Wednesday, December 28, 2011


We're having a reunion tomorrow. But as the original program was run by the state department, that makes everything we do TOP SECRET, therefore I cannot disclose specific information on the internet until the event is over.

Just kidding, but wouldn't Cat be proud?

Anyways, eight out of the fifteen of us are getting together for New Year's (and the other seven should Skype us!) AND I'M SO EXCITED!

That is all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Photo Albums

I was cleaning my room to get ready for all of my friends from Jordan coming here for our reunion next week, and I found my photo album of "home" I brought to Jordan to show my host family and such. It's a lovely album, filled with pictures of the farm, and Girl Scouts and school and such, but it seems rather, well,  foreign. I started to laugh at how much I'd changed since I put together that album earlier this year, and kind of wondered what I'd put together if I had to make a photo album to describe myself now.

Several hours later, I was eating dinner when I asked if any of my pictures from Jordan ever got printed, so that I could show my grandma in Pennsylvania how my summer was. Her computer is rather slow, so I don't think she ever saw any online, and it wouldn't really be possible to put them on a flash drive and pull them up once we got there. My dad stood up and brought in a photo album from the laundry room. He said that it was supposed to be a Christmas present, but that he couldn't possibly sit here and listen to us try and figure out some alternative when he had this already.

On the front of the album were two pictures - one from the farewell dinner I had with my host family, and one from the top of the mountain at Petra. In the picture, my mom wore the same black hijab she wore to all special occasions, and my dad stared solemnly at the camera, in the same manner as every Jordanian man I've ever seen. I felt a panging in my stomach thinking about how much I missed them .I realized that this was the album of pictures I'd asked him to print for me months ago, after giving him a flash drive with all of my favorites on it. Flipping through, it was indeed each and every one of my favorites from the trip. It was perfect to bring on our trip to show my grandma.

And then I realized, that if I had to make a photo album to describe me, who I am, and what I love now, it would be this album. Laughing, I think about what I named an album of photos on Facebook right when I got home, and how the name still proves true. Qlbna yskun fi al-Urdon. My heart lives in Jordan. And even now, five months after I got home, it's still true; I have a feeling it's going to be like that for a long time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where Should I Buy My Fruit Today?

These are the kinds of things that pop back into my head and make me want to be in Jordan again. Fruit market or regular store? Is this really even something that requires thought? Going to this fruit market fi wasaat al-balaad was one of my favorite things. I don't even know what half the fruit was called, but it was so much more delicious than any apples or oranges here. Maybe it's just because everything was such an adventure, but still. I suppose I like adventures.

Friday, December 9, 2011


I got an email a couple days ago. Here's what it read:

Dear Diana Grote:
You have been selected as a semi-finalist for the NSLI-Y program! As a semi-finalist, the next step in the competitive selection process is a personal interview.  If you have not been contacted already, soon you will hear from a local AFS Intercultural Programs Volunteer about NSLI-Y interviews in your area. The volunteer will inform you of whether your interview will take place at a NSLI-Y Interview Event, in your home, or over the phone. Please keep your eyes open for this email, and respond in a timely manner if you would still like to be considered for a NSLI-Y scholarship.
The NSLI for Youth team, American Councils

Life is so good. It's so strange to be going through this whole process again. The application was strange to be answering those same questions again, and now it's strange to be waiting for my interview day again. It's strange to be nervous for the interview again, but for different reasons. The first time around, I just wanted to make sure they saw how interested I was, and how very badly I wanted to go. Now, I've become so much more so involved with the Middle East, and so much more passionate about it. And I'm just worried that I'm going to have a hard time explaining exactly how much I love Arabic and the Middle East to some interviewer.

Well, that's life, I guess. For now, I'm just going to go work on another exchange program application for a longer term. Insha'allah, as they say :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I keep thinking of Ramadan lights when I see all the Christmas lights. I miss Jordan :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I learned how to say "Happy Thanksgiving" in Arabic today :)

So, عيد شكر سعيد everyone! Have a great day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


So I just realized that the counter of people reading this blog hit 1000.


I guess I kind of started this blog to be able to remember things for myself, but also to share with others. And now, I'm really glad that I did, because that's a LOT of people reading it. And I have a feeling that many of those people, maybe yourself included, hadn't even heard of Jordan before reading this. I'm glad you know now.

If there's anything anybody would like to hear about in specific, or anything they're interested in about Jordan, just comment and ask :)

Thanks guys!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wadi Rum

I keep thinking about this night...
We walked to those mountains in the background, by the way. Three of us, with no cell phones, water, or flashlights. That's what I call an adventure :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Once upon a time, I was at Petra.

There's so many things about this picture that just scream "MIDDLE EAST!"

I love this so much. First of all, there's the fact that we're standing just feet in front of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Petra. Whoa. Secondly, it's the fact  that we're two high school kids from the Midwest, just chilling in Jordan. And that we've got some pretty awesome head wear.

But beyond that, there's the fact that we're there without our parents, living with host families who essentially made my life every time I talked to them. I miss my host family so much, and everything about living somewhere different. I miss being able to practice a new language in the alleyway between your house and the neighbor's house, and learning the word for turtle from your little host cousin, not from a textbook unit on animals. I learned so much there, more than I could ever write in a blog post.

Anyways, I want to go back. And I know that it won't be the same as before, and that's the beautiful part. I don't want the same experience; I want a new one. But I do want a new experience where I live in a new place, experiencing a new culture, and learning a new language. Next summer, insha'allah.

Until then, I'll stop barfing love for study abroad all over this blog. M3 salaama!

All Done...

Well, the application is all done now. At least, my part. There's still my transcript and parent essay. But my part is all done.

Better hope that I get accepted, or else this blog is going to be rather blank this summer! :) Ahhh I'm freaking out, it's strange to think about how much these couple of hundred of words count for. Well, for now, I guess I'll just be waiting to hear about semi-finalist status. Insha'allah!

(This post sounds way calmer than I am. I'm essentially freaking out, but in a totally good way).



Here's my plan. Finish the one last essay I have to do for this application, submit it, freak out, then look at pictures from last summer and write random posts about them. Sounds like a good plan.

One last essay... here we go. I've put so much effort into these essays, I want to go back so badly!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Old Posts

For some reason I just decided to read through some of my posts from when I was in Jordan, and I just starting laughing extremely hard when I realized how broken my English was in those posts. I guess sometimes things rub off, even when English is my first language. It's not surprising though, that trying to write a blog post in English would be a challenge after a couple weeks without English.

Some examples of sentences that made me laugh because of how forced and awkward they sound:
"So here's a description of it tonight."
"For the most part we have cleaned and fixed them, but I will describe them to you as we found them."
"Oh, one more thing about the apartment itself that I like is that fact that you can go on the roof and chill"

Maybe it's not that obvious, but at least to me there are things that I can see, where I normally would never write sentences like that. It's not that they're wrong, it just sounds funny. As if I'm learning English as my second language and just finally getting the hang of it. This makes me happy.

On the other hand, having good English back in my brain makes me scared for my Arabic. I mean, I essentially immerse myself in Arabic whenever I can at home, with music and movies and television and such, but it's not the same. Yallah ya shabaab, let's go back to the Middle East! Oh wait... essays... I'll get back to that now...

Getting Somewhere

I've spent so long on these essays. I'm not sure I'll ever be really happy with them, but maybe that's because I feel like so much is resting on so few words. But hey, that's life. I'll just hope for an interview. I feel like I'm so much better at just explaining things in person than writing essays about it.

I've got my letter to my host family pretty solid, my essay about why I deserve a second trip pretty good, and I'm finally getting an essay about why I want to study specifically in the Middle East going well. I've still got an essay about three reasons I want to study abroad left though, and one about a lesson I learned outside of school. I've already written a possibility for that last one, but I'm not really all that pleased with it.

Dear Selection Committee,
You should just read my blog and see how much I want to go again, and how passionate I am about the Middle East and Arabic. Please?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Must... Finish... Essays...

I have everything outlined and such. I just need to sort out all these ideas into some solid prose now. The biggest challenge was figuring out what to put in each essay so I don't repeat myself; they're all rather similar questions. But I've got that all sorted out, so we're in the home stretch now. Hopefully this works out like last year!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


You mean those essays are due November 3rd? That's really soon. I mean, really soon.

Maybe I should stop writing essays about Wadi Rum and Petra and Amman and Jabal Amman and Souk Jara and Muta3am Hashem and shai and the kanafe and everything else that I love about the Middle East and answer the state department's bland questions.

Why do you want to study abroad? Why do you like the Middle East? Why should we send you back even though you've already gone? What are three reasons you want to go?

These questions are essentially equivalent to asking, "What is love?" to me. I can't explain this in an essay!

Blah, blah, blah. I've got to figure out a way to make these essays show everything that I want to say, and have it still be 250 words or less. This here, this is hard stuff. School is nothing compared to jamming this kind of emotional attachment to a region of the world into 250 words or less. And yes, emotional attachment to a region of the world is a real thing. If you think that it's not, you're probably emotionally attached to staying right where you are.

Well, at least I know what I'll be doing tomorrow after work. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

250 Words or Less

This is extremely strange to be trying to write these essays again. I remember last year, writing one essay over and over again, trying to put the words exactly right, getting it to come across as I had it in my head. I needed it to be heartfelt, and not too sappy, and it needed to be well thought through and intelligent, but not forced and fake. I was trying really hard, but I meant to be trying really hard. I wanted it to come out right.

And now I'm sitting here again, exactly one year later, staring at the same essay, with the same box, on the same website. "What are three reasons you want to study abroad? Explain in less than 250 words." Before, it was hard enough to keep it that short, with everything I wanted to say. But I'm not even sure it's possible to put everything I want to say in that few of words anymore, especially after this summer. How do I put my host family, our late night talks about politics and religion, our attempts at Chicago style pizza 6,000 miles away from the source, and our walks around the neighborhood, how am I supposed to put that in 250 words or less? Then there's the taxi cab drivers, their exasperation with my Arabic some days, and their delight at my effort on others; there's the cab driver who changed my life when he explained to me that you had to be thankful for life and use it, and not just sit there. There's the neighbors who played soccer in the abandoned lot next to my apartment, and there's the little boys who laughed and giggled when we played with them one day. There's the roof of our apartment, a place to go to sit and see the city, to eat and talk, to sing and get married. There's the day three door handles in our apartment came off, and it took ten minutes to explain what our problem was in Arabic. Then there's when we were leaving, getting on the bus to go to the airport, and the men from the apartment ushered us back into the lobby one last time, to get their one last picture, so proud that we had stayed with them, in their building. How I am supposed to put that into 250 words or less? Because that's the reason I want to study abroad.

Jordanian Phrasebook

I knew that I had a hard time finding Jordanian Arabic on the internet before I left, so here's some of the stuff I learned there. This is mostly ammiya phrases, which you can think of like a sort of slang, but more widespread, and accepted in any sort of conversations. It is a spoken language only though, the formal written language, called fussa, is written and used in the media, and not really spoken day to day. Keep in mind that these phrases will probably not be understood by speakers of Arabic outside Jordan and Palestine, as they would have a different dialect.

(Also, if you're in a fussa class somewhere, and you use these in class, tell me what happens. I've gotten a few laughs for saying things like "Esh?!" and "Shu yanni?" in a formal Arabic situation, just because I'm used to speaking ammiya, not fussa).

Finally, spelling doesn't matter. Ammiya is not a written language, only spoken. I'm writing these in Arabic and English just to show the pronunciation. So, save the spelling for fussa, ammiya is speaking.


إيش / شو
(Esh / Shu )
These both mean "what," and they're the words that are the most "Jordanian" compared to other dialects, especially "shu." I had a phone interview one time in Arabic and the man laughed really hard when I said "shu" on accident instead of "ma." ("Ma" means "what" in fussa, which is what the interview was in). As far as usage goes, you use them pretty much the same as you use "what" in English. You can start sentences with both of the words, and also use it as a "what?" what you don't hear something or are surprised.

It literally means "I mean," but the best way to explain it is to definite it as the English "like." People say it as an equivalent of "um" or "like," or to approximate something, and in pretty much every other situation imaginable. Sometimes I swear that people just throw is into sentences,  so you'll probably hear it a lot. But beware of overusing it, just as you would not want to say "like" in every English sentence you speak. Personally, I save it for times when I'm actually not sure, like telling someone when I'll arrive, yanni, if everything works out. See?

شو يعني 
(Shu yanni?)
This combines both words so far, and is a very useful phrase for a language learner. This means  "What does it mean," but is the usual way of "What is the translation?" whether it be from Arabic to English or the other way around.

(Keefak (to a male) / Keefik (to a female) )
"How are you?" That's pretty much it. Not much explanation there.

(Kwayyis (describing something male) / (kwayyisa (describing something female) )
This is a common answer to someone asking how you're doing. Some people I've talked to said it's an "old person word," but I've heard young and old people both using it. It literally translates to "OK" and can be used just the same as "OK" is in English. But a warning, it's two syllables - "kway-yis," not "koos," like the Moroccan dish. That dish doesn't exist in Jordan, so don't ask for it. It's vulgar.

There are SO many more, but that's all I'm going to do for now. Overwhelming lists of words are never good. They scare me, and I don't want to scare anybody. So that's all for now!

Next Time?

I'm currently filling out the application for next year/summer/whatever happens. So I might keep posting on this over the school year, but probably not. I'll definitely start it up again next summer though, so I'll write again then!

This is strange to be back at square one after this summer. Filling out the same application, hoping again. Staring at the same screen of questions, wondering how to fit everything I want to say about why I'd like to go back into a few hundred words or less. I don't think I could ever fit everything into these few white boxes.  It's funny how it's even footing with everyone else applying again, not "I'm a semi-finalist," or "I'm a finalist." Just another applicant, hoping another amazing experience. Insha'allah :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Waiting for Next Year

The website for the scholarship I got to go to Jordan last summer says that applications for this coming summer will be released late this summer. Today is the middle of September, and I'm getting antsy to start filling out the applications and hoping to go again next year! They send programs to Morocco and Jordan, as well as Egypt depending on politics, and I'd love to go again; at least having a couple applications essays would give me something to do to think about it.

I really miss the Middle East, and speaking Arabic, and so many things about it there. Insha'allah I'll be able to return before I'm done with high school.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Police

So one day we all get on the bus for school, but we soon enough find out that we're not actually going to school that morning, but we're going to go to the police station in Sweileh until we get our visas figured out.

So here's what happens, you get a visa, and it's for a month or forty days or something like that. There's a stamp in your passport that says "see a police station immediately" or something like that. To get your visa extended, you're supposed to do a blood test, and then pay and dinar and a half for every day that you overstayed your visa without the extension. We didn't do either of those things, and we've overstayed our visas by about two weeks, and to leave the country, we need to sort this out.

So we all get off the bus at the police station. Government buildings in Amman have their own sort of charm, or not. They're usually labelled in fancy Arabic script, compared to the usual fonts on most buildings. The national seal, or symbol, or whatever it's called, emblem maybe, is below the name of the building. Outside, there are usually guards in black and grey camoflage uniforms, holding some sort of large black guns, multiple feet in length. I got used to the guns being around relatively quickly, but the harder thing to get used to was the fact that some of the soldiers holding the guns couldn't have been but a few years older than me. Which was kind of strange, but there they stood, holding their guns. Sometimes they themselves looked uncomfortable with their weapons, but usually they just stood there. Along with these soldiers, dependent on the importance of the buildings, sometimes sat tanks, with a man sitting in the top wearing his helemet with a gun at the ready, and several others standing on the ground around it, ready to go. This usually perterbed me more than the soldiers standing by the gates and around the walls.

Walking into the police station, you walk up a big whitish staircase, and go inside, where you are met by several officers wondering why in the world fifteen high schoolers from America have suddenly shown up, much less in their police station, in Sweileh, which is arguably the poorest section of Amman, according to your sources. (Not all of Sweileh is like this, though). They quickly walk us down this long white hallway into a plain white room, with two women sitting at a desk behind a sheet of glass. We all sit, fifteen of us in about ten chairs, complying with their request for us to sit, and our directors argue back and forth about the visas. Then they get us all up, and we move much further down another hallway, and we sit in another room. On the way, we passed plenty of large, fancy rooms, with leather armchairs and big screen televisions, but we settle into another plain white room with plastic chairs. They argue back and forth again, and I can pretty much only catch some numbers and days, which I guess is pretty much all they were arguing about. I never really found out exactly what they argued about, but after maybe half an hour of sitting there, they told us all to leave, and so we left.

Afterwards, I found out that they finally just gave up and agreed to get us out of their police station, as long as we paid them a small fine, something around the price of the blood test that we wouldn't take. And so we paid them for the blood test, didn't take it, but got our passports stamped that we did take it, and each got a recipt, a small scrap of official looking paperwork to present to the security officers at the airport if there were any questions about whether or not we took the blood tests. And that was that.

We went back to school, and when asked why our class was late, we simply offered that we had to go to the police. That was accepted by our teachers without further explanation, and so that was that.

Water Tanks

This is what the roof of our apartment building looked like, just concrete and all, and then a bit higher up there were the tanks. This is where all your water comes from in the apartments. If the tank goes dry, just wait until the next time the water truck comes around. Sometimes there's an extra tank that youc an get switched to, but honestly, just try not to use up all the water in the first place. You share water tanks with other apartments, so it might not be your fault if you run out. But you also don't want to be the ones causing some other family's faucets to run dry because you took too long of a shower. I kind of like having to think about the water tanks, I think it's a good thing to be a little more aware of how much water you use. Especially when our toilet broke and you had to flush it manually with the showerhead, it was interesting to see exactly how much water you use every time you flush the toilet.

All McDonalds aren't the same.

Could you find this in the states? I think not. Yeah, that's pretty much all I wanted to say on this topic. I only went to McDonald's once, and didn't even order anything. Just wanted to see what they had, remembering that they offered mango and green apple sundaes in China compared to the states' chocolate and strawberry. In Jordan, we found this.

Laundry Duty

Laundry isn't hard. I know that. But when you walk up the machine and see this, there's the moment of, "I wish that laundry didn't have to be an experiment." Turns out that turned to the left, the machine spins, and to the right it drains. The middle is supposed to be off, but our machine was broken, so that it ended up being somewhere between off and drain, meaning that it would leak all over the floor if the hose wasn't elevated above the bottom of the tank. Kind of a challenge when the hose is meant to just lie on the floor when not in use.

I've already described laundry on here, and while it was dreaded there, I now miss it. It's too easy here - I don't need to manually fill it up, and it washes and rinses automatically, and there's not a massive risk of soap stains. AS well, if I leave the laundry in the washing machine here for a couple hours after it ends, it doesn't reek of fish.

Too easy.

Trash Days

This is a picture looking down from the roof of our building onto a lovely game of Trash. Trash was kept on the ledge of the window of Ten Ghirsh, and when it became too much, they'd play a sort of game of basketball and try to throw it down into the can. Sometimes it became quite a spectacle, and the challenge was keeping the little kids that ran around downstairs out of the way of the falling bags and bottles.

Al-Matbakh - The Kitchen

So this is what the stoves and ovens look like in Jordan, both in my apartment and my host family house. First, there's the gas tank, which is on the right here. It just hooks up to the stove with a tube, almost like you're camping, and that's where the gas comes from. If you run out, there's a truck that comes around and you buy another tank. To us, the truck is referred to as the "dead clown music" truck because of the music that is plays to let you know when it's coming. It's pretty much on off-key ice cream truck on steroids. It's the kind of thing you despise as it drives past your window at four in the morning, but now that I'm home I miss it sorely.

So then there's the stove, which has wheels and can be moved around, compared to stoves in America which are usually built into a counter or whatever. The stove is lit with a match or a lighter after turning on the gas. It took  a couple tries to figure out how much the gas needed to be turned on so that the stove didn't essentially explode when you lit it. I burned my hands a few times in the beginning. In the picture, the stove is open, and then there's the glass cover pulled up so you can use it. I guess maybe you could put that down when you're not using it, and use the top as extra counter space, as the counters are tiny, but we usually just left it open, in both the apartments and my host family. The table was a good enough counter.

As far as the oven goes, I only used that once, in my host families. We were making Chicago style deep dish pizzas from scratch, which is an adventure quite difficult but really fun if you're up for the challenge. especially because I'd bet that your host family, same as mine, will have no idea why your pizza is so thick, and why the sauce is on top. They asked if I was making a cake, but in the end they enjoyed eating the pizza. Anyways, to use the ove, you put whatever you're cooking on the lower rack, turn on the gas, light a roll of newspaper, and stick that into this hole in the bottom of the oven to light the bottom of the oven. The nespaper is necessary because you have to stick it pretty far in there, and a match wouldn't work. Once the bottom of whatever you're cooking is done, you move it to the top rack, put out the bottom flame, and light the top, and then literally cook the top. It's a strange system, and you wouldn't think it works but it does.

And then there's the two pots. That's just the innovation you create when your apartments were stocked with no lids but two pots, and you're making pasta. By the way, we were short on utensils, so I ate that pasta with a wrench. And plates? Yeah right, we were usually short and just ate all out of the pot. Good times.

Burtqaal Ao Frawla?

Just a random bit. Outside of our school there was a small shop that sold snacks and phone cards and then, suddenly a smoothie machine appeared. They just had slushies in there, but that was really nice after school to get a nos dinar, or roughly half dollar, slushie. They only had orange and "red," which we guessed was strawberry, but it became a daily routine for a couple weeks to get a slushie after school. It's really sad that our school in America doesn't have them.

Gloria Jeans

Gloria Jeans is a chain coffee shop that has little outlets all around Amman, and I'm guessing other cities, but I have no way to know about that. The one we went two was maybe a fifteen minute walk from our apartment building, down Shar3 Jam3a, or University Street, past the University of Jordan. Lovingly known as Fat Street for it's plethora of fast food chains, mostly American, but including the Middle Eastern options such as Lebnani's Snacks, and the local smaller cafés, it was always crowded with college kids and some families.

Gloria Jeans is just a simple coffee shop, but they've got it set up to have plenty of room to sit and study, as we did for many times and long hours. We'd just take all our books there and study, especially right before finals. The guys working there really liked tw of the girls in our group, and we ended up with Ramadan Kareem coupons, which sadly enough we never ended up using. But we still frequented the cofee shop often enough, as there was a second floor room with a big window, which was great for people watching in between Arabic worksheets and notecards.

Old View Café

Our favorite café in Amman was Old View, off of Shar3 Rainbow, or Rainbow Street to the foreigners. I couldn't give you exact directions there, anything more than walk past the billboards and the guitar plaza, turn right after Souq Jara, and go a little further. It's a really gorgeous café though, where you can sit and chill and just watch the city for hours, as we did multiple times.

Every time we went we always had the same waiter, and he always seemed slightly disapproving of what we were ordering. Maybe it's because we tended to bring our own water in, but their water was ridiculously overpriced. We got maybe one or two things, ate the foul and pumpkin seeds and peanuts that came with the cover charge, and sat and talked for hours. Usually by the time we left it was dark, and because the café isn't lit by more than lanterns, we always had a heck of a time figuring out exactly how much we owed, because the check was scribbled on the smallest scrap of paper they could find in some messy Arabic. That probably contributed to his slight disapproval as well. We were quiet enough, and conservatively dressed, and spoke Arabic well enough to order without any problems though, so I'm not sure what the problem was.

We've already decided that if we ever go back there together, that's the first place we go.

The Alley

This is a picture of the alley next to our apartments. The writing on the wall roughly tranliterates to "safwad," which is the name of the apartment manager. I'm pretty sure he painted it up there at some point.

The walls are all very high because the buildings are built into the side of the mountains, so even from what was the ground where I stood, I would take a picture up and just barely get the ground where I was aiming the camera. From the third floor of our building, you could look one direction and be even with the garage of the building next door. From the roof, you were even with the forth floor of one building next door and the first floor of the one in the other direction.

The boxes on the left are the ones on our building. Technically, those are the air conditioning boxes, but the chance of your apartment having working air conditioning was about half. Sometimes though, actually most of the time, it'd be hot enough that if you turned it on they'd start dripping from the temperature difference. That was always weird to get water dripping on your head as you walked out of the building, keeping in mind that it doesn't ever rain in the summer there, and that we literally didn't see a single cloud the entire time. There's just not enough humidity.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Once upon a time there, there were two teenaged boys named Ryan and Jonas. By a miracle of fate, they ended up sharing an apartment in Amman, Jordan. As they moved in, they found a ten qirsh coin, and in pronoucing it in the "manly" fashion in Amman, dubbed their apartment "Ten Ghirsh."

The apartments each had the same number of rooms. There were two bedrooms, once living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. In Ten Ghirsh, both of the single beds from the bedrooms were moved into the living room, along with the cabinets and the couches. Then, the mattress from the twin bed was put on the floor, and you had your version of a Jordanian bachelor pad. Complete with speakers and never ending music, apartment five became "TEN GHIRSH."

Harem Pants

So harem pants were the coveted souvenir out of our group, despite the fact that they weren't really Jordanian at all, just funny looking.

So that's a picture of my harem pants. Some people got them in different colors, but that's mine. And so here's a list of some of the quirks of harem pants.
  • The store that we bought them in was extremely sketchy, and to try them on you went up this rickety staircase to the storeroom upstairs, and tried them on among the boxes full of cheap tourist souvenirs.
  • They were too big for you in you were less than about five two, so then they had to be pulled up to your chest and worn as a romper, or rolled to an extreme so you could wear them as pants.
  • If they fit and you wore them as pants, the crotch comes down to your knees. They're funny like that.
  • Airport security will indeed comment on how your whole group is wearing matching pants.
  • Keep in mind, they don't look nearly as ridiculous in Jordan as they do in the states.

The Couches

The couches in our apartments were interesting, to say the least.

In the lobby there were three couches for us to eat breakfast and lunch on. While they were covered in some fancy looking fabric, they were pretty much wooden frames with some cardboard in there. Cardboard was the secret ingredient in pretty much every piece of furniture we had in there.

And so a couch with three cushions would usually be fine for five or six people in the states, but these couches were extremely uncomfortable to sit between two cushions because you could feel the wooden sticks in your rear when you sat, let's just leave it at that.

Also, random story about a couch. They were randomly repaired in places you wouldn't expect, so one day I was sitting on the couch and moved my foot somehow so that a nail was sticking up from the side of the couch and when I put my foot down it stuck far up into the sole of my foot. Needless to say those couches were uncomfortable and bloodthirsty. And yet we still loved them.

Let Me Close the Elevator, los hamat!

The manager of the apartment had a son, and he would run around the complex entertaining himself. He was a super sweet kid, and many times during one of our lobby meals he'd stick his head in the window and start talking in Arabic to us. He was a sweet kid, kind of hard to have a conversation with because his reply to every question you asked would be his name, but still. He was fun to play soccer in the alley with.

One day, we were done talking to him and wanted to go back to our apartment upstairs, so we get in the elevator and do that whole "ma'a salaama, bishofak" thing, (go in peace, see you later), and press the third floor. The door starts to close, but then reopens and we see the kid standing there pressing the button on the outside, like he wants to come up. Once he realizes the power he now has, he won't stop. So after five minutes of begging, we finally just pull him into the elevator with us. He's rather confused, as this isn't normal for him, but we go up, we get out, and we hit the zero floor button for him again to go back down. He just stood there and looked confused.


So I got home yesterday morning, which is really, really sad. And I didn't get to blog very much when I was over there, so now I'm going to just post about as many random stories and tidbits as I can from my time over in Jordan. But I am indeed home now.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Souk Sultan

So tonight we decided to take a walk to a nearby street that happens to have a lot of shops and goes by the name of Souk Sultan. So here's a description of it tonight.

First of all, sidewalks here are a joke. We walk in the street. The only problem with this is the every constant screeching of cars and hiking when they almost hit you, and in one case, did hit. He is fine though. So we walk in the street, but the streets here are really dirty. Is not like they're necessarily filled with trash, even though they are, as littering is a common practice, but the streets are just sticky, or something of that sort. Is hard to put a finger on exactly what is wrong with them. They're not sticky everywhere, usually just on more popular streets, especially by restaurants. Maybe it's oil or something.

Souk Sultan is a pretty much a bunch of shops and restaurants, and yet it was surprisingly hard to find somewhere to get a meal tonight. We ended up just buying some snack foods and a couple of vegetables and a watermelon. The watermelon was about eighty qirsh, which is about one USD. Yet another thing I love about Jordan. Fruits and vegetables are so cheap here. It's amazing.

So we walk home, get some stuff yelled at us through car windows as people drive by, but that's normal here. We get everything from welcome to Jordan to some pretty profane phrases. No big though, it's normal. Then we got followed by some little kid, and it sucks to have to yell at him to go away, but we can't give money to all the beggars. And when they follow you for such a long time, it's weird. Anyways.

But then we get home, make some food, eat the watermelon, and work on some projects about the places we went to on our big trip. I'm working on wadi rum, but we finished our project earlier, but the Aqaba and Petra groups are still working. And someone else needs this iPad, so I guess that's all. Bye!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Life so far in the apartments

So our apartments are an interesting mix of disgusting and broken. For the most part we have cleaned and fixed them, but I will describe them to you as we found them.

So my apartment is three rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. I share it with two other girls from the trip. I share my bedroom with one of the girls, and we each have what is bed described as a wooden cot. Although I honestly do not spend that much time sleeping on it, we usually hang out in someone else's apartment until two or three, fall asleep there, wake up in the middle of the night and come back here.

Then there is one bedroom where the other girl sleeps, and a living room. The living room had a couch, a loveseat, and two chairs in it, but we moved the chairs into the hallway by the dining table, which is in the hallways because it doesn't fit in the kitchen. The living room is turning into mostly the laundry room, because the drying rack is in there, and because the chairs are in the hallway we chill in the hall.

The kitchen is a hot mess. First of all, it is extremely small, even compared to the other apartments. There's barely enough room for two people to stand in there at the same time, but it's okay. There is a cabinet for the meager amount of dishes we have, a stove, a gas tank for the stove, a fridge, and our washing machine. Originally the washing machine was in the bathroom, but we moved it into the kitchen, which I can explain when I tell you about the bathroom. The kitchen floor is always kind of wet, because when the laundry machine drains, it drains into this thing in the floor, but the thing is full of hair and bugs and disgustingness, and while I am willing to clean almost anything, there is no way that I'm sticking my hand down that drain to clean it. So when the washing machine drains, the water doesn't go down fast enough so it floods the floor, and we have to use this squeegee brush thing to pull all the water to the drain or terror again.

Actually, let me describe to you the process that is called laundry here. I'm not complaining, it's kind of annoying to do but it's funny so whatever. First, open the top of the washing machine and realize how small it is. Namely, about the size of a shop vac. Then, take a bowl to fill it up with water, and dump it into the machine. There is no water hookup to the machine, so you have to fill it up manually, and a bowl or teapot is the best you can do. Then, put a few things of clothes in, dump in some Persil, the only laundry detergent anybody uses here, and turn it on. Let it wash for fifteen minutes, drain it into the floor like I described earlier, refill it with water and no soap to rinse, and repeat the draining process.

Then move the clothes into what is the size of a wastebasket next to the washing machine and spin them for five minutes,then hang them up on the rack in the living room.

Now let me describe to you the bathroom as we found it. The toilet was broken, the shower head was hanging down because it's a European shower but the thing to hang it on the wall was gone, the mirror is about four inches by six inches, and the drain in the floor here was even worse than in the kitchen. But it's all fixed now after much work on the part of the building manager dude. So were good. Except that the toilet is still. A bit temperamental, but there's nothing we can do about that.

As far as the washing machine in the bathroom, it was supposed to be in there so we could fill it up with the shower head, but the nearest electrical plug was in the hallway, so to use the washing machine in the bathroom it had to be pulled out to whee it blocked the bathroom door from closing so at the plug could reach the outlet. So for the first three days of the stay our bathroom door never really closed, and when you needed the bathroom you had to tell everyone not to look, which was weird. Soon later we decided that we'd rather have to fill it with bowls of water and be able to close the door.

That's pretty much it as far as our own apartment goes. There's six rooms of people from the trip, four on my floor and two below us, and then the other two rooms on the floor below us are the resident director and assistant resident director for the trip.

Oh, one more thing about the apartment itself that I like is that fact that you can go on the roof and chill, just take the stairs or elevator up and chill out there.

Well, we are visiting our host families this afternoon, so I have to go finish my homework now. Bye!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Walking As Far as Possible

So I haven't had a lot of time to post stuff, and I can catch up later, but here's a fun story from this weekend.

We were sleeping at the Beadouin camp at Wadi Rum in the south of Jordan, and we had some time to explore. Our campsite was against a mountain, and then there was just a massive amount of desert in the other direction.

So, we turned towards the desert, and literally decided to walk as far as we could "that way". And so we did. We walked for about forty minutes just in one direction, and finally decided that we were going to walk to this mountain across the desert that looked close, but we knew was far away.  We walked and walked and walked to this mountain, got there, took pictures, and walked back. Across the desert. We were looking for a ten minute walk maybe, but we took a little long, and the sun went down, and we ended up being gone for over an hour and a half, just walking in the desert. It's a really cool feeling to literally decide to walk as far as you can, and actually do it. Especially when the limit is a literal mountain in the middle of the desert. This makes me think of Michaeline, and the summer bucket list. This one? Check.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Muhammad says...

So two of us are sleeping outside tonight, and this is the list of reasons our ten year old host brother gave us not to do it.

The ant will come like the soldiers and go inside your ear

Two spiders will come in your mouth

The tiger will take your glasses

The bicycle will become another tiger, and be a female, and have a thousand babies and they will eat you.

Two cats will come and make death in your mouth

The ants will put electricity in your nose so you snore and the dogs will attack you because the noise will annoy you

The men from the street will come and take you

They will turn you into an apple

All of the turtles in the world will come and turd all over you.

A truck will come and dump soil on you

Superman will try to save you but the ants will scarehim away

The bats will come and sleep on you and you will be a thousand years

I am kind of scared. Bye!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


So here's a lovely story of how we got home from school today.

Normally we take the bus home from school, but we're leaving for a weekend trip down south this weekend, so we needed to go to the bank across the street from school to exchange money before we left, so eight of us decided to just go there and then take taxis home. Taxis are usually easy, so no big.

So first, we need to get a taxi. Traffic is insane here, what with there being no actual lanes and such, and every taxi that passed us was full, until we finally got one.

Total time so far: 30 minutes

So there's four of us in this cab, and in Jordan women DO NOT sit in the front of the taxi unless necessary. But we decided that it'd be fine, although honestly this was the first time I'd seen any women in the front of  taxi. So I sit in the front of the cab, and he refuses to look at me, which is the polite thing to do here, but it's strange to be in the front of the cab with a driver who refuses to talk to or look at you. But that's respectful here, so no big.

We drive a little bit, but trafffic is insane. His 3dad, or meter, isn't very fast though, so it's okay. Some meters here are by time, not distance, so traffic is  problem. But that wasn't in this cab, so we were good. We get to a standstill, and he turns to my side and calls through the window to another cab driver beside us for a lighter. Everyone smokes here, so it's guaranteed he has one. And when I mean everyone, I don't literally mean everyone, but just about. But that's what I love about Jordan, the fact that the other driver tossed me a lighter, my driver lit his cigarette, and then we handed it back. But they refused to touch my hand in this process, and so there's that whole magical barrier around women again. I guess that's just here, and it's nice sometimes.

After getting to the area of Amman where two of the girls live, and having their host mom give the driver directions for the rest of the way, they got home, leaving two of us in the cab.

Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

So then we tell the driver that we need to get to the hospital across the street from our house, and he nods and takes off.

Half an hour later, we get to  traffic circle, and he points out the window and says that the hospital is right over there, and we can get out there. So we do, and he leaves. The hospital wasn't right there. There was nothyer one there, but we didn't actually need a hospital.

So all in all, we waited by that traffic circle for another fourty minutes, and when we did get a cab we had to pay extra so he'd take us and not the six other people all trying to get the cab.

Total time to get home, which would be a ten minute cab ride: 3 hours.

I love Amman.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


So there's  bunch of things that I've noticed here that are considered normal,. and my family cn't seem to understand why I think it's strange, but they're kind of cool. So here you go.

The irony of seeing a Dodge Caravan with a license plate from Iraq kind of threw me off for a moment.

Being at one of the relatives houses and having them joke that with the new car one of the husbands had just bought he might be able to fit into Abdoun, which is  region of Amman that's really upper class, and where one of the other host students in our group's family lives, and just noticing the very strict distinction of classes here.

The failure of my attempt to eat my vegetables first so I could just eat my rice plain. Word of advice, if you don't want something, eat it last so nobody feels the need to refill your plate despite repeated "la shukran"s,, or no thank you's. Seriously

The fact that if you're sick, the over the counter drugs here are actually prescription antibiotics. That they just kind of hand to you. No, Mom, I'm not sick.

The annoyances of the fact that the paper here is about two inches taller than the paper in America so it doesn't fit into any of the folders I brought from home. But the new one I got here is pretty awesome, but not even recognizable as what we would call a folder at home.

The fact that coming home from school to falafel balls is awesome.

The fact that they have something like a mulberry tree in the neighbor's yard, and So I'm down for berries whenever here. Honestly, they taste better than mulberries, but they stain your hands worse. Also awesome is the fact that n3na, or mint, just kind of grows everywhere. And olive trees. There are literally olive trees growing out of the cracks in the sidewalks.

Feeling really urduneea, or Jordanian, when I felt annoyed that we got rice instead of pita at a Yemeni restaurant we went to. I don't know what I'm going to do at home without pita.

Ice cream cones from street vendors here are served with  little cone stuck to the side to use as a spoon. And if you don't want to use it, the typical method of eating ice cream to bite, not lick. Just saying

I love it here. It's awesome. .

Bird Watching

This is just one of many tales of miscommunication that occurs when I can't understand what my family is trying to tell me. The best time was when I'm pretty sure I told my host dad I needed to eat the computer for homework, but this story is more interesting.

So what I thought we were doing was bird watching. I was so sure that's what they were trying to tell me, and my little brother was pretending to be a bird and such, so I thought we were going bird watching. Which didn't really make any sense, because there aren't really birds here. No joke, people joke that the national bird is the plastic trash bags that line the edges of every road. Anyways, we get in a taxi, my host mom, two sisters, and brother, and off we go, to what I think is going bird watching. Actually I think we were going to  legitimate park, but it was closed, so we ended up at what I can only describe as the strangest park I've ever seen before in my life. First of all, it was jammed full of people, and wasn't very big. It was bordered by  sidewalk, where the women walked in circles endlessly, and in the middle was some sort of  playground and a massive sandbox. Near the edge was a fenced in soccer, football here, court, and a man renting argylas, which was an unexpected sight in a children's park. But hey, I'm getting used to it being everywhere here. Buildings here don't have air with some smoke, they have smoke with some air. That's just how it is, people smoke nonstop, especially the men.

So me and my younger host sister start walking around what was literally a sidewalk track, and we walked in circles for a couple hours. I guess that's just what exercise looks like here. I got lots of stares for not being hijabi, but whatever. I'm getting used to that too. Although I wouldn't mind having a shirt that reads "Please don't stare at the ehjnabeea (foreigner)." That'd be nice.

Israel and Palestine

So this whole Israel Palestine thing is something people just don't discuss here, because the views are extremely pro-Arab and you don't want to accidentally bring it up with the wrong person and have it turn into  massive fight or anything. But there's one thing that was interesting about it that I want to share.

I was looking at my 13 year old host sister's textbooks, and flipping through her geography book. She was pointing out the countries names in Arabic, as they weren't labelled in English. When we got to the Middle East, she pointed out what in America, or fi Amreeka as they say here, is known as Israel. She had never heard the name Israel before, or had any idea of an equivalent. They call it "feelesteen" and just have Palestine. Which is just strange that different parts of the world are so stubborn in their acknowledgements of the world that people don't even know about the other side's perceptions.

Birthday Cake

So my host sister just turned five, and for her birthday we made a cake, and they were trying to explain what we were going to make, and the sister said fruitcake, which really confused me because what I think of as fruitcake is disgusting, and only old ladies eat it. I tried to ask if they decorate birthday cakes here, but they got really confused and didn't understand anything I was saying. Turns out the birthd\ay cake we made here was actually a pineapple upsiude down cake, which made me really excited because Oma hasn't made one of those in such a long time, and the fact that we made one here is just funny.

The strange part about it was that they had to go buy these little packets of baking powder down the street before we could bake. Baking is literally such a rare thing that they don't even stock baking powder in the  houses, which was just strange to notice. Anyways, that's all about the birthday Happy Birthday Muna.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


So I want to tell you about Neda. She lives Next Door, and is super awesome. Last night, she gave me a bowl of berries from the tree in her yard. Breaking all the health and safety rules, I ate them. It was delicious, and totally worth whatever risk there was.

So today, I got over to her house to go see the other exchange student who lives there, and we wanted to talk to her host brother, who is super shy. His typical response to me coming over, or to anybody at all, is to run into his room and barricade the door shut. He's in his twenties.

So anyways, the first thing that Neda does when he goes into his room is run to the door and tell us to go outside to the window, which is a really awesome thing for a lady her age to say. She is super awesome.

Okay, moving on to what else I did this morning. I got up, and kind of wandered upstairs to see what was up, as my host family was still sleeping. Average wake up time here is around noon, and my getting up at ei is considered extremely early. So I wander upstairs to the next family November us, and they are awake, getting ready to go out to their farm in a town a few mountains over near a small town called Salt. So I ended up getting into a car, going out to this farm to help build a house. Just kind of on a whim but it turned out fantastic.

First of all, it is gorgeous. There are mountains everywhere, and they are huge and gorgeous. secondly, it is so close to the green line and the west bank. My ten year old host cousin was in the car with me, and he just kind if pointed out the window and pointed across the valley and told me that it was the green line and the other side was the West Bank. It is strange to see that place that has been on the news so much in the states as a far away place, and just kind of point out the window at it.

So we get to the farm, and the difference between farms in Illinois and farms here is that here, farms are olive and nectarine trees on the side of a hill. I can not describe it, I can post pictures when I get home. But I still do not think that will do it justice.

So later, we went downtown, and here is the only thing that is weird about Amman. I know that many Internet websites say that it is common to see girls without hijab, but I do not know what city they are in. If I see someone without a hijab it is very strange. So when we go downtown, we get stared at, and honked at, and yelled at. the typical yell is WELCOME TO JORDAN is their accent, which is almost Italian. We get kind of harassed a lot, but just yells, nothing physical. So whatever, downtown was fun.

Well, I have to go. I love it here, so so so so much. bye!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ajloun and Downtown

So we went to Ajloun, which is an old castle, which pretty much meant we were in the sun, which meant headscarf. It's cooler to wear it, so I did. Also, in that city, outside of Amman, hijab and niqab are even more common than in Amman. Every local woman wears at least hijab, maybe niqab. Especially the women from Saudi, wearing the full face cover, and then the men in what looks like a white robe and  head cloth. I don't know what they're called.

That night, I went to downtown Amman with my host family. It's kind of insane,, with seven people in a compact car, adding in the traffic, but it was fun. And I totally ignored any sort of health rules, eating street food and fruit from vendors before it was washed. I don't suggest that, but I'm fine.. 

At the Embassy and Safeway

Going to the US embassy was an experience, to say the least. First of all, there are Jordanian soliders all up nd down the street. This is a common sight anywhere in Amman to see soliders armed with big machine guns just walking around, but at the embassy there are a lot of them. Also, there are literally tanks just sitting there, with people in them holdings those big guns, ready to go. The line at the embassy to get visas and such is very long, and people are lined up outside before it even opens, sitting on the ground like the next iPod was coming out, except here this is every day.

After the embassy, we took taxis to the store. Taxis are an interesting business here, with the traffic and all. But to make sure you don't get cheated by a taxi, you have to first make sure is a meter, it is on, and it starts at .250 JD. If there isn't, you point and say "Aadaad?" And the driver should turn one on. If he doesn't,. you open the door and leave. Once you start driving, if the meter moves too quickly, you say "Hallas," and get out and leave. If he talks too much, you leave. Leaving is common, and I've done it. That's just how it works here.

As far as talking too much, that's because of the gender roles here. Women do not, under any circumstances sit in the front of the taxi. Also, women do not look in the rearview mirror, as direct eye contact with a guy here is considered to be flirting, and you don't want  taxi driver to get the wrong idea. Talking is also considered flirting. So, when we have two or three girls walking down the street, we've developed the "I'm not here" look, which is lowering your head to the point where you don't even think about talking to us if you're a guy. We still get honked and yelled at. but that's just because we don't wear hijab and look like foreigners.

Anyways, random thought, escalators in large stores here aren't esclators. They're moving walkways, like at O'Hare, but on a steep incline. Scariest. Thing. Ever.

Week One

So this is going to be a flurry of short posts. I'm going to see what I can do before the bus comes. can do before the bus comes.
My family is fantastic, so wonderful. Our house is the lowest level of a three floor building, where my host dad's sisters families live on the upper two floors. The second floor's family is hilarious, and has a bunch of little girls, and the third floor's family actually lives in Saudi, but they're here for the summer.
The house set-up here is different though. Most of the other exchange students houses aren't like this, and are a bit bigger, but I still like this house the most. "Small house, big heart," my host mom says. The house has six rooms. There's the room you walk into from the front door, which has a few couches, a dining room, another smll living room, my bedroom, which is just a tad smaller than a dormroom, the bedroom for the other six people in my family, and the kitchen. The thing is, the sink is in the dining room because it doesn't fit in the bathroom, the washing machine is in the kitchen because it doesn't fit anywhere else, and the bathroom is quite different from the states.
This isn't the norm here, just my house. There is a toilet and a bidet, right next to each other. Between that and the door, there is just enough room to stand, and so a showerhead has been mounted on the wall right there. There is simply a drain in the middle of the bathroom, and when you're done with a shower there's a squegee broom that you push all the water on the bathroom floor towards the drain with. It was an experience to take my first shower here, and not know how to use the water tank, and keep hitting the toilet during my ice cold shower. (Here, you have to manually turn on a water heater for hot water. It's a menacing tank on the wall.
My host family is great though, but I don't really want to write about them, just for privacy and such.
There are a few other things that in general differ from the culture in America. The sleep schedule for pretty much everyone, including the little kids, is bed around 1 or 2 am, and sleeping later. Unfortunately, I have to catch the 7:30 bus or so, so I just sleep less.
Another thing, there is what we call "Jordinian time," meaning that time doesn't exist. Buses leave when full, not on a schedule. When someone asks when you'll be back, the answer is "Yanni, thamanniyeh, inshallah," meaning "maybe, eight, if god wills it." Which really means you have no idea.
The reason for this is traffic. Amman's traffic is insane. There are lanes painted on the roads, but lanes aren't lanes. Cars weave back and forth through each other. Screeching halts are more common than turn signals. And so accidents happen, and traffic jams happen, much more than the states. My host mom is scared to drive, and for good reason.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Meeting my host family

I'm very confused by this keyboard, it's just Arabic letters, so pardon any typos. It's not a normal keyboard.

We got to Amman yesterday morning around 3 am, and watched the sun come up as we drove into the city from the airport.  You know how there's that image of the Middle East as really dusty and sandy, and all the buildings are that off-tan color? It's totally like that, and every building is that color. There was lots of stuff to see, everything from entire pigs hanging up to dry out the meat to soliders with massive automatic guns just standing around. There's actually a lot of soldiers like that with the really big guns, just around on the streets. It's a bit strange to see, but not really scary. I asked my host family about it, as best I could in Arabic, and they just kind of brushed it off

I have three sisters and a brother, and only one of them speaks English, and even her only barely. The parents don't, but that's good, because I want to learn Arabic. Thje school is very nice, except that I was this keyboard had Eng;lish letters. It's strange.

The food is very good, my host mom is an amazing cook. They made french fries last night, trying to be American, but then a lot of other arabic food as well. For breakfast, I was trying tp cook an egg, and asked for some cooking opil, but they filled the pan with about two inches o\f oil. Apparently here, eggs are deep fried when they're cooked.

Anyways, it's fantastic, but I should probably get back now. We have oriention that I need to get back to.

Ma salaamaa!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting Ready for Some Serious Travel

So we're leaving the hotel here in DC in exactly 13 minutes. They're very prompt. We'll be flying to Frankfurt, and then to Amman. This takes three days. It's Wednesday, and we get on a plane tonight. But then, we don't get to Amman until Friday, so it's going to be a long couple days. It was strange to get dressed and braid my hair this morning and think that this is what I'm going to look like for the next three days, unless I want to change my clothes randomly on a plane. Which I don't.

So today we finished up orientation, which was necessary but bland. We went over rules and such, and handed out our stipends, passports with visas (which are really pretty, actually!) and our cell phones for in Amman. That's right, I have, in my backpack, a cell phone with Arabic instead of English. I'm so pumped. OH, AND I GET TO TEXT WITH IT! I think it's funny how my first texting phone is going to be in Jordan, in Arabic.

So after getting all the logistics out of the way, we took a quick quiz on Arabic. I was pretty happy with how I did, but we all definitely are beginners, and have a lot of work to do. So after we went through the quiz, we started having ammiya lessons with our assistant resident director. He's a really good teacher, and we got through a lot of stuff for the short time we had left here in DC. Ammiya is the local dialect of Arabic that is spoken is a certain region. The ammiya in Jordan is Levantine, and is also spoken in Syria, Palestine, and a few other countries in the region. MSA, or modern standard Arabic, is a formal, written language, and is not anybody's native language. People learn the ammiya as their first language, and then study MSA in school. MSA is a formal Arabic, used in the media and printing, as well as formal speeches. But for day to day use, ammiya is the spoken language. So, apparently it's silly to speak MSA day-to-day, and it's silly to write ammiya, which is going to be, well, interesting to keep straight, but challeges are fun.

Also, I know a lot of people wanted to send letters, but the postal system works differently in Jordan. People don't really send letters, and so houses aren't labelled with street numbers like in the USA, and there isn't a postman that goes door to door. There's a post office, but people don't just stop by to see if they got a letter, they go on certain days to get bills and such, which they know are there. So mailing me isn't really an option, but I can send letters back to America. So if I have your address, I can write, if I have time. But mailing me doesn't work, and won't work. It's not that I don't know the address to give you, I literally won't ever have an address.

I'm really excited to meet my host family though, and start classes. Talking about going to Jordan for two full days of orientation has made me just that much more excited, and I can't wait to just get there and dive in. No more English! The resident director said my host family doesn't speak English, so it should be really good. I'm not nervous, just really looking forward to it. But I have three days now of travel before we get there, so we're ready for a long haul. I'm just going to study, and sleep, and study, and sleep. It's wonderful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sera - The Most Important Person Ever. Maybe.

So I met this girl named Sera. She is standing next to me. She just told me to say that she's a little bit bipolar. But apparently not. We're strangely hyper, so please ignore this post. Actually, she says it's the most important post ever to be written on this blog. We're in the hotel lobby, where the keyboards are at this awkward height, too tall for chairs and too low for standing.

Sera is on the computer next to me. She's smiling awkwardly, or attractively, depending on the source, while read this aloud as I type it. She doesn't understand anything. I feel like I misheard something.

She just deactivated her Facebook. What a daredevil. That's probably smart. My friends always spam me when I'm away on vacations and such. Yeah, Louisa, I'm talking to you.


If you actually wanted to read about my trip, ignore this post. It's a bonding experience post.

(Everyone else on the trip is chill too. Sera just happens to be right here. She wants to know whether that's a compliment).


Day Two of Orientation

So tday we had a full day of orientation, just chilling in the American Councuils office in the morning, and then doing various stuff in the afternoon. Which was more interesting in the afternoon, so I'll probably talk most about the mosque here in DC.

First of all, yes, we wore headscarves. (We also started our long sleeve long pants clothes all day, which was hot at first, but I got used to it. I'm going to be so pale when I get home. So pale!). I have lots of pictures, but I don't have a cord to upload them now, put they'll pretty cool. Apparently I looked like an Eastern European, which is cool I guess. The imam, or leader of the mosque, was really cool. He was this big awesome guy who seemed like he was from the Caribbean, and was wearing a rock and roll t-shirt. But he talked to us about Islam, and was really into it, an very spiritual, in his own way. The mosuqe was gorgeous, more pictures to come, but not yet. There were tiles all over the walls, which were from Turkey, and then the ceiling was super ornate. They said that the windows were from one country, and the lights another. It was very international.

We had to take our shoes off at the door, but it was carpeted inside and really nice. So we went in with our headscarves and socks on, and sat on the floor. There were  people praying in there, and it was rather peaceful. There was an elderly gentleman praying when we first got in, and I'm not sure what he was saying, but it was some sort of a chant and it was rather soothing. Various people came in and out of the mosque, coming and going. There were other women, who all seemed rather pleased that we were wearing the headscarves.

Oh, this is stream of conciousness, because I don't have much time to write. But we were talking about our school in Amman at orientation, which is the Qasid Institute. They have some rules for students there that would be strange to think about in America. As a student there, I am officially not allowed to go to various other Middle Eastern countries, including Palestine and Israel. It's in the student contract, which just wasn't something I expected. But other than that, it seems like a really cool school, and I can't wait to get started.

As for my schedule for the next couple days, it goes something like this. Tomorrow we have orientation all day, and then our flight leaves that night. It's overnight to Frankfurt, and then we get to spend all day in the Frankfurt airport. Apparently it's an awesome airport, and there's a movie theater in the airport, so we should be fine. The flight to Jordan leaves Thursday night, and gets in Friday morning. We spend the next night in a hotel, just to get situated, and then on Saturday we meet our host families.

From what the resident director has been able to tell me about my host family, the mother doesn't speak English, and the father speaks a tiny bit, and the eldest daughter can read and write well, but barely speaks. Also, the entire extended family of four households lives all in a row, so apparently we'll be having people running around everywhere, and cousins and such around. I'm thinking that'll be fun, and it kinds of makes me think it'll be like Owen's Road. Which is cool.

So everything is going really well, and everyone in our group is amazing. Aside from the fact that the hotel pool has more chlorine than I thought possible, it's awesome. And the pool is pretty much irrelevant. I'm really excited to get to Amman and start classes and such, and we're already studying and such. We have our first test tomorrow, but I think it's just for placement at the Qasid Institute. Well, off to go study!

Ma' Salaama, or "go in peace," which I think is how you say goodbye. GOODBYE!

First Night in DC

So we landed on our plane last night, off an easy flight. It was much faster than I would have guessed, we were only in the air for a little over an hour. First thought when I got on the ground? The trees look different here.

We all met at the baggage claim, and while I knew of one other girl that was on my plane, who I met at the airport, apparently there was another kid from the program on my plane, sitting in the row behind me, but I had no idea. It was kind of funny when we realized it once we got off the flight.

After we all met up, we walked to the American Councils office in DC and watched a movie called Budrus, which was a documentary from the Arab viewpoint about the conflict of the Green Line and the Israeli defense fence in the area around a town called Budrus. It was a pretty good movie, but it was very biased towards the Arabs. I suppose that's the viewpoint we should be getting used to, but my Israeli friends wouldn't have liked it.

After that we went back to the hotel, went for a quick swim, and then pretty much went to bed. I'm rooming with just one other girl for orientation, and she's pretty chill, or "tight" as she would say. (She says tight a lot. It's chill). We should have probably gone to bed earlier than we did; we ended up staying up until one in the morning. But seriously, who would be able to go to sleep? We were definitely too excited.

So today, we've got a full day of orientation stuff, with everything from presentations from the state department to a visit to the national Islamic Center and a mosque. So I will definitely be wearing a headscarf at some point today; it's in my backpack. And the long sleeves and long pants are already getting kind of hot, and I haven't even gone outside yet.

Well, I kind of need to go. These hotel computers are at kiosks, where you stand and type, and the keyboard is at an awkward height where I keep making stupid typos. That's all right though, because I'm going to Jordan! But we're still in DC for another night, but that's okay. Bye!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Last Few Hours Home

So my plane takes off around one o'clock, which translates into leaving my house at ten or ten thirty. Which leaves about two more hours at home. I'm all packed and ready though, so I would totally be ready to leave now though. I suppose waiting two hours here is better than waiting two hours at the airport though.

I'm ridiculously excited. I don't even know how to say how excited I am. I'm flying to DC, and then we spend tonight and tomorrow night in DC at orientation. Wednesday evening, I think it is, we leave on a plane to Frankfurt. We arrive the next morning, and then have the entire day as a layover. The flight to Jordan leaves that evening, and lands in Amman around two in the morning. Which I think ends up that we get to Jordan on Friday, but by that point my brain is going to be so messed up I don't even know. And if the times listed on my schedule are in local times, it'd really only be Thursday afternoon when I get to Jordan in the early morning. Or so I think, but it hurts my brain to think about being in the future. Amman is eight hours ahead of Chicago, so with that flight schedule and then jet lag, it should be interesting. Adding in the fact that I can hardly sleep when I'm think excited anyways.

I'm freaking out. In a fantastic, really good way. I can't wait.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Study, study, study and study...

Seeing as how in about two hours, when people ask when I leave, I'll say "tomorrow," I think I have every reason to be giddy and slightly freaking out. I'm all packed, very happy to be back in a small suitcase, all my paperwork filled out and in my carry-on. Everything is set and done.

Except for that one thing. The Arabic.

Studying a language for a trip like this is, at least for me, very different from studying anything else for school. In school, sure, I can memorize the names of phyla of fungi for my freshman honors biology class, or the ideas of prominent philosophers for my sophomore AP history class, but I know that once the year is over, I'm not worried about remembering any of it. In the case of cramming as much Arabic into my head in the next two days as I can, it's a different story.

Flipping through my note cards, copying sentences to practice handwriting, it starts to dawn on me what I'm going to be saying over and over once I get there. I'm studying not just to study, but to use. In fact, every word I learn in Arabic is one less word that I'll have to say in English once I'm there, and that's more motivation than any test could ever be.

أنا أسفه، أنا مش فاهمة. The strange thing is, I have no idea whether that's right or not. I got it off the Peace Corps website, so I hope it's right, but maybe it's not. In this respect though, there's the strange idea that I'll know if it's right soon enough, when I say it to the first person who says something I don't understand. Hopefully they'll correct me if it's wrong. This might be the first time I've ever really looked forward to getting into a situation where I can say, "Ana asfeh; ana mish fahema," or "I'm sorry; I don't understand."

أنا إسمي ديانا. أنا عندي واحد أخ، اسم تيم. أمي اسم بيتي. ابي اسم جوناثان. I'm sure my host family will want to hear about my family at home. I've got a photo album packed, of friends and family, and life here in the states, and I'm looking forward to breaking out the album and seeing how well I can explain who is who in Arabic. Hopefully they'll correct me as I go. "Ana asmee Diana. Ana a3ndee wahed akh, asm Tim. Ummee asm Betty. Abee asm Jonathan. "My name is Diana. I have one brother, named Tim. My mom is named Betty. My dad is named Jonathan."

There's more I can say, but the challenge of studying a language in such a short amount of time leads to the problem of trying to guess what might be most useful. I've chosen to be able to say things like "I'm a student," and "I've got class," instead of my colors. Numbers, though? I should probably work on those. That might come in handy.

And then there's the magic phrase - "Where's the bathroom?" It's the one that everyone thinks I should know, and they're probably right. And yet I still need to learn that one too. I'll figure it out.

I love the challenge of learning a language, especially with a chance to use it right before me. With just hours until I leave, I'm so excited. Well, I guess it's time for me to spend some more quality time with my stack of note cards.

The Jacket

I forgot to pack a jacket.

My suitcase was already filled to the brim, but it was fine. My little suitcase closed and was fine.

The jacket doesn't fit. Now I have to use the big suitcase. I hate using the big suitcase. It's too big. I hate being the person with the big suitcase, which I know I won't be, but I'm usually the person with a really small suitcase. Which I like.

Hm, what can I get rid of that takes up a lot of room so I can switch back to the little suitcase?

EDIT: We're back to the little suitcase. It just took some creativity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Packing List Extravaganza

This is probably way more than you ever wanted to know about what to bring to the Middle East. But maybe you're like me, and got really annoyed about not knowing what to pack. Obviously I haven't gotten there yet, so I might end up posting later about everything I packed wrong, but we'll see.

I have a strange fixation on having as little luggage as possible, and for this trip, it meant that I felt the need to put everything into one small suitcase and a backpack sized bag. And by small suitcase, I mean one that I think could be carried on and not checked if I wanted to.

But that doesn't necessarily mean I travel particularly light, it just means I know how to fold clothes to make as many fit as possible. I just finished packing, and at last count, I had around eight t-shirts, one dress shirt, four button down shirts, four tank tops, six long sleeved shirts, one pair of jeans, one pair of khakis, two pairs of special travel pants, and one floor length skirt. (If you're thinking that I can't wear short sleeves and tanks tops in the Middle East, you're right. They're just useful for layering). And on top of that all my other stuff somehow fit in there two, after about thirty different arrangements in the suitcase. The secret is rolling up your clothes in tiny little balls like in the military, not folding them. Seriously.

The stuff that actually took up the most room was the gifts for my host family. Most of it fit pretty well, an I didn't have a problem with most of the gifts, except for the baseball hats. They kind of bothered my perfectionism of having everything fit flat and neat in the suitcase. They're not box-shaped, and they're not flat, but they're not rolls, so they can't get stuck in with my shirts. They're this awkward shape, and the brims wouldn't stay flat, and they frustrated me! They just ended up on top.

Okay, as far as toiletries go, that's honestly not something I want to discuss. Bring whatever you need, and remember that you can always buy more there if you run out. There's no need to bring the extra-large bottle of shampoo. Toothpaste is the one thing I bring a lot of. I get kind of freaked out by strange toothpastes. And then there's always the thing about three ounces (100 mL) of liquid/gel or less in a carry on bag. At least that's what it is right now, maybe it changes. So make sure that most of your stuff is in your checked bag, because you don't want to have to throw out whatever liquid you felt you couldn't be separated from for a few hours.

Now that I'm on the topic of checked versus carry-on. Usually my family and I try to carry on everything. I actually don't remember the last time we checked anything. But, on this trip, I will be checking baggage, mostly for the reason that not all of my liquids are three ounces or less in my bag. So then comes the challenge of what to put in your carry on bag and what to put in your checked bag. The general rule of thumb, which they also reminded us of for this exchange program, is to put anything you need in your carry-on, and other stuff in the checked bag. That means passport, identification card, tickets, visas, that stuff needs to be in your carry on. (Also, if you're travelling internationally, extra photocopies of your passport are sometimes useful should something happen to the actual thing. And extra passport photos if you need a visa).

Also, bring whatever you need to live for a few days in your carry-on. Two shirts, a pair of pants, a hairbrush, and so on. And extra glasses, if you wear them. Buying new glasses on vacation  is not cool. Packing this is your carry-on is where the military rolling comes in handy, so they stay in neat little rolls in the bottom of your bag, instead of coming unfolded and taking up half your backpack.

You mean you don't know how to military roll clothes? Gasp! Click here,and be enlightened.

And then there is some stuff that I'm bringing just because I have a host family there. I already talked about packing the gifts for the host family, but as far as having gifts for host families, make sure you do. Stuff from your area seems to be the best bet, from what I've been able to read ahead of time. The fact that I live near Chicago makes that an easy choice, at least for me.

Also, bring a photo album of "home." I haven't been yet, but people I've talked to who have done similar trips before have said that it helps if the family doesn't speak English, to start conversations, and so they can see your family, and so that you have something to look at if you get homesick. I've never really gotten homesick before, but we'll see.

And electric adapters. Bring one. I have one that can be used for almost any outlet, which is nice. My mother has a set of a bunch of them, and you just have to figure out what to use. Just have something, because you don't want to get stuck without it.

Oh, and if you're a woman, bring a couple large scarves that could be used as headscarves. I've heard varying reports on how conservative different regions are, but everyone seems to agree that long sleeves and pants are necessary, and having a headscarf in your bag is smart. That way, if you feel like you're getting too much attention, or for any reason, you can simply put it on, and you'll be good. I'm not sure how it is in Jordan, I've read different stories, depending on the area and people they were with. I'm guessing that for me, it's going to matter most on my host families preferences.

I'm not sure how useful this is going to be, but I also stuck a little memo book in my  bag. I figure there might be situations where it could help to write a destination for a cab, or to write down a new word so I don't forget. Or something. I feel strange not having a paper and pen on me at all times.

Well, that's pretty much it. I packed other stuff too, but this is long enough. 73 hours until I leave!!!