Written by Madison Mauro, (American University) Student Correspondent CET Jordan: Intensive Language, Fall 2018
For our second excursion with the program, we went olive picking. Donned with latex gloves, a bucket, and a designated team, we rushed into the field of trees with an excitement I didn’t think was possible for picking olives. Shaking tree after tree and collecting olives on the ground (with the occasional throwing of them at people) with echoes of “يلا” (roughly translated to “let’s go” in this context) in the distance, we were in a side of Jordan that many of us hadn’t been to.
It was the countryside and it was over the hill and under the trees from the city of Amman. There’s no appropriate description of the Jordanian countryside that I could give, besides acknowledging the quiet that takes hold of you, bar for the occasional call to prayer and a man in a truck indiscernibly yelling the same phrase over and over again as he drives by. I’ve been to the countryside several times before with my language partner but never had the chance to spend the entire day exploring and walking through trees I sorely missed (and dodging stray olives thrown at me).
For lunch, we ate potatoes cooked in a fire and drank tea boiled on the same fire (maybe I’m being paranoid but I swear the tea had a hint of potato to it). We laid on tarps meant for catching fallen olives but, as we peeled hot aluminum foil from potatoes, the tarps caught our tired heads instead. More “يلا”s came too soon and we filled too many bags and buckets full of olives hastily plucked from the ground and from branches.
After someone (I would like to thank لله (God) for it but I should probably just thank Manal, the program director) decided we had picked enough olives, we loitered for a short while, waiting for huge steaming plates of Mansaf and rice to make their way towards us. We ate too much—or maybe just not enough—and made our way back to the bus and back to the city.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that for some of the day I hung out on the roof of a house slightly away from the olive farm, hiding from competitive Jordanians excitedly yelling at us to shake the trees faster. But sitting on the roof let me watch the olive-picking competition from afar and appreciate the rolling hills of tan peppered with houses of beige all around us.
There’s certain moments in your study abroad experience that you’ll likely remember for a very long time after. For me, it’s moments like the one I had that day: sitting on a roof, watching students giggle as olives rain down on their heads, teachers meditating quietly in broken trees on top of a hill, white wisps of smoke from the cigarettes below dancing up to greet you, and thinking “I’m really going to miss this place.”