As the end of the semester creeps closer and closer, things here in Jordan have just gotten busier. While protests continue here, especially on Fridays, the situation has stabilized and we are once again allowed to travel around Jordan. My friends and I have been trying to make the most of the rest of our time here, while studying and writing long papers just like we would at the end of a semester in the US. That means I have just gotten busier and busier, trying to balance school and responsibilities with all the opportunities to so things in Jordan. Case in point, it has taken me about a week to get this blog written.
Two weeks ago we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Jordan. Our program staff had a special meal made for us for the occasion that including turkey, mashed, potatoes, and green beans. Of course, we were still in Jordan so the meal also consisted of hummus, tomato and cucumber salad, and pita bread. Although it was not as good as Thanksgiving back home, it was surprisingly tasty and my table even went around and shared what we were thankful for.
The rest of that weekend was fairly low key, as we got ahead on some of the end of the semester projects that were coming up.
It was a good thing that we had a relaxing weekend because the next week was jam-packed full of things. On top of normal classes and my internship, I went on two excursions with the program. On Thursday, we visited a center for women and children services. It was interesting to hear about how the government of Jordan handled and prevented domestic violence and the variety of ways they worked to help women and children.
However, the highlight of the week was Wednesday evening. My colloquial Arabic professor’s brother was getting married, and our professor invited all of his students to the party on Wednesday night. The program provided a bus for us down to Madaba where our professor’s family lived.
The actual wedding wasn’t taking place until the next day, but they had a party that involved a lot of dancing and eating. Since it was a Muslim wedding, the party was divided based on gender, so the men danced, chatted, and ate in one area and all of us females (as well as children) had a separate area to ourselves. It was a blast! We spent most of the night dancing to Arabic music with the relatives of our professor, who were eager to show us the right way to dance and make sure we were having a great time. As hard as we all tried, it was evident that even the young girls and boys at the party we better dancers.
After thoroughly tiring ourselves out dancing, we headed inside and were served delicious mansaf, Jordan’s national dish (rice with lamb or chicken and a yogurt sauce, meant to be eaten with your hands). I have had it quite a few times here in Jordan, and it never disappoints. After eating, we headed back to Amman to sleep. Unfortunately, we had classes on Thursday, sow e could attend that day’s festivities, but it was a great experience.
Then, last Saturday, I finally made it to the Dead Sea! Three friends and I hired a taxi for the day to take us there and back (about 45 minutes from Amman). It was amazing the temperature difference on such a short ride. In Amman, the weather has been consistently around the 50s and 60s recently, but it was in the 80s at the Dead Sea.
The trip was a lot of fun and the Dead Sea was amazing. I was worried I wouldn’t be too impressed by it because I have no problems floating and treading in any type of water thanks to water polo, but it truly was incredible. With no effort, my body was always on top of the water. It was so much fun to just float around, carefully avoiding getting any of the salty water in our mouths and eyes.
We also made use of the mud there, which apparently has great health benefits for your skin. Although I am usually skeptical of such claims, my skin felt so smooth and soft after washing the mud off in the Dead Sea. Overall, I had a great day and I understand why they say the Dead Sea is a must-see for anyone visiting Jordan.
This past week was my last week of Arabic classes. It is bittersweet to be done with them. I had two great professors for colloquial and Modern Standard Arabic, and I know I definitely improved in both areas. It helped that we had such small classes (3 and 5 people for colloquial and MSA respectively), so I was always talking and participating in class. Our final exams for those classes are next week.
On Thursday, our program hosted a mini Christmas party for us. They decorated a tree and served us hot chocolate and sweets. It was fun to have a mini celebration on Saint Nick Day! To my surprise, that was not the end of the Christmas spirit for me that night. Two friends and I went to Taj Mall in Amman last night to hang out at a café, and to my surprise, the mall was decorated for Christmas and was playing Christmas music on the speakers. Being in a Muslim country, this was very surprising to me. While they seemed to have a spot set up for kids to sit on Santa’s lap and get pictures, Santa wasn’t there last night. However, there was a stuffed Santa who I got my picture with anyway!
The rest of this weekend will be a combination of studying as well as some fun. I hope everyone in Madison and back home is having a good holiday season, and I look forward to seeing everyone in only a couple weeks!