Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Marhaba, al-Urdun!

I’m here.

I’ve been in Jordan for about 48 hours now and it feels like much longer.

The first night was a blur. A few of us were picked up at Queen Alia International Airport and driven back to our hotel. We ended up tooling around the outlying areas of the city right as the sun was setting, casting a reassuring glow over the predominantly brown landscape. The sunset meant the hour of iftar was approaching – Muslim Jordanians would soon be breaking their fast among family and friends. After a 10-hour flight from JFK, which I had to sprint across the airport to catch following a delayed flight from Atlanta, I was just happy to be on the ground with both of my bags. The beautiful cityscape was just a bonus.

Dinner was a variety of Middle Easternish foods, plus an attempt at macaroni and cheese. As I ate I could feel myself falling asleep, so after dinner and a few minutes of chatting with some other students, I called it a day. I flipped on the TV as I got ready for bed and found “The O.C.” in English with Arabic subtitles. I’ve never been happier to see Adam Brody.

Sleeping was difficult the first night. I woke up disoriented but wide awake at 1:00 a.m. I didn’t get back to sleep until after 4:00. The last thing I remember hearing, before I finally got out my iPod and prayed for sleep, was the muezzin reciting the call to prayer. It was time for the suhoor, a pre-dawn meal unique to the holy month of Ramadan.

Yesterday we got to visit the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature along with WildJordan – a cafĂ© and shop located in the same building. The view from the terrace was incredible, but I had forgotten my camera back at the hotel, so no pictures. Amman is built on seven hills, like Rome, and though the building we were in stood only three or four stories tall, we looked down on scores of rooftops in the small valley below.

Across the valley stood the Citadel (Jabal al-Qal'a) – our next stop. There we found the ruins of a Roman temple, bath houses, and more. The Citadel looked down upon a gigantic and incredibly well-preserved Roman amphitheatre. Our guide told us it could hold 7000 spectators. Naturally, we all climbed from the bottom of the amphitheatre to the top. I’m still regretting that decision today.

By afternoon we were all exhausted from the sun, the walking, and the jet lag. It was great to get back to the hotel and eat dinner – after sundown, of course.

Today was less eventful, with an Arabic placement test, some more orientation information, and a tour of the university where I’ll be studying.

It’s great to be here and more or less settled. Pictures coming soon!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Trip by the Numbers

Days until I take off for Amman: 8
Intermediate (sit in the airport) stops on the way: 2
Jordanian dinars in my possession: 32
Water bottles I should buy while at JFK: 3
Protein bars to bring with me: 1,000

Okay maybe I exaggerated on the last one. I will be packing a few, though, just in case I find nothing appetizing on a particular day or happen to feel malnourished. I have been warned by several people about the intensity of the Arabic Language program I'm about to enter and so far protein bars have been my best defense. I guess they're not really a good offense, though.

I'm doing my best to fight off the jittery nerves that come with the knowledge that in about a week I will touch down in a foreign country with nothing but clothes, water bottles, and various essential travel documents. I'm assembling a "happy bag" for my 11-hour flight from JFK to Amman. So far it it looks like its contents will be chocolate, earplugs, my iPod, an inflatable travel pillow, a healthy supply of Tums, an eyemask, and the small amount of Xanax my doctor prescribed for me (at my mother's suggestion).

Today was my last day at my summer internship and my coworkers took me out to a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant. They wanted me to start getting used to the food in Jordan. We had a great time and they gave me a beautiful journal and matching pen/pencil set (among other great gifts) for my journey.

I'm so excited to go study in Jordan for four months. I just wish I could get the whole getting-there part out of the way.