Unfortunately after I wrote my last blog post, the day did not continue as smoothly as I had hoped. Christiana (pronounced Christina) and I lost our luggage during the layover. While telling the baggage services about our claim, I realized that I didn’t have the proper plane ticket stub since I switched seats with our American-Ammani friend Tami on the plane. She had my stub and I had hers. After explaining this mix up, the claims worker sent us on our way. We were met outside customs by a driver from CIEE and 5 other students waiting for us. The drive to the hotel was an experience, to say the least. I had heard the stories from alumni of CIEE about the driving habits of Jordanians, but I just don’t think words can describe it. The drivers simultaneously text, smoke, scream at other drivers, and switch lanes with intense Arabic music blasting in the background. I was surprised at the number of palm trees lining the roads. I know Jordan is in the desert, but since it isn’t near an ocean, I didn’t expect to see the tropical trees.
Once we arrived in the hotel, we had to check in with reception AND CIEE. The CIEE check in was extremely overwhelming. So much information was thrown at us such as how to set up the local cell phones, where breakfast and dinner are located, who our host family/apartment roommate would be. During the shuffle, I had to give Rana my baggage claim and Ava my passport. Everyone was so eager to go to sleep that the entire process of checking in was rushed and confusing. As soon as I could, I went straight to sleep. However, as I was dozing off, I realized I wasn’t quite sure where my passport was. While shuffling through my bag, I realized I didn’t have my airplane regulated bag of liquids containing some contacts (badly needed since the rest were in my checked and lost bag), mascara, toothpaste, and shampoo. After all I had been though, this is what pushed me the closest to a breakdown, but I kept my cool! I reminded myself that everything missing can be bought and if not, it was only for 4 months. Luckily I realized that CIEE kept my passport to work on extending the students’ visas. I believe my liquids were lost when my bag was shuffled around during customs. I accepted this fact, set my iPhone clock to Amman, set my alarm for 7:15, and went to bed after meeting my orientation roommate named Lauren who goes to Georgetown. She thankfully let me borrow her toothpaste until I could buy my own.
We received a wake up call at 5:50am!! The phone call was extremely loud and startling, so I knew I couldn’t fall back asleep. I decided to wake up early and get ready and then perhaps have time to blog. While we were getting ready, Lauren realized that her Jordanian phone had a different time than her laptop and iPhone. After some investigation, we realized that the “Amman” timezone on the laptop and iPhone was wrong and one hour late! It is something to do with daylight savings, but luckily we figured this out before being late to the day’s events. I am also thankful for the wake up call! Otherwise we would have woken up 15 minutes before we were supposed to be on the busses.
First we visited the Citadel and an old Roman Amphitheater. It was a long walk through east Amman, the older, less well kept half of the city. We learned that Amman was once named Philadelphia and that it is nicknamed “the white city” because of the white appearance of all of the buildings. The color white is held in high esteem so having a white home is a status symbol. After visiting the amphitheater, we ate lunch at Jafra Cafe. It was delicious! We had a first course of hummus, salad, and pita bread. It sounds modest, but there were about 5 kinds of each! Everyone thought this was our meal, so we filled up on it. After 15 minutes, our true meal came. Beef, chicken, and more pita bread! Everyone was so full by this point that we only ate about half. Finally, dessert came. It was a jasmine pudding and it tasted exactly how jasmine smells – sweet, rich, and lightly floral. It was the best part of the meal!
The rest of the day was spent looking at the CIEE building and the nearby library where we apparently are expected to print our papers. It offers bottomless tea and coffee AND free wifi, so I’ll definitely be there! It took us 30 minutes to drive from the campus to the hotel during rush hour. Dinner was another feast. I have been doing pretty well with only taking small portions. The food is good, but very flavorful, so a little goes a long way. Our after dinner conversation was better suited for a nursing home – sitting around complaining about aches and pains with the occasional participant nodding off in her chair.
I have met SO MANY new people. It feels like the first week of college again. Everyone seems to be from Minnesota, Michigan, or Wisconsin. A lot of students go to Georgetown or other schools in DC, too. I met another girl from Cincinnati but she goes to OSU.
My roommate for my apartment is a girl named Tara. She is in my cohort (the group of 80 Language and Culture students are split into cohorts of 20 each. Seriously, I don’t know why they are called cohorts. Such a strange word) and is extremely nice! We sat near each other during lunch and talked. I’m not sure what level of Arabic she is in, but I hope it is beginning so we can share a cab to class together!
Even though I have never taken a formal Arabic class, I finished the entire 10 lesson program on Mango Languages which is similar to Rosetta Stone. I learned the entire alphabet, how to read Arabic, and several words and phrases ranging from how to navigate a taxi to how to order at a restaurant. I am continually impressing myself by recognizing words in the conversations of Jordanians. Usually they are extremely basic, but I’ve even impressed a few of the 1-semester Arabic kids! For example, at lunch I heard one of the waiters say a phrase in Arabic with the word “bread” in it. A few minutes later, new pita bread showed up on our table! And when our bags were lost, Christiana said she didn’t know how to say “bag” in Arabic and I said I thought it was “shanta.” Once we got to the baggage desk, the woman and man were throwing that word around left and right! Tomorrow we have a “survival” Arabic crash course, so it should be interesting to see how much I know.
The drama in the group has already begun. About 5 of us were in the lobby of the hotel talking when Jordanians dressed in suits started to arrive. Within the hour, the lobby was full with men wearing keffiyehs (the traditional red and white checkered head garments) and women in decorative hijabs and 6 inch heels. Suddenly, a few of the men started beating on drums while the others burst out into clapping and song. A woman in a stunning white ball gown emerged with her soon-to-be husband and the singing group encircled them. They spent the next 15 minutes slowly walking around the perimeter of the lobby to the ballroom where, I assume, a wedding party was about to occur. It was incredibly exciting and cultural to witness this.
After this entertainment, I found my luggage waiting near the front desk. I told the receptionist that it was mine and he asked my name. Inevitably, he realized it didn’t match the ticket stub I had traded for and began questioning if it was really my bag. After a few minutes of panic and a phone call to the airport, the issue was resolved and he carried my bag to my room.
Tomorrow is a full day of PowerPoint presentations on academic and housing guidelines. In the afternoon we are moving into our apartments! I will take plenty of pictures, but I can’t guarantee they will accompany my posts. The internet in the hotel is shoddy, at best, and will barely let me submit text. It may take a few days to set up internet in my apartment, but hopefully when I do, it is reliable and can handle uploading photos!