Final Weeks in Amman

This will be my last blog post! The past few weeks have been amazing and tomorrow I will be heading back to Chicago after what feels much longer than two months.

We have been preparing for final exams and projects in class. Our final exam presentation is about anything we have experienced and want to share with the class from our time in Amman. This is a culmination of what we have been doing, just speaking to each other only in Arabic during class.

In addition to studying, the past few weeks have been the best in Amman. One of my roommates is friends with the lead singer of Jadal, a popular Jordanian band, and they had their album release concert this week! We have hung out with them a few times this summer and it was so exciting to hear them perform. Experiencing an Arabic concert, surrounded by Jordanians, was an amazing example of all the experiences that have helped me grow culturally over this summer.

As the end of my trip was coming to an end, I was worried I would not get to see Petra, Wadi Rum, or Aqaba. With my roommate and some classmates, we joined a trip to see all of these places in one weekend. The first stop was Petra. Petra, one of the most amazing wonders of the world, was every bit as hot and tiring as the guidebooks say. We got to see all of the sights in just a few short hours (though not for as long as we would have wanted to). After being humbled by the gigantic ruins of Petra, we hopped on our bus and headed for Wadi Rum, a red desert. This too was extremely hot, but thankfully we were staying overnight and would not have to experience it during the day. The next morning, after a night under the stars, we headed for Aqaba. Aqaba is a very unique coastal resort city. From Aqaba, you can see Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the West Bank, and Israel. After swimming and sight-seeing in Aqaba, we started the 8 hour journey back to Amman. This journey was further complicated by the many, many checkpoints we encountered. At one of the checkpoints, a Jordanian officer even proposed to a pretty girl on our bus (a joke of course).

This opportunity afforded to me by the SLA grant has opened my eyes to the amazing culture, shown me varying perspectives, and above all, advanced my Arabic skills. By the end of the summer, I was understanding what was going on in my fast-paced, Arabic only class. Towards the beginning of the summer, I could understand some directions or questions, but through the skits and activities we performed during class, I became more comfortable with Arabic. Obviously, I also had a great deal of exposure to the culture. One cannot understand the culture of Jordan without understanding the surrounding conflicts. Many people in Jordan are Palestinian, married to a Palestinian, or have many friends that are Palestinian. There are also many refugees from Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. The politics in Jordan are also very interesting. It is a constitutional monarchy. The King (Abdullah II) and the Prime Minister share the executive branch. The royal family is viewed with huge levels of positivity. Their modernity and willingness to adapt is what makes them so appealing to many, including myself. This love for the royal family and their positive work in so many areas, including education improvements for young girls and boys, is impossible to experience without interacting with Jordanians. I also was afforded the amazing opportunity to work with Right to Play Jordan in their Amman office. This inspired me when deciding what type of internships and jobs I want to take in the future. In the Spring of 2017, I will be working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and my time in Jordan, as well as with Right to Play motivated me to apply for this. I will definitely use all that I have learned about language and culture, and also professional skills working with organizations in the future.

Week 5-6 in Amman

This week we continued progressing in our Arabic studies and I am getting more and more comfortable in conversation and speaking faster. I am more comfortable understanding not only my teachers, but taxi drivers and other people I encounter in daily life. This week, while volunteering with Right to Play – Jordan, I sat in on a meeting about education and the programs they have been running. They were trying to create a survey to measure the effectiveness of their workshops. They tried to use only formal Arabic instead of dialect and surprisingly, having learned vocabulary relating to children and education, I was able to follow a decent amount of the conversation.

This weekend, I went to visit the Dead Sea with my friend from Russia/UAE. It was very nice to relax and swim. This was on my bucket list for Jordan and I am so glad I made it to see this place mentioned frequently throughout history.

Week 4 in Amman

This first week was very short. We only had two days of class because of Eid. For the past month it has been a hard, but fun adjustment, to life in Jordan. This week is our mid-summer break and some classmates and I are using it to travel to Cairo and Alexandria. This is a once in a life time trip and will give us useful insight into other cultures and traditions in the Middle East, to round out our experience.

When I returned, I finally figured out how to cook eggplant, peppers, garlic, and onion and add it to rice for a nice homemade meal. This is a real step forward for me and I incorporated some common vegetables used here. In Arabic class, my class has been getting pretty close due to the small class sizes. We have made some memes in Arabic and our Arabic teachers loved them! I also found some great cafes to study near Rainbow Street and I am looking forward to going back in the weeks I have left.