Showing an American “Bizarre” Amman

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, on Thursday my Arabic class went out to lunch on CIEE’s dime! Middle Eastern food is delicious, but FREE Middle Eastern food is even better. As I am a part-time vegan, I do not enjoy eating meat with every meal. In Jordan, there are so many other delicious appetizers and sandwiches that you could easily survive without touching lamb or shwaerma! For this lunch, we ordered “khobz” (pita bread), hummus, “foul” (a dip made out of beans), baba ghanoush, and falafel.

(from bottom to top) Foul, hummus, foul, baba ghanoush, hummus. Each are served in a pool of olive oil.

(from bottom to top) Foul, hummus, foul, baba ghanoush, hummus. Each are served in a pool of olive oil.

I am not a fan of foul as it simply tastes like mashed beans to me, but I could eat baba ghanoush all day! I have yet to find a hummus that rivals that of Jerusalem Restaurant’s near the University of Denver.

As spring break is approaching, several of my friends are anticipating visits from their family and friends back home. Before coming to Amman, I tried to arrange a time for my family to visit, but between my dad’s refusals to come anywhere near the Middle East and my mom’s best friend breaking her leg, it seemed I would have to experience Jordan alone. However, I did get a taste of showing an American around Amman this past weekend when Sarah, my friend Allison’s friend from the University of Wisconsin, visited.

We planned to take Sarah to the quintessential Ammani food destinations: Hashim’s for hummus, Al-Quds for falafel, and Habibeh for knaffeh. There was also mention of taking Sarah to see the Dead Sea. However, Sarah witnessed the “true” Jordanian way of life when all of our plans fell through. Instead, we showed her Seven Barrels, Flow, and Dubliner’s – all of the places that have created our own, unique American-in-Amman experience.

Osiris, Allison, Sarah, Caroline, and Me!

Osiris, Allison, Sarah, Caroline, and Me!

The stress of planning made me realize that it is extremely difficult to convey my love for the city to an outsider in the span of a weekend. Most of the reasons I love Amman cannot be summed up in a single plate of hummus or absurd taxi ride. At one point during the weekend, Sarah told us, “I’ve noticed that you like to describe things as ‘bizarre’!” And it is true! The absurdity of living in Jordan is one of the things I love the most. I never know what to expect. From receiving frantic text messages from CIEE warning us of a fight on campus to crazy taxi drivers who scream at us “ENGLEEZI, NO!!! ARABEE, YES!!!!” when we try to speak English in his cab, every day is an adventure.

The most recent source of headache is from Jordan’s taxation policy on imports. In America, I have received international packages that are delivered straight to my doorstep. In Jordan, packages are sent to the post office downtown where they are inspected. You must travel to the post office to retrieve your package and, in some cases, open it in front of an official. These formalities are obnoxious, but tolerable. I had heard of the horrors of taxation from a few people in CIEE, but experienced them second-hand when one of my classmates received a package from home. He said he had asked his family to send him a few t-shirts he forgot to pack and some new fiction novels to read. The Jordanian postal workers were claiming he had to pay a $250 tax on these items in order to claim them. I had been thinking about asking my mom to mail me Girl Scout cookies and Skyline oyster crackers, but I could never bring myself to pay such an exorbitant tax! Oh, Jordan….

One downfall of this constant excitement is that it quickly drains the body’s immune system. I counted myself as one of the lucky few who did not experience sickness – until yesterday. I woke up with a painful nausea and feeling of fatigue. I pushed myself to attend class due to CIEE’s silly attendance policy that says we can only miss one day of class. If we exceed one, we have to have a doctor’s note. It would be hard enough to make a doctor’s appointment, navigate a taxi there, and deal with the language barrier while healthy, but being sick would make it impossible! Plus, CIEE does not excuse classes missed due to unexpected travel delays. So if our bus home from Egypt is cancelled (which apparently happens frequently) and we cannot make it back to Amman in time for classes, we have to use our one “sick” day. If you already used your sick day, your grade is penalized. Being the worry wart that I am, I would much rather save my sick day to use in case of an emergency, and thus, I drug myself to classes.

After suffering through 5 hours of class while wavering between throwing up and falling asleep, I came home around 4:30pm and didn’t wake up until my alarm went off at 7:30am. The 15 hours of sleep must have reset my body because I woke up today feeling much better, but still a bit tired. I plan on taking the rest of the week easy so I can be at 100% for our spring break adventure!



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