Saturday, February 4, 2012

So Much to Do, So Little Time: Jordan Challenge Part II List Update

Now that I've recapped what's happened from the list in my previous post, this one is dedicated to the things from the original list that are still yet to be tackled, as well as some add-ons that others have suggested or I've realized are just begging to be done.  I really hope my Jordan-based friends will take a look and let me know which things they want to do together and what else should be on the list. Here's to a great second five months!

Still on the List:

Get to Know my Neighborhood (and Take a Bus). Anyone who knows me knows that directions are not my forte. I’ll probably leave Amman still not really knowing my neighborhood, but I have made a concerted effort to visit different parts of it, and I’ve decided that the best way to figure out where it is in relation to other places is to take the city bus that runs through it sometime. I always feel very intimidated taking buses in foreign countries because of the language and directional barriers, so facing that fear is probably another good reason to do it.

Learn Some Arabic. I had an ambitious 3-part plan for learning Arabic on my original list and then had the rug pulled out from under me in my discovery that Arabic is hard. As in really hard. I did have a tutor for a few months and attended a great conversation class in the fall, so that was a good start. My challenge now is to try to spend a few minutes each day with my notes and lessons to try to at least remember what I learned.
Proof that I really did try: Here I am with fellow classmates Matis and Tess and our endlessly patient and good-humored Arabic teacher, Ali.

Cook a Jordanian Dish. There are a number of ways this one might happen, from taking a formal class with my friend Elizabeth to talking my friend Doa’a’s sister, Alaa, into doing a teaching swap whereby I teach her to make Peanut Butter Blossoms and she teaches me to make one of the many Jordanian foods I now cannot live without. Or maybe both – we’ll see.

Cook a Jordanian Dessert. Again, anyone who knows me knows that I put regular cooking and the cooking of sweets in separate and equally important, categories. This one was suggested by Fulbright Carpetlander Luke, and he and I and the other Carpetlanders are going to take an afternoon to learn to make ma’amoul, a Jordanian cookie that comes filled with pistachios or dates.

Ride an Arabian Horse. Not sure about the specifics of this one yet, but Katrinka suggested it, and I’m doing it, once I find a place and a co-conspirator or two.

Run in a Jordan Fun Run. The problem on this one is not finding a run – there are plenty but they are way too intense for me right now. Unlike the Fulbright and Friends Team preparing to relay the Dead to Red, or Angela and Kelsey getting ready for the Dead Sea Marathon, I just want a simple little 5K that I can do and get the t-shirt from. Once I find it, I need to twist some arms of friends to do it with me, but I’m pretty sure it will happen.

Watch a Movie in Arabic. Haven’t gone to the movies (except for local film festivals) since I came to Amman. But I want to have the experience of going to a regular cinema and watching a feature-length film in Arabic, just to see what it’s like.

Visit Petra Three Ways. One down (Petra by night with Chris) and two to go.

Go on a Dig. My good friend Elizabeth is currently on a dig as I type, and it is my strong hope that I will be able to crash it for a day or two and see what it’s like.

Rock Climbing in Wadi Rum. I’ve been to Wadi Rum (twice) and I’ve started rock climbing again (finally). So, I’m hoping that the two will come together in the next five months and I’ll get a chance to try climbing outdoors on those beautiful desert cliffs.
Next time, the idea is that it will be me, and not the camels, doing the heavy lifting in Wadi Rum

Snorkeling in the Red Sea. This one may just be getting an upgrade. Elizabeth and I are hoping to try scuba diving while we are here, and if we do, it’ll be in the Red Sea. So, snorkeling is the fallback, but here’s hoping we go all the way to oxygen tanks before I leave.

• Visit the Desert Castles. A simple day trip away. My friend Paul is coming in March, and I think this may go on our itinerary.

• Hike a Jordan Nature Reserve. There are a whole bunch to choose from, and when the weather gets nice again, I’ll either do this through Wild Jordan or find a group who are interested in winging it.

• Visit a Biblical Site. My rock climbing buddy Elizabeth K. has this one on her list as well. I think we’ll be headed to Jesus’s baptism site (Bethany beyond Jordan) and maybe Mount Nebo as well, soon.

The Caves of Zahle. Missed these on the first trip to Lebanon, but it might be one of many reasons to go back.

• Return to Bethlehem. Hoping to take a trip to the West Bank with Cooper and some other folks in the next few months and stop to see the wonderful friends Kate, Alexsis and I made then.

• Go to Turkey. If one more person tells me how awesome Istanbul is, I might scream. I think this may be the next plane ticket I buy, particularly if Elizabeth still wants to go soon, too.

Take a Ferry to Egypt. Rather than fly, I think it would be neat to go across the Red Sea to the Sinai Peninsula to visit Egypt, especially if some other people would like to do this one together.

Now That I Know: The Add-Ons:

Paint a Plate. Although I must confess I’ll be very happy to trade my gym membership at Power Hut in for my old one at the Y in Burlington, it has had some advantages, including the fact that it’s the place I met my good friend Doa’a. And Doa’a introduced me to her equally great sisters, Raghad and Alaa. We have a plan to go paint ceramic plates together, since I am severely limited in the artistic realm (as opposed to Raghad, who lives to draw), it should be a great little challenge.
Doa'a, Raghad and Alaa, ready for adventures in plate painting and hopefully, some of the other challenges on this list.

• Do a Combo Bike/Hike. The two biking outings I’ve done with Cycle Jordan have both been great, and now I think I’m ready to go to the next level and do one of their combination bike and hike excursions. This one will have to wait till the winter’s over and the wadis are re-opened for people ready to wade through them. Should be a good adventure!

The 100 Burpee Challenge. I’ve come to learn that my fellow Fulbrighters are a group with many talents. Sarah I., for instance, is not only possibly the most physically fit person I know, she’s devoted to helping the rest of us in that regard as well. She issued a call to three of us (Mike, Almas and me) to join her in a 100-day challenge, and we foolishly accepted.

The idea is that we do Burpees --an exercise that involves a lot of jumping around with pushups in-between. The first week, starting with one Burpee on day one and ending with seven on day seven, it seems like cake. But after about day 20 a bit of anxiety sets in. You have to try to do them continuously and time them on days 25, 50, 75 and 100 (the day of this writing was day 39). Sarah, having already done the Burpee Challenge is doing an even tougher one with jump rope double-unders. But we’re more than a third of the way; can’t stop now.
You'd never guess that such an unassuming character as Sarah (in blue, shown here with Elizabeth, Gaelle and Jayme as we're about to do some Dead Sea biking) could have masterminded such a cruel plot as the 100 Burpee Challenge.

Pay our Regards at the Duke’s Diwan. This one is all Elizabeth. She heard about the Duke, who lives in the oldest house in Amman and allows people to come to tea and hear him discuss the local history and attractions. Sounds like a blast.

Volunteer at Jerash Camp. Through my friend and fellow Fulbrighter Jackie I learned of Julia, a one-woman force of nature who volunteers at the Palestinian Refugee Camp in Jerash (locally known as the “Gaza Camp”). Kelsey, Jayme and Jackie have all volunteered there, and I’d like to join them.

Find Out How Many Fulbrights Can Fit on a Wall. It took way too long, but in the month of January I finally went to Climbat, Amman’s rock climbing gym (and the first in the Middle East) three times. Jayme is a veteran climber, and made it possible for me to go the first time. Since then I’ve gone climbing with 5 additional Fulbrighters: Elizabeth K., Usama, Kat, Christina and Kelsey (plus new friends Gaelle, Ahmad, Tim and Ben). Elizabeth K. and I have big plans to start going regularly on Fridays, so a logical new goal is to see how many total Fulbrighters we can entice onto the wall before the year is out. I’m going for at least twenty on this one!

Take a Wild Card Trip: Eastern Europe or Oman? One of my favorite procrastination past-times is to check out cheap flights from wherever I am to see what unexpectedly travel opportunities might be out there. Turns out there is a direct cheap flight from Amman to Budapest (and I’ve never been anywhere in Eastern Europe and wanted to go for ages), and Oman is also very affordable. I think one or the other (or in a perfect world, both) needs to be visited before I head back to the U.S. for good.

Something Else Spectacular. I’ve now been writing and following lists since January, 2010 and it’s taught me a few things about lists. Like, lists are good – they keep me active and engaged and looking forward to doing new things and inviting people to do them with me. They’ve also taught me that, though it’s good to make plans and lists for the future, it’s impossible to know what will come your way. Some of the best things I’ll do in Jordan from now till the end of June have yet to reveal themselves. But when they do, I’ll be on it. In the meantime, here’s hoping that all my Jordan based friends (and friends who will be visiting) will check out the list and let me know what they are interested in doing together!


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