Archive for December, 2010

The desire to hijack a baby goat…

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Upon our arrival in Amman, we promptly caught a taxi and found our hotel. Now at first I was a little scared about the place I had chosen to stay…there was a gang of bikers hanging out outside and we had to walk through this little ally filled with them and their motorcycles (which made me miss the feel of riding a motorcycle at home). But we got checked in, loaded our stuff onto the tiny elevator – me straddling my suitcase so that we could both fit – and fell onto our beds.

The next day we headed to the Dead Sea. We also went to Bethany, but that was not a pleasant part of the trip for me – I was able to see an ugly side of my traveling companion and had a hard time controlling my eager anger. But when we got to the Dead Sea, we put everything behind us and climbed into the salty salty water. To describe this sea as salty really is not doing it justice. It is far more salty than you could possibly imagine. And the actual act of floating was unreal. Even if you tried to push yourself down and reach the bottom, you weren’t able to. It was – crazy, amazing, unbelievable – insert adjective here.

After a much needed shower, we headed back to the hotel where we changed once more and headed to town. Savannah and I came across this amazing store on the main street. It had everything you could possibly want from Jordan as a touristy person – pillow cases, dead sea mud, scarves, shirts, swords, silver, purses, and other miscellaneous items. I spent far too much time and money in that one store. Nearly two hours later we left the store and tried to head back to the hotel, however, that was proving more difficult than originally thought. After asking someone for directions we finally made it to our hotel. Now let me take this moment to spotlight the greatness that does occur in this culture: when you ask someone for directions, a majority of the time they will take you there themselves and ask for nothing in return. It is truly amazing and gives me a little hope for civilization in a place where I almost lose it all.

That night we went to bed fairly early since we were venturing off to Petra in the morning…5:30 am in the morning to be precise. I have noticed that while I claim to be on vacation, I never am able to sleep as though I am on vacation. Anyway, we get up bright and early, pack our bags for the day and head out to the bus station. We were told the bus would leave at 7 so we got there 6:50 and boarded the bus. However, we did factor in that it was the first day of Eid al-Adha and we sat there for over an hour waiting for our departure. However while waiting we were able to witness something I thought was pretty incredible: it started with a few men in the parking lot spreading their rugs and beginning to pray – it led to over a hundred people gathering in this bus parking lot – everyone praying together – men in the front, women in the back. How many people can say they have witnessed something like that?

Finally on our way to Petra, a long boring bus ride – about 4 hours by bus. A word of warning to those who wish to visit this amazing mountainous city: it is much more expensive than you probably imagine. If you are staying in Petra the cost of a ticket is 50JD which is roughly $75. However, if you are NOT staying in Petra it is 90JD which is about $137. My advice, say you are staying in Petra, they won’t even ask where you are staying, but in case they do say Petra Gate. Also plan more than one day – you will not be satisfied with only one day in that place. It is just far beyond comprehension.

We bought our ticket, rode horses to to the entrance, but instead of entering the normal way (that of the Siq) we had a guide who took us the “Indiana Jones” way – a way without any path which causes you to climb and jump between mountains. It…was…AMAZING. There were absolutely no other tourists around us (which is my least favorite thing about visiting these types of sites) and the views were just amazing. I also got to hold a 15 minute old baby goat!?!?!


Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Yesterday there was a birthday party for my friend. To celebrate we went on a camel ride in view of the pyramids. We stopped on top of a sand dune at a special site with a fire dancing merrily, and gazed at Cairo glowing in the distance and the peaceful silhouettes of the pyramids. Before we left the site, we began talking with a group of Egyptians. Soon, we were all singing, clapping, and dancing in a circle. A mix or Arabic and English songs, people joining in when they could. After this, we remounted our camels and began the journey back. Since we were in a singing mood and since Christmas is approaching, we broke out in Christmas songs. Rudolph, Jingle Bells, and Silent Night were among the songs that drifted across the desert air into unsuspecting ears.


Thursday, December 9th, 2010

I learned some Arabic Proverbs today.

Here is one English translation.

~~”If your friend is nice don’t exploit him.”

The literal translation is a bit more humorous.

~~It is “If your beloved (as in friend) is honey, don’t lick all of him.”

This next one is one of my favorites.

~~”If you need something from a dog, call him ‘Sir’!”

And one final one,

~~”Coming out like hair from dough.”

Can you guess what that one may mean?? Leave a comment with your ideas :)

Penultimate Finals Week

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

So it’s the end of the semester. It’s been an interesting one filled with stress, doubt, and more reading than I’ve ever encountered before. I’ve still got two exams, one tomorrow afternoon/early evening and one on Friday at the same time.
There was a point to this…
Oh right, next semester.
Because my adviser failed to tell me that taking a buttload of ensembles would mean that not all of those credits would count (or at least didn’t take it into account when I met with him before registration ever) I’m going to be taking 20 credits. I would only be taking 19 if I could drop band but because of my scholarship, I can’t, so I’m taking 20. It’s a pisser, but on the other hand I’m taking weight training as one of those 4 extra credits, so it’s not all bad. It just means that I’m going to be busier next semester than I was this semester, but in a different way. Or at least I hope in a different way. And I’m definitely taking Art History pass/fail.
However unlike the past, oh I don’t know, year and a half, this blog won’t be so terribly neglected. You see one of the classes I’m taking (which is not part of the extra credits) is Digital Storytelling. Originally Art History was my first choice for “easy class that I take the last semester of my senior year” but then I saw Digital Storytelling, read the description and decided that, that class would be my first choice. “Lucky” for me I now get to take both. Anyway. Because I’m taking it with Mr. Groom, this blog will be very lively next semester. More lively than it has been since freshmen year in fact.
Which leads me to a bit of ironic commentary. Or something. I’ve been stalking the current digital storytelling mass blog (because that’s how I roll yo) and one of the first assignments/readings they had to do was based on an article written by my freshmen seminar professor (aka Professor Campbell.) His is still my favourite class from my entire college career, so it feels right that I would end my college career reading something by him. And while it doesn’t really make sense I blame him for my current obsession with the Kinks. So not really ironic, but more serendipitous. Or circular. It’s late, what can I say.
So there you have it. And while you’re at it, go listen to Girl Talk’s latest album. It samples “Mr Blue Sky” for goodness sake, how bad can it be? (Not bad at all actually, though I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to the whole thing yet. Maybe over break.)
Until next semester, don’t panic.

SNOW! …and teaching issues

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
    It’s snowing in Yesan! Finally! When I say “snow” I mean tiny white things that could scarcely be qualified as snow have been falling from the sky for the last half hour and dissolving on impact with the ground [EDIT: as of 12:00 pm it started snowing really hard and now there's snow stuck to the ground! I explained to my afternoon class that if it snows like this in Virginia we cancel school and they looked at me like I had sprouted tentacles]. Some of the students (my more rambunctious low-level 1st grade girls) tackled me yelling “SNOWSNOWSNOW” but other than that the students are going abut their business in an everyday fashion.I felt like such a grinch of a teacher when it started snowing during my class. Ever since the 수능 (the big test all the 3rd grade students took to get into college) finished I’ve been teaching the advanced 3rd grade class (my host sister’s class). They have no more tests and grades don’t matter so I was worried they wouldn’t pay attention but so far they’ve been great. It started snowing during that class and the students freaked out, and asked if they could go outside. As I am a new and temporary teacher, as much as I want to go outside too, I had to say no for fear that the principal would see me and freak out. Very sad.
    Teaching has it’s ups and downs, you’ve heard this all before, this is not a new fact. I’ve experienced a lot of ups and some downs, but I experienced my first major down yesterday. The students are studying for their finals so they’ve been harder to motivate recently (I am not supposed to give grades or homework in my class, and their English final contains nothing from my class). This particular class has always been difficult for me, in that I have students in there that flat-out don’t respect me. To further the problem, yesterday my co-teacher did not come to class. I teach a lot of classes without a co-teacher, it’s normally not an issue, but the combination of low-level tired students, final exam stress, and a lack of general respect led to an awful class. I had scrapped the actual lesson I was going to do last minute and pulled out my emergency super-fun pronunciation lesson (that has never bombed before) because I knew this would be a difficult class, but still it was bad.I demand absolute silence in my classroom. This is difficult to do with a class of 40 but luckily my classes are 30 or less so I can do it. In a smaller class it’s disruptive if 2 people are whispering, so in general I refuse to let anyone talk. This class had 15 people, and everyone was constantly talking or sleeping. If people weren’t doing either they were doing homework for other classes or blantantly spaced out. Some students were apologetic when I called them out on it, and others disrespectful. I make kids stand with their hands over their heads in the back of the classroom if they sleep too much (so it’ll keep them awake) or if they talk too much (so they’re not close to anyone to talk to) and when I told one kid to stand up he refused and put his head back down. So I got up in his face and loudly started counting down. Since I didn’t have a co-teacher and I wasn’t going to reward the class for misbehaving by leaving them alone for 2 minutes while I ran and found an authority figure I wasn’t sure what to do if this didn’t work. Thank goodness the class started counting down with me and because of peer pressure he stood up. The rest of class though whenever I would shake him to wake him up he would violently jerk and look at me like I was diseased and brush off his shoulder.

    The lesson consisted of tongue twisters, modeling and practicing R & L pronunciation, rap battling, and a slap game where the students are in 2 or 3 teams and they sit at their desks and scream a word (RICE! RICE) and one student from each team is facing the chalkboard and they have to look on the board for teh right words and slap it first to receive a point, the trick being that every word has a rhyming alternate (Rice:Lice; Right:Light; Road:Load) which makes it difficult. Not only were they blantantly disrespectful during the lesson but they cheated during the game – peeking at my word cards, spelling out words instead of yelling them, shoving and tackling each other. At that point I had had enough.

    I ended the lesson 5 minutes early and sat them down and read them a long lecture in highly simplified English, then as soon as class ended I ran to the bathroom and sobbed for a good 5 minutes. I have had a lot of difficulties in Korea, both with teaching duties and with adjusting to living in Korea/Yesan. This is the only time I can think of that I wholeheartedly wanted to board a plane right then and there and go back to the United States.

    An amazing class later that afternoon, last-minute meet-up with Joelle that night, and some distance has helped me gain some perspective. Not everyone in that class is bad, and many of them seemed truly sorry that they had upset me. Some of them are definitely rotten eggs but they’re also 15/16 year old boys… I am definitely not the same person that I was when I was 16. As a teacher my job is not only to teach English but to teach them about life in general – and that includes basic respect. Whether this is putting too much pressure on myself I’m not sure, but I will not give up on this class and I will demand and in return receive that respect without the help of an authority figure if at all possible. However, if I cannot I will not be afraid to turn to an authority figure, as that is what they are there for. I could also have it worse… I know some schools have major issues with bullying, others have a lot of swearing, or physical violence, or even drugs. Sapgyo for the most part is very sweet and my badly-behaved boys are an oddity, and comparitively not even that badly-behaved, it’s just that I expect more of them and by the end of my contract I will receive it.

    My most difficult class initially was not in fact this class, but the all-girls low-level first grade class. They’re known throughout the school as being really difficult. They smoke, and swear, and hit each other, and are super loud, and are always talking. I had a really difficult time with them because I didn’t know how to be strict but also have fun. They are now one of my favorite classes, because I have learned what works and what doesn’t – they are still loud, and still talk, and still shout out answers or non-sequitors but they also care about me and respect me, and always scream my name really loudly whenever/wherever they see me, whether that’s in class or on the streets of Yesan after school. If my least favorite class can become my favorite class over the span of one semester, then by the end of next year I will force these kids to respect me. So wow Em, this is really personal stuff, why are you putting it online where everyone (even spambots from as far out as Ukraine) can read it? Because this is a reminder to myself. Sometimes life sucks, sometimes life is hard. Sometimes you will cry in the bathroom at school. You will not get cute little notes from your students everyday. Eventually you have to leave the bathroom and go teach agan.

Final Countdown

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

My stay in Egypt is rapidly coming to a close. I have about two and a half weeks left here, but is really hard for me to imagine. I know it is going to fly by so fast. The weather has gotten much colder recently and its been cloudy, making me feel the change in time even more clearly since before now every month and week felt exactly the same since the weather was exactly the same. Now its colder, I’m thinking of winter and Christmas, which is reminding me of home, and family, and friends. Also, today I was checking out place tickets for Peru, my next adventure abroad for spring semester, another reminder that Egypt will soon be fading from my life.

In these final days, I will attempt to post something everyday. Nothing big, perhaps a photo, song, some quick thought or observation.

Today, I will share this song. It is very famous, if older, and sung by Amr Diab, the number one Egyptian singer. Also, it was created with the Gyspy Kings, a Spanish band and the Spanish influcene is very clear. All my Egyptian friends love Spanish music and the Spanish language.  This goes back to the Arab conquest of Spain and the connection between the two culutres throughout time. Some of my Egyptain friends think that they are culturally similar to the Spanish. With these thoughts, enjoy :)

Habibi Ya Nor el Ayn (My Beloved O Light of MyEye)

Egypt is not for everyone

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

My dad came to visit me for a little over a week at the very end of November during the Eid al-Adha when I had a long break form school. Traveling with him made me see that Egypt is not for everyone. It has also made me seen how accustomed I become to all the daily flaws and dangers of Egypt. While there were many good times and he enjoyed the amazing historical sites that we got to see and my company, beyond that things weighed towards the unpleasant.

First of all, the night he arrived we decided to walk to a restaurant that is too close for a taxi to be worthwhile. The walk there was not a good experience for him. The curbs on the sidewalks are very high, around a foot tall, so this was hard on his knees. Then, the sidewalks themselves are not is the best condition, stones are loose and there are occasional patches of sand. There may be trees to dodge, metal posts to avoid, and garbage to bypass. Anytime there was a driveway or a shop that had stairs, we needed to step down from the curb and climb up again on the other side. After walking the sidewalk for a bit, we decide to take it to the streets. Unfortunately, the streets were on the busier side at that time and there were many parked cars so the cars which would pass us by were too close and too quickly for my dad’s comfort.

Standing on a Nile bridge the first night.

The traffic and driving in general is terrible, so whenever we would take a car, taxi, or bus somewhere, my dad was very nervous about our safety. Living here for two months, I on other hand, barely bat an eye when we drive in the middle of two lanes, almost hit pedestrians crossing in front of us, or cut across several lanes of traffic.

Among the biggest things that irritated my dad was baksheesh and bargaining. Baksheesh, or tipping, is a common practice in Egypt. When someone does you a favor or is really useful, like telling you how to get somewhere, carrying something for you, or letting you do something that normally is  not allowed, it is expected that you will give baksheesh. Baksheesh is often an important supplement to a person’s income since wages are not very high. Several times throughout our trip, people would ask us for baksheesh or I would give it to them without their asking. For instance, I gave baksheesh to the man who showed us the way to the bus stop and to the man who let us stay after the closing of a terrace overlooking the pyramids to watch the sunset. This concept of baksheesh was foreign for my dad and he did not like it one bit. Even after I explained it to him, whenever someone asked for baksheesh or I would give it, he would get irritated.

Bargaining also was frustrating for my dad. Anyone that tried to sell us some tourist item or something in the souq (market) expects us to bargain. My dad just wants to know the price and to have it clearly written.  He doesn’t want to haggle over the price and potentially pay much more than necessary. In general, the prices they tell tourist is three times greater than the price they are willing to sell it for. One time at the pyramids I heard a man selling tiny pyramids and yelling out “itnayn ginaeh” or two egyptain pounds in Arabic. When I asked him how much it was in English as I got closer, he said “six pounds”. “Itnayn ginaeh?” I asked, with a knowing smile and raised eyebrows. He was shocked and almost seemed embarrassed. I just continued to walk past him, uninterested in his product.


In general, the people that sell any tourist item are very loud and persistent. They will call out to tourists and follow them, invite them to look at their good, but in on conversations, and physically get in their way if their heading somewhere. This hassle can be very annoying. The best way to deal with it is just to ignore or say “La shukran” which means “No thanks”. Even these tactics don’t work immediately, so you have to be patient as a vendor will try to follow you or stand next to you for a long time.  In the beginning, my dad had a difficult time ignoring these people. He would ignore them for a bit, then he would start to talk to them to explain why he does not want to buy their product, why there should be fixed and written prices, tell them he does not have any money, or something along these lines. He just wanted to get them away from him as soon as possible and did not want to just wait for them to go away. In the end, this just exacerbated the situation and made them stay longer.

Unfortunatly, situations like these turned up frequently. Since we were hitting up the major tourist sites, sellers were hitting us up for money, and hitting on me for marriage. Apparently, I am worth all the camels in the world. I doubted the “tour” guide that presented this offer for me had one camel, let alone a million, so I deemed it wise not to take him up on it. Several more camels, automobiles (aka “modern” camels), hosres were offered for marriage with me as well. If I took up all these offers, I would have at least twenty husbands by now and too many animals to count. Too much to worry about and I’d need a bigger place to house them all, since my room definitely not sufficient.

Overall, it was a nice trip and I’m glad my dad got to see a bit of my life and share in my experiences here.

Caverns of Jumandy

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Day 1:

Made a fantastic journey – first, to the little town of Antidona (which I didn{t see much of), andthen to the magnificent caverns of Jumandy.

First – the bus ride. I ment a charming old man (it seems just about everyone I meet is a charming old man…but they{re so nice, seem to be just tickled pink that I speak Spanish, and have lots of useful information.) So, after chatting a while, he kindly directed me to where the next bus left that would take me to the caverns.

Now, entering the cavern complex, it looks just like any over-touristed pool complex, with pools and waterslides all powered by the cavern water. But hidden away, there are 12,000 year old petroglyphs. And, a little farther than that, the caves. So, I went to the cave enterance, and there was sitting there this kindly indigeonous guide who was absolutely proud to talk about the “caves of his ancestors”, and perfectly willing to take me in – for five bucks (totally, absolutely, and COMPLETELY worth it, btw).

Now, he warned me that I would get COMPLETELY wet. I was like, fine – clothes dry. He did take pitty on me and allow me to borrow a pair of boots. Now, I heard  completely wet…the meaning of which didn{t really sink in…

The enterance of the caverns – awesome. Unlike caves I{ve been to in the states, this was real freaking caving. Not the wimpy kind with indoor lights and passages. No, we{re talking boots, and mud, and water, and head lamps. Even with the head lamps, you couldn{t really see that far in front of you – maybe two feet. Anyway, the enterance was not at all man-altered. It was jungle, then cave. Inside the cave, there was water and the river running everywhere – even at the beginning. So, you could be in three inches of water, then a foot. Super. Freaking. Cool.

The real surprise came about five minutes inside the cave. Why? My guide (who was absolutely patient and fabulous, btw – really pleased that I spoke Spanish, since he only spoke Spanish and Kichwa) looked at me and said, “give my your purse, so it doesn{t get wet in the Lagoon.” I was like “huh???”. Then, he lifted our bags over his head, grabbed a rope, and DOVE INTO THE LAGOON. Now, I hadn{t actually seen the lagoon because it was so dark before he did this. This lagoon was massive – half a swimming pool long. At the other end, this really awesome waterfall you had to climb up. So, seeing not other way, I dove in after him – fully clothed. It. Was. Great. Terrifying, but great. I mean this cave, it{s the largest cave system in the area, if not in Ecuador. It{s just FULL of bats, and really awesome-looking cave spiders, and stalagtites, and stuff.

So, after the cave, we kept on walking. He was kind enough to take pictures of me that I{ll put up when I have time and am back in Quito. We climbed up, out of the water, to a section of cave leading to an indigenous temple. During the conquest, the natives lived in the temple for 50 years, barricading themselves behind traps. Some, of which, still exist, and can be seen in the cave.

The temple itself was a long passage filled with floor-to-ceiling stalagtites/stalagmites which had joined in the middle. It was absolutely magestic. Then, we continued on to see more waterfalls and lagoons.

Then, sadly, but amazingly – the end. The end of the cave system was a steep climb up wet rocks which slowly led to the light, right up into the jungle. I had to just stop and STARE at it. It was absolutely beautiful to see the fauna slowly drift into the caves. Coming out of the caves, was just walking out into the light. It. Was. Stunning. Then it was a short walk through the selva back to the enterance. I am so glad that I did it, even if I{m now absolutely soaked and caked in mud from head to toe. Hey, beind dirty is a sign of a good day, a good job, or a good story.

Next, I am off to a wildlife sanctuary called, no joke, The Island. Jokes now, please.

So yeah, I am coming back completely broke, but happy.

I{ll update with pictures later.

Oh, yesterday, I forgot to talk about the waterfalls. OMG, you have never seen so many waterfalls in one place. there was a sign on the bus ride from quito calling the province “the route of the water”. They weren{t joking. I counted a good 50 waterfalls on the route to Tena. Big ones, small ones, trickles, magestic streams, right next to the road, barely visible in the mountains. It was incredible. I love being in a country with such abundant beauty. Not that the states doesn{t have some of the most magestic views I{ve ever seen…you just generally have to work a lot harder to see them. ;)

So, yeah, moved hotels. This one, the door locks and the light turns on. Massive improvement.

Now, off to try and air dry.

Fiestas de Quito and Bull Fights

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Two posts in a week, I know…but this all merrited a post.

So, I am enjoying my dose of freedom.

Fiestas de Quito has been around! Which means…lots of dancing chivas. I didn´t part take as much as I´d like, but everything was either too difficult to get to by bus, or too late at night for me to get safely home.

But, I went to the parades…that was fun. WHOLE lot of people dancing about in traditional costumes, men on stilts, bands, etc. I lasted two hours, yes TWO HOURS. Then, I´d had enough…yet, the parade was going strong. It was amazing….I have NO idea how long it lasted for…but now, I´m done. I´ll post pics when I´m back in town.

Better-BULL FIGHT. Yes, I went and saw a bull fight…six of them, actually. Had to do it once. Having seen it, gotta say…not my thing. I always liked up until they actually killed the bull. But then it was just disturbing…seeing the bull slowly die, blood spilling out of it, its throat being slit, being dragged off by horses leaving a trail of blood behind it….really gross. But watching the matadors and the others go at it was really cool. This one guy, who won, got close enough several times to kiss its head or even just stare it down. He would just rest the sword on the bull´s head, and then turn his back and walk away. It was neat. This other guy was fighting it out ohn a horse. It was awesome, cause he and the horse were doing all sorts of cool tricks, like taunting the bull, and flipping back wards and stuff. Although, there was one terrifying minute where the bull gored the horse, causing the matador to fall off. The third guy—not so good. The bull caused his sword to go flying through the air twice – cool to look at, but not guy. One of the bulls even got close to boaring his way out of the ring, causing people to flee. It was lots of fun…save the killing.

So, now I´m on vacation in Tena. Here, with my light-weight long sleeved shirts…the liars. All sorts of people told me ALL about the mosquitoes, and how chilly it can get in the highland oriente, so I must bring lightweight-longsleeved shirts. Yeah…not a mosquito in sight, and it is swealtering. Oh, well. At least, technically, I´m in the Amazon..heheh….even though I haven´t seen much forrest here.

What makes it worth it though was the drive. Oh. My. God. What a drive. There were times, we´d turn a corner and I would be immediately placed into absolute shock and awe so much that tears came in to my eyes and I just laughed at the wonder of it all. It is astounding, and impossible to describe the magnificent wonder of seeing a seemingly unlimmited, beautiful expanse of pristine untouched GREEN. Just, mountains, valleys, farther than the eye could see of completely untouched jungle. It was…..I am still in awe of the meer memory. I tried, I did, to take pictures in an attempt to capture it. I got…three, but not so good. The bus, of course, was hurtling down the mountain road faster than superman could probably fly, sending me and my stuff in every single direction. Literally, every time we hit some thing I launched six inches into the air…not. joking. It was fun. :) But, between holding my stuff, trying to stay upright and in a seet, and trying not to hit my head, taking a picture was…borderline impossible.

So, now I´m in Tena. Staying at the only hotel less than $10/night with rooms. Now, my light doesn´t work, and I can´t exactly figure out how to lock the door from the outside yet – only from the inside. But, it has a fan and a tv and a nice bed…so, tomorrow is another, adventure-filled day.

can´t wait.

United States Artists

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I am sending this to every artist I know, right now.