Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons from the Middle East

Things I've learned in Jordan:

1) The Red Sea is awesome. There is noting quite like swimming amongst coral of red, yellow, and purple and watching schools of multicolored fish cruise by. It is truly a crazy experience and even better since you can swim to the reefs from the beach (they are only about ten to fifteen meters out!).

2) I like to dive. My first diving experience happened about a week and a half ago, and I've gone twice since then. While I was initially nervous about this (read: terrified) I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I saw a moray eel, which looks like a big old snake, and something that was apparently in the crocodile family (which I only learned after I had left the water, thank God). I swam a lap around a sunken tank with coral growing on it, and fish nipping at the algae. Basically, it was out of this world, literally, because it felt like another world altogether under there!

3) Petra deserves to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, so go team! The facade of the Treasury, the best known building in Petra, is spectacular, and I couldn't believe that the red rock carving was two thousand years old.

4) I don't like dysentery, or IVs. I left to write a book on food and I'm starting to think that I should really be writing it on hospitals and doctor's offices. While dysentery really sucks (I didn't eat properly for a week) I still can't deny the fact that I'm grateful for antibiotics, anti fever pills, and IV fluids. I've become a walking pharmacy, but hey, I'm not stuck in bed anymore!

5) Jordanians are incredibly friendly! While I've often had trouble deciphering whether Jordanian people (read:men; I have had basically no interaction with the women, they just aren't around) are hitting on me or are just being friendly, I've discovered that the majority of them are very hospitable. When I went shopping, I received a magnet, a postcard, a sand bottle, Fanta and water for free, and was invited to tea twice in the six shop stretch.

6) Shopping with a local gets you crazy discounts. Running around Aqaba trying to finish the last of my shopping, a necklace that was originally 40 dinars (the dinar is about equivalent to the euro) was reduced to 10 dinars for me, and the shop owner would have made no profit, but he still offered me tea! Basically, I hardly had to negotiate, because the shop owners immediately reduced their prices to their 'last price' price. Awesome.

7) Magluba is delicious. Called 'upside-down' because the chicken is cooked on the bottom and the rice on top, but the rice is served on bottom, the rice and vegetables are so flavorful I ate about four plates of it (this was before eating became a force of will). While I was not able to get as many recipes about Jordanian food as I would have liked due to the fact that cooking is out of the question when I can't eat (duh, why else do I like to cook?), I did get the recipe for this. It takes about two hours to make, and is quite involved, but it is amazing.

8) I like to lay by the pool or beach and fry. I never considered myself to be one of those people who was particularly good at this. I tend to get bored and find it a waste of time. However, I'm discovering that after three months of travel I am more than happy to lay by the pool or sea for a good couple of hours and roast. I expect to return with a killer tan, and then quickly become pasty due to the amount of snow I hear we're getting.

9) There is something truly unsavory about seeing meat in other countries. I know what you're thinking: I should already know this, and I did to some extent. But three days ago I saw an entire cow body, tail still furry , hanging from a hook. Next to it was the cow's fully furred, black and white cute little head. Cut off. Now I don't consider myself particularly squeamish, but if I ate beef I think that would've been my cue to become a vegetarian. In fact, the more hooked, partially skinned animals I see, the more I consider giving up meat altogether, but I just enjoy chicken parmesan, chicken tikka masala, and my crazy stuffed pesto chicken too much. Not to mention southwest-chicken sandwiches from The Lodge where I work. Mmmm. Sandwich.

10) The tobacco industry's main target is Jordan. It must be because I've never seen people smoke like Jordanians do. The men generally chain smoke cigarettes. I've seen men literally just light one after the other. And more surprising to me, the women smoke. In a restaurant in Amman I saw hoards of women smoking hookah pipes for hours. Even on the bus the passengers and bus driver alike smoke the entire way to the destination. It seems to me that this is the country's main pastime, and has served to make me never want to touch a cigarette for the rest of my life.

Cheers to finding new things. It is there that I am discovering, in my Dad's words, other cultures from the inside and mine from the outside. So thanks for the lessons!

(The first two pictures are from the internet. I will be posting some of my own that I took with an underwater disposable camera, but first it has to get developed. Just wanted to give you all an idea of what it looks like down there!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Aqaba, Jordan

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