Sunday, May 29, 2011

Challenge 12: A Year (Almost) of Living in Jordan -- Ready, Set....

My plan had been to make my next couple posts be about Friends of the Earth Mddle East and water issues we've been learning about respectively, but Kate and Alexsis have my camera right now while they finish up our meetings and do a bit of tourist-ing.  So, I decided instead to use some pictures I already transferred to my computer to post about the big challenge I'll be taking up in the fall -- my ten months as a visiting Fulbright professor at the University of Jordan.  I thought it would be fun to give a little flavor of Amman, both in terms of what tourists see and what my everyday life might be like.

Spending our first 24 hours of the trip in Dubai predisposed us to be on the lookout for the biggest and/or mostest of everything.  Here I am pointing to what Amman claims is the world's tallest flagpole.  But I like the photo because I'm also pointing to the city that will be my home for the next academic year.

I had a meeting Sunday morning at the University of Jordan, and learned that my teaching, which will be in the master's degree American Studies program, will mostly be at night.  I will likely have two courses per semester, with each being taught for a three hour block in the evening.  As I mentioned in a previous post, here the work week is Sunday through Thursday, so two of those evenings I'll likely be teaching though I don't yet know which courses.  As for where I'm living, that's still not settled either, but a great thing about the Fulbright program here is that it is administered by a Fulbright Commission, and I met the charming and incredibly knowledgeable Director of the Commission, Alain, a few days ago as well.  The office very kindly arranged to take me around to a few of the flats being used by Fulbrighters this year, and it is possible that I will be renting one of those flats in September.  Below is a picture of the living room in one of them with Kate and Alexsis (who came along to give moral support and advice), Hussein, the Commission's driver, and the building superintendent.
Attention potential visitors: this might be the kitchen/living room in which you'll be drinking lots of mint tea when you come see me.

As for the all-important question of what I'll be eating next year, two items I know will figure prominently.  The first is hot tea with lots of mint and sugar. As one of the many hallmarks of Jordanian hospitality, they serve it everywhere here -- not just in cafes and restaurants but when you walk into a shop as well as when you enter a home -- and it's positively addicting.  The other is zatar, which I unfortunately don't have a picture of.  It's a mix of dried herbs, with oregano featuring prominently.  It can be baked right on the top of pita bread (sometimes with white feta-like cheese) or you can dip your pita in olive oil and then zatar.  Either way, it's great. It's very common to be served meze, which I mentioned in the previous post.  It's a whole host of salads and spreads and fresh vegetables, which are eaten together with pita bread.  Below is a picture of Khaled (who repeated last year's feat of introducing Siham, Connor and I to Amman by doing the same thing for this year's group), Kate and Alexsis tackling the spread on the table.
Dinnertime (about 10:30 pm) with Kate, Alexsis  and Khaled

Although drinking, as you might expect in a very Muslim country, is not very common here (though it does definitely exist), the Jordanians love their bars and cafes.  Instead of alcohol, they smoke, both cigarettes and the nargileh (sheesha or, as the signs catering to tourists sometimes call it, hubbly-bubbly) and drink lots of tea and coffee.  Altough the nargileh at first seems strange to some Westerners, it's actually a really nice communal way to pass the time.  You don't inhale deeply as with "regular" tobacco, and you are usually  sharing the water pipe so a lump of sheesha lasts a long time. The smoke is flavored, mostly with fruits like apple (my favorite), mint, lemon, and other varieties.  The bars will usually be playing Arabic music, sometime taped and sometimes live, and they definitely cater to a late night culture.  It's not unusual for people to eat supper here between 8 and 10 pm and then move on to a coffee bar.

Sitting next to the live singer in the coffee bar we visited on our first night in Amman

Finally, I should mention that Amman is quite the city to explore, and it's good that I'll have ten months to work on that project.  It's spread out over a lot of hills, and the roads are very twisty and though parts are shady and spacious, other parts have that crowded chaotic feel of a capital city in a developing country. Interspersed throughout are just the right amount of antiquities popping up to keep things interesting.

Alexsis and Kate exploring the Citadel at the top of the city

A lovely view of the Roman Theatre, which is undergoing some kind of renovation project at the moment -- here's hoping they finish before I come back in September.
So, that's a little glimpse of the city I'll be coming home for ten months starting in September.  One of the many things we can learn from the Jordanians and the Palestinians is hospitality, which they have raised to an art form.  Anyone who makes it to this part of the world will recieve a very warm welcome!


  1. Great post Trish! Can't wait to return to Jordan and have you show me around to all the new cafes that have opened since I was last there in 2006. Sounds like you'll have a pretty smooth transition in September. Mabrook again on getting the Fulbright!!