15 June 2011 Total Lunar Eclipse from Amman, Jordan

Here in Amman a couple of days ago we had the pleasure of seeing one of God’s great wonders – a total lunar eclipse.  My kids and I went up to the roof and watched it as long as we could.  However, this was the 4th longest recorded eclipse – so with little ones we turned in for the evening before it finished.  (Shhh …. I actually snuck back out to watch it later too.)

I don’t really think there is much to say about the pictures.  They speak for themselves.  The only thing I would say is that watching the moon and stars with my children recaptures some of the wonder I felt as a child marveling at the night sky.  I had the privilege of growing up in a very rural section of the USA – so there was not much ambient light at night and the evening sky was almost always spectacular.  It is fun to see the curiosity and wonder grow in my son as he asks questions about how the universe works.

While watching the eclipse we noticed all the different features visible on the moon’s surface.  I told my son to go get his copy of the “Dangerous Book for Boys

” as it would surely tell us the names of the different locales.  Sure enough, the Dangerous Book did not disappoint.  Today my son helped my put together this map of the moon using a photograph from the eclipse and the Dangerous Book.  Hopefully you will find it useful and enjoy the pics.

Places on the moon.

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Eid Al-Adha 2010, Amman Jordan

Today is Eid Al-Adha in Amman, Jordan.  (And most of the rest of the Muslim world for that matter).  On this Eid (festival/holiday/ holy day) Muslims around the world sacrifice a goat or sheep (or if truly wealthy, maybe even a cow or camel) and have a feast with their family.  They also give 1/3 of the meat from the sacrifice to their extended family and 1/3 of the meat to the poor.  Early in the morning people go to the mosque for prayers and a sermon.  After this they go to one of several places of sacrifice scattered around the city.  Here the young and the old, the men and the women gather to perform this annual tradition and collect the fresh meat for eating later that day. Throughout the day there will be many visits made to both close and distant relatives and gifts of clothes and money will be given.

If they are able, parents typically give children new clothes on this Eid as well as Eid al-Fitr.  People are always dressed in their best around the time of the Eids.  Uncles are particularly generous in giving money to their neices and nephews at this time of year and it is expected that brothers (especially older ones) will give money to their sisters.  Adult nephews also give monetary gifts to their older aunts, especially if they are widowed.    At some point in the day the family comes together for a meal centering on the meat that was sacrificed in the morning.  In many ways it is a time of connecting with family and remembering God, not unlike the American observance of Thanksgiving.

Of course, the origins of this festival are in the story of Abraham ascending the mountain to sacrifice his son.   At the last minute God provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead.  Muslims remember this story, shared by all three monotheistic faiths,  as they celebrate the festival of Eid al-Adha.

This morning I went out early and snapped a few pics, particularly for those who might be reading from the States and never have the opportunity to witness something like this.  Hover your mouse over the bottom of the slideshow window for controls to pause the show or move forwards or back.

(Please note: if the sight of animals being butchered is offensive or difficult for you then you may not want to watch the show.  I have tried my best to make sure there is nothing terribly bloody or shocking, but I know everyone has different tolerance levels for these sort of things).

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A Milestone . . .

Sometime in the middle of the night local time Pilgrim’s pageviews went over 20,000 total hits.  Due to the limited information about those hits this is a fairly meaningless statistic.  However, for me it’s incredible that what started out as a little experimental foray into the blogosphere has turned into 2-years and 20,000 hits.  Many thanks to those who read regularly and those who happen to stop by while surfing the net.  And thanks to the many webcrawlers and search engines who probably make up the majority of the hits on my stats page.  =)

Hitting a Wall

There’s been a lot of newsworthy things to comment on from the Middle East lately.

  • President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, including a historic speech in Cairo that was met with mixed reviews. (But better received in this part of the world than most speeches by US presidents of late.)  In it he called for Palestinians to pursue non-violent means of change.  A call that might otherwise ring hollow from a sitting US president, but from an African-American the weight, significance, and fruit of the US civil-rights era might speak in fresh ways to the international community.
  • The elections in Iran and the subsequent non-violent protests of the results; demonstrating that people on the other side of the world have a will to change that is not dependent upon American guns and money.  Newsreporting 2.0 took over as citizens on the ground posted photos and videos online – the only source of info on these winds of change.
  • Jimmy Carter’s visit to Gaza.  Traveling “unofficially” he met face-to-face with Hamas leaders to outline the Wests conditions for working with them.  Some might view this as futile, but in this part of the world a personal visit from a white-haired political leader with deep religious convictions speaks volumes more than an official memorandum from 1600 Pennsylvania ave or the threat of force.  Carter has long swum upstream among evangelicals in the States as he unequivocally speaks out against the injustices Israel has committed against their Palestinian neighbors.  At the same time he denounces Palestinian violence.  Carter’s legacy will outlive him.  He has taken the hard and often circuitous route towards making peace.  In his sunset years when most are worried about their medicare benefits, their shuffleboard rankings, or what flavor jello-mold is for lunch Carter is walking where most fear to tread in hopes of making a better place for all of us.

So there’s, been a lot to blog about – but, honestly I have hit a bit of a wall.  Not with blogging; just with life here.  It’s been 9.5 months since we arrived in Amman last year. In some ways I can’t believe how fast it has all flashed by, but on the other hand it seems forever ago that we left from JFK (and even longer from Chicago). It seems we have hit that stage of cross-cultural living that plague many at the 7-12 month stage.

It’s not that life here is particularly hard for us (although we miss many of the conveniences that we once took for granted at home),  but the daily grind of operating in another culture has caught up with us.  Outside of our home (and our circle of ex-pat friends) every interaction and task requires processing and interpreting not only another language but entirely different cultural values as well.  In the few short months we’ve been here I would like to think that we’ve made some pretty big strides towards understanding both language and culture.  However, at the end of the day it is still an intensive and draining process.

On top of it all we just smply miss home – family, friends, familiar sights, sounds and tastes.  Visiting Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles and cousins, trips to the zoo, backyard barbecues, lazy days at the lake, fishing off the dock, garage saleing, walks in Lilacia park, Chicago Style hotdogs and New York style pizza, driving through the Adirondacks, playing with friends at the arboretum, fnding the best deal of the season at Kohl’s, waiting in line for Blizzards at Dairy Queen, bumping into friends at Jewel, summer evening thunderstorms, hanging out at Lunar,  Cruise Nights, getting wet at the splash pad, taking the train into Chicago, visiting friends in Rah-cha-cha, bagels from Einstein’s, hearing the crack of a bat at a ballgame,  ahhh . . . the list goes on and on.

In the end most of it is pretty trivial stuff, the food, places,  and fun are all temporary.  But relationships are enduring and its the people we miss most.  Oh, everyone is an e-mail, FB wall post, or Skype call away but it’s really not the same.

“Everybody” says this is the hardest time in cross-cultural transition and we will push through and come out ok on the other side.  I’m sure that’s true, but in the meantime we seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern as we mentally, emotionally, and physically continue to adjust to our new home.

I’m not sure I have much capacty for thinking/writing about the weightier issues of life here in the Middle East right now, I’m thinking about some lighter summer fare as we push through this cross-cultural wall.  Actually, despite the fact that I seem to be missing so many of the creature comforts of home (can anyone say slow-cooked pork ribs?) I’m planning to do a summer blog-series on street food here in Amman.  As they say to people here when eating, “saHtayn!”  (double health!)

Two more ways people in Jordan can help

MommaBean has posted two more ways people here in Jordan can provide help and show their support for those suffering in Gaza.

Medical relief packs can be bought at Pharmacy One here in Jordan.  There are many Pharmacy One locations in Amman.  I know of one on Rainbow street just down a ways from 1st circle.  Kinda near the little downstairs coffee shop.

The YWCA of Amman is holding a candlelight vigil on Thursday January 8th at 5 PM.  All are welcome for this peaceful show of concern.

Skype: the Power to Prank 1/2-way Around the World

There’s only 1-hour left on Thursday, Nov 27th here in Jordan, but Thanksgiving is still going strong back home in the States.  (And it will be going strong here tomorrow as we decided to celebrate a day late due to today being a school day for us here in Jordan).  I took a few minutes to phone some dear friends back home.  We used to participate in this really awesome Thanksgiving Dinner stateside.  It was basically tons of volunteers working really hard together to serve hundreds of meals on Thanksgiving. It was always an incredible time and this was the first year in awhile we didn’t participate (for obvious reasons).

So here’s the beginning of the conversation when I called.  A friend answered and for anonymity’s sake, we’ll just call him M.  Actually let’s call him MM.

Me:  Is this the place with the big Thanksgiving Dinner?

MM:  Yes, that’s right this is ______________.

Me:  Great!  Are you still serving dinners?

MM:  Why yes, I think we are,  (off phone to someone: are they still serving in there?)  Yes, we are.

Me:  Great!  I hear that you provide transportation, do you think someone could come pick me up.

MM:  <<slight pause>>, Well I might be able to arrange that.  Where are you calling from?

Me:  Amman, Jordan.

MM:  Where was that sir?

Me: Amman, Jordan.

MM: Uhh, I’m not sure I quite got that, where are you coming from?

Me:  Amman.

MM:  I see, well I’m not sure you’re giving me enough to go on here . . .

I broke down laughing and had pity on my poor friend.  Ahh …. Skype …. the power to prank people 1/2 way around the world!  But even better than that, the power to catch up with people that are important!  I spent another 20 minutes or so chatting with folks as the phone got passed around.  Thanks for being a good sport MM!  And nice work volunteers keeping the T-day tradition alive in the western suburbs of Chicago.  Wish I could have been there in person, but I definitely was in spirit.  If anyone took pictures be sure to pass them along to me.  Thanks!

Jordan Headlines #3

Here were the top English language headlines in Jordan from this past weekend (as reported in the Jordan Times):

Top Headline: King urges accelerated work of GAM public transport plan

Basically HM King Abdullah is encouraging the city of Amman to speed up it’s work on a revamp of the cities public transport.  I’m not sure what is covered in their planning, but the three main categories of public transportation in Amman are: taxis, busses, and services.  Busses and services both follow fixed routes but there are no maps or schedules that I have ever found.  Like many things here in Amman you have to ask someone in the know.

Top Sidebar: Ramadan Kareem

Friday’s imsak (time to commence fasting) was 4:35 AM.  Many Muslims wake early to eat the sahur meal before dawn.  The Qur’an says it is permissible to “eat and drink until the white thread becometh distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn” (Al-Baqarah 2:187). Friday’s iftar (time to break the fast) was at 7:01 PM.

Other Headline: Gaza: Hospitals partly paralyzed after strike

The World Health Organization reported that around 1/2 of the doctors and nurses in Gaza walked off the job.  The ongoing political struggle between Fatah and Hamas was at the center of it all.  The strikers were supporters of Fatah, protesting the Hamas’ government’s firing of employees because of their ties to Fatah.  In response Hamas fired 2000 teachers who supposedly support Fatah, disrupting the start of school for many Palestinians.