Sweaty Adventures

Trip Start Aug 24, 2009
Trip End May 24, 2010

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Where I stayed
Sharhabil bin Hassneh Eco Park

Flag of Jordan  ,
Thursday, September 17, 2009


I froze at work because the a/c is on the frozen peas setting. Then I headed to Fitness First with Devan and followed my workout/spa routine that I love so much. Afterwords we decided to go to Hashem's for falafel, hummus, fries, and bread. We got their after if-tar so we had the place to ourselves. A trip to Hashem is of course never complete without a trip to Hamudeh's for the most famous bootleg movies in Jordan. I said I wasn't going to buy anything but they are so cheap and he always throws in free movies so I ended up leaving with Wall-E, The Tale of Despereaux, Futurama Season One, Osama, Yes, House of Flying Daggers, Lawrence of Arabia, Genghis Khan, and an Egyptian movie called Zarf Tarek. Haha. I left with waaaay less movies than Devan, trust. Then home for a giant batch of Mujadrah which I also used to feed hungry Jordanians that had to work until midnight. Apparently it is totally weird that I was going to eat mine with Lubneh instead of yogurt, but victory was mine because they agreed it was delicious.

Friday was a lazy morning and then Devan and I decided to walk downtown. Quite a feat since our Jordanian friends told us it was impossible. It actually wasn't of course, although it was a bit of a hike. We enjoyed exploring on the way and just getting a bit more oriented to Amman. Our first stop was the Abdali bus station which turns in to a flea market every Friday. We wandered between hundred of shoes, used tshirts, and veggies, in a place where apparently our Jordanian friends have never even been. It is funny the things you don't do in your own area based on, idk, how you were raised or your concept about certain areas or town, etc. Yoichi and Masashi go to the flea market all the time here so we took their word for it and it was cool. Then we kept walking to the city center and decided to shop around until if-tar whereupon we ate at Hashem AGAIN. Haha, delicious. This time I bought a small salad at a stand nearby to take with me too, yum. Because it was so busy they sat us with another group of ejnabe (sp on that, it means foreigner). They were super cool and coincidentally the one woman was raised back and forth between Thailand and one of the dudes had been to Thailand a bunch so we talked about all the delicious foods and fun things we miss. Later on that night, Firas picked us up and we head to The Basement which is a coffee shop near first circle. We met a bunch of his friends including some people who gave me good advice concerning border crossings at Israel and Syria. Coincidentally a giant group of Japanese ejnabe came in and Yoichi and Masashi were with them which we cool beans. We chatted a bit and then let them back to their gathering which was a going away party for someone in the group. Meanwhile, Devan and I had ordered sand wishes from this coffee shop and were waiting and waiting and waiting. We finally decided it was time to leave without the sandwiches which is better for our wallets anyway. We had probably waited almost an hour at that point. Funny enough, on the way to our cars we passed on of the cooks who was returning to the coffee shop with loafs of bread! OMG...I couldn't believe it. I kind of felt bad but they should have just told us they were out. I mean who waits over an hour for what is like the Arabic equ\vilent to grilled cheese? Not I. More mujardah for me.

This was a chill day. Sunning on the balcony, reading, and cleaning the apartment. Over more leftovers of mujadrah, Devan and I watched Yes Man with Jim Carrey. I was deciding to finally go to bed early....really, face washed, teeth brushed, pjs on....at 9:30, when I decided to call my boss again because I had been playing a wicked game of on-sided phone tag all day trying to find out if the office was going to be open Sunday or not. He actually answered this time and when i asked if I should be coming into the office he responded by saying, "No, I arranged for you to be in the Eco Park all week." What!? Wow, thanks for the notice, right? I had to cancel a few appointments I had scheduled for the beginning of the week including with a tutor and a potential employer which miffed me off and I ended up staying up and packing for a couple hours. It actually wasn't that hard to pack since it was just like hiking stuff (and I will admit I was (not so) secretly excited to use my new hiking pack). Sleep.
I was up and ready and at FoEME waiting for Yoichi, Masashi, and Abed at 8-ish. After Masashi and Yoichi arrived we waited some more and eventually got a call from Abed saying that he wasn't coming and that a cab should arrive shortly to pick us up. Um....ok. So the three of us cabbed to the Eco Park by ourselves. Yoichi and Masashi usually go every other week because their work is focused on this project and their specialties are more technically based in water resource management, ecology, etc. I was really going along to get a feel for the park because a lot of my work in Amman is related to what we are doing there. Fasting by default made me super tired and we arrived at high noon so I didn't really absorb my surroundings until after a long mid-day nap.   
When I woke up I was a bit refreshed and started to take everything in. The Eco Park is quite far North. From the area you can see the West Bank the Jordan Valley is basically split between Jordan and Israel. Of course this area, while full of army dudes and check points (think El Paso/Juarez but worse), it is not tan area from which you can see settlements or walls. From the part of the Valley we were in you see small community villages just like on the Jordan side, and many fishing ponds which you don't see on the Jordan side. At the Eco Park we were staying at what will be a visitors center but what is currently just a small building with two rooms, a bathroom and a mini-kitchen. A handful of army guys were chilling out side but Yoichi and Masashi assured me that these were some of the nice ones (they are there because the land is technically owned by the government). I just kind of observed while they caught up with each other Arabic style (they have each been here well over a year so their Arabic is quite good). I also realized that my boss had apparently decided to arrive at the park and had with him an American woman who was making a documentary about climate change for the United Nations. She videotaped some interviews while I ran aroun d with her secondary camera picking up background stuff, conversations, images, etc. 

When Abed left the UN woman was put in the care of one of FoEME's village reps from the area who is basically awesome. I tagged along while he showed her parts of the Eco Park and the surrounding area. The UN woman was really nice and I kind of felt bad for her because she didn't have a crew with her at the time since a Jordanian crew wouldn't be able to cross into Palestine with her the next morning...but imagine me hungry and mostly very thirsty, running around what amounts to dry dry fields at this time of year, no shade, sweating out the moisture that I have somehow been able to sustain and trying to remain positive while she has me carry around her giant tripod and some kind of white noise machine ("you don't mind do you?"), attempting to rapidly set up the tripod an dbreak it down whenever she says "oh this is the shot," or "the lighting her is amazing," or "I have to get some film of that guy on a donkey", or just the tried and true "Tripod!" Yea. I was annoyed. Even when we drove to some of the nearby villages this routine didn't end. We stopped the car every 1.3 minutes whereupon she would ask him to "back up, back up, back up, ok right here, wait pull forward...ok can you drive forward at a constant speed without using your break so we can pretend the car is a dolly? no breaking I said, let's try that again." Yep. For real. He was being nice too but I tried to lay it out there. I told here you have about 15 minutes before we are going to have to take you to to your guest house because it is really important that he is home before the call to prayer. It didn't phase her too much. 

Finally we got her to the guest house and speeded, and I do mean speeded, to his brother in law's place. I was invited to iftar, probably because time was running short, but either way iftar-ing with a family is always welcome in my book. Everyone was really nice and just as we arrived the call to prayer came on and a glass of special Ramadan juice appeared in my hand. These juices are very sweet but I downed it and my body immediately recognized that no it was in fact not going to die of hunger or thirst. Then we ate traditional style on the floor which felt very reminiscent of Thailand except that I was eating with the family and not before. The food was delicious. Cabbage rolls, grapeleaves, salad, baba ganoush (mum- I am starting to like it a tiny bit), soup, and two big pots full of what is really similar to pot roast...potatoes, carrots, onions, chicken, and meat (still not sure if it was lamb or beef...I think when they say meat they mean beef). Yum, yum, yum. The best part about eating after being so hungry is being so full and then just laying back on these cushions against the wall and chillaxing. After some Arabic tea AND coffee, haha, I was dropped back at the Eco Park where I just chilled with Yoichi and Masashi, talking, playing cards, and what not until it was time to go to sleep. We slept on small mats in the main room of the building because it has a ceiling fan (the Valley is at least 10 degrees hotter then Amman). 
Masashi can't really sleep in which is good for yoichi and I because we woke up all sleep and puffy faced to a hot pot of tea. After the preliminary morning laze: tea and cigarettes (not for me), we headed out on a hike up one of the hills (jebels). Again, no shade and hotter than blazes. Luckily at the top of the hill were a handful of old oak trees that we took refuge under. I was happy to be with other foreigners because I could take off my long sleeve shirt and wear just the tank I had on underneath with offending anyone. We made a fire which was a hilarious process in itself and then enjoyed some tea, bread, and prepackaged seaweed. The usual, haha. Mashasi and Yoichi are cool dudes and we are constantly laughing over translation errors and whatnot. In fact, we now call Masashi "sexy bastard" based on one really hilarious translation mistake. These mistakes are even funnier because they usually come from a translation machine so there is this build up right after they have found the word but I haven't seen it yet and then BAM...."sexy bastard? (lmao)....I am pretty sure this isn't what you mean (lmao some more)." Then with donkey's braying (sp on that) in the background we hiked down and napped through the hottest hours of the day.

After my nap I went with Masashi on a separate hike. One of his jobs is to document flora and fauna in the park so he was snapping away while we had language lessons, Arabic for me and English for him. We took a break at the top of a hill with old school ruins while I described some of the informal greetings of the U.S. (hey, what's up, what the dilly yo, what up doh, yo yo yo, and so on). By the time we got back to the Visitor Center is was dinner time and we had this awesome potato, eggplant, onion dish that Masashi fried up and a salad of cold tomatoes with sauteed zucchini, onion, and garlic on top. YUM. Then the standard after dinner chatting until sleeptime. Our conversations range from Sailor Moon and Speed Racer, to the difference between the word batch and group, to discussions of Japanese internment in the U.S and WWII. Lest you think we got too serious, I am pretty sure we each went to bed with a different celebrity nickname, Johnny Depp, Brad "sexy bastard" Pitt, and Cameron "polished apple not to be confused with a Polish apple" Diaz. 
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