Friday, September 19, 2008

Mountain goat, anyone?

My first week of classes just terminated, and I am enjoying the pleasant Friday morning in my apartment, with the eternal sunshine heating up the earth outside and the Friday sermons echoing from mosques around the city. I think I may have forgotten to mention, my apartment doesn't have air conditioning. Actually, I am quite pleased about this point, because our electric costs will be much lower, and the evenings in Amman are already cool. Had you asked me several years ago if I would be moving the the Middle Eastern desert, without Air con, I would have called you crazy. Which merely validates the point that my life is wholly unpredictable, which is how I like it.

For instance, last night we grilled a small mountain goat on our terrace. The meat was a bit tough, but I was enjoying the novelty of goat meat too much to care. Why, you might ask, were we mountain goat-BBQing? Our Bedouin friends paid us a visit....Fadii (Cathy's boyfriend), and his uncle (whose name I still can't pronounce), arrived late Wednesday night, pulling up in front of our building in a giant, white SUV with army camoflauge hanging from the back. Definitely not from around here...The uncle, whose name, for the sake of ease, we will call Ruppah, unloaded his suitcase and a few small items form the back, and then pulled out a small machine gun (or at least, to my untrained arms eye, that's what it looked like). Ruppah runs a tourist camp in Wadi Rum, in the south, and goes on frequent hunting forays into the wilds of Saudi Arabia...and the gun is legal. But we decided it might be wise to leave it in the vehicle, so we buried the weapon under the seat and trudged upstairs (still, no elevator). Ruppah is your iconic Bedouin-large, curled moustache, tanned skin, jet black hair, halting accent. He's also a very good cook-I got home from school yesterday, having walked through the furnace of midday, to the succulent scents of ghatayir wafting from the stove, and soon filling my mouth with its unexpected flavors of tomato, onion, garlic, pepper, and egg.

Happily, Fadii and his uncle don't observe Ramdan, in any sense of the holiday, so we were soon happily eating, drinking, and smoking (not I), as the mosques rang out the mid-afternoon prayer. Soon, several of us piled into a minivan (at some point during the night, someone had switched the vehicles) and drove around Amman, purchasing fresh veggies, drinks, and a small goat. Perhaps the best thing about these Bedouins, though, is that they clean up their kitchens! After lunch, they cleaned the dishes and even scrubbed the floor. As Jess has eruditely stated, the quickest way to a woman's heart is a clean kitchen :) Two more of Fadii's and Ruppah's friends arrived for the evening, bringing more supplies, and we sat on mattresses on the terrace, surrepitiously drinking and snacking as the sun set and the call to prayer sounded from the nearby mosque. Ruppah took care of the goat, and I chose not to watch as he butchered it, but that, too, soon filled my mouth with foreign flavors.

Ok, I love living in Amman, but I do not like the lack of water. I was a bit spoiled in Cairo, I suppose, because I never had to concern myself with conserving water. But here, in the true desert, there is no major water source, and all of the water is trucked in. The ground is solid bedrock, making it virtually impossible to run water mains underground. Therefore, every building has water tanks on the roof, which are supposed to get refilled every week, for us on Monday. Well, last weekend our water suddenly turned off, and we were unsure of what to do. We waited for almost a day without it, but, realizing it would not remedy itself, called the landlord. He came over and showed us how to turn on the reserve tanks, which are also on the top of the building-the switch is actually in the empty apartment across the hallway. Within half an hour, we could again flush the toliets! Alhamdulillah. However, this week, we ran out of water LAST night, and are already running on reserve water. I suspect they may not have filled up the tanks on Monday, which does not bode well for the rest of the week. Hmmph. Time for another chat with the landlord. Speaking of whom, we now own two sets of keys to the flat. Still missing the third, which is supposedly being shipped from Saudi Arabia.

And one more gripe about the flat (which I still absolutely adore!). It didn't have curtains when we moved in, but the landlord told us he would install them. One night, when Jess and I were out, he brought over samples, and Kathy picked out fabric for both the living and sleeping areas. The curtain installers came a few days ago and swiftly mounted quite gorgeous gold curtains in the living room, kitchen, and entire sunroom. Then, the landlord's wife called us, and told us that the bedroom curtains would cost 300 JD. That's about 500 dollars! Clearly, something manipulative was underfoot...We argued a bit with the landlord, and finally left the issue rest, still curtain-less in the bedrooms.

Alright, so moving on from the domestic to the academic world-as I said, classes started on Sunday at the Language Center on campus, a truly international program where Americans are definitely in the minority. I think the most students hearken from Turkey, but sizable populations also exist from Korea, Taiwan, China, Asia generally, Germany, Bulgaria, one Romanian, Britain, Russia, Chechneya, Aussie get the idea. I somewhat prefer this mixture; I am forced to speak Arabic with my fellow, non-English speaking classmates, like the cute Turkish guy next to whom I sit :) The classes themselves are improving. The first several days were utter chaos. Complete, ineffable, disorder. Some students were still arriving, and people wandered in and out of levels, trying to determine where they best fit. The classes themselves were very large, with almost 40 students in my level. It was frustrating to have a class 'discussion', when the entire class period was occupied with each person merely introducing themselves. We were not always informed of the class schedule, and a few periods, we arrived, but the professors did not. Grrrr....Yesterday in particular, though, the mire of Middle Eastern 'organization' was cleared, a bit, and we finally had a full day of classes. Enough people moved up or down from the first day, that my class is a much more managable size of 20. Although there are these two guys, one Chechen and the other Armenian, who just wander in and out of class. When we were discussing the difficulties of love between two iconoclastic cultures, the Chechen elucidated the difficulties of love with a Russian. I felt so multi-cultural!

I have three professors, two of whom I've met. Hanan is my favorite, whose accent is so easy to understand. Plus, she's beautiful, with large, hazel eyes, flawless skin, and full lips. I would definitely have a crush on her, if I were a guy :) Fatima has a bit of a thicker accent, but I can still ascertain most of what she says. The level of classes seem appropriate for my level, with plenty of complex grammar and vocabulary (I learn some of the most arcane words-acacia tree, yesterday) to occupy my thoughts. I don't think this program is at the same caliber as ALI in Egypt, but it's good enough, and I have the foundation I gained in Egypt to apply to what I learn here to, insha'allah, come home much more fluent next June.

Alright, I think I've bored you long enough. My roommates and I are going over to have dinner at (my) the cute Brit's house. He and his roommate, the Frenchie, are going to cook us supper! So now, what to wear...

Ila laqah


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