The inevitable has occurred. I have gone a month without writing a post. I knew this would happen. To be honest, this time gap is not due to simply laziness or neglect. I have really been struggling over what to write.
The thing is, I want to avoid making this blog about my day to day experiences, such as what I saw, or observations I have made in Amman. I want to avoid doing the typical tourist thing because I don’t think good will come from posts such as “I visited the cutest little shop that sold these awesome Arab things,” or “I saw this cute couple, and the woman was wearing that head covering thing.”
Ok, so these examples seem a little over the top, but this is the essence of what I am trying to avoid.
I believe, instead, that you and I both can learn much more through our encounters with other people. If those encounters take place in a cute little shop, then so be it. But Amman, and any place for that matter, is more than the physical structures that the city is composed of. It is the people here that, to me, make up the city, and it is the interactions with those people that have brought me to Amman to begin with. It is the people that I can learn the most from.
The problem is how to write about encounters in a manner that is respectful to the other party. While I believe we both can learn from these encounters, I’m concerned that such analysis of our shared encounter will be insulting to the other person.
Perhaps, an encounter is something that is not meant to be discussed or analyzed with others. Would such an analysis be establishing myself as superior over the “other”. It isn’t just Jordanians, but also the other students in my program. With facebook being the cement of the world binding everyone together, I can be sure that whomever I write about will most likely read what I have written. I am not sure if this is good or bad. Am I thinking too much into this?
Well, this is what I have been pondering over the last several weeks. The decision I have reached is that I must be willing to compromise. We learned a term here the first week that means doing something that you may not want to do for the sake of a relationship. In this case, I am going to refrain from sharing some of my most frustrating or saddening moments because while I believe I would benefit from the post, it is likely to hurt my relationships here.
In future situations, I plan on asking the other person if they mind me writing about it in my blog.
One month and two days after arriving in Amman, Jordan, it feels like I have been here for years. Not meaning that the time has gone slowly, but rather I have developed a routine that has transformed me from traveler tourist to resident. I have finally found a solid route to and from school. I have found the local grocer and know how the store works. I have decorated my room to make it feel more home-y. Then, two days ago we had a scary incident.
The Attempted Burglary
I’m deep in a dream when the doorbell rings. My mind incorporated the ring into my dream and I stayed fast asleep. An hour later, the doorbell starts ringing nonstop. I roll out of bed and wake my roommates. We walk to our living room and hear half a dozen male voices outside. 3 girls vs. 6+ men. We calculated the odds and decided we didn’t want to go outside without knowing who was out there, and what they wanted. So, we decided to go up to our landlords apartment from the inside stairs. He wasn’t there, but from upstairs we could look out the window and see a cop car in front of our apartment and our landlord outside. We went outside to find every male on the block talking loudly and quickly in Arabic. Our neighbor who before this incident we had never met explained the events of the night. He was going to bed when he looked out the window and saw a man creeping around our house and looking in our bedroom windows. He knew that it was American girls living there, so he went outside his house and kept watching. When he saw the man start to go into the glass entry way of our apartment, he caught him and called the police, after ringing our doorbell, which was the first ring I heard. Now, our front door has a regular lock and two bolt locks on the top and bottom, so chances he would have gotten into the house are very slim, but it was a very scary experience. The most freaky part for me was being woken up abruptly in the middle of the night to someone violently and continuously ringing our bell. As a result of this incident, we are going to move to a different apartment that will be on the 2nd floor, instead of the first.
Other students and Classes:
I was shocked when I arrived to find out that there are only 11 students total studying abroad with AMIDEAST, a much smaller number than I was expecting. Five men, six women. In my Arabic class there are only two of us. My content courses have anywhere from three to nine other students. So, while the small number was initially disappointing, it has allowed for me to have a more intimate connection with the other students. Within 2 weeks most of us had become great friends. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am used to being surrounded by more liberal leaning peers. Many of the other students have drastically different political beliefs from me which sparked many intelligent and passionate debates. This has been such a great experience, but a challenging one because I have become so accustomed to liberal assumptions in my daily life. Our group selected the team name of Amman a Boat, hence the title of this post.
Arriving in Jordan during Ramadan has been one of my most cherished experiences here so far. Some of my peers found it very annoying because they were not permitted to eat or drink in public and all the restaurants were closed during the day, but I really thought it was beautiful. Because Ramadan was in the summer this year, the schools didn’t start until after Eid. During the holiday month the entire city alters its daily routine. The majority of people sleep-in until late afternoon and stay up until sunrise for the first prayer of the day. Having fasted in the states for several years, I never understood the magic of Ramadan until I found myself in an Arab country. There are very few examples of an experience that almost everyone in a society experiences. My Arabic teacher tells me that his children are too young to fast, but he can’t get them to eat during the day because they want to fast like everyone else. There is a strong sense of camaraderie here that connects a child on the street with a stranger walking past, the store keeper, with his patron. There is a sense of responsibility and understanding for each other. For example, everyone looks out for the children here. They talk to them in the streets; they will touch their heads and play with a child that they don’t know at all. It’s this bond that would make a neighbor tackle a burglar to protect girls that he has never met. This may be me fantasizing about the Jordanian and Arab Culture. I can’t help but wonder, if Americans had shared experiences, such as Ramadan would many people in the states feel less alone?
UPDATE: My New Friends
After getting my cellphone and my Jordanian number from AMIDEAST I contacted my friends that I had met on the plane. They immediately insisted that I come over to their house the next night. My roommate Kate and I hopped in a taxi, and had them give directions to the taxi driver over the cell phone. Once in their apartment we were served plates of desserts and fruits. The next night we were invited over for dinner. Um Tarek prepared Munsif, a traditional dish of Palestine and Jordan that includes lamb and rice.
This is all for now. I have much more to share, but I feel it needs to be in a different post.
5:30 am- Amman, Jordan
السالام عليكم, أصدقائي!
Hello, My friends!
Right now I am sitting in the dark in the lovely Geneva Hotel in downtown Amman, Jordan. With equal thanks to Jet lag and the call for prayer outside I am wide awake. In a few hours I will be going to the AMIDEAST office for my Arabic placement exam and a blood test (HIV positive? Out of the country.) While I am anxiously awaiting my first official AMIDEAST interaction, my journey has already been an exciting one!
Denver, CO- August 20th, 2010- 1pm
I arrived at DIA for my 2:50 departure to find that my flight had already been delayed until 4:00. Confident in my originally 3 hour long layover in Chicago and my ability to navigate airports quickly, I was excited to see the delay because it meant extra time with my mom. We spent the extra hour walking around the airport and then I headed to my gate…to find that the flight had been delayed an additional 20 minutes. At this point I was unsure about my connection, but the lady at the gate said it wasn’t time to worry, so I sat down and began studying Arabic. It was only after another 20 minute delay that she came to me and said my connection in Chicago would not be possible and that she had rerouted me through London which would get me to Amman on the same day (the 21st), but 6 hours later than planned. She also pointed me toward an old Jordanian couple who spoke very little English and asked if I wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on them, since our once direct flight to Amman from Chicago now included a 6 hour layover in London. I don’t know what you think about Heathrow, but it is not a place I want to spend 6 hours in. The son of the elderly couple approached me about helping his parents. I explained in Arabic that my father is from Libya and I study Arabic in school. I don’t know whether it was his parents desperation to have help in the English speaking world, my flawless Arabic (hahaha, yeah right!), or more likely his confidence that an Arab Sister would take care of his parents better than some random American or better yet the airline, but he seemed confident as we departed. Another woman joined our group at the gate attendant’s direction and our posse of four boarded the airplane.
Chicago, IL- Aug. 20th , 9:00 pm
Now, realize, the only reason we went on to Chicago is because of the promise of a night flight to London, but as all good airport dramas go, this flight was, of course, canceled. Upon arrival we learned that we would be spending the night in the city of Chicago. Correction, the Hilton Hotel right next to the Airport, which isn’t really in the city. I collected our groups passports (أعطني جواز سفر, من فضلك ( and began arranging our hotels with the airline. Our daylong adventure had become more epic and I was now responsible for the travel of four. The elderly couple had wheelchair assistance arranged for them, and with the help of the airport personnel assigned to push them, I was able to get us checked in to the beautiful Hilton hotel with vouchers for meal passes. Most Muslims believe that it is acceptable to break your fast during travel for health reasons, but the older generations, including two of my new companions, are more religious with their fasting. I respect this decision, but it made my job much more difficult. Our meal vouchers were only valid during specific hours, meaning only the dinner voucher could be used after Iftar.
After placing our stuff in our rooms, we headed down to the sports bar to find some food.
My new friends-
The next 24 hours were spent killing time in a hotel. This is where I really began to appreciate the company I had. As we sat waiting for dinner I began learning about the people my trip had acquired before I left my state. The older woman was introduced to me as Um Tarik رقاط ام (which translates to the mother of Tarik) I learned that out of respect, women are often referred to as the mother of their first son. While their official first name remains what it was at birth, they are referred to, almost exclusively as the mother of their son. Um Tarik noticed the Palestinian flag keychain that Chris and I had made before our protest hanging on my bag. She said Filisteen, (the Arabic pronunciation of Palestine) and her eyes lit up. She then explained, in araglish (a new hybrid that was the official language of our trip) that she is from Palestine. WOW! Talk about right up my alley. It turns out that the people I had assumed were Jordanians were actually all three Palestinians. The elder couple showed me their Jordanian resident cards. Under country of birth was Israel. I said “Israel, ugh, msh qways” (No good) and they smiled. I knew we were going to be friends. For years I have researched the conflict in what most of the world identifies as Israel. I had read about the thousands of displaced people. These facts, which until a few minutes before had been just statistics on paper, had become so very real. To the best of my understanding, the elderly couple had left their home in Palestine in 1948 when Israel was first instated. Known as Al- Nakba النكبة (the catastrophe) in the Arab World this brutal period marked the displacement of more than 600,000 Palestinians from their homes. Many sought refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, and the other surrounding Arab states. Few realize that the creation of a home for the Jewish people meant a loss of a homeland that generations of Palestinian Arabs had worked to create. This history which I had read and quoted had materialized before my eyes in the form of my fellow travelers. The old man’s card said he was born in 1933, making him only 15 at the time of the Nukhba. Regardless of the fact that they had been systematically removed from their homeland when they were still very young, they still referred to Palestine as home.
The third member added to our group was Um Kalid خالد ام . She was born in Jerusalem, as were her 3 boys. While her boys were all very young, she and her husband had taken their family for a short time to Kuwait, and then on to the US. Much of her extended family still lives in the Holy Land. She had been living in the US for 27 years. Her husband had died ten years after they had relocated to the US. Um Kalid lives with her youngest son in Lakewood, CO.
Chicago- 6:30 pm August 21st (The date I was supposed to arrive in Amman.)
After spending hours laying around the hotel it was finally time to head down to the airport. That morning I had called the bell station to arrange wheelchairs for my elderly companions. The man assured me that plans would be made but to call at 5:00 pm for confirmation. At 5, I received a confused voice saying that my wheelchairs would be there at 7:30 and that my call wasn’t necessary. I corrected them that the chairs needed to be there are 6:30 and that we would wait in the lobby. At 6:30 the Bell captain explained that he could not get us wheelchairs, but that the shuttle from another Hilton was coming to drop us off at the terminal where there would be wheelchairs waiting. After waiting out in the sun for 20 minutes, we were put on a shuttle. Then the worst happened. The driver had not been instructed that we were going to the terminal, and he began to take us into the city only 2 hours before our flight was supposed to depart. Infuriated that the impatient bellboy had sent me miles away from the airport with two walking impaired elders, I called the Hilton and explained the situation. The lady on the end apologized in a “what do you want me to do about it?” sort of way. We hailed a cab and were relieved that the driver spoke Arabic. The same Arab family bond that obliged me to help my fellow Arab travelers tied the driver to us, and he got us to the airport as fast as possible. After minutes of persuasion, he agreed to take the fare that he was more than willing to wave for us.
Once at the airport, Royal Jordanian took care of us like the Hilton and American Airlines had failed to do. They provided wheelchairs, checked us in a timely manner, and best of all, spoke Arabic. We boarded the plane, slept most of the 10 hour flight, and arrived in Amman without any problems. I found the AMIDEAST representative and hugged my friends goodbye. We parted, but only after I promised that I would call them when I got a phone and arrange a dinner at their house for the best authentic Palestinian food. I can’t wait!
It is now 7:30. I must finish getting prepared for the day ahead. Until next time, habibi.
سلام من الاردن