between the lands

Jessica and Andrew’s travel journal

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Happy Anniversary!!!1

Posted by Jessica in EGYPT, JORDAN, SYRIA (August 1, 2007 at 11:31 am)

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Today is August 1, which makes it ONE YEAR since we set forth from Tampa. Wow! And yes, it feels like a year. So far we’ve survived the Granada winter and we are currently sweating out the Middle East summer. There’s a couple more months to go, barring disaster we still hope to make it to Rome….

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last 2 1/2 weeks : we revisited Cairo and met the Sinai Peninsula, saw the last little bits of Jordan, and crossed into Syria. We like to think we’re on the home stretch of this journey now – no more revisiting countries, always heading forward.
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In CAIRO we met some young newspaper cartoonists, Qundeel & Makhrouf. They had some really interesting work, and sounds like great luck to be drawing for their living. Other newspapers in Cairo are starting to imitate this paper and hire cartoonists because it been so successful. It was enlightening to see their view of the world from their pen and ink drawings. Hey Guys!
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SINAI is some desert shit: brown rocky desert for miles and miles, with mountains and folds of stony earth poking out everywhere. We climbed to the top of Mt Sinai (of 10 Commandments fame) timing it so we’d arrive at the summit just before dawn and see the amazing colors of the morning sun pour in over the mountains.
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At the top there are lots of other folks doing the same thing, many of them pilgrims from all over the world.
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There are also kittens living up there and LOTS of souvenir shacks. ‘You want CAMEL? GOOD camel!’
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At the bottom you can visit St Katherine’s monastery where they supposedly keep the [descendent of the] Original Burning Bush. Sorry, No flames, no booming voice of god.
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We spent a couple days beach-bumming in DAHAB. I hear this place was recently just a bunch of laid-back shanties and huts on the beach, but no more! There’s a million budget hotels and dive shops lining the beach, as well as tourist shops and restaurants, and a long concrete sidewalk snaking the shore. We rented cheap snorkeling gear and caught a glimpse of The Best Coral Reef Diving in the World, reportedly. LOTS of coral, (much of it trampled by fellow snorkelers entering and exiting the reef area) and colorful fish. Sorry, no pics of this. We even saw a couple eels and an octopus!
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If you’re looking to stay in the area, however, I’d recommend searching out the next old-Dahab, somewhere with less development and more huts. Too much tourists, and prices reflected that.
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ANDREW SEZ: A not so quick ferry ride from Egypt to Jordan…
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This time in Amman we finally saw the Roman Amphitheater that (restored) sits in the middle of the city. There was a free concert in it! Jordanian families danced in front of their seats.
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Then we rode up to the north and saw the Roman Ruins of JERASH. Some nice stuff here, but all these ruins are starting to look a lot alike if you ask me. Ruin-fatigue.
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ANDREW SEZ: Yes, in many ways, we feel as if we have already conquered Rome.(and Carthage for that matter) Still cool, but not the same ‘wow’ effect as the first time—like many things in life.
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JESSICA RETERNZ: Would have loved to stick around to see one of my favorite bands Ozomatli perform in this ancient amphitheater, but that would have required crossing the Syrian border a 2nd time, and as you will read in the next chapter, that just ain’t happening….

barcelona–(almost) time to rest for a while0

Posted by Jessica in JORDAN, SPAIN (December 2, 2006 at 9:35 am)

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Flying out of Jordan, they always let you know what direction to face Mecca. Just in case… I’m gonna miss the call to prayer, even at 5am.

It seems like sooo long ago we decided to “go to Spain”, and then we did everything but. Finally we are here. Sort of – Catalunya is almost like a different country. But officially, it’s Spain. Barcelona is a gorgeous city. There are architectural wonders everywhere.

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My absolute favorite is the Gaudi cathedral Sagrada Familia.
CIMG7767 sagrada from front.jpgCIMG7664 sagrada from distance.jpgDepending on who you ask, it won’t be finished for another 15, 30, or 50 years, but it’s well worth a visit finished or not. I can’t believe this Gaudi guy was designing these things 100 years ago.
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We also visited the Park Guell, originally designed by Gaudi to be a village for Barcelona’s rich folk. CIMG7682 front of guell.jpgIt never panned out as a development, thank goodness, and now people can chill there anytime, soaking in the crazy rooftops and walking along the organic shapes of the “viaducts”. I think Dr Seuss must have been inspired by this place.
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We’re staying with Ms Kassandra, her 5-yr old son Aidan, and Ms Guilia. It’s a great view from the (almost) top floor – we can see the giant castle on top of Mt Tibidabo. Aidan says there is a monster inside, and I hope I don’t have to find out if he’s right.
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Yesterday was our big day – we were responsible for picking Aidan up from school, and getting him fed, bathed, and ready for bed in time for his mama to get home from work. This boy can run you ragged, let me tell you! He’s very considerate too – when he comes into the living room in the mornings (where Andrew & I are sleeping), he whispers while playing with his toys, just so we won’t be woken up. Nice try, kiddo. Clearly it’s time to get up.
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Tonight we will hop on an overnight train for the 12-hour ride to Granada. Andrew’s classes start on Monday.

I am looking forward to classes, just maybe not the early am wakeup. Im making a public pledge here to do a blog post en espanol eventually.

Barcelona was really cool, with art everywhere, old skinny streets, and plazas with benches for chilling on, which I especially appreciate.
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Extra props to Sarah for putting us up in Paris upon our return. Meanwhile, my radio story about building the radio station in the south of Jordan was on air Friday.
You can listen to it here its the last piece of the show..

Well see you all in the south of Spain…
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Radio Reesheh3

Posted by Andrew in JORDAN (November 22, 2006 at 12:21 pm)

CIMG7052 full reesheh group.jpg**(please excuse the overwhelming redeye–its why i dont like using the flash)

Reesheh(Risheh?) is a Bedouin town of less than 2,000 people in the middle of the desert in Southern Jordan. CIMG6880 roof view of risheh.jpgWe’ve been here for the last few days along with the Prometheus Radio Project to help the people in the village build their own radio station, and teach them how to operate it.
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If you haven’t heard about Prometheus, they are dope. They do ‘barnraisings’ where people get together and build a community radio station in a few days. They’ve done it all over the states, as well as in Africa, Latin America, Katmandu, and elsewhere.
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Click here for a movie showing some of the progress in Reesheh so far——the station should be done by the end of the week.

All of the out of towners helping build the station were at the AMARC conference which just finished up in Amman. It was quite inspiring, meeting people from all over the world who are making great radio, or fighting to be allowed to do so. It was kind of like being in a subway car in NYC, except everybody was excited and talking to each other.
You can hear a report about the conference, which I contributed to, at this page.

—Nuff props to Jackson and apologies that I didn’t do more to help.

It’s really the desert out here by the way…..
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And for those who feel we haven’t commented enough on our accommodations along the way, here’s a traveler tip: Aqaba, Jordan is home to a hotel where they fold your towels better than anywhere else—possibly in the world.
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I should have a report on the radio next week about the completion of the station—ill let ya’ll know soon….

***update***– you can listen to the report by clicking here its the last story in the half hour show

petra movie1

Posted by Andrew in JORDAN (November 14, 2006 at 9:49 am)

i think I got at least one movie here to see some really old ish..


Posted by Andrew in JORDAN (November 12, 2006 at 6:44 pm)

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well, as I was warned, the old stuff in Europe is put to shame by the old stuff in the middle east. Check out Petra is the best advice i can give. It was a city hidden in a valley, which was ‘re-discovered’ in the early 1800’s. The place is totally beyond words–heres some pics:
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There are still at least a dozen bedouin families living in these caves.
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Most of the bedouin have been moved to a nearby village. We stayed in the park after sunset, and some of the locals invited us to their house for some tea and nargeeleh. We rode donkeys across the desert as the stars came out. At their home, we met Amal, an 18 year old who left school when she was 10 to sell trinkets to tourists. Shes damn smart.
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I have a video of her and the rest of the crew, who were very hospitable, which i would like to post but im still figuring out how to do this movie editing stuff, and its too large a file. stay tuned…

We are back in Amman now, attending the AMARC worldwide community radio conference. People from more than 100 countries are here. For those who dont know what community radio is, we spent an hour trying to define it–basically its radio which is produced by members of the community, and addresses issues important to the members of the local community.
The first day was spent on community radio in North Africa and the Middle East, which is rare because of government refusal to allow it. Often even if there are laws permitting these stations, they still are stifled. The second day was discussing womens roles, how to increase their participation, and how the stations can be used to benefit women in particular. We will largely be in the conference bubble for the next week or so..other than that Jordan is great and everybody is really nice.
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Oh, and of course–some people have written to me asking about reaction here in the arab world to the US elections.CIMG6720 arab election paper.jpg
In a nutshell, people were indeed watching closely, they are happy with the results, and they hope that its the end of a very dark era.
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On a side note, I won an award this week for a radio story I did last year. Much props to my old school homie Ellerie for picking it up at the ceremony in Chicago. It was an excellence in radio award given by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. The story was about when the Hillsborough county commission banned any government participation or acknowledgment of Gay Pride.
You can listen by clicking here its the second to last story in the newscast.

amman, jordan1

Posted by Jessica in JORDAN, FRANCE (November 7, 2006 at 5:06 pm)

we arrived late last night in amman, on a flight from paris.

spent today wandering around downtown. hey! they speak arabic here! and they have a totally different alphabet!
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were like 2 lost kittens, but it’s pretty cool.

tomorrow : ancient city of petra

peace, yall!


but first….at least some pics from Paris, oui?
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Paris reminded me of NYC in its pace–people crossing the streets whereever they want, as opposed to amsterdam, where they always cross at the crosswalk, and Florence, where they have to drive 1 mph to avoid running over tourists on narrow streets.
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Lots of great street life as well:
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we were eating a gormet feast by one of Frances best kept secrets–chef Tony, when a half-of-europe-wide blackout occured. So we had to eat our cheese in the dark.
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A special thanks to our esteemed host Salil! Au revior..until we return to europe in 3 weeks. CIMG6178 guy coming out of wall.jpg