I'm now in the throes of my third week of classes, and already I'm wishing that I could stay longer. The more Arabic I learn, the more frustrated I get at how little I know, and the more I want to stay here long enough to become seriously fluent. It's funny how life works that way!
Which is not to say that I haven't been doing things other than studying. Actually, I'm happy to report that I've been able to get out in some capacity most every day. Saturday, for example, I was feeling extra American, so I went out to City Mall to indulge in a little shopping and Starbucks. There are about 10 Starbucks locations in Amman, and they look exactly the same as the ones at home. (If anything, the Jordanian ones are bigger, and come with more comfy chairs.) The one I went to didn't have any of the fancy syrups--coconut, pumpkin, and the like--so I ordered a mocha frappucino. To be completely honest, though, I think I prefer Arabic coffee....
I also shopped around a bit, though most of the stores at City Mall were rather expensive. Really, the best places to shop around here are the vintage souqs and the areas further downtown that sell more traditional clothing. Perhaps if I have some stipend left over at summer's end, I'll go splurge on something fancy--but for now, I just bought a flowy new t-shirt from Mango. It goes well with my long skirts, to which I am now addicted. Breezy, comfy, and elegant for the win.
On Sunday night, after a long day of class and dabkeh dancing, I had the amazing opportunity to see singer-songwriter Souad Massi perform with her band in the Odeon Theatre in downtown Amman, as part of the Al-Balad music festival that started last week. I was already a fan of hers before coming to Amman, so you can imagine I was way excited for the chance to see her perform live. The Odeon theatre is an old Roman amphitheater from many centuries ago, so the seats were fairly far from the stage in a big arc. As the concert started, I found myself wishing we could get closer to the stage and start dancing--and I was not disappointed. After opening with a set of mostly ballads, she insisted everyone come right up to the stage, and to make a long story short, I was about 10 feet away from her for the majority of the performance. She played my favorite songs "Ilham" and "Khalouni," along with a bunch of other great tunes.
The lady herself! Fantastic voice and so much musical talent.
During the concert we had a dance circle with a bunch of students from the University of Jordan, who (by the way) were very unsubtle flirts, to hilarious effect. Watching them scheme amongst each other about how to put the moves on a bunch of American ladies was extremely entertaining. (My favorite bad pick-up line of the night was directed at my friend Rachel--"You want to practice your Arabic. I want to practice my English. I have free time...."--but I think she let him down easy.)
That being said, it's occurred to me several times since arriving that I get cat-called a lot less here than I do in Albany Park. Being blonde over here makes you a somewhat exotic commodity, so I'm used to getting stared at here and there (by everyone, not just men), but real harassment here seems basically non-existent. Nowhere is perfect, but contrary to common Western belief, the culture here is generally respectful of women. In fact, I wonder whether or not the U.S. could learn a thing or two. Just a thought.
Yesterday, the chef who makes us dinner five nights a week at Al Bateel hotel made us American food for 4th of July. There were hamburgers, hot dogs (beef of course, since pork is a big no-no here), cole slaw, and French fries, among other things--finished off with apple pie. Granted, the hot dogs came in Arab-style sandwich bread instead of hot dog buns, and the cole slaw had a spice in it that I'm positive is not available in most American supermarkets, but the effort and enthusiasm behind the meal was such a kind gesture. Jordanian hospitality is legend for good reason, and it never fails to make me smile. :)
But alas, my homework is calling. 'Til next time, ma salaama!