me in the ME

the semester of fun, sun, and Arabic

Meeting Royalty! Oh and Dana…

This past weekend the program took us to Dana Biosphere Reserve, a couple hours outside Amman. Naturally, I was wary about this trip, given that it involved camping. In a tent. Outside. Something I haven’t done in say, about 7 years. And then there was the issue of a 5 hour hike on the second day…

Thankfully I was wrong. It was AWESOME.

Nature and I don’t get along and I still thought it was incredible which is telling. We arrived, and immediately started climbing rocks and hiking around. A group of us saw a cave entrance and suddenly it was LAAZIM that we go find it.

“I’m easy to get to really! Don’t you want to come and explore?”

But we kept on going up and up and up… all the way to the top of the mountain. By then it was getting dark, so we hightailed it back down the mountain, thinking we would get dinner soon. HA. Instead the campsite director was seething because some other people had found the cave and it was way forbidden. There may have been some demanding we return to Amman straight away. Read more…

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Don’t Read This If…

Don’t read this if you want to continue to believe Jordan is a blossoming desert flower, sunshine and happiness all the time. This post is not sugarcoated. It’s me, being (brutally) honest about life, not just the good parts that make people want to live vicariously through me. Feel free to skip over it, because it’s not so happy or about amazing things I’ve done in the past week. And while I do have a pretty rockin’ time most of the time, sometimes…

Sometimes, Jordan really sucks.

It’s easy to not think about day-to-day life, and just go with the flow. I’ve got my routine down now. I know when I have to leave to get to class, I recognize a couple different ways from my house to the university, and my lunch plans don’t really change much ever. I feel more as if I’m living in Amman now, instead of just visiting. Which is really great! But then you also start seeing the underlying problems and inequalities present within the society. And yea, it’s usually pretty easy to enjoy things and have an amazing time doing things that simply aren’t possible in America. But then sometimes, I start to actually think about things here- and it just makes me sad and frustrated.

Like how when we play soccer with kids in the street, it’s more accurate to say we play soccer with boys in the street because it isn’t appropriate for girls. Or how at the soccer game we went to a couple weeks ago, we were the only women there and we had to leave for our own safety before the end of the match. We’ve been told that if women want to watch the game, they do so at home, on TV.

Or the story from some girls in the program about how their host family told them their laughter, outside, at 7pm, wasn’t appropriate because they’re girls. The neighbors wouldn’t be ok with it.

And while I personally don’t experience sexual harassment on a day-to-day basis, a lot of the girls in the program, and Jordanian women as well, do have to deal with it every single day. The University of Jordan is located in the “Red Light District” of Amman, where any woman, especially a Westerner, can and will be assumed a prostitute. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, there will still always be something. One of the girls in the program summed it up pretty well when she did a guest blog here. It can range from honking, cars matching your pace, being followed on foot, to actually being groped. The stories I hear every two weeks when we have meetings in English are even worse and I am horrified each and every time because I honestly live a sheltered life in Jordan. I’m lucky in that my homestay is in a quiet neighborhood and most of my commute is by cab. My experience by far is not everyone’s though.

I never know if I can trust the men I meet or talk to. Because I’m a woman, from the U.S., who isn’t fluent in Arabic, who is still new in Amman, etc etc etc… For a whole host of reasons, I feel boxed in. And while I’m sure some of the people are innocent in their intentions, you never know. Because there are creeps out there, sadly quite a few, who do try to take advantage.

Or closest to home, the issue of domestic servants and their “rights” in Jordan. And by closest to home, I mean actually in my homestay, where there is a servant. Her life, to be completely honest and uncensored, sucks. And it’s just too hard to stay positive when someone you live with starts saying that death is better than life. I’ve been assured that people often say that here because their lives are really, truly difficult and some do live for the afterlife. It’s not normal for me to hear that though, and I’m not prepared to counsel someone in English, let alone Arabic. Suffice to say- I’m not ok with the whole situation.

That’s not to say everything is bad, or I feel hopeless all the time. I’ve met some amazing Jordanians as well, who I know would never act in such a way and are some of the nicest, most giving people I know. I just got back from a hiking/camping trip with the program that was freaking awesome (stay tuned for a post about that). There are good days and bad days, just like in good ole Amreeka.

It’s just been a bad week.

آسفة، انا مش آسفة

Today is not Wednesday. آسفة، انا مش آسفة. That’s been running through my head all this weekend, and may become my motto for life (or at least for now). I don’t have a silly song like Hakuna Matata yet, but I’m working on it! The translation, you ask?

“Sorry, I’m not sorry.”

A little harsh? Not really. I think a lot of the time, I’m guilty of apologizing when I don’t mean it. This isn’t every situation, it isn’t saying I’m never sorry. I am! A lot of the time really. But then there comes a time when someone is trying to guilt me into being sorry and it’s just- no. I even do it to myself and then use it as a crutch to not do something. It’s dishonest though, and in me it just brews and exacerbates existing problems. Goodness knows, I’ve never been good at keeping my honest opinion to myself. So sometimes, you’re not sorry and that’s ok if there’s a legitimate reason. So sorry, I’m not sorry that I have expectations when I’m paying comparatively a lot for comparatively little. Sorry, I’m not sorry that sometimes I go out and let loose. Sorry, I’m not sorry that I sometimes get frustrated. And sorry, dear readers, I’m not sorry, that it’s been a week and I’ve been living life instead of blogging. (Ok, maybe a little sorry on that last one!)

Last Friday (so long ago already?!), the program took us to Ajloun, a town in the north of Jordan that has all sorts of things, but most importantly, trees! And a castle! Read more…

Nommage, snow, sunshine, WOAH.

Oops, it’s been a while. Let’s just say I’ve been really busy?  Or snowed in. That was fun (not). But the weather is now thoroughly gorgeous! Snow and 75 degrees in the same week… shway crazy, welcome to Jordan.

Since I last posted I have had mansaf TWICE. Once with our friend in Al-Baq’a and then once again at a restaurant. Eating at the house was awesome and totally an experience. Only problem is… I never learned how to eat with my hands only. Like seriously. I eat ribs with a fork and knife. In Jordan, there are a lot of things you eat with your hands, generally with bread as your only “utensil”. Mansaf is not like that. Generally a bed of rice (and sometimes also bread), with chicken or lamb on top, with  a yogurt based sauce that you pour over all if this.

That monster plate of chicken mansaf is for three women. THREE!

This then gets (ideally) smushed into a ball using your right hand (don’t use your left!) and then nommed! To say I struggled at making little mansaf balls is an understatement. Read more…

Birthdays and Baq’a

“So I met this guy…” Pause for the hysterical laughter, marriage jokes, and concern because really, this always sounds a little sketch. To be fair, some of us do have to interact with more sketchiness than others and both sorts of stories start off in the same way. This is kind of a crazy story- but not sketchy.

But really in all seriousness, my roommate Danielle and I met this guy at  our (MANDATORY, srsly guys) conversation club. Middlebury set it up for us to get to know Arab students at the university and provide us with an opportunity to speak Arabic with native speakers our own age. No one was really excited about this- I can’t even remember why. But we all managed to drag ourselves there, after scarfing down sandwiches on the run (Midd, why you plan no lunch time?!)

Last Friday was also the birthday of my youngest host brother, Bashar, who’s now 3! We had already decided to go out and buy him a present after conversation club was over. Mahmud, one of the guys we met during the club offered to go with us to help pick out a present and show us where we could find something.

First, we check out one of the malls close to the university (side note- there are a LOT of malls in Amman. Also pharmacies and furniture stores.) Read more…

Mind Explosion?

Something about Jordan- I always feel as if my brain is about to explode.

No, seriously. It’s not necessarily that more is going on here. I just concentrate far, far more on everyday life. Not just because it’s fascinating and I want to learn more, but because it’s necessary. To stay connected to one conversation in Arabic, I have to concentrate solely on that, otherwise I’ll hear words from another conversation nearby and my mind will start jumping from conversation to conversation, trying to absorb everything and perking up to say, “Look, I know things!” But then I don’t understand what’s actually going on, just a few words from each conversation. And sadly, my concentrating face is not a smile! Someday I hope to be able to tune out of conversations a bit or not be distracted by other conversations in the vicinity… but that day is not today.

Not only that, but each day is a learning experience. All day, er’ry day. Read more…

In which Jordan has a snow day…

So I may have been a bit optimistic when creating this blog. If you look above, the subtitle is “the semester of fun, sun, and Arabic”. I listened to all the students last semester who said it rained twice, and they went dancing outside when it did.

Well.

Two days ago…

Somewhat shockingly (but like SERIOUSLY), there is a winter season in Jordan. It involves rain. And I don’t mean just a drizzle. Yesterday a bunch of the roads were completely flooded. Which is good for Jordan, since any water is so precious here! But seriously, seriously unexpected.

Also cold. As in cold enough for…

SNOW

Read more…

Middle East Time Zones

Seriously, who came up with this map? I am so confused by this. I had no idea there weren’t “stripey” time zones like the US in the rest of the world. I knew all of China was one time but this is crazy! And apparently more normal…

http://www.worldtimezone.com/time-middle-east24.php

Oh Procrastination…

Hello all and welcome to my brand-spanking new blog about my semester in Amman, Jordan. This post (funny enough) was supposed to be written days ago. But time ran away from me and so I said I would write it while in NYC… and then it was the airport… the airplane… And now I’m sitting in my bed at my homestay! I may have managed to royally screw up my sleep schedule already, seeing as how currently it feels about noon to me while in Jordan it’s a bit after 1am and back home it’s 6 in the evening. I’ve no idea HOW I managed this.

No real update yet, except that I’m alive (yay!) and it rained. Orientation starts Sunday so I have a day to get settled in before the madness begins! Photos, stories, and adventures to come, so stay tuned 😀

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