Showing posts from May, 2012

mansaf! Dinner at Dr. Raed's home

mansaf is the traditional Jordanian meal, made of lamb, cooked in a yogurt sauce and served with rice.  It usually takes hours to prepare this meal.  It is really a feast! 

Dr. Raed and his wife invited all the faculty over to their home tonight; it was my first time in their home, and it was such an honor to meet his wife and his 4 children: 2 boys, and 2 girls.  The youngest, whose nickname is Nadoush, is only 2 years old yet she has the personality and "presence" of a much older girl.  She is precocious!, and precious, and smart, and so-so friendly.  She really took to Ilham.  Below is a picture of "the twins" as I call them, because of this picture.  Also below is a picture of Carlene and our host and hostess, Dr. Raed and his wife. 

Out of the woods??

Well, this is one for the record books in Dialogue History.

We had a total of 8 students get sick, with 4 (or possibly 5) visits sick enough to warrant a doctor's opinion at the local medical center.  These students were suffering from some combination of food poisoning or some other bacterial yuckiness (to use the technical term).  It seems to have been a 36-hour thing, as all of them now profess to be fully or near-fully on the mend and back in good (or good enough) health.

We also think that some of this may have been transferred from "the sick" to the otherwise not affected - until those healthy ones were good Samaritans (we are in the holy land after all) and only after visiting the sick students did these become sick.  So, we joked about having to "quarantine" ourselves - meaning, basically, to stay away from the sick ones for a day, until we could stop the spread.  (One "patient"/student put this word on her facebook page, and that was a "…

Badia home visits

Here are a few pictures of our visit to the northern Badia of Jordan.

Dr. Raed, in his white dishdasha and red&white kaffiyeh, plus Eric and Fernando in theirs. Below that, Dr. Raed and one of the "host fathers" from the home stay.

And here's the whole family, outside their home, to say good-bye:

Site visits - Madaba, Mount Nebo, and Dead Sea

We've had a couple people get sick today and yesterday; IF YOUR CHILD has NOT contacted you, then rest easy - it's not your child who is sick.  Two women (both of whom contacted their parents) stayed behind from the visit to the Dead Sea.  I'm with them.  We checked them into our hotel so they could have a "5-star recovery" at the Hotel Bristol here in Amman. 

The rest of the group is (as I write this) en route to the Dead Sea to float and soak up the saltiest sea on earth, in the lowest point on the planet as well. 

I have some pictures of the Badia visits we made on Friday; once I get those uploaded, I'll post those. 

"The Badia" - all students in their temporary new homes

Badia is an "Arabic word used to describe arid to semi-arid regions of the Middle East where rainfall averages less than 200mm. Today, this region makes up part of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In Jordan, the Badia extends from north to south along the eastern portion covering about 80% of Jordan's total area. At present it is home to about only 5% of the Jordanian population." (  Go to this link and see the north Badia; that's where all the students are - in various villages across the north. 
All 47 of our students arrived safe and sound in their "Badia homes", where they will stay for 2 nights and return to Amman on Saturday.  SIT leaders (Dr. Raed and Dema, both of whom are from the Badia) plus Ilham, Heather, and I will visit all the students on Friday, and meet their host families.  I'll make sure to get some good pics, as I'm sure the students will do - and will have even better pictures to share.

Arab Uprisings, Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Red Sox

My dear friend Rami Khouri and my new friend Mouin Rabbani joined us today for 3+ hours of discussions on the Arab Uprisings (a.k.a., Arab Spring or Arab Awakenings) and the ever-dominant topic of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians and most Arab states.  Rami opened up with a comment about Red Sox; you might imagine what he said, given his proclivities for the Yankees.  He said he just wanted to make sure he had the attention of our 47 students.  He did, as did Mouin.  It was an afternoon of intense discussions and piercing analysis and insights from two of the most impressive people I know who cover "my world" (the Middle East).

After the nearly 3 hours of presentations, plus Q&A, Rami and Mouin met with a few students for more relaxed conversations on the patio of SIT.

Rami and Mouin made a great duo.  It was truly serendipitous that both of them could appear together.  Rami is based in Lebanon and just happened to be in Amman today (and tomorrow); Mouin is …

A quiet Friday ...

Fridays are the best days of the week in the Muslim-Arab world.  The first day of the weekend; a day to completely relax - and for workaholic Americans, it's a great day to force a halt to the madness of work, work, work.  Here, it is relax, relax, pray (for mostly all Muslims, especially the men at Friday prayer), and home to spend with family, and relax more.  And then go out at night and relax with friends in the cool evenings of Amman.

It is certainly how I spent most of my Friday - relaxing, hanging out with some Christian friends of mine while my Muslim friends were at prayer, and then back to the hotel to relax some more. 

I look forward to hearing from the students as to how they spent their first full Friday in a Muslim country.  Many said they were staying with their host families; some were invited to weddings; some were just off to discover more of Amman. 

Saturday we will be in Salt all day, and Sunday it is back to classes and guest lectures.  So I probably won'…

Hard work (plus some fun work)

The 3 separate Arabic classes (beginner, intermediate and intermediate/advanced) joined forces (and hands) today.  The 3 Arabic instructors (Rima, Riham and Noor) plus the dynamo Jumana (Arabic Coordinator, and so much more!) wanted to teach students more Arabic via music and some dance.  So they taught them (and us all) some Dabkeh while also teaching them a song plus key words (e.g., left, right, in, out) and more. 

After the morning Arabic (and Dabkeh) lessons, we had lunch break and then an afternoon discussion with Muhammad Zeidan, discussing "Youth in Jordan."  Muhammad is an engaging young man, a great speaker, indeed a charismatic one.  He spoke a lot about poetry, novels, blogging, youth activism, and much more than I can recall.  (Sorry I have no pictures of Muhammad; I have some below of Dr. Raed and a good portion of his amazing staff plus some of the Arabic and Dabkeh)

Settled in ...

Yesterday morning set the tone and tempo for the entire day - 4 students needed to be moved from their 2 homestays (there are 2 students per home).  1 set of students was due to a cat allergy; they didn't want to leave at all, but the health of the student trumped that (she was willing to take her medicine for allergies, but we didn't want that to be the solution and she agreed - and loves her 2nd homestay).  So, the whole day yesterday was checking in with students, how they liked their new families, how they found transportation, etc. etc.  Oh, and they were getting into full swing of Arabic and Journalism classes, plus our first guest lecture (about Jordan's foreign policy).  Plus "discussion lunches" with Ilham, Heather and me ... so all in all, a great but very hectic day.  That was Tuesday.

Today, Wednesday, a very different tone.  Students are settled into their homes, and are getting into the routine of classes.  They're settling in to the time chang…

Homestays and work begin

Orientation to Jordan and to Amman now ended, the students in Arabic had placement tests to see which level of Arabic (Jordanian dialect) they will study for the month.  We will have 3 classes of 8-12 students in each.  Journalism students also continued their work with Carlene.  And then all the students met their Jordanian "families" (homestay hosts/hostesses) and left for the night to start that adventure!  I am looking forward to Tuesday morning and hearing reports of the first night stays. 

Prof. Ilham, Dr. Heather and I ("Dr. Denis") will take our 47 students, divide them into 3 groups, and have "working lunches" with the 3 separate groups - to check in with them, and to assess how they are doing with our own assignments for the Middle East studies portion of the program.

I don't have any pictures from classes today, but here is one from yesterday's tour of Amman - we were visiting a mosque downtown Amman, and our SIT hosts were keen on tel…

Happy Mother's Day, America!

We all hope you enjoy a happy Mother's day back home, and rest assured your children are well (and well fed) here in Jordan. 

Here are 2 pics - one of lunch, and one (the "artistic" one) from our dinner. Yesterday was a full day of Orientation - to Amman, to Jordan, to "the region", to Jordanian culture, health/safety, finances (exchange rates, cost of taxis and food, etc.), ordering cell phones for students, etc.

Today - Sunday - is some more orientation (more details on our homestays) plus a tour of Amman (Citadel, Roman Amphitheater, and downtown).  And count on more amazing food ... that is at least one "constant" here.  I think we'll all put on the traditional "Freshman 15" once again (and here, I came in hopes of dropping the lbs ... )

Arrived! All is well.

I think that says all we need to say.  it's 9 pm Friday in Boston; 4 am here in Amman.  Yes, time (way past time) for sleep.  But that's jet-lag for you ... more soon, after our first day of Orientation.

Pre-departure ... off to Logan!

Jordan, Egypt, Bosnia and Serbia - I just called the bank and told them my itinerary over the next few months.  (We told students to do the same - inform the bank of their itinerary, so the bank doesn't think there is "suspicious activity" and places a hold on their accounts!).  The bank person was pretty impressed with this list of countries; I suddenly got exhausted just thinking about it!  But more than exhausted, I'm really excited to begin the journey with our students and my colleagues.

Parents - if your daughter or son did not inform the bank as instructed, please do so tomorrow and let the bank know that your child might be accessing ATM's abroad.

and as for my Egypt itinerary - don't worry, I'm not taking any students there without your knowledge!!  My wife and I will go after the Jordan Dialogue to check in with our family and friends in Cairo. 

Then, it's off to Belgrade and Sarajevo for part 2 of our summer adventures with students.

Off t…

You Tube video on SIT-Amman, Jordan

for a brief look at our host (Dr. Raed and the SIT office) in Jordan, see: 

Getting ready for Jordan Dialogue

A message to parents in particular:

What a shock for us to hear that our students are not sharing with their parents all the information we provide the students!  (Think "Casablanca", the movie, and the line: "I'm shocked, SHOCKED to hear there is gambling going on in here!")

In that spirit, we will provide you with that information here, plus we encourage you to return to this blog for daily updates about our studies, experiences, and adventures (safe ones!) in Jordan.  Those daily updates will start on the 11th of May.

We leave Boston on May 10.  We told students to arrive at Logan 4:45 pm (3 hours in advance of our flight at 7:45 pm).  Flight is Virgin Atlantic #12.  arrives London Heathrow 720 am (May 11); departs London 10:25 am, arriving Amman 5:35 pm (May 11)
We return to Boston June 13, 5:35 pm (coincidentally, same as our arrival time in Amman!)
The emergency phone number for the Northeastern's study abroad office is 617-755-5502. This number is mo…