Daily Life

Most of my week days (for Jordan, the work week is Sunday through Thursday) were spent similarly.  I went to Fus’ha (Modern Standard Arabic) class every morning from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.  Afterwards, I would get falafel or chawerma with my classmates, and then usually walk down the street to ACOR (The American Center of Oriental Research), a research institution with a good library, but more importantly, free WiFi, coffee, tea, and water and a nice veranda.  Then, on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, I would walk to Khalifeh Plaza, where my Ammia (Colloquial Arabic) class would be held from 3PM-5PM, after which I usually returned home.  There were also academic and cultural activities organized for throughout the week.  Each Monday there was an opportunity for CIEE students and their peer tutors to discuss topics of interest like stereotypes, gender issues, and Jordanian culture.  Tuesday was movie day, and from 1PM to 3 PM all CIEE students were required to watch an Arabic film, sort of a waste of time, in my opinion, but I attended nonetheless and often started my homework during that time.  Wednesday afternoons were usually reserved for short excursions around the city or indoor activities like henna and Arabic calligraphy.  In the evenings I did my homework, either at home or at a nearby cafe where I also ate dinner.  We occasionally cooked at home, but groceries are expensive in Jordan, so it was usually more convenient and cost-effective to eat out.  On the weekends, if we weren’t traveling, I split my time between shopping around the city, studying, and catching up with friends and family back home.

Once Ramadan starts, daily life becomes more difficult.  Because most Muslims fast (and the vast majority of Jordanians are Muslim), all almost all restaurants — except international restaurants like McDonald’s and Popeye’s — were closed during the day.  Even if you can find food during the day, it is illegal to eat it in public.  As a result of these circumstances and my own lack of planning, I ate PB&J sandwiches in empty classroom for lunch for about two weeks.  Classes were shortened by about fifteen minutes, and the University of Jordan campus — usually loud and lively — was generally more subdued.  Work days are shorter, too, and many employees leave work around 3 PM which created insane, unavoidable traffic.  I waited over a half hour sometimes to find an empty cab.  By about 7 PM the streets are completely deserted as families prepared to break fast together (Iftar was around 7:45) and you can be expected to pay double the usual cab fare (or more, depending on traffic and the distance to your destination).  After Iftar, people begin to resurface and the city comes to life again.  Many Jordanians spend their evenings in cafes until the early hours of the morning, or else sitting in parks or walking in the streets with friends or family.  Small carnivals, popular for children and adults alike, materialize in empty parking lots, and live music can be heard in neighborhoods all over the city.

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