Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Yalla Al-Ordon!

Last Friday evening, our friend Jordan called and asked if we were up for attending a national football game, Iraq vs. Jordan. The game was apparently a big one, deciding some sort of rank in some sort of international tournament (maybe the world cup? idk..) We were warned that as females, we would probably get a significant amount of attention, considering the fact that national football games are just a huge shabab (young men) fest. We decided to go anyway…how could we miss out on such an awesome opportunity as a national football game against our neighboring rival? Plus, I was pretty excited to show some national Jordanian pride. On the ride to the stadium, it was clear that Jordanians love their football- cars honking their horns, young men running around everywhere with Jordanian flags, face paint, the whole nine yards (not to mention a sizable number of riot policemen and military personnel). We wandered around trying to find a ticket booth while avoid looking like a group of confused foreigners (to no avail). Luckily, we befriended a nice riot policeman who managed to sneak us past the barracks and on to the ticket booth. After getting our tickets, I turned around to a news camera in my face, with a many shouting “Iraq or Jordan??” at me. I yelled “Al-Ordon!” loudly as I ran away (getting yourself on Jordanian television at a national football game is probably not the best idea…) After pushing through hordes of curious and overly friendly shabab, we finally made it to the stadium. Security gave us a hassle about our cameras (which ended up being pretty ironic considering the amount of pictures that were taken of us) but then finally let us in. A random guy led us to the end of the stadium, away from the majority of the fans…I guess they didn’t want us to cause a distraction from the game. As we were walking in, a group of fans started chanting “welcome to Jordan” at us…which was nice, but also kind of strange to have fans chanting at you instead of the football players at a game. The game was so much fun to watch; I probably spent more time watching the fans than the players. It was fascinating to watch how intense the cheering got…there were people whose main job was to direct the cheering, making it in sync and as organized as possible. At halftime, we got swarmed by shabab with cameras who shoved Jordanian flags and pictures of King Abdullah in our hands while posing next to us. The token white kids, I suppose. The game was fun to watch, and the atmosphere was even better. An older Saudi man sitting next to me tried to impress me with the amount of business trips he had taken to America. Even though he was slightly annoying, I was thankful for the role he played as a buffer between me and the group of shabab on his other side peering eagerly over with cameras in their hands. The riot police were in full swing, patrolling everywhere, with their numbers doubling about 10 minutes before the game ended. It was interesting to watch their reactions to the crowd- every time something good would happen, the fans would be happy, but the riot police would visibly tense up, knowing that excitement in crowds can sometimes be trouble. The game ended in a tie, and as we left, we accumulated a small parade of shabab behind us. It really is ridiculous how much attention a group of American college kids can attract. It was incredibly fun, and I can’t wait until the next national football game. Yalla Al-Ordon! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Few Days In

From Monday evening...

It’s nearly 3 am, I’m sitting jetlagged in the living room of our apartment in Jebel Weibdeh, and a rooster is crowing somewhere outside on the street. The past 30 hours have been absolutely ridiculous. I’ve only been in Amman for that long, but enough excitement has happened to fill an entire summer. I don’t think it’s even fully registered that I am IN AMMAN, JORDAN HOLY CRAP. I don’t even know where to start. Or what to describe.The city is beautiful and (as always) not what I expected. Everything is a shade of tan or brown, the city is sprawling with hills and curves and nooks and crannies and geometric buildings everywhere. Flat roofs, quaint hada’iqs (gardens), stray cats, and A LOT of cars. Cars everywhere, driving everywhere, going every kind of speed. I’m terrified to speak Arabic, but am learning quickly. I spoke to a cab driver today, which was exciting. All I said was “a3ndek farta lilkhamsa dinar, low samaht?” (do you have change for a five dinar, if you please?), but it was still SO exciting. The team is getting along fabulously so far, our own little usra (family). The girls went to a French version of Wal-mart called Carrefour and we bought some supplies for the apartment. We ate at a nice café for lunch and then another café called Graffiti which was very Western, but had some much-needed internet and coffee. We had dinner at an amazing place in wasal balad, the city center. It's a place called Hashem's where the people are friendly and the food is delicious and dirt cheap. We then walked to sharia rainbow, where we got ice cream and then ran into (insert alias here)… A tragically romantic character from Syria who cannot return because he is part of the resistance, and is madly in love with our UNC friend who no longer returns his affections. Really long story... Argeela, shai, 8 dinar peanuts, and an incredibly tragic story later, I am back at the apartment, overwhelmed and sleep deprived but surprisingly at peace. I’m super excited to meet with Nuha on Wednesday and finally start the project. This summer is going to be absolutely incredible. 

Updates since then...

Starting to get my bearings and can kind of make my way around the neighborhood. Went to the Citadel, an attraction with old ruins on a hill where you can look down at the city fully 360. We went at sunset with falafal sandwiches from Hashems (new favorite restaurant). At first the guards at the Citadel tried to make us pay them bribes for us to get in, so we just sat down at the gates and started eating our sandwiches until they felt really guilty and let us in anyway. Celia, Nathan, and I went for a grocery shopping adventure yesterday and found a few really nice fruit stands, spice shops, and a bakery. I kept getting confused every time the shop keeper would tell us a price because I would hear $3.50 when he was actually say $.35 because everything was so unbelievably inexpensive. 

We met with the head of FDA, Nuha yesterday. She seems like a very lovely, intelligent, friendly, and strong woman. We'll be assisting in English classes and also going into different homes with FDA staff to talk about the importance of keeping children in school. The home visits will be interesting, and probably tricky at times. A fine line should be drawn between imposing ones cultural values regarding education and simply giving advice or personal experiences. I'm very excited to meet our students on Sunday (work week runs sunday-thursday) and beginning this awesome project! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


No matter how much time I'm given to prepare for something, I always find myself wishing I had an extra day or two to spare. Packing, logistics, schedules, Arabic dialect studying, shopping for appropriate clothing, spending time with high school friends, reassuring my parents that I do indeed have a good head on my shoulders- you would think all of this could fit into three weeks, but the last 2.5 have flown by. I have two full days left to cram in my baby sister's high school graduation, last minute preparation, playlist making, mental preparation, and about 100 vital Arabic vocabulary words that I REALLY need to know (oh, and one more episode of the 2nd season of Merlin, an Arthurian BBC drama that I have become quite addicted to).

Even with all of this logistical gobbledegook, I still can't shake the overwhelming combination of giddy excitement and unbearable anxiety that comes from knowing that one of the most incredible, and probably most challenging, experiences of my life starts in exactly three days. Ever since I took Ustaaz Nasser's Arabic 101 class during my first semester of college, I have become enraptured with Arabic language, culture, history, literature, art, people...This summer will be my first time visiting the Middle East, but the warm, intricate, loving, poetic nature of the tiny glimpse of Arabic culture I've been given through my professors, their families, and my friends has compelled me to explore more. In addition to about eight weeks partnering with FDA in Jordan, I also plan to travel to Jerusalem and the surrounding Israeli and Palestinian regions. These are places that I've learned about in history classes, read about on news sites and political blogs, and even developed my own opinion about the nature of certain political situations. As someone with a passion for conflict resolution and a curiosity for how so many societal factors- religion, ethnicity, history- can effect the politics of an area, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have this summer to get a short glimpse of life in this beautiful and deeply intricate area of the world.

But I'll stop projecting about how I envision this summer to be- I will be actually experiencing it in a few short days and hopefully will have much to report back and reflect upon. Until then.