Jabal al-Qala’a: The Seat of Civilizations (A Note From June 30th-July 8th, 2017)

Temple of Hercules: A memento of the Roman Civilization on the hill.

The intense schedule at Qasid leaves students with little time for leisure, but one of the first things I did in Jordan was make some time to see the Roman Citadel that dominates the center of the city. It was an extremely hot and sunny day when we made the trip, and I could not help but wish that we had brought an umbrella to shield ourselves from the sun. In retrospect, I probably should have used more sunscreen.

Whatever the case, the Amman Citadel (or Jabal al-Qala’a, lit. The Mountain of the Citadel) was clearly chosen by so many ancients for its location, for it is situated on a high hill from which one can see Amman in its entirety. Our tour guide pointed out various parts of the city from our vantage point, from the long strips of green trees of the King’s palace to the dusty marketplaces of the heart of the city. Everything is laid before the Citadel, and we spent a lot of time simply admiring the vista.

But the ruins atop the hill are the main reason I went up. A crossroads of civilization, the citadel has Roman and Byzantine roots, with the remains of Hellenic temples interspersed with early Christian churches and Umayyad masjids.

The giants of both Western and Eastern civilizations have passed through here, and I found it interesting how this hilltop, which was a symbol of dominance for centuries upon centuries, is now hardly being used at all and apparently of little interest to the Jordanians themselves. For there were only a few small groups of tourists on the grounds of the citadel and most of the Jordanians we saw there, save for a hijabi art student who was sketching the pillars, were only there to serve as tour guides. While the ancients, be they Roman or Arab, may have been using this spot to lord it over the common folk, but now the descendants of those same common folk could now care less for their citadel.

But while the indifference Jordanians have towards their Citadel can be considered amusing, it is unfortunate to see that that indifference also translates into neglect. Everywhere we looked, be it the pits used by the ancients to form cement or the hands of Hercules, there would be discarded water bottles or cigarette boxes simply left lying there.

Indeed, it often felt like very little effort was being undertaken to preserve the location. Our tour guide told us that twelve guards were meant to be stationed at the Citadel on a round the clock basis in order to protect the gathered historical relics. As we walked around the Citadel, however, no such guards were anywhere to be found. While we were walking in the old Church ruins, we watched as a group of tourists were casually climbing up on top of the old Church walls in order to take a few selfies. No one seemed to care as they desecrated these ancient ruins (while also, incidentally, put themselves at great risk of breaking their necks) all in the name of having another photo to upload to Facebook.

An argument could be made that not every country has the resources to preserve its historical sites, but Jordan is most certainly not a country without resources. The opulent, western-style malls filled with the very latest Hollywood blockbusters, designer clothing and lavish body care products are evidence enough of Jordan’s wealth. So why is it then that the Citadel is left to its own devices?

Perhaps part of the reason why this occurs is the obsession Jordanians seem to have with becoming Western. Throughout the roads of Amman, I’ve seen so many Jordanians driving ‘high status’ cars, be it the BMW, the Mercedes or the Priuses. There is a very real drive here to indulge in all of the petty opulence that ‘the West’ has to offer, and as a result it often feels as though the Jordanian identity itself is being eroded.

Sadly, it is not enough to be connected with the storied past of three magnificent civilizations that laid roots here in Jordan.  For many Jordanians, pride seems to stem more from what one can possess now, be it the cars they drive or the clothes they wear.

Perhaps attitudes will change in time, but for now I left the Citadel wondering just what those Roman Patricians, Byzantine Emperors or Umayyad Caliphs would think knowing that one day their awe-inspiring citadels would simply be a passing curiosity to a city that is far more interested in emulating someone else entirely.

A view of Amman from Jabal al-Qala’a. The only lush area is where the Royal Palace located.
Me in front of The Umayyad Palace: Inside we can find proofs of Umayyad’s commitment to inter-religious harmony in the form of crosses on the wall.

Men Sit in Front, Women Sit in the Back (A Note From: 15-24 June, 2017)

Seven Dinars ‘Feminism’: Such T-Shirts with empowering messages are easy to find in Malls in Amman. However, the society is yet to absorb the messages.

From the very moment that I landed in Amman, I was struck by the inferior place that women are regulated to in this society. To be sure, last week the Jordanian Parliament repealed the Article 308 from the national constitution (an article that pardoned a rapist as long as he married his victim and stayed with her for at least three years) and it was a great news for the Jordanian women in general. However, the ‘Arab Machismo’ culture, that becomes the main root of the rape cases in the first place, is not going away anytime soon.

Indonesia, from which I come from, is a Muslim country where women may wear hijab and certainly experience sexism in their daily lives, but women are nevertheless able to exercise some level of agency independent of men. They can go about their business in the cities, be it at work or while shopping or at school, without feeling unsafe or victimized. I thus was expecting a similar situation in Jordan.

But as soon as I landed I began to learn that there are a different set of rules here. On my first night while walking home from the Qasid Institute (the place where I got my Classical Arabic training from) after dark, a man started to follow me for no reason down the street. He offered me a drink and was incredibly persistent, to the point where I feared for my safety. After getting home, I learned that women did not typically walk the streets alone after dark here. That was considered unusual and men saw it as an invitation to harass any such woman. The fact that I am Indonesian and do not look like anyone else here made me a particular target for these harassers.

This was my first encounter with the culture of sexism and patriarchy that is very much alive here in Jordan, and I would soon learn the other ‘rules’.

For instance, it is considered risky for a woman to get into a cab by herself. Horror stories abound about cab drivers driving women off to who knows where when they do so. This means that I, as a woman, am left with few choices in terms of mobility. I can either travel with a man or go with groups of other women. Travelling by myself, as I regularly do in Indonesia and America, is simply not an option if I want to avoid harassment

More than that, rules and etiquettes concerning gender dictate all aspects of Jordanian society. When travelling with my significant other, it was a rule that he should sit up with the cab driver in the front seat while I had to remain at the back. He did not speak a word of Arabic of course, and found this to be very annoying, but a man had to sit up front. That was the rule and not following it could result in conflict.

By violating these ‘rules’, it seems many Jordanian men think that I am inviting comment and harassment. For instance, I have learned to change the route I take when walking between Qasid and my home. This is because when I walked on the main street, men would approach me and say things like ‘how are you sweetie?’, often quite aggressively. The presence of a woman by herself, even in broad daylight seems to paint a target in the minds of these men, which indicates the fact that male power is more or less unquestioned here in Jordan.

No man seemed to fear that they might get in trouble or suffer any repercussion at all when engaging in this behavior. Indeed, it seemed that the only time they were deterred is when I happened to be walking with another man. This means that I, as a human being, was dependent on the presence of men in order to simply go about my business unharassed on the streets.

For some of the Jordanian women, street harassment seems to have become a part of their lives. I have seen Jordanian woman respond to crude and demeaning comments shouted at them from cars and random men on the street with smiles and patient indulgence.

To me, this is the most discouraging aspect of my experiences living in Amman. Many cities, from Jakarta to Chicago, have problems with men who think they can degrade women, but in those cities there are at least some potential social consequences to behaving in such an idiotic fashion. In Amman, however, this idiocy and indecency is the norm and has come to dominate the public sphere. Women here thus have a significant uphill battle to change this behavior and reclaim the streets.

Still, what this teaches us more than anything is that the feminist struggle must continue until behavior such as this becomes unacceptable, no matter where one walks on the globe.

I haven’t posted in a while but I’m not Dead… Sea :)

First, I’m going to say that I’m extremely sorry that I haven’t updated this in quite a while. Life just keeps happening here and it seems like it won’t ever stop!

Second, let me update you finally!

After all the initial craziness and the first couple days of classes, I began to go to nearby coffee shops to do my work. Olga (my roommate in case you forgot) had mentioned that she had never had Starbucks before (WHAT?!) so we went there to do some work together. I was s-t-ruggling with my work and luckily a guy came over to help me with it! Olga and I got his contact information and ended up going to the Dead Sea with him! I know this sounds sketchy, but being a foreigner, it’s very common to have people approach you and want to become your friend since you speak English! Besides, how often can you go to the Dead Sea in your life? I guess as many times until you’re…. DEAD. Okay, that was bad.

Photo creds to the random lifeguard who took my phone without asking!

The weekend after that, Olga and I were invited by our friend Elias to go to Madaba, an area north of Amman, where we could go on a mountain and take some pretty sweet pictures. (If you look carefully, you can see the Dead Sea again). It was so nice because after we went to this amazing place, we went back to the home of his friend, Mohammed. I have NEVER drunk so much coffee and tea in my life. I’m not joking when I say I had about 6 cups of tea and 5 cups of coffee. Now these aren’t necessarily large cups, but still, continuously drinking coffee and tea can get kind off tiring and uncomfortable when your stomach becomes the size of a watermelon.

And this is what happens when they tell you to dance for some promotional video for a DJ in Russia!




Of course, my time here in Jordan wouldn’t have been complete if it didn’t continue the craziness that it had started with. Olga and I had decided to cook some noodles for dinner and we didn’t have a lot of bottled water left to boil so we used the water from the sink. Now, before you think that it wasn’t a good idea, I googled it to see if it was okay and everywhere I looked, I saw that you had to boil the water for 30 minutes. Not too shabby, I mean I even saw that you could purify water by adding bleach to it?! I was not about to drink bleach so I figured boiling it would be no problem. WRONG. After 40 minutes (I needed to be extra sure), our water had GREEN FOAM. GREEN!!! This next part was where I went wrong… I decided to pour the foam out and use the water anyways because how bad could it be? It was boiling for a while! Let me just say, it was pretty bad. I suffered the consequences of my mistake for about 5 days with only so much anti-nausea medication, but al-Hamdulilah! I finally overcame that just in time for our next trip!

Random photo shoot after some guy walked up to me and put some dust from a rock on my face! More natural than Bare Minerals!

That week, we went to Wadi Rum and Aqaba! I’ve already been to these places, but let me say, these are by far my most favorite places in all the world. In my opinion, I think they’re better than Petra, but of course, several others would disagree. Wadi Rum is a desert where there are several Bedouin camps for tourists to stay. That weekend, I was your typical tourist taking pictures of EVERYTHING. We first arrived in Wadi Rum and hiked around the rocks to get a pretty fantastic view of the camp and our surroundings. Afterwards, we went on this “Jeep” excursion (really, it was a pick-up truck with two benches in the back) around the area and saw some really cool things! For instance, in case you didn’t know, you can use the rocks to make make-up! There’s also a place where the Martian was filmed as well! AND there’s a plant that you can crush up and mix with water and make soap! You’ve got everything you’ve ever needed. Plus, at our camp, a great dinner was provided for us and following dinner was a HUGE dance party in the middle of the area. The best part was going out in the middle of the desert where there is absolutely no light, laying down in the warm sand, and looking up at the stars. You can see EVERYTHING—the Milky Way, shooting stars, constellations, airplanes, or whatever comes to your mind. It’s a beautiful time for reflection and relaxation, which you don’t really get while you’re here. It’s honestly my favorite feeling in the world because even in an unfamiliar country with so many crazy things going on around me, there’s a sense of peace that overcomes me. I can’t help but realize that regardless of how well things are going, there is a much larger picture of life that I can’t quite see, but I know that God has a mysterious way of fulfilling His will.


If you look closely, this is taken in front of the same rock that is in the other picture!! HOW COOL!



Photo creds to the amazing photographer riding in the other vehicle, Freja Ingelstam!

The morning after an extremely hot night in Wadi Rum, we headed to Aqaba for a luxurious day at the Red Sea! This is also the most beautiful and clear water I’ve ever seen, which is a good thing and a bad thing for me. In case you didn’t know, I HATE fish! I mean, they’re okay to look at but if they are anywhere near me, I will lose it. I definitely lost it quite a few times that day because a group of us decided to go out on a boat to see the coral reefs and swim further out in the water. Let’s just say I also learned how to swim REAL quick because I was NOT about to let some fish get anywhere near me. Despite all that, I absolutely loved the Red Sea and can’t wait to go back! Also, pictures will be coming your way in the next post!

The food was much more appealing than the awkwardness that appears in this photo

I also can’t forget to mention my language partner, Abeer! Her family was kind enough to prepare the traditional Jordanian dish, Mansaaf, for me to try and eat until I couldn’t eat anymore! Then they also made kataif for dessert, which is only made during the month of Ramadan. Talk about being welcomed with open arms! It was probably one of the best dishes I’ve ever tried in my life. Both of them! AND I ate with my hands, which is another one of my favorite things to do.





Every day, I always feel a range of emotions. Sometimes I want to cry because I’m going to miss this place or maybe the day was just very difficult for various reasons, other times I’m overwhelmed with joy because people will show me so much kindness that I’m so undeserving of. I can’t describe this trip in one word quite yet, but once I process everything, I’m sure I could describe it in a few words… I hope anyways! One thing that’s for sure is that I am learning more and more each day. Looking back, in the beginning, I didn’t feel confident in speaking to people at all. I’m not saying I’m the best or even good quite yet, but the amount of improvement that I’ve seen is something I’d consider an achievement. I’m able to understand significantly more now than I was before; now when people speak fast, I’m beginning to process the sentences as a whole rather than trying to translate every single word. THIS IS CRAZY TO ME! People can speak to me and I’m at the beginning stages of processing things in Arabic instead of English! The keyword here is “beginning.” I’m also learning patience in so many aspects. I expected to leave here almost fluent (wow, why did I actually believe that?), but I realize that there’s a lot more to learn to become fluent besides just vocabulary; I need to learn the culture in its entirety. Not just a short immersion, but I need to acquire every detail about this culture and language, or at least as much as I can! Stay tuned for my last couple weeks here!

First Week in Amman!

As of this week, I’ve officially been in Amman for a little over a week! Boy, has it felt like I’ve been here WAY longer than that! Trust me, it’s been great and exciting getting to explore such a complex place like this, but there have been quite a few bumps in the road along the way.

Let me tell you about my first few days in Amman! I was so lucky and am very grateful that I could stay with one of the kindest and most welcoming alums, Theresa Rinaldo along her fiancé, Jerome. I’m not gonna lie, they had quite the amazing set up compared to what I was expecting in Jordan because not only was there hot water, but there was also a faucet for clean drinking water. I was so amazed by that! I was also able to go to one of the most popular restaurants in Amman, Hashem! WOWZA! That falafel and hummus was pretty amazing. While we were just… “Roman” around downtown, we spotted a concert that we ended up going to at the Amman Citadel. The Citadel is historically significant because has many buildings and ruins from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods so in case you didn’t get the pun, now you know!






It’s always so crowded, but it’s so yummy! Also sorry for the quality… Lighting isn’t always the best in the city!


I also need to add this… I WENT SWIMMING AT THE US EMBASSY! Why this is so amazing to me, I will never know. I felt so important walking in, handing in my ID, receiving a badge, and going through security just to swim in your typical swimming pool. I think the most impressive thing about it was the fact that the bar served Dr. Pepper. NEVER HAVE I EVER SEEN DR. PEPPER OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES!


After a super wonderful and comfortable stay with some nice folks, it was time for me to leave and do what I had been anticipating all summer… Meet up with my roommate, Olga, and move into our apartment. On the way to an infamous McDonald’s that kept being referenced, I had my first full out interaction with a taxi driver who could barely speak English. HOLY COW! WOW! I never knew I could even speak with someone for 30 minutes in Arabic! Little did I know that would not be the craziest thing I experienced here.

Guys, I didn’t even have a mop to clean this up!

The next day is when culture shock began to sink in and living on my own (well, with a roommate) wasn’t so cool anymore. We had decided to go get some groceries like every adult is supposed to do so we could come back and fix dinner. After getting back, we realized that our refrigerator didn’t work! We tried plugging it in and waiting, in hopes that it would get cold, and after 4 hours—nothing. The milk and the “meat” we had bought were going bad so we had to use it. We cooked some pasta with this mystery meat and ate cereal so of course, we needed to be responsible and wash dishes. Unfortunately, as the water was draining, it leaked from the pipe and flooded our entire kitchen area. Can I just say at this point, I’ve had enough of this “adulting” idea, but it didn’t stop there. Olga and I heard a loud knock on our door and finally, it was our housekeeper to the rescue! Except he didn’t speak a lick of English so we were forced to explain our entire situation in Arabic. YIKES. My two years of Arabic did not prepare me for all of this so with our limited vocabulary, we were finally able to get the housekeeper to understand our problem and he fixed our problems! Or so we thought. The craziness continued. As we were waiting for our replacement refrigerator (that was supposed to be delivered to us in 30 minutes), we hear a knock on the door. In hopes of finally settling everything, we open it up and lo and behold, there is a man standing there with a suitcase full of perfumes. He also didn’t speak English very well so here we are, sitting in our small living room having a ton of perfumes sprayed all over us, in the hallways, in our bags, and even on his arms. We ended up having this sales pitch go on and on for over an hour and finally, we just bought this “designer” perfume. It was so strange because this man kept expecting me to translate what he was saying to Olga as if she couldn’t speak Arabic, but little did he know that she knew just as much as I did! It ended up being such a strange experience that all we could do was laugh at how random it was.

Only here will you find “The Top Quality” perfume!

The next day was our placement exams…. TALK ABOUT YIKES! I had absolutely no clue what to expect. I was so nervous because I haven’t practiced in so long, but somehow I managed to receive one of the highest scores! Because of that, I was placed into the highest level, which is level 6. If we’re being honest, before coming to this program, I had thought I would be at a level 2 or 3, but when I saw that I made it to 6, I truly couldn’t believe it. It was something I did not expect, especially since Arabic is something I’m not confident in. Not yet anyways.

And here’s why I was so amazed that there was a faucet for drinking water!

My first day of class was extremely intimidating. First, let me explain how my morning started out. I woke up and began to take a shower when suddenly, the water pressure only becomes drips of water. For a girl with longer and thicker hair, this is not okay. At one point, the water completely stopped. This was probably the first time in all my years of traveling that I ever experienced frustration because of a lack of a necessity. Usually, I’m okay with not having everything I need, but I this time was different for some reason. After about 30 minutes, I was able to finish my shower and head to class. It turns out,  I was with 4 other students who have all studied Arabic abroad for at least a year! And a couple of them for 3 years! This was such a shock to me since they all seem to be so much more advanced than me, yet I somehow was place in the same class. There were two guys from Russia who seemed SO intense. I kid you not, they were even correcting the professor. That definitely did NOT help my anxiety. The second day when one guy walked in, he shook everyone else’s hand but mine! I was so shocked! It finally settled in that he is from Russia and culturally, things might be different.

Overall, despite these series of events, I am still so excited to be here and am amazed with how much I’m growing. My Arabic class here at the University of Jordan is very challenging, but I know I will begin the acquire the language by being a part of this level. It’s very interesting because, as my professor put it, we are “playing with words” every day, meaning that we are always trying to figure out the meaning of a word and its function based on what we know. We’re also learning the exact meaning of the words we know and using them in a way that a native speaker would, not in the way we would if we based it on literal translation. It helps being introduced to the dialect in class because when people speak the colloquial language, I can get a better understanding of what they are saying and can build my vocabulary first in the class then in everyday interactions. I will admit, I’m still learning how to handle being one of the only people here from the United States because I’m WAY out of my comfort zone. I can’t even speak English like I normally would since most people here aren’t fluent, which can be frustrating at times when all the culture shock begins to pile up on me. It seems like everything I’ve known about living a life in another country has gone out the window and quite frankly, there are times where all I want to do is go home so I don’t have to keep trying to figure everything out. Every situation I come across tends to be one where I’m completely lost and need figure out an entirely new way to handle it whether it be with my apartment, interactions with people, or even sitting in class. I am now re-learning everything and although it is incredibly frustrating, I know that with time and prayer, I can and will overcome these small obstacles. Yalla! (or “let’s go”)

P.S.- Sorry for such a long post! I don’t always have internet so when I post, it will more than likely be a bit longer 🙂