"there is no sahil."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ramadan mubarak!

I am currently enjoying a smoke-free Jordan. It is indeed Ramadan, the month of celebration, hunger, grumpiness and late nights. We have been warned by our professors, host families, and our program director about the craziness of Ramadan. It was quite a sight to arrive at the bus station on Sunday morning to see almost all of the snack stands closed up and all of the fidgety people without cigarettes and those tiny cups of coffee, both of which are like extra appendages for Jordanian men (especially at 8am). A few of us are fasting, some because their families are and they wanted to try, others out of necessity since it is difficult to buy or eat food during the day and you can forget about eating it in public or in the presence of any Muslim. This includes water. The tiny CIEE office that is our refuge for the month is packed with about fifteen kids after class each day, scarfing sandwiches and water. Since my family is Christian, I’m not officially fasting although I don’t eat anything between breakfast and dinner when I come home at about 5.
On the subject of food, on Sunday night my uncle and two cousins took me to Cozmo, the city’s biggest and ritziest supermarket to find chocolate chips. We went at around 7pm, right around sundown, and the city was completely dead. No cars were on the road, and even less people were on the streets. The first iftar is clearly a huge deal. A drive that normally takes fifteen to twenty minutes took us about eight. Every other house is decked out in string lights in the shape of the crescent and the star. Yesterday I went to Safeway (another large grocery store) for chocolate chip cookie ingredients, and it was mass chaos. Worse than the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. To end the story of the Ramadan chocolate chip hunt, Cozmo had two bags of actual Tollhouse, for FIVE JD each. That is $7.05 for one bag of chocolate chips. Needless to say, I did not buy them. I had to settle for a couple of bags of Jordanian chocolate chips that actually look even better, and rang in at a more reasonable $4.90 each. What a deal! Regardless, I think that baking chocolate chip cookies on Thursday will be a pretty sweet event.
Instead of doing my reading for archaeology on Sunday night, I sat outside tonight with my mom, two aunts and an uncle, drinking coffee and talking in Arabic-English for about two hours. It was awesome and reminded me how lucky I am to have been placed with a family that is young, around all the time, and willing to speak to me in Arabic, repeating words over and over, letting me butt-in to conversations to ask “shuu hatha?” They wanted to know about the biggest differences between Jordan and the U.S., why I wanted to learn Arabic. We talked about economics, and of course a lot about food. Each day I go back and forth, feeling motivated and confident about my language acquisition to realizing how little I know and how far I have to go. Thankfully the former feelings usually win out.
For something out of the ordinary, we took a trip last weekend to Jerash (right photo), Um Qais and Bethany. All three places were amazingly well restored and kept up, completely dead, and really, really hot. Jerash actually was denied UNESCO status because it was thought to have been restored too much. Um Qais was the most impressive for me, mainly because of the views of the Golan Heights (left photo!) and the Sea of Galilee. Bethany was more exciting for all of us because of its proximity to Palestine rather than the whole baptism thing. Palestine is literally on the other side of the dinky Jordan River, about twenty feet across. Opposite the little wooden platform on the Jordanian side of the river is a hulking and immaculate concrete visitor’s center, topped with a big Israeli flag.
One last thing. I was not expecting much from Jordan in the way of clothes shopping. Boy was I wrong. At home, I have been known to schedule things around half-price Wednesdays at the Salvation Army (both Biddeford and Portland locations), and I’m not afraid to admit it. I dread the day that I have to surrender my ridiculous junky t-shirts for grown-up clothes. I am not a fan of business casual.
There are two big souqs in Amman on Fridays. One is at the huge Abdali bus station, and the other is at Jara in first circle, I think. Abdali (in photo) is down the street from my house, so we’ve ventured down for three Fridays now. I was expecting to find the typical rip-off made in China Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci type junk that markets like that usually specialize in. I was wrong. Abdali is the largest Salvation Army I have ever encountered. Not only that, it is open-air, sells fruit and vegetables, and everything is one dinar or less ($1.41). A lot of the clothes even have actual Salvation Army price tags on them, and there seems to be a disproportionate amount of clothing from Texas and Germany. If only those charitable church-goers from First Baptist Sugarland knew their donations were being hawked by some very loud twenty-five year olds from Marka… I love it. This week’s gem was a t-shirt from BARRY MANILOW’S 1985 COPACABANA TOUR! Now that is a rare find.


Blogger sthamill said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:29 AM

Blogger sthamill said...

sthamill said...
hi cait--I love your blog. the market sounds great--the story of the giant salvation army is exactly like what is described in the book--"the travels of the t-shirt in the global economy". the market for used american clothing is huge, and especially for clothes from warm weather states. sounds like you got a vintage shirt that somehow did not get picked off in the initial sort--before it got baled and shipped off. happy hunting!

10:29 AM

9:33 AM

Blogger Em said...

Yo scait!

Salvation army sounds hella sweet. Also, I'm so glad you like you family and are ignoring homework to get to know them. That's totes the most important in the end. I just found out (via Facebook) that little Thomas Hamill is in communication (most likely friends with) one of the girls that I am a TA to. Imagine that. Small campus. Teehee.

Wuv, Skembins

11:20 PM


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