11 Interesting stories from Amman, Jordan (and Bonus Note!)

So last time I wrote about Jordan, which was about 3 weeks ago (even if we only posted it yesterday), we had really only managed to get into the apartment and find milk.

To be honest, we’re still having some trouble finding all the food we want, but things have come a long way since that last post. We are both falling in love with Jordan and it’s people.
Our friends, Ahmad, Luai and Haitham (triplets!) have shown us around and helped us find all the important things, like a surround sound system. And we’ve made new friends through the classes at uni. No one in the language classes is Jordanian, but they’re from all over the world and have fascinating stories and reasons for being here and studying Arabic.
Anyway, here are the thirteen most interesting things so far.
  1. Our landlord is awesome. Remember how I said we got a surround sound system? Guess who came over with a drill and hammer and helped us hang the speakers on the walls? He also helped Kara with some of her homework, and came with us to the bank to help us get our accounts sorted – simultaneously offering to loan us some cash if we needed it until the account were opened and working. Incredible.
  2. We have better health cover as University of Jordan students than we do as Australian citizens. Free access to doctors 24/7 AND free medication. This covers all basic/GP type problems. Not sure about surgery cover etc. but we both have travel insurance.
  3. The Uni does lots of cool things but is as slow as a turtle trying to moon walk with admin. For example, there are 6hrs of additional classes per week that are voluntary, but they haven’t started yet – in week 3 – because they’re still ‘sorting them out’. Also, the timetable for Sam’s class has changed twice and they’ve swapped teachers once, which is still pretty good going compared to the other classes, apparently. However, both of us feel like we’re learning a huge amount so it’s all kind of fine at the end of the day. Also, every Saturday they run a day trip for foreign students to a major tourist destination within Jordan for almost no cost, and some of them are overnight trips – like the trip to Petra. So between this and our weekly hikes we should be able to see a LOT of Jordan within the first semester without skipping classes or spending heaps of cash – which will leave us free to travel the region between semesters!!
  4. Friday and Saturday are the weekend here, not Saturday and Sunday. So yeah, we have class on Sunday. Sunday morning.
  5. Young men here suck. Not all of them of course, but many of the young (and old) dudes we see in the street are super sleazy and act like the worst kind of bogan in a commodore. Kara says that when she walks around without Sam it’s far worse, which is worrying because even when she’s with Sam she has guys saying (in Arabic) ‘baby baby nice, nice’. Gross.
  6. Jordanians are insanely welcoming and friendly, though. We have a strip of shops right near our apartment which are all local, not chains or whatever, and the shop owners all recognise us and are wonderful. The fruit and veg guy doesn’t say much but he always smiles when we come in, the bakery guys – there are usually 3 to 6 excitable young guys running around in there – are super friendly and often give us some free sweets with whatever we buy, and Eyad, the man who runs the mini-grocer on our street, says hello every time we walk past and jokes with Sam about weight lifting. This is because Eyad told us about his diet and Sam tried to show him how he could do workouts in the store, using the 20ltr water bottles! Also related to weights, Sam says the gym staff try to teach him new Arabic words or terms each time he trains, and are always up for a laugh. So he has his second home all sorted now.
  7. We’re both learning lots of Arabic. Kara is in level 6 of 9, and at the moment is working through an ancient Islamic sermon delivered by Mohammed the Prophet’s father-in-law. It’s like reading the Bible to learn English, so insanely hard, but she’s getting through it! Sam has learned the alphabet (writing/reading), some basic words and phrases, and is starting to increase his vocabulary. The workload is intense but that’s exactly what both of us want.
  8. Being Australian is very different to being American. A shopkeeper said to Sam that he had a slightly American accent and Sam laughed and said ‘Oh SHIT!’. The look of relief (and amusement) on the shopkeepers face (and the faces of the other 5 Jordanians standing around) was undeniable. There have been many moments like this. Jordanians seem to love Australians, although they do think we are all drunks. They also love Germans, as did the Egyptians.
  9. We have been asked more than once whether Westerners think all Arabs are terrorists. I have never felt embarrassed being asked a question before, but that was really shit. We answered by saying that yes, there are still some people who don’t know anything about Islam or the Middle East and so yes, they think all Arabs are terrorists, but most people know better. We then had a conversation about how Arabs are portrayed in the West, in TV and movies, and that it’s always in a negative light. Particularly the language. If you’ve only heard Arabic on western TV or in Western films you’d think it’s aggressive and messy, but here it sounds, well, beautiful. The language is warm and friendly, it flows and it sounds great. We are both really enjoying studying it, as well as being surrounded by it.
  10. Here’s a funny little story. The way visas here work (for Australians) is you buy a 30-day entry on arrival here, and within those 30 days if you are a student you can extend it for the length of your studies for free. But you have to do the paperwork at a police station. So we went to the local cop shop. Ten forms later and an officer told Sam he had to go to “the crime scene.” Sam thought it was a joke and so laughed, but to our horror the office looked offended and asked Sam why he was laughing at him. Sam hurriedly tried to say he thought it was a joke, but didn’t seem to get through. When the officer asked Sam into his office, in Sam’s words, “I sh*t myself a little.” Turns out the officer thought he had made an error with English and wanted help with the language. Cut to 20 minutes later and we were drinking tea with this officer, a Captain and a Bedouin Major. The Captain told us about when he served with the UN in Bosnia and the Major told us about how he was shot twice in the leg with serving with the UN in South Sudan. When we left we even exchanged phone numbers.
  11. Today while grocery shopping four young (10 and under) kids followed us around and tried to talk to us. They would ask questions and then giggle and run away when we answered. When we were leaving, the four of them stopped running away and we had a little chat – it was very funny. Then they asked for our phone number, and Kara gave them hers. Kara is now talking to their mother on the phone, in Arabic. How cool is that?!


BONUS Note from Sam: You probably know that I moved to Jordan because of Kara. I study international relations and love the Middle East, but had I not fell in love with Kara, and had Kara not been moving here, I’d still be in Australia for sure. In fact, Kara and I had only been dating for two weeks when she moved, and I decided to move to Jordan for the year about a week after she left. You can read the story here. A good mate of mine recently asked me: ‘So, did you make the right decision?’. It’s funny, because not once have I asked myself that question. From the first moment I saw Kara in Cairo until right now, we have been together almost every moment of every day, and not once have I wanted to be anywhere else. She is amazing and I love her and yes, yes, yes I absolutely made the right decision to come here. I knew it was the right decision before I’d left Australia. I’m incredibly lucky to be with this wonderful, wonderful woman. I think I should add that that mate doesn’t know Kara – if he did I doubt he’d have asked me that at all 🙂
So that’s that for now. Obviously there is heaps more to tell and it will be told. Until then, please keep in touch! Tell us your news – seriously!! E-mail/facebook/whatever us!!


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