Year 1: Semester 1 Week 8

Hello from Amman, Jordan!


This week was a whirlwind from midterms to classes to meetings to papers, and then just like that I was flying to Jordan for fall break, leaving for the airport literally hours after finishing my last midterm exam. It seemed like every time I finished one thing, there were ten more things to do. I’ll not talk about midterms because I think pretty much everyone would like to forget that they happened. My roommate and one of my other friends had birthdays this week, which was pretty great. I learned that Nutella works well as frosting for chocolate cake if you’re a college student with no time to actually buy frosting.

View from our hotel's rooftop breakfasts
How do I even begin to describe Jordan? I've completely fallen in love with the place. I'm staying in old downtown Amman with 5 of my classmates, and it's the kind of city that's dingy and crumbling but historic and romantic, little shops nestled around every corner and streets that twist and turn into one another, buildings packed close. The call to prayer echoes through the city from mosque to mosque, something that's indescribably beautiful unless you've heard it, especially as we listened to it from the Citadel at the high point of the city. The rectangular buildings are sort of "layered" into the hillside, and everything is a mix of new and ageless and ancient.

Travel group + 1 not pictured = 6 people, 5 countries of origin
Ancient Roman ruins, Byzantine mosaics, archaeological sites dating back to the bronze age, souqs (markets) packed full of intricate carpets and clothing. Melt-in-your-mouth falafel, delicious hummus and fresh fruit juice. It feels a bit more "foreign" than Abu Dhabi- some of the cab drivers and restaurant workers don't speak English, and some of the signs are only in Arabic, which definitely adds to the adventure, but we've still been able to navigate the city more or less successfully- though we've had some interesting experiences on multiple occasions cramming 6 people into a cab meant for 4, haha. People are generally very helpful about giving us directions although we definitely get stared at/ honked at a bit as foreigners.

I'm so extremely thankful to be having these unique experiences to travel and see this part of the world.

Highlights of the Week

Virtual Reality:
Got to “escape” from midterms for a bit by entering virtual reality, haha. Actually though, we’re doing a project for Programming for Engineers, and so we got to try out the Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets. It’s pretty crazy- a bit like watching a 3D movie, but everywhere you turn is still part of the 3D movie. It’s also really funny watching your friends with it on because they keep looking around in amazement and trying to touch things that aren’t there. 
Here's one of my friends with the Oculus Rift on:

First night in Jordan:
We flew from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain, then Bahrain to Jordan. We arrived in the evening, so we got to explore the downtown a bit and eat at a  famous local restaurant called Hashem. 

Jordan Day 1: 
After breakfast at the hotel rooftop overlooking the city, we started the day with a visit to the Roman Theatre. Standing on the steps of this 2000-year-old amphitheatre was surreal. It's crazy to think that something so ancient can still be standing, and I even took off my shoes for a bit and climbed the smooth stone steps, trying to imagine the people who had walked here before over thousands of years. There were two museums at the Roman Theatre, and one of them had beautiful Byzantine mosaics from the 6th century.

We then walked up to the Amman citadel. On the way up what must have been hundreds of stairs, we found this little art gallery and walked past people's houses. We visited the Temple of Hercules, an Umayyad mosque, the Jordan Archaeological Museum, and a lot more ancient Roman ruins. The views from here were incredible; the photos don't even do it justice. 

At night, we went to Rainbow Street and had dinner with live oud music at this cafe. I also tried a camel burger because why not? We explored the shops and walked around for a while.

Jordan Day 2:

We took the hotel's minibus to Jerash, where we toured breathtaking Roman ruins.

We then drove up these winding mountain roads to Ajloun Castle, which was built in the 12th century to defend against crusaders. It was so beautiful, especially with the view below.

I'm learning so much just from the people alone. Our driver today was quite the character, and he told us his opinions on everything from ISIS to his time living in Chicago to the Syrian refugee crisis to his passionate love for Jesus, to his two wives and how he divides his time between them. You could tell that he really cared a lot for his country and cared that we came away with a positive impression. From my classmates, I've learned how to count to 20 in Romanian, listened to Taiwanese rap, learned about safaris in Botswana, and learned a little bit of Jamaican slang.

More pictures from wandering the streets of Amman:

 I have never seen buildings so densely packed onto a hill before.
We still have 2 and a half more days in Jordan, and we have even more adventures to come! Looking forward to the rest of this fall break.



*As always, if I post a picture on the blog that you don't want shown, just send me a message and I'll take it down immediately. Thanks!*