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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Argentina Experience

This summer I spent a month in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was an extremely cool experience, and I don’t just mean the weather, although it was winter over there. I lived with a host family, sharing a room with another UTD student. We had classes four days a week (Monday-Thursday) with the weekend open for travel and exploring the city.
I had the best host family anyone could hope for. Susana, her husband Martín, and her kids Rosario, Dolores and Agustín were all so friendly and helpful with anything. They took really great care of my roommate and me, which made the whole experience just that much better. I lived in a neighborhood near Alto Palermo, in a nice part of town with lots of food, shopping and even a nice park nearby. I found a cute little café near my house to do homework and drink delicious coffee most afternoons.
My classes were Español Coloquial (colloquial Spanish) and a culture class. My Spanish class was a lot of fun, and it taught us the intricacies of the way people speak in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires. I also got to watch some great Argentine films in class. The culture class taught us about various aspects of the Argentine culture, focusing mainly on the ramifications of the dictatorship from 1976-1983 and on group culture projects. I did my project on Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most influential writers from Latin America of all time. Of course, I also took a tango class at foundation where we took classes, and visited the famous Caminito of La Boca where I saw live tango performances.
While my host family and classes were really fun, the best part was travel. The first weekend we were there we had a long weekend, and a group of us took a bus up to Puerto Iguazú to see Iguazú falls. While the bus ride was an experience in itself (especially when armed border guards came on twice looking for stolen electronics), the falls were spectacular. The wildlife and amazing natural beauty of the falls was the highlight of my trip.
Argentina is a great country that I thoroughly enjoyed spending a month in. I hope to go back as soon as I can, and definitely encourage anyone else to visit. Buenos Aires is an exciting, fast paced city commonly known as “the Paris of South America.” I loved the bustle, the energy and the life that filled the city and its inhabitants. I agree with famous tango singer Carlos Guardel—the city is “Mi Buenos Aires Querido,” my beloved Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Day in Paris

Paris-July 3rd, 2009
Wow, I am completely and utterly exhausted, still. Yesterday morning, I moved out of my Nice apartment after bidding goodbye to Madame Charpentier around 11am. I took my bag and backpack, bumping down four stories before walking to the tram, taking that to the Nice Ville train station. I had previously booked my ticket already, and my train was leaving in a few hours. Waiting at the train station was not terrible-though there was a lack of seating anywhere, and people milling about waiting for their trains. I bought a sandwich and waited, then made my way onto the train once it arrived. The train ride itself was around five to six hours, during which I occupied myself by listening to my iPod, reading, and making small-conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me-in French, of course. At some point I fell asleep, the long trip getting to me.

We finally arrived in Paris, at the Gare de Lyon. As luck would have it, I was immediately welcomed by the bustle and hustle of Paris and its many inhabitants, both native and touristic. I grabbed my bags and plunged into a crowd moving in the direction I wanted to go, weaving in and out before making my way up and down flights of stairs to get to the metro station that was adjoining the gare. I bought a metro ticket because my Pass Navigo was with the family I was going to be staying with, and struggled with getting my bags through the narrow metro entryway. My first order of business was to succeed in getting myself lost trying to find a map of the subway-though I had been in Paris previously its metro system sadly was not ingrained in my memory. Finding a map, I groaned inwardly as I looked at the number of changes I would need to make in order to make it to Eglise d’Auteil, my stop. I had arrived on a Thursday, getting to Paris around the time that everyone was heading home from work. Thus, I was treated to packed subway trains, and had to wait while several passed by before my bags and I would fit onto a train. I lugged my bags up and down flights of stairs, vowing that I would take a taxi to the airport for my return after the hassle of squeezing through crowds with my baggage.

I arrived at my stop after an hour and half of rush-hour metro travel, and proceeded to call my family. While the call was being made, I surfaced above ground to a suburban Paris of sorts in the 16th arrondissement, an avenue lined with small shops and “apartments.” The Seine was off to my right, a bridge spanning its dirty green water, and the Eiffel Tower was visible in the distance. I was finally in Paris. I walked down the Avenue Theophile Auteil, verifying the directions to the home I would be staying in. Madame Chomel greeted me, welcoming me into the building. I loaded my bags onto the tiniest of elevators I have ever been in, while she sent me up a great distance to the second floor, meeting me there. I followed her into the apartment, which could qualify as a house in its own right. A massive grand foyer with a vaulted ceiling stretched out, a large salon to the right and a kitchen on the left. Bedrooms linked off the main hallway, my own being through another long hallway. I would be staying in Baptiste’s room, the son of Monsieur and Madame Chomel, one of three children. I met him first, a cute twelve-year old who would undoubtedly be a player once he was older-he was cheery and not at all shy, and I was hardly able to keep up with his fast-paced French. Madame and Monsieur Chomel, having had students from Alliance Française for many years now, spoke articulately and allowed me to understand them clearly. At this point I had not used English in a long time, so my French was rapidly getting better. They complimented me on my French, and made polite conversation over a dinner of rice with a curry chicken mix-asking about Obama (every person I met in France asked me my opinion about Obama-he’s awfully popular there), my schooling, and why I was in France.

After dinner, I went to my room, getting the wireless password from Monsieur Chomel-finally having a reliable source of internet for the first time in a month (the McDonalds in Nice had wireless that was sometimes questionable, and then it shut down for two weeks!). My family provided me with a map of the city, as well as pointing out the easiest way to get to school and various other locations around the city. I thanked them, then promptly passed out-weary from a day’s worth of traveling. In any case, it’s Friday now, and I will take the day to relax, go out, and explore the “most romantic city in the world.”

A Day in Nice

A Day in Nice-June 14th, 2009
My summer program in France is conducted through Alliance Française, a French language program with locations all over the world, and in many places all throughout France. My first stop, therefore, is Nice. Now in my second week here, I have fallen in love with the place, and have adjusted delightfully well to the amazing weather, beaches, and great food.

I moved into an apartment owned by an older French woman, a divorcée that I have breakfast with each morning, talking about the United States, my life, her grandchildren, or what is currently playing on the radio. My room is remarkably large, with a large balcony that overlooks the Place Garibaldi, one of the larger squares in Nice. I have a full sized bed, a dresser and a wardrobe, a closet, two desks, and large windows. My apartment is right on a bustling street, so each morning I wake up to the sounds of the city waking up. My language courses start in the afternoon, so I have the morning to myself-usually to walk around and explore the city. There are a great number of people, tourists from all over France, Europe, and overseas. Wandering by myself, I walk through Vieux Nice, or the old city, weaving through the narrow streets that are lined by souvenir shops, small cafés, and other boutiques, ultimately ending near the Marche de Fleurs and the beaches. I peruse the market, where there is freshly caught seafood of all sorts, spices, souvenirs, paintings, and of course-a huge assortment of flowers.

After pausing near the beach (I usually preferred staying near the Beau Rivage plage), where all sorts of people can be found (topless elderly French women and their speedo-wearing husbands or a man wandering around in a penis costume), I head back towards the Place Garibaldi. I stop in a small bakery in Vieux Nice on the way, picking up a freshly baked baguette-its glorious smell making me hungry as it burns my hand. A small interjection about this bread: people line up outside to get bread from this boulangerie, and often leave with a minimum of two loaves. It is also amazingly cheap, and perfect for making sandwiches. After reaching the Place, I swing into Monoprix to pick up some gouda cheese and tomato, then back to my apartment. There, I make a sandwich of sliced gouda, tomato, along with some basil and a sprinkle of dried mint. I head back out to the Place and sit on a bench, eating my sandwich and people-watching.

Some observations about Nice:
1) Everyone smokes.
2) There is a large population of elderly people.
3) Just because someone’s French does not mean they’re native to Nice-they’re probably a tourist as well.
4) Dogs are extremely popular-everyone has them, from small terriers to German shepherds. The more macho the guy, the smaller his dog. Scrawnier guys tend to have larger dogs, and women and the older population tend to have terriers or other pocket-variety canines.
5) The streets are an obstacle course of dog poop-it is not required to pick up after your pet, unfortunately.
6) Everything is within walking distance and walking is the best way to discover more about the city.
7) The beach is extremely popular.
8) Oh yeah, in case I didn’t mention it-the beach is extremely popular.

After eating, I head to class-four hours of grammar, listening comprehension, and oral practice. My class is extremely small, consisting of three other Americans, a Finnish girl, and two Mexicans. We move at a fairly slow pace, trying to allow the weaker students to keep up-and it allows me to refresh the French I learned three years prior. When class is over, I walk back to the Place, and jet towards a popular place that sells socca, a specialty of Nice. If I get there in time, I can avoid the long line that inevitably piles up. Socca is a pretty simple dish, made with mostly chickpeas and olive oil. It’s baked on a huge dish, somewhat similar to a giant crepe. When served, a portion of it is scraped onto a plate and then sprinkled with a pepper-seasoning, then eaten by hand. Delicious, albeit oily-and is great to eat from time to time. I take my food to the beach, where I eat it and spend some time on the rocky beach, enjoying the sea breeze.

Towards the evening, I head over to McDonalds, where I get free WiFi-there, I check my email, get on skype, and get told how lucky I am to be in Nice. It’s true, I am-and I love it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Summer in Paris

I have officially completed my first week in Paris (sadly, this doesn’t mean I get a certificate of achievement. I really like those, so I’m a little bummed). My consolation prize I suppose is the city itself—busy, self-important, but enchanting. I am living with a lovely French family in the southeast portion of the city on the 5th floor of a pretty massive apartment complex. I have my own room with wi-fi, which is definitely a plus, and they feed me!
This weekend they have gone on holiday: Bastille Day is Tuesday, July 14. Having the place to myself has been nice, but sadly I have resorted to a bread-cheese-wine diet (cooking isn’t exactly my forte) but it seems to be treating me well. Yesterday I did big sights (Musee d’Orsay, the Rodin museum, a boat trip down the Seine) with a friend of mine from high school who is backpacking across Europe, and we finished our evening at Trocadero, a plaza with some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower. We spoke with some Frenchmen, drank some (a lot of?) wine, ate camembert…a beautiful evening. We met some German tourists who thought we were hilarious (did you know that ‘smooth’ has a sexual connotation in German? Neither did I) and had some excellent tips for some other travel cities.
Its almost time for me to go to school for the day—I’m in the first level (oops) so it’s easy but I’m still learning things. My French teacher in middle school was Polish, and turns out she taught us completely wrong pronunciation. Fantastic! So I have a lot of refreshing and relearning to do. À bientôt!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Reflections: A summer in Europe

First impressions of London? London is quite different from Amsterdam and Paris. I don’t mean just the language either. While both Amsterdam and Paris were laid back, London moves at a pace faster than almost any city in the world (the only possible exception being New York City). The program seems fun so far. I have a pretty amazing Shakespeare teacher. He is an American expat, who enjoys teaching his subject as any teacher I have ever met. The people that are in the program also promise to make the next 5 weeks quite fun. I am eagerly looking forward to doing all the things that I might have missed the last time I was here, but more important that that I cannot wait to experience the London theater scene. While I am here the two plays I want to see most are Hamlet with Jude Law and Waiting for Godot featuring Patrick Stewart and Ian McClellan. Waiting for Godot probably ranks a bit higher because I have always loved both of those actors.
My schedule will also allow me to explore the city of London. There is so much to see that I don’t even know where to start. The Natural History Museum is right down the street so probably there. I am staying in Kensington, one of the highest-class boroughs in all of London. My dorm is a converted flat that is next door to the French ambassador and down the street from one of Dustin Hoffman’s houses.
So far, we have had our first week of classes, and signed up for program-sponsored cultural events. These are events that are subsidized by AIFS and are designed to give us a better idea of what London is like. Through AIFS, I will go see Wicked (for the first time), to a cricket match, to the dog races, and, finally, on a boat cruise through the Thames.
Overall this promises to be an incredibly rewarding trip. I cannot wait to get started, and already have I realized that it will go by too quickly.

This weekend I headed out to Vienna to meet up with a friend of mine from UTD named Heather. However, I was planning on continuing on to Salzburg, so all of the hostels that I researched and everything I had planned to do was a three-hour train ride away. It was when I was riding up the escalator in Vien Mitte. I was in a foreign city, where I knew nobody, did not know where to stay, and did not speak a single word of the language. First order of business was to find a place to stay for the next two nights. So what did I do? I picked a direction and walked with my bag in tow. Eventually, I came to a line of cabs that took me to the nearest hotel that (luckily) had vacancies.
I got settled and then immediately struck out to try to find something to do for my first night in the foreign country. So I found my way to a local establishment and started to make friends with the locals (who thankfully spoke a lot of English).
The next morning I headed out to the palace grounds, after looking at things to do decided to go take a gander at the Austrian crown jewels. I had seen the British crown jewels and was expecting much of the same. The Austrian jewels however are much different. Instead of being a series of crowns ornamented with jewels taken from across a worldwide empire, they consisted swords made of narwhal horn, and stylistically were very different. One piece of clothing that takes center stage is a series of elaborate mantels. These varied by size and extravagance based on who commissioned them. It was interesting to see the difference in wealth between Austria and England. While the British Empire reigned supreme, the Austrian empire could not even hope to match the wealth, and this fact is reflected in the crown jewels.
On Sunday, I went and visited the Austrian zoo. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and so I spent the entire day wandering around the zoo gazing at all the magnificent animals. There were cheetahs, polar bears, bats, and penguins…along with everything in between. The vastness of the zoo cannot be overstated. On all sides this area is surrounded by city, yet here was an oasis of natural space about 50 acres in area. It was huge!
My favorite part of Austria was the food. Meat prepared in 100 different ways, and of course the schnitzel was awesome. To say that I enjoyed Austria would be considered an understatement.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Day 1: Arrival
We met up, ate at Felfella (falafa and soup), went to the Nile and walked along, slept early
We stayed at Hostel Brothers – really nice! Well… the first night the AC didn’t really work… but you get used to these things
Observations: CAIRO
1. Everyone wears a hijhab
a. Most = ‘fake’ i.e. tight, bright, showy clothes NOT traditional
2. Boys/men are SUPER flirty
3. A LOT of harassment with foreigners (ie to take a Felucca ride)
4. Nile is beautiful
5. City at night is ALIVE like NY or Tokyo with all the lights!
6. Tons of people on the streets all hours of the day and most of the night!

Day 2: Cairo - Giza (took pyramids to pyramids and sphinx), Papyrus Museum, Essence shop (I blew glass!), Dinner at new restaurant, walking, clubbing
Observations: CAIRO
1. Need to bargain for EVERYTHING
2. People try to sell in package deals a lot… not a good bargain
3. Hospitable… always offer tea
4. Discounts for students
5. Prostitutes galore – one picked up right in front of me in a nicer club!
6. There was a fight in the streets and the cops just stood aside and watched!
7. LOTS of wedding proposals
a. 20,000 camels offered to me 
8. everyone works on tips (or so they say)
9. I feel pretty uncomfortable even remotely uncovered because everyone is covered and men make lots of comments
10. Camels – tons of flies…. Are hard to stay on… and are TOTALLY worth it
11. 20 million people in one city!
12. People are very proud of their work
13. I touched the pyramid (the second one… the one with the cap)
14. Asians go a lot and take a lot of pictures… just like the stereotype
15. Glass blowing – we saw and participated!
16. Essence place was very friendly even though we may not buy stuff but that is part of how they sell
a. 10% of perfumes are essence that mainly come from Egypt… 80% is all alcohol
b. perfume last 3 hr when essence last 10
17. locals take advantage of how Americans pay at higher prices and over change like CRAZY
a. you WILL get cheated here
18. it is difficult to eat if you want to stay safe
19. 1 man helped us find a restaurant by walking us all the way there!
20. Everyone has different opinion (i.e. wat is good food)
21. Lotus flower = symbol of Egypt and sign of love
a. Cairo tower is in this shape!
22. People are either really religious (a lot of men have the burn mark on their forehead from praying)
23. Most important mosque in the world is here (Ashar)
24. People in the streets are super willing to help
25. Land is really fertile and expensive which is why building are built up… but with the city expanding there is a need for more
26. At 11 p.m., the city was soooo busy!
a. No cars could fit on the street
b. Everything was open (stores)
c. Families were out
27. I was treated differently w/Mary (white girl) more so than with others
a. More comments because with Mary I just look like a foreigner but alone I am considered slutty for wearing a dress that goes up to my knees
28. Very clan-like
a. People don’t associate much with others and stay to their groups a lot
i. Seen in streets, clubs
we later booked a flight to Luxor where we saw that you need to look around because there are always better deals to be found (better than an overnight train!)
I also learned that Upper Egypt is South because it is lover and Lower Egypt is N because it is high and Nile flows to the North

Day 3 – Cairo – breakfast, Egyptian Museum, lunch at Sheraton, Zamalak, Cruise on the Nile
Observations – CAIRO
1. Egyptian Museum

a. Need a student ID to get good prices for everything

b. Arab prices are SOOOOO much cheaper!
i. i.e. museum: 4P Arab
30P student
60P rest
c. King Tut = amazing!
i. For tombs – four boxes followed by 3 sarcophosis?
ii. Tons of stuff: carriages, etc
iii. Only tomb is 100% intact
d. Tour guide was helpful
e. Soooooo much to see, so many bodies, statues, etc
f. Animals are cool
g. Mummies = expensive to see but cool
h. LOTS of tourists there
i. Not sensitive to cultural dress i.e. short shirts, midriff, etc
2. Sheraton = nice.. LOTS of hooka
a. GULF POPLE = hijhab doesn’t cover all hair = weird
b. Friday night is crazy even families were out all hours
3. Zamalak
a. Wealthier island on other side of the Nile… not the most wealthy but close
b. Hijhab is more traditional when worn
c. More men with turbans
d. Car stopped for us!
e. Very residential area
f. More modern stores (Harley, Costa, Quicksilver)
g. Embassy buildings
h. Cleaner in general
i. Streets and buildings
i. Went to a really small café
j. Not so touristy and the people like it that way… they didn’t get why we were there
k. People didn’t harass us as much
l. More foreigners live here
m. People are still nice
n. Nice Garden that was closed
**In general, a good contrast to downtown and a good look into Cairo at a different angel.
4. Nile Cruise
a. Another ex of how Cairo is based on tourism
i. i.e. Sufi mystic = usually religious here done for money w/photos. Very theatrical and different compared to Syria
ii. Belly dancer – not great but good for pictures again to make money
iii. $$$ surprise charges (drinks)
iv. if you are important (i.e. have money) people wait for you i.e. we waited on one group for 30 min and were all late
v. beautiful scenery
vi. servants were up, food/show was downstairs
By this day, we were both getting more used to the ridic amount of comments

Day 4 – Luxor (East Bank) – early to airport – Oasis hostel – Karnak – restaurant – nap (felt sick) – outside Luxor walk around Luxor temple – market – sleep early
Observations LUXOR
1. men wear traditional robes A LOT
2. women = real hijhab, lots of black, not showy
3. more poor city, VERY poor areas
a. house with one room with a big coach and 6 people
b. hallway with rags that symbolize a home
c. markets full of rotten fruit
4. more blacks because further South
5. more children in the street, lots begging
6. tourist – HARRASMENT esp market, street (horses) and Nile
7. locals are proud of Luxor kept trying to tell us to stay longer
8. cheating applies here too and souvenirs are expensive
9. less busy streets, people walking in local shops are nice
10. cheaper transportation, food, living than Cairo
11. downtown is cleaner and more residential
12. Karnak is the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life
13. More visible Christians and more churches

Day 5 – Luxor (West Bank) – woke up at 5.30 a.m, go to West Bank via ferry, taxi to Valley of the Kings, hitch a bus to Hatshepsut’s Temple, taxi to Valley of the Queens, walk and take a service back and have lunch at same safe restaurant (Green Palace) an went to inet café, local market, 2 malls, sat in nice hotel (Mercur), walk along Nile, McDonalds, ferry back and forth, late (delayed) night plane back
**22.5 hour day!**

Observations – LUXOR
1. lots of very poor areas
a. food all rotten
b. women wear black robes (not extra cover, just plain hijhab) and carry big bags on heads
2. more Christians
a. it was Sunday and there were a lot of church-goers, more people out at night like a Friday in Syria (McD was SUPER busy), shops and pharmacy closed
3. weather = HOT
4. some very nice people but lots of cheating
5. best memories = giving bathroom man 5 Leera and a little boy on the ferry selling tissue a few leera and seeing his smile. And seeing the affection between the dad and baby on the ferry.

Day 6 – Cairo – slept in! breakfast, shower, underground buy Alexandria ticket, citadel, long walk 2 Hussein mosque, Ashar, ate at Najeeb Manfouz, Khan al-Khalili, walk a little in Ashar, Khan again, hotel inet, sleep

Observations – Cairo
1. Most of Egypt – poor like the markets we see with rotten food
2. No pictures of the president around like in Syria and Jordan and Morocco because his oppression
a. Not taking care of his people seen by how the are cleaning president’s road and not dirty city
3. Super flirty men
a. Young men easier to argue with to lower prices than women or gentlemen
4. Underground system is cheap and CROWDED… and still streets are full!
5. Train is so different than America
a. People come 5 min before train and buy a ticket
b. Learn about crime – punishment or theft can be a chopped off arm, people don’t report rape because of embarrassment
6. Locals try to be helpful but don’t always succeed
7. Egyptian history lessons
a. King Farouk = last one before Nasser
i. Women built Cairo Uni
ii. Burnt down castle
iii. Trade btwn Egypt and France: obelisk and clock
8. People don’t sit on the street, so we were looked at funny
9. They are cleaning the city in sections (as seen in the citadel)

Day 7: Alexandria – woke up at 6 a.m., underground to train, 2.5 hr train, walk to beach, sat in garden, went to library, walk along Mediterranean, sat at beach 2 hrs, ate at seafood restaurant, inet café, walk to get water, train to underground, legit marriage proposal by Tamer

Observations – ALEXANDRIA
1. cleaner than Cairo and Luxor
2. people don’t harass as much
3. all hijhab and real hijhab
4. library is VERY big and nice
a. charge to go in!
5. train is nice and comfortable
6. saw on train that a lot of Egypt is farmland and greet
7. most towns are poor and old and run down
8. Alexandria is another mix of old downtown and new town (like Syria)
9. Older population mostly (not as many teens except near the uni)
10. People are really nice and helpful
11. Poor people are there too, but even they are outside enjoying the outdoors
12. Green city!
13. Not many churches
14. Greek influence is obvious
15. Metro not always segregated
16. City is still running and busy at 10.30 p.m…. not really till midnight though
17. Fish is the main staple
a. Sold everywhere and famous
b. We saw men fishing outside
18. Food is less rotten in local markets than in Cairo and Luxor
19. Cops actually stopped traffic unlike Cairo
a. Crossin street is still scary but service was nicer
20. Cops working on maintenance in the garden… still trashon he floor though

Little girl (stranger) went to a random women on the beach and held her hand for like 20 min and the women welcomed it and got a kiss at the end. (caring for kid is part of the culture)
Little boys on the street so happy to say “Hello” to Americans. People in general were nice to Americans
I got in trouble for putting my head on mom’s shoulder likely because mom’s knees weren’t covered and my chest was more open

Day 8: Cairo – Coptic Cairo, try to go to Cairo Uni, DAY BEFORE OBAMA MAKES BIG SPEECH!
Observations – CAIRO
1. As you get near to Coptic Cairo, you obviously see a lot of more Christians
2. The people in Coptic Cairo (Christians) were also very nice and it was almost more comfortable to go there bc I was without a hijhab.


Day 7: Taxi to Jordan
Very fun ordeal – I went to the garage in Damascus that is well known to be the station to pick up the necessary taxis. I was first met by a group of drivers that were not recognized by the Damascene government or taxi organization to be proper drivers and they tried to convince me to drive with them. I considered but after waiting 10 minutes under the sun for them I decided to just do the right thing. So I just went inside.
There was NO organization. You just go in and wait for a full taxi to go to Amman (or wherever)
I paid 750 Leera and had a nice driver that didn’t smoke, got the front seat, and was in a car with people who spoke English
Observations: Amman
1. Appearance is really important
a. Showing off the amount of money you have
2. The people here are kinda rude
3. The Dead Sea is a HUGE tourist site – people from all over the world come for the mud at the Dead Sea
4. They say the word “Aady” a lot – it means normal or “Mashy”
5. The rich side of Amman is REALLY wealthy

Day 8 – Amman – Tala took me to for a heavy foul breakfast, to old downtown, to the amphitheatre, to the old museums, to have mansaf for lunch, to Rainbow street, and then to a western café’ for dinner
Observations – Amman
1. They don’ use as many lovey words as Syrians (well… turns out no one does)
2. Same old parts, not as dirty though
3. Rainbow street is famous for their Friday parties
a. Walk, concerts, café’s
4. It was Independence day there, so it was SUPER busy
5. It was cooler than Syria
6. The old men in the old city are more rude
7. The highest flag in the world is flown in the middle of Amman
8. Mansaf (the traditional meal – fat juice mixed with rice, a block of meat, and a thin piece of bread) isn’t that great. At all.


Day 1: Hama and Latakia
We left at 12:00 p.m. for a three hour drive to the NE of Syria. Our first stop was Hama, a city known for its 2,200 year old water wells. There are about 150 of these huge wells all over the city.
HAMA – interested facts
1. 150/+ water wells that are 2,200 years old
2. No Jews in the whole city and Christians and Muslims get along here better than any other Islamic city. Christian woman even cover their heads out of respect
a. Story: Jews put dead, bloody pig in Mosque trying to start a feud between Christians and Muslims, but Muslims found out and Jews haven’t been welcome since
3. Manufacturing center of greater Sham esp: milk, cheese, beef supplier of Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon
a. We ate at a city center/mall type modern place and they served the sweet famous in the region along with the best ice-cream ever in the world. We were treated to lunch by locals
4. On Locals: they are extremely nice, women are super conservative, but people are very hospitable.
5. The city is known for its river “االعاصي” or “Orantus” meaning rebellious because the river runs from South to North rather than the traditional North to South
6. The city was 80% destroyed by bombs of the Syrian government trying to wipe out the weapons hidden underground by the Muslim Brotherhood
We then continued to the coastal town of Latakia. We left about 5:15 p.m. which was perfect because we got to see the beautiful scenery of the NE on the way. The road was surrounded by mountains, but these mountains were different than those around Damascus because they were green – covered w/trees and plant life. It was absolutely beautiful.
We made it just in time to see sundown on the Mediterranean. The beach here is beautiful – the water is crystal clear and you can see the rocks beneath the water.
We watched a man make za’atar bread (menaaesh) and bread and cheese from scratch!
The people were suuuuper hospitable. For example in the internet café’ helped us a lot

LATAKIA - Interesting facts
1. The city is a tourist city, and the people and downtown are very similar to people in the rest of Syria
2. There are a lot more Christians in this city, I saw a lot of churches
3. Downtown is just like Old Damascus with café’s and shops, etc
4. The bay area is a tourist hub, with beach gifts and standard street-side arabic food
5. Weather is cooler because we are higher up, and the weather year-round is generally mild and nice
6. This place is 100% crowded during the real summer (late American summer)
7. People here work until 2 a.m. and open around 10 a.m.
General things I learned
1. Homs people are made fun of like Aggies
2. In Latakia, there is the largest Easter celebration in Syria
a. All f the Syrians come to Latakia Easter Sunday dressed in new clothes and go out to the streets for music and fun

Day 2 – Latakia, Ugarit, Kasab, Mashqueeta
After a good sleep and tea, we went out traveling. I have a bit of a stomach ache because of all the sandwiches (cheese+muhammara+zaiatar and zaitar) late last night
We first went to Ugarit which is one of the most important sites in the world
Important facts: UGARIT
1. Site of 1st alphabet in the world
2. 90 rooms in the ancient site
3. 1st musical notes
4. almost 4,000 years old
Important facts: MASHQUEETA
1. After the old civilization, we drove to masheqeeta. The one-hour drive was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. The city itself was like a port with seven lakes.
2. We took a 30 min. boat ride down the lakes.
a. We learned that the boating business was hurt because of the recent boating accident in Damascus
3. Lots of olive trees all around
We then drove around stopping for pictures until we got to Kasab
Interesting facts: KASAB
1. city on the TOPPP of the mountain
2. popular tourism spot for the summer
3. sell lots of herbs
4. lots of Armenians
5. lots of Turkish music because we were right by the border, which we did stop by but were not allowed close to or in Turkey proper
We next ate at a restaurant famous for their fries – it took us FOREVER to find it we kept seeing signs thinking we were close then after 30 min we finally made. We also ate a desert that was 100% unnecessary but yummy (Kanafa).
We then went to a beach side town my uncle remembered to be beautiful, but was basically trash. Just comes to show how some people in Syria don’t know how to keep up with their environment.
We then got lost on our way to the next city, but it was a beautiful place to get lost in because we drove to the top of the mountain and saw the beautiful scenery.
We then returned to our chalet where we came to find the electricity gone, typical middle east 
We had someone (a friend of Mhmd… happened to be 3X boxing champ and now a border patrol worker SCARY) take us around and we talked around tea then walked around the city.
In Latakia, we bought some burned salty/sour green humus beans and walked along the bay. We had a sweet that was like a cake with cheese in the middle. We then went back to sleep.

Day 3 – Somra and Aleppo
We woke up early and drove to the MOST BEAUTIFUL SITE IN SYRIA! The city of Somra. The entire ride was nice, and when we got closer we saw two mountains with the sea in between… then when we drove down the road was full of beautiful bushes and flowers.
Interesting facts: SOMRA
1. Lots of Armenians
2. The right mountain, when looking at the sea, is Turkey! That is the border
3. The sea is crystal clear, and there is a family on the bottom making yummy fatiyar
We then drove to Aleppo. I fell asleep along the way. We went straight to our hotel (Dal-lal) in the old city. And we then went to visit our friend Amaal for lunch… followed by getting our hair done… followed by a little shopping by myself in the square where I was hit on by two people, whistled at almost too much, followed by one. Then we went out to dinner at like 11 p.m. at “nady Jalaa-ah”
Interested facts: ALEPPO
1. he city looks a lot like Damascus: the old city has a lot of old houses and alleys and then there is a new downtown area
2. the roads are wider
3. there are just as many taxis and microbuses
4. famous for their food
5. women are not too beautiful there (Latakia was better, Homs is famous for their women)
a. Lots of Armenians!
i. Originally when the Turks were bombing the Armenians, they fled to the closest city (Aleppo) and stayed there!
b. More Christians
c. The Muslim women are more conservative – more covered head-to-toe in black than any other city
d. The people LOVE their classical music
e. Very friendly people
i. One man wouldn’t let us pay for the taxi
ii. One woman wouldn’t let me pay for my magnet
iii. They love showing me their work and welcoming us to the city
iv. Mhmd’s friend came all the way from the other side of the city to drive him down
v. One man had me try on all his necklaces and said ‘his happiness was to please me”
f. CRAZY drivers!

Day 4: Aleppo
1. Aleppo Citadel
a. Largest
b. Oldest
c. Most important
d. we had a tour guide that told us everything about the history
e. built for the Mamluk period, used by the Byzantines
2. Museum
a. Lots of realllly old artifacts
b. Quick tour from tour guide
c. History from early man  Mamluk  byzantine  roman ETC
3. Old city/Market
a. A lot like Damascus
b. Biggest covered market in the world
c. Surprised to see not too much of the famous Aleppo nuts… more in Damascus!
4. Mosque (Omayyad)
a. Nice… not too special in my opinion
b. Zacharay’s tomb
i. Like Jesus’s uncle
Day 5: Bus back to Damascus
1. We took a bus back… the BEST bus ride ever
a. Company was Express/first classes and it lived up to its name!
i. Seats recline
ii. Personal TV (I watched Barrier 13)
iii. Snack, water, coffee, juice, tea
iv. Personal man working there
At Damascus we went out to a nightclub called Chillos that was super fun. We got to sit upstairs and watch everyone dancing!

Day 6: Stayed in Damascus… La Serail at night