February, 1 2011
Trip Start Jan 30, 2011
7Trip End Jun 01, 2011
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I finally made it here after a 3 hour flight to JFK, 7 hour layover, and then an 11 and a half hour flight into Amman. During my layover I met several people who are in my program, and we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings before our flight to enjoy some American food for the last time. My flight to Amman on Royal Jordanian was probably one of the nicest flights I've been on. The TV in front of me had about 30 movies for us to choose from, a map with where we were, and a USB port so I could charge my Nook and IPod. They served us a large dinner and breakfast, neither of which I was hungry for.
When I finally got to Amman it was 5pm and raining! It’s supposed to rain for the next few days here; which is good for them because they are the 4th most water poor country in the world. Unfortunately this also means my shoes got wet today.
I am currently staying in a hotel and will be moved to my apartment tomorrow afternoon. My roommate, Aliya, is from New Jersey and goes to the College of New Jersey; she’ll be my neighbor in my apartment building. They have spread the kids who are staying in apartments throughout Amman because they didn’t want to create an "American community."
Today we toured the Roman amphitheater and the Citadel in Amman. The Amphitheater was three stories high, and, yes, I did climb all those steep stairs to get to the top. As a history major I found the Citadel was more interesting because they had ruins from the Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, Umayyad, and the Mamlukes. It was here that I could really see how long this area has been occupied. They even had caves from the Neolithic period, which for my non-history majors was about 9500 BCE. To be in a place that has had people living in it from some of the earliest times in history is a crazy thought for me especially coming from the US whose (white) history significantly shorter. When seeing this I finally understood what it means for this area to be ruled by so many different societies. They have ruins from several different societies spanning from the beginning of time; whereas in the States we have houses and empty battlefields from the Revolutionary and Civil War. Their cultural history is so deep and is reflected in their society. It is easier for me to understand the importance of their tribes because they have been in place for ages while their current government has only been around since 1946.
We also had a session with one of the CIEE administrators that talked to us about context. Here she urged us to think about how and why things are done differently, and instead of judging them with our American standards to try and think about it through their eyes. When she first started I was like well duh, we all realize it will be different and are expecting it, but she brought up several examples that I had never really thought about. Coming here I knew Jordan was a poorer country than the US, but I never thought about how much. She showed us several slides comparing the economy of the US to Jordan. For example, the average household in American makes $47,000 a year while Jordan is only $5,000. When an American goes out to McDonald's and buys a burger it’s cheap and not a large percentage of their income (I think she said like .008%); however when an average Jordanian family goes out this meal is a much larger proportion of their income (I think like .5%) and they get dressed up and make a big deal about going to McDonald's. She also brought up another interesting point: it’s only been 39 years since their Civil War. That means everyone who is over 40 was at least alive during this time and anyone over 50 was aware of what was occurring. At first I didn’t think much of it, but then she brought up America’s Civil War. Coming from the southeast I completely understood how the Civil War is still point of strong feelings of disagreement and animosity, and that was 144 years ago! No one alive today was there to experience it, but here the entire older generation still has vivid memories of this traumatic event. She also added that because of this she thinks there is little change of violent riots and instability happening here because these people remember and understand that when you rise against the government there will be high mortality rates on both sides. So all of you back home can feel better and know that I am safe from the instability throughout the Middle East. Jordanians are protesting more for economic policy changes rather than a complete change in government.
On a much lighter note, the driving here is something I will have to get used to. It’s so crazy and hectic; I don’t understand the rules at all. It seems to be a free-for-all throughout the city, but I did not see any wrecks today so these drivers are all very used to it and competent.
Anyway, I really like the city so far. Everything is in Arabic and English and pretty much everyone understands English (they’ve been taking English since the 2nd grade). The people are so nice and rather helpful too.
I hope you enjoyed my first update. I’m not really sure what to write, so if you have any specific ideas or questions just post a comment. I don’t know when I will be able to update again because I won’t have internet in my apartment, but I will definitely visit the internet cafes.