Hamza has been such a kind host and has provided me with a great first introduction to Amman. I’ve already seen a lot of this gigantic city, considering that I’ve been here less than a week.
Over the weekend, I went on a bike ride out to the city of Madaba. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite make it into the city, where there are Byzantine mosaics, including a 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem. We did bike through the countryside, dry and flat, occasionally passing a field of olive trees or wheat. I enjoyed spending time with Hamza, his brother and sister, his uncle Majdi and Majdi’s Uzbek girlfriend, Oxana. Check out my flickr account (link in the sidebar) for more pictures.
I’ve had a family meal at Hamza’s grandma’s house, where I met some of his extended family, including his great grandmother! We’ve been downtown for grilled meats, to the Citadel to view ruins from as far back as the Bronze Age (2000 BC!) and to a trendy part of town called Jebel Weibdeh for Jordanian wine. Hamza and his friends touted it as quite tasty, but to me, it tasted like nailpolish remover. The bar was fun and relaxed, though, and it was novel to be drinking in a majority Muslim country. There I met Hamza’s lovely friends and learned that they’re boardgame enthusiasts, so I forsee spirited game nights at my place in the future.
I even spent some time at a gay cafe that doubles as a bookshop that sells a great selection of English-language novels and a true love of mine: Arabic-language translations of Young Adult novels. I was surprised to learn that although homosexuality is really frowned upon here (although not technically illegal), there is a not-so-underground gay culture in Amman.
It is no joke when people say that only Moroccans understand Moroccan Arabic. Yesterday I took a bus from the UNESCO office to Hamza’s house, and automatically asked how much a spot cost in my Moroccan dialect, only to be met with a blank stare. It took me a few seconds to translate that into Modern Standard Arabic, and then again into what I thought could be understood as Jordanian Arabic. In the end, though, the message was communicated. In any case, I’ve found that when in a pinch, it is easier and at times more effective to substitute a word I don’t know in Jordanian Arabic with the English word, rather than the word in Modern Standard Arabic.
I’ve started my internship but getting things moving has been a really slow process. I do have a laptop now, an ID badge on the way, an email address and a trickle of work to do. I think I’ll save the update on the internship for a few days down the road as things settle into place.