Here I am, in my bedroom, getting ready for my trip to Jordan. What this entails is googling “Jordanian Cultural Norms” and reading through various web pages geared toward travelers dealing with dress codes, public conduct, body gestures, and the symbolic importance of coffee. As I read through each web page, I try to remember the common elements and hope to be able to apply them appropriately in the right settings. This is not as hard as it seems, considering the fact that I have been studying Arab culture alongside my language studies from Arab professors. I just wanted a quick refresher on things that were probably tucked away in my memory as well as pick up a few new tidbits. I actually enjoy such readings since I am ever the fan of non-fiction writing, as might have been inferred from my biography. After I was done, I picked up one of the stacks of Arabic vocabulary flash cards sitting atop my desk. Over the course of my study, I accumulated a large number of such stacks, since with every new chapter book lesson came a list of terms that needed to be memorized. I made use of the classic aid for foreign language students: a set of flash cards and binder rings. On each I wrote each new term in Modern Standard Arabic, its colloquial counterpart, its romanized pronunciation, and its English counterpart. I have four stacks of such cards; their average thickness is around 1.5 inches, and I plan on going through each and every term before I leave.
In keeping with my habits, I probably won’t get physically packed until the day before I leave. I will pack mostly clothes, toiletries, and maybe a few books. I usually travel light, and this time I plan on leaving some extra space for souvenirs for when I return. Since it’s summer, I expect the desert climate to be hot, but it is a challenge for me to expect it to be unbearably hot, since my trip to Shanghai three summers ago is still the unmatched victor for the hottest place I’ve been to. Nevertheless, I will pack one or two pairs of shorts and a few short-sleeved shirts, but I expect to mostly wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts in keeping with local attire. I’ll also bring my SteriPEN, a pen-like device that emits ultraviolet radiation in order to kill microbes in containers of water that range in volume from 0.5 L to 1.0 L, as recommended by my college doctor. I got my travel vaccinations over a month ago, so hopefully my immune cells have had the time to get antigenically familiarized. As with any trip via air to somewhere else, my mother has been insisting that I pack up on snacks to chow on while in the aircraft. I assurances that I won’t become skinnier over the course of the flight don’t seem to do anything. Oh well; she has just armed me with two bags of my favorite snack – fried, salted fava beans.
I will probably review my Arabic from the books I studied from this semester so that I can make it into the upper tier class through the placement exam. When I arrive, I’ll be tested on my proficiency in order to fit me into the right level, and I am hoping to be in a certain level on account of reasons of academic credit. In any case, I will try not to overdo it on the studying either here or there; my trip to Jordan is not supposed to be purely academic, it’s supposed to be cultural. I hope to visit the local market, bargain with the store owners, talk with the people, etc. I might also bring out my inner tourist and go to some of the well known locations. I look forward to the hospitality that is characteristic of Arab culture (and of my own) as well as the education that comes from experiencing the environment of Amman. Although my program correspondent has not yet disclosed whether I will be in a hotel or a local family’s home, I trust that all will progress smoothly, and if not, then I will welcome the twist and turns associated with true adventuring abroad.