We officially moved into our apartments yesterday! I live in Jabal Amman which is the medical district. There are lots of hospitals and pharmacies. When directing a taxi where to go to take us home, we tell him the name of the nearest hospital which is the Farah maternity hospital. The instructions sound like “moosh-tash-fa fair-ah.” Street names are an extremely new concept in Amman, only having been implemented in the 2000s. Most cab drivers don’t know the street names and therefore landmarks are the only way to give directions. If you want a real laugh, go look at Amman on Google Maps. Being a geographer who thinks of cities in terms of a grid system, this definitely takes some getting used to. I think of Amman as being a clock. My apartment is located near 7. The university is at 11. East Amman is considered the “old” Amman and isn’t very nice. That is 12 – 6. It takes about 15-30 minutes to get to campus depending on traffic. The ride costs 2 dinar which is about $3.50. I usually share a cab with 2-3 of my friends so each ride really costs around 50 piaster or $1.
Our apartment is definitely meant for a family. It has a kitchen, dining nook, living room, bathroom, master bedroom, and child’s bedroom. My roommate walked into the apartment first and claimed the master. She has a king bed, 4 column closet, and large heater. Mine has a twin bed, 2 column closet, and no heater. Oh well, it is only for 4 months, right? I have more worthwhile things to spend my energy fretting about.
After moving in, a large group of 8 of us went to Mecca Mall to get groceries and other items. We had to split into two cabs and somehow got separated. I bought at least 2-3 weeks worth of food for 30JD or $42. I had my first awkward encounter due to cultural differences in the produce section. My friends were looking at canned goods so I went to buy peppers, potatoes, and bananas. I put them into the mini bags and began to walk into the yogurt section. A man behind the meat counter started saying something to me in Arabic. We have been taught to not make eye contact and ignore strange men that talk to us. I just shook my head at him and continued walking. As I was checking out, the cashier called over a bag boy who took my produce and motioned for me to follow him. He led me back to the meat counter where they weighed my produce and put a sticker on it, deli style. I was so embarrassed but the workers seemed amused. I’ve chalked it up to my first learning experience!
I also went to The Body Shop to get mascara and tinted moisturizer since my liquids were lost. I couldn’t read he arabic signs on the 4 types of mascara so I didn’t know the difference. That must be what men feel like when they walk into cosmetic stores! I decided to just buy the one that had the least in stock, assuming it was the most popular. This morning I found out it is brown mascara when I use black. Ha!
After the mall we came back to the apartment to relax before dinner. We ran into a few students in the diplomacy and policy studies program whom we hadn’t met before since we are in the language and culture program. They invited us to a bar near the apartment called Seven Barrels. It was a very western bar with loud techno music and sports playing on the TVs. I ordered a Long Island ice tea since hard cider isn’t popular in Jordan. It was 6.50JD or $9.00!!! Since Muslims don’t drink, alcohol is taxed 200% in Jordan.
This morning we had to meet at the CIEE building for the language exam. Beginners didn’t have to take the exam so we had our first class of Modern Standard Arabic (foos-ha). MSA is a very formal type of Arabic primarily used in the Koran. This is what most American universities teach. Colloquial Arabic (amiyya) is what Jordanians speak. I learned the alphabet used in both and some amiyya phrases before coming to Jordan. During our first two hour class, we only learned the first three letters of the alphabet – alif, baa, and taa. I have already learned several new words just listening to the professors and advanced students speak. “Yella” is “let’s go,” “hella” is “enough,” “waha” is “clear,” and “bab” is “door.”
Afterwards, we were given our schedules. I got my two first choice classes of “Modern Arab Women Writers” and “Alternative Perspectives on the Middle East.” Both are literature classes which will count for my English major, insha’allah.
We were then given the rest of the day off. I wanted to get Internet for the apartment since our router wouldn’t work. I decided to get a personal dongle which plugs into my laptop via usb and can give me Internet anywhere. We went again to Mecca Mall where we spent 5 hours shopping and then chatting at a cafe. I ordered an iced latte and they served it in a wine glass decorated with chocolate. I also bought a desk mirror for 1JD!!! On the way home, I asked my friends to let me give the taxi driver the destination in Arabic. He understood and didn’t ask me to repeat! And when we arrived at our apartment on our street, I said “hon, law samaht” which means “here, please” and he stopped! Such an accomplishment.
For dinner we went to Rainbow Street which is the hot spot for Jordanian young adults and foreigners. Initially it was only me, Caroline, and Allison, but we ran into Tess and her roommate on the street. We all went to Q Restaurant. It was very modern and trendy just like any downtown restaurant in the US. I ordered a camel burger and while we were eating, a group of 5 more CIEE students came into the same restaurant. No matter where we go, everyone ends up in a huge group! Luckily we had the top floor to ourselves so no one was judging us. The waiters were impressed with my friends’ Arabic and were constantly giggling at our conversations about our observations in Amman. For example, we ordered three hookahs aka “hubbly bubbly” between the group and someone mentioned how if you hand your friend the mouth piece with the top facing toward them (as opposed to the bottom handle/tube part) it means you are coming onto them. As soon as this was mentioned, the waiter pointed back and forth to Tony and Joey who had been handing it to each other that way without realizing. I love learning these cultural nuances!
Another thing I learned today was the protocol for the call to prayer which is given five (hamsaa) times a day. I asked Caroline why, when the call is given, the Muslims don’t seem to care and continue on with their daily business without pausing. She told me that the call is more of a reminder and most Muslims wait until they are done with whatever task they are doing and then pray, usually within the hour. Mecca Mall even has a prayer room so people can take a break from shopping to pray!
Tomorrow we are going to the Dead Sea. I am SO excited! It is about an hour away. On the itinerary, we have one last orientation PowerPoint scheduled on cultural norms/sensitivity. The weekend in Jordan is Friday/Saturday with Sunday being the first day of the work week. So after we return from the Dead Sea, it will be the weekend!