Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ramadan and Eid

So it's been a while since I've posted to the blog, partly due to being busy with work and the other time consuming activities that come with moving overseas.

Ramadan was last month and it is a time of fasting, family and reflection for the Muslim community. Fasting takes place from sun rise to sunset. No food, no drink... nothing. I tried to fast twice and made it both times, but it was not easy! The no food aspect wasn't as hard as you would think, but the no water is the real test. My first time trying to fast, my staff noted that I looked like a ghost during our staff meeting (which was towards the end of the day) but I made it that day and enjoyed Iftar (the meal you break your fast with) at Applebees =)

My purpose of fasting was two-fold: first to see if I could do it, and second to understand what my students, staff and colleagues experienced during the day for the entire month. I can now understand the general decline in productivity during Ramadan. Although a bad comparison, the best explanation of this month is to tell you to imagine Christmas being a month long. Not as much of a fanfare as we experience with Christmas, but the general feeling around the country is that of excitement and happiness regardless of the fasting that is taking place.

The month was very productive, I made a lot of progress with my job, students and in my personal life too. I've managed to make some friends outside of my work-place, which is nice, but I will keep trying to make more. The biggest personal news for me last month was my decision on a car. After test driving about 5-6 cars, and spending countless minutes in Ramadan night-time traffic (everyone goes out at night to eat) I decided on a Mazda 6 Ultra. Zoom-Zoom.

So at the end of Ramadan comes Eid Al Fitr where everyone goes on holiday and travels. I chose to go to Jordan with my colleague Anne. Jordan was amazing!

We visited Jerash, Petra, Kerak, the Dead Sea and Amman. The coolest was by far Petra! It is amazing to see these ancient monuments carved into huge mountain sides. To think that those monuments were constructed so long ago and still stand is amazing. Further, it is amazing to imagine the caliber of work and length of time it must have taken to build those structures. We had a tour-guide for the first 2 hours of the trip to Petra and he shared a lot of interesting information about the ancient civilization that used to inhabit Petra, from how they defended their kingdom to how the developed ingenious and unique ways of brining fresh water to their city. The tour-guide was funny, and one of his first statements was "I love polygamy, I love Utah" me and Anne just looked at each other and laughed.

Jaresh was an awesome experience as well. Essentially it is a huge excavated site of an old Roman city. An interesting fact was that Jaresh is the largest, intact, best preserved Roman ruins site in the world... in Jordan... not Italy... crazy!

Kerak was one of the many places we visited that had an old castle and/or church, but it was really neat to get to explore these ruins as you could still see the rooms and windows from the old structures still standing.

Perhaps the most awe inspiring aspect of my trip was the importance of all the locations I visited in regards to religion. One location we visited was Mount Nebo (the memorial site of Moses). From this outlook, we could see the West Bank, the Dead Sea and the Holy Land. Truly amazing!

The Dead Sea was a blast. I was looking forward to visiting it the entire trip because I heard about how unique the water is. You float against your will, it's sort of creepy. Due to the high level of salt, your body floats much easier than in regular water. Also, as result of the salt levels, nothing lives in the Dead Sea (hence the name). If you reach down into the water and pull up the soft mud (which is good for your skin) you will also pull up large rocks of salt. No words can explain how amazing it is.

The trip was much more than what I typed, but I have included links to my albums so you can see the pictures from my trip. Looking back at the trip, it was probably the most amazing experience of my adult life so far. The weather in Jordan was beautiful, the views from our hotels were amazing, the people of Jordan were very friendly and helpful and the sites we visited were not only historic and important, but inspiring.