I have finally decided to join this thing called “blog,” not because Tik’s incessant nagging eventually wore me down, or because my subtly veiled narcissism finally got the best of me, or because I got tired of writing multiple emails to multiple people (I like writing emails). No, I arrived at this decision because I have important news to share with the world: desert islands are hot, especially in July.
Here’s an unrelated picture of someone.
I’m sure Tik will be happy to answer any remaining questions you might have about our weekend in a subsequent post.
I want to give a general overview of Yemen for those who aren’t familiar with the region. In the meantime, here are a couple links:
With the American embassy essentially on lockdown, we had to come up with
From left: Laura, Jay, Will, Chase (?), Charles and Joe
our own way to celebrate the Fourth of July. We managed to put together an impromptu potluck dinner consisting of “American” food. Ironically the woman who organized this (Laura) is French. The meal lacked alcohol but included potato salad, deviled eggs, watermelon, and of course a family sized KFC meal (freedom fries included). The night was capped off with a screening of “Team America: World Police”, because what would independence day be without a little misguided humor and bigotry?
On Thursday the College organized a hiking trip to the city of Mahwit, which is about three hours north west of Sana’a. We arrived and embarked on what ended up being a 3-4 hours hike that wound along the side of a mountain (or maybe two, I couldn’t tell). At various spots along the way we were able to look down into the valleys, where we saw little villages precariously situated on rock outcroppings, or the sides of the mountains. From the looks of it the houses had been there for awhile. Apparently, most the people living there are farmers who grow corn and I assume qat also.
We stopped for a picnic lunch on top of a cliff about a third of the way through the hike. Right before getting to the stopping place, another student had asked a Yemeni girl if he could buy a goat from her (I think he was being sarcastic?). As requested, she showed up part way through the meal with a four day old black goat. She said that her dad wouldn’t let her sell it, but we shared our lunch with her for the effort. The top picture is of the girl holding her goat.
After lunch we “explored” a cave that required us to climb pretty much directly up the side of a mountain. The middle picture is a shot looking down into the valley while during the climb. The cave reeked of bat guano, to the point that I gagged and spit out the qat that I had been chewing. A few people braver than I went deeper into the cave to try to get pictures of the bats.
When we left the cave we continued up the side of the mountain toward our bus, which was at the top. The bottom picture is of a the Yemeni men that we met a little ways past the cave. As you can see, they are all sporting a cheek full of qat. Once we reached the top our adventure was pretty much over, except for the puppies that we found right before we drove away. There are pictures of them in Picasa picture album. Also in the album is set of pictures of Yemeni kids we found in one of the small villages along the way. It’s pretty obvious that they loved having their picture taken.
There is a trip planned to Kamaran next weekend, but I still haven’t decided whether I’m going or not. If it is as interesting as this trip, I definitely don’t want to miss out.
I have a lot of pictures that I haven’t put up on the blog. I will try to put as many as I can on Facebook and in this public Picasa album: http://picasaweb.google.com/105967111800856420798/Yemen2010
Unfortunately I don’t have pictures from this event, but I am hoping I can placate you with a picture of a puppy that lives at the college and a view of Sana’a from the sitting room (mafraj=مفرج؟) at the top of our dorm.
Anyway, the title explains the gist of our experience. Yesterday our teacher took us to watch the Spain vs. Portugal game at a sports club/soccer stadium about ten minutes away. We arrived a bit late because I was getting two days worth of falafel and shawarma out of my system, so there wasn’t much seating left. We found a place to squat in the back, in front of the large screen on which the game was being projected.
I have to say that when a few thousand Yemeni (all men of course) get together, they are some of the quietest fans you’ll ever see. This calm is most likely caused by Qat that seems to permanently reside in the mouths of most Yemeni. For those who don’t know, Qat is a plant with a mild narcotic effect that many Yemenis chew in the afternoons/evening. It is illegal in the US, but a staple of Yemeni society.
Don’t get me wrong, the Yemenis weren’t silent; everyone responded to the usual cues during the game, especially the lone goal by Spain. In addition, one of the loudest cheers of the night came when a pretty Spanish girl appeared on the big screen. However, as you could probably guess, the overall experience was much different than watching the game in Amsterdam.
One major difference was that David and I switched beer for a little bit of Qat. We didn’t chew enough to feel the effect, but it was an introduction none the less. David’s leaves disintegrated quickly, and I accidently dislodged mine trying to take a drink of water. Our next Qat chewing experience will be more successful, إن شاء الله.
Pictures: the first one is of the President’s Mosque from the top of the main college building. The second is of one of the markets (سوق) in the old city. The last is of four kids who practically fell over when they saw this picture of themselves.
The first three days in Yemen have been exhausting, but Sana’a is worth it. The city is beautiful, and the people all seem to love having foreigners around. Although, after the Christmas bombing attempt in Detroit there aren’t many left.
The college we’re studying at (www.ycmes.org) is located on the same road as the Yemeni Prime Minister’s house and the Yemeni Parliament. The campus itself consists of one building with classrooms and administrative offices and another with the library and the snack shop.
Outside of class and homework we’ve mostly been trying to catch up on sleep. However, we have gotten to explore the old part of Sana’a ( صنعاء القديمة), which is one of the oldest cities in the world. We saw the markets where the traditional Yemen dagger (الجنبية) and Qat are sold.