My time in Jordan has been over for almost a week, but it feels like just yesterday I was heading over to SIT Study Abroad in the Abdoun section of Amman prepping for my first day of survival Arabic. All I can say is what a ride. This is an experience I can never forget nor would I want to. I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person and more importantly, as a journalist.
While there, I experienced obstacles I would never encounter when in the United States, particularly the language issue. Sure, I’ve had to talk to some people who didn’t speak English well before, but never at the level you do when reporting in a foreign country where the native language isn’t your own. Not to mention I (stupidly) didn’t take any Arabic before I came over. Yes, I was that bumbling idiot American miming and speaking English at baby speeds to communicate to non-English speakers. Looking back, Arabic lessons might have been a better way to go. Though she pushed me—a couple of times to the point of tears—I’m incredibly thankful for my Professor Carlene. She kicked my ass more than any other professor I’ve ever had, but what came out of it were two (hopefully soon three) of the best things I’ve ever written. I feel like not only has my confidence as a Journalist grown, but more importantly I feel like I’m a better writer for going on this trip.
More than anything though, I am going to miss being around the rest of the 45 of us crazy Northeastern students. I remember when I took a trip to Spain (one of those really cool high school teen tours, feel free to judge) we sat in a circle and said things we won’t forget. She said the she would never forget that moment because all of us were sitting in a circle and we’d never be able to do that again. Remembering this reminded me that there’s a strong possibility that the 46 of us will never be able to be in the same place ever again. It’s a crazy and incredibly depressing thought, but it’s likely true. It’s that horrible truth that I don’t want to believe is truly real, but alas it’s quite possible. Some of us graduated, others are on co-ops in different cities while some us are studying abroad all across the world. Though all 46 of us may never be in the same place again, no one can take away the memories. Distance can’t change what fun times we had together, and don’t ever forget that.
Thought I should probably repost my work onto my blog seeing as this is why I’m even in Jordan.
Story and photos by Kate Lieb
AMMAN, Jordan – Nina Angeles, 20, is standing at the front of a classroom in The Queen Rania Family and Child Center, trying to mime the difference between the words “very” and “too,” and how to use them separately in a sentence.
Angeles, a student from Northeastern University in Jordan on a six-month co-op job, is teaching English in a large, clean classroom arranged in a U-shape to accommodate the 11 women who are there because they need to know English to live a better life.
“Miriam says, ‘I can do it, I’m sure.’ She is” – pause – “confident,” Angeles speaks out loud, trying to prompt them to fill in the blank.
She waits until the class has finished writing down the prompt in their notebooks before asking for an answer. In unison, the women yelled “very” and beamed when Angeles informed them…
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English translation on signs here in Jordan aren’t always so great. I can forgive grammar errors, but some signs have some terrible spelling errors. I can’t give them too much grief seeing as I’m a dreadful speller myself, but I utilize spell check to my advantage. One would think Jordanians would do the same thing, but it is becoming increasingly evident that’s not the case. Engravers: spell check is your friend, not your foe. For future reference, try your best to prevent your clientele from becoming the butt of jokes like this one.
Spotted in the Maswada Plaza Hotel in Aqaba
Today, I went to the Jordan Association for Family Planning and Protection’s clinic in Sports City. Getting there was an adventure in of itself, but that’s for another time. For the sake of this blog post, I spotted this sign by the back entrance where all of the main offices at the center are located.
Just got back from the southern part of Jordan today. It was easily my favorite part of the trip thus far. Being able to finally take a deep breath and relax was a real treat. Day one we went to a castle in Karak where we explored ruins for a couple of hours. Despite going to a lot of ruins already, the concept has not gotten old for me. Not to mention being able to scale the walls and structures is a different and unique way of being able to get in touch with history. Back in grade school, I was a total history nerd and being able to get so up close and personal with all of these structures is basically my childhood dream come true. Because I lived overseas during the peak of my interest in ancient empires—seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the nerd part—I got to explore sites like Pompeii, the Coliseum, the Forum, Rhodes, the Acropolis, etc. etc. However, you can’t really climb the rocks or really experience the beauty of the architecture in such an intimate way like you can here.
After we left Karak, we went on a hike in the Dana Nature Reserve. Sadly, it was one of the few places I’ve been to here that tries to promote the green lifestyle. For a country with a scant amount of natural resources, you would think they would take extra precautions to protect what little they have. Unfortunately that’s not the case. But I digress. We spent the night at a camp within the reserve. While there, we climbed the rocks and mountains within the confines of the camp. Afterwards, we had a campfire and watched the sunset.
Day two, we went to Petra and explored the city. It’s amazing that an entire city was carved out of rock over 2000 years ago. As a huge fan of Indiana Jones, I was super excited to explore the terrain. I wanted to do it Indiana Jones style, but then I remembered I cannot ride horses there because I’m highly allergic. Whatever, I didn’t let that stop me from seeing the monastery. To get there, it’s a 1,000 step hike up. Between the allergens in the air, me being out of shape, the ill advised life choice that was wearing jeans and the heat I almost didn’t make it. I would like to give a special shout out to the café near the top of the hike for having Fruit Punch flavored Gatorade. It was the best 3 dinar ($4.23 to be exact) I’ve spent thus far in Jordan. I also need to give an even bigger shout out to Tori, my climbing partner, for refusing to allow me to give up on the climb. There were numerous times when I wanted to stop, but she refused to allow me to do so. She took breaks with me whenever I needed them and tolerated my whining— a true feat worth acknowledging to the world.
That night, we as a huge group of almost 46 Americans went to Cave Bar. It’s one of those things I’d recommend if you want to say that you had a drink in a bar that possibly doubles as a tomb (rumor has it that it’s also the world’s oldest bar, but I cannot substantiate that claim adequately), but if you’re going out for a night of drinking I’d suggest finding someplace else. Drinks there are super expensive. They know people go there because it’s right by the main entrance of the Petra site and now it’s also owned by the Crowne Plaza hotel within the same complex. The next morning, we went to Wadi Rum. There, we stayed in the Can where we took Jeep tours around the desert and watched the sunset over one of the rocks.
After a long night of dancing, tea drinking, hookah smoking with a (mock) wedding (congrats, Anthony and Melissa on your union, it was a beautiful ceremony). At around midnight, it was time for the group to go to bed. Some opted to sleep in the tents, but most people including myself decided to sleep under the stars. If you ever get the opportunity, sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum is something I highly recommend. It’s not too windy so you don’t wake up with clumps of sand in your eye and I didn’t have any encounters with any snakes or scorpions. I did however wake up with some small spider bites, but it’s a small price to pay for the most peaceful night of sleep I’ve had in a long, long time. We woke up at around 6:30 am to ride camels the next morning. Though we only rode around in a circle for about 20 minutes, I’m not sure if I could handle more than that. By the time I got off my camel my groin was killing me. After getting off of it, I must’ve looked a wee bit ridiculous seeing as I was walking around bow-legged for a solid minute or two. Or five.
After eating breakfast and packing up our things, we went to Aqaba. There, we took out a boat in the Red Sea and went snorkeling, swimming and also jumped off the top of the boat. Not to mention you can see Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt from where we were—how cool is that?
Afterwards, we went to a couple of bars that were recommended to us by group leaders—Rovers and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Café. Word to the wise: If you ever travel there be extremely careful with your belongings. A man tried to pickpocket me on the walk to the bar, but I protected any kind of path this would-be thief could make to the contents my bag. Six years traveling through Europe can do that to a girl. Anyways both bars were great fun, appealing to a variety of interests. If you’re just looking to have a few drinks and relax with some friends, Rovers is your kind of bar. Bonus: The drinks aren’t outrageously expensive. F.R.I.E.N.D.S is much more like a club lounge so if dancing the night away is your objective, this is the place for you during your time in Aqaba. Beware though, men at this bar tend to creep a bit. If that’s something you can tolerate, then have fun. I know I spent part of my night getting hit on by a member of the Royal Air Force. He wasn’t too bad, but things got a bit uncomfortable when he told me he was married and flashed his wedding band. He also said he was talking to me because he talked to someone else from my trip who said he liked me, but I just think it was a veiled attempt to grab my attention. I mean, if he genuinely wanted to set me up with this person, he did a poor job of it. I’m not sure telling me his life story while complimenting me is the most effective way to do that.
11am the next morning, we left Aqaba thus ending our four day excursion and headed back to Amman. Time to get back to the journalistic grind. After all, I’ve got interviews to conduct and a story to write.
Throughout my time here in Jordan thus far, I have had no trouble sleeping. In fact, I’ve slept better than I do at home. I had hoped it was a tradition that would last. Alas, it’s now 1:55am and here I am, aimlessly writing a blog post on my home stay’s porch area. As I’m trying to find activities to get me by, I also have my free and easy playlist on rotation. Being basically in nature as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Phenomena plays makes me feel like I could slip into dreams at any moment.
Today I could be in Jerash looking at Roman ruins, but instead I eagerly anticipate the arrival of my edits and wait until I can find the appropriate time to conduct a phone interview with the US. So far I really do love it here, but reporting is starting to become a pain. A logistical nightmare if you will. Note to anyone: If you plan on being a working journalist here and you don’t know Arabic, make sure you come with a translator. You WILL be lost without one. Guaranteed. If I hadn’t had a translator at the Queen Rania Family and Child Center for my next story about women learning English, I wouldn’t have had a story. But this language barrier has me lost in the world.
Just got back to Amman after a few days in the Badia in the northeastern part of Jordan. There, I lived with my host father Aboud, and his wife and two children. During my time there, I also spent a lot of time with his family. I believe I met all ten of his siblings, extended family as well as his mother. During my time spent there I learned a few things.
1. Fast food is no longer the single universal thing that connects all cultures. Nope. It’s now joined by Facebook. During my first night in the Badia, my host father asked my roommate Laura and I to friend him on Facebook. After our orientation, which the instructors universally said to not expect internet, that four word phrase was the last thing I was expecting to hear during my time out there. Oh, how the times they are a-changin’.
2. Squat toilets are no joke and will make a man or woman out of you. I really hope I don’t have to elaborate further on this.
3. I am so not ready to have children. My sisters, JuJu 3 1/2 and LuLu 11/2 are adorable. Them and around 10 other kids all under the age of five and you have yourself a conundrum. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my little sisters, but this trip acted as a PSA for birth control for me.
4. If I ever lived in the Badia, I am almost certain I would be morbidly obese. Hummus, pita, tomatoes and falafel for breakfast followed by mansaf or pasta for lunch then leftovers or burgers for dinner. Carbs on carbs on carbs. Needless to say, the bathing suit I have to wear tomorrow at the Dead Sea is going to be a little bit tighter than I would’ve liked.
5. I am not cut out for rural living. Even Amman is quiet for my usual standards, but dead silence after 8pm is not something I was mentally equipped for. I am almost never around complete silence and when I am it scares me half to death. I literally don’t know what to do with myself and become a slight to moderate basket case. I must stay in cities forever and ever.
6. Most importantly, there is no way I could ever disguise myself as anything besides an American. My host father required that Laura and I would wear our hijabs whenever we left the house. Mine of course refused to stay on in fact while we were at the Umm-El-Jimal archeological site, my hijab fell off completely. Thus, the phrase “Kate, your American is showing” was born.
7. The next meme someone has to start: Babies planking. My roommate, Laura has already uploaded a few photos on her blog in the hopes this trend will one day go viral. Believe me when I say it’s awesome.