Three Months in Jordan!

The last few weeks have consisted of us both being in crisis mode over careers and life in general. Many internship applications and not being very impressed with our current Arabic courses led to a whirlwind of questions and research into future study and career options. Exchange programs next year for Sam? Internships? Honours for me? Try and go straight to Masters? Grad jobs? Does this mean we should get internships here ASAP? Or focus on Arabic seeing as the Middle East is the best place to learn? Why are we here? What exactly do we want to get out of the year? Out of life? We aren’t doing anything with our lives!

 

This was a nice moment.

This was a nice moment.

But after realising that yesterday was three months since we arrived in Jordan, we’ve actually done quite a lot. In three months we have:

–       Moved to another country, set up our own apartment and come to know a new city

–       Almost finished a semester of Arabic at university

–       Travelled to Petra, one of the 7 wonders of the world, and explored the ancient city

–       Floated around in the Dead Sea and covered ourselves in mud

–       Participated in an ultra-marathon: 243km from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea

–       Hiked through a number of wadis and played under beautiful waterfalls

–       Been hiking and camping in the mountains to the north of Jordan, near the border with Syria

–       Spent a spontaneous weekend in Lebanon

–       Volunteered at a UN office

–       Taken up private (Arabic) tutoring

–       Held a couple of House of Cards marathons

–       Attended the ANZAC Day service at the Australian embassy in Jordan

–       Attended SOFEX, a bi-annual military arms fair held in Amman.

–       And we’ve met an incredibly diverse range of fascinating people – our friends from uni, who are from just about everywhere and have unique stories and passions, people we have met on hikes and at tourist places, people we’ve met at the embassy, the friendly locals who staff the shops we frequent, and so many more.

 

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Not bad for twelve weeks! If you make it fourteen and a bit weeks, we also managed to see a large portion of Egypt. And we were freaking out that we were wasting time over here… Ha!

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Bombs on the border: a weekend camping trip with a sad soundtrack

Kara’s observations of sometimes quite surprising social contrasts, and the sad soundtrack to our hike near Ajloun, in the North of Jordan, near the border with Syria.

1. Ancient city in a modern town

Jerash is a town in the north of Jordan, with ancient ruins dating back to 3200BC. We’ve always been advised to go there, but haven’t made the trip yet. We did however drive through on our way to a hike, and wow did we get a shock. Yes, we’ve been to the temples in Egypt and have seen other ruins before, but this was different. An entire, modern town had been built around these buildings- from the car, it almost looked like houses and shops were built on top of ruins half-buried into the hillside. Oh, and they hold a festival in the ancient Roman amphitheatre each year, featuring popular Arabic singers. Modern music in an ancient amphitheatre- how cool is that?

 

2. Beggars and BMWs

On a heavier note, the contrast between rich and poor is pretty strong here. Men in tattered clothes walk the streets of nicer suburbs, sorting through the enormous communal rubbish bins and putting materials in the old wooden cart pulled by their scruffy donkey. Homeless families live under scrap metal and tarpaulins in wastelands right next to major shopping centres. And the poorer, but bustling downtown area is right next to the fancier expat and embassy district.

Sam takes in the view near Irbid/Ajloun.

Sam takes in the view near Irbid/Ajloun.

3. Bombs on a weekend stroll

No, nobody is bombing Jordan, but every now and again we are powerfully reminded of how close Jordan is to countries at war. For example, last weekend we went on an awesome camping trip in the forests up north. We stayed overnight and went on a hike the following day. The birds were singing, the flowers were in full bloom- it was so tranquil and silent. Until we heard a not-so-distant rumble, the echoes bouncing across the mountains. Apparently bombs from Syria. Which would make sense, since we were a maximum of 50km from Dara’a, a major conflict zone in Syria at the moment. So our walk was a huge mixture of silence, laughing and chatting, with the occasional explosion in the background. It was quite surreal, knowing how calamitous the situation is just across the border, but how safe and relatively carefree we were on the other side, eating, drinking and exploring the countryside.

 

4. Men

There are rude men who harass women wherever you go, it’s an unfortunate fact in this day and age. But men here seem to be a lot ruder to me as a female foreigner, while also being a lot politer in some situations too. Hugging between local male and females here isn’t a thing, but nor is shaking hands in many cases. So, any male acquaintances we might make, such as the grocer, the baker or the university guards, will either shake Sam’s hand or give him an enormous hug, while nodding a polite hello to me. Sometimes that is due to their own preference not to shake hands with women, but knowing them, it mostly seems to be out of respect to me. Letting women go first through doorways is also huge here. Fine, I’ll take it!

What I won’t take so well is men calling out, beeping or otherwise harassing me, even when I’m with Sam. Now this happens in Australia too, don’t get me wrong, but walking home by myself this afternoon I realised just how much worse it is here. Men of all ages beep and stare out the window, others call out ‘I love you!’, while others just whistle or chuckle to themselves as you walk past. But I also realised how lucky I am here as a white woman. I was talking to my South Korean friend earlier today, as she carries a whistle on her keyring for safety. I was a bit amused, until she explained why. See, there aren’t too many people of Asian origin here, and many of those with South Asian roots are prostitutes. So while I put up with some harmless but annoying comments, men yell ‘sex’ and ‘massage’ at her to the point where she actually fears for her safety. This would never happen to a local girl, towards which men are so much more respectful, but is a sad fact purely based on race, and harshly jars with the more conservative parts of society.

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5. Niqabs and nightclubs 

As with any country, some people are more religious than others. Goes without saying. But the contrast between the most outwardly conservative people and the more liberal folk has been quite surprising. These observations are largely based on how people seem to look and behave, and obviously there is more to it than that. Nevertheless, clothing and subtle behavioural habits can actually be quite informative here. For example, at university everyone dresses conservatively. Some girls might wear skinny jeans or leggings, but most wear hijabs and long coat-dresses that seem to be one of the most popular items of clothing for women.  There are also quite a few girls that wear even looser clothing as well as the full niqab. Men are also modest in dress, wearing relatively smart clothes, closed shoes, and they always wear long pants.

The more conservative girls do not speak to men they don’t know for longer than necessary (for example the guards at the gates), and there are certain rules of socialising among this group. Some guys and girls hang out together at uni, but some of my Jordanian girlfriends gave me an interesting insight into their families’ values. Sitting at a café, we saw a guy and a girl in a hijab sitting together, and then taking a selfie. My friends started laughing, quite surprised at what they said is forbidden. For them, guys and girls can’t really be friends, and you couldn’t even do what this couple did with a male cousin, in case you marry him.

Compare this to a night out. Dressed relatively conservatively (I wore jeans and a long-sleeve top), Sam and I wandered in to a swanky bar. It was filled with rich locals, and boy were they different. Girls had several layers of makeup and wore tiny skin-tight black dresses with enormous heels, some with quite scary-looking spikes on them. They all sat closer with their arms around each other, something you never see at university, and chatted drunkenly, mostly to the opposite sex. While there was a lot less PDA (thankfully) than clubs in Australia, it was a shock to see this in Amman, especially having only seen locals interacting at the much more conservative uni. Nevertheless, I don’t think Mooseheads has much of a market to exploit to over here. Pity.

Nope, The Monastery in Petra doesn't have much to do with this post. But who cares? I could look at it all day.

Nope, The Monastery in Petra doesn’t have much to do with this post. But who cares? I could look at it all day.

 

 

 

 

Petra – the ancient city – woo’d us.

Petra: It’s a whole city of amazing stuff.

Heard of Petra?

The Monastery is stunning, and it's hard to convey how stunning in an image.

The Monastery is stunning, and it’s hard to convey how stunning in an image.

I wouldn’t hold it against you if you haven’t. I hadn’t heard of it until I stumbled on the second half of a documentary about the place. Turns out it’s one of the 7 Wonders of the World – a giant, sprawling ancient city with several breath-taking structures built 2000-odd years ago.

Experiencing Petra, as with any place, is so much better in the flesh. Here’s a super-brief overview of our experience.

After driving for 3 hours with 6 people jammed into a car that really only fits 4 (5 seats but it was small), and avoiding paying bribes at the very dodgy police check points, you park wherever you can find a spot and walk to the gate.

It’s 50 Jordanian Dinars for entry if you are a tourist (AU$75ish), 1 JD if you are a resident or student and free if you are a Jordanian.

‘The Sig’ is a 2km long crack in a huge rock. It was originally one rock that got split into two by some kind of tectonic event. It is truly magnificent, and you walk between the 30m high walls which are beautifully coloured. It’s cool here because the deep crevice doesn’t get much direct sunlight.

The anticipation builds, too, because you know that at the end of this peaceful 2km stroll is a 43m tall structure known as The Treasury. It’s carved into rock, with a two massive rooms carved out inside of the rock. The scale is not conveyed well in a photo. Any photo. It’s immense.

Around 500BC the locals discovered it was easier to cut into the relatively soft rock than build large freestanding buildings. So, the following day or three of hiking is filled with amazing buildings cut into rock. There is so much to see.

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We hiked for one day – it was harder going than any of our many hikes in Jordan because it’s so incredibly steep. But worth it. The High Sacrifice Point is worth getting yourself to, 45 minutes of relentless climbing later and you can just about see the whole freaking world.

Petra is a city. The Treasury Building is a highlight, so is The Monastery (a similarly huge structure), but there is so much to the place, not just one or two or 5 structures. For example, there is a 8500 seat Roman Theatre, too. And for the engineering students out there, Petra’s water engineering is incredibly sophisticated even by today’s standards.

So, Petra is way cool. Go check it out, and then enjoy the meal you have well and truly earned at the end of the day. If you’re unfit, you can ride a camel, horse or donkey. The donkeys even climb up and down the mountains – I’m sure it is terrifying but I guess it’s a little easier physically.

Friends from Canberra: Until you hear from us again please go to the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum, the National Gallery, and/or The Portrait Gallery and appreciate that you have access to some of the best museums and galleries in the world for little if any cost and incredibly close to you. Take advantage of that!

The Monastery from one of the many high points with a view.

The Monastery from one of the many high points with a view.

For more (actual, factual) info on Petra have a look-see at the UNESCO World Heritage website.

The Living Dead (Sea).

Yes, we survived. Yes, it is awesome. And yes, I did meet Kara’s parents for the first time!

Beautiful.

Beautiful!

Finally we managed to get INTO the notorious Dead Sea. We’ve driven past it 4 or 5 times now, but until this weekend had not actually been in the damn thing. It’s 40minutes or so drive from Amman, which is really cool.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth, some 420 metres below Sea level. The water is incredible salty, and filled with minerals, so nothing much lives in there and you can’t sink.

Kara and I in the Dead Sea  at sunset.

Kara and I in the Dead Sea at sunset.

Yep. You just float. Whether you want to or not, you’re staying above the water. It’s an amazing sensation. You can literally me motionless in a standing position and just sort of bob. You’re like a buoy.

The order of events is thus: Get in the water. Feel confused. Laugh. Accidentally get splashed in the face with the water and cry (salt in eye = horribly painful). DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE after your hands have been in the sea.

After that, get out. Cover yourself in mud. Wait for the mud to try. Jump/slide back in and wash off.

Then, joke about how everyone looks 10 years younger and go have a beer. It’s great and I highly recommend it.

 

The Dead Sea is between Israel and Jordan, you can get to it from either country. We stayed at the Movenpick on the Jordanian side, which is a gorgeous resort with a private beach and loads of pools and decks. If you’re a foreigner it’s probably best to stick to private beaches; bikinis and locals do not mix.

And yep, I met Kara’s folks for the first time. Her dad is scary and intimidated me but seems like a very kind and witty guy, and her mum is as cute as a button! She’s really fun.

A great weekend 😀

Dead2Red: the night we ran 243km across the desert… by choice.

Last weekend we did something a little crazy, even by our standards. On Thursday morning we drove down to the Dead Sea ready to run hundreds of kilometres through the desert to Aqaba, by the Red Sea. Having only found out about it a couple of weeks beforehand, there wasn’t much time for training. And I hadn’t been well so wasn’t going to run at all, but was roped in the day before as one of the other runners was injured. So points for preparation- zero.

In fact, preparation that morning was absolute chaos. Before that however, here is a quick run-down of how this relay race worked.

How it worked

We ran in teams of ten, and our team was split into two cars. CarA would run the first 15km while CarB would drive ahead. When CarA got to CarB they would swap, CarB would run the next 15km while CarA runners would get a rest. We ran relay-style in lengths of about 250m, meaning Kara would run 250m, then Sam, then the next person and around and around we went for 243km. Sometimes it was more than 15km, as the odometers of the two cars weren’t matched, so we just had to keep running till we found the other car, sometimes up to 17km.

Things that went wrong before we even left the house:

1. Sam thought it would be a good idea to make sure that the thermos for hot coffee didn’t leak. Keeping his hands well away from the lid, he tipped it upside down, only to have the boiling water burst out the thermos’ tap in a fountain of scalding hell. Sam’s reaction was to throw the thermos across the kitchen, shattering the inside of it. He burnt his wrist so badly that it started to blister almost immediately 😦 Sam was more concerned that he no longer had coffee for the trip.

Our amazing landlord drove us to the local pharmacy (it was pouring with rain and we didn’t want to get out clothes soaked before the race even began!) and helped us navigate Arabic pharmaceutical terms. With Sam’s wrist covered in cream and bandages, we headed back home to deal with the second problem…

2. Our apartment had flooded. Water was coming out of a hole in the wall behind the fridge where all the pipes were. This was caused by construction on the roof that had allowed water to gather and leak between the walls, out through a hole and across our kitchen floor. In order to fix this, our landlord had to go up onto the roof in the pouring rain to knock down a wall. Yes, he knocked down a wall down to fix the flood.

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3. And in order to knock the wall down, we had to switch the power out because our electricity cables were near the wall he was knocking down.

Just picture the pandemonium: Sam with his wrist under cold water packing food with his other hand and Kara skating across the wet floor hurling gym clothes into bags, all in the dark, with loud thumping from above thanks to our landlord’s sledgehammer. But you know what? We still got to the team meeting place on time!

The Race

We met at the university and drove the 45 minutes down to the Dead Sea, while the other car picked some other team members up on their way. We arrived in plenty of time, but the second car, with our team leader, was held up and only arrived 35 mins before the start – which was also an hour after registration was meant to close! They let us register, thankfully. We were the last team to enter – we hoped we wouldn’t also be the last team to finish!

Somehow, after all that, the race started well. The first runner for every team in the race had to run 1km to spread the teams out a bit before the team vehicles started to do their thing. Alexis did a great job, coming in around 15th, and passed the baton on to Simon, who was going to run another 1 km.

Poor Simon. We had parked our car at the 1km mark, and the other was back at the start. We found out, AFTER Simon had set off on a super fast pace, that we couldn’t move either car for 15 minutes. So Simon was left to run as far as he could in 15 minutes, not knowing where the hell we were. A lot of other teams had the same problem, but man.. Thankfully Simon was too tired when we picked him up to yell at us much.

More logistical complications followed. For example, when swapping runners, this scenario would frequently occur:

“Ok ready to stop and swap? Go Go Go! GO!”

“NONONO THE DOOR WON’T OPEN!! OPEN THE DOOR!  OPEN THE DOOR!!!”

Followed by half the team yanking at/ramming themselves against the door so that we could swap runners in time.

It was great fun though. We had the most awesome team, and conversation in cars switched from English to Arabic, to French to German, to Spanish and even bogan Aussie slang. There was also a lot of yelling, although none of it was in anger. This is despite being physically exhausted and staying up all night! Our poor drivers copped quite a bit of flak however.

E.g. As we got increasingly exhausted, we started cutting down the running distances from 250m to 100-150m. This meant we’d swap runners and the car would race ahead 150m and then we’d swap again. But the distances were all estimates, as we couldn’t set a trip meter on the van. It’s hard to guess in the first place, but the runners were always more cautious than the driver, as we knew how much of a difference every meter made in terms of tiredness. Which often led to us yelling at the driver to stop the van NOWNOWNOW, not realising that sometimes there were other people and cars on the road…

The other car in our team went so far as forcing the driver to run along next to the runner for a leg to show them how hard it was. Apparently, after that, the other driver was much more willing to stop quickly!

And we ran hard. Motivational music blasted from the van to get those about to run pumped up. And we ran even harder when we came up against another team, leading to exhausting rounds of 200m sprints (for about 5km or so) as both teams raged on. We would overtake them, then them us, then us them… It was awesome. And they were about 100m behind us when we finished out 15km leg – we were elated!

Then in the hour or so we had to rest while the other car was running, we refuelled ourselves (oh yeah, we almost ran out of petrol too), and sometimes dozed. In retrospect, that wasn’t a good idea as warming back up again got increasingly painful.

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Stretching on the highway

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Taking a rest

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Injury #2

Speaking of painful – about 50km from Aqaba, Sam sprained his ankle. He was 15m from the car and stepped in a pot hole. Not a lucky day for Sam and injuries! He managed to finished that 15km cycle  but couldn’t run, or walk, after that. So our car did the last 15km leg with four runners. By this point everything hurt, but the sunrise helped our mood.

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The spectacular finish

The two cars did the last part together, rotating between nine people. We crossed the finish line together, with the guys carrying Sam across in what was a pretty great finish.  We hobbled to the drinks tents then collapsed in our hotels unable to move. I tried to take a bath, but got stuck as I couldn’t stand up again. After our respective naps, we headed to the main hotel for the finishing dinner party and the most enormous buffet I’ve ever seen.

Kara in the hotel.

Kara in the hotel.

Results

We actually did much better than we’d hoped. All teams have to finish within 24hrs to be counted, so we thought that 20hrs, or 12 noon the following day, would be a reasonable goal. We made it in 18hrs 41mins, including injuries and screw-ups at the beginning! Each car ran their first 10km in 42mins, and both cars had a ‘car best’ of 15km an hour! So, overall, we managed to place in 16th. Unbelievable!

This led to some well-deserved recovery  the next day, chilling on the hotel Movenpick’s private beach with some spectacular views.

Panorama

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Seconds before Nacho got hit in the face with a towel…

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Israel

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So now we can say we ran 243km across the Jordanian desert from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. The team was fantastic, and the experience was one of a kind. By which I mean, while I had a ball, more time needs to pass for me to forget how crazy and difficult it was before I do this race again… Instead, the team is going to have more of these types of marathons:

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Why kissing is wrong.

This is pretty cool, what is happening in our apartment right now.

Kara invited our landlord’s mother over for two reasons: to get to know her and talk about the country and its culture, and also to practice Arabic.

They’re on the couch with tea and biscuits in front of them. They’re talking about… oh right, I have no idea what they’re talking about now because my Arabic is at the level of a 2 year old.. If that. But Kara may as well be a local, it’s very impressive to watch.

Earlier we were talking about Palestine – a topic that comes up almost daily here – and I had my first feeling of guilt over the topic. This lovely woman is Palestinian, and she was telling us about her family’s story. They left their home in 1948, when Israel was established.

Her family is from Jaffa, which is a gorgeous, smaller city on the coast of Israel. I told her I had been there and that it’s beautiful, and then saw the look on her face. She hasn’t been there. She, like most of the 4.7 million Palestinians alive today, are unable to enter Israel and see their old homes. But I can go anytime I like, despite having never lived there. That’s why I felt guilty.

It’s just one of the injustices of the complicated situation. Please do not take this as a blanket anti-Israeli statement – it’s not – but I wanted to share that particular feeling and that particular moment with you. Nothing more.

But here is the story that relates to the title of this post:

It’s against the rules for men and women to kiss on university grounds. Guess how we found that out? Yeah, the campus security told us. Whoops.

Kara immediately felt guilty and reprimanded herself for not knowing better. I shrugged it off (like the culturally insensitive guy that I am) more easily, but we don’t kiss on campus anymore. This makes me sad.

For the record: we were’t making out or anything. It was just a good-bye peck – Kara was off to her class and I was off to nap in the library.

And because I’m a really slow learner, today I wore my shorts on the walk home from the running track at the uni. It was hot, I was sweaty and I didn’t want to get my jeans all gross. For the record: Kara said I should put some damn pants on.

Walking through campus with these shorts on resulted in groups of girls giggling, or looking at me with disgust, and guys doing double-takes or laughing. I didn’t feel judged, I felt like a sort of weird stranger, like an alien.

A lovely male student politely stopped us and asked if we had a moment to speak with him. He told me that my shorts were a little too short because the Uni is quite conservative, the girls are Muslim, and that I should wear longer shorts or pants. I can wear shorts on the track though, or while playing sport. He was incredibly nice, in fact we exchanged numbers and we’ll meet up and help each other with languages (we will help him with English and he’ll help us with Arabic!). It was a very gentle, but important, lesson about the culture here.

That is, some things are very different here. Spending most of my time with Westerners – in the classes and because that’s who I meet also in social situations – it’s easy to think Jordan is not so different to anywhere else. People dress differently – at Uni I’d say 90 or 95% of women wear a hijab – but they don’t seem to act so differently. Girls still giggle, guys still strut.

But there are very different boundaries.

Kara had a conversation with some girls our age and they were fascinated by our relationship. For them, boyfriends just aren’t a thing. For us, getting married without really knowing your partner isn’t a thing. In Australia, if we were married both our parents would freak out. Here, if we kissed and went on dates but weren’t married our parents would freak out. It’s the exact opposite. Each cultural system has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.

I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t change depending on who I am around. No matter where I am or who I’m with, I’m me. That’s not meant to be abrasive, I don’t try and bulldoze my way through life, but I do try to be open and honest about who I am and what I think with everyone. With empathy and respect this shouldn’t, I think, cause problems.

So I have a weird little conflict in my mind about wearing longer shorts. Obviously I will, and I feel stupid for not doing so in the first place. But it’s one of the few times where I will change something about myself against my own will to suit or please others. It’s SUCH a small thing, but I wonder what it would feel like to have to do this on many levels all at once? I’d hate it. I guess that’s what they call oppression.

I’m not saying people here who wear longer shorts or hijabs or whatever don’t want to. And to be completely honest I quite like not having cleavage all around me. I like the less sexualised environment. And I think if I grew up here and saw a Miley Cyrus music video I’d think the West is a morally corrupt cesspool of shit, too.

Anyway, that’s my stream-of-consciousness cultural observations related to clothing. Hope you liked it.

Because we don’t have any super relevant photos for this post, here are some pics of me and Kara facing off over coffee like Obama and Putin are doing over Ukraine. High stakes stuff, I say.

The Valley of Women: Wadi Mukheires

It’s kind of a grim story. Apparently, a Spanish man used the wadi as a dumping ground for the women he killed. Wadi means valley, and Mukhaires is Spanish for women. So it was named after this story. In fact, the wadi was only recently opened up for hiking, it was closed because they thought there were still some potential burial sites in there!

According to Sam. The expert on Jordanian history, geography and everything in between. Sam had the group, maybe not convinced, but definitely confused. Our guide wasn’t sure if there was a story behind the name so told us to make one up instead. Sam did a pretty good job, no?

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It was a smaller group than last week, so Sam and I and a friend from uni were driven up by one of our guides in his big old 4WD, while the others were in another car. Besides the fact that both our guides are great guys, it was good to get to chat with Jordanians after spending most of our time with foreigners at university.

The walk itself was fantastic. While classified as moderate/difficult as opposed to last week’s ‘easy’ walk, it didn’t actually involve any swimming, and none of the climbing was excessively hard either. As Sam said, this meant we could get into a nice rhythm without having to stop too much. It was a different type of enjoyment and appreciation of the wadi we were walking through. That said, we didn’t have to swim!

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Although, Sam’s bum did get a bit wet, because of course he had to try and jump across the widest part of the stream. He ended up with his feet and legs on dry land and just his bum in the water. Hilarious! And me, when I prematurely congratulated myself on jumping across a wide stretch of water by relaxing and failing to actually make it to the other side… But just wet feet!

Which may be why we decided to stand under the waterfall at the top of the hike! Powerful and cold neck and shoulder massage anyone?!

Sam won't let me escape the freezing waterfall

The waterfall was really powerful!

Yes, it was cold

Wringing ourselves out

So yes, we did get soaked. But sunbaking on the rocks afterwards was a great recovery from our refreshing pummelling. The waterfall was beautiful though. There were some springs flowing out of the surrounding rocks, as well as a pile of rocks from a recent avalanche. Which was apparently covering one of our guides’ campsites from a few weeks earlier! He was properly concerned when he saw what had become of where he had slept.

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We had arrived at the waterfall ahead of time as our small group moved quickly. So we ate an early, but again, delicious lunch. Feast of fresh bread with fried tomatoes, onions, chilis, and some capsicum and sausages too. And tea, of course. With date and sesame dessert pastries. Yuuuuummo.

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We actually interrupted a lovely British couple and their guide having tea when we arrived at the waterfall. But then a group of about 30 young boys came on some sort of school trip, and played under the waterfall too. Funny to watch them pushing their teacher in, but still glad they didn’t stay for toooo long.

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Our group was great though. We brought a couple of friends from uni, one of whom brought her Jordanian boyfriend. Who is nicknamed Lemur, because he climbs and bounces around everywhere and does parkour. So while we were slipping and clambering around, he was back-flipping off rocks.

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We also had some great conversations with an American working here with the Peace Corps. This organisation runs a 2-year volunteering program for Americans, who learn the local dialect and usually teach English or work with Jordanian youths. Interesting to compare it to Australia’s Youth Ambassador Program, which isn’t nearly as long and doesn’t operate in Jordan.

Then there are our guides, who are awesome.

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And they always make the walk even more interesting

Walking like an Egyptian

Driving back along the Dead Sea was also an interesting experience. So many people were sitting picnicking along the edge of the road again. On the OTHER side of the four lane highway from the Dead Sea. So they drive an hour or so out of Amman to sit by a busy road unable to see the sea. What are we missing here? It’s so popular, surely there must be something more to it?

Really, I think it’s definitely them missing out on the beauty Jordan has to offer. Weekend trips out of Amman are definitely going to continue! We love these walks. So much so that Sam’s sweat patches form a massive love heart across his chest!

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Welcome to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Week 1 in our new home in Amman, Jordan.

Jordan Facts:
Population: 6.5 million
Size: 89,000 square kilometres
Location: Jordan borders Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
The Frustration.
 
Our first week has been filled with frustration.
For example, part way through cooking our first ever meal in our new apartment, the gas turned off. Thankfully, Kara is a genius and we put boiling water into a frying pan, and then put the pot in that frying pan. A few kettles later and lunch was ready.
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But the bureaucracy over here is something else. The Uni of Jordan is very difficult to figure out. It took us three visits to find a map of the uni campus, and it will have taken 4 or 5 visits to campus to sort out our registration for classes. Well, we hope it will be sorted tomorrow…
Even opening a damn bank account here is hard. You have to have many different documents, some of which we can’t get without a bank account. For example, they need our student IDs. But we cannot get those student IDs until we have paid the Uni fees. We can’t easily pay the uni fees until we have bank accounts. So we have to do an annoying work-around that takes longer.
It’s all getting done though.
We’ve also both been sick, and have been mystified by the difficulty in finding milk. We bought something that looked like milk, but was definitely not milk. It was water, with a bit of added milk, plus salt. The grocer described it as ‘off yogurt’. Damn straight it tasted off. Hopefully we find some soon.
Also, I have fairly long showers and leave no hot water for Kara. I’ll have to fix that or my wonderful girlfriend may get a bit ‘stabby’.
Kara looking 'stabby' holding all of her, and Sam's, carry-on at the airport.

Kara looking ‘stabby’ holding all of her, and Sam’s, carry-on at the airport.

The Good.
All of that is just typical moving into an apartment/new country type stuff, though.
Actually, we think Jordan will be great.
Our apartment is beautiful, our landlord is wonderful, and our street even has a grocer, and the owner waves to us every time we walk past.
The uni campus is not as pretty or as luxurious as ANU, but it has a certain charm to it. And we’ve found excellent places to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. We’ve even made friends with a local doctor.
We’ve also found a gym just down the street from our apartment, which is PERFECT. Typically, men and women do not go to the same gyms. This gym has split opening hours, the morning for women and the evening for men. This is because women train without headscarfs (so their hair is out). But the gym staff said Kara and I can train together during the male periods, which is great! I’ll have Kara dominating the squat rack in no time!
And yes, Kara has me curled up into some kind of pretzel every now and again too. Yoga is hard, man.
Lonely Planet Front Page

Lonely Planet Front Page

The Anticipation.
 
The hardest part of settling into Jordan is that we really haven’t had the opportunity to settle into Jordan yet. We are here, and we are spending lots of time out of the house, but we’re always busy trying to get something in particular done. So we really haven’t had time or energy to figure out the pace and style of Jordan itself, to get a feel for the mood, the flavours, the culture of Amman, of our particular area and for Jordan.
But we will. And we can’t wait.