Friday, July 10, 2009

Jordan Tour: Days Nine and Ten!

Yesterday, we left the dead sea resort quite early and took a three hour bus ride to Aqaba, the most metropolitan area we've seen outside of Amman. We spent the whole day swimming, snorkeling in the coral reefs, and relaxing on the beach. Much fun was had by all! Follow our outing, we checked in to the Petra Marriott hotel, just in time to see the beautiful sunset. Singers enjoyed posing for photos before heading for a traditional Jordanian buffet. After dinner, we had an early lights out which was ideal as everyone needed to store up energy for Petra.

Following a good night's sleep, we boarded the buses and drove over to Petra, where we spent the whole day. Petra was BEAUTIFUL. Being one of the seven wonders of the world, we had high expectations, but Petra still went above and beyond them. It was absolutely incredible to envision the city that was there so many years ago. Although it was 105 degrees out, singers barely noticed the heat as we were very well hydrated and so in awe of our surroundings. Following our adventure, we headed back to the hotel where some chose to take a swim, and then headed out to a real Bedouin camp for a Bedouin style dinner.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jordan Tour: Day Eight!

Today was our day of rest and relaxation at the Marriot Dead Sea Resort and Spa... its was WONDERFUL. Everyone was able to chill out and get some sun, not to mention swim in the dead sea! Singers took advantage of the Dead Sea mud to exfoliate their skin and enjoyed taking a dip in the Marriot's beautiful pools. It is safe to say that everyone had a glorious time... I think that just about any of us would be willing to move to Jordan at this point! We enjoyed having great meals at restaurants in the hotel and also had the treat of working with the conductor of Jordan's National Conservatory for music who taught us a lot about the difference between our major and minor scales and the scales used in Jordan. Overall, we had an incredible day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jordan Tour: Days Six and Seven!

Sorry for this late update, we were at the King's Academy yesterday and internet access was a challenge.

Yesterday we checked out of the Amman Marriot hotel and headed to the King's Academy for a full day of fun. Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly by student counselors from the King's Academy Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). SEP brings under-privileged and over-achieving 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from throughout Jordan to the King's Academy for a two week summer program designed to allow these students to further their knowledge to an extent further than possible at their regular schools. The program combines academic and extra-curricular classes, allowing the students to have a good time while cultivating a love of learning.

After a tour of the King's Academy's stunning campus, we had the joy of eating lunch in small groups with kids from SEP who were all incredibly kind and friendly. Everyone really enjoyed getting to know the SEP kids and learning about their culture. After lunch and a meeting in the auditorium, BCC and SEP students were broken into small groups and assigned topics to discuss and create a presentation about. After nearly an hour of conversation and preparation, 12 wonderful presentations were made discussing the similarities and differences in American and Jordanian culture, which was eye opening for all involved.

Following break time and a wonderful dinner, BCC gathered for a much needed reflection on the trip thus far. From the comments made by nearly the entire choir and staff, its clear that everyone is having a enjoyable and life-changing experience here. Its been incredible for us to see what is really going on in the middle east and singers are eager to share their new found understanding.

Today we woke up bright and early for a tasty breakfast (King's Academy food is WAY better than regular food) and then headed over to the auditorium to perform for the King's Academy graduation recital for the 8th graders. The performance was one of our best so far. The audience was really enthusiastic and very into some of our music, especially the song "Zikr", an Islamic celebration song. After an outpouring of audience members exclaiming, "again!", YME actually reprised the song, which they found exciting and uplifting.

After performing, we said goodbye to our King's Academy friends and headed to Kerak to sight-see. Wandering through the fort at Kerak was really cool, it is really well preserved and their is historical reasoning behind the design, which was interesting for us to learn about.

Following our explorations, we enjoyed a buffet lunch in Kerak and then headed to the Al Hussein Cultural Center to rehearse and perform for the Jordan Festival. This concert, which was our final definite one for this tour, was a tremendous experience. We've never had such an enthusiastic and vocal audience; the applause and cheering after each song was overwhelmingly strong. Singers truly had a great time.

After the concert, we headed to dinner and then boarded the bus for a two-hour ride to the Marriot Dead Sea Resort and Spa, which is where we are now. Everyone is settled into their rooms and we're looking forward to getting a good night's sleep for our day of relaxation by the Dead Sea tomorrow.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Jordan Tour: Day Five!

Today was yet another jam-packed day! We left at 9:30 to head to Jerash, the most well preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome. The sights were absolutely incredible. We had the opportunity to sing in the Roman amphitheater where the acoustics were out of this world. Afterwards, many singers climbed to the top of the amphitheater and took in the view, which was outstanding.

After Jerash, we went out for lunch at yet another wonderful Jordanian BBQ restaurant and then headed to Zarqa Cultural Center, our performance space for the evening. After a little R&R (rehearsing and relaxation) we gave a great performance at 7pm for a considerable audience of enthusiastic members, during which we sang for over an hour and a half. It was really fun to sing a long set, we had the opportunity to perform songs we hadn't sung in a while.

Post-concert, we headed out for Mexican food which really hit the spot for most of the group. With being in a foreign country, the risk of dehydration and illness increases, and although we've had a few sick singers, for the most part, we're doing really well.

Tonight we've all got a lot of packing to do as we're headed to the King's Academy tomorrow for an overnight. We're all really excited to get to know the students there. Check back for updates soon!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jordan Tour: Day Four!

Happy Fourth of July! This morning we visited Madaba, home of Mt. Nebo and a whole bunch of amazing mosaics. The view from the top of Mt. Nebo was incredible, we could see the west bank which was pretty cool. We also learned a lot about the religious significance of the location and visited the Mt. Nebo museum which contained many interesting artifacts.

After Mt. Nebo, we visited a workshop where people were hand-crafting mosaics. We got to see them up close at work and were amazed by the detail of their creations. We then checked out their store where many singers picked up awesome souvenirs and had a great time looking around and taking touristy photos.

Before proceeding to lunch, we stopped at a beautiful mosaic church, where we discovered the acoustics were incredible... yeah we squeezed a little singing in. We then enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Haret Jdoudna where we were served a traditional Jordanian BBQ. We were seated outdoors and the weather was sunny and wonderful.

After lunch we headed to the US Embassy where we performed for their 4th of July festivities. The US Embassy was cute... it was like a little piece of the USA nestled inside Jordan. Unfortunately there are no photos as we weren't allowed to bring cameras however be assured that the event Embassy was beautiful and we had a great time being there.

After a hour of shopping at City Mall, we headed back to the hotel where some singers had the joy of participating in an arabic choral singing workshop with the conductor of Dozan Wa Atwar, a local choral group. Singers enjoyed the experience immensely and learned a lot about combining rote and sheet music based learning methods for the best possible outcome.

Around 8:15, we headed out to dinner at Chinese WOX, a local restaurant. The food was great and spirits were high as we reflected on the great trip we've been having so far.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Where we are now!

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Jordan Tour: Day Three!

Today was a jam-packed day! After breakfast and money exchange, we headed out to do some major sight-seeing. Visiting the crusader forts and desert castles was absolutely incredible. It's one thing to see and hear about ancient ruins, but to actually visit them in person was a moment to last a lifetime.

We took a little detour on our way to lunch... Note the sign in the upper left corner.

We weren't sure which way to go... we headed towards Iraq.

After sight-seeing, we headed to Kan Zaman for a Jordanian BBQ lunch and then visited adjoining flea market, Souk Jara. Singers enjoyed lunch and many invested in great souvenirs.

After returning to the hotel for a little bit of unscheduled rest and relaxation, we checked out another local flea market before enjoying a splendid dinner at books@cafe. Post dining on great pizza and pasta, we celebrated the birthdays of YME singer, Cautchy, and our fabulous teaching fellow. Happy Birthday Guys!

It's awfully late so this post will be kept short, but check back tomorrow for more updates!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jordan Tour: Day Two!

Today we woke up bright and early for our first tour performance! After enjoying Marriot Amman's continental breakfast (where we noted a spiffy article on us in the Jordan Times), we boarded the buses and headed to the Queen Al Sharaf Institute for Development (ZENID), Jordan's leading national institute dedicated to promoting learning for social development.

Upon arrival at ZENID, we performed for a large audience of students of the ZENID program who were similar in age to us. The audience expressed feeling truly touched by our performance, which is always rewarding to hear. After performing, we had the opportunity to meet and greet the students, and some of them even graced us with a performance of original raps which resulted in a brief and somewhat wild (BCC style wild... don't worry) dance party.

After ZENID, we boarded the buses for a brief tour of Amman, and then arrived at the Amman Children's Museum, which would be our performance venue for the evening. It was at about this time that the jet-lag started to hit some singers pretty hard, but we all supported each other and took the afternoon easy.

Our evening performance went wonderfully. Although it was outdoors, for the most part we were just fine in terms of temperature. As you probably know, the temperatures are pretty high here in Jordan, however we've noted that its a dry heat and thus most have been content temperature wise. We'll see what tomorrow will bring as we're spending a lot of time outdoors, but we aren't too concerned. We've also been rockin' our snazzy red Converse shoes, compliments of Converse Inc., our official footwear sponsor.

After our performance, we headed to Tawahin Al Hawa for a traditional Jordanian BBQ. We enjoyed trying new foods, bonding with each other, and reflecting on tour thus far. Everyone is having a great time, and we're so excited to see what this trip will bring. Check back tomorrow for another update!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

BCC Arrives in Jordan!

We've arrived in Jordan! It's really exciting to finally be here. Right now it's almost 11:00pm Jordan time and we're all winding down to go to bed. Yesterday we met at BCC central for a 2pm departure by bus to head to New York. After loading all of our luggage onto the bus and saying farewells to our parents, we left approximately on-time, which is a feat for this group!

Our bus ride was fairly uneventful. Because we're such a large group, we had to split up into two buses. Upon arrival at JFK, we checked in and got dinner before boarding our flight at 9:45. Our flight from JFK to Amman Airport in Jordan was eleven hours... eleven hours is a LONG TIME! Thankfully though, many of us were able to get some sleep and we all entertained each other pretty well.

It was quite odd to arrive in Jordan after traveling nineteen hours and have it be 5 in the afternoon. We lost a whole day in there somewhere... so strange. But provided we sleep well tonight, we will have adjusted to Jordan time fairly easily. To most of us, it felt like 5pm when we landed, which is great!

Clearing customs was surprisingly easy. Probably because we're a large group, the airport staff was lenient and accommodating in terms of working with us... they collected our passports and returned them swiftly, avoiding individual processing for each person. Also, our checked luggage was transported directly from the plane to our hotel rooms with minimal help from us. Overall, we're pretty well taken care of!

Once we arrived at the Amman Marriot Hotel, we gathered with our roommates, got situated in our rooms, ate a quick dinner, and then settled in for a much needed rehearsal. Although most of us were pretty tired, it felt great to get together with the whole group and sing.

Right now we're getting ready for bed. We hope to sleep a full night so that we're feeling good for tomorrow as we have a jam-packed day that's sure to be awesome! We're trying hard to keep healthy and hydrated which is made easier by Pepsi, our official drink sponsor for this tour. Check out the picture below of singers showing off the new polos we received from Pepsi. How cute, thanks Pepsi!

Check back soon for more updates!