Thursday, June 9, 2011

Old Maid

I wish I had been keeping a tally this year of how many times I am told one of the following things:

1) "You are not married?! I am so sorry!"
2) "You need to get married."
3) "You need to get married and have a baby."
4) "God willing, you will be married and have a baby next year."
5) "You are becoming an old woman."
6) "Look, a tall white man! Go after him!"

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


May 25-28

Flying toward Beirut we passed over some incredible sand or rock covered mountains. It looks like snow, but when we were closer it was pretty clear that it wasn't. Our plane landed around 9am and we took a taxi to our new friend Fabio's place in the northwest corner of the city.

One of the most enjoyable things about Beirut is that it is very walkable. It is located on a piece of land that sticks out into the Mediterranean Sea, so it has both a north and a west coast. The Corniche runs along that coast and is filled with joggers, fishermen, and people just enjoying the sunshine. (This also made Beirut very easy to navigate. If you think you are lost, just head for the sea!) On day one, Francisco and I walked about 10 miles, exploring corners and getting lost.

One of the first landmarks that we attempted to find was a local park that was labeled on our maps. Nearby, we came across this abandoned building. The architecture of Beirut is very unique. The French influence is clear and mosques are mixed with churches. Springtime was in full swing, with flowering trees and plants everywhere!

We stopped inside a few of the churches that we passed by. They had an incredible feel to them - beautiful art and altars and windows. One of my favorite was two stained glass windows depicting Jesus and Mary. I didn't see the images at first, but once I picked them out they become obvious.

In the middle of Beirut, the Ruins of Roman baths have been unearthed. This must have been amazing when it was in full swing. These were right next to an Ottoman era government office building. I would have loved to take some pictures, but a security guard put his wrists together and said "tch" when we asked if it was okay. It's the same in Jordan - no pictures of government buildings, bridges, dams, etc., etc.

On our second day (after some Dunkin' Donuts!), we took a bus 45 minutes to Byblos, or Jbeil. Byblos is famous for its old city and Roman ruins, so when we stepped off the bus into a busy downtown we thought we might be in the wrong place. A few turns toward the water though led us to a stone street with shopkeepers bored from the lack of tourists.

And finally, we made it to the ruins.

Roman ruins and an Ottoman house, overlooking the Mediterranean.

After touring the ruins, we headed down to the beach so Francisco could have a swim.

Day 3 - Jeita Grotto

Day 4 - Beirut

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Portraits for Photography Class

Last week, I started a photography class here in Aqaba where I am learning both how to take better pictures and how to edit them using Photoshop. We are still in the picture portion of the class, and my latest assignment was to work on candid and posed portraits. I used today's site visit to the Women's Cooperative in Disi to practice.

Ceradisi is a workshop set up for women to product ceramics for tourists. A professional has been working with them for the past four weeks, and they are making things like camel pen holders, vases, ornaments, and souvenir plates. There's some really nice stuff and some products that I don't think will work for the tourist market. It's hard to remember that in workshops and trainings like these, you truly need to start with step one - the clay and the tools, then simple products, and importantly, only a few designs. Creativity, colors, design and expression will come along later.

I find this particularly interesting for my own work in Aqaba with our center's workshop and the individual entrepreneurs working in handicrafts. The period of training for both technical skills and soft skills has to be long and thoughtful, particularly if you are hoping for creative input from the men and women producing the products. I've also been thinking about the value of arts programs in schools - from small children all of the way up.

Any thoughts?

So, here's a little bit of my own attempt at creativity.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wadi Rum

This past weekend, some friends and I took a trip to Wadi Rum to take advantage of Bedouin hospitality. We arrived in Rum village on Thursday night and hopped in the back of a truck which brought us the few miles to our camp. We arrived after dark to a warm fire, dinner on the stove, and tents ready for sleeping. (Many thanks to Francisco for some of the photos below.)

Breakfast on day two.

The cousins.

Wadi Rum Fox Camp - - where we stayed.

Evidence of wildlife - tiny footprints from a four-legged hopper.

The view from camp.

More evidence of wildlife - a lizard's trail.

The reward of a couple hours of incredible view. Across the valley, past the dry river, and beyond the first mountains in the distance is the Saudi border. I asked about would they know? Our guide Suleman told us that there are patrol stations every kilometer or so. And every morning, the desert gets raked and cleaned. New footprints are followed. It is impossible to get anywhere without leaving tracks.

Tiny Victoria requesting that Giant Francisco not eat her.

See me?

Riding in style.

After a night of rain, we woke up to big, puffy clouds which changed the look of everything.

Dune Olympics.