One term down…

As you’re well aware (because you all live and you have heard it repeated innumerable times): time flies!

 

This time last year I had just left Jordan, where I had stayed for 3 months, university felt like a long way off. Now I have completed my first term of my Arabic and Economics degree. One term down, 11 more to go!

 

When people find out what my degree is, they then ask me what I want to do (and almost always make a joke about spies or oil) to which my honest answer is: I just want to make it through.

 

Not to be pessimistic, but one term of university has solidified this as my outlook: I need to pass first before thinking about anything else.

Not that I’m currently failing, but it is jolly hard work, and I would much rather be aware of the extent to which I must apply myself in order to succeed, than to be thinking only of my next step.

I cannot just see this degree as a stepping-stone to something else; at current it is my number one responsibility.

 

This opportunity to be in a place with the predominant purpose of study is such a privilege; I have never enjoyed studying as much as I have this term.

 

Sounds a bit lame, but indulge me.

 

Never before have I had to apply myself to a subject in the way I do with Arabic. In school, you are given the basis of what you need to know, you are taught it, you do some individual study on it, then you sit an exam on it. There’s a right and a wrong. There are limits on what you need to understand.

University is nothing like this. You cannot know all there is to know about your subject, particularly with a language, thus you reap exactly what you sow in terms of reward for your studies. (Although in my case it so far feels like an awful lot of unproductive sowing with no reaping whatsoever!)

 

One can always study more, so the complaint of ‘I have nothing to do’ is constantly and completely invalid.

This has been such a blessing for me, as I despise feeling like I have nothing to do, and far prefer intensity to relaxation (which is occasionally to my downfall).

 

Surprisingly, I sometimes find myself having has such a busy run of things that I actually desire a few hours in which to do nothing! This is partially why I have not been ‘partying’ more than a couple of times; by the time the evening comes around I’d far rather be in pyjamas eating cake and watching The Crown! #jussayin

 

Even if I had no studying to do, there would still be an ample supply of opportunities to keep me busy for London is full to the brim of places to explore, galleries to see, foods to eat… I love it.

There are many terrible and tragic things about London too, but that makes me love it more, as it exemplifies the living nature of the city and makes me feel for it, and for the joys and the brokenness of the lives it contains.

 

Regardless of the wealth of opportunities to be had, and of the seemingly unending new discoveries to be made here, true to human nature and it’s long for routine, I have formed a few London favourites.

 

Regent’s Park is one; I just adore it. Other than at my halls and university, the majority my time is spent in the park, meandering along the paths, through the leaves, and by the lake.

One thing though: I do wish people would stop mollycoddling the squirrels, they’re vile! (The squirrels not the people…)

 

The architecture here is something else that makes my heart (and eyes) happy. When you look above the modern entrances to shops and offices, you see the most glorious melange of buildings. The beautiful old brickwork sitting adjacent to bizarre modern constructions makes for a fascinating patchwork city.

 

My church, Grace London, is another. I’m so thankful for this church family, it means I am incapable of feeling homesick (at least for long). If you’re a Londoner seeking a church, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

A more recent discovery of mine is ‘The Late Shift’ at the National Portrait Gallery. Every Friday evening one can go along and draw in one of the rooms, all materials provided. I went along last night, and 2 hours passed in what felt like 10 minutes. Very therapeutic.

 

Another thing: London does Christmas lights so magnificently. Once you put out of your mind the disgusting amount of money and energy that goes into the light displays, it really is a thing to behold.

 

 

So, one term in and I love my course, my church and my city.

The blessings are too many to count. Thank you, God!

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3 weeks. 3 takeaways (not the edible kind).

3 weeks at home is not, in reality, a long time.

3 weeks at home, after 14 months never spending more than 10 days a time here, sure feels like an awfully long time.

 

 

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog (or lack thereof) you’ll probably be aware that I’ve had the good fortune to intern in three different places, on three different continents, over the course of this last year.

The variety of places taught me an immense amount about different attitudes to all areas of life- work, communication, family, health, religion, race; I feel incredibly blessed to have watched such different world-views in action.

 

People I have seen and spoken to since being back in Poole have almost always asked me what my highlights were, a question I am unable to give a straight answer to. I find the big picture easier than the intricate, so I have settled on a general ‘takeaway’ from each place.

Each is a gradual lesson learned that blossomed into a gift, something that is a true treasure when I look back on it.

 

Jordan: I learned to love culture.

 

I felt passionate before I went to Jordan about watching others ‘do life’ and studying different countries and learning how factors such as religion and history affect the way their society functions today, but living and working in a country so different to England augmented this fascination and desire to learn more about other cultures.

 

South Africa: I learned to love communication (and getting stuff done)

 

While in Cape Town I read The Culture Map, an excellent book by Erin Meyer on the subject of communicating across culture within a business environment. As someone who had already worked with people of a different cultural perspective and communication style, I found the book intriguing and insightful.
The position I held in the church in Cape Town included a lot of organisation and implementation of events and the like; this role coupled with the excitement I felt about communicating across the natural division of differing cultures defined in me an enthusiasm to ‘get stuff done’ in a multicultural environment. Diversity can only be an asset as long as people are connected and facilitated effectively.

 

USA: I learned to love people (and to take it slow!)

 

‘Learned to love people’ sounds bit weird, but in complete truth: this year my heart has been continually softened, meaning I am getting better at loving people. I don’t mean the kind of love that is ‘oh that person is so great, so cool, so nice- I love them’. I mean the kind of love that is an action, one that you may not always feel, but one that is always right and good and precious. Loving as an action is patience, kindness, gentleness, humility- the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. This is much harder to put into practice than one may first assume, and I am far from perfect at it. Heck, I’m rarely even ‘good’ at it! In North Carolina, the family I lived with, the church staff I worked with, my lovely friends, and the culture in general led me through example in the act of loving others before yourself.

 

Each of my experiences was unique, challenging and wonderful in their own magnificent way. Much of life is made up of routine; I got to forge my little piece of this in three new environments, something I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do.

 

 

These three weeks back in my family home, in the town in which I have spent 10 years of my life, have been challenging. For the most part, life has carried on and is much the same, but there are new things for me to adjust to, new routines, new friends, new food in the cupboards! We’re all a year older, but my change is the most pronounced due to my immersion in new experiences. I don’t fit into the same family role that I did when I left home. In fact, that role no longer even exists- they’ve all adjusted to life without me! We all have to relearn relationships and adapt to new ways of doing things. It’s awkward and bumpy, as one would expect this phase to be. My parents’ home is still my home, but I’m not a child in the same way anymore, both mentally and in terms of my responsibilities. It’s weird. My sentences are getting snappier, a reflection- perhaps- of my feelings about the whole thing. Bumpy bumpy.

 

Things shall change again this Sunday as I move to London to begin my Undergraduate degree at SOAS woot woot where I will be studying Arabic and Economics.

Yes, Arabic. Why? I fancied (*for you Americans: fancied=wanted) a challenge, as I am someone who works well where workload is increased. I love a bit of pressure. Additionally, culture and communication are kinda my buzz words (as you heard earlier) and this degree has great potential to open doors into areas where those are important. Currently, I think I would like to join the military for a few years once I have finished my degree, but we’ll see whether or not that happens. I’m holding the future lightly; I know what happens will be for good.

 

So that’s me as of now. Watch this space, I guess!

Salt

Yesterday found me sitting, staring at the Atlantic Ocean from east coast America, short weeks after glimpsing the Atlantic from the southernmost part of Africa.

 

I experienced the same phenomena of swimming in one sea but in a completely different place last summer, floating in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon, and then Spain within one week.

 

All this to say: salt water has- among other things- an incredible ability to kindle reminiscence and nostalgia.

 

Water is often anthropomorphized, for though it does not act out of conscious decision, it stimulates living organisms into action, moving us physically, emotionally, even spiritually.

 

I found myself questioning this; in particular questioning the idea of people finding rest in the ocean. Why do people speak of the sea as medication, calming, even paradise?

 

Is it purely due to the association of the sea with holiday, with a break from the business and routine of life? Or is it in the nature of the water itself?

 

Is it the foam sliding up the sand then bubbling back down in the pattern of a masseuse’s hand relieving a body of tension?

 

Is it the current that smoothes the tide to the side, as a mother’s hand soothes the brow of her child?

 

Is it the rhythmic crash and fizz of the waves, the releasing metronome without monotony?

 

Whatever it may be, for all its tranquillity the oceans cannot escape the innate truth that lurks in their soul, namely: danger.

 

The uncontrollable nature of the tides, the currents, the depths, whisper to us ominously.

 

This menace beckoning us to adventure, so aesthetically cloaked in shimmering aqua, it’s unending, luring you in whilst simultaneously warning you with its cold bite and salt sting that the hazard of adventure may prove too cruel for some.

 

The power of the water is undeniable, begging the question: how much more powerful must its creator be?

 

Psalm 77: 16

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.

Matthew 8:23-37

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Q&A

If you’ve been reading or listening to the news and found yourself, along with the rest of the world, asking “what’s wrong with humanity- where’re all the nice people at?” I think I’ve found your answer: they’re right here, in a small town called Morehead City.

Day 4 in North Carolina, and I’ve seen more smiles during this time than in 18 years of living in the UK…

Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, don’t worry Brits- we’re not that bad, but on a real level this place sure knows how to make you feel at home. It helps that I’m staying with an awesome, godly family who model hospitality superbly, but in general people here have been so pleasant.

I guess the small town scenario accommodates the forming of a community far better than a city is able, so I’m praying that my time here rubs off on me and leaves me five times more of a people-lover than I’ve been previously (not that I hate people or anything, but there’s always room for growth…).

Since being here I’ve not only enjoyed the infamous ‘Southern hospitality’ in the form of friendliness, but also eaten some phenomenal (and maybe more infamous) BBQ (aka. pulled pork), deep fried chicken, crab-cakes, crab dip, pimento cheese, potato salad, PLUS peanut butter up to my elbows. Not bad for 4 days work.

If you want the answer to another big question- that question being “What does a girl want?”- the above list of delicacies should give you a fairly good idea.

So everything is going just fine and dandy, and thanks for stopping by.

 

I also would like to share a little encouragement, if you’re interested:

While I was praying this morning I had a picture come to my mind of a daisy that was having the petals plucked off it to the sound of “he loves me, he loves me not…”. The words “HE LOVES ME” kept repeating in my mind, and I was reminded that God’s love is not a matter of ‘maybe’, or a question who’s answer leaves room for doubt. Rather, God’s love is a faithful promise, written in blood- a blood that abolished law and proclaims peace, speaking the language of mercy and of grace.

You are loved.

 

See you soon Cape Town

And just like that, my time here is at an end.

I FEEL MISERABLE

Honestly, God has brought me so many blessings during these short 3 months that the wonderful-ness far out-shadows the tragedy of leaving.

However: I FEEL MISERABLE.

It’s totally not helping that the pressure from stopping myself crying is causing extra blood to flow to my head, which is making my piercing bleed, resulting in even more wallowing in self pity and grief (eat your heart out Morrisey, I can do tragic too).

Before I arrived here, my biggest fear was forming relationships with people; three months isn’t long to make people like you, much less trust you, which is something I massively value in friendships.

On top of this, I knew I would be entering an environment filled with people of a similar age to me, and this I found terrifying. That sounds silly but I was so nervous that I would be unable to relate to anyone. Surely, I hear you think, you must relate to people your own age best?

But I don’t, and never have. Plus, something that dawned on me only the other day: I came from my time in Jordan where there had been no-one my age at all and, although my time there was beautiful, it had been lonely.

So, basically, I was scared about people.

But God is a good, good Father and I’m sure he’s laughing at me even now as I’m sat here reflecting on the tidal wave of love and friendship that I’ve experienced here. Thank you Father God!

And thank you friends who made me feel so at home here. The student team, youth team, life group, youth group (I’m especially praying for you guys and can’t wait to see what God does with you), Jubilee staff, and Jubilee church. Plus Common Ground church who were equally as welcoming.

This is super cheese, but I’ve met new members of my family here and it’s been magical.

So thank you God, and thank you Cape Town, for treating me so well (and for sending me back to the UK with a lekker tan).

It’s heart-wrenching to leave, but I know God works all things for the good of those who love him, so my heart will now be still and rest.

Good intentions…

I am currently sat at my desk, praying for inspiration to write; for some reason or another my creative juices are feeling completely sapped when it comes to blogging.

I’ve been in Cape Town for three weeks, but feel as though I was born here. However is said that everyone who comes here wants to stay, so I can’t kid myself that I have a unique relationship with this place. All I can be is grateful that being here is so comfortable.

 

I grew up with a father working full time for the church. When I was 6 I would ask if I could go with him to the office and ‘work’ at the spare desk. It fascinated me being there.

When I got a bit older I began to question the church office. I had no idea what on earth all those people could be doing with their time, but they all seemed to be having fun. How on earth does someone work for a church? What is there to do? We just go on a Sunday, right?

Now I’m volunteering for a church. And blimey, there is a lot to do.

A church’s staff functions as a small business; people have their specialities, but there must be room for adaptability and for sharing the load of tasks in order for progress. A church’s staff should operate as a mini version of how the church as a whole does, which we see explained in 1 Corinthians 12- we all play our own role, but we all work together.

I’m not sure which body part I am playing while at Jubilee…

Wait yes I do have an analogy: say you’ve been weight training and your biceps have got bigger, then you stop and the extra muscle goes. Does this mean your arm can’t function? Of course not! So I am the extra muscle mass, reinforcing things while here, but not essential for movement.

And I love being the muscle mass (honestly being the whole arm would be way too much pressure). I’m working in both the student and the youth teams, doing general admin, communication and operations (ie. events).
I feel so excited for what God wants to do in and through the church here, in particular the young people.

Mondays and Saturdays are my free days for exploration/vegging out.

I’ve done some great things already like

  1. jumping off rocks into the sea
  2. visiting the penguins
  3. playing with monkeys at world of birds
  4. hanging out in a tree in Kirstenbosch
  5. horse riding in a random field near a main road but there were flamingos!!

I have many many many things on my to-do-and-see list still, but I have time. Right now it’s raining, which for selfish purposes is a bit sucky but we are all so grateful for the sake of the country. Please pray for rain for Cape Town- we need the dams to be filled!

I have little else to say at this point, despite the many things that are going on… I will try harder at this over the next few weeks, but babysteps!

I also have photos to share, once I have them off my camera, which is another job on my to-do list. So watch this space!

January 11th

Wow it has been such a long time since I wrote.

Having been out of the swing of it so long, it is definitely going to be tricky to fall back into the groove of it- so please bear with me if my writing is a little jilted.

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the last breakfast in Jordan

On the 14th December I left Jordan and headed for the US on a 10-day trip in New York and DC with two others.

Unfortunately I was really ill during the New York section, which made me pretty miserable to be around.

In truth, there were points I was regretting being there. The city of New York is a crazy place in terms of how vast it is, something I would have thought I’d love, as I am in general a fan of buzzy cities. However the driving force behind the city is so clearly money and power, something that just did not sit right with me.

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However in retrospect I am so glad I did go. The people I met along the way made such an impact on me, even though I knew them only very briefly, and I felt grown and challenged by God while there.

I met with such incredible men and women of God, so full of love, hospitality, and a passion for Him.

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At the NFL game- Carolina Panthers vs Washington Redskins

It’s such an incredible feeling knowing that you can travel across continents and discover more family, and I experienced this to the full.

Thank goodness God knows what he’s doing!

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WW2 memorial, DC

Going home to England felt very odd, but by the end of my US trip I was definitely ready for it. There are no hugs like the hugs from your fam.

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It felt bizarre being back, so little has changed that it felt so easy to just slip into- the whole of my near-4 months away seemed to fade into a dream. I spoke to a couple old school friends who agreed with me, it felt as if we could have finished sixth form only yesterday- not six months ago!

Dorset is such a beautiful place; I felt such appreciation for it having been away for so long. I’m sure glad I get to return there and not somewhere else when I come home!

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The most scared Jack Russell ever?

I think leaving felt harder this time round, because I had just resettled into my old routines and normalities. And, it being Christmas and New Year, I had been constantly surrounded by family and friends, which made leaving all alone a daunting prospect.

But here I am now, in Cape Town! It is beautiful for sure, everyone who’s been here will tell you as much. The Capetonians definitely feel a sense of pride in their home place, and for good reason.

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Man-made beauty will always always lose out to the natural wonders of the world.

The rawness of the beauty here is extreme, and so wonderful.

It’s hot too, which I love. I actually vowed to myself not to be that silly English girl who gets burnt, but that lasted all of one day. Hopefully it’ll prevent from more burn further down the line…

I’ve met some awesome people already. As soon as I arrived I went straight to a youth camp to serve as a leader there, meaning I met loads of people in the same kind of situation as me. It was phenomenal to see so many young people praising Jesus, and I’m excited to be able to work with them more over the coming three months.

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A friend of a friend showed me around some of the glorious coastline, which was fantastic. All in one day I saw penguins, seals and dolphins. In the UK all I saw was pigeons and dogs, so that was pretty exciting for me!

So, I’m excited for my time and for what God does with and in me while I’m here.

Bring it on.

November travel update

 

I’ve been lucky enough to cross off several destinations on my “To Visit” list so far this month, and each one has made me fall more and more in love with the country.

 

Feynan

 

One of my colleagues is a climber/yoga teacher/general awesome human and organised a retreat to the gorgeous Feynan Eco Lodge.

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Feynan Ecolodge with the stunning black mountains behind

Feynan is in the heart of the Dana Biosphere reserve, meaning the wildlife and scenery are both spectacular, plus the solar-powered eco lodge is rated among the top 50 in the world by NatGeo.

 

The experience was really restful- we did some yoga and lots of laughing, as well as being extremely informative.

 

Being far from any city there is zero light pollution, making the lodge excellent for stargazing. Plus, on the roof is an impressive telescope- so powerful that I could clearly see Saturn’s ring when I peered into it!

One of the staff, a Bedouin guide born and bred in the area, gave an impressive lesson into the way the Bedouins traditionally used the stars for navigation, pointing out numerous constellations and supplying the stories behind the naming of each.

 

The next day the same guy gave us a full insight into the many many many rules of Bedouin coffee etiquette (seriously enough for a separate blog post- let me know if you want one!).

 

The lovely Irene wrote a great blog on the experiences of the weekend, which you should definitely check out here.

 

It’s an amazing place to visit- I highly recommend it.

 

Petra

 

I went to Petra! Hoorah! Two months in, I was beginning to worry I’d never get round to it…

 

It truly is breath-taking. Partly due to its grandeur, but also die to the overpowering stench of animal dung.

But seriously.

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Panorama from the high place of sacrifice

Entering the main way via the Siq you kind of wander through the canyon, round twists and turns, wondering when you’re going to arrive, and then suddenly WOW the treasury is right before you.

 

There’s so much to explore, it’s an archaeological masterpiece. There are countless articles and blogs that read about Petra, the history, tips and general experience, so I’m keeping this summary to the things that stick out in my mind as the best bits personal to my experience.

  • I went with a great girl; she’s hilarious, huge-hearted, and desperate to fatten me up- we make a good team.
  • There are loads of camels, horses and donkeys around with riders offering their services to tourists. Bedouins, the tribe who live there, are super used to foreigners (Petra being famous and therefore swarming with travellers); they sure know how to make you laugh. While we were descending the 1000 stairs down from Al Deir (the monastery), a guy and his donkey came clattering past us shouting: “Come ride my Ferrari! Air Conditioning!”. I had to stop for a second a) to breathe in order that I could b howl with laughter. The heat, exhaustion, and fear of being knocked off the stairs by a donkey had obviously got to my head, and then expressed itself as mirth.
  • I met the lady who wrote “Married to a Bedouin”, based on the story of her life. She was selling her books there, so I stopped for a short chat. If you’re interested in culture and travel you should check it out, it sure makes an interesting autobiography (don’t worry Dad, I didn’t get any ideas).

They have just discovered more remains yet to be excavated, so maybe save your visit for the completion of this! Although there’s already so much to see, you’ll definitely need longer than a day’s worth of exploration.

 

Dead2Red and Aqaba

 

Last Friday I cycled in the Dead2Red relay, racing from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea as part of a team of 5. We were the only team all on mountain bikes, plus had the two youngest competitors in the race, so weren’t competing for a record time so much as for a bit of a challenge and some fun.

 

It was lovely to do, made a good bonding experience being in the car with one another for 8 hours straight other than the short intervals on the bikes!

 

We actually came first place in the “Team of 5; open bike” category, completing the 200km in 8.5 hours. (We were, in fact, the only team in that category- but no one needs to know that right?)

The next day we spent relaxing in Aqaba, which is an amazing spot for diving and snorkelling.

I had snorkelled before, but this experience was on another level: such beautiful coral, and so many fish! I saw puffer fish, lion fish, an eel, plus huge shoals of flickering silver-blue.

Sea turtles and whale sharks are among the other marine life that can be sighted there too.

You can get a little sneak peek at Aqaba activities in this video:

 

 

I continue to be impressed with Jordan; it is home to such an impressive array of natural landscapes and archaeological masterpieces.

 

Anyone wanting to go on a holiday and not sure where: this is the place! Seriously: from the rolling green hills and ancient dominions of the north down to the luminous blue sea of the south- the country is beautiful. From the craziness of the city to the traditions of the desert nomads- the culture is fascinating.

 

 

Come, taste and see!

Taste tradition: Shams El Balad

New discoveries is the whole point of travelling, and boy is it fun! In this café I was able to discover more about the people and the food of Jordan, and the more I learn the more I love it!

So, this post serves as a recommendation both of a restaurant, but also of Jordanian culture; I hope that in reading my learnings, you will find something to love too!

 

Shams El Balad is a true gem amongst the food spots of Amman; it’s a place where, despite the never-ending change and turn of the world, things are brought back to basics, returning to the traditions of the Jordanian kitchen.

 

The whole concept of Shams is bringing back Jordanian culture, the heart of which is in the kitchen. (I’m pretty sure heart and stomach are synonymous in this culture…)

The cuisine of Jordan is important to its people because it’s where they come together, to forget the world, forget the disagreements, and join with one another, literally, around the same plate.

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When I asked one of Shams’ chefs: what is the most important thing in your cooking, I was rewarded with the answer: “Celebrating the kitchen” (how lush is that?). The truth of that mantra was profoundly visible in both the behaviour of the staff and the presentation and quality of the food.

 

How could you not celebrate the kitchen here?

The flavours they create are exceptional; this is one of the few places where everything is one hundred per cent organic and fresh from the farms, and you can definitely taste it!

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An array of dips and salads, including pomelo-apple salad, and tahini with pomegranate molasses

The Shams group focus on sustainable industry, partnering with an NGO that promotes creating a more sustainable Jordan. They ensure every step of the process, from farming to making to serving, is serving the community.

Take for example the bread:freshly baked in Madaba early each morning then delivered that day before Shams opens its doors; this partnership ensures local bakers and their families are supported.

This concept is fundamental in the idea of bringing back old Jordanian tradition, because value is put on being a family and a community who collectively support one another.

 

As well as being a rarity in using wholly organic produce, Shams El Balad is also original because it is completely vegetarian, with many vegan options on the menu too. So if you’re struggling for veggie options in Amman, this place could be your new home…

 

The large outside terrace has views out to the citadel and colourful seating shaded by trees, which are filled with chirping birds; it’s rather idyllic!

The food is divine, so colourful and flavoursome- and it’s all due to the freshness of the ingredients! You know for certain there are no hidden nasties, and can feel the goodness that the food- full of vitamins, minerals and healthy proteins- is doing to your body.

 

A whole selection of vegetable and fruit salads, mezze dips, plus some phenomenal manakish and more is on offer, including a divine pan-fried cauliflower fritter- Mshat- served with hummus and sprinkled with sumac.

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So so yummy..

The dishes of Jordan, which have become so well known and loved in family homes and restaurants alike, all came about from the old way of cooking what you’ve got in your kitchen, and making the most of it. Shams captures this by using only seasonal produce, meaning there are some creative twists on their traditional dishes, for example: cheese manakish topped with aubergine!

In this way, you do not waste, you do not import, but you do get the best flavour-wise: seasonal is where the goodness is!

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Every detail, from the many mezze options and sharing plates, to the round tables, to the smiling and hospitable staff all points back to tradition: sharing, friendship, and a collective celebration of the kitchen.

 

This place is both phenomenal and inspiring in its flavours, in the way it looks at the world, and in the way it captures this wonderful county.

 

Go traditional. Go organic. Go to Shams.

 

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Am I Jordanian yet?

On Saturday I had a day full of Jordanian/Middle Eastern experiences.

A new friend of mine offered to go with me to Mount Nebo, the mountain on which Moses was shown the Promised Land before he died. From the top of the Mount you can see Jerusalem, Jericho, the Dead Sea, Amman… The whole land is spread out before you, as God showed it to Moses, only with a fair few more buildings!

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At the top of Mount Nebo: a sculpture come replica of Moses’ staff

There’s a fantastic renovated church at the top of the hill too, filled with mosaics that date back thousands of years to when the first church was established in this location.

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The oldest map-mosaic in the world, found in St George’s church, Madaba

A short walk down the Mount is the “La Storia” museum that, as the name suggests, documents history- specifically religious and Jordanian. The displays consisted of life size models, some moving and some stationary, depicting key stories from the Qur’an, Bible and Torah (such as Noah’s Ark, Moses parting the sea, and Jesus’ baptism), plus a whole section named “the village”. This latter area was literally a large model village recreating Jordanian life as it used to be, complete with all the traditional professions, shops and a school.

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At the top of Mount Nebo

So, I saw this great historical site and had my knowledge about old Jordanian culture enriched- that’s the first experience.

 

No. 2: first-hand experience amazing generosity of the Jordanian people. A lady saw me eyeing up her bags of bread, in particular the batch of loaves that were stuffed with dates (I’ve always had greedy eyes- haram on me), and without hesitation she pulled one out and gave it to me. I said no no no, of course, but she smiled, said “aadi” (normal) and strolled off. I love this place.

 

But, the best was yet to come.

 

After our excursions out and about, my beautiful friend and I returned to her family home in Madaba (once Moab), the city that lies directly below Nebo.

There, oh boy, her mother had prepared us Mansaf for lunch.

 

MANSAF

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MANSAF MANSAF I LOVE MANSAF

The traditional Jordanian dish: spiced rice, topped with slow cooked melt in the mouth lamb and fried nuts, all brought together by this insanely rich goat yoghurt sauce that you absolutely drown the dish in.

 

So so so so sooooooo good.

 

I love Jordanian cuisine because it’s all about the sharing, and this massively increases the fantastic-ness of the eating experience. It’s so special coming together to the same dish; the importance of human relationship is realised in the communal eating experience.

 

Mansaf is so heavy that it is renowned for making you fall asleep after eating, so it’s often followed by a drink of Turkish coffee or Pepsi in order to revive the eater somewhat. Sticking to my guns as a girl determined to live Middle Eastern, I opted for the coffee: strong and sweet (like me, right?). The coffee here is insanely good too.

 

The first Mansaf experience. Oh wow. It cannot canNOT be the last. Although mansaf in a restaurant is never as good as in a home, so guess I’ll have to wait on another invite (ahem, if you’re reading this and are Jordanian I’m looking at you…).

 

So that was experience 3. And four if you count having Turkish coffee.

 

But, there’s more. Still more!

 

My lovely friend gave me a makeover, and while this is not a thing exclusive to the Middle East, she used Kohl and made my eyes super amazing. Super amazing smoky eyes being a bit of a thing here, I’m counting that as the fifth notch in my oriental belt.

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Might as well not even be me

Finally, no. 6: we started my renaming.

Georgie isn’t a name here, and sometimes people struggle with it, plus names in this culture always always mean something, and often reflect the person scarily accurately.

George means worker of the soil (ie. farmer), which is not so glam, so I asked for an Arabic name that my friends thought suited me. A few different suggestions were made, Malak being my favourite so far- it means ‘angel’. I’m sure they were just humouring me, but I’ll take it over “farmer” any day! (sorry mum and dad)

 

But seriously: history, food, hospitality, tradition, food, friendship, food… all Jordanian style, all so wonderful.

 

My heart is as full as my belly after mansaf!