If I could describe Amman in precisely 3 words right now, it would be just that: Can't. Stop. Sweating. (With special emphasis on the pauses...creates a more dramatic effect)
I don't know if its gotten hotter since I've arrived, or if my body has finally realized where it is and gone into panic mode, but it's hot. HOT. The thing is, I think the weather could be bearable, but the whole 'no shorts or bare shoulders allowed, sitting in a classroom all day with no air conditioning, but oh wait, lets just use these pre-historic electric fans to move the hot air around' gig is really starting to take a toll. My persperation levels must be skyrocketing.
It should cool down soon, so I'm certainly looking forward to that day. But, other than the whole sweating all day and night situation, things have been going great over here!
While my home stay family has been my biggest challenge thus far, I have started to become more comfortable as part of the family. Being thrusted into someone's home and becoming apart of their family can still be a bit awkward, but I'm coping with the hurdles.
One hurdle, however, I am not ready nor will I ever be able to cope with are bugs.
I don't deal well with bugs. Ladybugs? Gross. Butterflies? No thanks. Other disgusting creepy crawlers... no no no and, no. But, to my pleasant surprise, my first 2 weeks in Jordan were bug free! The occasional fly here and there, but that was about it. I was on the verge of celebration, when one night last week all my hopes and dreams were eternally squashed. Yes, I came face to face with evil itself.....a cockroach. You may roll your eyes and gawk at my wimpy-ness, but this was no ordinary cockroach. I'm convinced it made its way to Jordan straight from the African jungles where it had mutated into a killing machine. Either way, it found me. Of course, I was home alone when it happened so, I was forced to face the demon myself. I lived to tell the tale, and here it is:
It was late one night last week, just as I was about to go to sleep when I opened the bedroom door to turn off the light. That's when I saw it. He was just moseying down the hallway like he owned the place, making his way to the bathroom. I figured it'd find a home in there far away from me, but of course like me, he got scared of the bidet and decided to take cover in my room. Since no one else was home and I was clearly not going to fall asleep knowing it was creeping around, I was forced to hunt him down, but it wasn't easy. I chased him around for a while, trying to trap him, but he was fast. I lost him at some point and thought all was lost until I saw him try to make a quick escape from out of the closet. I knew it was my only chance so I bit my lip and went in for the kill. Luckily, my host sister's shoe was nearby so I squashed him several times to ensure his death.
It was horrible, as you can imagine. And below is proof of his existence. Try not to shriek at its horror.
I hope it will be the last encounter, but I have a feeling he has siblings who will seek revenge. Lets just hope they go into someone else's room next time.
Apart from the bug, the upside of family life is without a doubt, the food. Lots and lots and lots of good food. Jordanian family life revolves around meals. To paint you a little picture, here is the break down of typical Jordanian meals:
Breakfast: You won't catch people munching down breakfast bars, yet alone doughnuts in Amman. And while it varies in each family, breakfast usually consists of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and breads. The real treat, however, is the Turkish coffee. To put it simply: it is the bomb.com. Although, if you think it tastes anything like coffee in the states then you guessed wrong. In fact, it tastes absolutely nothing like any coffee I've ever had. Its a thick black strong coffee that's served in a wee small cup and served at nearly every hour of the day - a Middle Eastern staple if you will. It's delicious, but if coffee isn't your thing, the tea here is just as tastey and served all day, every day.
Lunch: Usually considered the biggest meal of the day, but since I am at school all day, I usually pop into the little market nearby or, if I'm feeling adventurous, I walk a ways up the street to my personal favorite........ McDonalds. I've gotta say, I've always heard people talk about how McDonalds tastes different overseas and how it isn't as good, but I have found all these things to be lies. It is just as delicious, just as fattening, and just as well worth the calories as I remember in the states. Lunch usually involves another Turkish coffee or tea of some sort to keep the momentum going, which you can conveniently purchase at McDonalds as well.
Dinner: I believe the word 'feast' is more appropriate. Imagine the scenes from Harry Potter where every food item known to man appears on the tables and everyone is fighting for a share...its like that. A lot of chicken, lamb, rice, pita, vegetables, fruit, more pita, hummus, etc etc etc. It varies in each family, but we pretty much have a mixture of that every dinner. The food isn't as spicy as I would have imagined, but its still very good. Dinner is usually topped off with.. you guessed it, Turkish coffee or some flavored Argeela (or hookah, as they call it in the US), which is hugely popular here.
And for snacks: You can never go wrong with some falafal. It never fails and its sold everywhere. Plus, if the Middle East had a sponsor, it'd be Pepsi, which you can find anywhere and everywhere for about 30 cents.
So, in summary: food is good.
Did some pretty neat stuff this past week. The Jordanian soccer team played China in the playoffs for the World Cup here in Amman, and they won! And man, did the city get wild. I think it was an upset, seeing as China has like 10 gazillion people and the Jordanian soccer players can barely run because they smoke cigarettes all day, but either way, people got crazy. My host brother drove me around the city after the game to see all the celebrations. People literally filled the streets, they were honking their horns, and waving the Jordanian flag out of their cars. It was very cool to see the huge amount of Jordanian national pride. Its always interesting to me how sports are capable of bringing so many diverse people together. It was a very fun experience, and I'm already gearing up for the next big game in October!
We also managed to do some more exploring in the city this past weekend. A couple of us explored some of the famous Amman souks (markets) downtown, which is always a fun way to spend the day. Downtown has all kinds of different souks. Some have knick knacks of all sorts - anything from hair scrunchies to watches - and some have art pieces and jewelry. We haggled with some locals and picked up some cool things.
It's always a fun time wandering around downtown. It is Middle Eastern in every sense. People fill the streets selling fresh produce, assortments of nuts, and some parts even sell clothes! Its crazy. But it definitely has the most Middle Eastern vibe of any part of the city I've been to thus far.
After a bit of exploring we finally made our way up to the Citadel - which essentially is a hill filled with all kinds of ruins from different centuries. It has Roman ruins from the Temple of Hercules; Byzintine basilica ruins; and mosque/palace ruins from the Umayyad period. Very cool to see three entirely separate centuries of ruins all on the same hill, yet alone the same area. We took lots of pictures and had great views of the city. Some of which, I shared below.
Other than that, just been doing the whole school thing. We're taking a day trip to Salt this weekend and then spending 4 days in the Badia region next week (the rural area of Jordan) followed by the long awaited trip to the Dead Sea! Lots of fun things to come in the next couple weeks.
On a last note: 9/11. I don't think I could have ever imagined a decade ago that I would be in the Middle East during the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. I still remember where I was and what I was doing on that day in 2001.
It was nice to be able to share my experiences with my peers about 9/11 and growing up in the 10 years after. The staff was very kind as to share their thoughts, perspectives, and memories on that day as well. What really put things into perspective for me, however, was realizing that I am currently living in a region that was arguably affected just as much, if not more, by the events of and after 9/11, than the United States itself. Of course, I in no way mean that in disrespect to those who lost their lives and were affected by that tragic day as well as the war after, but I must admit, being in a region where US influence is both desired and despised, brings a whole new amount of perspective on the past 10 years.
Just some food for thought. Either way, I was happy that the day went smoothly both over here and in the US, and I continue to send my thoughts and prayers to all of those affected around the world by that day, and by terrorism as a whole.
Thinking of you all!
Roman ruins - Temple of Hercules (or whats left of it)
Umayyad palace on the left, Byzintine palace ruins on the right - both built in entirely different centuries
More of Byzintine palace ruins