Getting used to Life in Amman

23 09 2011

Made it to another Friday! I’ve been in Jordan for almost a month now and it’s amazing how the time has flown. I don’t have much time on the weekdays to blog because of schoolwork, but I’ll try to keep em coming as much as possible on the weekends. This weekend I thought it’d be cool to write about the dramatically different things here that I’m slowly getting used to. There are just a few of many 🙂

Conserving Water

This is one of the biggest differences between life in the US and life here. I never realized how much water I use everyday… back home we can use as much as we want. And usually on a school morning at home, we worry most about whether or not there will be enough hot water to get us comfortably through our morning shower. Rarely if ever do we need to worry about whether or not there will be enough water of any temperature to get a good shower in. I experienced this about two weeks after moving into our new apartment in Amman. I woke up and realized I was on day 4 (we use that to refer to how many days it’s been since our last shower…) so I figured it might be beneficial to my social interactions with my new Arab friends to get a shower. When I got in I noticed the water pressure seemed pretty weak, but I didn’t think much of it since finding new problems with our apartment was a daily occurrence, and I’d probably just need to learn to deal with it. Anyway, I turned the water back on to rinse off and nothing happened… our water was gone. Needless to say, the rest of the morning was interesting as I took my first (and hopefully last) waterbottle/paper towel shower to finish rinsing the soap off, and my roommates and I tried not to think about the unknown amount of time we might spend without water. Later we were able to turn on our reserve tank and get enough water to last us until our tank got filled again at the end of the week, but it was a stressful couple of days. Conserving water means a lot more than I thought it would… it means using the absolute minimum you need when the tap is running. When showering you turn the water on to get wet, turn it off, soap up, turn it on to rinse off, and you’re done. Same with washing hands and dishes. Those are such little habits that are really hard to change and get used to. I dare you to try conserving water for a day… you’ll be surprised at how much you use that you don’t really need.

Plumbing

I’ll keep this part short and sweet… but just be grateful that in America your septic systems (and whatever leads to them) can handle toilet paper. My first plan when I get to the New York airport is to head straight to a bathroom, flush some toilet paper, and watch it go down. Enough said.

Transportation

We do quite a bit of travel in our program. The two places we spend most of our time for class, Jordan University and Qasid Institute, are just about equidistant from where we live, but in opposite directions. On some days we’ll have to go to JU for an 8 AM class, get to Qasid for classes from 10AM to noon, head back to JU to find people to speak with for a couple hours, then back to Qasid for speaking appointments and 4 PM class, then home. While walking is good exercise and free, it’s really impossible for us to spend that much time in transit. Therefore I’ve been able to spend a lot of time getting used to public transportation here. Taxis are a good way to go if you can find enough people to fill one up… otherwise, taking the bus is cheaper. I’ve really enjoyed the bus because it allows me to go places even if I have to go alone, which happens every day since I’ve got a different afternoon speaking appointment schedule from most people.

The buses here are really different… they don’t go on a regular timed schedule. They frequent certain big stops in Amman (like in front of malls, schools, etc) and just sit and wait there until they fill up with people, then they continue on their routes. On each bus is a guy who stands next to the door and opens it to let people off. When the bus is stopped or when it’s slowing in traffic, he’ll open the door and yell the bus’s destination to anyone who is within hearing range. As people get on the bus, he’ll ask them where they’re headed and then gives them a minute to sit down before coming to collect their money. He’ll collect money all at the same time and remember the exact change he needs to give back to each person according the stop they told him they need to get off at. If he doesn’t have change, he’ll collect their money, then go to the front of the bus to get more change, come back and STILL remember the change he needs to give back to each person he couldn’t pay back the first time. I feel like you’d need to be some kind of savant to have a memory like that… whatever that guy gets paid, it’s not enough.

Traffic here is also very different. If there are any traffic laws, no one follows them. Most of the time there aren’t visible lines on the streets. Traffic just sort of flows… people go to where they need to go and honk their horn whenever they need to let someone know they’re there. I bet there’s more of a pattern to it, but that’s all I can detect. It seems pretty crazy, and I’d never drive in it, but I’ve felt safe so far.

At the end of the day I like to walk home. It’s good exercise and it gets my blood pumping after a long day IMG_1028before I have to sit down to more studying. I also just really like all the things I see as I’m walking. Amman is saturated with buildings… I don’t know how else to describe it. They’re just everywhere, stacked up on top of one another, for miles and miles. Pictured at left is one of my attempts to capture this scene. So on my walk home, I hike up this huge hill and as I’m coming down the other side I get a really good view of the sun going down over miles of buildings – that’s my favorite classic Amman scene I think 🙂 When the call to prayer starts it makes it even more perfect. That’s my favorite time of day.

The Food

… I’m struggling to get used to how delicious it all is! I haven’t missed one bit of food from home. Some of my favorites here are hummus, pita, schwerma, mansaf, and kunafa. I’m sure most of you are familiar with hummus, except that no hummus you’ll ever eat in the US can compare. I’ve had some that was pretty close at O Falafel in SLC, but the fresh stuff here is just heaven. We live really close to a bakery so we get fresh pita every couple of days and it’s awesome. You probably aren’t familiar with schwerma, mansaf, or kunafa. Schwerma looks sort of like a chicken burrito but it’s really unbelievably good. Mansaf is a famous food in Jordan that most IMG_1031Arabs love and they usually think you’re pretty cool if you’ve tried it. It’s just rice with meat and a soupy-looking yogurt sauce that’s really unique. And kunafa is a desert that’s wonderful and impossible to explain. Anyway those are the new things I’m really loving, but all the things from home that I’m familiar with are better here, too! They don’t put preservatives in food here so the fruits and vegetables go bad quickly, but their taste is really fresh and flavorful. I don’t wanna make y’all too jealous… so I should probably just end here 😉 But first I need to mention Fruit Salad, the ultimate solution to all problems and stress, and maybe the pathway to world peace. This is our indulgence whenever one of our roommates has a rough day. It’s a Nutella Special and it’s fruit, ice cream, some kind of delicious thick whipped cream stuff, nutella, nuts, honey…. need I go on? Anyway, that’s it for now. More soon!

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2 responses

23 09 2011
Carrolyn

Oh Dana, what an experience! This is fantastic. I loved reading about your getting familiar with the water and plumbing, but especially the food. This will help you put things in perspective for the rest of your life. If only every young person could have a similar experience, we would be better off.

Keep up the commentary.
Carrolyn

24 09 2011
Rebecca

I can’t wait to hear more! I loved reading about the call to prayer (sigh..that must be awesome!) and how the guy counts back everyone’s change by memory..the food does sound amazing and you are absolutely right- we all should be more mindful of how we over-use a lot of things, especially water. We really miss you but I am so excited for you too- what an amazing life-time experience. Maybe I can be you someday 🙂 Love you!! Rebecca

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