Monday, October 8, 2012

حياتي هو مجنون

I love my life in Jordan! Back in the US I made the statement that I feel the most myself when I am in a foreign country, but being here in Jordan makes me realize that it’s more than that – it brings out the best in me. My motto here is carpe diem (I prefer to avoid the term YOLO but nafs alshay). Anyway I should get around to telling you about all the MAJNOON (Arabic for crazy) things I have been up to.

I will start with Wednesday night. After class I met up with my peer tutor and her friend who is studying Spanish, and we had a trilingual conversation in Spanish, Arabic, and English! I informally interviewed them about wearing the hijab as part of an assignment for a class and their answers were curiously different. One of them said that her mother made her wear the hijab but it doesn’t restrict her freedom. The other girl said that wearing it was her own choice but that it did restrict her freedom regarding future career choices, however she did imply that her family foremost restricted that particular freedom.

I then met up with a friend and våldgästade (Swedish word that directly translates to violent visiting – basically turning up uninvited) his house. His host mother is a powerful and charismatic woman who greeted me by kissing me on both cheeks. The grape leaves we had were delicious! My friend and I then proceeded down to Rainbow Theater, one of Amman’s oldest cinemas that was recently refurbished by a Jordanian film buff, to see the German movie ”Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland” as part of the 24th European Film Festival in Jordan. The movie, about a three-generation Turkish family residing in Germany trying to settle their issue of national identity, was very funny and sweet but could have done without all the slow-motion scenes towards the end. After the movie I had a skype meeting with my boss in the USA, utilizing the wi-fi at Books@Cafe, a trendy café with a huge terrace on top of a charming little bookstore. I had a pleasant conversation with the Bosnian bartender, who helped me practice my colloquial Arabic.

On Thursday, I went to the orphanage of the children who took part in the ecological camp this weekend in order to see where and how we could implement grey water systems, solar power, and rainwater catchment facilities around the building. The orphanage is making this project a priority not just because of the environmental component but because rising energy and water costs put a dent in their budget. Our next step is to help some of the children from the orphanage give presentations on what they learned at the eco-park at other schools. I’m so excited to work on a cause that I find so important!

On Friday morning I met up with my friend to take a bus to Irbid, where we would meet the man I met on the bus to Irbid last week. The tranquil Friday morning gave no suggestion of the huge Muslim Brotherhood-arranged protests that were brewing downtown. In Irbid our friend, Jafar, and his friend, Mohamed, picked us up and took us to News Cafe, a popular restaurant in downtown Irbid. Breakfast was a feast, and after filling ourselves to the brim, we headed off to yet another Greco-Roman Decapolis city: Umm Qais.

Umm Qais is entirely made out of volcanic basalt rock, with sweeping views of the Golan Heights and Lake Tiberias/Sea of Galilee. After exploring the ancient ruins and checking out the museum, we were hungry again. Some children told us about a restaurant down the road so we decided to go on a quest for it. Those children did not know what they were talking about, because we never found the restaurant. I did end up in North Shuneh again though, where we nearly went to hot springs but due to the lack of swimsuits we have to leave that adventure for another weekend. Eventually we drove back to Irbid and had an enormous and amazing feast of meat, bread, hummus, and more at Al Manqal Chicken Tikka.

On Saturday I had another busy day outside Amman. As part of my birthday celebrations, and together with another birthday girl, twelve of us shared cabs to a vineyard near the Syrian border. The cab driver, Bissam, is a go-to driver for CIEE who has an obsession with Enrique Iglesias. We had a lot of fun singing to “I Like It” and “I’m Sorry”, and he even bought us each a cup of coffee on the way! At the vineyard we ended up in frustrating negotiations with the taxi drivers over the RT price but eventually settled on 15 JOD per person. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the largest vineyard in the Middle East, which has 46 different varieties of wines and a pool fed by underground hot springs from which you can glance over o Syria. For 25 JOD per person you can try at least six different wines (which were over all very distinct in flavor, a mix of fruits and berries and smoky volcanic minerals), a full meal of grilled meats with bread and hummus, a tour by the owner of the vineyard, and as much lounging in the pool as you can handle. It was a day well spent in my opinion.

That evening when we got back to Amman I didn’t go back to my house but instead went straight to a party for the couchsurfer community of Jordan, only briefly stopping at a friend’s house to pick up his very chilled-out chameleon. Yes, I have now officially partied with a chameleon! The CS event, called One World Dish Night, was held on the rooftop terrace of the recently opened Josian Café. Each person attending brought a dish from their native country and could participate in a talent show with songs from their country. My friend had brought enough grape leaves for me not to have to bring anything and I had a great time eating delicious home-made international food and mingling with other expatriates. My contribution to the talent show was a shy rendition of “Vem kan segla”. At the end I got to burn off all that amazing food with a round of zumba and then dancing to Arabic music.

Yesterday I had classes in the morning, then work where we had a surprise birthday party for my colleague. Any day at work is a million times better when there is cake. When I got home I built a fort in the living room with my 5-year old host nephew. In the evening I went with a couple of friends to City Mall to buy an internet USB stick, which is why I can publish this blog post now (yay!), and then a couple of Jordanian friends picked us up and took us to the bar 7 Barrels, where we watched El Clasico, the classic game between Real Madrid and Barcelona that happens twice a year in the Spanish League. It was a good game, ending 2-2. If only Barca had cinched that third goal! I had a lot of fun though. Today my morning class is cancelled so I’m sleeping in for the first time in a month, having fresh fruit and tea in bed while reading about human rights in Islam. Later I will have brunch with a friend at Waffle House on Rainbow Street. Next weekend I go on a trip around “Biblical” Jordan on Saturday. I’m looking forward to telling you all about it!

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