Sunday, October 14, 2012

سنة حلوة يا جميل

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother”
- Gibran Khalil Gibran

The quote above is the famous Lebanese-American poet’s version of “carpe diem”, or the more contemporary “YOLO”, in my view, and therefore expresses my life philosophy. Here in Jordan I’m putting an emphasis on experience rather than studying, and that requires much more faith to make a reality. But I love it, and my busy social life and many friends here after only one month give proof of the benefits of such faith.


I’ve always felt like my 20’s will be the best decade of my life, when I really become myself and travel the world. And here I am, 20 years old AND already traveling the world. I had such a wonderful birthday thanks to my wonderful new friends, although it didn’t come without stress (once again, all I needed was a little more faith and a little less doubt).

On Tuesday I overslept so that I had 10 minutes to get ready, which is just a bad way to start the day. Then the whole day I started getting anxious about my pending birthday, mostly about it going unnoticed (which is ridiculous, since I have the most amazing friends all over the world). I managed to get through three classes of Arabic though, especially since one of those classes consisted of eating at an amazing Yemeni restaurant across from the north gate of the university. Yemeni food is the best!

In the afternoon CIEE had arranged a Girl’s Culture Day, with belly dancing lessons and henna tattoos. I didn’t stop belly dancing until my abdominal muscles were in knots, but it was so much fun! However, I still love salsa more and may be going salsa dancing this coming Monday. The henna was cool and hopefully it stays for a while!

I had a quiet evening of watching Battle of Algiers (I love my homework here!) and making plans for a last-minute birthday party (that fell apart the following day). My host sister ran in and wished me happy birthday after midnight, which quickly developed into an intense conversation about religion. At 1am a friend in the States called me (THANK YOU!) and I skyped with my amazing sister and dad.

On the day of my birthday I treated myself to a pedicure at the Aspire Ladies Gym (6 JOD) which was much needed! For lunch I treated myself again, having flat bread with lebneh and honey and a banana chocolate smoothie with a good friend. After classes and work I went to meet my peer tutor, and ended up being an English tutor for her friend, who is majoring in English. She was studying the play “Helda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen, and I don’t think we really resolved the issue of him being Norwegian, and therefore the names of the characters and some of the words being Norwegian. They just couldn’t understand why the English dictionaries on their phones couldn’t translate the word “stipendiat”, or why the O had two dots above it in one of the names. Which reminds me of this video you should check out about the three extra letters in the Nordic alphabet.

After exhausting English lessons and my last-minute birthday party plans falling apart, I was a bit of a stressed-out mess, but it all turned out amazingly thanks to my beautiful friends. Nine of us went to buy a white chocolate and strawberry cake at Rawan Cake, the best cake shop in Jordan, and falafel sandwiches from Al Quds, the best falafel place in town. We then had a party at Rainbow Terrace, just an extension of public Rainbow Street with a view over old Amman. My friends in Rainbow band provided live music and a friendly old man made us Turkish coffee and sweet tea on the spot from his little cart. After eating cake like its mansaf (aka right out of the box with forks) and singing an acoustic version of Ya Habibi Ya Nour El Ayn, the Jordanian guys and I moved on to La Calle, a bar with a tremendous view of Amman from its third floor. There I randomly met my coworker from FoEME, and the person she was with knew the Jordanian I was with. Amman is a small place! We later moved on to Books@Cafe, where I know the bartender. It was a lot of fun, and on the way home we grabbed shawarma from the best place in the city, Reem. I came home much later than I should have, but it was my birthday, so I afforded myself the luxury of an extended curfew.

On Thursday I had a test and skit in the morning, but it went great. I then had work, where the whole office threw me a surprise birthday party, complete with a chocolate cake from Rawan Cake, Jordanian sweets, and soda. Afterwards they drove me all the way back home, an hour and a half earlier than I usually go home. I have the best internship in the world!

In the evening I went to see the play “Rest Upon the Wind” based on the life of Khalil Gibran. It was a beautiful artistic depiction of this influential man; focusing on his family, his lovers, and the places he inhabited that shaped his incredible poetry. Above all, it focused on the process of writing his most famous work, “The Prophet”. However, the lack of chronological order and the lack of direct quotes from his writing left me wanting more. In the intermission I befriended two human rights journalists from Arab El Yom newspaper, and one of them drew a caricature of an old man for me. They were so funny!

Last night I crashed after way too much action the past days, but after 9 hours of sleep I was back to being the same busy me. I had time to clean my room, write a (2-page) essay on the future of the Muslim Brotherhood, go to Carrefour at City Mall and buy groceries, make Swedish meatballs (which kind of failed), and finally go downtown with friends to study at Wild Jordan Café. Wild Jordan, part of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, not only organizes nature trips around Jordan (check out my trip to Wadi Mujib) but also has a café serving organic and healthy nosh overlooking a gorgeous view over downtown Amman and across to the Roman ruins of the citadel. Everything you buy there benefits the communities they work in, such as the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve and the Dana Biosphere Reserve. I had the Whinnie the Pooh smoothie, which was vanilla ice cream, orange juice, and honey. Delicious and adorable!

At Wild Jordan I met up with the bartender I know at Books@Cafe, and we went to visit his friend in Weibdeh. We spent the remainder of the afternoon listening to classic rock and discussing everything from cooking to religion. We later on got delicious flat bread pizzas from a Lebanese place down the road, and more intense conversations about religion (the bartender’s friend was a Palestinian Muslim-turned-atheist) caused me to lose a free ticket to an Arabic hip-hop concert in Rainbow Theater. Instead, I went down to the beloved Jafra, where I had dinner with my friend and a group of Palestinians and Maltese that she was showing around Jordan. It was so nice to talk about Malta again! I miss that little island. It’s a part of me now. After dinner I smoked shisha with some other CIEE students I ran into at Jafra, and we had an interesting conversation about why the EU got the Nobel Peace Prize this year. We all agreed that the Nobel Prize committee was aiming for a European Union revival, since the prize comes right as everyone is questioning the very foundation and sustainability of the Union.

My next post will tell you about my trip yesterday to Biblical spots in Jordan, and a collection of observations about religion that I have collected so far during my time here, both from my own experiences and from conversations with Jordanians and other study abroad students.

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