This week was hectic. I missed class on Sunday because I was still in Hebron. I came to class on Monday and learned that our final exam was actually on Thursday, and not on the following Sunday as I had mistakenly thought.
I had already made plans to also miss class on Tuesday because Alia had invited me to a party. I didn’t want to back out last minute, nor did I want to miss the opportunity to meet people and practice my Arabic.
Even though I hadn’t yet had time to study for my midterm, I decided to go to the party anyway. I met Alia’s friend Hanin in front of the McDonald’s near the University of Jordan at around 10 am. We picked up another friend on the way and drove out near the city of Al-Salt where we had rented a house with a pool for the day.
The party was only for women, so we were free to wear whatever we wanted. In fact, many of the people there had brought special outfits they wouldn’t otherwise be able to wear. Falafel sandwiches and turkish coffee were served for lunch, shisha stations were set up around the pool, then we all jumped into the water.
I must say, it was intimidating being the only foreigner at the party, on top of the fact that I only knew one person there. But everyone was very welcoming and wanted to talk to me. I also met Alia’s older sister and one of her sisters-in-law. Her older sister wanted me to show her how to dive, but I wasn’t a very good teacher and she mostly just belly-flopped.
Later in the afternoon, we had a feast of homemade dolmas, kofta, kibbeh, tabouleh, and yogurt. Alia had told me that we would get home by eight, but of course I should have know that by eight she actually meant eleven. I was concerned about studying and getting my homework done, but fortunately I had brought my textbook and was able to get some work done.
The next day, my brother, Austin, and his girlfriend, Molly, arrived in Amman. I didn’t have the chance to see them until after my midterm on Thursday. We got falafel sandwiches at Al-Quds on Rainbow Street and Austin and Molly tried some weirdly elastic ice-cream (I think it comes from Syria). The next day, we rented a car, picked up some falafel and hummus, then drove to Wadi Mujib and the Dead Sea.
We hiked the Siq trail, the most popular trail in Wadi Mujib. It follows a beautiful slot canyon up and over some small waterfalls, ending at a larger waterfall with a good swimming hole. A group of Jordanian guys there invited my brother to join them in a rock-throwing competition, and of course he happily obliged. On the way back, we had fun climbing up and sliding down the rapids multiple times.
After Wadi Mujib, I navigated us to a spot on the Dead Sea frequented by locals. Molly and I felt a bit uncomfortable there, as there were no women in bikinis and the shore was covered with trash. Litter is definitely a problem in Jordan. I won’t forget the feeling of shock I had when I saw Om Mahmoud (way back when I was visiting Hassan’s family with Rikki) toss a plastic bottle out of the car window, and right in front of her own house!
Trash lives anywhere and everywhere. It was strange to see people enjoying themselves at this beach, lounging around, smoking shisha, rinsing off in the stream, as if there wasn’t all this litter (bottles, bags, tires, toilet paper, diapers) around them. I felt very grateful at that moment that California does a decent job of keeping nature clean. I ended up not swimming because I didn’t want to get into the salt water with all of my clothes on, but Austin and Molly went for it.
Walking on the shore, we were swarmed by a group of guys wanting to take selfies with us. I felt a bit uncomfortable. Being here, I always ask myself; “Would these men treat a Jordanian woman in the same way? Is this a sign of disrespect?” Even if something may not be disrespectful in my culture, I want to be aware when it is considered disrespectful in this one.
The next day, we had planned to drive to Petra, but I ended up bailing because I was too tired. I had been going non-stop for two weeks, and I still had my midterm project to prepare for. I told Molly and Austin to go ahead without me, after which they drove to Aqaba where they’ll stay a couple of days. I can’t tell you how nice it was to just stay in my apartment all day and quietly do my work, taking naps whenever I felt like it. When my roommates got back, I cooked some curry and we watched a movie together.
Today, I presented my midterm project, and we finally finished our textbook!