Amman Adventures: Arabic Acquisitions, Turbocharged Taxis, and the Journey to Jerash


Hi again, or really مرحباً (Marhaba!)

It has been a couple weeks since I last talked with you all, during which I flew to Amman, Jordan and started my program. I have also met and moved in with my homestay family, which includes my host mom, Maha.

Since this is my first time traveling aboard, I have been juggling the tedious details of getting a new phone, finding ATMs with small foreign fees, and even how to break money (JOD in Jordanian). Yet none of it has obscured my fascination with Amman, which has a surprisingly deep connection to past Greek and Roman civilizations. This was something I discovered with my trips to the Citadel and Jerash. It was interesting to visit a place that had existed for thousands of years versus the United States which only has a recorded history that goes back a few hundred years with anything older being erased by colonization. It has allowed me to understand a bit of the pride that Jordanians have for these historic locations and their continued preservation.

Picture at Jerash.

I will admit that my time here has not been the easiest. Before coming to Jordan, I knew maybe five phrases in Arabic. Due to the curriculum being focused on well-being rather than language, I have little instruction on it. As a result, there is a larger language barrier than I had anticipated especially with my host mom who knows more English than I do of her language so when I talk too fast or use words she does not know, she can be confused by what I am saying. In addition, I had to change her gift to a painting I made, which she thankfully really liked. Since it is a bit difficult to explain myself sometimes, I am trying to find alternative ways to connect with her such as asking her what her favorite songs are and to go out. Every day I am trying to find new ways to show my appreciation to her and the things she does for me even when I might not be able to vocalize it.

Possibly the newest thing that I had to get used to is the traffic and way people commute in Amman. While in Pittsburgh I can ride the buses for free, but here I have to Uber or take taxis almost everywhere I go. Which means at times that I have to converse with drivers who will either get the gist of what I am saying or not have the faintest clue. Yet either case can prove to led to a good experience, with one letting me and my friends play Whitney Houston and Shakira as he learns English or another sharing his curiosity of Google translate to use in the future with customers. Often, I find myself looking forward to these rides because I truly never know what to expect.

Picture of Amman from Darat al Funun-The Khalid Shoman Foundation.

Though Uber and taxis have brought plenty of noteworthy encounters, my experience has been shaped by one thing. Food, which if you know me this not a surprising thing. I have had plenty of great dishes since being here. Most of which I do not have a name for but were amazing. One of my favorites is knafeh, which is a cheese dessert soaked in syrup with a crispy pastry layer and topped with pistachios. Needless to say, I will be eating a lot more. I do want to express that food in general is such a key connecting point for Jordanians and the spark of many of their conversations. They are always offering more, to the point that I have quickly picked up the term “shabit” which means “I’m full.” Yet it is such a heartwarming trait to the Jordanian culture, where anyone is invited to the dinner table with relish.

Picture of my first dinner in Amman at the Wild Café.
Picture of me and my friends drinking tea (shay nana) at a host family’s home.

Once again, I am still taking introductory classes before my internship begins but I think I might have found what I am interested in at the Princess Taghrid Institute with their programs focused on young orphan women who are thrust into the world once they reach adulthood. Yet it seems to be a competitive option among my peers so I will have to see for now. Until then, I will be eating all the knafeh in Amman!

Picture of my first time trying knafeh!

مع السلامة (Ma’a salama!), Goodbye!

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