Saturday, July 26, 2008

Life in Amman

I am with a group of 22 students on a State Department scholarship studying Arabic at the advanced level this summer in Amman, Jordan. Originally, we were slated to study in Sana'a, Yemen, but due to some security issues we got moved the last second to Jordan.

This program is really wonderful. We study at a center called Qasid, which was established by Westerners who mastered Arabic, which is really good because (1) they know how to teach Arabic to non-native speakers and (2) it has the organization one comes to expect from living in the West (for all the great qualities of Middle Easterners, anyone who has traveled to the region knows that organization isn't one of them). We have 2 hours of class a day in the morning, and optional tutoring in the afternoon, with Fridays and Mondays off. I've felt my Arabic has really improved this summer, to the point where I can understand what I hear, convey my thoughts, and read without a dictionary.

We live in a hotel apartment, Bateel, which means we have a living room and kitchen but they also come twice a week to change the sheets, towels, and clean the apartment. It's a pretty nice and fancy set up; overall this scholarship treats us extremely well. My roommate is a dentist and Imam from Maryland, whose very careful how he uses his time here. He has a family and responsibilities in America and realizes this opportunity may not come about again, so he's trying to make the most of it (and setting a good example for me). Other than him though, most everyone else is non-Muslim and studying Arabic for all sorts of purposes - music, anthropology, archeology, politics, literature, poetry, etc. I seem to have won my seat here as the "Arabic teacher" (although I teach math, I also tutor in Arabic now at my school).

Amman is fantastic. It gets hot during the day, but it's a dry heat, and it gets quite cool by night, and there's a soothing breeze that blows and it's all very peaceful (I guess that's desert climate). The people here are also really nice, and I'll try to highlight some examples later. Ironically, most people are not Jordanian here, only about 20%. The vast majority is Palestinian, and now they also have a lot of Iraqi refugees. Financially, it's better off than Fez, where I was last summer, but not as rich as some of its Gulf neighbors. Considering they have few natural resources and no oil, it's pretty impressive what the Royal family has been able to do with the country.

1 comment:

Amjad said...

Sounds really nice, and we're glad to hear that you're learning and growing. Keep us all updated!