Thursday, September 6, 2012

There are no foreign lands...

…It is the traveler only who is foreign. – Robert Louis Stevenson

I have had a wonderful week exploring Amman, getting to know other program participants and my host family, and above all starting to get a sense of what daily life is like here. Next week, however, I start classes and develop a more regular routine, which means that I become a part of that daily life. It still all feels like a dream.

My host family lives in a beautiful large house in the area of Dabouq, in northwestern Amman. It is only 10 minutes from the university by taxi, and I share the commute with the other three girls who live in the same building with relatives of my host family and two girls who live in the neighboring houses. I live with my host mother and host sister who works from home, and my other host sister lives five minutes away with her husband and adorable 5-year old son. The first night we sat outside on the patio in the beautiful little garden, eating incredibly flavorful homemade lamb stew with rice and a tasty salad. We stayed up late eating Swedish chocolate, looking at my family photos, and singing selections of Frank Sinatra, Monica Zetterlund, and Fayrouz (mostly me doing the singing haha). As a cat person, I love the fact that a number of kittens call the garden home and are constantly scurrying about under the patio furniture or meowing at the window when we are in the kitchen.

We started our first day after moving to our host families in the exam room. Three hours of a grueling comprehension test in Arabic first thing in the morning put everybody in a foul mood, but a satisfying lunch and tour around the university by a CIEE alum and University of Jordan (UJ) PhD student lifted my spirits. After the tour I got mango juice with the UJ student at Gloria Jean’s Coffee, the American coffee house in Khalifeh Plaza where the CIEE study center is, across from the main gate of the University. We had a fascinating conversation, among other things about Indian films and American music. I got a sense of his different cultural perspective, though, when he asked me to explain the meaning of the song “Losing my religion” as sung by Nina Persson. I started translating the lyrics into Arabic and he responded, “Yes, I understand what she’s saying, but I don’t understand how she can lose her religion.”

Today I finally got my class schedule and I couldn’t be happier. Even though I haven’t reviewed Arabic all summer and didn’t feel too confident about the exam, I was placed in the level I wanted and needed for credit, Advanced Arabic 1. I am also taking Colloquial Jordanian Arabic and Middle East: Alternative Perspectives. After our final orientation session on independent travel and visas (which left me even more clueless about the whole visa process) I rushed off to my internship position in Al Bayader. At the FoEME office I got a tour, met all my coworkers, and got my first piece of reading. My main research area will be regarding the Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, but there is much to learn about it so I will be doing a lot of reading this weekend. I'm so excited though, since it seems like it will be an engaging and eventful internship. On top of my research, I will be posting a weekly blog that is edited by the social media intern, and I may actually be assisting with a workshop of students from Kosovo visiting Amman. I haven't even been here a week, but I might already be working as a tour guide! This is what my schedule looks like (notice that the weekend here is Friday and saturday):

In the evenings I have usually gone with some of the other girls who live in my building and/or neighborhood to a popular hang-out spot. Last night we went to Wakalat Street in the area of Swefieh where I had a fruit cocktail and we met Barney. Today we went to the famous Rainbow Street and had delicious Arabic, Mango, and Crocant ice cream at Gerard. Now I am watching a movie with my host family. This weekend I plan to sleep in, read up for my internship, see Souq Jara on Rainbow Street, and maybe go to the Dead Sea on a daytrip.

Finally, a little bad joke. We were discussing what vegetation grows in these dry and hot conditions. In the word of another CIEE student "hot and terrible". One of the students pointed out that lemons and limes grow really well in this climate. Ready for the punchline? "Oh, so that is why they are so sour!" Yes, I went there. I hope I made you laugh, even if it was only at how bad the joke was. Until next time!

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