Friday, September 12, 2008

Settling in...

Working on it anyway. The getting settled part. Amman I love. And my apartment. Allow me to describe it to you in detail. I live in the Tela3 Al-Alii district of Amman, near Jebel Amman. My neighborhood is mercifully free of steep hills and filled instead with stately, white stone apartment buildings, olive tree-lined streets, and children laughing in the nearby playground. A couple blocks away, a major street runs past the area, harbouring shops boasting everything I could ever need-for example, today I bought new sheets (cheap ones, Mom) for my bed, 4 dollar blankets, a garbage can, hangers, Diet Pepsi, fresh mint, music speakers (for Jess), and an internet plan. Amman is a curvaceous city of hills and circles; I live right off of Circle One, which is different than the First Circle, another area across town. An important distinction at 2 am, when you’re returning in a cab and the meters running!

So, the apartment. My building itself contains 10 (I think) different flats-I live on the top floor, after an arduous hike up the stairs past the non-working elevator, which should be fixed ‘soon’, according to the landlord. Some things will never change in the Middle East. And the hopefully, tomorrow, never happens before next week. Breathless, you arrive at my stoop and are confronted with an orange portal, more like a bank vault than your average apartment door. It locks into the ground and has three (three!) deadbolts to unhinge before the door swings open and you step into the airy, spacious room. To your right, you see the kitchen, a gleaming expanse of marble countertops and oak cabinets. The washing machine is tucked under the counter near the kitchen sink, a new appliance that murmurs quietly as it dutifully cleans our sweaty garments. The stove, too, is new, as is the fridge. Straight ahead, a doorway leads to the sunroom, so designated by us because it is lined with windows that open to filter in a pleasant breeze. In the evenings, it is very pleasant to sit on the couches with the windows thrown wide, listen to the mosque across the street call the evening prayer, and enjoy the sensation of cessation. These days, I seem to walk…everywhere. Oh, and the sunroom is also a wonderful place to flirt with my cute Brit J

Through a doorway in the wall of the sunroom, you walk out onto the best feature of the apartment-the rooftop terrace. My apartment has sole access to the entire wrap-around balcony, a multi-angled veranda with plenty of shadowy nooks and mattresses on the ground for sleepouts. Back in the apartment, to the right is the living room, an elegantly understated area with a sofa, chairs, television, and a molded ceiling. As you pass through the door into the hallway, the surface under your feet changes from tile to carpet, and you look to your left, seeing a small, pink bathroom and a bedroom close by. That one belongs to Jess; I have commandeered the middle bedroom, a chamber carpeted with bright, giraffe print carpet clearly meant to amuse someone half my age. Sadly, it still amuses me. I have two beds in my room, a small wardrobe, and a nightstand. I have purloined a plastic stand and chair from the patio, and plan to add a small table on which to do homework. Past my bedroom, down the same hallway, is the master bedroom and bath, which Cathy owns. And that, my friends, is my spectacular new apartment in Amman! I shall put up pictures soon.

Language tests and Carrefour dominated the next day; in the morning, I struggled through my Arabic test, and, by night, the three of us took a cab to City Mall, one of the numerous malls in Amman. Carrefour is like a French Walmart, but with three times as much stuff. It took us several hours to stroll through its cluttered aisles, ogling the plethora of food and home good supplies. I even found lots of gluten-free stuff! Including fresh cashews…Mmmmm.. I love nuts. We purchased the essentials-towels, cleaning supplies, food, etc.-and then we officially moved in. scrubbing the year’s worth of disuse form the sha’a, removing the garishly yellow rose comforters, and beginning to feel at home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In a hurry, but...

I'm sitting in the Language Center's computer lab right now, typing furiously while other students wait for the machine. So, I'll take my time. So much has happened in the last few days; I feel as if I have been in Jordan for weeks, not mere days. Less than 24 hours after I arrived, I had signed the lease to my apartment. We moved in last night, late, and are still in the process of unpacking.

First of all, though, an update on Ramadan. Ahhhh! I hate to confess this, but I cannot wait for it to be over. Although, now that I have an apartment, I actually have a place to eat and drink. You see, it is FORBIDDEN to eat or drink on the streets or in public during the month of Ramadan. Haram owii. After I arrived the first night, I ate some granola and fell asleep, expecting to find a meal the next day. Alas, to no avail- here is not a single restaurant open (except for the occasional fast food) during the daylight hours. My hotel, it must be said, was in a beautiful area, a 20 minute or so walk from downtown. Downtown, of course, being the 'Arab' quarter, with souqs, snarled traffic, narrow alleyways, leering men, alley cats, fresh bread, fruit markets, echoing mosques, etc. Very fun, btw. So, I ambled down there, found an ATM, pop, a bag of chips, and hiked back. Remember what I said about the hills? I definitely tackled several hills on my way back, as well as a mobile store. Dripping with sweat, I flopped on my bed to cool off in the non-air-conditioned heat of my room and listen to the sounds of life in the Arab world flit past my window.

I contacted at girl, Kathy, I 'met' on the internet, and she was downtown, so, a few hours later, I mustered up the strength and trekked down through the palpable heat and dust of midday to meet her. She has been in Jordan for a couple weeks, and spent part of that time apartment searching. After chatting, we decided to become roommates (isn't it marvelous how easily people decide to live together?). She's 20, a darker blonde (than me, of course), and currently dating a Bedouin from Petra, Fadii. He has very, errrm, interesting friends. One of them, Mahmoud, began talking with me and told me he was a horse trainer. Sigh. I think I may have sighed audibly, because he sensed the opening and went for it. After knowing the man for less than 5 minutes, I was invited on a 3 day horseback ride around Petra with him-just him, I suspect. No, I haven't gone...yet :) Nor will I. Although I made the mistake of giving him my mobile number, and now he sends me random texts. If I'm feeling

However, Kathy's friends are somewhat humorous, and they may take all of us (Me, her, and Jess, whom you haven't met yet!) to Petra/the desert one of these weekends, Bedouin style. Could be fun :)

So, Kathy and I went to meet the owner of an apartment she really liked-another of her random Arab friends, Hani, came along to translate. We loved the apartment-beautiful, within walking distance to campus, safe neighborhood, spacious, modern, good price, etc. With Hani's invaluable translating skills (my Jordanian is still limited to shoo fiih? What is there?) we signed the lease, and I put Jess' name down, hoping she'd like it.

By this time, I needed to go meet Jess, who was arriving from America that evening. After a brief stop to meet Kathy's Danish friends whose couch she was occupying, we raced over to Jebel Weibdeh, and rushed into the lobby. I feared she was waiting with all of her stuff, unable to get into the room because I had purloined the key. She wasn't there, so we sat in the relative coolness of the building for a few minutes, letting the sweat dry on our faces. I decided to go upstairs and see if she happened to be in the room, opened the door, and saw her napping on the bed! So, I've never been very punctual...After hugs, and explanations (she and I had been talking alot in America on the phone), I introduced her to Kathy, announced that we had signed a lease, and then welcomed her to Jordan. Perhaps it was slightly overwhelming, considering she had been in the country for a total of 1hour!

Rather than do the sensible thing and sleep, we ventured into an area of Amman that I had visited before-Abdoun Circle, full of posh restaurants and swanky clubs. Meeting another of Kathy's friends (she certainly gets around ;), Ben, and adorable Brit, we reclined in a hip cafe, munched on hummus, translated the Ramdan, Arabic-only menu, and relaxed, finally. A breeze whispered through the valley below, carrying with it the distant scent of olive trees and the coolness of the desert night. Close by, cars winked across the newest architectural wonder of Jordan-a suspension bridge lined with flourescent strips with iron girders spiking into the sky. As the scent of sheesha wafted around us, the seductive taste of lehma (lamb) filled my mouth, and Arabic filled the spaces around us, I settled in, content to be back in the Middle East, learning the language that I, damnably, love.

Hmmmph. So, Jess and I returned, both of us exhausted, to our hotel, showering off the day's 'pungent' odors and chattering, happy to finally meet. She, too, received the NSEP scholarship, and is enjoying her year abroad at the expense of the government. I think she was a little nervous about the apartment; after all, she was to live there for a year and had never seen it. I tried to reassure her that it was perfect, but I think she remained slightly unconvinced, although even Ben (on whom we both have a little crush, and who saw the apartment first, with Kathy) told her it was lovely. And Ben has been living in Jordan for almost a year, with spectacular Arabic.

Anyway, we woke absurdly early, in time to hear the mosques call the faithful to prayer before the rise of the sun. We sat in our room, ensconced by the haunting voices of the muzzeins, watching as the sun slowly brightened the horizon. Sitting in the windowsill (no screen) we talked until the sky grew bright, snoozed, and finally wandered downstairs for breakfast, eating the small repast in the shade of our hotel courtyard. Afterward, we took a cab to campus, quite a drive from the hotel, and passed through the main gates of our home for the next several months. The University of Jordan campus is beautiful! It's also surprisingly large; I was expecting something on the scale of the AUC, and I was mistaken. Wide, tree-lined avenues branch off into smaller walkways, with the classroom and administration buildings set modestly apart, all constructed of beautiful white stone. After walking the length of campus several times, we finally mustered the courage to ask for directions, several times, and found it nestled behind the Faculty of Arts building.

And...I think my time on the internet is drawing to an end, for now, my dears! If you're patient, I shall soon tell you about our Carrefour adventure, and the apartment move-in.

Until next time,