Jordan, How I’ll Miss Thee

Tomorrow night I head for Queen Alia International Airport. I spent the morning perusing my previous blog entries and reminiscing already. What an adventure it has been. I’m so happy finals are over, although it means my time in Jordan is at it’s end as well. Tests went fairly well, but I don’t think they will reflect what I have truly learned here. I’m sure when I get home it will become more obvious what I have learned as I begin to readjust to America and process my experience, but I can already think of the ways I have benefitted from my time here.

Besides the obvious increase in my Arabic skills, I have learned a lot about myself. I now have the confidence to put myself in difficult situations that I can’t control, and know that I will be able to handle it. I now understand that when you travel, you can only plan to a certain extent, and the rest you have to improvise (which is more fun anyways). I know that it is easy to make friends wherever I go, and that trusting in people is always better than making negative assumptions. I have learned that there are so many good people in this world who are willing to help others and share their way of life. And most importantly, I have learned that even when culture, or religion, or opinions don’t match up, we can still accept (and even love) each other. I know, a bit cheesy, but it’s hard to fully believe until you actually experience it.

I have also learned to appreciate my family, my friends, and my country back home. You never love something so much until you leave it and see all the good things you left behind. When I leave Jordan I know it will be the same. I will see all of the good things I loved about Amman and the Middle East, and I know I will miss it.

So long Jordan.

الأردن أولاً

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Elections (or so they’re called…) and More.

I can’t remember if I mentioned before that University elections have been happening for a couple weeks now, and they day of the elections is this Thursday the 17th. We are not allowed to attend University that day. And here’s why.

In Jordan, there’s a but of what we call the Tribe problem. Jordanians come from Tribes, which are very much alive and well today. And when you run for President of your faculty in the University, you use your tribe and its status to get you elected, instead of a platform or agenda.

The other day we were sitting in class around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and heard a huge raucous. Everybody ran to the window and we could see hundreds of 20 year old boys in a massive fight, chasing each other down the main street of campus. If somebody insults your tribe, or the candidate from your tribe, EVERYBODY gets involved, and its a big fat mess. There are also no consequences for boys that are involved, because they usually use what we call wasta (connections) and wiggle their way out. So the fight probably went on for a good half hour because teachers don’t step in, and campus police don’t have that kind of control. This problem is apparently ten times bigger on the day of actual elections because of insults and what not. It was over by the time we left class and our professor left with us to make sure it was safe, so don’t worry.

Our friend, Aliet, who is running for President in her faculty, was telling us some of the tricks they use. Sometimes a girl will run and gather votes for herself, and then right before the day of elections, she pulls out of the running and endorses another guy, probably from her tribe, so he gets all of the votes. There is also no spending limit for your campaign, so this is what campus looks like right now.

The main street of campus is even worse because there are trees, and stapled to each of them are about 15 faces watching you walk by. It is a big deal though, because if you win, you get an incredible amount of wasta in the government and are almost guaranteed a government job after college.

On a completely different note, I would like you all to meet the Arabic level 5a class.

Poor Joe was the only boy all term, but my guess is he didn’t really mind…

Standing from left to right is Lina, Rachel, Soraya, Kelly and Caroline. And Sitting is Ayumi, Joe, Me, and Katie.

This Friday we had a little party at Natasha’s house with most of the girls. It was a blast. Here is a picture of all of us.

Left to Right: Farah (Natasha’s sis), Aunt Amani, Me, Mama (Alia), Natasha, Aunt Abeer (Natasha’s Mama), Sara, and Sara’s Mama (our grandma).

Natasha and our cousin Noor. She refused to take that out of her nose.

This is Noor’s brother, Mohamed, but we call him Hamoudeh. He’s cute and he knows it.

Yesterday I went to my peer tutor’s house, which is about a half hour drive outside of Amman. They put on a big meal for me and a ton of family came over. She has 12 brothers and sisters and most of the brothers all live together in the same apartment complex. Her sister-in-law made the food, and it was amazing. Probably some of the best I’ve had my entire time here. It was also a real culture shock. They are a very traditional family, and it was so great to be welcomed into it. I wish I had gone earlier in the term , because I would visit them all the time. It’s also fun when they’re talking about you when you can understand them now, and I got to speak a lot of Arabic while I was over there.

Finals have officially begun. So I’m going to listen to some Christmas music and study (which has been my only way to prepare for Christmas so far). I’m sure I’ll have a few more posts for you before the week brings the end of my stay in Jordan.

Last thing: Our dabkeh dance is up on youtube, and everyone should watch it. It’s hilarious. Unfortunately the person filming didn’t get me much because I was on the end that gets cut out, but I’m there. It will be like an I spy game. Have fun.

Nearing the End

The last couple weeks have just floated by right before our eyes. The build up to the end of our adventure has been one weird experience. As home gets closer and closer, it continues to be the main topic of discussion when we all get together. I will really miss my new friends. When you experience something like Jordan with other people, you automatically bond, and I would say it’s a pretty strong one. So, it’s going to be hard to leave them.

I took this picture in the bathroom of the Educational Sciences building. This is called a “Haman Araby”, and yes, it’s a toilet. I’m sorry I’m posting a picture of a toilet, but it needs to be done.

It does flush from a pull string on the wall… sometimes. (At least it has the grippy things right?) We’ve noticed girls’ bathrooms aren’t really used for the toilets, but for the mirrors… But when there is a line for the bathroom, it’s normal to stand right outside a stall door (and knock if you don’t think they’re being fast enough).

We went to the Bake House, which has American breakfast food (again) for my friend Kelly’s birthday. We got a cute picture of the girls. We all are in the same arabic class/level, and have become good friends. I’ll miss them all.

(Left to right: Caroline, Me, Kelly, Katie)

This week was kind of a closing out, as we had a few finals, our last days of class, and a host family dinner. A few of us performed Dabkeh for the dinner, and it was a pretty big hit. It’s a traditional Middle Eastern dance that is done in a big group, and with awesome outfits. The dinner was a restaurant called Reem Al-Bawadi, which is a really traditional, but nice place.

Our Mama’s loved it.

This weekend brings lots of studying, lots of family time (a party at auntie Abeer and Natasha’s house), and a trip to my peer tutor’s house. Tomorrow we have what’s called re-entry orientation, which is to talk about going home and all the changes we’ve gone through. Should be interesting.

Also, I’m hoping there will be a youtube video of our dance. Just type in CIEE dabkeh and last year’s group will show up, but maybe ours will too in a few days. And I’ll of course keep the pictures coming.

Egypt

All I can say is that was one action packed break. It seems like a lifetime ago we hopped the plane to Cairo International airport and landed in the biggest and most crowded city I’ve ever been in. Needless to say we went straight to the hotel and got a good night’s sleep. In the morning we met up with a friend of a friend who was going to show us around. We figured he would hang out with us for a few hours, but he actually ended up being our own personal tour guide. It was perfect. We spent the day in Islamic Cairo, going to mosques and markets. This was the break for Eid Al-Adha, which I mentioned in another post, where it’s customary to sacrifice an animal for meat. One third is for the family, another third for the extended family, and the last third is given to the poor. This was the first day of Eid, and this was happening in the streets all around us. We actually saw a huge crowd of people in one of the streets holding down a size-able steer. Then a man came with a rather rusty looking knife, held it to its head and… well, you know. The throat has to be cut so that it dies in the quickest way, although this particular instance could’ve been handled with a little more expertise because we were upset at having to listen to the animal suffer for another 10-15 minutes. After that, we just had to dodge massive puddles of blood and animals skins. After walking around that area we walked to the citadel, where we got a great view of Cairo, and I got to see the Pyramids for the first time. Here was my first glimpse.

Cairo is very polluted, so there’s that constant layer of haze on the horizon. We also visited a coupld mosques up there and a military museum (where pictures were not allowed).

Salahudin Mosque at the Citadel.

King Tut and I.

Natasha and I outside.

That night we had an Egyptian dinner after floating on a falouca on the Nile. It reminded me of a festive Christmas lights exhibition like the one we have at Eagle Crest, only on the river… the boats are all decked out in lights, usually with a little theme. It makes the river look so pretty at night, because it’s actually a very dirty river.

We payed a little extra to get our own falouca so we didn’t have to share with the teenage boys. It was well worth the money (which was not a whole lot, because Egypt is so cheap), and I got a good picture of Christina.

We went to dinner at a little Egyptian place where we had some foul (fool) which is an Egyptian thing, and then got fresh mango ice cream. The insider’s look from our tour guide/friend, Mohamed.

The next day brought the pyramids. We first did the Cairo museum, which had too much stuff in it for them to even bother labeling half of it. There were no pictures allowed but I got one outside of it at least.

There was a ridiculous amount of check points to get into this place. We had to go through one gate three times and another twice because we first bought the wrong ticket, and then found out that we had to leave our cameras in a designated building. A little much, we thought, but we had to go in.

The Pyramids were the highlight of the trip for me. We went around sunset and it was gorgeous. I have a million pictures but I’ll just post a few.

I know… could I look any more touristy?

We actually had really good Korean food that night for dinner, and then did some shopping in Khan Al-Khalili, a famous market place with all things Egypt. Great for tourists because you can bargain, but sometimes they give you a hard time and assume you don’t know what things should cost. Which I guess is a little true…

On Sunday we went to Alexandria with Mohamed’s cousin. It was great to have our own car to do whatever we wanted. We payed for the gas of course. We visited the library, which is built as a rising sun, with water surrounding it. It also has a planetarium outside to represent the earth. The original library in Alexandria (which was quite a big deal) burned down, twice actually, and left only one document, which was in Vienna.

Oh yeah, Alexandria is on the Mediterranean. 🙂

December should not look like this… After the library we visited the Citadel and the fortress there. It was swarming with teen boys who thought they had an excellent sense of humor. But it was a cool building.

We went to the palace of the King, which has been converted to a public park since he was overthrown by today’s government. There were a lot of locals and it was cool to see a real hang out place.

Our last day we spent in Cairo, gathering some souvenirs and gifts. We took Mohamed out to an Italian restaurant which was mediocre, but then we went to a concert at the Cairo culture wheel and got a picture with the singer. She sang famous songs from a singer named Fayrouz, which all of us girls love.

It was a great way to end our trip. We were all a little reluctant to come back to the real world where the finals season is starting up, but that means home is just that much closer. I’m just about ready anyways. These have been an amazing four months of experience and learning in all aspects, but I will be happy to be home.

 

Thanksgiving and the Dead Bee

We had Thanksgiving at some friends’ apartment last night. It was one of the best night’s here in terms of re-creating home. Natasha and I had Dabkeh dance practice (because we’re performing at our host family dinner), so we didn’t get to get in on the cooking, but we provided other things. Anyways, I just wanted to show you guys that I did indeed get a real Thanksgiving in Amman, so you don’t feel sorry for me.

The Turkey.

The complete plate. (without the Pecan pie and apple crisp though 🙂 )

On a completely different note, there was a bee in our classroom today. Now, this has happened before, but today, our teacher, Salah, explained that if there is a bee in the room, he has to kill it because he’s allergic (or so we gathered from piecing our arabic vocab with the sign language and acting). So he kills this bee by swatting it with his handful of papers and then slowly stepping on it. After that, we had to put it on top of the board so it could “watch” our class. And guess what? I had my camera with me.

There’s the naHla, resting peacefully on the whiteboard. Then he wrote under it “Don’t kill me. I’m dead. Saleh Hamdan killed me”. Just in case someone thought it was still alive and wanted to kill it… Really one of the funniest classes ever.

Tomorrow (Thanksgiving day) we leave for Egypt. I’m glad I get to be with friends on Thanksgiving. Ironically, tomorrow is the one day of the Islamic Eid Al-Adha that it’s required to fast all day. If that’s not irony, I don’t know what is.

Happy Thanksgiving and Eid Mubarak.

الحيوانات Animals

The day before I left, Uncle Jay gave me his one piece of advice; “Have fun, be safe, but don’t forget who you are and where you come from”. And today I believe I heeded his advice by demonstrating my farm – kid capabilities/knowledge. My class is all Americans mind you, but I was surprised at who was surprised to hear that my family does indeed have cows. And yes, we eat them. Obviously today’s discussion in colloquial was all about animals… (which really made me miss mine, by the way). We talked all about the animals we have at home, and what’s normal to have here and what isn’t. We were talking about different words for horses and Hala, our teacher, was trying to explain one word by saying it’s the “zowja (wife)”. So someone says “oh, it’s a girl horse”, to which I promptly turned around and said; “you guys, it’s a mare”, to which I got a lot of blank stares. I think I’ve now established myself here as the girl with animals.

A weird one

This last week was really a weird one. There were a lot of happenings and it was finally enough to weaken my immune system enough to get a cold. One of my best friends, Kate, who is studying in Syria came to Jordan this week to visit. Unfortuneatly she had to travel around Jordan alone, which worried the hell out of me, but I’m so glad I got see her.

It was so surreal to have someone from home come to my house here. It’s kind of like when two worlds, who you have never associated together, collide, and it just makes a person feel pretty weird. We went to the citadel the first day she was here, and then she got to come to my house a couple nights and just hang out and relax. We talked a lot about our lives here, and a lot about home. I only have four more weeks left, which is crazy. I’m getting more and more excited to go home. I miss my family and I miss my dogs. And for the thousandth time, I miss my car, and the freedom I had to leave the house whenever I wanted to. I also just miss the scenery of home. If I see a Ford car here I freak out. And the other day I saw a BIG Ford truck outside my house, and it was the first one I’ve seen the whole time I’ve been here.

Last night we went to a place called the Bake House for dinner, although it’s a breakfast place… We had pancakes and french toast and omelettes, and it was so amazing. So amazing that I forgot to take pictures. Sorry. But anyway, it was a delicious meal that almost tasted like home. Families don’t do pancakes and french toast here. For instance, this morning we had hummus and fool.

While at this place, we were eating our food and discussing some of the things we’ve encountered with the male youth here (which you probably remember from a previous post), and there was a guy, maybe in his 20’s, sitting at a nearby table. We were only discussing some of the annoyances and individual instances and this guy starts talking to us in english. “Excuse me, I’m assuming you’re from the States right? Oh well, I don’t mean to interrupt or anything but I’ve heard so many foreigners talking about this, and I just wanted to say that America is really f***** up too. I mean, I have an American passport even though I’ve lived in Jordan all my life, and the guys in America are so much worse”. Seriously? You just wanted to show off your foul, american-style english and your interruption, which you did mean to do, has no point. Natasha and Caroline and I were just flaming mad that this guy interrupted our conversation, which was not generalizing at all, and were later discussing how it’s a good thing we’re not tourists because we would leave here with the impression that Jordanians are aggressive, imposing people, which is not the case at all. So it was ironic that this guy who was trying to “defend” a population of people he probably didn’t even identify with (because let’s face it, if you hold an american passport you’re not an every day Jordanian), and actually just ended up making himself look worse.  I guess it’s a good thing it happened, because I’ve never wanted to defend America much more than last night, although I know we have issues there too. Ah. Ok. Got that over with.

Home and classes have been great. My arabic is definitely improving (because mama says it is), and I hope that it will get even better before I leave. I also registered for classes for winter term at UofO and was excited that I got everything I wanted. I’ve also been looking into internships for when I get back, and may be looking into a place called Mobility International, that works with disability development all over the world, including the Middle East. I’m excited about it and hope something works out.

I didn’t get any people pictures while Kate was here. They’re all on her camera, so maybe some day, but I do have some from the citadel and one by request for James 🙂

View of Amman from the highest hill. That’s the amphitheater in the center.

James wanted to see some “store hours” so I took this picture in the post office on campus. Open 8-5 every day except Saturday 8-1, and of course closed on Friday. 🙂

Amman’s enormous flag, and more of Amman, the city in which I live.

We leave for Cairo, Egypt on Thursday (Thanksgiving, I know). I can’t believe I’m going to Egypt… Anyway, hopefully we’ll have a Thanksgiving dinner in the apartments this Tuesday night, although I’m not sure if we’ll do a Turkey. Maybe have to settle for a chicken. Let me know if you all have any suggestions for easy stuff to make with ingredients you can find anywhere.

Inshallah, the next update will include Egypt, unless I think of something to write in between now and then. And if I don’t, I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving. Eat lots for me.