Sorry it’s taken so long to update this blog, this week has been pretty crazy. I arrived in Amman several nights ago, after 27 hours, an ordeal at the airport, and 3 plane rides. But it’s all fine because I’m here now, even though it’s still hard to believe!
My first morning here I woke up at 4:45am not because of jet lag, but because that’s when the call to prayer happens for sunrise. There are five calls to prayer throughout the day which are broadcast through loudspeakers on every mosque, after which they read from the Quran. There happens to be a mosque right by my apartment building which explains why it woke me up. I’m already used to it though because I haven’t woken up for it in the past few days.
So far I’ve learned how to take a taxi, how to use money, how to order coffee, and other things that sound simple but become more complicated when another language and culture and social norms are involved. For example, I learned that as a female, it is the cultural norm for me to sit in the back of the taxi if the taxi driver is male (it usually is), unless I’m with a group of four females. Taxi drivers are also pretty skilled because I’ve seen some drive (a manual car) while talking on the phone and smoking, all the while navigating the heavy city traffic and not hitting pedestrians. Talking to the drivers can be a good way to learn Arabic .
“Qahwah” (coffee) is one of the first words I learned in my previous Arabic classes, and it’s pretty cool to be able to use it in real life, especially since the coffee here is amazing. There are coffee shops almost everywhere you go. There are also plenty of bakeries and places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve had a lot of hummus and falafel and I promise you it is 10 times better than any you’ve had in the U.S. I’ve even started eating meat after 1.5 years of being vegetarian because everything looks amazing. Food is a huge part of culture here, and people will even offer you coffee or tea when you’re in shops on the street. Also, if you ever get the chance to try a desert called kanafa, please do because it is so delicious.
The first three days I was here we had orientation, which included lessons on how to navigate various cultural aspects of Jordan and about academics and such. We also went on a walking tour around Amman, had dinner at this fancy restaurant, and went to the Amman Citadel (or “Jabal al-qala”), which is Roman and Islamic ruins located on one of the seven hills of Amman. The museum there contains some of the oldest statues ever made.
Today is Friday but it’s like Saturday because the week is Sunday to Thursday here. I just finished a full week of classes at Al Ahliyya Amyman University. The ride to campus is actually shorter than I thought, about 20 minutes. All of my classes are with other students in my group because all the other classes are taught in Arabic. I’m even sitting in on another class called the Arab-Israeli Conflict because everyone else said it was really interesting. Something that’s different about universities here is that attendance is a lot lower for the first couple of weeks, meaning professors are often late and students might be late for class or might not even come for the first week or so. So campus is still pretty quiet. It’s funny because in the U.S. I’d probably be dropped from my classes if I did that.
Arabic is difficult but my professor is really patient, and it’s really awesome when I realize I can understand at least some things people say outside the classroom. It gets more complicated when you consider that Arabic has both a standard and various colloquial versions of the language. I think it’s one of the most linguistically interesting aspects of Arabic, but it does make it a longer process to learn.
I’ll try to give you guys more detailed accounts of my experiences soon, but I hope this keeps you informed enough for now. Ma’ al salaama! (Goodbye!)