When my classes ended at 12 pm today, it seemed like the perfect time for a lunch break–so along with three other Qasid / Davidson students, I crossed the street to a local falafel place. Ordering lunch seems straightforward enough, and I decided to order something called a falafel mashi, having truly no clue what falafel mashi was and hoping it was a sandwich of sorts (spoiler alert: it’s not). I optimistically joined the line of other lunch goers (of which there were many, because there’s nothing quite like a midday falafel sandwich). I didn’t think too much when I noticed my order ticket was placed in a separate area. The falafel were frying, the sun shining: the scene was set for a simple and delicous lunch, devoid of confusion and embarrassment.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Moments later, my friend Brody (who also ordered falafel mashi) and I were given our orders: a single falafel each.
Let’s pause here. A single falafel is a gift. It’s not that I felt ungrateful for the delicious falafel that now sat in my hands, but rather confused. Looking back, I’m not really sure why I went for the falafel mashi instead of for the sandwich, a seemingly universal magic lunch word.
Laughing, Brody and I made our way outside, and truly did enjoy our falafel mashi. We thought–ma fi mushkil (no problem in Arabic)–we’ll just go back for more after we finish this. However, we soon learned that the place was out of bread. We waited in earnest until its arrival, checking in several times with the bemused and patient cashier before finally ordering (and recieving) the sandwich of our hopes and dreams.
Falafel by falafel, you will fill your stomach. Along the way, there are the mistakes and missteps you don’t recognize as such until they’re behind you, interspersed with moments of realization and sprinkled with laughter. The way to approach lunch–and life, especially in an unfamiliar context–is to take it one falafel at a time.
I had my first day of classes today at Qasid: bright and early at 8 am! The study part of studying abroad is not what immediately came to my mind when I anticipated this summer, but I know that the four hours I spend in class each day will fundamentally shape this experience. I am so excited to have a summer dedicated to learning Arabic, both in and out of the classroom.
Our class has about eight people, from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. The majority of us come from the U.S., but there are also students from Turkey, Taiwan and Ireland. We are guided by two teachers, who seem creative, nurturing and funny. Our morning is divided into fifty minute lessons, with short breaks in between, which definitely help the time pass.
In the past few days, I’ve been able to explore Webdeh, an old neighborhood home to narrow one way streets and a notable expat community, and the Balad, a downtown area bustling with stores and people.
The homework for our class is quite demanding, so I spent most of the afternoon on the terrace with Al Kitaab 2, watching the sun set over Amman before heading out to explore the Balad by night with my roommate. Because it’s Ramadan, the streets are very busy after iftar (the meal to break the fast). My roommate and I made a quick stop for knafeh, a syrupy-cheesy dessert, and then set off for a walk around the shops.
I’m not sure how I made it through 20 years without knafeh. I look forward to consuming vast amounts of this dessert to make up for the lost time, while establishing a routine of class, homework, volunteering, and blogging. Thank you to all of you who are reading and supporting me in this new experience!
It’s only been a few days in Amman, but I know that I have so much to learn this summer. Living in an unfamiliar city, in another person’s home, and speaking a new language makes each day/moment a learning experience.
My host family has a beautiful rooftop where I can take in this place from above. I can see the green and yellow taxis swirling around cream colored apartments and uneven sidewalks and hear the neighbors chattering next door as they wait to break the fast. The rooftop is a perfect place to pause in the midst of all these people and cars who are moving so quickly–especially when the sun is setting. It’s quite hot on the roof in the heat of the day and the sun here is more intense than what I’m used to.
My host family spends quite a bit of time during the day napping: because it’s Ramadan, they stay awake late into the night and wake up before sunrise to eat. I’m also learning to take it easy, after a full day exploring Amman yesterday.
Orientation at Qasid is on Saturday! Until then, I will be lounging on my host family’s couch watching whatever musilsil (TV series–they air daily in Ramadan) is on, as well as trying to get to know Amman a bit more!
In a few days, I will fly to Amman, Jordan, where I will spend this summer.
In many ways, this summer will be a new experience. I’ve never been to Jordan or its neighboring countries before. Amman, Jordan’s capital, is a large city, and Davidson/my hometown are far from it. I will start to study Jordanian / Levantine dialect, and I only know basic words and phrases right now. For the first time, I’ll experience Ramadan in a country where the majority of people are participating. And though I’ve spent time abroad before, I’ll have a new level of independence in Jordan.
And some things feel familiar. I’m going to be living with a host family. No matter where I go, I am grateful for the host families who have opened their homes and hearts to me in places near (in Davidson / Canada) and far (Morocco). I’ll have a roommate, and we’ll spend four hours each day studying Arabic at the Qasid Institute. Thanks to my teachers & tutors at Davidson, I feel like I have a foundation for this part of my experience, though I will need to adjust to the fast pace.
As always, I have so many people to thank: Dean Rusk and the Center for Civic Engagement at Davidson College. Dr. Joubin & Basma. My dear friends at Davidson and scattered around the world. My parents & brothers. The list goes on. The internet is a crowded place, with so many voices competing to reach your ears, and I’m thankful to you–the reader–for hearing mine.
I’ll write again from Jordan. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Amman’s skyline.