Amman

The Honeymoon is Over

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Don’t get me wrong, I love it here. It’s been a blast. But lately I’ve been feeling a little homesick since I heard Lincoln had its first snowfall and my inner Gilmore Girl was distraught at missing the event.
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Needless to say, it trigged a list in my head of other things I miss from home. Orientation prepares you for the time period of when the anger sets in, so I wasn’t exactly surprised. But you start to feel a little bad because you’re pouting over a great opportunity.

But COME ON. My snow!

I think this was last week.
I think this was last week.

The things I miss are kind of surprising though. I thought I would feel like I was missing a limb without my constant wifi and my smart phone. But that actually isn’t true. It’s really refreshing to be able to go to go out with my group and no one is preoccupied with their phones. We don’t have a choice, so we’ve been forced to find alternatives of entertainment (Imagine!). That sounds harsh, but it’s really strange how much I notice it. I had grown used to having a conversation with someone who’s having a conversation with someone else at the same time.
But I’d be a hypocrite if I said I never do that, because I certainly do.

Instead, something I really miss is my idea of shopping in a grocery store. You know when you go to HyVee (Oh..HyVee…I miss that too) everyone kind of follows the flow of traffic and weaves through the aisles in order?
NOT HERE.
People will walk in different directions, their kids will run haphazardly through the carts, people step in front of you and bump into you without the slightest acknowledgement. It’s also kind of difficult to find prices marked on anything.
And if you know anything about how I feel about grocery shopping, it’s not exactly a pleasant experience.

I also find myself missing toasters. That’s not a Jordan thing. That’s an apartment thing. We didn’t get one. Although, we have a shocking amount of pots.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the things Jordan doesn’t have, especially this last week when I’ve been missing home and the snow. I’ve grown tired having to make sure we always have clean water available since the tap water is unsafe. The air itself is often cloudy with cigarette smoke, and I miss greenery: trees and grass. I miss fall.

There are sporadic trees. But as the weather gets colder, those few trees are beginning to disappear.
There are sporadic trees. But as the weather gets colder, those few trees are beginning to disappear.

 

I miss the usual things: family, friends, the English language, mail that comes and goes within a predictable time period.

Maybe I needed a security blanket.

Found it! A Starbucks!
Found it! A Starbucks!

It’s ridiculous to expect myself to love every single second of it here, but I tend to feel guilty whenever I have some kind of complaint. The wifi is spotty, and alcohol prices are ridiculous (I JUST turned 21. Now I have to be of-age AND rich? Yeah no). But there are plenty of unique things to distract me.

The art scene

Sbace 3arabi is an artistic collaboration by two local artists from Amman, Jordan Wize One and Sardine.
Sbace 3arabi is an artistic collaboration by two local artists from Amman, Jordan Wize One and Sardine.
Jasmine of Gaza photography exhibit by Sami Haven at Jasmine House.
Jasmine of Gaza photography exhibit by Sami Haven at Jasmine House.
Autostrad concert at Canvas.
Autostrad concert at Canvas.

The Food:

Bab Al-Yemen
Bab Al-Yemen
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Baklava and Lemon with mint at Habibah.

And of course…Wadi Rum

Which will always and forever be my favorite place here.
Which will always and forever be my favorite place here.

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We went to Petra yesterday, (PETRA) and it really hit me how little time we have left. I remember getting the excursion itinerary in the summer and thinking it would take forever to go to Petra. It was all the way in November?! Ugh. But suddenly we were trekking through miles and miles of sand and rock and looking at one of the Wonders of the World.

Anticipation!
Anticipation!

It’s weird. They prepared me for this, but I can’t shake off the creeping feeling that I need to prioritize. Which…true to form, I did. Color coordinated and everything.

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I think I’ve decided I would never live here. But I’ll come back.
Yeah, I’ll definitely come back.
A word of advice though, before coming to Jordan you should work out. The amount of desert walking I’ve done the last two months has been nearly incomprehensible. I had no idea I could climb mountains.

 

 

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Out and About in Amman

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Because we don’t go on group trips of the “One of the Modern Wonders of the World” variety every weekend, it’s up to us to find things to do on the off days. Our advisors send us weekly updates with things to do around town and we’re constantly searching Trip Advisor and Google for ideas. Most of the time, our outings involve food. Or more specifically, ice cream.

They love their ice cream here.
They love their ice cream here.

On the surface, Amman is sandy. Dust-covered buildings are stacked on top of each other and broken sidewalks wrap around stores hidden in the walls. We’ve found markets and shops with rows and rows of jewelry, coffee shops about every 10 feet (Thank GOD), and Roman ruins.

The Nymphaeum in the heart of downtown Amman. Dedicated to nymphs and functioned as a fountain and Roman bath.
The Nymphaeum in the heart of downtown Amman. Dedicated to nymphs and functioned as a fountain and Roman bath.

It’s so interesting to see the juxtaposition (I know….English major word) of ancient and modern. Whenever I talk to people who live in Amman I tell them Amman isn’t what I expected. They usually reply with something like, “What? We’re not riding on camels everywhere?” Which is a fair response and being from Nebraska, I empathize with (we don’t drive covered wagons everywhere and we do indeed have electricity), but I think what I mean when I express my surprise is that I wasn’t expecting thousands of years old monuments to stand so prominently in the middle of modern hustle and bustle. It’s a shock to be wandering through Ray-Ban stands and  liquor stores and suddenly come across the Nymphaeum or the Citadel-still there after years of destruction, industry, and change.

A spot of brightness!
A spot of brightness!

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Amman is not without it’s artists, and hipsters. Before I left I expressed my worry about not being able to feed by coffee-addiction. But I had nothing to worry about. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere without seeing a swarm of coffee shops and cafes. There’s not a ton of alcohol here, and when there is, it’s taxed like crazy. So in spaces that would usually hold a bar instead have juice, espresso, and Nescafe. Oh my gosh do Jordanians love their Nescafe. One of the most iconic cafes is called Books@Cafe, which is considered a refuge and place for Amman’s gay community to hang out. The website says,

“The original books@cafe in Jabal Amman is one of Jordan’s most iconic and
revolutionary establishments. Opening its doors in May 1997, books@cafe was the
first internet café in the Middle East cultivating a reputation for liberating the local
cultures and intellect while promoting peace, equality and tolerance.”

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Also, in an event of serendipity, my roommates and I were walking around Rainbow street one morning and a guy approached us asking if we wanted to be in his video.
Me: Uh…sure. Ok.
*awkward standing around for 20 minutes*
Me: So…what is this about?
Guy: It’s the teaser for a taco restaraunt!
This should have been obvious to us when two other guys put on plastic ponchos and tiny sombreros.

Result:

We went to the opening and upon arrival, the owner saw my roommate and yelled “The real Mexican is here!” Needless to say she was thrilled. And we got free tacos, which were delicious.
But we didn’t totally understand the theme, which was a subway and all the employees were dressed like engineers.

Blurry. But can you see the sign?
Blurry. But can you see the sign?

Until next time!

WE HAVE WIFI I’M SO HAPPY.

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I have been in Jordan for three days now, and I’ve done a lifetime’s worth of walking. 7 o’clock rolls around and we collapse into chairs at a restaurant and marvel at how much we’ve managed to do in such a short amount of time. I’ve started to post pictures but they by no means express just how beautiful and incredible the city is. This is a good example:

I took this picture when we visited Jordan’s national wildlife foundation. Amman is built on hills, STEEP hills, and the buildings look like they’re stacked on top of each other. At the risk of sounding overly poetic, they look like stairs leading to the sky. And as it begins to feel cold, you think that the houses could go on forever, stacking one on top of the other.

Also, coming to Jordan I was extremely nervous about attempting to speak Arabic with the locals. Especially since I haven’t practiced all summer. But our group leaders pushed us into taxis where we were immediately required to communicate, and while English is common, it’s definitely not that common. I’m terrible at giving directions in English, how am I supposed to give directions in Arabic??
But a note to everyone: Jordanians are some of the kindest and most helpful people. Maybe a tad over friendly (I like my personal space. Jordanians do not), but I really do feel safe here. People are more than willing to help me and my friends navigate the city.

BUT HOLY CRAP THE DRIVING IS THE MOST TERRIFYING THING I’VE EVER SEEN. ALSO WALKING.
There are no lines on the roads, no flow of traffic, no crosswalks or sidewalks. People literally just cross the street and cars are expected to halt for them, some streets are super narrow and crowded. And they drive SO fast.
And yet, it’s all oddly comforting. I mean, people pay attention when they drive. They use turn signals and their car horns. Pedestrians look both ways before they cross the street and then run instead of meander.
But the sidewalks? Forget it. There’s no consistency. They’re all broken or made of gravel or sloped. I want to look up and see the city, but I need to look down and make sure I don’t break an ankle.

Isn't it amazing?
Isn’t it amazing?
Rainbow Street. My favorite place so far.
Rainbow Street. My favorite place so far.

 

Sorry this post was a little scattered. Blame the jet lag (which I don’t actually have), or the fact that I’m still so overwhelmed.

Lemon and Mint.
Lemon and Mint. Delicious and sour. The Jafra Restaurant and Cafe is famous for them.