Wednesday, 29 December 2010

I'm still around.

Just busy. I'm studying in college, and at the masjid attached to my college, and tutoring English, so I don't get on the internet much. I've been trying to convince the school to stop using Internet Explorer 6, but no dice so far. It's a miracle it even still sort of works.

I've been jumping out of my skin several times every day (and night) when the fire alarm goes off. It's definitely winter now, or what passes for winter here, because the girls are leaving things to cook on the electric heaters, and of course forgetting about them and setting the fire alarms off. It would not be as annoying, if not for the fact that most of the girls in the dorm stay up most of the night, so that's when the majority of the alarms go off, and they won't go and shut them off. Getting woken up and scared out of my wits by the extremely loud bells a few times every night is getting really irritating.

I'm afraid that one day there actually will be a fire (not that it would be that big a deal, since there's not much that could burn), and I'll have rolled over and gone back to sleep, and we'll all suffocate, so I get out of bed and go deal with the alarm, and try to be patient with whoever set it off. My strong fear of fire seems very unreasonable to everyone here; I think it stems from growing up where everything was made of wood or fabric, seeing houses go up in flames like piles of tinder as a child, and having fire safety drilled into me in elementary school. I suppose to a group of very inexperienced girls who have never seen fire, it doesn't seem like anything to get worked up about.

Happy New Year to everyone :)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Bottles of sand

These bottles full of sand are popular souvenirs in Jordan. You can get them at all the tourist sites and a lot of ordinary shops, but the cheapest place I know of is the souvenir market at the ancient Roman city of Jerash, where the tall round ones are only a dinar (about $1.50) and the larger flat ones are a few dinars.

Coloured sand is very carefully poured through a long, thin funnel into layers of little mounds into the bottle, which form the shapes of camels and mountains when you look at it from the outside of the bottle. They are sealed with a layer of sand mixed with some sort of glue; once the glue dries they won't spill. It is a very interesting process to watch, and incredibly fast.

The Turkish girls often buy a few dozen each to take back to their families. More than one group of Turkish students has loaded up at souvenirs at the market, taken photos of each other outside the main gates of Jerash, and then decided they'd had enough and wanted to go to a mall. I was very disappointed the first time, because I have no interest in malls (which the students spend a lot of time in), but would very much like to walk around some Roman ruins.

Here's Hadrian's Gate at the entrance to the ruins, one of the spots everyone has their picture taken in front of. In Roman times only emperors could enter through it; the picture really doesn't give a good idea of just how large it is.