I awoke as Kate was getting ready around what I thought to be 1:30 p.m….or at least that’s what my phone told me. Turns out the the government unexpectedly decided to implement a daylight savings time last month, throwing off pretty much every electronic device in the kingdom. I rolled out of bed and met Kate’s friend, Ayla, who she had known from last semester. She invited me to lunch and, eager to see the city, I accepted.
On our way down, we stopped at the CIEE desk to officially check in. We were given a bag full of materials, including a Jordanian cell phone and an ID card for Princess Sumaya University for Technology, where our class would be studying. My card read “Anthony Thomas O’Connor”, swapping my first and middle names. I was told it was rare to get an ID card without any mistakes. We hailed a cab and Kate told me it was Jordanian custom for men to sit up front in taxi’s. We arrived at the first traffic circle, one of eight in the city, on Rainbow Street and grabbed falafel. I got coffee from a nearby Nestle Toll House, hoping to take the edge off of my drowsiness. Rainbow Street is a commercial hub and is frequented by tourists and Jordanians alike. Signs from every angle scream out over the perpetual honking of traffic, colloquially called “el azmeh”, which literally means “the crisis.” One day in Jordan and I understood why.
We sat outside to eat and got to know each other a bit, I also took the chance to vent some of my anxieties to two individuals who had already spent a semester in the program. A slight drizzle began so we took a taxi to the hotel. Once back, I video chatted my mother and tried to somehow convey in one brief session all I’d felt and experienced in the past day and a half. I returned to my room and amused myself with an Arabic soap opera, which was really a Colombian soap opera dubbed in Arabic and subtitled in English.
At 7 p.m., I headed down to the hotel restaurant for free dinner and was too taken aback by all the food to restrain myself from starting with two full plates. During dinner, I met the two other American University students, Chakriya and Prerna. Though I’d never met them prior, there was a sense of familiarity in discussing names and places we mutually knew. I also met Andrew, who would be one of my two roommates when I moved into my apartment Tuesday. After dinner, some of us made plans to go out for shisha.
We met up at the hotel lobby with more CIEE students, eventually reaching 9 people and took two cabs to Rainbow Street. The street was a symphony of lights and sounds, we swam through it until we settled on a cafe called Stars Cave, where we ordered two shishas and tea. An AU graduate named Margot joined us, she now works for as assistant to a professor in Amman. It was a good night out with good people. In a fit of confidence, I pledged to myself to speak to Jordanians in only Arabic, at least as much as possible. Surprisingly, it lasted.
After some chaos in trying to collect the bill from a group of students who had just seen the currency for the first time, we split into a small group and went for ice cream. On the walk back, we could only find unmetered taxis who wouldn’t drive us back or less than 3 dinars, despite it being a 1 dinar fare. We were tired and ready to begin a stable sleep cycle, so I haggled the price down to 2.50. It’s still a shitty price, but we were willing to take it.
Upon arriving at the hotel, everyone went straight to their rooms. My mom informed me that a childhood friend of hers, now a local professional photographer had given a great deal of praise to a picture I took in Istanbul. The photo was of some older men fishing in the Bosphorus Strait with the Bosphorus Bridge in the background. I remember singling it out in my head as a decent shot after I snapped it. I was surprised by the praise, but it was dearly appreciated. In addition to Arabic, photography was another skill I plan on developing throughout the semester.
I was surprised by the difficulty I had trying to sleep. I resorted to reading A History of Jordan by Philip Robins. Slowly, sleep came with thoughts of Nabataeans and Moabites lingering in my mind as I prepared for my first orientation outing tomorrow.