Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wahid + Wahid + Wahid = 3

I am finally getting settled in Aqaba - I have an apartment, I've found a few good stores and markets, and I can figure out where I live and work without getting lost (sort of). Aqaba has been a little difficult for me to navigate (even more so that Amman) because the commercial district and the residential areas are completely separate. This means that on the way home, my landmarks are white three-story apartment buildings, beige three-story apartment buildings, and slightly-yellow three-story apartment buildings. Luckily, the mosque near my house has a blue top, so if I am stumped I can look for that.

This week will be my first full week of work, and things have been going well. I am working at a micro-business incubator that assists people both in starting new businesses and bettering existing businesses. A new business training workshop just started, with 26 participants. I was able to attend two nights of the training, and even though the instruction was entirely in Arabic, I understood a lot of what was happening. My organization seems to be well-received in Aqaba, and the staff does a lot of work to build awareness of our services. I am still working on figuring out my own role. Lately that has involved quite a bit of online Access training so I can design and build a fabulous (Arabic) database in the next few weeks.

Since moving in to our apartment a week ago, Frank and I have already had two visitors. I really enjoy the company, so I am looking forward to many more over the year. We also spent the a few nights with our friend Rami. We went to a restaurant called Jaffra for appetizers, and accidentally ordered an enormous amount of food. Lesson: when the waiter looks at you like he is confused, don't have two other people repeat what you just said. "Wahid hummus. Wahid hummus. Wahid hummus." = three hummus. The food below is only 2/3 of what we were served, and this is for three people.

Francisco and Rami


I had a really great first weekend down here. Friday, F, J, and I went snorkeling in the Red Sea. At first I was wary of wearing a swimsuit, and next time I go to that particular beach I will probably wear a t-shirt and shorts. While there were a couple other women (tourists) wearing less than me, I still don't enjoy being stared at. I also don't want to make anyone else uncomfortable if I can avoid it so easily.

The Red Sea. Downtown Aqaba is to the right, the Saudi border about 10km to the left, Israel across the water to the right, and Egypt across the water to the left. What an amazing meeting of places!

On the way to the Saudi border. My sense of adventure failed me as I told J to turn around every 10 meters as we got closer to the checkpoint.

On Saturday, J and I went SCUBA diving with our new Australian dive instructor / friend. The day started with some paperwork and a description and demonstration of the equipment. Luckily, it was just the two of us and the instructor, so there was plenty of time to ask questions and no time waiting for other people to gear up. We walked from the dive center down to the water (me leaning forward 30 degrees to make up for the weight of the tank on my back), put on our masks, and under the water we went. My only problem with the dive was in the first five minutes (and the first two meters). I felt that my mask was too loose. I tried to use signals to tell the instructor that I was having a problem, but when I got the universal signal for "what" three times and he ignored my "I want to go up signal," I just went to the surface to take care of it. He told me that I am spastic.

After that, we went under and stayed under for about 45 minutes. We learned how to take the regulator out and clear it of water before we started using it again. We also learned how to clear a mask that is 1/4 full with water. And finally, we practiced adjusting our buoyancy by adding and removing air from our dive vest. (There is a word for that...B-something-D...) 12 meters (almost 40 feet) under the surface, the Red Sea is amazing. Tons of colorful corals and fish and enough light to see everything clearly - parrot fish, clown fish, little families of fish and big schools of fish. I hear there are also turtles, but we didn't see any this time. When I finally get Internet at my apartment, I am going to do the online portion of the PADI open water certification so I can do the rest of the dive training in the water. And then, to go on a dive will be inexpensive enough that I can go whenever I like. I am really looking forward to this part of living in Aqaba.

Other highlights from the past week: N stopped by for a quick visit when work brought her from Amman to Ma'an; F and I played ultimate frisbee with a group of locals and expats, finally getting some exercise; we stocked up on stuff for our apartment at the Chinese market; we started to navigate our 500+ television channels, finding at least four in English and one in Spanish; I am getting used to the 100 degree heat.

This weekend, we are heading to Amman to visit with our friends, have brunch with a kind host, and go on a hike. Looking forward to getting back to the big city for a bit...


  1. I wrote a comment but my terrible Iraq internet made it disappear. Here is another attempt:

    This sounds amazing! I am very sad I'll miss you in Amman this weekend (and so mad still that my trip was pushed back... to FEBRUARY...) but based on this, maybe I should be just planning to come visit you directly in Aqaba, anyway! ;)

  2. Katrina, this is all so fascinating. I can't believe you are learning to scuba dive! What a thrill!

  3. Love the food pictures! They make me soooo jealous. I'll take wahid hummus every day for every meal! I'm also so glad we've now dived in the same waters! (By the way, it's BCD-Buoyancy Compensation Device) Just wait till you're back here, we'll go in the murky waters of the Cape Cod...

    I miss you!

  4. K, how amazing!!! I was just the other day talking to a man from Israel who when I told him you were in Aqaba couldn't stop raving about it. I said that Aqaba is a wonderful place and specifically mentioned the diving, some of the best in the world!
    Well Eva and Rhea say hi!! Talk to you later and keep the updates coming!

  5. Love the pics. The food looks fantastic. I hope you took the leftovers home. When can we see pics of the new dig?
    Also...did you make it in to Saudi Arabia? Or just get close?

  6. This is just wonderful to read, Katrina. What an amazing adventure you are having. You are missed back here! Did you enjoy the food? It looks quite good. The diving sounds like so much fun - can you get an underwater camera to take some photos?

  7. Katrina is our ambassador to the world. You are so lucky! Keep posting and taking pictures. This is fascinating. I am living vicariously through you! - Cousin Andrew