1. Stray Cats… a lot of them
There is truly no better way to describe the sheer amount of stray cats than to tell a story from just last night. To set the scene, there is a balcony off the living room in our apartment where we typically hang our laundry to dry. However, we are on the first floor so there is not much height to our balcony. Last night, my roommate Natalie was putting her laundry out on the balcony when a couple of cats started meowing at her from the ground below. Suddenly, one of the cats jumped from a nearby awning onto our balcony. The cat invited itself into our apartment and into my lap on the couch. We had to carry the cat back outside to the front door, but a mere two minutes later, the cat reappeared on our balcony. Needless to say, there are cats everywhere in Amman–even in our apartment.
2. Boxing Machines
If you’ve ever been to an arcade and played a game where you hit a small punching bag to earn as many points as possible, then you know what such a machine looks like. They are not small or inconspicuous by any means, and there are at least five in our immediate area. No one knows why they are there, and people rarely use them, but every now and then you run into one on a random street corner. Due to the precarious location of some of these machines, I have to wonder if anyone has ever been accidentally punched while coming around a corner at just the wrong moment.
3. Co-ed Gyms
There are several gyms in the Sweifieh area where we live, including multiple co-ed gyms. Not only are they mixed gender, but the harassment policies are strict enough for women to feel comfortable working out in shorts and tank tops. The gym that we are encouraged to use by CET is called Radium Fitness, and it is owned by the sweetest man ever. He made a point to tell the girls who were signing up for memberships (for a discounted price I might add), that they have a no harassment policy. He stressed that we should feel comfortable telling him if a man stares or makes any comments, he will kick them out immediately. This type of policy is so refreshing to hear considering we are often stared at on the street, so it’s nice to have a safe place in the city.
4. Jordanian Hospitality
Despite the stares and cat-calls that are an unfortunate reality when walking on the streets, in face-to-face interactions people are incredibly hospitable. On the first day of orientation, we did a scavenger hunt around Sweifieh to get to know the area. Anytime we asked someone where something was located, they stopped what they were doing and took us to wherever we needed to go. Similarly, taxi and Uber drivers love to chat during the drive. Once they learn that we are students learning Arabic, they love to try to teach us as much as they can in our short time together. We have more than just a few teachers in the classroom; we have a whole city of teachers all around us.
5. Let’s Call them “Unique” Dairy Products
From the non-refrigerated milk to runny yogurt, no dairy product is quite the same here in Jordan as it is in the U.S. The most popular dairy product here seems to be a drink my roommate aptly described as a “saltier, thinner yogurt.” Although they are an acquired taste that I have not yet adapted to, these interesting products make grocery shopping way more fun.