"there is no sahil."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

sprrring break

April 10, 2007

My mum left this morning and it was sad. She visited for 5 days and we drank lots of whole-bean Green Mountain coffee, read old NYT Sunday magazines, ate the Arab staples, had a big holiday lunch with my host family and went to Petra. And floated in the Dead Sea. It was awesome.

Now it’s back to the grind and the Nescafe. Still figuring out my summer. The weather has gotten beautiful now and laundry on the clothesline only takes an hour or two to dry! Someday I’ll get to writing about my India and Pakistan trip and post that wanderlust II…but that day is not today. Below is some old stuff I put off posting.

March 3, 2007

It’s march. I can’t even believe it. No matter how much I keep coming back to it, I still can’t seem to get my head around how fast time is passing. That is the single most significantly different thing about life here I think; being acutely aware of time passing. Reminds me of that counting crows song “a long December.” Haven’t listened to that in a while, wow.

Right now I’m figuring out my summer and it’s a little bit of a bummer that school for me won’t end until may 30th since that means I can’t go to graduation or senior week, nor can I take summer classes since many of them start mid-may, and being here gives me about 3 weeks less of summer than smith normally would. That’s okay though because I think I’m going to stay for an extra two months and take some more Arabic and intern, try and use my smith praxis funding. It would be nice to relax but if I intern with praxis that won’t happen since I’ll have to do 220 hours of internship work in about 7-8 weeks, on top of whatever class I take. That’s a lot of full days. Doing this I’d be back home by August 1st and I’d have at least 2 weeks for some serious r&r before going back to smith. That is more or less my one requirement for this summer, two unoccupied weeks at home. Sounds kind of nice right now.

March 9, 2007

Today I woke up at 7:30 without an alarm (it’s Friday, weekend here) and couldn’t fall back asleep! It’s been a week of 9-10pm bedtime since I’ve been sick and in the routine of going to the gym when it opens at 7am. It’s early enough to work out and shower before class at 9, but not early enough to be too painful. I figure while I’m here and able to do so, I might as well work on fixing my sleep debt racked up from the past two years at smith and even create a nice surplus to draw on for next year. This kind of routine would just not be possible there, but it’s so easy here since I live with a family, in a house, and in a culture and country where there’s just not a ton of cheap, fun, and interesting stuff to do late at night. And I’m here to study Arabic, remember? I have to remind myself of that sometimes.

March 16, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the gym yesterday morning. I was in a cab, and it was pouring in typical Jordanian-winter fashion, and then it started to snow. Immediately every car on the road dropped its speed down to about 15 mph and slowly as the day went on everything else in Jordan ground to a halt. It was exactly what you would expect would happen in the Arab world when faced with an unfamiliar situation like inclement weather.
To their credit, Jordanian snow is nasty. I wouldn’t want to go out in it either. To detail how things went in this state of emergency, I’ll explain my day.

First, my cab refused to turn right and drive me up the slight hill where my gym is located. Then, I knocked and yelled at the gym door (the gym opens at 7) until 7:25 or 7:30 when finally someone came and unlocked the door. Please keep in mind that the gym employee who opens in the morning does in fact live in the apartment above the gym, same building. I went to change in the locker room but then the gym girl came in to inform the three of us who came in to workout, one of whom was already on the machines, that they would in fact be closing now and would remain closed for the day. Neat!
I sent a text message to my academic director to ask whether class would be held or not (it’s 7:35 now and class begins at 9am; the center doesn’t even open until 8am) and she replied that the university was open and functioning. The three of us went to a coffee shop to sit and watch everyone freak out about walking in the snow for a little while before class. We made our way over to the university, completely soaked at that point since the snow was more of a slush at the beginning of the day and because it sat on the ground first as slush and then as water since Jordan is all hills and absolutely no drainage, no gutters, no nothing. When we arrived, as expected, very few people were there. By 9:30, there were about 12 students and our advisor hadn’t arrived yet. Then the director of the center decided since no teachers were there, that in fact class would be cancelled today. Really, it was a fun exercise in wasting money, getting really wet and cold, and high-risk driving. Thankfully the snow was beautiful and actually accumulated on the ground—it snowed all day and night; by night time the snowflakes were huge and dry and just like at home. It didn’t melt til this afternoon when it started raining.

Of course there were really no cabs available but thankfully I was able to find a bus with room. Later in the day I caught a cab to go do some work at my internship, and the first cab I got into refused to turn on the meter and told me he would take me for 3JD (the ride costs 1.10) so I asked him if he was crazy and he said no, the weather was crazy, and I said ok bye and found another one. I went to my internship office (after calling to make sure they were open about 2 hours before) and of course when I arrived at about 2pm it was closed and everyone had gone home. So I got in another cab to go to a friend’s house that has central heating and couches and blankets and this cab told me he would also not go by the meter and I said okay, then I would not go by his cab, and he gave in. They crack pretty easy. What a day.

April 1st 2007.

Not a lot has happened lately. I’m not sure if my culture-shock continuum progress was delayed or if the usually-crappy-month-of-March just got me like it usually does, but recently life here has been a little bit similar to Groundhog Day. Aside from the plain skull-numbing monotony, I notice more and more how bitter and critical and unforgiving I’ve become about things that frustrate me here. The naïve, carefree and endlessly optimistic attitude I had upon arrival has dwindled along with my patience. Thinking back to when I first arrived, I remember thinking that living here would make me unfriendly, since social interaction and confidence and friendliness in general as a female is just suppressed and unexpected, but being here has not made me that way but in fact more defensive, outspoken and generally more of a bitch, to coarsely simplify. The spring semester students often remind me of this. A lot of times it’s about the study abroad program that I’m on, and not about Jordan. I think that Andy, me, and my economics professor together could make this country work if we could control and change all of the criticisms and incompetences we complain about. How American.
I have to stop and remind myself of my mantra, some variation of some line from American Beauty that in retrospect was exactly what I did to remain sane and happy when I got to Jordan and realized that bureaucracy, general incompetence in daily transactions and administrative bullshit are comparatively nonexistent in America if you compare the two; in the street alone in India; in the Sharjah airport; in the CIEE office; and in so many other situations. Sit back and let it run over me like rain. Be fatalist, Arab.

I’ve become somewhat of a nomad, going between school and my internship, the gym and friend’s apartments, sleeping there as not to annoy my family when I’m out and up late using the internet and with friends, and home when I have to.

In class I make lists and notes to myself. I anticipate dates. Summer internship application deadlines, trips, weekends, visits…and planning. Planning for the summer, for courses in the fall, for fellowships and scholarships next year, and for trips and visits before I go home. I read the New York Times online and I go to conversation club. Most weeks I sign up for tutoring during lunch and tomorrow I’ll register for extra colloquial Arabic classes at the French Cultural Centre. I try to study but instead I do things like this and highlight excessively and make flashcards, things I don’t need to concentrate on. The house is too dark and too loud. My host family just bought a desktop computer and it’s being installed on the kitchen table for lack of a better place. My little sister here got two chicks for Palm Sunday to keep for a while before her uncle comes to take them to one of the farms that he works on. They’re in a cardboard box on the veranda. They chirp constantly and my host mom just carried one of them into the kitchen and then back out again to show the computer installation man. I’m afraid of bird flu and I think they’re kind of gross.

I read this NYT article today and it made me smile:


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