Johnny speaks


I'm Johnny, an American born in 1991 who loves learning foreign languages and traveling!

2010 - China
2010/2011 - Living in Germany and Europe travels
2012 - Jordan and the Holy Land
2013 - Israel/Palestine and Middle East travels

I started this blog about my trip to China mostly for family and friends, so they can see a little of where I'm going and what I'm doing, but I've stuck with it after that as a short of hobby and also to preserve the memories and emotions of my travels.

"Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated."
-Aziz Shavershian

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it'll spread over into the rest of your life. It'll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level."
- Bruce Lee

Middle East » Israel » West Bank » Bethlehem » Dheisheh Camp August 9th 2012

The young man's eyes were trained desperately on the two of us. He needed help. Not sure if we could trust him, I kept my mouth shut and let my friend handle it. My friend knew many people in the camp, but this one was unknown. He begged us for help, just five minutes he said. Please come. Why not? So we followed him around the corner to his home and entered. "Do you know Mohannad? The boy who used to live here?", we asked as we passed his house. "Yes, he's my cousin." "Where is he? Is he home?" "No, he's in prison again." His accent was thick and as we followed him into the home we wondered what he needed help with. He had us sit in a small living room with ancient falling-apart ... read more
Graffiti of a Martyr
Rooms of the camp
Kitchen in the camp

Middle East » Israel » Tel Aviv District » Jaffa August 8th 2012

Change of Plans I left Bethlehem again for Jerusalem and decided I would try to figure out what to do for the day on the way. I was planning on renting a car and driving up by Tel Aviv, then northeast to Nazareth and Galilee, spending the night, and driving back to Bethlehem early the next morning. I would take the detour west around Tel Aviv and up through Caesarea and then on to Nazareth because there's a horrible checkpoint to get through up at Beit She'an if I go the more direct route north. My friend from Bethlehem told me they would both take the same amount of time because the checkpoint guards are so mean, so I might as well see more of the country rather than sit at a checkpoint. But renting a ... read more
Old City of Jaffa on the Mediterranean
A large fish swallowed Jonah
Old Clocktower of Jaffa

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem August 7th 2012

The mornings sunlight was my alarm clock today and when I looked up above me I could see the new days light filtering in between the branches of an olive tree next to the house. I'm in Palestine! The holy city of Jerusalem is a symbolic crossroads of the three monotheistic faiths, which the first three photos in this blog are meant to represent. The holiest point on Earth where Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all come together. Different cultures and religions have battled each other over this land for thousands of years, and today is no different. I got a Palestinian phone on my way out of Bethlehem so I wouldn't have to use my American one to call all of the people I had met so far. Palestinians are so hospitable and friendly. Every single ... read more
Two Jewish men conversing
Angels with Christ
Rooftop View

Middle East » Israel » West Bank » East Jerusalem August 7th 2012

Half Day in The Holy City The city was bustling with all types of people. Such a "mixing pot" as Americans like to say when describing the U.S. But this city really was. There were all different types of dress. All different cultures. There's muslims, Christians, Jews, foreign tourists and then there's denominations of all religions - Egyptian Coptics and Greek Orthodox, Sunnis and Shias, Haredi Jews and Reform Jews - just to name a few. The Old City of Jerusalem is like one giant bazaar, but every once in a while there is a religious site or monument. The Old City is split up into four quarters - the christian quarter, the muslim quarter, the jewish quarter, and the armenian quarter. To start I headed with my friend Moodi to the muslim quarter to see ... read more
Coptic Church
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Damascus Gate

Middle East » Israel » West Bank » Bethlehem » Beit Sahour August 6th 2012

The Holy Land Said to be the most fought over real estate in history, just hearing the name of the Holy Land brings spiritual and exotic thoughts to the minds of people all around the world. It serves as the holiest place for all of the three Abrahamic religions, hence the name "The Holy Land", and has been fought over this for this reason, and political reasons, for thousands of years. As a Christian I'm very excited and feel blessed to get to visit this land and walk where Jesus walked. These hills were once shepherded by Jesus himself and this is where his teachings began. The land here has memories. The hills, the trees, the stones, and the seas. They have witnessed some of the most important events regarding the fate of mankind. And this ... read more
West Bank Security Checkpoint
Streets of Bethlehem
The Berlin Wall...I mean the "separation wall"

Middle East » Jordan » North » Amman July 31st 2012

A warning ahead of time - I don't have a gift for describing food or tastes, but hopefully you can get an idea from the pictures and my few short descriptions; I wanted to show some of the people at home what arab food is like. Laila's mom is just as good of a cook as Laila had described to me. She has cooked most of our meals (but her dad did the fish and homemade pizza) and there hasn't been one that I didn't like. Yesterday was my first time trying Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. I loved it! It's lamb over rice with a fermented yogurt poured in over it and it has a completely unique taste. A lot of foreigners I have met say they really don't like it, but honestly, I ... read more
Fattet jaj
Stuffed Chicken
Bread laid out before the mansaf

Middle East » Jordan » West » Dead Sea July 26th 2012

Overnight at the Dead Sea One of the things I was looking forward to most of my trip to Jordan was getting to float in the Dead Sea. This weekend I got to go! 7 of us loaded up in cars and drove from Amman to the Dead Sea. Not too long of a drive at all. Maybe 50-60 mins I think? The scenery along the way was gorgeous and the music and company kept the ride entertaining. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on land on Earth, meaning the drive there from Amman was all downhill. Our ears popped every once in a while as we passed desert hills and small cliffs until we reached the mountains. The Dead Sea is located in the Jordan Rift Valley, so in the hotel we had a ... read more
Rest and Relaxation at the Dead Sea
Pool with the Dead Sea behind it
Gettin' Dirty

Middle East » Jordan » South » Petra July 23rd 2012

Bus to Petra It all started with a public transport bus packed with a few tourist groups and then one big group of 17 loud, fun arabs. I was in the latter. The 3 hour bus ride to Petra from Amman seemed short with the different arabic songs being sung and plenty of new people to get to know. The group was made up of a lot of Laila's friends I had already met, but a few new ones as well. By the way, I heard horrible things about Jordanian Public Transportation, but they must have really upgraded their buses and infrastructure since these reviews because it was a very smooth, comfortable trip - and only 8 dinars as well. It was a great deal so I'd recommend it to anyone going to Petra, Wadi Rum, ... read more
Camels of Petra
Inside the Siq
Looking up in the Siq

Middle East » Jordan » North » Amman July 21st 2012

This blog will mostly be about the people of Amman and my experiences in the last week. Any inaccuracies in information about Ramadan or any misrepresentations of peoples or places are not intentional. These are merely my observations :) This blog also marks two years that I've been traveling and two years that I've been blogging on!! :D This time last year I was getting on a plane for my first big trip, to China. with no idea what to expect. Now that I've done a bit more traveling, I've become a lot more comfortable with it. Ramadan Begins! I'm honestly loving the Middle East so far. The people, the places, the food. All of it. Even though finding food for a while may be tough: this weekend brought the start of Ramadan, a 29-30 ... read more
Amman skyline
Traditional Islamic Headdress
City Mall

Middle East » Jordan » North » Amman July 13th 2012

The Party (Thursday Night) Thursday is the arab worlds "Friday". The last day of the week so after class it was finally time to relax and do something fun. Laila, her sister, and I ended up going to one of her friends parties where we met a lot of people from Laila's highschool and I got to see how arabs party. First thing I noticed was there was a ton of food. Plenty for everyone. Outside where it was quieter people talked and smoked, while inside arab pop music shook the building and people were up and dancing to the beat for hours at a time. There were tables to sit and eat or have a drink, but Laila and I opted for dancing most of the time. The dancing was fun, but not someting I'm ... read more
My argeeleh and my girl :)

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