Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cairo, My place in this world

Well, I'm not certain how many of you still read this, but I thought I'd give a quick blog (mostly inspired by Genesis starting his own blog).

I'm in Cairo now, and if you've paid any attention to my facebook statuses, you'd already know this.

Egypt is an interesting place in the world to be. A ton of history here, and its been mind-wracking trying to sort out all my classes / let alone do some independent research.

But overall, I'm pleased to be here, and I'm excited about what this new year will unfold.

My best friends here include a few staff members, and people I've met all around. The person I would consider myself closest to would be Abigail, my colleague, friend, and neighbor. We hang out all the time. We come from different backgrounds, but I'm thankful for her friendship.

My classes are running smoothly. The kids are great, and they love me! The last history teacher didn't have a good rapport with them, so they are very energetic to be in my class.

It was so touching to hear parents say, "my child just called, and said, 'Have you seen Mr. B yet? You haven't? Stop and go see him next!'" Along with things such as "you're the first teacher that has captured his attention." These were from different teachers.

Life here is different, of course. And I've come to accept a ton of this from all my travels. I'm still searching for my niche in this world, as the old Steven Curtis Chapman song says, "I'm looking for a reason, roaming around to find my place in this world, my place in this world."

Hopefully, my old friends, I'll be able to talk to you more often. Peace and Blessings, Ciao!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Conclusion of Thailand and an Adventure

Much Apologies! It has been far too long!

Now four months shouldn't seem like such a discrepancy, yet we all know how 4 months is in the technological world - a lifetime!

I spent 3 months in Thailand working at a Bamboo School. Once I get a little better connection, I'll add some photos (mind you, not many due to the fact my expensive DSLR camera was stolen).

But it was an adventure... though not all adventures are necessarily fun. Summarizing 3 months in one post is a bit difficult but I'll try to be concise.

What I liked:

- working with students
- teaching a little
- living the missionary life-style (jungle style)
- living without Air conditioner, modern conveniences, etc.
- striving in difficulties
- learning about the faith of others
- being "called up" onto the "mountain" to spend time with God. That was incredible!

What I didn't like:

- items of mine were stolen by the orphan-students (iphone, which was returned, chocolates, and my camera which wasn't returned).
- the camp was difficult, and I didn't enjoy this certain type of discipline employed there
- spiritually it was more rough than being in Jordan.
- the teacher's who have gone before me set such a bad example (sex with students, alcohol, etc... it just wasn't good).
- not being able to work out in a gym, and the lack of protein

What I learned:

- how to safely wield a machette (haha, sliced my finger open).
- I could still find a way to send messages to my mother and friends from back home.
- how to depend fully upon God, and what I needed still to work on in my life.

Will I go back?

No. Not likely. Unless God sent me and my future wife there... but I'm a huge fan of living in Thailand or in Asia currently at this stage in my life. I'm looking forward to teaching in Egypt next year. But I will continue to pray for the Bamboo School.

I told you I could be brief, but that really in essence sums up my experiences. Many stories, but some too painful to tell. I didn't laugh much, but I worked hard, kept myself buried in God's word, yet this was no escape from chaos, ha.

Next post will be my summary of my year in whole and in review.

Peace and Blessings,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kicked off... and let down


I've been delaying this post, but it's time to write about it. I was kicked off the archeological dig a few weeks ago.

No, I didn't break any priceless vases or pottery, but because I didn't have the proper security clearances. I had been working there for about two weeks, and every time I came back, everyone seemed to welcome me back eagerly.

I had been working at the Roman ruins with another team. They were driving down from Amman. But when most of them left, I asked a few of the Jordanian workers (from the Department of Antiquities) if I could ride down with them. One person in particular, did not want to take me, but finally relented.

At the end of that day, he informed me that I cannot come back because I hadn't gotten a security check (that is required for all foreigners, though none for Jordanians).

This was the first I had heard about it, and it was a major let down!!!! I tried to argue and ask if there was any other way I could get the form (this had been the first day I even heard that I needed a security clearance. Most assumed I didn't need one because I worked in Amman).

At this point, another team member stepped in and said, that regardless of the outcome, I was not welcome back at the dig site this year. (I hadn't had many interactions with this team member, but I was left with the impression that he was supremely arrogant and full of himself). He did assure me, that if I could come back next year, I would be welcome as long as I had the proper security clarences.

And what of the process? Well its typical Jordanian government obstacles. You need to get a piece of paper signed by about 10 different people, just to say you can work at the site. Even the simplest processes... like picking up a postal package, requires about 7 different signatures. I really wish I were joking, but I'm not.

Job Applications

Since I'll be in Thailand in March, and outside of email and cellphone capabilities, I needed to find a job sooner than later. I had applied at a school, and it seemed so promising (they wanted to bring me in to see the campus), but I just heard they offered the position to a former staff member. The email was gracious, but yeah, its a little disappointing. I would have loved to go in and interview. It seemed like a great fit for both of us. But I'm sure God knows what He's doing in all of this.

So now I'm in Armageddon mode for application postings. I need to get some nibbles before mid-march. I'm a little worried, but He's in control. So, that's all for now.

Take care,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can Ya Dig It?


Hey all, its time for another update. What have I been up to... well, I've found an archeological dig called Tell el-Hammam, and they are digging up the location believed by Dr. Collins to be the location of Sodom. Its amazing, it truly is! The dig site is just enormous, with such a large location. If this isn't Sodom, then as Dr. Collins says, "What is it?" because this is the largest location and we would have totally missed everything else. I'm impressed by the richness of the site, and it has just been rewarding.

Day One:

Dr. Collins located an early bronze age shaft tomb that had been robbed in modern times (1-2 years prior us getting there). Initially we didn't know what to think of it. Inside contained bones and broken pottery shards. Well on day one, I volunteered to go over there, with a tiny pick (piteat) and hoe (terea) we uncovered pottery pieces.

I found
  • bones
  • broken pottery shards
  • and an oil burning lamp base

We also found:

  • early and late bronze pottery
  • the grave robbers pick. Haha!
  • And about 20 different types of pottery

Day Two:

Today, we fully excavated the tomb. I got in it with Steve and dug out all the trash. The robbers dug into the tomb horizontally, but that wasn't it's actual entrance. We climbed ontop, probed around a bit, and finally broke through - locating the vertical entrance.

Inside I found bones, nothing significant, but I though I found a skull until it was realized, it was only a rock (bummer!).

The others found a scarab, egyptian which is amazing. The Jews when they were waiting to cross over the Jordan River, burried much of their dead in Shittim (they waited until everyone from the old generation died), which is where this site is. So, this tomb could have been reused and remember, the Jews "plundered Egypt" during the Exodus.

Day Three:

I worked moving dirt from one of the squares in Sodom. Moved a ton of dirt, trying to follow a stone wall. We believe that there were two Sodoms, an early bronze age one, and a middle bronze age one (everything is missing from late bronze and a gap of about 500 years exists before anything was rebuilt). Also, many of the locals believe this was Sodom.

I found a few pottery pieces, nothing significant, but it was great experience. Later, I helped to quickly remove dirt from the gate entrance. It wasn't straight, but more like a funnel. I was working so hard, i didn't realize that the car I was to ride back to Amman in had left without me. (THEY FORGOT!!! So they had to turn around, and come back for me.)

Day Four:

Been square hopping, and gaining experience, but I was drafted into the a dig square 30 meters to the north. Dr. David Graves and Dr. Scott Stripling have uncovered a Roman city, believed to be Livious (Livias) on the Sodom site. Its large, also the largest one in the area. The walls extend 35 meters wide, with four corners. This would make it the largest place here. Eye witness acounts and other texts have located this site near Sodom and Shittim and we believe its here.

Not all archeologists agree with our findings, but its very impressive and the community is looking at this site with great interest (though initially they believe Dr. Collins to having an agenda).

Another dig site on an adjacent tell (hill) a Greek team, has found the same things but on a smaller scale. We think they found Gomorrah. Its a hilltop away, and its a little smaller. Really fascinating. I'll post pictures later on facebook. Check em' out!


Friday, December 11, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It has been a week, so I suppose it is time for another update.

I have had several positive and negative interactions here in Jordan. Most of my positive interactions revolve around taxi drivers and every day normal people.

Most of my negative ones revolve around interactions with government officials, institutions, and neighborhood urchins (or children as most would call them).

But I will describe this in further detail later on.

The Weather Outside is....

Cold, very cold. I didn’t think I would believe my colleagues when they said this about the middle east, but the weather has turned very chilly. This has caught me by surprise for 3 fundamental reasons. First, living through 2 Hong Kong “winters” has stunted my perception of what cold ought to be. In a city that has seen snow... well never, I found that winter was only a few weeks, perhaps 8-10, and then that was all. Furthermore, the last two winters there had been mild, though each one has become colder. So when I got to Amman, a region that did not significantly border any temperate bodies of water, I found it to be quite cold.

The second reason is seems so cold to me, is because the houses are just made of slabs of poured concrete. There is no insulation. To translate, it takes very little time to heat, or cool the house due to outside weather. In short, it can get very cold in my apartment very quickly.

Finally, while I am thankful for an apartment, and one that is as inexpensive as it is - I basically live in a glorified “hole in the wall.” Now, its not as miserable as that description makes it out to be, but one friend once remarked, “You live in alleys.” Which could accurately depict the process of getting to my place. To make it less comfortable, I live on the bottom floor, and the backside is a against a sloping hill. So, when it rains everything in the apartment feels damp... making it seem colder than it ought to feel.

How damp? Well, I have the rare luxury of watching paint bubble on the wall, as water seeks to seep inward. Yes, it is that exciting.

Mew Mew, let me in!

In addition to my experiences with people, I have had a unique experience with a cat here. I found her in her teenage “years” really, months -- she was in the stage of kittyhood not quite a kitten, not quite a cat. She seemed nice enough. After showing her affection for a few minutes, she quite decided that I was her human and she followed me home. She hasn’t stopped following me since.

Cats are treated well in Amman, the city is full of them. Though neighborhood children can be quite cruel. Anyway, I made a home for her, it sits outside my window sill. The house, I believe, is comfortable. Its a box inside another box, with its own little door flap (I made the cardboard to swing freely). And there is two towels inside. As the weather turns even colder, I’ll replace the towels with a fleece blanket. It should be adequate living conditions -- though she is quite adamant, she should come inside.

I named her Honey Comb. A name for three part reasons. 1.) To remind me to memorize the Word. Psalms 19 declares God’s judgement to be sweeter than honey in the honey comb, and Psalms 119:103 declares his words sweeter than honey. 2.) I named her such as a shout-out to Honey, my neighbor in Hong Kong that took care of cats. Finally, 3.) Melissa’s name gave me the idea from her name in Greek -- it means “Honey Bee.” So that set the wheels in motion.

Well I believe that all names have significance and meaning... but so far Honey Comb hasn’t quite lived up to it yet. She is a very friendly cat, but has become quite crafty in opening up my screen windows, and racing inside when I open up the door.

The biggest reasons I don’t let her in, is because she has fleas AND I am leaving in March. If she gets too accustomed to me, she starve when I leave.

The Process (The Bad)

As I alluded to previously, I’ve had several pleasant experiences with government institutions. From the multiple trips to police stations, to the post office. It’s difficult to adjust. *Edit before I even post this... i did make 3 friends in the police force today... so not everyone is bad, mind you, just the Process is frustrating!*

Here in Jordan, the Americans call the post office here the “foreigner tax”, I call it a “colossal rip-off!” Anything you import here to Jordan will be taxed the estimated price of purchase elsewhere. So if you import, for example a crock-pot, and it costs $60 dollars in the state, and $100 dollars to ship, here in Jordan they will charge you at least $80 to collect it. It’s absurd, and I’ve never heard of this being done anywhere else in the world.

I’ve tried to keep a pleasant demeanor about it, yet I haven’t quite mastered complete control over the place in my brain that says “lets make a moody, scowling face at them!”

My own mother, shipped up some protein powder for me, some Christmas cookies, and a first aid kit, and a few warmer clothes. I was charged $20 JD (or $30 US) to pick it up. I didn’t want to pay, but I felt like I ought to, since she went through all the trouble of shipping it to me.

Eventually, I'll get used to this.

Am I a good man? (The Good)

This question has actually taken me by surprise. If you would have asked me this question a few years earlier in my life, I would have answered with a convincing “YES”. But I’ve lately begun to question this.

Taxi-drivers, in particular, have responded that they believe I’m a good person. I’m here in Jordan, not making money volunteering my time and money to be here. Last night, I had been waiting to grab a taxi and two women were in front of me. I spotted a taxi on the other side of this little street, and I motioned to them to take it. They walked over, and the taxi soon departed without taking them.

They stayed on that side. A little later, another taxi approached from my direction. He stopped to pick me up, but I motioned for him to pick them up. I don’t think he understood me... so reluctantly I got in. I felt bad for those two women. And I really thought not very highly of myself.

The taxi driver surprised me, by speaking in good english. He asked me if I knew those two women, and why I wanted him to pick them up. After explaining, he said, “You’re a good man.”

I then explained that I’m not really a good man, but God in me is good. This also surprised him and he agreed.

He then explained the reason he didn’t pick them up is because he doesn’t like women. (A few minutes later, he was worried that I’d jump to the conclusion that he was a homosexual, he emphatically explained that this was not the case, he just didn’t like haggling over the set prices with women and so he preferred driving me.)

Well, I got to share a little about myself. And before I knew it, he was at my street. I wanted to pay the full share, but he only allowed me to pay 1 JD. I tried three times the full amount, but he said “You’re a good man.” So I thanked him, and was on my way.

Street Urchins - (And The Ugly)

Now, I’ve taken to calling them street urchins, but they are truly not that. The kids here, for whatever reason, just seem unruly (with the exception of about 4 junior high aged girls who think I’m the coolest person ever... I really don’t know why, I don’t even talk to them but they think I’m awesome and say hi to me whenever I pass by).

As I was walking home last night, my little cat came running out to great me. She had been waiting on the corner for me to return. Yes, that is how sad and pathetic she truly is. Mew Mew! (She follows me out when I leave, and follows me home when I come back). As we were walking back to my apartment, about six neighborhood boys came running over to her. Bissa! The shouted (Cat). Well, I didn’t trust them (I had seen two of them being mean to her when she was a kitten), so I stopped them in their tracks, held out my hand and shouted “HEY!” This startled them and got their attention, so they turned to leave. As they left, one of them threw a rock at me.

(They must have been Palestinian eh? Haha, oh, that really shouldn’t be funny, but I laughed about it later. I could get in trouble for that joke... I’ve heard, and told, and laughed at enough jokes about Jews and Israel to be off the hook).

Well, I had my gym bag and my briefcase in either hand, but then I dropped both. Spun around and began quickly walking towards them, with my hands outstretched on either side. This got their attention quite quickly again, and they took off running. I had no trouble with them later on. Some kids are just stupid.

(A friend of mine told a story, that a few kids had been throwing rocks at cars and when he glared at them, they thew rocks at him. So he chased them... he chased them all the way back to their home. They ran inside and locked the door. So he patiently knocked and their mother opened up the door. He told her what they had been doing... though he’s American, he could speak some arabic at this point. I’m guessing they got whipped by their father when he came home later that day.)

I have my own little street urchins who live in the house over from mine. They scream all day long. I can hear their mother and those three kids screaming until 11:00 - 12:00 o'clock. It gnaws away at my spirit. They used to throw rocks at my door, until I complained to my landlord, who told their landlord. They don’t come around anymore.... but I can still hear them every night.

It’s hard to get sleep... fireworks go off until 11:00 - 12:00 at night. They scream until that long. Then the call to prayer is blasted at 4:30, the actual prayer goes off at 5:10ish, my cat starts meowing at 6:00-7:00 ish for food. So in a given night, I’m woken up 4-5 times a night. Its unpleasant to say the least.

... in case you’re wondering, the last three titles was in the order of the closing scene from the movie (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly).

Yes, I bought that movie here in Jordan... good quality too for $1.42 US (1 JD); though don’t ask me about the legality of it. Errr... if you want legal, you pay triple the actual price in just one location that I know of.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


What Has Happened Since...

I apologize for nearly a month long since an update. In all actuality, I’ve been quite busy. What has happened since losing my passport?

  • There was semester finals at the center -- much fun!
  • I have replaced my passport.
  • (Skip the next section if you don’t want to read the process)

The process for doing that involved a lot. Let me give you a quick rundown.

  • Went to renew my VISA... they sent me to get blood work done (no mention in my passport or anything).
  • Went to get my blood samples had to wait three days for them
  • In three days, I lost my passport
  • Went to the US embassy... at 12:10, they weren’t open, because they close at 12:30 except on the last day before the end of the month (not on a friday or weekend), and then on those days they close at 12:00
  • Went back, they sent me to the police station
  • My VISA expired
  • They sent me to their headquarters
  • They sent me to another police station (where I had to go to multiple windows).
  • Now I have a form to take back to the Embassy to report it missing
  • I put in a request for a new passport
  • 2 weeks later, I’m told to go into pick my new passport up.
  • I go in on Nov. 11th... bad mistake, its Armistice Day (or Veterans Day)
  • I have to go in the next day!
  • Have my Passport now, gotta go back to the first police station --> they sent me to another station
  • Here they send me to 8 different windows... only to find out they wrote the WRONG entry date on my passport... would have been $40 dollars more expensive.
  • So I have to go to all the windows over again --> they send me back to the original police station, which tells me to get my blood-work done again (I DIDN’T but found the original blood-work) went back to the station, only to find out it was CLOSED!
  • Two days later, I paid another fine, and now I’m a citizen again.


  • It was in a taxi all along, it fell out of my pocket. Just like I had suspected.
  • But what did I learn? Lessons on God’s Faithfulness. (Well, I might not have “learned” lessons of patience, but I now feel more equipped.

Old Holidays, and New Holidays!

  • Over the last weekend, we had two holidays: 3id (eed) and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving here was celebrated among friends. Had chicken, mashed potatoes (AND REAL GRAVY), stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie.
  • 3id on the other hand was interesting. Here in Jordan they import thousands of lambs and slaughter them (to commemorate when Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael... to them). To me, the sacrificial day just felt.... well, I didn’t want to leave my house. So I just stayed home.

Anyway, Again I apologize for the Long Delay...

  • By the way Christmas is around the corner... and because it isn’t celebrated here... there isn’t much commercialism (except in the 1 or 2 malls...), so.....
  • For the first time in over 10 years, I might actually celebrate it (or rather... “observe it” with passivity, rather than my usual hostility).

Take Care All!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm An Illegal Alien

My Passport is gone! It's Missing!!!

I've retraced every step I've taken in Jordan in the last five days. It's gone!

To make make matters worse, I was supposed to renew my VISA 5 days ago. I went in to do this and then they sent me to get unexpected blood work done. So somehow in the span of three days... It disappeared. Vanished.

Lost. Without a Trace. I'm wondering where the Law and Order is, I've already been to the COPS. Criminal Minds might be at work out there with my Alias. The passport wasn't in my House, it wasn't at The Office, and I've searched all over The Community. I've worked the Numb3rs, and it just doesn't add up. I haven't had many Happy Days, with too many Late Nights - there's been no Glee, even with my Friends.

Send out the Heroes, my very own A-team, someone's gotta pay, I need some Avengers. Please if any of you have been Touched By An Angel, let me know and get out solve these X-Files. I would even settle if you are a Dark Angel or one of Charlie's Angels. From the Desperate Housewives, to the American Dad's, Journeyman, or any Fugitive from the law, answer this call, your very own Mission Impossible, and I know America's Got Talent. Start the Sunday Countdown, I won't stop, I'll be sleepless with Insomnia until the day I shout "Eureka, So You Think You Can Dance?"

And just for the record straight, (one last one I promise) I didn't lose it Accidently on Purpose. No, it just went missing.

So this makes me an illegal alien in Jordan. I went to the US Embassy today, but you what... they close at 12:10 today... because its the end of the month (even though its the 29th, and a Thursday). They don't open again until Sunday.

But that was the end of this day, no it got worse.

I went over for a piece of Chocolate cake... I needed something. When I left the restaurant, it started raining... actually pouring on me. I was soaking wet. I jumped a taxi, but because of the strong rains and some Stock Rally Car thing going on in Abdoun, most of the roads were blocked off.

I get the bank on foot, I have 1 dollar left in my wallet. I go inside to check my statements, but what do you know, I cannot do that because my statements are in Hong Kong... and their systems are not wired together in Jordan. So I walk downstairs to pull out money.

The receipt pops out, but I'm waiting for my card, and waiting and waiting. The problem, it had popped out, but because of a plastic guard over it, that covered the card, I didn't know I could pull it out. So, now I'm in trouble because the bank machine gobbles up my card AND I still don't have any money.

I walk back upstairs. "Sorry, we cannot take out the card until.... Sunday." NOOOOOOOOOO!
Can you just give me money from my account then? No, I'm sorry, we cannot do that either. This is a bank isn't it? Don't you have money?

Finally, the manager calls up and gets approval... and pulls the card out. I ask if I can just try to get the money again... he said, "Don't do that, I think its broken." You need to go over to the international branch. "But hurry up, they close in 45 minutes. "

Remember that Stock Car Rally? Well all the roads were well blocked off for a few blocks. I walk and walk. And I cannot find a taxi. 20 minutes left. Finally I find a taxi. We race off to the HSBC bank. I get their within 10 minutes......

Finally I got money... but I do have to check in a few days my online statements... to see if they took charged me an extra $200 dollars. Life has been frustrating to me. And I still don't have my passport. But Hahmdellah (?sp), Praise be to God... He hasn't abandoned me yet!!!! (Even though it seems so chaotic and complex).

Ma Salam,