After wandering around the ruins of Jerash and realizing that many of the amazing people I have met are leaving in the next couple of days, I decided that I no longer wanted to live in a hostel. So I've been exploring rooms in flats (don't I sound so English?) in convenient and safe areas. There were two main neighborhoods I am looking at: Jabal Waibdeh and First circle. Jabal Waibdeh is close to where I will be taking Arabic classes and is where all the expats live. First circle is by Rainbow St and is hip neighborhood with lots of stuff to do. I am actually happy that I waited to look for a flat until I was in Amman. Now that I've gotten familiar with the area, I have a better feeling of where I feel safe and where there is a lot to do. I actually found a place, but I'm going to keep it a secret until I move in on Saturday. Look out for a post then.
On Tuesday I went to Jerash, which is AMAZING. It is an archaeological site filled with Roman ruins. If you don't already know, all of Palestine was ruled by the Romans for hundreds of years. Most of the ruins in Jerash are dated between 0CE and 500CE. Some say that Jerash has better Roman ruins than Rome! What was crazy to me was that there were no ropes or "Do Not Enter" signs around the ruins. Visitors can touch and climb all over the artifacts and ruins. It blew my mind that I didn't get yelled at by the security guards policing the area for exploring some of the more hidden relics.
The next day I returned to Jerash with my friends from the hostel to see a concert. We'd seen an ad for the band, called Act of Congress, posted all over Amman. The performance was part of the Jerash Culture and Arts Festival and it was sponsored by the American Embassy. The experience was surreal. Act of Congress is an American bluegrass band. So we saw a country band perform in the Northern Theater (an ancient roman ruin) in the Middle East. Luckily we did get a more authentic cultural experience when the band was finished; a Palestinian dance group then performed to classical Arabic music.
Lastly, I had an amazing and exhausting experience going to a Turkish Bath on Monday. I went with Kifah and Cori, a Peace Corp volunteer who just finished 3 years in Ghana. We knew that the bath closed at 4pm, but of course waited until 3:40pm thinking we would get a taxi. There were no taxis. It was rush hour so we ran (really we walked really fast but running sounds more dramatic. Also, there were stairs, so what do you expect?) Dripping sweat, we made it at 4:01pm. Fortunately, they still took us. It was the most relaxing and exhausting thing I've done so far in Amman. Even more exhausting than walking 2km in 90 degree weather to get there in the first place. I think that my tour book describes it better than I could write (see below).
We think that the writer exaggerated it a little bit; it really was quite fun. The layers of black and dead skin that came off of my body were disgusting, but I'm really glad they aren't there any more.
I mostly have pictures, plus a surprise video, for this post. I did want to give a quick update though. I am doing well. I've met two really nice travelers in my hostel, Kifah and Ben. Kifah is from Holland and is studying Arabic in Amman. She introduced me to the school where she is taking classes. It has really reasonable prices, so I have decided to take some basic classes there. I will start August 2nd. (Fun Fact: you might notice that August 2nd is a Sunday. That is because the weekend in Jordan is Friday and Saturday.)
It is a really small world. The other traveler, Ben, actually just graduated from Claremont McKenna College. I recognized him immediately - though his CMC t-shirt helped - because we'd taken a Spanish class together freshman year. Here is a picture of us together:
I've been spending most of my days learning my way around Amman and adjusting to the environment.
Jordan is not like any place I've ever been. Many of the women wear hijabs or burqas. However, there is a strong Christian population in Jordan so it is not necessary for me to cover my hair except when I go into mosques. Also, five times a day there is a call to prayer; there is even one at 4am. That one is my favorite (<-sarcasm).
I took a video of the horrible traffic that I talked about in the previous post. The video was taken from the roof on my hostel at the intersection below. Notice cars are merging into traffic and pedestrians. In the background you can here the call to prayer. It think it reflects the hectic life of downtown.
I arrived in Amman, Jordan yesterday evening!
Today, I spent the day trying to get oriented, which I can’t really say I did very well. I was lost for almost the entire day, but was too stubborn to get a taxi. Luckily, people speak English and were able to help me navigate back to my hostel. By the end of today, I feel I’ve finally kind of figured out where things are located downtown. Here are some of the pictures I took when I was lost and another when I finally figured out where I was.
I learned some important tricks today about navigating Jordan, if you ever decide to visit. First, there are “8 circles” that Jordanian’s use to navigate the city. Despite what one might think, they are not concentric circles. They are 8 round-a-bouts that are located throughout the city. Second, the traffic here is way worse than LA. There aren’t really lanes delegating where cars should be and pedestrians cross the street wherever and whenever they want. Third, take the yellow taxis.
Today was terrifying and fun. I met knew people, tried some new food (including Arabic Ice Cream; it has pieces of pistachio in it and is delicious), and already have some stories to tell.
In case you were wondering, it feels pretty real.
I hope to post soon with a brief background on microfinance and some of the history of Jordan. Stay tuned.
Today is the day I leave for Jordan. I have a flight from SF to Chicago, a four hour layover, and an 11 hour flight to Amman. I name today the Day of Planes.
Luckily (and miraculously), I fit everything I'm bringing in to a 45L pack and my purse. It'll make moving around a lot easier. And though people who have seen my perpetually messy room might not believe it, I hate being disorganized when traveling. Thus, I've attempted to pack very minimally. My one indulgence is a large bottle of conditioner to tame my curls.
I only managed to forget one thing (I think): a non-digital book to read. As they read this many of my friends are hanging their heads in shame. Luckily, the airport had a large selection of books to choose from. I will be bringing a science fiction book call Blood's Pride, which I bought mostly because Brandon Sanderson seemed to like it.
It still doesn't feel real that I will be traveling and studying microfinance for a whole year. I'm not sure it will actually feel real until I arrive. I'll let you know if it does when I land.
My awkward confession... is that I'm terrible at blogs. I tend to overthink blogs and spend hours antagonizing about every sentence. When writing I want to be simultaneously witty, laugh-out-loud funny, deep, and inspiring. This has led to several contrived and over-edited posts in the past. If I do that every time I wrote a post, I'd only only ever write one post... this one. So, my plan is to write a simple and bumbling blog that will only sometimes incite laughter (hopefully).
I am writing this blog mostly to chronicle my Watson year from start to finish. The blog will mostly be composed of pictures, because I'm bad at social media. I will post on my blog more frequently that I post on Facebook. However, this is not a tall order because I post on Facebook maybe once a year (because let's be honest Facebook causes me social anxiety). Sometimes my posts will be very (very) short. Those ones will mostly be there to assure my mother that I am still alive.
Now I will terminate my prologue. I hope you are intrigued enough to read the first chapter, which is coming soon ...