Since returning to Amman after Eid Break in Aqaba, I’ve felt more settled in the city. Even the whole first month felt a lot like a long vacation, granted a long vacation with a lot of homework, but still like I was riding a high of new experiences for five long weeks. After returning home from break things felt routine in a new, but welcomed, way. I’m definitely a homebody, and it’s fun to settle into similar habits as those I have in the United States. I have my favorite restaurants, one of which is Abu Zaghleh downtown in وسط البلاد where I get grilled chicken cubes, hummus, bread, and Fattoush. Still, my roommates and I have been cooking more and eating out less, trying to save a little money and spend some quality time in the apartment we’ve all gotten attached to. Slowly, our meals have become a little more Americanized, I think we’re all a little homesick.
It took a long time for me to get into cafe culture, but with a pile-on of homework in the last few weeks it has become necessary. My apartment is very comfy, too comfy to get any effective work done, and so after school I’ve been going out to do homework instead. I’m sitting at a cafe right now writing this and outside is a man dressed in a neon clown outfit selling oversized balloons to kids on the street. Even this man, jarred as I am every time I see him, is slightly familiar now. He hangs out around the neighborhood in the afternoon and evening. My roommates and I passed him last night walking home from the grocery store and I almost waved, but then quickly scurried away. I’m a little scared of clowns, no matter how friendly they are.
Things are winding down quickly. Today was everyone’s spoken exam, the first of three finals. The other two: the OPI and written exams, are next week. The start of this week I was a little stressed out studying for exams and finishing up final homework assignments. I was feeling tired and strung out and ready to go home. Last night we had our final activity with the CET group, a trip to the Turkish hammam (bathhouse) for a soak and a scrub. We all stood in the changing room, turning in circles, bumping into each other, trying to figure out the right etiquette for what to wear and where to go. After figuring it out, bathing suits with little red towels over top, we headed into the hammam, first to the shower and then to a hot tub with little plastic lily pads drifting around it in. After the hot tub we sat in a sauna for 20 minutes and then were scrubbed head to toe by the attendants, massaged, and led back outside where we got coffee and pudding.
A class excursion to the bakery to celebrate finishing OPIs.
“I am a new woman,” my friend Sarah said to me. I agreed, my skin did feel particularly soft following all the exfoliation and in addition to the dead skin, a lot of my test stress was gone too. Back at home, a study session quickly devolved into an impromptu dinner potluck at my friend’s apartment. There’s only so much I can worry about school with just a week and a half left here, and just a week and a half left to spend with people I have really come to love.
This afternoon, walking around Rainbow Street, I felt like I was seeing parts of the city with new eyes again, or maybe graduation goggles. I stopped by the pink flowers overflowing from a villa to take them in, took photos of cats, and stood in the sun to soak it all up. Amman is my favorite at in the early evening. Everyone comes out of their house, slowly at first and then in larger crowds, as the sun drops and the temperature cools. The light becomes almost unbelievably yellow. Almost just as amazing as the hue of the sun is its reliability. With the weather so consistent, the light and shadows look almost identical day-to-day. I look forward to it always, a good time to check in with myself and my day. What have I done? How does the city feel? And what will I do now that the sun has set?
I think that when I’m back home, Amman will be an easy city to miss. In part because of the light and the sunsets and the cats and the pink flowers. But I’ll also miss the cafes, both the rooftop ones, up high with sprawling views, and the ones on the street where I hear all the cars and people going by. I will miss the CET Center and my classes but I’m looking forward to studying different subjects at the same time again. Taking just Arabic classes has made it slightly harder to focus and stay motivated. Being here has taught me more than I imagined in it would in June. I’m sad to be leaving, excited to be home, and completely sure I will be back here before long. Maybe after graduation, maybe a little later than that, but definitely before long.
Riding horses on a language partner excursion.
Advice for future students:
Don’t be afraid of the bus system. There are several routes that are pretty easy to manage, including the route from Sweifieh to downtown وسط البلاد, which stops five minutes away from the CET center. I was intimidated by the buses at first because they are relatively unmarked compared to public buses in the United States, but they’re still easily recognizable, a fleet of identical white minivans. I was also a little unsure of the various routes and fares and couldn’t find much information about them. Turned out it was easier, like a lot of things in Jordan, to ask someone for information instead of trying to find it anywhere online or written down. I can’t even take credit for figuring it out: my roommate learned some routes, fares, and stops with help from her language partner and then passed it along to me, a superior way to learn.
Last weekend we headed out midafternoon, braving the heat, and walked to one of the main highways that crosses the city. The bus was pulling up right as we arrived and we ran to catch it. We hopped in, checked with the driver that it was going downtown, and settled into the seats. Since it was Friday, the bus wasn’t crowded and there wasn’t much traffic on the streets, both of which made it an incredibly enjoyable ride. Sitting on the bus is one of my favorite pastimes, both at home and at school where the free university bus station makes it extra easy, but the Jordan ride topped both of them.
Sleepy cat on Rainbow Street.
Go to the movies! Most theaters in Amman have discounts on Mondays, which the Jiran clued us into. I haven’t been to the movies in a few years but last Monday was particularly scorching so my roommate and I decided to escape the heat at the cinema on the top floor of Baraka Mall, only five minutes from our apartment. Not only was the movie extremely cheap, just five dollars for a ticket compared to the usual 12 dollars at home, but the theater was packed with kids and families and was exciting to get a small window into their life growing up in Amman. The five-year-old sitting next to us offered running commentary on the movie in half Arabic half English which was a fun addition.
The best part of my time here was chatting and practicing Arabic with my language partner, with my teacher and the directors at CET, with our neighbors, and with taxi drivers. These conversations dramatically improved my language ability and helped me to learn and appreciate nuances of Jordanian culture and civic life. But also, in times I felt homesick or questioned my decision to spend the summer in Amman, these conversations reminded me of why I chose to be here, and everything I had to gain from the experience. On the first day of orientation Ahmed advised us to let go of our support networks in the United States so that we could form new ones in Jordan. It would be hard, he said, to straddle two worlds, and it would inhibit both language acquisition and general comfort in Amman. I adhered to this advice as much as I could, albeit with occasional phone calls to friends and family back home. My world and networks in the US still exist, and I’m returning to them soon. But now one day, in the future, I’ll return to Amman, and there will be enough memories and friends here to make it feel like home.