30 September 2007

End of September Round-up

Sorry as always for sporadic, sparse updating. Here are the highlights of what's happened since last I posted:

1. The sky-rats are nearly full grown. One has already left, and the other should be gone in the next couple of days. Then I'm going to scoop out the birdshit, put up plastic bottle fortress, and open my effing window for once.

2. Everything in this country is made of concrete. No, really. Every building is cast in concrete. I passed an old, old stone building the other day and gawked. American wooden housing does not exist.

3. The standard workweek/class week is Sunday through Thursday--which messes with my head. A lot. Ramadan hours are roughly 8am-3pm with often a second opening sometime in the evening, around 5pm or 7pm (before or after iftar, the sun-just-went-down-let's-all-pray-and-stuff-our-hungry-faces meal). This means that late afternoon is somewhat dead; some businesses stay open, but not all.

Damn, there is so much to post. How do you do culture shock in bullet format? I get stared at everywhere I go. There is no public touching at all, not even jostling in crowds. John and I have effectively been forced into a bizarre twisted version of Ramadan due to not being able to eat out during daylight and not wanting to be the asshole Americans going grocery shopping in the day--even though Jordanians do it all the time. There are special Ramadan street foods that have come out, like these fantastic little pancakes that taste like pretzels. I really, really miss having Net access in my room. I never realized how much of my college lifestyle depended on having Gmail, YouTube and Wikipedia at my fingertips 24/7.

And perhaps most monumentously, I have a small public service announcement to make. You all may remember my friend John, who's travelling with me. Well, as of the 17th, we've started dating. It's pretty awesome, actually. I'd forgotten how much more fun things are with a significant other, and Jordan just keeps getting better this way. For those of you who don't know him, he's an International Studies/Asian Studies/Philosophy triple major, a year under me, has a twisted sense of humor, and would fit in at a WorD meeting.

And now I have to go. It's nearly 2am here, and I still have stuff to do for class. Hope you're all doing well. I miss you. And seriously, email me. I will not reply promptly, but I will reply. I want to hear from you guys. Rock the States while I'm gone.

12 September 2007

Sky-rats!: News at eleven

Alive and well! Placement exam taken; probably in Beginner level. I know so much less Arabic than I'd rather hoped I did. Have been hanging out with John McMurray (from IUP, whom some of you know) and Andrew, who's doing further language study for his Fulbright before starting research in spring on Jordanians' actual opinions regarding American foreign policy as broadcast on major regional news stations (ie. Al-Jazeera). I'm all for that project, actually. It's something that's desperately needed studying for a very long time and yet hasn't been. I'm getting a bit more into the swing of things--just in time for Ramadan to start tomorrow and throw everything off again.

And now, let me tell you about pigeons and my new phone.


The sky-rats are everywhere.* Most particularly, they have roosted, shat upon, and nested in my window-box. There are two--TWO!--ugly baby pigeons growing in my window-box. Their names are First Pigeon (which is smaller and appeared first) and Second Pigeon (which is fat like an obese water balloon sparsely pasted with ugly yellow feathers). There are also two eggs, which promise future pigeons as well.

Both First and Second Pigeons and their Mama Pigeon(s) bed down for the night in the soft, downy layers of old pigeon shit layering my window-box, which smells bad enough that I can't keep my bedroom window open for more than ten minutes.

Apparently, you can stop pigeons from landing somewhere by lining the spot with old plastic bottles. Pigeons hate plastic. Who knew? It's like a less vicious version of those spikes you see people put on their windowsills in the States. But I do not want to be responsible for killing baby pigeons by starving them. I definitely don't want to watch them slowly die of exposure in my window. Any ideas?


Because of the craziness that is non-compatible continental cell phone networks, my American cell phone is useless in Jordan. And Jordanian phones are really, really cheap, even when you're ripped off because you look like a tourist. So I have this new little Nokia phone now.

And God, it is amazing. There are more ringtones I like on this phone than there are ringtones on my American one, full-stop. The options are organized sensibly. Prepaid phone plans are standard, and pretty cheap. My phone cost 25JD and my plan 15JD (incl. 5JD prepaid): about 56USD. Craziness!

Plus, this is an insanely cell-phone-obsessed culture. Walking down the street, you can see about a fifth of the people on phones. If you're talking to someone and your phone rings, you always answer it (unless it's your annoying cousin Ahmed who's called you four times today already, or something like that). And unlike in the States, where getting someone's number is a sign of knowing them well, in Jordan you get the numbers of everyone you know. I have the personal cell number of the guy employed by the supervisor of Yarmouk's team of repair guys, and he has mine. You just do that. It's weird, but I'm starting to get used to it.**

Still miss you all. Drop me a comment or an email, tell me how your day went.

*I have a lot of love for rats. But pigeons are just vile.
**If you want my Jordanian number, just ask. I'm sure someone out there must have a decent international plan.

09 September 2007

The Jordan Chronicles: Chapter 1

Hello, you wonderful people! You're awesome! I miss you! I'm safe, have housing, and I'm getting to know some people. It's nuts here. If you're reading this page, you're probably wondering what things are like here and what I'm up to. Your answer today comes in two parts: my flat and culture shock.

Part I: My Flat

I have a one-bedroom, on-campus apartment. It's crazy. The building, like nearly all the buildings here, is made of concrete. The walls are painted white, which makes for very bleak surroundings. It's three storeys, reaised off the grounds so that you can park underneath it. It's also professor housing...plus us foreign kids, that is.

The flat itself is...well, the internet lied to me. It's gigantic. The living/dining room seats eleven easily, including a counch. I have a TV with bunny ears that gets maybe five stations (two of them the same one). The windows are enormous, and the living room has this credenza thing that I've already truned into a windowseat.The kitchen has a freidge, a strange collection of Goodwill-esque silverware and dishes and cooking utensils that include full Arabic coffee-making equipment. The stove has a separate propane tank and must be lit by hand--which freaked me out the first time I did it. (Weirdly, John's talk has Enligh directions and mine has Arabic. Aand the on/off knobs turn opposite directions, which was confusing to learn while making pancakes last night.)

The bedroom is set up for two people, and apparently the previous tenants were a pair of Turkish girls.* I have no roommate, but there are plenty of pigeons. In fact, my window planter seems to be a nesting grounds fo rthem. (24/7 Animal Planet).

...more later. Internet cafe is closing. Miss you all. I'm safe and sound.

*They even left a poster on the dining room wall: "Go with the rhythm...enjoy Istanbul."