Tag Archives: Fulbright

Israel-Palestine Conflict 101

Jordan borders Palestine and Israel to the West.  Though I don’t live in these countries, their politics are impossible to ignore.  I’ve read statistics stating that Jordan is comprised of anywhere from 60-75% of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.  In a sense, Jordan is a Palestinian state.  Queen Rania is Palestinian.  Jordan has interesting identity issues — the original inhabitants of Jordan, previously nomadic desert-dwelling Bedouin people, comprise a minority, while their Palestinian neighbors from the west make up a majority of the population and lead the economics of the country.  Amman, the capital, has mostly sprung up as a result of the influx of refugees from the foundation of Israel and the following wars.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share with the ten or so readers of this blog a great introduction to the issue I found on the web here.  I have copied the text below.  Read, learn, enjoy!

Queen Rania of Jordan

Queen Rania of Jordan -- considered one of the most powerful women in the world

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i’m on tour

don’t try this at home

Walking down the street, you might think it was Halloween, or that a United Nations meeting just let out. Around you people are donning the traditional garments of the Levant, the Gulf, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and others I’m not even sure of. Really, like many Americans or Europeans that visit Jordan, they’re just tourists. And while they may have come to see Petra, or the Dead Sea, or well-preserved Roman ruins, the primary purpose of their trip is to visit hospitals, clinics, laboratories and private practices. And walking down this street hosting many of these destinations, I am among them.

Jordan is a new nation, and early on it recognized that unlike its neighbors, it had little to offer in the way of natural resources, so it began to invest heavily in education and national security. Its citizens are highly educated, English-speaking professionals who are leaders in the region for banking, IT, advertising, medicine and law. Jordan is also a secure nation from which the US safely administers its war in Iraq, and many regional corporations headquarter their operations in Amman. Continue reading

not in kansas, part i

Sometimes I forget how far from home I am.  I walk around and feel as though I could be in Indianapolis, if you turn a blind eye to some of the more glaring differing details.  I think a lot of west Ammanis, and west Amman establishments, appreciate and strive to assimilate to many things American.  Sometimes I tell my friends they are more “American” than I am – reminding me, in near-perfect English, that the Grammys are on tonight as we sit at Burger King eating Big Macs wearing Gap.  Have you seen Avatar in 3D yet?

I think this is actually in Saudi, and most signs in Jordan are in English

Often my life in Amman feels like I moved to a new American city, rather than abroad.  I suppose a lot of this sentiment comes from having living in Yemen for a stint, which, quite the opposite, makes one feel as they had moved to another century on another planet.

I’ve lived here for over 6 months now, which means I’m probably just so accustomed to this place that it feels “normal” to me.  Throw me in Chicago or San Francisco and my jaw might drop at the ‘craziness’ of it all.

Then, I get messages like these from the Embassy.

Subject:   Tawjihi Celebrations – February 6, 2010

On Saturday, February 6th, the Jordanian Ministry of Education intends to release the interim results of the high-school exam (the Tawjihi).  Families throughout Amman often celebrate when the results are announced, and for some the celebration is exuberant.  Groups of young adults may drive around in cars blowing horns, and some individuals may shoot into the air.  The direct threat is minimal, but traffic can be congested.  Please do not be surprised if you hear shooting.

Wait, am I in the Middle East, or is this just another one of those family vacations in Arkansas?

this blog is cold

Let’s warm it up a bit!

I believe that when many people unaffiliated with the Middle East conjure up a mental picture of it, they see arid deserts, maybe an oasis here and there, a bunch of camels, and dark men in turbans.  This isn’t a post  listing and  breaking all the stereotypes of the Middle East.  This post will address just one of them: the weather, and more specifically, the temperature.

Jordan is a desert.  It’s the fourth water-poor country in the world, according to some documentary I watched here a couple of months ago.  There is a lot of sand.  There are cacti and little scrubby greens gripping pebbles hoping to eke out an existence.  Despite this desert, I am freezing my toes off at the moment.  It is snowing outside, has been since I woke up, and should be snowing until two days from now.

I didn't take this. Thanks camelsnose.wordpress.com, whoever you are.

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mother of the world

Cairo is known as “Um al-dunia” – mother of the world. It’s not hard to realize why. Cairenes inhabit a space present in millennia of literature. They live amongst the pyramids, the only remaining ancient wonder of the world. Glorious empires sustained themselves on the riches of the fertile Nile valley, a sliver of abundance on a map of hostile sand. Cairo served as a metropolis of learning and culture, the seat of empires, and today, is home for anywhere from 20 to 30 million people, depending on who you ask, depending on the time of day. I’ve heard 5 million people enter each day as they commute to work.

Karnak Temple

The city doesn’t sleep. While there, we got swallowed up in the excitement, and often crashed well after the sun had risen. When crossing the road, I can’t tell if it’s better to do so with your eyes open or closed. You literally have to walk into oncoming traffic if you ever hope to cross. The pedestrian crossing lights show a little green man running for his life. Amazingly enough, Cairo has a metro system. You need to position yourself in the middle of a wave of people, and shove your way onto the car. The smog is so thick it soon forms a blanket on your tongue.

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penultimate eid

Deep valleys and steep mountains lay before and behind us – and we zoom around the curves, gripping the sides of the bed of the truck for dear life. I find it difficult to light my cigarette in this wind, but I prevail with a little help from my friends. Mohammed, an army officer and friend of our driver joins us in the back. I keep staring at the door of the bed, wondering how tightly secured it is, and how long Mohammed would tumble down the mountainside before coming to his final resting place. Thankfully this leg of the trip was without incident, save for Mohammed’s questioning as to why I’d allow my wife to so bluntly engage in conversation with such a strange man like himself. “She’s very independent. She has her freedom.”

The camel of modernity

We went to a castle, and it was really old. I feel jaded. I’m saddened to say that the sense of wonder that once welled up inside my chest upon facing an ancient site no longer wells, but remains placid and deep inside me. So, the castle was old. I hardly took any pictures of the site itself, but instead tried (failingly) to capture the magnificent view from atop the mountain. I positioned myself in a watchtower and tried to imagine defending the castle as invaders scrambled up the hill, but even this musing failed to stoke my passion. Instead the thoughts of violence intensified the suns rays upon my frail face, and I was ready to get back into the truck. Continue reading