Friday, October 14, 2011

walk like an american

My classes at Qasid run Sunday-Thursday. They start at 8am. There are at least three cool things to say about those two sentences.

1. Sunday-Thursday classes: Thursday is the new Friday (Friday!). Like much of the Arab and Muslim world, Jordan's work week starts and ends one day earlier than the West's. It's totally logical; there's no Church on Sunday, but there is Mosque on Friday. Fun Arabic fact: the three root letters ج-م-ع (J-M-A) are common to the word for Friday (الجمعة ~ al-jum'a), gathering (جمع ~ jama'a), and mosque (جامع ~jaam'a). Anyways, the Sunday-Thursday system proves pretty confusing for expats (is today fake Friday or virtual Friday?). But we manage.  Check out some Arabic students' coping mechanism: الجمعه

2. My commute: walk like an American. When life runs according to plan, I lock my door at 7:35am, walk through some sidestreets (7:39am), traverse a main road (7:51am), and catch a bus to Qasid (8:00am). My route is packed with cars, students walking to class, and commuters taking buses to work. During my first week in Amman, I convinced myself that I would be able to blend in. I could be just another student headed to university, right? Wrong. Despite my dark hair and fairly modest dress, I think I'm doomed to look like a gawky American. I have three tells: I wear a backpack, walk fast, and commute alone. 

Backpack-wearing is a total ex-pat giveaway; university students don't seem to carry backpacks here. Amman's a fashionable city, and I guess it's more stylish to bring a cute bag to school and carry your books in your arms. But I'm laptop-dependent, so I use my backpack. (And, personally, I find my black Northface pretty stylin. Especially the hip-buckles.)

Walking fast is a weird thing here, too. As an athlete who's usually running late to something, I've developed a mean power walk. Just enough power to get me places fast, but just enough walk to render it socially acceptable. In America, at least. Here, I feel like a little kid on a scooter weaving through pedestrian traffic--a little eccentric, mildly obnoxious, but ultimately harmless.Why are people walking so slowly? Perhaps people slow their pace to avoid working up a sweat, or maybe to have a conversation, or because they're running early to work, or because it doesn't really matter if you show up a few minutes late to class. I'm not sure, but it's really hard for me to slow down to match the average walking speed on the street. (Also, if I did, I'd probably get to class late....)

Not only am I speed-walking and backpack-carrying, but I walk alone. Don't worry, I have friends, but my morning commute happens to be solitary. I notice that most of my fellow commuters, however, walk in pairs or groups. Students, especially, don't wast an opportunity to socialize when walking. But, alas, I am an anti-social American!

3. 8:00am means 8:05am, at the earliest. Qasid runs on time, which is wonderful, but On Time is never 8:00.    This works very well for me.

I hope you're all doing well!


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