Friday, November 30, 2012

International Adventures: Getting Lost

Last weekend, I went to Amman twice, once to go to the malls and once because I was invited to dinner at Mohammed's house. On a grand total of 2 round trips from Madaba to Amman, I got lost, and badly lost, three times. I know that in an earlier post I bragged about what a good sense of direction and visual memory I have. These experiences have tempered that, somewhat.

Last Friday, I set off for the Mecca Mall in Amman after doing some preliminary research in The Rough Guide to Jordan. I had a reasonably good idea of where it was, and thought, in the inimitable words of Jeremy Clarkson, "How hard can it be?" I mapped my route out of Madaba to Amman using the King's Highway to head north. I expected that that route would lead me to the Airport road and then on to the west end of Mecca St. where the mall was located. Imagine my surprise when the road I expected to continue ended in a T intersection somewhere in the center of Amman. I tried to find my way, but ended up stopping at a rental car agency to ask for help. I assumed that the agency, like those in America, would have maps to hand out to customers. I was quite wrong in that assumption. Between the woman who spoke English, and the young man who had a sense of direction, but only spoke Arabic, they put together a hand drawn map that was somewhat useful.

Using the hand drawn map, I promptly navigated myself in a large circle, ending up right back near the rental car agency. At least my visual orientation senses were delivering some information, even if it was a bit unwelcome. I tried again, this time with a slightly different result and found a place called City Mall on the King Abdullah II road. It turns out that City Mall and Mecca Mall are within a few blocks of each other. At the City Mall one of the guys at the information kiosk gave me a large folding map of Amman which I regard as one of my treasures now. I walked around both malls, mostly to get an idea of what sorts of stores they had, so that if I found myself wanting something, I would have some idea of where I might find it. I bought a meal in the food court and then prepared myself to go home. I thought I had a good idea of where I wanted to go, but somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn and ended up back in the same neighborhood where I had first gotten lost.

It was then that I pulled out my trusty iPhone and used the Maps app to figure out where I was. It was able to show me where I was on a map of Amman and it was, indeed, not even close to where I thought I would be. I asked the iPhone to give me directions from where I was back to Madaba, but it threw up its proverbial hands and said, "I can't do it, Jim!" (best said in Star Trek Scotty's Scottish burr). BUT, using the iPhone and my new-found paper map,  I was able to navigate back to the road I had come in from Madaba on. I made it home, eventually, but was quite humbled by getting so easily and badly lost twice.

Last Saturday, Mohammed, Shorooq's brother who had helped me to get internet access at my apartment, called to invite me to dinner at his house the next day, Sunday. We made arrangements to meet at the Pizza Hut parking lot about 100-200 meters south of the 7th circle at 4:30. Amman has a series of rotaries/roundabouts that they call 'circles'. They start in the center of Amman and are arranged more or less in a line heading west with the 7th circle being pretty far out to the west.

Using The Rough Guide and my paper map, I worked out my route. This time I was going to use a different route from Madaba to Amman, what is known locally as 'the Naur Road'. I had been on this road a few different times during my cab rides to the Allenby Bridge checkpoint on my way to Jerusalem and I could see where it hooked up with roads in Amman. All went well for the beginning part of the drive, but as I approached the 7th circle, I could not find the Pizza Hut parking lot. The main reason for that is that I had suffered a navigational brain cramp and had made my way to the 8th circle!

Luckily, I had my local cell phone with Mohammed's number in it. Eventually, we figured out where I was and got hooked up at about 5:00 pm.. I followed him to his house and we had a wonderful dinner together with his extended family. He told me that he would bring me back to the 7th circle so that I could get home easily from there. That was a good thing, as he had taken me on a very roundabout route to his house (to avoid the worst of rush hour traffic) and I would never have found my way out of  Amman from there.

Good as his word, Mohammed took me back to the 7th circle and gave me verbal directions back to Madaba. The route he was suggesting was the one I had taken a disastrous wrong turn on on Friday. Yikes! I also knew that I was on a road that could eventually lead me back to the Naur Road. When I saw the sign pointing to Naur, I followed it. In the dark, roads look different than they do in the daylight, but I had been careful on my way in to check my visual landmarks. When I got to a completely unmarked intersection that I recognized, I confidently took the left turn and a couple minutes later was rewarded with a sign pointing to Madaba. I navigated all the way home without one wrong turn. Finally, my confidence was somewhat restored as I had now taken my own route home and had done it sucessfully.

One of the things that helps me with navigation is carrying a mental map of the area in my head. It helps me to know where I am, more or less, in relation to where I want to go. At this point, my mental map of Amman has way more empty spaces in it than I am comfortable with. I know that, with experience, I will begin to fill in those gaps, but these first few experiences (remembering General Patton's maxim that good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement) have been somewhat painful and humbling.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

International Adventures: A Visit to Mt. Nebo

The street I live on, one of the busiest in Madaba and only about 500 meters from what seems to be the busiest intersections in town, is know as Talal Street. Alternatively it is known as Mt. Nebo road, because if you proceed northwest out of town on the road after about 9 Km you arrive at Mt. Nebo. The trip takes about 15 minutes; for Moses it took 40 years.

Mt. Nebo is said to be the location where Moses got his glimpse of the Promised Land. He died there (or near enough to there) and Joshua led the people into the Promised Land. On a clear day, you can see Jericho across the Jordan Valley and the hills that lead up to Jerusalem.

The Franciscan Custos Pro Terra Sancta have been responsible for the monastery and churches at Mt. Nebo since the 1930s. They are, at present, involved in a very ambitious project to keep the old chuch and its amazing mosaic floors preserved.

At the entrance to the Mt. Nebo complex, there is a large sculpture that looks like a monument to the Old Testament to me. On most of those dark tiles are the names of the individuals and organizations that have contributed to the restoration work here and there are many.

Approximate translation of the Latin = One God, Father of All, Over all. This monument was put up during the Jubilee Year in 2000, the same year Diane and Tom took the Blessed Sacrament pilgrims to Rome for World Youth Day.

Faces of the Old Testament?
 And all the books of the Old Testament as well.

From this angle it looks like a big book.

Madaba was, in the period from about 500-700 A.D., a great center of mosaic art. All over town there are mosaic floors in churches, private houses, etc. The first known map of the Holy Land is preserved in a church in the center of Madaba. I can see the church from my bedroom window. That mosaic was done in about 600 more or less. The churches at Mt. Nebo were similarly decorated with mosaics and they are quite amazing. I'll show pictures momentarily.

Because they are building a structure to preserve the original church, it isn't possible to see the mosaics there, but they have put together a few exhibits. The first one you encounter is housed in a very large tent. The floor is probably 20 feet by 10 feet and is quite amazing both in overall concept and in detail. Here, take a look:

The detail in this floor is amazing. The colors and patterns in the borders, usually the least interesting part, are stunning.

The ability of those mosaicists was incredible.

When you leave the tent, you are at the entrance to a little museum where some really fine small mosaics, as well as a wide variety of other artifacts, are displayed. There is also a good amount of expository writing telling the story of Mt. Nebo through the ages.

A 1,250 year old inscription. When you work in stone, you are doing art for the ages!

The  mosaic above looks so regular, almost uninteresting, except for the marvelous use of color. When you take a closer look at it, though, it is quite amazing. All of those straight lines and patterns are composed from individual tesserae (the small chips of stone that compose a mosaic) that are anything but regular. The image below is now the wallpaper on my laptop.

 Not sure what this Greek inscription is all about, but the artistry of its composition is amazing. I loved the details in the corners.

From the museum, you walk outside and move out to the viewpoint that Moses had of the Promised Land.

The views above and below are looking to the northwest from the edge of Mt. Nebo. That's the hills of Israel and the West Bank in the distance.That area of green running through the middle is the Jordan River, which is neither deep nor wide.

Thankfully, they installed a plaque that gives some idea of what you are looking at and about how far away it is. Jerusalem is only 46 Km away; at night you can see its lights from here.

The road you see snaking down through the hills is the road Diane and I arrived on when we came to Madaba in April 2012. I wish I had my Roadster here!

When you turn around from the viewpoint you see a large cross in commemoration of Moses (the episode when he made a cross of a serpent to save the Israelites who had been bitten by deadly snakes).

As I said earlier, the Franciscan Custos is working on an ambitious project to preserve the original church and its mosaic floors. Here are some views of the project.

 Above is the west end of the church structure.

At the moment, you can just barely see the outline of what's left of the original chuch among all the scaffolding, fencing, etc.

  This is the southeast corner of the structure.

 A close up of the southeast corner.

The east end of the structure. I think it's going to look pretty cool when it is finished.

On March 20,2000, Pope John Paul II visited Mt. Nebo. At that time he planted an olive tree for the restoration of peace and it has been growing since then.
 That's what a well cared for 12 year old olive tree looks like. There are specimens that I have seen in Israel and the West Bank that are hundreds, if not over a thousand, of years old.

I have always loved stone work. Here in the Mediterranean lands, they have elevated stone work to high art. I was amazed to look at this column and it's base bas relief carved out of a solid block of stone.

Wood in this area is precious because trees don't grow anywhere near as large here as they do elsewhere in the world. As a result, they build with stone. Take a look at this round stone door.

Don't believe it was a door?  Take a look at a closeup of the plaque to the left.

Well, I had done the tour of Mt. Nebo. No mystical revelations or holy visions, but it was a nice place to go on a Friday, one of my two days off each week. I visited Mt. Nebo on November 10 and that's when all of these pictures were taken.

Time to leave and head back to Madaba. Lookiing east and a little south you can see the outskirts of Madaba on the hills in the distance.

Friday, November 23, 2012

International Adventures: Getting to Know Mr. Ramzi's Neighborhood

Written 12 November 2012
This one is a bit out of order as most of the action in it took place before I went to visit Diane. The effects, however, are lasting as they make my time in Madaba much more pleasant and livable.

My landlord, Ramzi, has been invaluable in helping me to get to know the local facilities in the neighborhood. On the first day I was in the apartment, he mentioned that the local grocery story, Target One, was a good one and stocked many things. I have to agree; I have bought milk, labeneh (a Middle Eastern cross between sour cream and yougurt), fruit juice, canned goods, rice etc from there. It's also the place where I have lately been picking up the English language version of The Jordan Times so that I can have at least a passing understanding of current events here in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

I had asked Ramzi about places to buy meat, fruits and vegetables as those are things that are not generally stocked at Target One (they do have meat, but it generally processed in some way. Think hot dogs, sausages, salami, etc). I was hoping for two things; one, that he would introduce me to a reputable and honest shop owner, and two, that he would let them know I should get the 'local' price instead of an inflated 'foreigner' rate. One evening after work we got in the Aveo and took a drive downtown. We actually didn't go all that far, but Ramzi wanted to avoid carrying heavy bags with us. 

We stopped first at the meat market where I met Ibrahim, the owner. His shop is just a few doors down from Haret Jdoudnah, one of the best restaurants in Madaba, and if you can believe the writer of The Rough Guide to Jordan, one of the better restaurants in all of Jordan. It's on the same street I walk every Sunday to go to church. When  we got there Ramzi spent a while talking to Ibrahim in Arabic and once they were done, the conversation switched to English and I chimed in. I made some initial purchases, some chicken breasts and a whole chicken and then we went to the greengrocer.
Same routine as the meatmarket, a long conversation in Arabic but this time there was no English to follow as the shop owner doesn't speak any. I bought a bunch of fruits and vegetables; apples, oranges, potatoes, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, lemons, limes, and pomegranates.

I have been back to both places several times now and know that I am recognized as a regular now.
I had sent Ramzi another email asking about laundry facilities as there is no washer and dryer in the apartment, so another evening we took a walk to a local laundry. They speak no English there either, so Ramzi came up with an ingenious system that allows me to get what I need. He printed out squares of paper that said Laundry in English and Arabic, another one for Press, and a third one for Laundry and Press. He copied and pasted that to fill a whole sheet and then gave me all the little squares clipped together. Very convenient and quite effective.

All of these places are within walking distance of the apartment, so I feel like a real inhabitant of the town, being able to walk places and get what I need to keep life moving  along.
Ramzi also showed me a good shop for nuts and helped me buy a local cell phone. One of the only liquor stores in town is right next to the cell phone shop. I haven't been in yet, but it's good to know where it is.

On my own, I have found a coffee shop, a bakery, an electrical supply store. The coffee store sells quantities of beans and cups of coffee (just like Starbucks!). The quality there looks to be significantly better than the stuff I bought at Target One, so once I run low on the coffee I brought back from Rachel's I will give them a try. Also, the electrical supply place I found is where I bought a conversion plug so that the three pronged extension cord/ bar of outlets could plug into the two pronged outlets here in the apartment. Cost me a whole dinar and I sure felt accomplished when I brought it home and it worked. Simple things, but the effect on my mental health is just great. I end up feeling less like a stranger in a strange land and more like a part of the everyday fabric of Madaba. I know that the locals still look at me as an alien, but I feel more connected and that's worth it.

On my way home from church yesterday I stopped at the greengrocer's and stocked up on tomatoes, lemons, pomellos, apples, onions and cucumbers, then stopped at the bakery I like for some fresh pita bread. Today on my way home from work I dropped off a whole bunch of laundry (Laundry AND Laundry and Press!) that I'll pick up on Wednesday.

It used to be Mr. Ramzi's neighborhood. Now it's mine, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

International Adventures: A Long Weekend with Diane

Written 10 November 2012
 (Sorry, no pictures. I didn't bring my camera)

My second week at AUM was short, just Monday through Wednesday. We had the Eid Al-Adha holiday off. Eid Adha is one of the two most important feasts of the Muslim year, the other being the Eid that ends the month of Ramadan. Eid Adha commemorates the patriarch Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Much like the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, but with the substitution of his other son (the one that he drove out along with his other wife, Ishmael's mother. That pair became important in the Muslim story, though I do not remember all the details at the moment.). In any case, we had off from the end of the day Wednesday until the next Tuesday, a 5-day weekend! When I found out about it you can bet that I began making preparations to visit my sweetie in Jerusalem.

Travel between Jordan and Israel is not easy or simple or quick, but it is infinitely easier for me carrying an American passport than it is for others. Hatem, a Jordanian citizen all his life, told me afterwards, "I am jealous when I hear you talking about going to Jerusalem so easily. I would like, once in my life, to be able to go, but the governments do not make it easy."

Ramzi K arranged a taxi for me to the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge border crossing of the Jordan River with his cousin, the taxi driver. With my bags all packed I got picked up just before 8:00 am and took a 20 JD, 45-minute cab ride to the crossing. Once at the crossing, you visit with the Jordanian authorities, show your passport, pay your 10 JD exit tax, and buy a bus ticket for the ride to the Israeli side. The slightly unnerving part is that they keep your passport for a while and give it back to you once you are on the bus. Once on the bus you take the 6Km ride across the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge (same bridge, different names from different countries) and get dropped off . 
The ride took at least an hour because we had to stop at three separate checkpoints, each with its own passport check. At one of them we all had to get out of the bus and all of the men on the bus had to show their documents to the Israelis. Ok, so you get to the Israeli immigration place and one of the first things you do is hand over your luggage which goes through its own separate scan. You queue up and go through the metal detectors. Once through there you line up for passport inspection and questioning. Once your passport is stamped, you emerge into a large hall and first find and reclaim your luggage. After a short visit at currency exchange to change some JD to NIS(New Israeli Shekel) so that I could pay for a bus ticket. 

I went outside and found the kiosk for getting a bus ticket. 42 NIS later, I was on a small 10-person bus and headed for Jerusalem. The ride only took 30-40 minutes to get to the Damascus Gate in the Old City. I got there at about noon. Israel and Jordan are 1 hour off, with Israel being 1 hour earlier, so the 100Km (60 mile) trip took 5 hours.

If you are in a hurry, or appear to be impatient, this is not the kind of travel to do. At any point there are people who can pick up on that emotion and will generally do their best to see that you get more, rather than less, frustrated. I've found it's best to just relax, realize it's going to take however long it's going to take, drop it into low gear, and just enjoy the travel. The people watching is always great as there is such a wide range of human beings moving across the borders.

Diane, Kate, my neice, and Olivia Bee (a young woman studying abroad at Jordan University in Amman who has known the Franciscan community since grade school days, and was visiting the Franciscans for her Eid holiday) picked me up a little while later. It was so great to be with Diane again, this time after only a 5 hour, 100 Km trip instead of 36 hours and 7,000 miles. As we were so close to the Old City, we parked the car, walked in to The Well, did some shopping and had lunch. Kate and I had a competition to see who could find the most outrageous ring. Believe me, it was a close race, but I think that Kate won with a knuckle-buster that she would have had to have a wrist support for if she were to actually wear it! The men at the Well fed us lunch while we did our shopping. After getting gifts for several women in the family, the men gave a scarf to Kate and Olivia as gifts. There are benefits to be accrued when you are a good customer, and Diane is the very definition of that.

We spent the rest of Thursday hanging out at the apartment which was fine with me. I had brought all of  my dirty laundry from Jordan because I don't have a washer and dryer and Diane does. We got the first load washed that day and the second the next. 

On Friday we hung them all out on the drying lines on the roof and went for a drive, first to IKEA and then on to Caesarea for lunch with Rachel and Uri. At IKEA we bought a ton of stuff to make my apartment more livable; a set of silverware, good sharp knives, a knife sharpener, a dozen glass jars for spices, two sets of bath towels, two light fixtures to enhance the bare bulbs in my kitchen and bedroom, some scented candles, and tea light holders for them. 

Once out of IKEA, we headed north for Caearea. We got there just about noon, perfect for our lunch with Rachel and Uri. We met them at Rachel's shop complex and sat in the sun and talked for a while. One of the shops is full of specialty products for cats, and, of course, there are a whole passle of cats around the shops (and Caesarea in general). One of the newly-adopted ones was a young male that Rachel named Pig-Pig. He crawled up into my lap, so I gave him the deluxe head scratching. His little purr motor was going! Up until that time, I hadn't really realized just how much I missed Prince and Thor, my two black brother cats at home in Lake Forest Park. Well, we came back to the shops after lunch for coffee and Pig-Pig was in my lap in a flash, so I got my fix, but I do miss 'the boys'.
The six of us (Diane, Kate, Olivia, Rachel, Uri, and I) had lunch at Helene's, a very good restaurant right on the water of Caesarea harbor. Lunch was fabulous. It seems that Uri and I have similar tastes as we had the same appetizer (lightly fried whole anchovies on a bed of roasted vegetables)and desert (tahini ice cream with halvah threads and chocolate over it). 

After lunch the girls headed off for a tour of the ruins of Caesarea and the four of us went back to the shops for coffee, a chat, and a bit of shopping, of course. Uri is a fascinating man. He's worked on desalination plants all over the world and is a very interesting man to talk with. Humble, but if you listen carefully, you realize just how advanced and well regarded he must be in his field. 

The girls scored for the second day in a row, each coming out with a gift from Rachel. We had taken a long time at lunch and lingered long over coffee and talk, so it was almost dusk by the time we left Caesarea. We took the girls by the old Roman aqueduct and beach area, but didn't get out as it was getting dark. We drove home to Jerusalem in the dark, getting home around 7:00. None of us was hungry for supper after such a lunch, so we made do on two meals. That pattern would hold for the next two days as well.

On Saturday we finished my laundry up and then got ready for lunch at George and Elianor's. Elianor was making emshaken, a dish for which she is justly famous. Emshaken is basically roast chicken on flatbread, but that hardly does it justice. The flatbread, taboon, is like pita, but a bit bigger and much fluffier. This is spread with a mixture of onions, spices, and almonds and then the grilled chicken half is placed atop that. It is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the most delicious meals imaginable. This is not the first time I've had emshaken at Elianor's and I hope it will not be the last. 

On Sunday, Diane and I went to Mass at the Poor Clare's Monastery and then went off to the Jerusalem Mall for another shop-a-thon. This time we bought a coffee grinder (the one I brought from the US was not functioning well on Jordanian current), an excellent frying pan, two nice covered cooking pans, and some smaller cooking implements. Between the IKEA and JMall trips, it took two extra suitcases to get everything back to Madaba! 

After returning home from shopping we picked up Kate and headed to Shorooq's for lunch. Shorooq made maqluba (sp?), which means upside down. It is basically a one pot dish of chicken and rice. Once it's all cooked it is turned over onto a large platter and you dig in. Shorooq said it was the first time she had made maqluba and it was excellent. She claims not to be a good cook, but I am here to tell you that is not the truth. She is quite good. 

Shortly after lunch, her husband's uncle stopped by for a visit. What a fascinating and cultured gentleman. He spoke five languages fluently including English, Spanish, French and Italian. He and Diane had quite a conversation together.

After lunch we headed back home and began packing up all my loot. In addition to all the purchased stuff, Diane gave me two sets of really nice sheets from her supply (she is a connoisseur of fine linens, so I got one set of flannels and one set of smooth cotton) as well as a comforter still in its original (small) packaging. She also filled all of the dozen glass jars with a dozen different spices and threw in 4 liters of high quality olive oil (quality ingredients make all the difference in cooking, especially spices and oil). As I said earlier, Diane had to lend me two suitcases to get it all back to Madaba, which made it interesting keeping the baggage train together!

Monday, we left the apartment around 9:00 am and Diane dropped Olivia and I off for our return to Jordan; she to Amman, me to Madaba. The return voyage was quite similar in structure and timing to the arrival with a couple of high priced surprises. The taxi ride to the Allenby Bridge was 200 NIS (about $50)! and the exit tax from Israel was 175 NIS ( almost $44)! But, if you want to travel, you pay the freight. If you don't want to, you don't get to leave! 

Olivia and I traveled together to the Jordan side and then parted ways. I got a 20JD taxi ride back to Madaba and ferried my three bags up the three flights of stairs one flight at a time. It took quite some time to get it all unpacked and organized, but the apartment is much more liveable as a result. 

I'm so glad Diane and I got to spend almost 4 full days together (short about 3 hours). We had a great time together. Even if we had done nothing but hang out together, it would have been worth the time and travel. The stuff we got to do was a bonus.

International Adventures: So. What does American University of Madaba look like?

Written 11 November 2012. 

Tour taken 24 October 2012

Here we go on the campus tour.
First  of all, a location. AUM is about 7 Km southeast of Madaba, nestled in a bowl of hills. The campus is elliptical in shape with the long axis running east-west more or less with the gates at the west end of campus. AUM lies just off the King's Highway, so it is just a short trip from Madaba, probably 10 minutes on an average day.  The parking lot beside the IT building is 9.3 Km from my front door. Not a bad commute at all.

Once you turn off the King's Highway, the entrance road to campus is about 1.5 Km long. As you approach the campus you see the Seal of AUM and just behind it the gates to campus. 

The IT building is furthest to the right in this picture on the south side of campus. The campus is surrounded by a ring road. There are no roads through campus by design. It is meant to be a more people-friendly, walkable space. Once through the gates, take a right under the pedestrian bridge from the student parking lot and follow the road uphill to the IT building.

Here's my work home for the next 10 months. My office is behind the window furthest to the left. All of the buildings at AUM share a similar color scheme; off white stone, burnt sienna (if you remember that Crayola color)window frames and doors and blue tinted glass. It's a nice look.

The courtyard in front of the IT building is a very pleasant space, nicely planted and care for.

The bed of lavender and roses is particularly nice.

Just inside the front door is the reception desk. Our receptionist is not in the picture. That's Rania, one of the IT staff, behind the reception desk. The other person in the picture is our dedicated cleaning woman. There is a whole squad of women who work at AUM keeping it scrupulously clean on a daily basis. They all wear the same uniform. In addition to making sure that everything (and I do mean everything; floors, furniture, bathrooms, common rooms) is really clean, they also make tea and/or coffee for the staff. Our lady seems particularly amused by me, the new foreigner in their midst. She's slowly teaching me some Arabic so I can communicate with her.

Here's my office. It's a bit stark at the moment. Maybe I can bring some posters or something to brighten it up when I go back to Seattle at Christmas time. Basman's office door is just out of the picture to the right; Hatem's office door is just to the left, also out of the picture. Yes, that's right, they (and anyone visiting them) both have to go through my office to get to theirs. Makes my workspace a bit like Grand Central Station at times, but I do get to see everyone this way without having to do any walking.

This is the view out my window. That's my little gray Aveo in the center of the picture.

Let's take a short walking tour of campus. 

Just off the IT building's courtyard is a long staircase down to the rest of campus that runs behind Business B.

Walking around Business B brings you to the one of the most used courtyards on campus. It is a main gathering spot for students between classes. At this point AUM, only in its second year of accepting students, has about 500 students. The building to the left is Science B; the building to the right is Science A. Just out of the picture to the right in Science A there is a small cafe on the first floor. I eat lunch in that cafe most days. I can get a hot meal (usually a sandwich, but we had lasagna once), a salad, and a drink for 3 JD (1JD (jordanian dinar) = $1.40 at current exchange rates), so lunch costs me about $4/day.

This is part of the central courtyard with the front of Business B to the left and the back of Science B off to the right out of the picture.

I've walked down between Science A and B and am now looking back toward that central courtyard. Science A is on the left and Science B is on the right.

Just a bit further down the walkway. This is a view of Science A. I like the look of the buildings here.

Turning directly around from there, you get a view of the fields surrounding AUM and Madaba off in the distance to the northwest. The campus is completely surrounded by farmland. I don't know what they grow there as harvest time was over by the time I got here and the fields were bare. They've recently begun working the fields in preparation for the winter rains, so over the next couple of months the look of the area surrounding campus is likely to change dramatically. There are relatively large flocks of sheep and goats kept right around here. I have no idea what they are eating as the land looks completely devoid of nourishment to me, but the sheep seem happy and well fed, so what do I know?

This  is a view of the front of Science B. Most of the administrative offices are located there.

One more view of the central courtyard looking mostly west toward the entrance to campus. The pedestrian bridge to the student parking lot is dead ahead.

This is Hatem in his office next door. He's a great guy and the administrator of the LMS that I am the specialist for. We have found that we have a mutual fascination with cars. He is currently enjoying some of the DVDs that I brought with me from the US (Top Gear, Rendezvous, Grand Prix,and Senna so far). He promises to bring me to some car related events in Jordan, so I can get my fix.

I took this picture in the late afternoon so you could see the difference in the quality of light that the blue-tinted glass makes.

As I left campus that afternoon, I pulled to the side of King's Highway and took this picture of the AUM campus nestled in its bowl of hilly farmland bathed by the afternoon sunlight. Those long buildiings just right of center toward the top of the photo are just off campus and are for chickens, I think. I hear a lot of rooster noise up that way.

These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along


About Me

My photo
I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.