk about food, because of late it's been on my mind. I eat Arabic food every day, enough that I'm getting sick of hummos. What I wouldn't give for some General Tso's chicken and a pint of Chunky Monkey. And a Blue Moon; beer is prohibitively expensive here. I'm craving variety, any variety, in my food. I want some Thai peanut noodles, some seitan fajitas, some chile rellenos, some fucking bacon.

Some of this lack is my own damn fault. In a perfect world, John would be eating American fast food every meal, every day, and I would be cooking fresh vegetable and meat dishes from produce bought down the suq. But in reality we both eat together, I don't like cooking enough to do it for every meal, and you still can't get half the stuff I'm craving from the suq. I don't even know how to make General Tso's, and I'm pretty sure I'd be arrested if I asked around for seitan.* I could feasibly be eating better, but it's faster, easier, and not expensive to get falafel and shawarma takeaway. And they're good. We've found arguably the best falafel and shawarma in this town. They know us and make jokes with us. It's nice to be a regular.

But damn, would I like a fucking waffle.

*Pronounced "Satan." Satanists are well and truly arrested here, and if you dress too goth or punk you could be mistaken for one, too. There is no counterculture in this country.

12 November 2007


Still alive. I still only get to the netcafe (Rabiah Cafe; if you're ever in Irbid, look it up) about once a week. So I've really only missed updating about half a dozen times, in terms of cafe visits. I'm otherwise doing quite well and travelling a bunch. I owe you guys the tales of weekends in Israel (Tel Aviv, twenty minutes in the Old City of Jerusalem, the beauty of actual diversity and being out with John as a couple), Aqaba (Jordan's port city, lovely, carries duty-free booze and allegedly also hot Arab girls in bikinis which I was apparently on the wrong beach to find), Petra (amazing, actually not just the one famous gate carved into the cliff face, but in fact a whole ancient Nabatean city of cliff-carved buildings), and various exploits in Amman (capitol of Jordan, fairly lame, includes a totally soulless shopping hell called Mecca Mall).

I've also got plenty of social commentary to make. I just had a conversation with Andrew (one of our Fulbrights, from Virginia) about how young people here are not expected to be self-sufficient until they're about 25 and graduated from college. Everyone at Yarmouk commutes from home, even if home is in Amman, an hour-and-a-half bus ride away. The only students living in the dorms are foreign students (like us) and children of professors. You live with your parents, that's just what you do.

Jordanians also don't start co-ed education until college. All grade schooling is gender-segregated, and you can see the effects of this system in people's behavior. You know how fourteen-year-old boys treat girls? With a combination of derision, terror, awe, and total incomprehension? That's how twenty-something Jordanian men treat women their age. And when I told a small group of women (non-Jordanians, even: a Syrian, a Moroccan, a Sudanese chick, and a Frenchwoman) that I had a boyfriend, they were impressed, as if I had done some kind of big-kid thing that they weren't allowed to yet, like biking without training wheels. A friend of mine and John's* is throwing a party this coming Saturday in which he plans to have games and prizes and very organized emceeing. The games include dancing and limbo competitions, karaoke, and charades. I kept flashing back to middle school, when such games were somewhat acceptable for a (gasp!) Boy/Girl Party. I kept waiting for the drinking and making out and getting high to come into anyone's heads...and it never did.

Yet somehow, the rate of people buying condoms is apparently comparable to the States. I'm mystefied. This country is bizarre. And I crave General Tso's.

*This is Ash, from Dubai in the UAE, probably the most Westernized, liberal city in the most Westernized, liberal country in the Middle East. He's cool. When he played a song about fucking for us at work, he apologized constantly for its obscenity (cursing and explicitness), and it took ten minutes of convincing for him to tell even one remarkably clean dirty joke in front of me. Madness.