I've just returned from spring break in Istanbul, and I'm glad to be back. Amman feels more like home to me now than ever before. I had a wonderful time in Turkey, but I found it very frustrating to travel in a country where I did not speak the language. I was very surprised at the lack of English speakers in Istanbul, and shocked to find that even fewer people there spoke Arabic. I survived, and now I have a renewed appreciation for the IAP and how it prepared me for life in a foreign country. While in Turkey, I could not recall an instance in Jordan when I couldn't communicate with someone.
تركيا كانت ممتعة, لكن الأردن احلى وارخص والاكل فيها احسن - الحمص غير منتشر في استانبول. لم يكون مكلمين كثيرين اللغة العربية او الانجليزية وذلك كان صعب.
I went to Istanbul with one other girl from the program, and though it wasn't the quintessential spring break locale, we had a great time seeing the sights and experiencing a new land and new culture. One interesting facet of international travel is money. Living in Jordan I have gotten used to a very low cost of living. For those of you who aren't familiar with the exchange rates, 1 Jordanian Dinar = $1.5 US = 2 Turkish Lira. When I go to a restaurant in Amman I don't expect to spend more than a few JDs, whereas in Turkey a meal for two at a pretty good restaurant runs at least 60-70 Lira. Even though the exchange rate was in my favor with respect to the US dollar, when you compare Istanbul to Amman everything costs an arm and a leg. Good thing I was only there for a week. =)
ساندويش شاورما في الأرجن = <1 دينار
ساندويش شاورما في استانبول = >10 ليرا
Even though I had plenty of free time over break when I could have been blogging and telling you all about my Turkish adventures, I was shocked to find that Google Blogger was blocked by the Turkish government. I still have no idea why, but when I tried to access my site I got a message which translated roughly (Google Translate) into: "The court decision blocked this web page."
Another point of interest: one night on the main shopping/social drag of Istanbul, Istiklal <Independence> Street (شارع الاستقلال) we walked past a medium-sized protest. All of the banners and chants were of course in Turkish, and all I could make out at the time was something about NATO, but upon reading the latest international news later that night I found that they were protesting against a NATO takeover of the Libyan no-fly zone. There was a plethora of riot police standing by to break up any ensuing violence, but the demonstration was entirely peaceful. These kinds of experiences are becoming commonplace for me as a resident of an Arab country.
Today, while on my way to Amman's city center (وسط البلد) and my favorite Hashim Restaurant (best hommous in the world), Rob, our taxi driver and I found it quite difficult to navigate around the city because a major sit-in protest is being conducted in one of the major squares (دوار الدخلية). The protesters are demanding government reforms, and although the demonstrations are peaceful, they have grown considerably in size over the last few days and yesterday there were clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators. If you read only the headlines, you might infer that the man who died yesterday - السلام عليه - was beaten by police, but in reality he was an innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was a victim of those clashes and police attempts to separate the two groups. There is no danger to everyday residents like myself who do not attend protests, so dear Mom and Dad and everyone who is interested in this program - don't worry.
That's all for now, glad to be back in the desert where at least it's warm and the food is cheap.
يعطيكم العافية ومع السلام
<May God give you health, go with peace>