Today is Friday, and for those of you who don't know, Friday and Saturday are the weekend here, and Sunday is the first day of the week. Today is normally a day for exploring the city, trying new restaurants, and shopping. Unfortunately, winter here has kicked in in force and brought a slew of heavy rain over the course of the last week. Although I hate rain (save in the summer when it's warm), here any kind of precipitation is prayed for and welcomed with open arms because of the scarcity of water in this desert climate. Rain is considered one of Allah's greatest gifts to the people of Earth. I've been told that it only rains here during the winter months, meaning December-February. The rest of the year is summer - a rather strange concept for someone who grew up in the deciduous forest that is the East Coast of the US. So for now I have been putting up with the rain, though it tends to cause lots of problems with poor drainage and traffic accidents. I also neglected to bring an umbrella or shoes which are rain-worthy, so this weather is extra-annoying.
In the absence of fun outside activities, I'm taking a lazy day: doing laundry, homework, napping, watching "Forbidden Love" (my favorite Arabic-dubbed Turkish soap opera) and, of course, drinking tea with fresh sage. I've metamorphosed from a coffee drinker to a tea drinker - not such a bad change, huh? I'm trying to finish at least the majority of my homework today because tomorrow is my 20th birthday, and I intend to celebrate! We've all been invited to a friend from Philadelphia's house, and she is making us mansaf, which is Jordan's national dish. Essentially, it's a huge plate of rice spread over a layer of very thin bread, topped with lamb chunks and served with a delicious yogurt sauce. It's DELICIOUS!
In terms of this week's adventures, we went on a field trip to the National Center for Human Rights on Wednesday. It was a very interesting visit, and we got up close and personal during our tour with some of the lawyers who work there helping Jordanians whose rights have been violated and also raising awareness of those rights. It's eye-opening to observe a society in which everyday citizens do not know what rights they are entitled to as free individuals, compared to a very legally-aware American population. Part of my homework for Sunday is to write a one page report on our trip, and we will have subsequent excursions every week for the duration of our studies here.
After the Human Rights Center, we went downtown to have lunch at an awesome felafel shop and then to do some shopping. We had a crazy taxi driver on the return trip to our dorm who claimed that the American government gives Hosni Mubarak $1.5 billion a month so that he will maintain amicable relations with Israel and keep the Suez Canal open for the sake of the Israelis. He also tried to steal an extra 1JD from us when we were paying him for a 2.60JD cab ride. That guy was nutso. When we got back to the dorm our friend Sarah invited us to go shopping with her in an area called Jabal Al-Hussein (The Mountains of Hussein ). We agreed, and I bought a leather handbag from a kid off the street for 5JD because I needed something other than my coat to carry my stuff in. I love how cheap everything is here!
Thursday was uneventful. I took a 4 hour nap after class. At Cornell I rarely have a free minute with class, track practice and homework, but here I have quite a bit more free time and I am certainly taking advantage. =)
This coming week we are holding classes at the University of Jordan in Amman as opposed to our normal digs in Jerash because the local students have vacation and Philadelphia is essentially a ghost town. It will be a refreshing change and we get to skip the 30 minute bus ride to and from school every day, as well as see the inner workings of Jordan's top university. Happy weekend everybody!