Word of the Day: السلام عليكم (As-salamu alaykum)
Translates to “peace be upon you (plural),” often used as a greeting and parting that is equivalent to “hello” and “goodbye” in English.
It was three years ago when I came to the realization that I wanted to study abroad in the Middle East. In a period of uncertainty amidst ever-changing plans (re: college), my desire to study Arabic overseas remained the one constant.
Three years is a long time. Yet as I was waiting at the boarding gate in Athens, on my way to Amman at last, none of it seemed real. Perhaps it was because I spent the past month making my way through Europe, and Amman seemed to be yet another transient stop. Or perhaps, having studied abroad twice before, I was wary of being confronted with my expectations vis-à-vis reality. I limited my assumptions and did little research on the city itself, opting to be in a constant state of surprise and discovery instead.
Little did I know I would face my first “surprise” within an hour of landing in Amman. I arrived at my apartment around 3AM to find that my bathroom was partially flooded due to a ceiling leak. And in the other bathroom, I discovered that I also had a broken shower head. It was an inconvenience, but none of that honestly mattered; I was just happy to have a bed and a tangible place to call home in the interim.
It is now my third day here in Amman, and the past few days have gone by in a blur. I had orientation the morning after my arrival and language placement testing later that day, which consisted of a 13-page written exam and a brief oral interview.
Thankfully the second day, a trip to Ajloun, was less strenuous and far more enjoyable than the first. Ajloun Castle was built in the 12th century under the orders of Saladin (founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, Sultan of Egypt and Syria) to protect the territory from the Crusaders in present-day northern Jordan. The castle served as part of an important communication system that connected major cities in the region, including Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo through the use of fire beacons and pigeon posts. I climbed through various levels of the castle to get to the roof and was afforded a stunning view of Syria and Lebanon to the north and Israel to the west. On a clear evening, I was told, one could even see the lights from Palestine. It was a beautiful day well-spent.
Tomorrow I officially begin class at Qasid Arabic Institute. I will be taking only Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) courses and will pick up from where I left off at Temple. However, if possible, I would ideally like to also take ‘Ammiyyah Arabic. It is the local dialect of Jordan and therefore the primary spoken form of Arabic here. To be considered fluent in Arabic, one would have to master both MSA and ‘Ammiyyah. It is a daunting prospect to be sure, and one which I clearly cannot expect to achieve in just the short period of time here, but it is certainly a step I can take.
In the next few days, I look forward to doing some exploring of Amman, particularly before things start to pick up. My internship officially begins next week, and I will be assuming the position of Research Associate for CSR-Watch Jordan, a stakeholder organization focused on corporate social reform through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). My primary responsibility is to publish research addressing NGO operations with regard to sustainable development in Jordan. I look forward to this exciting opportunity to engage with my new community and conduct interviews with members of organizations doing incredible work.
Goals for the rest of the week (by no means an exhaustive list): 1. Discover the “best” shawarma and falafel. 2. Open a bank account. 3. Get a Jordanian SIM. 4. Enroll in kickboxing classes.
All this will be attempted in my best broken Arabic, Insha’allah!