Friday, July 6, 2012

Petra and Wadi Rum

I've been in Jordan for exactly a month now. I guess that's hard to believe -- I just hit backspace without thinking because I had the sense I'd typed something false and needed to delete it. (Sadly, serious.)
Two months is an awkward amount of time to spend studying abroad... at least that was my experience when I spent a summer in France during college, and so far it's true of my Jordan trip too. In the first couple weeks, you're in this honeymoon stage -- everything is new and interesting and perfect and you don't ever want to go home. Classes haven't gotten too difficult yet, your roommates and teachers are only on your second-to-last nerve, and you're still eating hummus and ful for every meal. You're picking up new words quickly, and you have tons of energy to travel around and see new things. But I guess there's some black-magical thing that happens when you've been living abroad for a month, where you get sucked into this vortex of intense, delayed-onset culture shock, and you're tired and grouchy all the time and just want a latte from Starbucks, even if you hate Starbucks when you're in the States and you know Arabic coffee is way better. It seems like you're spending all your time either in class or studying, but you don't feel like you're learning anything. The call to prayer stops being culturally interesting and mysteriously beautiful and starts being just an obnoxious noise that wakes you up at 4 every morning. (I think this is how the story ends: After a few more weeks, you start feeling more comfortable, a little less like a tourist and a little more like a resident. For whatever reason, the learning curve picks up again and your vocabulary starts increasing at the speed of light. You finally start to settle in to a routine that's truly sustainable. Of course, once you get to this point, it's time to get on a plane and head back to the States. Cue reverse culture shock, jet lag, etc. But we'll see if that turns out to be the case.) So to remedy the homeless homesickness, my roommate and I hopped in a cab and went across town to Taj Mall (they have a sense of humor, huh?) and enjoyed some Pinkberry yogurt (or "binkberry," since there is no "p" sound in Arabic!) and treated ourselves to some retail therapy at American Eagle and H&M. There are not a lot of problems that a 12 JD pair of really comfortable jeans won't fix.

But jeans don't make classes go away. Things have been really busy lately. The other day, my friend sent me a link to an article that basically says when people go on and on about how busy they are, they're just bragging. Some truth to that? So be it! It's been a while since I've had anything to brag about. Class all day, going out to cafes or friends' places most nights, and traveling almost every weekend. It's fun, but it can be exhausting. (The only reason I'm making time to write now is I got sick from something I ate and decided I'd rather vomit at home than in public. So I'm home alone, curled up on the couch sipping tea, watching Egyptian movies, and listening to random intermittent gunshot-like noises out my window?) I added two classes this week, for a total of four: Classical grammar, Modern Standard Arabic skills, Jordanian dialect, and a class on tools for accessing Classical texts. It had been a whole year since I'd formally studied Arabic, so I'm a little in love with classes. But it does mean I'm buried in work a lot of the time, sometimes literally. (As I'm writing this, I have two Arabic-Arabic Classical dictionaries on my lap, one Modern Arabic-English dictionary, and two grammar reference books, not to mention the online Quranic translations and lexicons/dictionaries. Ha!)

Last weekend our school took us on a trip to Petra and Wadi Rum. We left after class on Thursday and arrived in Petra late at night. We stayed at a nice hotel right outside the entrance to the city. Showers with real water pressure! And comfortable beds! We spent the next day walking all around the ancient city of Petra. Seven hours of walking in insane heat. (Although I did take a donkey part of the way.) That same night, we drove to Wadi Rum to camp with the Bedouins. We got there just in time to take a short off-road jeep ride to the camp, watch the sunset, and have a delicious dinner before taking a midnight walk through the desert and coming back to camp to fall asleep under the open sky. The next day, we woke up basically at sunrise, had a quick breakfast and took a long jeep ride around the desert, in the blazing heat, stopping at a few places to climb on rocks, run down sand dunes, and drink tea at Bedouin tents. For lunch, we went into the village. A family hosted all 45 of us and fed us mansaf, a traditional Jordanian dish. The air conditioning on our bus broke down, so we had to spend an extra hour at an istiraha (hmm, best explanation is like... a rest stop, with restaurants or convenience shops?) waiting for a new bus to come, before embarking on the four-hour trip back to Amman. It was an amazing weekend, but after walking until our legs fell off, and not showering since before Petra, everyone was glad to be back.

I'm having technical difficulties uploading photos because my computer and phone don't want to talk to each other. And I don't have the patience to deal with formatting and putting photos in a sensible order. But you can't title a post "Petra and Wadi Rum" unless it has pictures of... you know.

The three surviving students from last summer's San Jose SLI Arabic program, watching the sunset in Wadi Rum:

Amazing view of mountains from a lookout point at Petra. This is after climbing over 900 steps! The view is worth the walk.

A theater:

The most famous facade in the city, the Treasury:

There were animals everywhere. They look nice and add to the aesthetic, but they also are really useful.  To see some of the best parts of Petra, you have to walk a lot. And it is so hot

Me and my roommate, happy to be watching a desert sunset:

Taken from a Jeep while we were off-roading through the desert:

One of the Jeeps we went in. Sooo bumpy!

We slept on mats, under the stars. Night sky in the desert. Nothing else like it.

Couldn't get enough of the desert landscape:

Ramadan is starting in two weeks, and traveling will be harder then, so I'm hoping to squeeze in one more trip next weekend. Hopefully I'll have more luck with pictures then. As for this week, it's midterm time!

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