Touchdown in Jordan (Arabic Adventure)

16 Jun

I have been in Amman for almost 2 weeks now. I will start from the beginning.

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As soon as I boarded the Royal Jordanian flight 264 in Chicago, I was in the Middle East. The plane was full of people from various Middle Eastern ethnicities, mostly Jordanian and Palestinian (The Palestinians have a significant presence in Jordan). I sat next to Al-Bara, Palestinian/Jordanian man who lives in Amman. He filled me in on various things to expect upon arrival, such as food, religion, people and culture. He would occasionally get down to pray towards Mecca as the onboard movie screen would occasionally transition to a special compass indicating the general direction of the Ka’bah (The Giant black cube at the center of the mosque in Mecca).

Upon arriving in Jordan I proceeded to the baggage claim but had to wait a little while to get my luggage because the only baggage carousel in the whole airport was ushering in luggage from 4 different flights. My luggage was found with help from my friend Al-Bara. The airport and hotel location assistance from Al-Bara served as an initial testimony to the hospitality of the people of Jordan.

I absolutely love arriving in new places and experiencing things that I have read or heard regarding that location. When I exited the airport I immediately felt the hot, dry air that I have always associated with this region. The taxi ride to the hotel was another one of those moments. We drove past many limestone houses, buildings and Mosques. The weird feeling of being in a foreign country had finally sunk in, and this experience has been incredible ever since. I was so tired that night, but not tired enough to not go on a little exploration. I found another participant from CIEE when I arrived at the hotel and we wandered behind the hotel down a street full of electronic shops and Shawarma vendors, which have come to be a typical sight all over Amman.

The next several days included waiting at the hotel for the other participants to arrive, making similar excursions around the area, and orientation meetings. One of the excursions was to the Jabal al-Qal’a, also known as the Amman Citadel. This site includes the remnants of ancient civilizations that occupied this region at different times, including the early Romans. We also visited the Roman Theater in downtown Amman, an ancient semi-circular outdoor venue made of stone. When I stood on a special mark at the base of the venue, I was told to yell as loud as possible. My voice was amplified because of the special design of the venue, and I turned many heads. Cool! Other excursions will be coming soon, such as an overnight trip to Petra and a trip to the Jordan River.

I am in an apartment now with the other participants, around the corner from the Austrian and French embassy. I’m rooming with Jonathan Bruce who is also from Purdue. Great guy, he has had some really cool traveling experience as well. Jon and I were in Arabic classes at Purdue together during this past school year. The intended language classes started at the University of Jordan this past week (I made a mistake in the last entry, it is not University of Amman, it is University of Jordan!). We took a proficiency test administered by UJ in order to determine which level of language and class that we qualified for. UJ has 6 arabic courses: 2 beginning, 2 intermediate, 2 advanced. We were given a 20 page test and 3 hours to complete it. Wow that test was hard, and I still had one page left when the time was up haha! (along with many other individuals). However, I went in with the mentality that it is only a test and it will help me to figure out where I am as far as knowledge of the language; honestly, I am not quite sure. Two days later Jon and I found out that we were qualified for the Advanced level I class, but given a recommendation to take the Intermediate II class, which would still be way above what I was shooting for and what I expected to get after taking that test. The CIEE advisor commends the language program back at Purdue for doing an excellent job in preparing its study abroad participants. Thanks so much! Boiler up!!!!

So that’s some of what has taken place here so far. I love it here and am trying hard to get immersed. I failed to mention above that the each participant is taking two classes. The first being modern standard Arabic, the other is a Jordanian Arabic language class (the participants are taking the classes at different levels depending on the results of the proficiency test). I have enjoyed the classes so far, the teachers are outstanding and I am learning a lot. I am also solidifying my learning experience through conversation with people outside class such as local students, taxi drivers, store clerks and many other people. Anyway, one last thing. The colloquial teacher is a funny guy. He likes to make up “Arabeezee” words, similar to the Spanglish language that many in our own country speak so well. The Arabic word for fantastic is “Muum-tahz” and the arabeezee word for this is “Muum-Tastic”. That’s Muum-tastic!
Stay tuned for more!

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