See you on the other side, Jordan

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Crazy Mikey was the guy who worked at our hostel. Crazy Mikey offered to drive us to the King Hussein/Alleby Border to conclude our trip in Jordan. To say Crazy Mikey is a character is an understatement. Crazy Mikey is from San Francisco, USA. Crazy Mikey does everything extremely unnecessarily early.  Crazy Mikey wakes up everyday at 3 AM no matter what. Crazy Mikey was in Academy for 17 years. Crazy Mikey would shave, make his bed, eat breakfast, and by 4 AM he would exercise. We heard about Crazy Mikey’s routine at least three times. Crazy Mikey mentioned he burned his hand. Assuming it had just happened, I ask, “oh are you okay?” Crazy Mikey replies, “Yea in Iraq war I had a bomb in my hand and pulled it away from children and it blew up in my hand, but you know the things you do to fight for our country.” But, but, Crazy Mikey, if a bomb blew up in your hand you wouldn’t have a hand… Crazy Mikey told us as he sped through the curvy roads of Amman,2014-04-06 06.24.33 “I used to drive race car, guys, you’re with Crazy Mikey, guys, hahahaha!”  Crazy Mikey used to drive a ’67 mustang and was caught by helicopter going 180 mph. Crazy Mikey happened to know there was a random coffee stand on the side of the road.2014-04-06 06.29.28 Crazy Mikey proclaimed his 6th wife will be Jewish. Crazy Mikey has had 5 wives. Crazy Mikey used to put so much coke in his nose. Crazy Mikey then used to ask the ladies, “let’s get married,” and then go to Tajo. Crazy Mikey claims it was good coke then, not mixed. Crazy Mikey got the ladies to respond, “yeaa, I’ll marry you, let’s go!” Crazy Mikey told us we are friendly. Crazy Mikey said the British, French, German don’t laugh, don’t have personality like American. Crazy Mikey crazy surprisingly got us to the border safely.

We then had the honor to have coffee with His Majesty King Abdullah the Second May He Reign Forever.2014-04-06 07.06.13

We waited for what felt like a very long time for them to even begin checking passports. There was a 10 JD exit tax, plus 7 JD for the bus to cross the border.

As we headed back to where we came from, I thought a lot about everything I had just experienced in Jordan.

Everyone was so nice. I have yet to encounter a culture that would stay talking with tourists so long. Granted, my friends were speaking Arabic so it was probably entertaining for them. And they were enjoying teaching me things and proving they know a little bit of English.

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What I knew

  • Shukuran – thank you
  • Kifak (kifik if you’re asking a girl)- what’s up/ how are you
  • Mniha – alright (response to above)
  • Inshallah- if god wills it

What I learned

  • Ma barif arabi – I don’t know Arabic
  • Al humdidallah – thank god
  • Ma salem – literally “with peace,” goodbye
  • Ana – me
  • 1-20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100
  • Shoe? – what?
  • Shoe ismak? – What’s your name?
  • Afwan- excuse me/you’re welcome
  • Moomkin- maybe (the only word to kind of be polite in Arabic)
  • Le/la- no
  • Wayne hamam? – Where’s the bathroom?
  • Ktir – very
  • Bdik/Bdak – do you want…
  • ik is female ending/ak is male ending
  • Probably more…

2014-04-06 09.56.41Al aqsa. The Dome of the Rock. It’s everywhere. Store signs, plastic bags, figurines, billboards. A mini one shines of gold amongst homogenous square buildings that crowd the one real city and capital of Jordan. Al quds. Jerusalem. It’s everywhere. The name of a restaurant. A coffee store. An origin. They still yearn for it. For their homeland. They can’t forget it. It’s everywhere. Their longing is real. It’s everywhere. Their pain is real. It’s everywhere.

Al quds. Jerusalem. What does quds mean? Hm, let’s think. In ancient times, what does the Tanach refer to Jerusalem as? Ir hakodesh. The holy city. Quds has the same exact root – kodesh. The fact that Jerusalem is holy to more than one nation will not change. But I sure hope the way we share it can. Peacefully.

Ma salem,

Ki

Betra

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This bost is going to be mainly bictures because Betra is such a phenomenal city that it hard to describe in words. Oh, did you forget Arabic doesn’t have the ‘p’ sound?

Corey and I woke up super early to catch our 6:30 bus to Petra. We needed to get to the JETT bus station early to purchase our tickets for there and back, 19 JD roundtrip. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to find a taxi so early in the morning, so we figured if we were out on the street by 5:30 we’d have a cab by at least 5:50 and still get there before 6.  But Crazy Mikey (the guy who works at the hostel we stayed at who refers to himself as Crazy Mikey), told us to be ready by 5 because we might have a really hard time finding a taxi that early. But when we woke up, Crazy Mikey called his friend the cab driver who was at the door to our hostel in less than 10 seconds, ready to rip off the Americans. He still ripped us off, but Corey bargained down a little. We were so out of it we didn’t even think to ask for the meter because all the cabs we had been in before automatically had used it. Oh, well.

We get our tickets and it’s so early nothing is open besides for JETT. So. Early. No. Coffee Anywhere. We notice that this random commercial center is open so we decide to step in. Only a security guard is there, and we ask him if there is any place to get coffee. He says nothing is open and we disappointedly start to leave. He compliments Corey’s Arabic, walks out with us and we speak outside for a while.

He asks Corey, “Is this your wife?”

When a man and a women are together in public in Jordan, they are either engaged, married, or related. There is no such thing as just friends between a boy and girl and boyfriends don’t exist either. Corey decided it would be easier to go along with it, “Maybe in the future…” NOT.

He replies, “Inshallah!” This means god willing, and is one of the best sayings in Arabic. Even if you have set plans – so I’ll see you at 8? Inshallah!

This guy goes on to say something like, “Israel occupied MY land 48, I was born in the 60s and me and my family were kicked out.” They weren’t exactly kicked out, but the fact that he sees it like that is really interesting. We talk for a little more and the tells us to wait 5 or 10 minutes and he’ll be right back with coffee or tea for us. HOW NICE! He literally went back inside and made tea for us himself. He only had one cup so we shared but STILL. THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN!!!

We see our bus pull up so we begin to part ways. He says to us, “I hope you have a great trip.” Corey started to say something to the effect of, “I wish…..” and the guy finishes his sentence saying, “for the return of my family to Palestine!” (El auda illa philistine.) “I want to go back to Palestine like you want to go back to America.” We definitely take for granted that we can return to our home so easily. Imagine traveling for a couple weeks and then being denied entrance back into the US. But, but, we live there! And so is the Palestinian narrative.

JETT: Jordanian Express Tourist Transport. So naturally, our 20 minute rest-stop was at a total toursity place. There wasn’t even a gas station here! 2014-04-05 08.16.54

After 3 hours on the bus, we finally get to Petra!! We get off the bus and try tying my kufia on my head. I was struggling a little bit because it was windy and I had no idea what I was doing. Almost immediately someone offers to help and ties it on for me. I was so thankful for this guy’s help, I would have melted without this makeshift hat.

It was a 50 JD entrance fee into the excavated city of Petra. I had just enough money to pay to get in and then I went and exchanged more money, because it was more acceptable to exchange shekels in Petra, the main tourist attraction of Jordan. The guy at the exchange place was named Abdouli and he was so nice he offered me cream for my eczema! Who does that?! It was prescription stuff that was really good and probably really expensive for him. HOW NICE.

We were so hungry and I looked for food without meat. I walked into a restaurant and they say they have a bunch of things, including bizza. I asked what kind of pizza they have, and they say: meat, beef, or chicken. They couldn’t understand that I didn’t want meat until Corey told them I don’t eat meat.  The guy behind the counter scrounged in the freezer and found a way overpriced frozen vegetarian pizza for me.

We then enter the total tourist trap. We were bombarded by multiple people asking if wanted a free horse ride. What’s the catch? They work for tip. 5 dinar. It’s okay though, we really wanted to walk it anyways. You can’t really tell from this picture,

KJ

KJ

but Corey and I left our mark in one of the first easily accessible caves in Petra. – that sounds like we went to the bathroom – lol nope, different cave.

Right before we entered the real entrance to the old city of Petra, we saw this reenactment taking place. I’m not really sure what it was for, but it was definitely entertaining.2014-04-05 11.12.04

Picture a desert. Now picture huge cliffs in the desert. Now picture cliffs right next to each other forming a narrow alleyway that leads into the city. Wayyyyy back in the day the area experienced many flash-floods, and they needed a way to drain this entrance. The drainage system the Nabataeans set up is so advanced for its time. You can still see the ancient pipes lining the sides.

Walking through the city there was always more to see. A model of the camel caravan is carved into the rock. On the right you can see the figure of of a man, with camel feet following him.

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The Camel Caravan

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The Kissing Cliffs (so named by us)

We were just casually walking along, and all of a sudden these random people told us stay to the side for a moment. They were filming a movie! I asked them what it was for: an Indian Saltine Dancing movie called Tamid. Or something like that.  It was really cool to be able to see a movie being filmed right in front of us. Especially because one of the Indiana Jones movies and part of Transformers were filmed in Petra too!

We had been walking for quite some time, and through the narrow cliff-way something was 2014-04-05 11.46.38shining. 2014-04-05 11.44.04We had made it to the treasury! It is so incredible to me that this structure was literally carved into the side of a huge cliff. Apparently the inside is very spacious and has great acoustics. It is the first main attraction of the city of Petra.

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Sad Sweating Donkey Disapproves Tourism

Since the Romans like to build everywhere they go, here is another Roman amphitheatre. The Romans took over the Nabataean city a long time ago. Also, I went to the bathroom in a cave and thought it was cool. Because it totally was. 2014-04-05 12.13.28

Soon after passing a bunch of neat historic ruins, such as an ancient temple and a lot of various tombs, 2014-04-05 12.37.062014-04-05 12.19.16we began our ascent toward the Monastery. Seven hundred and fifty-eight steps later (not including any steps downhill), we had reached the Monastery! It was colossal, and again totally 2014-04-05 13.26.11astounding that it was carved right into the cliff. They had to have used some sort of scaffolding system in order to build it, and it’s intricacies and size are unbelievable.But there we were, minuscule 10176197_10152110113334195_4690061664421277211_nbeings over-10177325_10152110113724195_6174345933085566594_ntowered by the mass of history above us.

After approximately another fifty steps, we were at what was debatably “The Best View.” 2014-04-05 14.03.58This concluded the ascent, and it was time to return back through the one path of Petra. 2014-04-05 13.50.21

 

 

 

On our way back down, one of the Egyptian Jack Sparrows (dark skin, eyeliner, pirate-y, there were multiple, not exaggerating), was on the back of a donkey guiding a little girl up the mountain with the rest of her family. I pressed to the side of the path to avoid getting run over by a donkey, and Jack Sparrow pops to the side and says with wide eyes, “I like youu, wooowww.” I’m going to speculate it was because at this point in the desert afternoon I was wearing shorts , a novelty in an Islamic country.

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Retracing our steps, we passed the treasury again, but this time it was glowing a rose-red. Somehow in the late afternoon the lighting brought out the remarkable manganese in the rock. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

On our way out, I made some new friends. 2014-04-05 16.19.45 2014-04-05 16.22.46I was ridiculously happy to meet some of the cutest peeps around.

There was so much off the main path that we unfortunately did not have enough time to explore. The city is seriously phenomenal, geologically and historically.

Petra was so much betra than anything I could have expected.

 

How much of Amman can we see in one day?

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We start the day by heading to Suk Abdali, which only happens every Friday. It’s a huge flea market set up in parking lot, with everything from fresh green peanuts to used sneakers. Before really exploring the suk, we needed coffee. We spot out a coffee shop close by, and it was helpful (to me, at least) that there was a picture of a coffee mug on the sign. Here, we met a Syrian shopkeeper who was so friendly. He spoke no English, but still tried to communicate with me a little bit. Getting interspersed translations from my friends, he really could not get over how beautiful Damascus is and how much nicer and prettier it is than here in Jordan. You could tell he really misses his home. He friended Becca and Corey on Facebook and not me, but said maybe after they teach me more Arabic. He gave us all coffee and water bottles for free, even after insisting we pay, and then insisting we at least pay for water. What a warm welcome.

From Suk Abdali, we headed to Sports City, which is basically a huge park with an arena in it also. It was more than cute when all a sudden a boy on his bicycle slows down and says “Bicca!” It was Becca’s host brother, Ahmed! She was so thrilled to see him and he her. The extent of English was adorable, asking “how are you” and responding “good” to everything.

Here I got to witness some of the familial culture in Jordan. People come here just to hang out and let their kids play unsupervised.We saw a little boy, less than 2 years old, scooting himself around on a small plastic car, that almost headed uncontrollably down an incline. Kids here must learn a greater sense of independence at a young age.

We needed food. “Oh Jordan,” as Becca would say, “you try so hard,” you went and named your huge chain supermarket and restaurant HABOOB. HABOOB SubermarketBecca and Corey begin chatting up the guy at the meat counter. He identified as Palestinian and was happy to prove he speaks English, while my American friends responded to him in Arabic.

There’s not really a thing in Jordan called vegetarianism. I had potato wedges as a meal. It’s fine.

Becca then took us to more of the “slumps” of Jordan. Like, she was surprised that there wasn’t a thick layer of trash lining the streets like there usually is. She pointed out the apartment she used to live in, and I honestly expected the area to be worse. It wasn’t as bad as she made it seem. After touring the side streets we got to a main road and couldn’t resist the corner-store bakery. This guy was Syrian with atypical stunning blue eyes, who let us sample just about every type of dessert in his store. After we said we were from America, he starts by saying something about Obama, then I heard him say George Bush a couple times and then I heard Saddam Hussein. After leaving with a nice array of pastries, I learn that he said Obama is weak and that George Bush killed Saddam Hussein who didn’t do anything. Interesting.

Our next taxi driver was a 70-year-old Palestinian, who wishes that Hitler won the Second World War… Him and his family would not have been displaced and by implication there would be less Jews. Although I had no idea what they were talking about in the moment, I’m pretty glad we got out of that cab almost right after he said that.

We were now in Abdoun, the most affluent part of Amman, filled with diplomats, expensive restaurants, mansions, the Taj Mall (*giggle*), and Ferraris and Bentleys lining the streets as apposed to garbage. Abdoun was no doubt in sharp contrast to where we had just been. We stopped at a restaurant and they spoke to guy who was Palestinian by heritage, not by birth. He said he would definitely go to Palestine if he could, because it’s his homeland.

We get in yet another taxi with a Palestinian driver from Bethlehem. He gets to go home once a month, and sends money to his four kids. He said he would not want to go back to Palestine, because the work in Amman is good. It also probably has something to do with him actually having the opportunity to see his land regularly, and realizes it is now not a place he would want to live. As apposed to the guy earlier who still views his homeland as this ideological holy place. We spent a while in this taxi because the guy did not know what we meant by “Roman citadel.” He called one of his friends to ask him where to go, and then we ended up seeing the same guy we talked to on the phone on the road a little later! They drove window to window through awful traffic, talking and laughing while various honks playfully boomeranged all around us. After accidentally taking us first to the ruins we wanted to see after the citadel, we finally make it up hill. We overlooked the whole city and it was incredible. 2014-04-04 15.07.26Now imagine many many years ago 2014-04-04 15.10.49there was just a huge temple on top of a mountain, with the rest of the city below it. Except the city was called Philadelphia (who knows why…) sometime before 2nd century AD. Freaking Romans built everywhere. Walking through the ruins, we hear weird music being played. We follow the noise, and it is in fact none other than two Bedouins, in full robe and red kufias, playing Yankee Doodle on bagpipes and drum. I so so wish I go a video of them playing Yankee Doodle, but here is a glimpse of what I was able to catch on film. Oh, and note the Jordanian flag tied onto the bagpipes. Priceless.

Just as we are about to leave the Citadel, the Call to Prayer begins. We quickly climb back to the top, hearing and feeling the Call echoing around us and the entire city. In the distance was the huge Jordainian flag swaying with pride in the same wind lifting the kites above us and the spirits of everyone heading off to pray. A bunch of young boys were flying kites right next to us and I couldn’t not think of The Kite Runner. Yes, Arab boys do in fact play with kites. Yes, there is so much more controversy here and around here than I’ll ever be able to see for myself. And, yes, I can just sit here and soak up the Jordanian sun and try to return to my ignorance. Or I can gaze into the distance at what was once the biggest standing flag in the world and realize it is the same flag as the Palestinian flag, but with a star. Realize the sorrow these people are living through everyday. Realize as they call out to Allah that Jews believe in one god too. Realize not everyone is a radical. Realize there are radicals in almost every group. Realize that people over in the “Western neighbor” don’t realize so much. Realize that I was one of them.

Tour Guide Becca was so proud of herself for finding this random staircase that leads directly from the top of the mountain to the bottom, where the Roman amphitheatre lays. 2014-04-04 16.44.11At the foot of the ampitheatre we saw the most grass in all of Amman, with “our city/nation, Amman” written in Arabic within the grass.

Since we were already at the bottom of the mountain, we were also basically in downtown, which is filled with various shops. We go into this one shop, buy a few things, and get to talking with the shop keepers. One of them speaks English really well, and also knows French and obviously Arabic as well. They are so nice. They are Palestinian and so of course, they tell me they like my kufia. I think they asked my friends why I was so shy, because suddenly attention was turned to me. I say “ma barif arabi,” which means “I don’t know Arabic,” and they laugh because I said it in Arabic. They start teaching me Arabic and how to count. They say the numbers are so similar to English so it’s easy to learn. I had to hold back from saying, “no it sounds nothing like English it’s basically the same thing as Hebrew!” It made it easier to learn the numbers, but at the same time harder. The pronunciation is so strange and certain sounds even stranger to my untrained sheltered ears. I think I really took for granted going to “Palestine” knowing the main language and being essentially fluent in it by now. Experiencing Jordan, I can now really relate to some of the international students I know who came without speaking a lick of Hebrew. They can’t go to the supermarket without it being a challenge. They can’t always get around, although soooooo many more people speak English in Israel than they do in Jordan. I would be so lost in Jordan if I didn’t have my Arabic speaking peoples with me. I wouldn’t be able to get around I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do becauase everything is in Arabic. There is so little English here that I have to tell what shops sell by their pictures on the sign. I have to guess what people are saying by their gestures and intonations. It’s challenging, but I’m thanful people talk animatedly enough for me to understand a lot more than I thought I would. At least they use their hands to point out the bathroom, and directional terms are very similar to Hebrew.

We talked to these same shopkeepers for quite sometime, and Corey brought up that he wanted to get a haircut and ask them if they knew a place. The guy walked us all the way there, waited with us, made sure we got tea while we waited, stayed with us until Corey was completely done with his first straight shave. What hospitality! I was really astounded by how nice this guy was. Maybe he had nothing better to do, but still.

Hashem’s! No, not Hashem, like Jew G-d, but Hash-em’s, was where had the best and cheapest dinner with the quickest service. In less than 30 seconds we had falafel, french fries, 3 bowls of hummus and pita for everyone on the table. And it was so delicious. We had met up with Becca’s friend who is from Syria and is currently living in Jordan. He also speaks perfect English. It was really interesting to see his point of view on Jordan, seeing as he has lived here for a while. He has a pretty pessimistic view of Jordan. He was saying that Jordanians never smile. They never laugh. Because they live in a shit place.

Corey and I wanted to go to sleep early because we were leaving for Petra at 5 in the morning. So, of course, I had a hard time trying to fall asleep.

When I crawl into my creaky bed

I lay my head that’s spinning

Staring at the dark ceiling

Somehow I’m reliving my day

Overwhelmed by the unknown

Try so hard to decode

The input overload

Somehow letters I don’t know

Start to float unconsciously

And even when I close my eyes

They’re still there

Calling out to me

I can’t make sense of the gibberish mess beaming colorfully through my mind

So I’ll try to unwind and to take the time to decipher my new friend, arabi.

Marhaba, Jordan

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“When we get to Jordan, it’s Palestine, not Israel.” The first of many wise touring words said by Becca, our resident Jordanian tour guide (she’s from the States, but was actually asked if she’s Jordanian by our waiter our first day there). Many people who live in Amman, the capital city of Jordan and our first destination, are of Palestinian descent. Whether they themselves were born in Palestine, or their families are from there, they still largely identify as Palestinian, so it’s a sensitive topic. Becca spent all of last semester living with a host family in Amman, and her host dad is no longer allowed to go visit his home. Needless to say, she gained a whole other perspective during her short time there, and I got to see a glimpse of it this weekend. (Her blog about her time in Jordan is definitely worth checking out. Not only will it give you an idea about some of the stories I got to hear about, see where they took place, and get a better more informative feel of the culture, but also a lot of it is just plain funny.)

Getting to Amman

Getting to Afula was easy. Getting to Beit She’an was easy. Taking a taxi to the Jordan River Crossing was easy. Especially after meeting a French traveller named Oliver who split the cab with us too. When we got to the border, Corey had a freak out moment when he thought he forgot his passport (again). He unpacked his entire backpack, pulling out his t-shirts 2014-04-03 13.07.55and his boxers and his pants and flopping them on the ground, digging deep into the depths of his bag, only to figure out his passport was in his pocket. And then he forgot to show the woman once he found it. At this point, they saw we had USA passports (and French) and let us right in.


We had to pay an exit tax of 107 NIS (ugh) and then get an ink exit stamp on our passports. Then there was a bus that would take us from Israel to Jordan. We had to wait SO long for the bus to fill up. But apparently we were really just waiting for the bus driver to eat food. It was 5 NIS for literally a 30 second bus ride to cross into Jordan. We literally crossed over the Jordan river. It was a bit anticlimactic but WE ARE IN JORDAN whusdzjnvcxlke!

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The Jordan River!

Of course, it cost money – 40 JD –  just to get into Jordan. At this point I got super cool old-style stamps from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in my passport, and an ink stamp for one month resid2014-04-03 15.04.12ency (one entry only). They then scanned my EYES. I had to look into a creepy eye camera and the people at the desk wouldn’t tell me why. Obviously security reasons, but I was really just curious as to what they do with our eyes…

We get out of the arrivals building and aren’t really sure what to do. 2014-04-03 15.13.03It looked like only vehicles could really cross through. We had started talking to a group of some older people from Boston, who were traveling with their friend who just happens to work for the Embassy in Amman. I had actually noticed she had a diplomatic passport when we were getting stamped inside. She talks to the guards for a couple minutes and next thing we know we are easily walking through security and to the other side.

After securing a taxi for 36 JD to Amman, I hear my first “No broblem” from our taxi driver who spoke basically no English at all. The Arabic language doesn’t have the ‘p’ sound, which makes for some quality giggles.

The first thing I see as we pull away from the border and onto the main road- GOATS!! I was so happy and giddy, I freaked out a little.  “I love goats!!!! I already love this country!!” Our taxi driver got a kick out of that. He smiled widely and I learned that maoz is Arabic for goat. Useful.

Becca’s subtle advice to learn culture nuances: Notice the ratio of men to women on streets. Now out of the few women you do see, notice if they are wearing a hijab, the different types of hijab. I saw a couple younger girls not covering their hair at all. That’s okay, but once they get their period they start wearing a hijab. I saw mainly middle-aged and older women on the street who were all wearing a hijab, and full modest dress.

Riding through Jordan, it’s weird to think it’s what Palestine would have looked like without being totally settled. And then you see sporadic UNHCR Syrian tents, and the refugee situation gets more than real. There are over half a million registered Syrian refugees in Jordan. We got to meet some Syrians (not necessarily refugees) during our short time there, but more about that later.

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Somewhere between the northern border and Amman

Driving in Jordan for the first time was like experiencing all the symptoms that lead up to a heart attack over and over again. Busy two way street? Sure, let’s drive head on into the other lane just to pass this tractor in front of us. Pedestrians? Psh, they too slow! Let’s maintain speed and dodge them real quick. Our driver, however, was really nice. He took us exactly where we wanted to go. “Al rassi,” he said, placing his hand on his head. This literally translates to “on my head,” but means “my pleasure.”

Finally in Amman

We got dropped off at Second Circle. The city of Amman is set up so there are bunch of circles, which are just round abouts. Becca and Corey got some infamous shawerma at this food stand on the street. We went around the corner and had the most delicious Jordanian dessert dough thing with powdered sugar on top. Mmmmmmmmm Jordanians know their sweets.

Rainbow street was our next destination. A taxi driver refused to take us there, so we opted to walk because it really wasn’t far. When we got there, it was much more apparent why the driver didn’t want to go there. He was probably religious, and Rainbow street is definitely a more Westernized part of town, with more tourists and more modern next generation Muslims who might match their hijab with a pair of jeans. Scandal.

We were almost hit by truck backing up!!! :O We then settled into Nara cafe and ordered some argelah. Multiple choice question of the day: How do you say ‘to smoke’ in spoken Arabic?

a. to drink

b. to smoke

c. to eat

Take your best guess and check your answer at the bottom!

The restaurant we were at was definitely a nicer one. Modern chandeliers adorned the ceilings and the prices were the highest we saw in Amman. Corey’s friend Ross, who has been in Jordan for a month, met up with us and we headed over to his place to drop off our bags. During the few minutes we were there, the Call to prayer (1 out of 5 per day) began. We stepped outside so we could hear it a bit better. The Call to prayer here is beautiful. It consumes the whole city and we stayed silent taking it all in. I thought about the uniformity of the same religion here and the same language and slightly varied cultures within Jordan. How this was in sharp contrast to where I had just come from, Haifa, a city of diversity filled with Arabs and Druzim and Russians and our international school filled with people from all over America, Korea, China, Germany, Czech Republic and more. As the call to prayer rang through my ears, I really marveled at the simplistic beauty of this Islamic country.

Ross took us up to his roof top view and it was more than incredible.

Ross' Rooftop

Ross’ Rooftop

It overlooked like all of Amman and this picture only shows the half of it. All of the mosques light up green at night. Apparently this signifies good luck and good forture, or maybe it’s just the GO signal to help the Muslims find it at night. Or not.

We went to dinner at Al-Quds restaurant. Even the menu looked daunting :O Too. Much. Arabic. At. Once. The traditional Jordanian dish is called manstaf. It consists of some meat, typically lamb but this was chicken, cooked in yogurt sauce. When they cook it, they lay this bread that is thinner than paper on the bottom of the pan to absorb all the meat’s grease and extra yogurt. They served it with the meat laying on rice, the super thin bread laying over the meat, with an entire side bowl of yogurt sauce to pour into it. The epitome of the anti-kosher. Literally cooking a child in her mother’s milk. Totally combining life and death. This dish has been around for a while. Could this be the origin of this specific law of kashrut?  Don’t do as those people do. As slimey and delicious as it might be. (Side note: I did NOT try the manstaf nor do I ever plan on it.)

While this may be TMI (Dad, you’ve been warned), I had my first “this public toilet has only a water squirting hose thing and no toilet paper omg what is life right now” experience. Jordan is a bidet culture. Which I don’t understand, because it’s like top 3 for countries with the most scarce amount of water. Regardless, it was, er, definitely an experience.

Before we went to sleep Becca got an email from her boss and had me read it. It talked about Hatikvah and raised really valid concerns. I had to begin to think over the words of the Hatikvah in my head…. The soul of the Jew… To be a free land… What is free if we continue to oppress other nations? Not only Jews live in Israel, whoops, Palestine, but this is still the national anthem. Where do the Jews belong then if not Palestine? Can there be a solution? So many more questions with no good answers.

Final thoughts about being in very foreign country

I felt very displaced, being in a country where I can’t speak the language and don’t know the culture. I was overwhelmed by all the Arabic that surrounded me, on every street sign and every storefront and every dinar and every tongue. But at the same time I’m so thankful that I’m with friends who speak Arabic, and are sometimes considerate enough to remember to translate/paraphrase for me, with an intrigued whispered nudge of “what just happened?” Overall, I’m so excited to be here and really gain a perspective I never even thought to have.

Can you believe this was just one day?! I can’t. More to come soon.

Answer: a. to drink; not only is the argelah so so smooth, and also like using a straw, but smoking is just as habitual and vital to them as drinking water.