My first thoughts from Amman

Marhaba (hello)!

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 view of Amman

My first view of Amman

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.

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View from my apartment, the tower is where the call to prayer is played

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.

You can see the Amman Citadel at the top

From the walking tour – you can see the Amman Citadel at the top

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Caught a plane overhead

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And there’s me

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Delicious dinner

Amman Citadel

Amman Citadel

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The group, taken at the Citadel

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!)

 

  2 comments for “My first thoughts from Amman

  1. Lee Cross
    February 23, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Cara!

    It’s so fun to hear your thoughts from Jordan. I guess I haven’t really read any of your writing besides short things on FB, so it’s also awesome to get a sense of your style. So far, it’s really interesting and compelling. I like that you’re pointing out things that are different and taking note of. Those little details help me better imagine what you’re experiencing. Also, way to go on choosing a very different place culturally and linguistically from the USA! That really takes guts, but I bet you’re going to feel like you can take on almost anything after this semester. When I was in Guatemala, I traveled from one part of the country to the other on my own in order to meet up with another group within my Cross Cultural Solutions (the program I was apart of) group. It involved taking a few buses, a small ferry boat, and walking. It meant speaking a lot of Spanish and trying to be sure that I was going the right direction, even though it all played out a little differently than the guide book told me it would. This is typical of traveling in a foreign country, of course, and I made it! Among other experiences there, that is one that really made me feel confident in my abilities and stick-to-itiveness. Pretty cool. I’ll look forward to reading more as you have time to post! Much love and best wishes for a great semester, Cousin Lee

  2. Phyllis
    February 22, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    SOO HAPPY 4 U, Cara!!! Having been there in 1954, I really, really appreciate all you are sharing—brings back such wonderful memories–yes! of the FOOD! and the PEOPLE! REALLY glad you are taking the course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Cannot wait to talk with you about it when you come home. One thing we were told by leaders in in the Palestinian refugee camps in 1954: “We were told over the radio by the British as the Jews were coming from the sea to establish Israel,” “Leave your homes; you can return in 48 hours.” WOW! AND……for decades I kept asking speakers about this. In the 1980’s, a rabbi speaking at our church shared, “The British THOUGHT the Arabs and Palestinians would push the Jews back into the Sea and the state of Israel would never be established.” And, here we are today! But, with a Jewish father, I ache every day over the situation. TRULY TRAGIC! Thinking of you with MUCH LUV, Phyllis

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