February 3, 2011

Last night we moved into our apartments. I’m in the Rabieh neighborhood of Amman. It seems to be a somewhat upscale area. The apartment is a basement apartment in a building which otherwise houses Jordanians. I have two roommates, Pete from the College of New Jersey, and Adam from the University of Tennessee. This should be interesting because it’s obvious these guys have never really lived in a situation where they are solely responsible for everything they need. We took a quick walk up the street to a local market. The owner spoke no English and I let the roommates do the talking. After a struggle to communicate we managed to secure a few basic necessities for the apartment. The apartment is freezing and the hot water heater is hot in name only. We’re lucky if it warms the water to 50 degrees. So we have basically no heat and no hot water for showers or any other use. I’ll have to talk to the residence advisor about it but I have a feeling that she’s just going to tell me to work it out with the landlord or guard (code for leave me alone and figure it out yourself). Oh the guard! We have a migrant Egyptian who is called the guard. He basically cleans the public areas of the building and changes our kitchen gas or the water in the water cooler. He speaks zero English and communicating with him consists mainly of hand signals and broken Arabic. It’s somewhat upsetting that we have paid so much money to come here and live with no heat or hot water. I guess this is their idea of total immersion. Survive basically on your own in an alien country but if there is an emergency call them first, then call the police.

Moving beyond my complaints, the apartment isn’t that bad. It’s actually quite picturesque. There is some nice Victorian style furniture and a lot of burnt out light bulbs. There is a television with a satellite that doesn’t seem to work. The nice thing is we have our own entrance through a courtyard so we don’t have to go through the main door for which we only have one key (makes perfect sense since there are three of us). Luckily we each have a key to the courtyard entrance. We have a normal toilet which in Jordan people do not flush their toilet paper (the pipes can’t handle it) so you use it then place it in a waste basket next to the toilet. I just can’t imagine how a disease like hepatitis b could spread with hygiene like that! Basically hand sanitizer is your best friend here. Also it’s a good idea to carry your own toilet paper with you as there is no guarantee there will be toilet paper at a toilet, especially at the University. No-one else has seemed to figure that out yet. Oh well, I feel better now that I’ve complained about this, but I may as well leave it at that. I’m in a developing country and I’m going to learn to live as such. I have a new humble appreciation for the life most take for granted back in the United States. I have a feeling I will learn all sorts of patience living here these four months.

After spending the first night in the apartment under a sheet, blanket, and two comforters, we had to set off for the University on our own. We hailed a cab (there’s like 15000 yellow taxis in Amman) and I let Adam and Pete do the talking again. It’s become apparent that I’m the best Arabic speaker in the group as I’m the only one who ever has any idea what people are saying to us. Dr. Tayyara would be so proud. I can’t wait to tell him when I return. Perhaps I should send him an email. The cab ride was mostly painless as the driver spoke English pretty well. He gave us the standard Arab taxi driver interrogation. “Where are you from, where did you learn Arabic, what do you think of my country, are you enrolled at the University?” We arrived at the gate and met with the other student and the CIEE interns for our tour of the university. Our tour guide was a Jordanian girl who spoke Greek, English, French, and Arabic obviously. After our tour and lunch we had more lectures at the CIEE office on the program and safety. The director asked us if we saw the tanks and soldiers in the streets due to the King sacking the Prime Minster that was reported by CNN, AP, and others back home. It’s amazing how woefully uninformed and inaccurate our news reporting is of this region. No wonder our parents worry. It was just another normal sunny day in Amman where everyone went about their business as usual.

After we finished my roommates and I decide to go grocery shopping. We went to Carrefour which is basically a French Walmart on steroids. We did some shopping (everything here is expensive) and used the opportunity to break some of our large Jordanian bills. The secret (not really a secret) is that nobody has small bills and change in Jordan yet you can’t do anything without them. It’s virtually impossible to get anyone in a normal store to break any bill over 10 Dinars. Taxis won’t even break 5s. Every transaction is an exercise in trying to obtain the most small change as possible. It makes things challenging indeed.

Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sounds like you are definitely in a third world country! Just try to go with the flow, take care of your most basic necessities and you’ll make it through! It does make you appreciate what you have back home though. Love you!

    • IK miss Tracey a lot and I can’t seem to communicate with her. It’s not cool at all.

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