A few days ago I went to take my placement test. It was not worth walking over to JU and getting all sweaty. I told the lady there how little I know, but she said I’d be fine. I was handed an exam that was a three page essay about which we were to answer questions. Did I mention it was all in Arabic?!? I handed it in on the spot, and walked home. The next day we returned for orientation. The most important part about this was that we were told about what to do to get our one-year visas. It’s going to be a lot like V getting her stuff from Cargo, plus an HIV test. Keep fingers crossed. Classes begin on Sunday.
After orientation a wonderful couple living in the same building as us very kindly offered to take us grocery shopping. I also wanted to purchase a mobile phone, and since one of the couple broke her phone that day I invited myself along for that errand as well. We drove to the Souk al-Sultan (how decedent, it’s not that far, it’s just straight up hill one way). “I” went into the phone store with me and helped me get a phone. He is from Jordan, but has U.S. citizenship. He and his wife L live in up-state NY where they can’t wait to finish their PhD and get the heck out! I got a MobleCom phone and a 5JD phone card. “I” said I can chat for a couple of hours with this card. Very cool. Instead of purchasing a plan, it’s pay-as-you-go. I can continue to purchase phone cards, or not. The keys have English numbers, but Arabic letters (for IMing). Very cool. Then we went to the bakery. Both V and I wanted some good bread. This bakery has mostly bread, but there were some yummy sweets there too. They have sliced bread that is already toasted for sale! How cool is that? I got a wonderful loaf of something that is grainy and wheat-y, and really good. There were no prices, but I handed the guy a 1 JD note and he gave me more than half back in change. Well under a dollar for delicious home made wheat bread. Then we walked down the street and ate at a really good Syrian place. “I” asked me what they have, and I had to say, “I have no idea. They put 5 or 8 bowls of yummy food, fresh vegetables and fresh bread in front of you, when you’re done they bring tea, and when that is finished they bring a bill for well under 5 JD.” It was better than I remembered. My companions were just as enthusiastic, and I was glad. I hate taking people to a restaurant that they think sucks. I asked "I" to write down for me the name of my favorite dish there: فتة حمس. (Fatha Hommus)
Today we went with the Friends of Archaeology group to Salt (click on the "Salt Group" link for the slide show!), this is a town that is a bit north west of Amman. We drove there in under 20 minutes, but only because it’s Friday, I’m told. This group is primarily organized by a local dentist and archaeology-enthusiasts. It’s really cool because he was interviewed in a recent book called Jordan: Living in the Crossfire. He’s famous like a rock star! We went to the Salt Municipal building and heard a detailed talk about Salt’s ambitious plan to become a World Heritage sight. They applied in 1999, but were declined. Since then they have secured funding from the World Bank, and other neo-liberal groups to either restore decaying buildings, or to raze existing modern building and replace them with new buildings that are built in the appropriate style. We walked and walked, and then we walked more. We saw many of the historic buildings fixed up, and many more that are in line (potentially) for restoration. We headed down to the souk, and it was time for prayers. “I” decided to make sure none in the group walked in front of those who were praying. It was really nice of him. We were taken up (I mean UP) the hill for a lunch at this amazing garden with an equally amazing view. We were served mansif. The goats head was in the pile of rice. I ate rice, and tried to fish around for as many pine nuts and almonds as possible. It was a bit goaty for me. At one point V said she was freaked out by people eating with their hands. You are supposed to stick your finger into the rice, and scoop up a golf-ball size amount of rice and meat, then toss it into your mouth. This seemed cleaner to me that double dipping with a spoon. Mansif devoured, we headed for the Salt high school. Though it’s historical architecture, there is something about schools that always make them look like schools! Then we went to two different Islamic shrines. At both men talked with us about the Prophet (PBUH), and about the Koran. At one point a man in the crowd began to yell over the speaker that this was all bunk, and Mohammad was just a sham. I could not believe myself. The man is Arab, he was speaking Arabic, he wasn’t a Cracker. He was promptly tossed out. I was really stunned to hear this.
On the way back up in the bus I was in someone shouted “Star Academy,” and one of the young women on the bus stood up and sang for us on the way back. It was wonderful!
Here in Amman it’s Friday night. This means that everyone who was not married this morning is now. I can hear horns, and fire crackers, and music. It’s a beautiful time of night, and the temperature is perfect.