Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ben, Bennigans and I

It's been raining and surprisingly cold since we got to Amman, the former of which is considered by Jordanians to be a very good thing because they associate rain with good luck -- and because Jordan is the fourth most water-poor country in the world. The rain has taught me about two major aspects of Ammani life:
  • A complete lack of any drainage system + a city built on 20 hills = humongous puddles and really, really soaked shoes. Outdoor staircases turn into waterfalls, and one-foot deep puddles have a tendency to appear between curbs and car doors.
  • The concept of time is not the same here. As one of the study abroad program staff members explained, the Jordanian thinking goes as follows: Because the rain is out of our hands, so too is our ability or need to show up on time. So everything starts a half hour late.
I'm finishing up orientation in a hotel and around the city -- my homestay starts tomorrow -- and they've basically been drilling Arabic into our heads nonstop, as expected. I've learned a lot of colloquial Arabic, but not nearly enough to actually communicate well with anyone. Ma'alish (=not a problem),because everyone is really nice, and the other kids on the program are cool.

But then today they decided to send us out in the city in small groups for a scavenger hunt, along with a Jordanian student who made sure we spoke only in Arabic (kind of). We checked off a couple things on our list: buy dictionaries, buy notebooks, get passport photos taken, done. Our next task seemed easy enough, albeit curiously non-Jordanian: go to Bennigan's and find the cheapest item on the menu. We proceeded to ask literally six or seven taxi drivers where it was, drive around the city for a good hour and a half, stop at multiple restaurants and accost people on the street for directions, all to no avail. BIG SHOCKER: Bennigan's is not popular in Middle East. Finally, as the time ticked away, we drove past a building and I happened to randomly glimpse "Bennigan's" written on the facade. Sweet. We drove up, and it turns out it was HALF DEMOLISHED. So we took a picture of the Benniruins and got falafel, and all was good. Alhamdulillah!

In other news:
  • David Letterman was on at 7:20 a.m. today -- simultaneous with the East Coast telecast. Jordan gives new meaning to "Late Show." No sign of Conan.
  • A wedding party passed our restaurant this evening, at which point I learned that bagpipes are standard at Arab weddings.
Yalla bye! I'll get photos up soon, hopefully.

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