me in the ME

the semester of fun, sun, and Arabic

Moving Day was Yesterday…

As you can gather from the title, I’ve moved! Goodbye, homestay- sadly, I shall not miss you.

Why move, especially now, when the semester is half over? Today is the first day of spring break (and my birthday wooo!) but after that we only have a month and a half before the end of the program. Why not just stick it out?

Trust me, my roommate and I tried.

There had been a lot of issues, that just kept adding up over time. First, there was confusion about water, and then the ever-changing situation with the Internet: “We have wireless, use it whenever you want!”-> Don’t Skype earlier in the evening-> Don’t use the Internet until later at night when the family has gone to bed->Don’t use the Internet at all, go buy your own broadband USB sticks-> the program administration telling them we have to be allowed to use the Internet since that was what was originally established. Then there were a whole host of uncomfortable things with regards to the servant in the house (a whole post worth-stay tuned!), our family didn’t ever seem to want to talk to us, everyone in the house was always unhappy (because of us? who knows), we didn’t have keys, we were sleeping on very poor-quality cots, etc… We were essentially paying more than anyone else for a worse experience, the only benefit of which was not having to worry about food.

The bed issue is what really became the tipping point. I admit, I am incredibly spoiled when it comes to beds. At home my bed is like a dream, while at school I have a memory foam pad. So I knew the beds here were going to be of poorer quality and I was OK with that. My roommate however actually has back problems, so she can’t sleep on a poor quality for an extended period of time. And I do mean very poor. We could feel each and every metal bar underneath mattresses that crackled when we moved.

So we had a meeting with the program director and the family about 3 weeks ago to discuss all of these issues. At the time, my roommate and I thought we might be moving out and were relishing the prospect already. The meeting was held in the house, which was potentially the worst idea of all time- how do you criticize someone when you’re in their house AND are expected to continue to live there? To say it was awkward, and that I felt a bit attacked by the family’s defense of themselves is putting it mildly. The only advantage to having the meeting in the house was that the director could see what exactly we were sleeping on and said that it was really not OK for a longer period of time. The family promised that they would go and buy new mattresses and the issue was resolved.

After a few days, there was a change and it was indeed more comfortable for a few nights. We asked the father about it and he told us about how he had gone to the store and that these new mattresses were very expensive. But then my roommate kept having back issues. About a week ago, she lifted up the sheets to show her parents on Skype what exactly she was sleeping on and- surprise! These are not new mattresses. Instead, we had been sleeping on long, old cushions that had previously been stored on the floor under our beds and the servant had been sleeping on. Most definitely not the fancy, expensive new mattresses that we had been told were bought for us.

We were understandably upset.

And so started a back and forth by email between us, the Middlebury administration, and the family in an attempt to get to the bottom of this. The family claimed that they had never said the mattresses were new or expensive and that we were lying. In their response, they also complained about all sorts of things about us. I wasn’t privy to the email but from what I’ve been told it was shway nasty and completely unfounded. Finally the decision was made for us to move out, which was unfortunately communicated to the family by way of email since they weren’t picking up the phone. Needless to say I booked it to the room when I got home and didn’t come out until after they went to bed. Dinner at midnight. That’s conflict avoidance at it’s best.

The worst part was yet to come though. My roommate came home later since she was with her (real) family since they’re visiting. Our homestay family confronted her and basically chewed her out fora good 20 minutes. We weren’t respectful of the family since she was coming home late today (even though she returned at 10 which was what had been established as curfew), that we were liars, and weak people because we didn’t talk about our issues with them face to face (but we actually had), that we weren’t good people, on and on and on. Apparently, I especially was awful and a disturbance to the family because I would stay in the house for 7 hours! Hello, sometimes I have a lot of work to do. I had to have a place to study as per program requirements but I’m not allowed to actually use it? Also, according to them, I was soooo loud, which is just completely and disgustingly untrue. If I watched or listened to anything in that house, it was with headphones and I talk so much less in Arabic than I do in English. It’s just shocking and horrifying that the family would say things like that to us, even when you know they’re not true.

And there is a good reason for them to be upset- they won’t be getting rent from us anymore. We were paying the equivalent of a very nice, furnished apartment in Amman. It’s really sobering when juxtaposed with how we were treated. I never felt comfortable there. I was always waiting for who’s going to cry next, when will the screaming start, what do I need to worry about today?!

Of course, there is always the possibility that we misunderstood when they were talking about the beds. We aren’t fluent yet, it’s true. But for us both to misunderstand in the exact same way? The conversation we had at the time is still crystal clear in my mind though. With regards to us not talking about issues with them face to face, we at least tried. They, on the other hand, emailed the program administration with problems regarding us without ever mentioning them to us, even when we had talked the same day.

It got to the point where I would do anything to not come home. I joined a gym, did work in coffee shops, and stayed out as long as possible, just because being in that house was more stressful than anything else in my life. Classes were easy, living in a actual city was going ok, I didn’t experience any sexual harassment, I wasn’t even breaking the Language Pledge! That house, that family were the worst things about my experience in Jordan so far. And living in such a negative environment is a downer. So I planned spring break to England where there is grass, some of my best friends, and English accents. Because I just needed to get away and I was so so DONE with it all. It helped that I could get a flight that was only slightly more expensive than one to Egypt.

But then we moved unexpectedly! And it’s my birthday and spring break and it’s as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. What’s going on with the living situation? I’ll be crashing in different apartments all this week in Amman, London, Oxford, and then back in Amman again before I move into a women’s dorm by the University of Jordan. I’ve only heard good things, so hopefully it will be better!

As for now, I’m heading off to London in a few hours to celebrate my 21st in a completely British fashion!  Cheerio!

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