Rome

I’m finished with Rome! I spent four nights in Rome in total, one in an AirBnB with my friends, and the other three in a hostel by the name of “Funny Palace” (which actually turned out to be pretty nice). Full disclaimer: I’m doing easy mode in the hostels and getting private rooms (still much cheaper than a hotel though, and sometimes just as nice). Now I’m sitting in Ciampino Airport, which is a tiny satellite airport near Rome that serves basically only RyanAir flights and charter jets.

I’m still taken aback by how good the food was in Italy, and particularly in Milan. In Rome it felt like it was harder to find good food that wasn’t cheaply-made and catered to tourists who wouldn’t know the difference.

I saw some amazing things in Rome, among which were Vatican City and The Sistine Chapel (which cost me a wait of two hours in line), the Pantheon, the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland)/Military Museum, the Colosseum and it’s surrounding ruins known as the Foro Romano and Palatino, the Trevi Fountain, and so many more things that were randomly dotted around the city. One of the craziest things about Rome was the juxtaposition of these ancient artifacts among the buildings and places in which people conduct their daily lives.

Tourist scams are everywhere in Rome, be sure to be very vigilant if you go! My friend got caught up in one that I failed to warn him about in time – they act like they’re going to give you a friendship bracelet, then ask for money once it’s tied on, and call a squad over to gang up on you if you refuse. He was basically pinned up against a fence and shaken down for his money while I tried to pull the guys off of him (who turned to me and tried to offer me a money exchange service???) They only ran away when I pulled my phone out and dialed the emergency number. A very thin line between scam and robbery here…

Despite the few annoyances, Rome was very cool, and Italy overall was wonderful.

It’s hard for me to keep from uploading massive amounts of pictures, so I tried to choose some of my favorites here, Rome really was a very cool city. Now off to Germany for just an afternoon, then Prague before my return to Amman.

-Erik

A selfie (more like forehead-y) inside the colosseum

Some ruins visible from an overlook on Palatine Hill

The inside of the Colosseum

Constantine’s Arch from an overlook in the Colosseum

A basic traveling picture from outside of the Colosseum

The magnificent Altar of the Fatherland and Military Museum

The view of the River Tiber over the bridge in the evening

Vatican City

The only picture I managed to snap inside of the Sistine Chapel – pictures were forbidden so I opened my front camera and grabbed a discrete selfie

A hallway in the Vatican Museum that was full of maps and had incredible paintings on the ceiling

The glorious Pantheon in the evening

The Altar of the Fatherland and Museum in the sunset

Spring Break

I promise I’ve done some really cool things in Jordan since Egypt, but I’ll have to share those as an update later, because now I’m on spring break! As I write this post, it’s 12 midnight in Milan, Italy. Tomorrow I’ll be hopping on a train to Rome, followed by a brief sightseeing adventure in Berlin, then a grand finale in Prague.

I’ve seen some cool things in Milan so far – I’ve visited a ton of cathedrals, but this was the first one I got to climb to the top of, getting a perfect view of Milan, old and new. I also got to see a wonderful brick castle, and eat some incredible Italian food. I could go on for days about the food, the coffee and the wine, we really must be doing something wrong in America!

Breakfast at my hostel is just bread and cereal, but I can’t really complain, it is included. Sorry for the scarce updates, people keep reminding me to post and I keep forgetting. I’ll try to be better!

-Erik

My first meal in Milan – Lasagna bolognese

A hostel continental

The famous Milan Duomo

The view from the top of the Duomo cathedral – we laid here for a good 30 minutes soaking up the sun. Would you believe it was warmer here than in Jordan?

I am very bad at remembering to take pictures of my food before I eat it…

The Castello Sforzesco

The beautiful Castello at night

Egypt!

Hello friends!

I have been neglecting my blog a tad – really, not much interesting has been happening. I’m into a routine at school, I have my classes, and day-to-day life is relatively normal (completely different from life at home, of course, but a different kind of normal for me now.)

All that said – this weekend, so far, has been incredible! Below is a picture of me taking in the magnitude of this wonderful display, the Pyramids of Giza.

This trip to Egypt is a very short one (just the weekend) but it has been truly amazing. We had a wonderful tour guide to take us around the city, and give us some spectacular options for things to do (I went four-wheeling in the desert near the pyramids!) I opted to do a tour that included entering the great pyramid, something I didn’t realize involved climbing a massive stairway/ladder with only 4 feet of clearance in some places. I’m claustrophobic to an extent, the pyramid was hot and had little oxygen. It was terrifying, and I am so glad I did it. Below I’ll add a picture of one of my friends from the program in the chute.

Our hostel here in Cairo is on the rooftop of an 8-story building, and it’s all open air (the room itself is inside but otherwise, it’s like a big rooftop garden with little rooms dotted around.) It’s very cool, we love hanging out on the roof at night.

I’m trying not to go on and on too much, but this day has been packed! Hope you all enjoy.

Thanks, as always, for your support and encouragement 🙂

Erik

From on my four-wheeler – feeling pretty cool, but it was incredibly useful with all the sand dust.

My friend Nikolai working his way up the tunnel inside the Great Pyramid

Classes Have Begun

Hello friends and family,

Classes begun on Sunday! (It is Tuesday, 5th February at nearly 3 PM as I write this). So far I have taken my formal Arabic and spoken Arabic classes, as well as a course on intercultural communication. Tonight will be my first class on “Islam in the Modern Context.” I’m currently sitting in a cafe with my friends studying, as most of us had class from 11-1, then have class tonight from 5-7:30.

Formal Arabic class is going to be a challenge for sure. There’s a significant gap between what I learned at Temple so far and the curricula that I will be studying in Advanced II class (which is the name of the class I would’ve been taking at Temple had I stayed). Nonetheless, I expect it to be very productive – the professor pretends she doesn’t speak English at all, sort of a trial-by-fire approach.

Otherwise, I am having a wonderful time! I have settled into the sleep schedule fine, and while everything is different, it is not unmanageable. One of the harder barriers I’ve encountered is communicating with my friends and family in the US, because I get messages when I’m sleeping that I can’t respond to immediately when I wake up (around 3 AM in the US).

It’s necessary for me to speak Arabic frequently, a great deal of the people I encounter do not speak English. I often translate for friends who are earlier on in their Arabic careers. The immersion has already improved my language skills immensely, I can’t wait to see how much I’ve learned by the end!

Erik

Food!

This isn’t meant to be a lengthy or particularly introspective blog post – just a picture and explanation of some food that my friends and I enjoyed yesterday afternoon. We spent a lot of time walking around the Friday market, then stopped in this small, Italian-themed cafe on the less-crowded part of Rainbow St., which also doubled as a place for the owner to display his fantastic watercolor paintings.

What is right in front of the camera is my meal, kofte, which is simply (in this case) minced meat with tomatoes on top. To the left of me, somewhat out of view is kibbeh, which are bread balls stuffed with meat and spice. Above that is a bowl of a well-known staple, falafel. I don’t recall what was above that, I think it was some sort of omelet. Finally, to the right of that is a zaatar pizza, zaatar being a mixture of spices that is very common around here especially at breakfast time. We also enjoyed some fruit juices, which are fresh and wonderful around here.

Erik

Cool Sites in Amman!

Today, in an effort to try to save us from the horrible effects of jet lag and boredom, our staff took us on a tour of some famous sites in Jordan. We saw the Amman Citadel (with the ruins of the Temple of Hercules) and the Roman Theater, a massive amphitheater with a perfectly-designed focal point that allows the entire theater to hear the performer.

Below you’ll find a photo of me posing at the very top of that theater, with some of Amman visible in the background (out of the photo is the citadel, which sits at the top of that hill.)

Erik

I Have Arrived!

It’s 5:22 am here currently, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet written a blog post! I got back to my apartment in Amman at around 9:30 pm last night. My housemates and I are exhausted, but we have orientations to attend, starting at 8:45 am today. I was actually awoken by the call to prayer, but there may be a bit of jet lag involved as well…

The apartment is huge, and very nice. There are a few things that will definitely take some getting-used to, but it is a good setup. The landlord seems like a very nice older gentleman who just wants to make sure we don’t go destroying his apartment. I think we can handle that!

Thanks all for following, and for your support and encouragement, it means a lot!

Erik