Amman 10K

29 10 2011

One thing I did not expect to be doing on this study abroad was running my first race! Luckily I’ve got some great friends with great ideas who found out about this 10K race that was going on in Amman at the same time as an international marathon. When I first heard about it my reaction wasn’t enthusiastic because A) I’ve never been much of a runner and B) I didn’t actually know how far in miles a 10K was. So the girls have been planning on this race for weeks, they got registered and paid the fee and have been running a few times a week at the Sports City trail and I’ve been tagging along for the exercise. Then, at the beginning of this week, I finally figured out that a 10K is only a little over 6 miles… not 10… haha. And we haven’t been running quite that much but I knew I could run at least 4.5 miles without too much struggle so I went to get myself registered too and ran a little more than normal this week to get prepared.

This morning we got up to go to the race and felt pretty crummy and nervous… not really sure why we signed up for this. But we headed out anyway, found a good place to start stretching out and getting ready, and noticed a guy peeing right next too us. That was kind of weird so we moved to another spot where some other intense IMG_1219runners were already stretching and doing warm-ups. There we noticed this intense, very flexible guy who probably wouldn’t have been any more modest if he was wearing a speedo. Right before I took this creepy picture we were sitting on the ground stretching and he was doing some very intense toe-touching stretches right in front of us… leaving nothing to the imagination hahaha. Anyway the race was great! I didn’t feel pressured to race fast so I was able to really enjoy myself. The first several kilometers were a little bit hilly but I had a lot of energy to begin with so that wasn’t bad. The view was gorgeous too! They closed down a big main road that leads to downtown and past the amphitheater, which was all downhill, so that was really nice. Apparently there were signs for every kilometer so you could see how far you’d gone, but I never noticed them so I had no idea the whole time. Every few kilometers there were water stations where people on the sides just held out water bottles for the runners to grab. IMG_1262It was hard to drink while running so we’d just take a couple sips and then poor the rest over our heads to cool off. THEN, we’d epically throw the bottles and caps on the ground to the side of the road and keep running without breaking pace. This sounds like it looked pretty cool, but it ended up turning into target practice, where all the punk kids would see if they could take people out by throwing the bottles at their feet. That, added to the water making the ground even more slick, made for a pretty dangerous obstacle course. It made things interesting for sure.

Unfortunately, because of how many people were there and because of road closures, our roommates weren’t able to get any picIMG_1241tures of us running… except one! Jenni and Sarah-Kate got a taxi and tried the best they could to get as close as possible to the finish line to get pictures. Their taxi driver was trying as hard as he could to get them close when they came out on this street just to see Jadyn running by! The odds of that are crazy… props to Sarah-Kate for the quick shot. So it’s the only action shot we have, but it represents proof that all of us did actually run, because we didn’t get anything else hahaha. IMG_1245Here’s a picture of us finishing! The coolest part about this race is that all the stuff we got like the medals and t-shirts and bags all say ‘Amman International Marathon’ on them! So we look just a little more intense than we actually are, but I’m okay with that 🙂

After we finished, we found Sarah-Kate and Jenni and decided we wanted some pictures from a good vantage point of theIMG_1248 finish line, so fifteen minutes after running my first 10K we climbed this fat staircase. Luckily, the view was totally worth it! Even though I thought my legs were going to give out. IMG_1254Behind me in this picture you can see the ancient amphi- theatre, where we finished. This is right in down- town Amman. IMG_1256And here’s us with our marathon bags! We’re such a good team 🙂 All in all it was a blast… so cool to get involved in the community in that way! It was definitely a challenge and we’re all pretty sore today, but I’m definitely doing this again sometime 🙂

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Feast at Farah’s

15 10 2011

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I posted… So much going on that I just haven’t made time for it! I planned all along on blogging about this but I’ve just kept putting it off, so here it is finally. I got to have lunch in an Arab home for the first time! It was such a cool cultural experience… probably the best so far. We met our good friend Farah a couple weeks into the semester on Jordan University campus. She is studying business administration and is in her third year at university. She’s really sweet and her Arabic is beautiful… I could listen to her all day. She’s also very patient with our limited Arabic. It’s great to meet with her and practice.

A couple weeks ago she invited two of my friends and me to come over for lunch because she likes to cook and wanted to expose us to some authentic Middle Eastern food. We went over on a Saturday and spent 4 hours there! It was very different and we learned a lot about culture… and we ate – A LOT. It was more than I normally eat on Thanksgiving day! She made makloubeh, mulukhia, stuffed grape leaves, and stuffed kusa for us. It was more food than five people could possibly make a dent in… but we tried anyway. We started eating sort of fast because it was so good and we wanted to try everything… then as we started to slow down, Farah said, “What’s wrong? Isn’t the food good?” And we didn’t want to offend her so we started eating more steadily again. Then we got really full and finally put our forks down and said we couldn’t eat anymore. Farah said, “Oh that’s okay. You can take a break! Break’s are fine.” So we took some pictures of the food, chatted for about ten minutes, and then Farah said, “Okay break’s over! Time to eat more.” It was pretty intense… I’ve never eaten that much in one sitting! And there were still tons leftover.

Anyway once we finished Farah wouldn’t let us help her put things away, but instead had us sit down in the living room for tea. It’s really important to Arabs that you drink what they give you… so when she asked what kind of tea we wanted we said we could drink mint tea (which we assumed was herbal). So she brought out some tea and cookies, and after drinking the tea and exchanging some awkward glances, we realized that the tea was actually black tea with mint leaves in it. Then we had to figure out how to tell Farah thanks very much for the tea, but we can’t drink it because it’s against our Christian religion (we have to be very vague because it’s against the rules to mention the name of the church). She was very gracious and brought us water and made us eat more cookies instead. For the next hour and a half or so we sat talking to Farah’s cousin (who is also her aunt) and her other aunt (who is also her grandma). That’s right… their family intermarried. I think it was a pair of cousins who married somewhere in the older generation… I don’t really quite remember the details. But it was interesting for sure. Over the course of the conversation Farah took away the cookies and brought us all individual plates of a really good kunafa-like dessert, then took that away and brought out a platter of grapes. Seriously… SOOO much food. I’m sure that if we’d stayed longer she would have just kept bringing out more food… they were very hospitable. Our conversations were great too… they knew because we’d refused tea and coffee that our religion was something different from what they were familiar with as far as Christian denominations go, but we had to continue being vague so they naturally kept asking questions. We answered them all… basically outlined the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. In the end they concluded that our religion was a very good one that was very like theirs, and Farah’s grandma/aunt even tried to set my roommate up with her single son. It was great : )

So that was it! It was great and it made me feel like I was really getting steeped in the culture. Here are some pictures of the delicious food! Hopefully we’ll get to go to many more Arab homes and maybe learn how to make the food too.

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Sarah-Kate taking a break

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Right to left Rebecca, me, Sarah-Kate, and Farah in Farah’s living room

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Mulukhia (green stuff at top right, kind of like spinach sauce, with chicken in it) and rice with chopped almonds, also some interestingly sour olives in top center

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Left platter: Makloubeh – chicken, eggplant, potatoes, and rice with spices. Soooo good! Makloubeh is a pretty well-know Middle Eastern dish… it means ‘upside down’

Right Platter: Wara’ Dawali and Kusa – grape leaves and zucchinis stuffed with a rice, meet, and almond mixture and eating with yoghurt-cucumber sauce. It’s my favorite

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The tea we broke the honor-code on… accidentally

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Cute tea-cups

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MORE dessert

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The Apartment

4 10 2011

Great news! We FINALLY cleaned our apartment!! When we got here it was already pretty dirty… we have no idea how long it had been since anyone lived here. With the busy-ness of the first weekend, we never got to deep-cleaning our apartment, so for the past month we’ve just been adding to the mess and it had gotten unbearable. I don’t think any of us are the kind of people who would tolerate the kind of mess we were living in… it was just a huge job and we’ve always had other things going on. Anyway at last we couldn’t stand it anymore and decided on Friday after church to clean it once and for all. We spent a good couple hours scrubbing and mopping and trying not to gag… but the result is good enough to blog about! So at long last let me introduce you to our apartment in Daheit Al-Rasheed.

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Here’s a picture of us outside our apartment building about to go to church. My roommates from left to right are Jadyn, Jordan, Jenni, and Sarah Kate. We like to say that we got the best apartment people-wise, but the worst in every other way. Our friend downstairs (in an apartment just like ours) pointed out that our apartments are like the model home in Arrested Development… everything looks pretty nice on the surface, but it’s all really falling apart. The same friend, who took this picture, had no problem pointing out that we look like sister wives. Unfortunately, because of our strict study abroad dress code, I think he’s right.

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Here’s a lizard I saw right outside the door to our apartment. Kinda random, but there it is. Hopefully I never see that in my room.

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Second time I’ve lived in an apartment #13! I was excited about that.

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This is our dining room! We don’t really use it for eating so we set up our clothes-hanger here. You can probably tell that Jordanians don’t use dryers.

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Here’s our living room. We do homework here every night so this is about as clean as it gets… usually there are newspapers spread all over the floors.

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The kitchen. I love our window view! You can kind of see the top of another roof right out the window. The view is nice until people come up onto that roof and then it’s a bit awkward for them to be able to see us in our apartment. The ovens here run on gas that is refilled every few months. The gas tank is in one of the cupboards next to the oven. They’re called Buda gas tanks, and the trucks that carry them around and distribute them sound like ice-cream trucks! No joke… they all play the same song as they drive around and when I first heard them I thought they were ice cream trucks playing a creepy song. I’ll definitely be recording it to haunt my Arabic friends after study abroad.

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My favorite place! It’s sort of messy but that’s normal for me, for those of you who don’t know :-] It’s been warm enough since we got here that I haven’t needed more than my little BYU blanket, but the weather is changing and I was so cold last night and this morning that I’ll probably go buy a new bigger one. There was a comforter that came with the bed but the one night I slept between it and the mattress I got bed-bug bites… So I washed the sheet and put the sheet over the comforter for extra padding. You can kind of tell in this picture. I’m too scared to sleep under it again :/

The rest here are pictures from our balcony and a play-by-play of the sunset… My favorite thing about this apartment is this view.

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A Typical Day in the Life

29 09 2011

This week as I’ve been thinking about things I could blog about, I realize that there are all kinds of cool cultural things I can write about, but first I probably ought to let you all know what I’m actually doing here! Yes I’ve been here for a month already, and yes I’ve only posted twice on my blog… but there’s good reason for that! So here’s a typical day in the life on this study abroad.

As much as possible, a couple friends and I like to go running at Sport City, which is about the only place really good for running around here. Sport City has the international soccer team playing field in it, as well as some other sports facilities like for tennis and such. There’s also a little wooded area with a trail through it that is a 1.5 mile loop. It’s great! We get up at 6 AM and take a taxi together to go running. I’ve just started going regularly with them, and it’s been the highlight of my day. When we’re first getting there around 6:30 we have a good view of the sun rising over the polluted city – one sort of okay thing about pollution is that it makes the sunrise really pretty. When we finish running we head back home and get ready for class at ten.

At ten starts our Qasid classes. These are held at Qasid Institute, a center for foreigners learning Arabic. This is apparently the first time that BYU has had Qasid as part of our program, and they’re great! We get a lot of focused attention from a huge staff of phenomenal teachers and I think we’re extremely lucky to be benefiting from that. Our first class at 10 is our issues class. We were split into five groups for this class, and my group has got to be the best 🙂 Our teacher, Faddi, is the best, too. He’s Jordanian, so of course this class is all in Arabic and we’re lucky to have Faddi because his Arabic is great and we understand it really well. In this class we discuss modern issues in the Middle East and it’s based on participation. It’s so useful because these are issues that are really commonly brought up in Middle East studies, and when we discuss them in class we get to learn a lot of the vocabulary that’s associated with them. Right after this class is a presentation class with the same group and teacher where we give presentations in Arabic, classical or colloquial (those are different dialects of Arabic for anyone who didn’t know), depending on the day. We record these presentations for speaking appointments later. Our class is a blast because we are pretty laid back and our teacher likes to joke around a lot, so I’ve stopped feeling nervous about giving presentations every day because I’m comfortable there. This is my other favorite part of the day.

Once presentation class is over at noon we have until 4 to eat, get in two hours of speaking at the University, and have appointments. I usually eat and prepare for my appointments for about an hour before they start. These appointments are GREAT. Every day it’s on a different topic (twice a week it’s on colloquial speaking, twice on writing, and once on classical speaking) but we have it with the same person every day. My appointment teacher is named Aman, and she’s really nice. It’s so good to have one-on-one time every day with a native speaking teacher because it gets some good speaking in and we get great feedback. After appointments I usually go to JU to speak with my friends. Yes, I do have Arab friends now 🙂 It’s taken a long time to get a couple of really consistent, patient friends. Most often I see Farah, a really great, patient, sweet girl who talks consistently with me and two other girls from our program. I also meet pretty often with Falak and Malak, who are identical twins, and their friends Dania and ‘Ula. When I meet with them I’m often sort of a background prop… they refer to me often enough for me to get some good practice speaking and understanding, but mostly they just like me around when they’re hanging out. It’s so nice to have people here who want to be friends 🙂 It was pretty hard at first to not feel like anyone wanted to be friends with me. But it’s all better now.

After speaking we have Dil class at 4:00 where we get announcements, have quizzes, talk about OPI prep, etc. Then at five we’re done! We have two hours of newspaper homework every evening and that’s it. It’s definitely busy and definitely intense, but I am surprised to find that I have a lot more free time than I expected, and even more free time than I had in my last semester at BYU. It’s a crazy schedule but it’s doable, especially looking at it from this much-needed weekend break 🙂





Getting used to Life in Amman

23 09 2011

Made it to another Friday! I’ve been in Jordan for almost a month now and it’s amazing how the time has flown. I don’t have much time on the weekdays to blog because of schoolwork, but I’ll try to keep em coming as much as possible on the weekends. This weekend I thought it’d be cool to write about the dramatically different things here that I’m slowly getting used to. There are just a few of many 🙂

Conserving Water

This is one of the biggest differences between life in the US and life here. I never realized how much water I use everyday… back home we can use as much as we want. And usually on a school morning at home, we worry most about whether or not there will be enough hot water to get us comfortably through our morning shower. Rarely if ever do we need to worry about whether or not there will be enough water of any temperature to get a good shower in. I experienced this about two weeks after moving into our new apartment in Amman. I woke up and realized I was on day 4 (we use that to refer to how many days it’s been since our last shower…) so I figured it might be beneficial to my social interactions with my new Arab friends to get a shower. When I got in I noticed the water pressure seemed pretty weak, but I didn’t think much of it since finding new problems with our apartment was a daily occurrence, and I’d probably just need to learn to deal with it. Anyway, I turned the water back on to rinse off and nothing happened… our water was gone. Needless to say, the rest of the morning was interesting as I took my first (and hopefully last) waterbottle/paper towel shower to finish rinsing the soap off, and my roommates and I tried not to think about the unknown amount of time we might spend without water. Later we were able to turn on our reserve tank and get enough water to last us until our tank got filled again at the end of the week, but it was a stressful couple of days. Conserving water means a lot more than I thought it would… it means using the absolute minimum you need when the tap is running. When showering you turn the water on to get wet, turn it off, soap up, turn it on to rinse off, and you’re done. Same with washing hands and dishes. Those are such little habits that are really hard to change and get used to. I dare you to try conserving water for a day… you’ll be surprised at how much you use that you don’t really need.

Plumbing

I’ll keep this part short and sweet… but just be grateful that in America your septic systems (and whatever leads to them) can handle toilet paper. My first plan when I get to the New York airport is to head straight to a bathroom, flush some toilet paper, and watch it go down. Enough said.

Transportation

We do quite a bit of travel in our program. The two places we spend most of our time for class, Jordan University and Qasid Institute, are just about equidistant from where we live, but in opposite directions. On some days we’ll have to go to JU for an 8 AM class, get to Qasid for classes from 10AM to noon, head back to JU to find people to speak with for a couple hours, then back to Qasid for speaking appointments and 4 PM class, then home. While walking is good exercise and free, it’s really impossible for us to spend that much time in transit. Therefore I’ve been able to spend a lot of time getting used to public transportation here. Taxis are a good way to go if you can find enough people to fill one up… otherwise, taking the bus is cheaper. I’ve really enjoyed the bus because it allows me to go places even if I have to go alone, which happens every day since I’ve got a different afternoon speaking appointment schedule from most people.

The buses here are really different… they don’t go on a regular timed schedule. They frequent certain big stops in Amman (like in front of malls, schools, etc) and just sit and wait there until they fill up with people, then they continue on their routes. On each bus is a guy who stands next to the door and opens it to let people off. When the bus is stopped or when it’s slowing in traffic, he’ll open the door and yell the bus’s destination to anyone who is within hearing range. As people get on the bus, he’ll ask them where they’re headed and then gives them a minute to sit down before coming to collect their money. He’ll collect money all at the same time and remember the exact change he needs to give back to each person according the stop they told him they need to get off at. If he doesn’t have change, he’ll collect their money, then go to the front of the bus to get more change, come back and STILL remember the change he needs to give back to each person he couldn’t pay back the first time. I feel like you’d need to be some kind of savant to have a memory like that… whatever that guy gets paid, it’s not enough.

Traffic here is also very different. If there are any traffic laws, no one follows them. Most of the time there aren’t visible lines on the streets. Traffic just sort of flows… people go to where they need to go and honk their horn whenever they need to let someone know they’re there. I bet there’s more of a pattern to it, but that’s all I can detect. It seems pretty crazy, and I’d never drive in it, but I’ve felt safe so far.

At the end of the day I like to walk home. It’s good exercise and it gets my blood pumping after a long day IMG_1028before I have to sit down to more studying. I also just really like all the things I see as I’m walking. Amman is saturated with buildings… I don’t know how else to describe it. They’re just everywhere, stacked up on top of one another, for miles and miles. Pictured at left is one of my attempts to capture this scene. So on my walk home, I hike up this huge hill and as I’m coming down the other side I get a really good view of the sun going down over miles of buildings – that’s my favorite classic Amman scene I think 🙂 When the call to prayer starts it makes it even more perfect. That’s my favorite time of day.

The Food

… I’m struggling to get used to how delicious it all is! I haven’t missed one bit of food from home. Some of my favorites here are hummus, pita, schwerma, mansaf, and kunafa. I’m sure most of you are familiar with hummus, except that no hummus you’ll ever eat in the US can compare. I’ve had some that was pretty close at O Falafel in SLC, but the fresh stuff here is just heaven. We live really close to a bakery so we get fresh pita every couple of days and it’s awesome. You probably aren’t familiar with schwerma, mansaf, or kunafa. Schwerma looks sort of like a chicken burrito but it’s really unbelievably good. Mansaf is a famous food in Jordan that most IMG_1031Arabs love and they usually think you’re pretty cool if you’ve tried it. It’s just rice with meat and a soupy-looking yogurt sauce that’s really unique. And kunafa is a desert that’s wonderful and impossible to explain. Anyway those are the new things I’m really loving, but all the things from home that I’m familiar with are better here, too! They don’t put preservatives in food here so the fruits and vegetables go bad quickly, but their taste is really fresh and flavorful. I don’t wanna make y’all too jealous… so I should probably just end here 😉 But first I need to mention Fruit Salad, the ultimate solution to all problems and stress, and maybe the pathway to world peace. This is our indulgence whenever one of our roommates has a rough day. It’s a Nutella Special and it’s fruit, ice cream, some kind of delicious thick whipped cream stuff, nutella, nuts, honey…. need I go on? Anyway, that’s it for now. More soon!





Arrival

16 09 2011

Hey all!

It’s been about two and a half weeks since I arrived here in Amman. I had planned to start blogging immediately, but we just got internet in our apartment for the first time yesterday! It’s been a long, unplugged wait and I’ve realized my total dependence on an internet connection. I did get access at school and church, enough to email and chat with family, but I realized how much more I can get done at home when I’m not online! Hopefully I’ll keep that in mind as I head into a week facing homework AND unlimited internet access…

Needless to say, quite a lot has happened since I got here! I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. But might as well start from the beginning! We kicked off my trip to Jordan with an awesome going-away party. The Masterpiece - credit to Kelli, Matty B, Sister Blakemore, and sort of ConorThis was a combined effort in trickery and manipulation to keep me in the dark and out of the house so my awesome friends and family could pull off this great surprise. Credit goes to my sister Kelli and good friend Matt B for pulling it all together and to everyone else for some ingenious sneakiness. Also, I’m told that the process of making this cake was a seven-hour battle of wits and endurance carried out by Kelli, Matty B, Sister Blakemore, and sort of Conor. Obviously, the result was well worth the effort. Thanks guys 🙂 The party was such a fun surprise, and it felt so good to see everyone a last time before going. You’re all the best!

So I flew out on Monday, August 29, dressed in baggy clothes appropriate for our program dress code. I probably looked like a hobo. My flight left Seattle headed for Amsterdam, where I would make my first ever landing in a foreign country! It was interesting to watch the sun set and rise all within my 9-hour flight. I had the window next to me closed from the beginning so I could watch movies without a glare, and it wasn’t until sometime between my second and third movie that I opened the window again. The view was awesome! I could see the sun just beginning to rise on the horizon over Greenland. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was right then that I got a real shock of excitement over traveling. I listened to music and just watched the sun rise over Greenland and the North Sea.

Later I landed in Amsterdam’s Schipol airport and waited for my Royal Jordanian connection to Amman. I spent several hours wandering around the airport just listening to people talk and trying to guess what language they were speaking. I bought some European chocolate, of course. And I really wished I could go explore Amsterdam! It looks like a really amazing city from the air. It’s definitely on my Europe travel list. Then I boarded my flight and slept for the entire five-hour trip to Amman. I did manage to wake up just in time to catch this first sight of the Middle East, somewhere on the west coast of Israel. I found it really exciting that after all the time I’ve spent studying and talking about the Middle East, I was finally seeing it with my own eyes. From here it was only about 30 minutes until my landing in the Amman airport. This airport is extremely small… at least what I saw of it looked like the Tacoma Narrows airport. From there we were taken in cars to our apartments, just as the sun was setting. For the hour drive I was constantly looking out the window, noticing all kinds of new things. It’s not really comparable to anywhere I’ve ever been, but the kid riding with me said that it looked a lot like some places in California. Desert, palm trees, scrubby bushes (before we got into the city), LOTS of trash everywhere, hazy atmosphere. As soon as the sun sets here a really nice breeze starts up and it’s nice and cool… not even nearly as hot as Utah was in July this last summer.

Anyway, I got to my apartment and loved it immediately. It’s huge! I’m planning on posting more about it later with pictures, but just for quick description’s sake, it’s the biggest apartment I’ve ever lived in. We’re on the top floor of a building in a pretty nice neighborhood full of buildings that look mostly the same. We’ve got a great view from all our windows and a lot more square footage than I’m used to in an apartment. I’m rooming with four of the coolest girls in our program, and we’ve had some adventures discovering and trying to solve all kinds of problems with our new apartment, but it’s been fun. More to come on the apartment.

In arriving to Jordan I’ve learned all kinds of new things about myself and the things I didn’t realize I was dependent on in the US, like a limitless supply of running, drinkable water. There are all kinds of new things to get used to because everything is different – transportation, everyday interactions with strangers, buying groceries, etc. Culture plays such a huge role in how we conduct our everyday activities, and in a completely new culture everything has changed. I hope to shed some light on those differences and how I’m doing as I work on getting used to them in my coming posts. But for now, I’m off, so everyone have a great Friday! Love and miss y’all!

-me