Fifth Week in Jordan!
“Okay, cool story Sarah, I get that you’re having fun learning Arabic and being around all this history and blah blah blah. What I really want to know about is your daily life!” Thanks for the suggestion, no one! (This blog isn’t capitalist; it doesn’t follow the laws of demand!)
This is where I go to school:
Pretty close behind us is the German Embassy. Hello, German Embassy! I have never actually seen the German Embassy, because it at least attempts to blend in — much like Otto von Bismarck’s quiet attempts to increase Germany’s power before WWI. The American Embassy, however, takes a different approach, and does not attempt to blend in — much like Hitler’s not-so-quiet attempts to increase Germany’s power before WWII:
(Message from the American Embassy: You’re next, Czechoslovakia.)
In the morning, I have my two Arabic classes: Modern Standard Arabic (no, this is not what the Quran is written in — that is Classical Arabic) and Jordanian Dialect Arabic. The book we use is called “Al-Kitaab,” which literally translates to “The Book.” With a title as grandiose as that, it must teach you everything you need to know about living in an Arabic-speaking country… right? (SPOILER ALERT: it doesn’t.)
(Thanks, Al-Kitaab! “Blood” is definitely a more important everyday word than “foot,” “finger,” or “ear.” Since when did the target audience of Arabic classes switch to vampires and Quentin Tarantino? Also, Windows 95 called and wants its Paint program back.)
Mmm and now for FOOD! A short walk from my program is Abdoun Circle, where you can buy a falafel or shawarma sandwich for about a dollar. And my host mom cooks amazing Middle Eastern food — tonight we had rice and pieces of lamb wrapped in grape leaves, and she also makes really good English cucumbers stuffed with rice and pieces of lamb (and of course, pita bread at every meal). Starting to see a pattern? The most traditional Jordanian dish is mansaf, which is lamb cooked in yogurt-like sauce and placed on a bed of bread and rice. YUM.
(In Arabic, there are two types of meat: chicken, or “dijaj”; and lamb, or “lehem.” But “lehem” literally translates to “meat” — so you basically only have the option of chicken or meat. It’s like the reverse of that line in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? That’s okay, I make lamb.”)
There is also a major water shortage in Jordan, so every family gets a set amount of water per week. Because you have to start heating the water about two hours before you take a shower, you also have to always plan ahead. One day a week, however, the government gives households all the water they want — this day is also known as Laundry Day! Hurray for clean clothes.
(This is an ancient Roman water fountain, or nymphaeum, in Jerash. This entire thing was filled with water. So basically, if you’re wondering why they have a water shortage, look no further. Thanks, Romans!)
But speaking of water… let’s take a moment to admire this artifact from the ancient Roman city of Jerash. “It’s just a circle,” you say. Not quite, my friends… THIS IS AN ANCIENT ROMAN MANHOLE COVER, leading into the UNDERGROUND SEWERS. Think about that for a second. Not only were the Romans smart enough to devise an underground sewage system… they thought ahead and developed periodic passageways for men to go down and fix it if it was broken. However much I insult them, when it comes to technology… those Romans, man.
(“Roman”? More like, “Whoa, Man!”)
Now we get to the sounds of Jordan. Imagine you are in another country, biding your time in a restaurant or at your house, and you hear the familiar jingle of an ice cream truck! You instinctively get up and run outside… and you are confronted with a truck full of propane canisters. Yumm gas. Propane trucks and their lesser known counterparts — angry fruit trucks with loudspeakers — constantly go around the city, dispensing their products and alerting the neighbors as they go.
(“I love the smell of propane in the morning.”)
Finally, minarets around the city sound the call to prayer five times a day, which is really calming. At night, all of the minarets are lit with green lights, so when you look out over the hills of Amman there are green lights dotting the landscape. Because my house is in an old part of Amman, there are a lot of mosques (and churches) in the area and so we hear all the calls to prayer: one between dawn and sunrise; one between the true noon the afternoon prayer; one in the afternoon; one between sunset and dusk; and one between dusk and dawn.
(The minaret at King Hussein Mosque, lit up for the night. As a side note, I guess I was lazy with my picture taking this week, because all the pictures in this post are courtesy of Google Image searches except for the ones at Jerash.)
Tune in next week for the inevitable “Sarah has her annual existential crisis about turning another year older,” aka my birthday.