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Published: June 30th 2012
On the drive into Amman from the airport I hear calls to prayer from a nearby mosque and I know for sure "I'm not in Kansas anymore." After about 21 hours of travel I’ve finally reached the Middle East for the first time! So many memories of China are flooding back and my mind is racing making comparisons to my trip there and my home in the United States. Germany and Europe were a different experience, but Asia has to be the most unique continent, given that it’s the biggest and is home to so many different ethnicities. This is my first time in a predominantly Muslim country as well, so I have a lot of new things to see and culture to learn about.
I’m in the Middle East until mid August to study Arabic (class starts this Sunday!) and I’ll be staying with my girlfriend Laila and her family, who are all Palestinian Jordanians. I'll give more details about some of my travel plans later on but right now expect blogs from Amman, Petra, Madaba, the Dead Sea, maybe Wadi Rum and maybe Isr'l and the P'lestinian Territories! I'm hoping to see as much of the
Laila and I
Holy Land as I can 😊
My good friend Merry Jo, a fellow travelblogger and excellent life advisor has been adamant in getting me back into blogging so this is a shoutout to her. Check out her blog here, she and Dave will be doing some more traveling very soon D MJ Binkley
Today we did a lot! Or maybe it feels that way because I'm still jetlagged! I haven’t made it into downtown Amman yet, but I enjoyed an awesome day recuperating from jetlag with Laila’s family, learning my way around the house, and going to a rock concert in Souk Jara. The flight and immigration were no problem at all, smooth sailing. That's excluding the 7 year old boy in the middle aisle who kept reaching over to grab food off of my plate 😊 I didn't mind letting him, you have to
admire that kind of courage in a 7 year old.
On a friendly note, Laila’s family has proved that Arabs are just as hospitable as I was told. They welcomed me into their home and I was fed immediately upon arriving with delicious grape leaves stuffed with rice! This morning I even woke up to the smell of chicken and more wara diwali (grape leaves) and had lunch with Laila’s family, including her grandma and aunt. The chicken was served on top of rice with a nice spinach dressing and then we also had plates of grape leaves and zucchini filled with rice. Her mom is a fantastic cook and I couldn’t have left the table more full.
After lunch I rode with Laila and her father as she practiced driving and got to see a bit of the neighborhood. Last night when I got into Amman I was so tired that I couldn’t notice much of my surroundings, but today while riding in the car I really got to examine the architecture and culture of the streets. We saw gypsies and a few Bedouins and best of all a shepherd! Hahaha I probably
looked so crazy taking photos of him, but oh well! We don’t have shepherds herding sheep on the streets in the states. He led them right through the road, which Laila’s dad tells me is illegal, but it was such a cool sight nonetheless.
When we got back we had some extra time before a concert we were going to in Amman so Laila’s mom made me argeelay (hookah or shisha in the states), because she knows how much I like it! The argeelay experience wasn't too much different from when I had it in the states. Looks like we copied one Arab thing right 😊
While we were smoking I got to talk to her mom, dad, grandma, and aunt a bit, which made me a little nervous, seeing as it was just us and Laila was not there to translate. But we got along fine with a mix of Arabic and English (mostly English!). I recited the children’s rhymes I know in Arabic and even sang them the Pokemon theme song in Arabic, which they really enjoyed (well they were laughing, so they enjoyed it, right?). Her family is so sweet and I feel so
Where I've been staying
The concert we went to was an Arab band playing covers of some famous American rock bands like AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Guns & Roses, Pink Floyd, and even the Beatles. Looks like I couldn't get all the way away from the West 😊 Amman is actually a very modern city and I'm told it's one of the most westernized in the Middle East.
The concert was on a small stage at the end of Souk Jara, which was a nice, but really crowded, market place off of Rainbow Street. Veryyy hot too. It was my first time out of the house to see part of Amman and we had a lot of fun. We met up with 2 of Laila’s friends and walked around with them for a while, shopping and just relaxing and enjoying the streets. We had true, authentic, Middle Eastern shawerma too! Laila and I have searched tirelessly for a good shawerma place in Atlanta and now, we have them all over! El hamdilla!
I’ve seen and heard a lot of new things so far that I haven’t come by in the states These are my
Where I've been staying
first day observations. (None of these are meant to be offensive, only observations):
• Women wearing niqabs (the full dress covering all but the eyes.), no photos, sorry :P
• Men on their knees praying while raising their arms up and down. I knew this was part of Islam, but I had never seen it before in person.
• The adhan (calls to prayer) recited from the local mosque. These are lines called usually from the minaret of a mosque by a person called a muazzin 5 times a day, calling all muslims to pray.
• The beautiful stone architecture of Amman.
• The gracious hospitality and friendliness of Arabs.
• The fresh, delicious food! Jordanian meals always have some kind of meat, but are also full of vegetables. (something I’m not used to in the states where our cuisine consists of mostly carbohydrates and fats from refined grains and processed foods.)
I haven't felt too much culture shock yet, which I'm fine with! But I also have a beautiful native helping me around so I'm sure that makes it all more comfortable. And I'm not saying Amman isn't different! Because it definitely is. So far I love this new
culture I'm being exposed to. Sure, I've met Arabs in the United States, but there is nothing like actually coming here.
I'm very excited about my Arabic classes and hoping that it will include a lot of Jordanian conversational Arabic, since most people in the Middle East don't normally speak classical (MSA) with each other. Laila has already taught me a lot and the extra exposure to the language that comes with living with a native speaking family is perfect! Anyone who knows me, knows that I love learning languages and immersion in a native speaking country is the absolute best and fastest way to aquire one.
Overall, my first day was a complete success and I can't wait to see what the rest of them will hold.
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