Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Four days down, twenty one to go!

After four days here, I'm finally settling into a mini-routine. Wake up, eat breakfast, walk the 2 miles to school, Arabic class at 8:30, walk home, family lunch at 3, studystudystudy, dinner at 10, then bed. Arabic classes have been going... well... they've been going. I have a fantastic Syrian teacher named Basima who is kind and patient with me as I stumble over words. Learning a new language definitely doesn't come easily to me, and I've been trying to spend about 6 hours a night outside of class to review and memorize. Because we only have four weeks, the class is very intense, and incredibly draining for me. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and so my natural inclination is to not speak at all because I know that I cannot speak well and I don't want to make mistakes. Luckily, my host family has been very encouraging and tries not to laugh at me when I mess up a sentence terribly, but applauds when I say something semi-decently. Essentially, I feel like a 3 year old all the time, with people oohing and ahhing over my terrible sentence structure and awful pronunciation.

After studying Arabic for a few days, my favorite word so far is "yalla" (which sounds like y'Allah). The best thing about this word, is that it basically means anything you want it to mean. I think the technical meaning is "come on," but people use it when they're leaving the house, when they're arguing, when they're trying to help you out, when they want you to hurry up, when they want you to eat. Basically, its the perfect word for someone like me who doesn't speak the language because I can say it in practically any situation and everyone gets really impressed that I "speak such good Arabic."

Over the past week, I've had a lot of exposure to the Arabic language through my extended host family. A cultural difference that has really struck me is the sheer amount of time that people spend with their families here. There is a sister or a cousin over to visit at least once or twice a day, and every evening this week I've been over to a different family member's house along with at least ten other people. Everyone talks and laughs and argues and eats together. And boy, do these people eat! Every five minutes, someone is piling food on my plate, even after I insist that I can't eat another bite. In the Middle East, eating the food that someone prepares is a huge way of showing respect and gratitude, and not eating it is very disrespectful. After spending the first few days feeling sick from the sheer amount of food that I was expected to eat, I have finally resorted to being rude and just saying "ma biddi shi, 'ana ŝab3aani" (which essentially means "I don't want a thing, I'm full") whenever someone gives me more to eat, and leaving tons of food on my plate. Hopefully they'll forgive me and chalk it up to my ignorant Western ways. 

In other news, I'm completely covered in bug-bites. Like literally, head to toe. I have at least two dozen that I've gotten in the past four days here. No one else seems to be suffering from this condition, so either its my sweet American blood that draws the mosquitos, or everyone else has a trick to keep them away that I haven't figured out yet. Its really annoying, but its nothing compared to the heat here. Because the buildings in Amman are so old and made out of stone, there is no air conditioning. This means that during the day, the temperature INSIDE is usually around 85-90 degrees. I've been spoiled by the 70 degree year-round indoor temperature in the States. Luckily it gets a little cooler at night (between 75-80) so its a bit easier to sleep.

Speaking of sleep, its after 1am here, and I have class at 8:30 tomorrow morning. Allah yisalliimak!


  1. Awesome to hear you're surviving! That's hilarious that your family is so supportively patronizing. As for the heat, does this mean you finally can go without a sweater??

  2. Bless your heart! And you thought studying was done when you finished college.

    Love, Dad