Showing posts from May, 2011

Settling into, and still discovering, Istanbul

I assigned the Arabic students (now forlorn Arabic students, as they can't keep practicing here!) a "Treasure Hunt" for Monday. Today (Tuesday) was the start of formal lectures at Dogus University, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Tomorrow, a great tour - up the Bosporus plus a walk through the Dolmabache Palace.

If you want to do your own "virtual tour" of our Treasure Hunt, see if you can track these sites on google maps:

A Treasure Hunt in Suleymaniye area:find Istanbul's Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) – go through this to theBeyazit Meydani (Beyazit Square, or Hurriyet Sq.), into (and through)Istanbul University (check out the Moorish portal [1886] to the University).Through the University toSuleymaniye Mosque (Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent’s mosque, built 1550-57)From Suleymaniye mosque, head toward the Golden Horn to Kucuk Pazar (“popular district” of cafes, informal economy workers – i.e., unlicensed vendors, wooden houses), then head back (with the Gol…

"Turkey 101" - Dr. Itir Toksoz

Today began our more academically oriented program (the "core" of our Dialogue) in Istanbul. Yesterday's tour was a bit too much like tourism for us, but it also was essential to our understanding of Turkey and of Istanbul in particular. Today, Dr. Itir Toksoz (NU Alumna, PhD, Political Science) provided us with a rich and sweeping history and political analysis of Turkey (for 2 hours in the morning) as well as an orientation to the city - on foot and on the impressive transportation system: subways, trams, buses, water taxis, and more. We purchased the Istanbul-equivalent of the "Charlie Card"; it's more of a button on a plastic stick, which you press (the button) into the turnstiles on any of the modes of transport. We started with a tram; went down to the port, where we'll be jumping on a water taxi to cross over from Europe to Asia (yes, we're in one city, on two continents). That will begin on Tuesday.
Sunday is an exploration of Istanbul…

Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya

We had a long day planned, and thankfully we cut it short. Somehow this one-day tour, with the top 5 things we "must see" in Istanbul turned into:seeing 2 of the most spectacular sites in the world (Topkapi Palace and the Aya Sofya Museum), a much-needed lunch, an "oops it's Friday prayer time" (when we went to the Blue Mosque), and an end-of-the-day, students dropping out from exhaustion (or stomach aches), let's go to the Grand Bazaar on our way back to the hotel kind-of-a-day. So, we saw great things; we need to see much more; but we just got here and we'll get to these other great places over the next two weeks. And students are out exploring tonight as well - our hotel location is in the Sultan Ahmet area, very close to the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar.
Saturday our academic orientation begins with Dr. Itir Toksoz (NU alumna, PhD in political science). And we'll orient students to the transportation system - trams, trolleys, subways, buses, …


Arrived, safe and sound, and on-time. Bus ride to our hotel, in the Sultan Ahmet area, was a bit surreal - we left Amman and thought we were heading to a "fellow Muslim city" and instead we had entered Europe. We were "not in Kansas anymore", nor Amman. Istanbul is simply stunning - it's European, Muslim, secular, Asian, modern, historic.

And it's a tourist trap, which I discovered on my leisurely walk to the Haya Sofia and Blue Mosque, a mere 7-minute walk from our hotel. We may just have to be rude back to those who will not stop when it comes to hassling us for visits to their restaurant, their coffee shop, their jewelry store, and whatever else it is they're hustling. Luckily, we have many full academic days, plus a couple of tour days, planned. Otherwise, I might end up with the reputation of the "Ugly American" as I go from feigning deafness to their blathering all the way down to verbal push-back.

Final Day in Amman - Happy Jordanian Independence Day!

Our 3 groups, with their 3 professors, "reverted to type" on our final day in Jordan:Rob took our 6 photo students to the town of Salt for a photo shoot.Carlene was with our 13 journalism students wrapping up, as best they could, the Jordan stories.I was with our 13 Arabic students, plus Raed plus Rima (Arabic instructor), and Geoff Edgers of the Boston Globe, and we headed downtown Amman to al-Quds restaurant and sweets shop. al-Quds specializes in Kunafeh (knafeh), that delicious cracked wheat, cheese, and syrupy dessert that is typically Jordanian (though originally Palestinian). We had a grand tour by the owner of al-Quds, who was born in Hebron and moved to Jordan in the 1950s, and later set up his various restaurants. We learned how to make Kunafeh from the start, from the very first ingredients (flour and water), to how they are heated, how the cheese is prepared and spread, how the whole thing is then flipped upside down, how it is 'fired' (not baked, and …

2 full days left, then off to Istanbul

Time is flying for us in Amman. We have 2 full days left in Amman, Tuesday/Wednesday, then we're off to Istanbul Thursday morning.

Tuesday is a half-day at SIT/Amman, then at 11 a.m. we are off to Mount Nebo and Madaba. Mt. Nebo is where Moses climbed up to see the Promised Land, which of course he never entered. Madaba is home to the 6th Century Church of St. George, and its mosaic map of the Mediterranean world.

Then descending down to the lowest spot on Earth - the Dead Sea - for an afternoon dip (or rather a "float", as there is no dipping or diving in the Dead Sea) and a mud bath, which will leave students with the best skin of their lives.

For me, I've spent the entire day planning for our final two days and then our departure from Amman, our arrival to Istanbul, and finalizing our 2-plus weeks there - study tours of Istanbul and the Bosporus, lectures at our host University (Dogus University), etc. etc. etc. Planning, planning, planning seems to be my lot, as…

Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and tonight back in Amman

We left Petra Friday at noon and had lunch at a Jordanian NGO/service organization that trains disabled children to enable them to have a trade. From there, we drove to Wadi Rum - a "desert-scape" with towering mountains, pink sands, and a sea of desert that extends seemingly forever. This is where T. E. Lawrence ("of Arabia") was based in the 1915-18 Arab Revolt.

We "checked in" to our tents; rested for an hour; had a group meeting to discuss some new program requirements; and then headed off in our 4x4 jeeps into the desert sea. Pictures don't do justice to the vastness, the beauty, the immensity, the ruggedness, the calm.

We ended our tour of Wadi at sunset on a hill (a rock hill of course); drove back to camp, where the bedouin cooked an amazing feast for us - all our feasts are amazing; all of them prepared with our 5 vegetarians in mind!; plus all the regular favorites of Jordanians (bedouin and others) - lamb, chicken, and all sorts of other t…


It's evening in Petra. Technically, the town we are in is Wadi Musa; Petra is the ancient Nabataean city, hidden among the rocks. The most famous 'structure' (or carved facade) in Petra is the Treasury. (If you've seen the original Indiana Jones movie, you should remember this image.)

This picture of the Treasury is from my visit here last year - I have a slight foot injury that prevented me from hiking today.

After their hike, the students and we professors gathered for dinner - a wonderful Jordanian dinner everyone referred to as "upside down". We're off at noon tomorrow for a lunch in a bedouin village, and then to Wadi Ram (or Wadi Rum), a valley cut through granite. The center piece of the Valley (Wadi) is Mount Rum, named the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence of Arabia (and the Valley is the location for that famous movie as well).

As we'll be in the Valley/Wadi tomorrow and Saturday, and then off to the port city of Aqaba, expect no updates…

"Fight for 'just things' in an objective manner" (Rana Husseini)

Rana Husseini spoke to us today, and the quote above was her response to a question by one of our students who asked if Rana had any advice for aspiring journalists.

Rana is an internationally recognized and award winning journalist as well as a human rights defender. She writes for The Jordan Times, where she covers crime. As Rana told us, it was her work covering the murder of a 16-year old girl (in May 1994) that changed her life forever - both as a journalist and as a human rights/women's rights advocate.

After investigating this murder, Rana discovered the extent of so-called "honor crimes", murder and other violence against women in the name of "honor". (This would eventually become the name of her book, "Murder in the name of Honour", 2009) Honor crimes (or "so-called" honor crimes, as Rana emphasizes) are violence against women by family members who seek to "reclaim" family honor. Family members (mostly males) will claim…

King Hussein Mosque, part 2


King Hussein Mosque and Gardens

In addition to a great presentation on "photo basics" with Rob, we had a wonderful tour of the King Hussein Mosque and the gardens surrounding the mosque. It was opened and dedicated in 2006. It's a gorgeous structure, situated atop a hill on the edge of Amman. The mosque is not generally open to tourists seeking to take so many photographs - so we had to use our "wasta" (connections) to get access to the mosque early (before it opens) and to get permission to take photos inside. (it's a government structure, so typically, there are no photos allowed of government buildings).

Rob gives us a photo lesson in King Hussein Mosque


Views from Amman


Orientation & dinner in Amman

It's Friday (thae holy day and start of the weekend) in Amman. We had a 1:00 pm start to our Orientation with SIT staff and we started with an amazing lunch - felafel, hummous, baba ghanoush, fuul and hummous (traditional Jordanian dish), pickles, olives, cucumbers ...
Filled to the rim, we moved to the offices of SIT (School of International Training, based in Burlington VT). Our first lecture/discussion was about Culture Shock - what it is, how to address it when it happens. Next: Safety, Security, and Health. Then, a discussion of sexual harassment issues and its prevalence in Jordan (and comparisons with US and the world). I added my own discussion about the new syllabus, course expectations and assignments, plus the Calendar. And we ended the Orientation with a discussion of our Homestays. We then went out to another amazing restaurant - with nearly all we had at lunch PLUS so much more! Main dishes of vegetables, chicken, and beef. And topped off with entertainment…

Amman - Day 1

Students all arrived safe and sound today. I came half-a-day early to make sure all arrangements were secure (and of course they were). We're settled into our clean, comfy, classy hotel in Amman and have Orientation starting tomorrow/Friday.

Nothing exciting to report (and I'm sure that's good news for nervous parents); but exciting days ahead for us all. So, stay tuned!