A Travellerspoint blog

Back to school

Life in Amman

I am now settled into the student life here in Amman. I have a four hour Arabic lesson each day...really more like 3 hours. But more about that later...it's just funny all on its own.

I have very few new photos to post because Amman isn't beautiful....wait, here's an example:

It kinda reminds me of SF....kinda.

But, I've discovered that there are some great oases (oasises?) around town so I'm hoping to get pictures of them. Also, there's some good peeps I gotta get photos of. Like my roomies...Sophia and Maryum. They are also studying Arabic at the university. Essentially, we bumped into each other while looking for places and decided to get a place together. We have a two bedroom apartment across the street from Uni. We pay 400JD/month, so about 135JD each. For students, we obtained an excellent price (some are paying 400JD for a studio or 300JD for a room with a 9pm curfew)...but the locals laugh at us for getting ripped off. Eh, whatever. It's cheap enough.

We largely owe our success to Haya, a girl from here who is studying German at the language center. I had seen her at the center and she appeared to know her way around so I had asked her if she knew of a place to find 'roommate wanted' postings. By that evening she had invited me to live with her family until I found a place. I went for dinner and met her mom and bro. Her mom launched into an Arabic lesson as soon as I arrived. She was just great. However, I didn't take them up on the offer because, with Haya's help, we found a place the following day.

Getting an apartment in Amman:
It looks like this: Walk up and down the hill across from the university in 100F weather until you see a sign in Arabic with a phone number. If you don't speak Arabic, you call the number in case it's a rental sign. If you speak Arabic, you only call the numbers that are actually rental signs. After you call, you hope the person on the other end speaks English...unless you have Haya with you, and she deals with all this crap for you. Then you go to the place and the person meets with you NOW. And you haggle, if you speak Arabic or have Haya, to make sure that the price is inclusive and there's no extra charges, say, for the super to provide you with groceries (?!). OK, this is done. Now, the beautiful thing: The guy pulls out a sheet of paper with the agreement on it and you put down name, phone number, passport number and hand him 400JD cash. The place is yours and you may now move in.

That's it.

No background check, credit check, employment check, prior residence check, personal references...

Caveat to the cool thing: We are not permitted to have men in the apartment.


In case my dad is reading this, it's not that I need to have guys in my room or anything...it's just that I've been on the receiving end of amazing hospitality over here and I'd like to return the favor. We have an insane number of tea glasses in our kitchen taunting us.

The apartment:

Posted by jenofear 05:50 Archived in Jordan Comments (3)

What just happened?

...And what am I doing HERE?

View Middle East 2008 on jenofear's travel map.


I've left the secure insanity of the desert and am presently hiding in a budget hotel in Amman, trying to get used to the din.

I've left people behind who miss me as sorely as I miss them. I have an arabic placement exam at Jordan University on the 17th. If I haven't settled in, I may just go back to Rum and continue to learn Bedouin colloquial arabic at a snail's pace. Ali & Faris did tell me they would teach me five hours a day if I stayed. Ali has picked up English so quickly. We speak all the time now. I had accused him of being a spy because for the first month he didn't speak at all, stating 'no speak English'. It turns out, however, that he's picked it up in the past two months and truely didn't speak it before. Faris has spoken it all along, which one may or may not know depending on whether you are someone he wants to speak to. Everyone back at the camp can now be seen, on their free time, studying the English books.

Hmoud and I communicating

In a way, it's so easy to get in trouble in the desert. But nothing is consequential (as long as one doesn't have brothers who are required to defend the family's honor). I got in an yelling match with the Aqaba bus driver one day and he warmly greeted me at the shop a few days later. If I hadn't argued with him, he may not have remembered me for greeting. No one bothers to filter nor do they bother to hold a grudge.

But it's hard to hang on to anything there, from holding grudges to trying to plan anything for the future. Each of us who volunteered wound up staying long past our intended departure date. Jessie had intended to pass through in three weeks on her way to Egypt. She'd ask if I would go with her when she left and all I could say was 'I don't know, that's, like, two weeks from now'. Then it was one week out and she asked if I would go and it was still impossible for me to project ahead one week. Then she extended her stay. Then again she asked if I would go with her. I asked when she was going. She replied she didn't know.


It took a little while for me to realize that seeing consistency as a virtue is ethnocentric. It's confusing to be told one thing one moment and then another two hours later. At first people seemed dishonest. But everything said is true in the moment it's said (unless they're playing with the euro-female population - then it's more about strategy - but endearning nonetheless).

Faris and I in the 'siarra'

Posted by jenofear 02:25 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

The most dangerous thing in the Middle East


This little guy (sitting next to Mehdi) is Athman, the youngest son of Mohammed.

Be afraid.

In an isolated place like Rum Village, one big source of supplies is traveling salesmen. It might be a guy with a duffel bag full of girls clothes or a truck load of kitchen items. Food vendors come by to all the little shops here and consequently the shops all become stocked identically.

Then, a month or so back, a traveling salesman came around with slingshots. Every boy in the village now has one. They like to see if they can get the rocks through the bars on house windows They like to shoot them up in the air and see if they can get the rocks to come straight back down. They like the sound of rocks hitting the corrugated metal roofs. They like to shoot at moving targets like birds flying by. Some also think it's funny to point them at people. Going to the market has become a military exercise. I've almost been hit twice that I'm aware of, both times while inside the hostel room in the village. Activity has tapered off somewhat...didn't want to alarm people while we were in the thick of it, you understand.

I prefer to take my chances with the sand vipers and scorpions out at camp.

Posted by jenofear 03:26 Archived in Jordan Comments (1)

Utilitarian Posting

Howdy peeps. Taking care of a few items:

Anybody want to take my cat, Chompers (pronounced 'chom - pere') indefinately? He's super sweet and cute. Friendly but not too friendly. He's part Maine Coon, so very tall. No front claws (I didn't do it - he came that way). I'm attempting to extend my trip to study Arabic in Amman and he is my first logistical hurdle. Also, my brother has him at the moment but my niece is very allergic so I'd like to allieve her suffering. He is presently residing in Sonoma County.

Items for clarification:
1. The guys here are NOT gay (not that there's anything wrong with that). Men are just much more affectionate with each other.
2. We are NOT smoking illegal substances. Smoking tobacco through waterpipes is all the rage here. Up at camp we have apple and banana flavored. The apple is 'quais', the banana I haven't tried.

Conclusion; you may show your mother and co-workers the blog if you like.

Our computer at the office is bogged down with viruses at the moment, so I gotta make this brief. Here are some more photos for your viewing pleasure:

Mehdi and Bailey doing 'tourist' photo:

The first thing I see each morning:

This is the camp kitchen - where all the magic happens;


Posted by jenofear 06:21 Comments (2)

Bedouin 'Culture' - Jen's anecdotal list

Or were you looking for something last century?

What have I discovered for myself about Bedouin peeps? Here is the list of items that strike me:

They're resourceful. They can use whatever they have to get the job done. I've seen a wrench used as a can opener, a wadded juice box used for a gas cap, and tourists may be disappointed to see cut up plastic water bottles used as candle holders. But if you want authentic Bedouin culture, this is it.

They smell...really good. I know. But it's weird. I'm in close quarters daily with them and it's true. One of the guys can come back after three days of shower-free trekking through the 105 degree desert in a full black thobe (ie; covered from the neck down) and not have any B.O. Also, most of them don't ever brush their teeth and their breath doesn't smell.

They smoke 2-5 packs of cigarettes a day. Not all, of course, but probably 90% of the ones I know. This alone can exceed their daily income. Oh, and still good breath.

They barely drink water. I can be on tour all day with one of 'em in 100 degree weather, and they won't drink any water. Maybe a swig. Apparently it's genetic.

They are excessively hospitable and generous. I think we've been invited to every camp and home in the village and desert. For food, for a place to stay. Also, we'll be in a village shop and someone may step up and buy our food. It's impossible to decline without offending them. Again, this would be a big dent in their daily income.

It's a chick-thing, but they have the most beautiful eyes. And perfect eyebrows.

Cell phones. You can hear cell phone going off throughout the day out in the desert. In the camp at night, the drivers can be found with their faces all aglow with the cell phone light. I never see them playing games, but their phones are loaded with videos, music, and photos. Turns out that Nokia is the brand to have. Many come with a built in flashlight and they work even when filled with sand. Thinkin' of gettin' me one.

Mehdi, Ali, Issa (he's from Syria, actually), and Ziad

Ali and Mehdi

Posted by jenofear 03:53 Archived in Jordan Comments (1)

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