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it’s a party everyday!

September 30, 2010

In class today we were discussing our “first impressions of Jordan” in Arabic, and after everyone else stole my answers (the hills, the heat, the hospitality, the square white buildings…we all have limited vocabulary, okay), I went with “there’s a lot of sounds, all the time.” The cars honking, the music playing, the people shouting, the calls to prayer, the random fireworks at night, the gas trucks (imagine the creepiest clown music ever, then imagine that it’s playing from an ice cream truck. That’s what the gas trucks sound like. Their tune haunts my nightmares). My teacher agreed and taught us the word for noisy, then mimicked the sound of cars honking. “It’s a party everyday!” she joked. That’s one way of looking at it…

But really. Focusing on small celebrations everyday has proven to be a great adjustment technique. Whether for myself or for others, I am finding something to celebrate. Today’s the two-week mark for me. Days go by either really quickly or really slowly here, never in between. A part of me can’t believe it’s been two weeks already because it feels like one, but it also feels like it’s been a month.

Yesterday I successfully navigated my way to the bank on my own. Sounds minor, but it was a very big step, because after this one solo journey, I have a much firmer handle on my neighborhood now. But you will laugh at me when you hear what a task this was. It took me all morning to convince myself to go straightaway rather than wait for my roommate to come home and confirm the directions. Then, once I’d gotten up the nerve to go, I cross-referenced my various little maps to make sure I understood them and even went on Google Maps to get an aerial view. Which might sound reasonable to you, except keep in mind that the streets in my area aren’t labeled on Google Maps, and even if they were, I don’t know how to spell any of them in Arabic. So it took some sleuthing: I started with a map from a guidebook, then used the information there to Google a hotel close enough to help locate my general vicinity. Then, I turned it onto satellite view, and found two major landmarks: the big mosque at the top of the hill, and the church across from my apartment. Having properly zoomed in, I compared the map to the one my roommate drew for me in the kitchen to find the rest of my usual landmarks. It was worth it in the end because it helped A LOT. But it also makes me sound insane, right? So now you know: I go overboard sometimes. Still, I practically did a celebratory dance when I was able to get there using one route and come back a completely different way with no problems. But I couldn’t, because doing my version of dancing alone in the street would probably have sullied my reputation forever. Anyway, I realize again that explaining how bad I am at directions will make you think I’m handicapped or something, but…well. I am. So yay me.

Also, this afternoon, I finally got to spending some time downtown. Usually I just walk there for class and walk back home, but today I had plans to meet my roommate a few hours after I was done to run some errands together. So I tagged along with a friend and her friend for lunch, ate at an air-conditioned (!) café with a great view on Rainbow Street, and afterwards made my way through the balad (downtown) with my roommate. It is questionable whether I am ready to navigate that area on my own yet, but it was a good start. And there was another small reason to celebrate: when I was coming down the sidewalk at one point, a teenage boy saw me and pushed his friends out of the way so I could pass. I waited for some creepy comment or even just gaze to follow, but none did. He was just being polite, plain and simple. It was refreshing. A little strange. And I celebrated inside.

one view from kitchen window

a lunch

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