Sunday, November 15, 2009

March 19th: Amman

I'm still trying to finish posting about my trip earlier in the year but it is very time consuming. I'm working on it!!!
The bus drop off in Amman was not at any sort of station. It was in some sort of alley behind a small building, in a dirt lot. Hmmm. Odd. I didn't have any problems, though. Got my bag, headed to the main street and hopped into a taxi. I gave the taxi a business card for the Palace Hotel (I got the card from some of the people I met in Syria). He seemed to know what it was and started going. But then he kept stopping to ask for directions. Along the way, he said 10JD. I said WHAT?? NO! Meter. He said okay, 5 JD. I said NO. He said 4 JD. I said NO, Meter. Finally he stopped. I didn't see the hotel. I asked and he said it was on the other side of the street, back a little bit. He had passed the walk that was near it and didn't want to go and turn around and go back to drop me off closer to the hotel. He refused, even though I had my big back and small bag to carry, not to mention a knee that didn't seem to want to work. I got out, got my bags and paid him. It was quite a bit more than the meter rate. If I had smaller change I would have given him only what the meter said, as he was being a jerk. He drove away, almost knocking me over. Ack. I should have taken down his lisence plate number but was too tired and just wanted to get to the hotel. It was more than a block back!!!! Argh.
I was at the hotel by about 10 AM.
In the hotel I guess I was lucky as they had a single room w/bathroom left for 18JD/night. I say lucky as everyone I saw coming in after was told it was full, including a girl that came in with a reservation - they said the thought it was for the next day. I think they called a couple of other hotels for her to help find her a room. My room was okay but not fantastic. It was actually a double room with a private bathroom/shower. It was room #104 but to get to the room I had to go up to the 4th floor (3 on the elevator numbers, as it is 3 up), across the hall, out the door, along a balcony and then in a door to a long hallway. I think there are only 3 rooms in the hall and mine was at the end. It was a fairly cold room. The heater was on the opposite side of the room from the beds, under a drafty window. I had to use the blankets from both beds to stay warm. The Palace Hotel is fairly well known as a back packer hotel/hostel. It had Internet (for a fee, of course) on 6 computers in the lounge type area, which was great. Saved having to search for a Net cafe. The hotel let me have breakfast for free that morning. :) A simple breakfast but good; fairly standard from what I had been having in the Middle East.
After eating I went out to wander around a bit. I found the King Hussein Mosque. I didn't go in, though. I went through the fruit & vegetable market behind it and went up the hill.It was opposite the citadel hill, and so I had a good view of the citadel.I started making my way back down the hill, along another route. At one point, a group of guys started following me and making strange noises and laughing. I knew they were watching me... and making the noises at me. No matter what country, men are still men. I walked past the Wild Jordan Cafe, which looked fairly interesting, and down to the bottom of the hill and found the amphitheater. It is HUGE!!!I walked up the stairs and looked around. It held up to 6000 spectators!!! It would have been amazing to see how it was when it was built and used. On either side of the amphitheater, inside, are two little museums: the Museum of Popular Tradition and the Museum of Folklore, with clothes and tools and such. Not bad.Next to the amphitheater is the Odeon, a small theater that seated up to 500 people.From what I have read it is still sometimes used. From there I took a taxi to go up to the Citadel. For some reason, it took a long time to get him to understand where I wanted to go. I even pointed and he gave me a blank look. Eventually, though, he figured it out and I made it there. There are several structures on the top of the mountain of the Citadel: the Temple of Hercules which was possibly made by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius:a 5 meter deep cistern: what remains of a Byzantine Church, the ruins of the Umayyad Palace:the palace entrance and the Ummayad Mosque. The difference between the old and the refurbished is so well defined![THIS link has a little map and information of these places.] The small Archaeological Museum has quite a bit to see including pottery covered skullsThe info card says:
Plastered Skulls
It is thought that skulls of ancestors were kept in
Plaster to be worshiped by their descendents
Found at Jericho
jar babiesThe info card says:
Child Burial
The burial of infants in jars was a common custom in
Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine. The jar was generally
placed under living room floor possibly to keep the
child within the family circle
Anthropoid coffins:The info card says:
The five anthropoid coffins on display were discovered in 1966 in the grounds of the Raghadan Palace in Amman among other archaeological finds in a cistern-like tomb. Made of baked clay, with crushed pieces of pottery used as grits, each of them has four handles that were used to transport them from their place of manufacture to their place of use. One of them has 16 handles at the back arranged in two rows, apparently serving to elevate the coffin when laid horizontally.
At the place where the head of the deceased would rest, a lid was cut out. the lug handles, one on the lid and one on the body of the coffin, were placed so as to fasten the lid to the body. On two of these lids, there are portraits of the deceased. Note the pointed noses, the small, elongated eyes and the eyebrows arranged in such a wasy as to connect up with the outline of the face. The ears are large and prominent, the lips small and straight and the beards of a pronounced length. Two of the coffins have arms placed on the sides of the body.
When discovered, it was found that each coffin contained two or three skeletons.
Very few sites have shown this type of burial practice in Jordan and Palestine. These include Sahab, south of Amman, and Lachish, Tell al-Far'ah, Besan and Deir al-Balah in Palestine. This burial practice was in use from the 13th to the 7th Century BC.
pottery bombs (maybe?):and other such interesting things. From the info card:
Architectural Relief
young woman wearing a laurel wreath holds a
mask of Pan, the herdsmend's god, or of a Satyr. She
may be Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, or be part
of a frieze in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine
Alternatively she may be the muse Thaleia holding
a mask of Pappos (father), as in the comedies of the
poet Menander which were the most popular on the
ancient stage at that time.
Nabataean, first half of 1st century A.D
Limestone, from Petra
From the Citadel, the view of Amman is amazing, including a great view of the Roman Theater in the distance. I took a back route down the hill using stairs on one side near the Temple of Hercules. The stairs took me to one of the roads that winds along the side of the hill, along which I found other stairs to other roads. The sights along the way were very interesting, with old and new intermixed. Some buildings were being destroyed or just deserted and falling down. When I was almost at the bottom, a guy approached me and wanted to talk. He seemed decent enough so I decided to let him join me. Ahmed, an electronics engineer, is learning English. We walked for a while and then sat in the forum (the area in front of the Amphitheater) to have some tea. Then, since I was hungry, he took me to Hashems, a very famous little restaurant that only serves felafels and side dishes. It is said to be one of the oldest restaurants in Amman. It was SO delicious!!! And cheap!!!! I was so full by the time I finished but only payed a little more than 1 JD. After eating, he took me to Jabra, a cafe, for some coffee. An interesting place with a good atmosphere. A bit smoky, though, since it is a sheesha cafe. After we finished our coffee, Ahmed wanted to show me his favorite street in Amman, a little street just off of Rainbow Street. The whole area there is very wealthy. A huge part of Rainbow Street has cobblestones. I think they are trying to make it back into something of what it once was. [Here is a blog post I found that shows Rainbow Street in some detail: 360East.]
Then it was back to the hotel for me. I was sitting at the computers working on a post and adding pics when all of a sudden something went wrong and the whole post went blank. ACK!!!!! So much time wasted!!! Back in my hotel room, I froze. The room was soooooooooo cold. The little heater was right under the windows, which were not well sealed and which seemed to suck out any heat coming off of the heater. I had the blankets from both beds in the room on top of me and was still a bit cold. Not cool.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chuseok and Namsangol Hanok Village

October 4th, 2009
Since it was Chuseok I decided that I should do at least something Korean, as opposed to spending the entire weekend out all night and sleeping all day, which is what I did Thursday night, Friday night and part of Saturday night - not that that isn't a very Korean thing, as they seem to do that quite frequently, even on week nights (the drinking part, at least). So Sunday I got up at a fairly decent time and dragged my friend Revo to the Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골한옥마을), at the base of Namsan (san is mountain), near Chungmuro station. [hee hee. made him pose for me]The Namsan Hanok Village is comprised of 5 traditional Korean homes from the Joseon period that were moved there in 1998 when part of the army base was moved. [a kitchen][a kimchi hut - a kimchi pot is buried up to the lid and covered with this hut to keep it cooled]There are always traditional Korean activities to partake in but since it was Chuseok, there were even more. Revo wearing a Jige - a traditional Korean device for carrying things (wood, etc).A throwing game - throw a bean bag like thing through the hole.[making traditional Korean shoes/slippers]There were Korean crafts and games such as kite making, paper doll making (well, the painting part and giving them clothes, at least), fan painting, [Revo's fan][my fan :)]
mask making (using crepe paper on a pre-formed paper mask of varying designs such as traditional, cat, butterfly), and solpyeon (rice cake) making. [pounding the rice to make rice cake]There were plenty of other activities as well: trying on traditional clothes, ball tossing, and see-saw jumping (nolttwigi), which is typically a women's activity or sport. It is similar to the western see-saw only a bit longer and they stand on it rather than sitting, jumping in turn. The women literally fly and often do acrobatics while in the air. It is quite impressive, actually. Others are swinging (kunettwigi), which is also done standing up, spinning tops, arrow throwing, hoop rolling, demos of traditional Korean bow making and other such things.[kimchi etc pots and a persimmon tree][making dubu (tofu) I think]Of course, as well as the activities there are the homes to check out, some of which contain examples of the costumes that they wore.There are also traditional Korean characters to pose with. View of Namsan Tower from the Namsan Hanok Village:

swine flu, skirmishes with North Korea, etc...

So, my school has closed its doors until Friday. 3 days off mid week. I'm certainly not complaining.
I wonder though how affective this is. A couple of students got the flu and the result is the school closing. So what happens if a couple more students end up with the flu next week or the following week or such? Do we close the school again? Korea has free flu shots for school children (grade 1 and up, but not kindergarten age because it is not part of mandatory education) that will be given in public schools across the country. The parents can opt out of having their child immunized if they want. Any children younger than that can be taken to family doctors for their shots. Public school teachers are next on the list (or at the same time?) for the shots. Foreigners have to wait, or so I've been told. I figure all of the hagwons should provide shots for the teachers. Why not? We see just as many kids as the regular teachers!
In an attempt to make kids remember to wash their hands and be careful, I think some parents are telling their children that if you get the flu, you will definitely die. I've been told that by several students. Interesting. I then explain to the kids that no, getting the flu doesn't mean you will die. Some will just not understand my explanations, though, or accept them if they do, since it's all in English, a foreign language to them, and of course, if it contradicts what their mommy tells them, what are they to believe? I suppose they will learn soon enough since all of them will at some point encounter someone who has had it, or will catch it themselves.
Today there was a bit of a fight between North and South Korean ships to the west. Sounds almost the same as the one that happened my first year in Korea, in 2002. A North Korean ship crossed the Northern Limit Line, that is the internationally agreed upon demarcation line in the Yellow Sea. North Korea doesn't agree with NLL and so every now and then crosses it. The incident in 2002 was a bit more serious, though, as it involved 2 North Korean ships, one of which was on fire on its way back up, and a South Korean ship sank as it was being towed back to shore. Several South Koreans died during the skirmish. I didn't really hear much about it, though, other than the first couple of reports.
There have been other incidents as well.
I wonder how much attention this newest fight will get with all of the attention being put on the swine flu.