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By Dominique Bonessi

After two months in Jordan, yesterday, I finally visited Petra, the historical landmark Jordan is best known for.  We took a day trip three hours driving down to see the ancient site and three hour drive back to Amman.  I didn’t feel like a tourist visiting Petra; I felt like a Jordanian visiting their countries pride and joy.

I also realized yesterday that my time in Jordan is more than half way over and looking back at my first week till now; I have grown in so many ways.

In the beginning of the program, I was shy to speak and talk to anyone for fear my Arabic would be severely judged.  But at Petra, I talked to the locals and on a daily basis now I am able to have regular conversations in Arabic with my University of Jordan friends, my host family, and my classmates.  This has become especially helpful when getting into taxis and the taxi driver asks where I am from.  I often lie to him and tell him I am from Spain that way he can’t speak to me in English and is forced to speak in Arabic to me.  No one really knows Spanish, although one driver decided he was going to tell me every word he knew in Spanish.

Another big challenge was to budget my money at the beginning of this program.  I have come to realize that since Amman is not a walking city taxis rides are a must, but they can add up and become very expensive. In addition, to this issue I also realized that in the first part of the semester I didn’t venture off during the weeknights to do homework with other people or go to cultural events. So instead of returning to home to my house after school, I have been going to the gym almost every day after classes, from there I have been trying to make an effort to get out with my fellow Jordanians and experience Amman.

Granted Amman definitely isn’t my favorite city to live in like DC or New York, but I was told my host mom’s sister that in order to like Amman—and maybe even love it—is by making friends and seeing Amman in all its splendor and not so splendor. During the weekends, I have also tried to get out of my house when we don’t have planned trips and go to a café to do homework.  I have also started a Spanish-Arabic conversational group with a few Jordanian friends and classmates.  The Language Center at the University of Jordan offers a wide variety of languages and most of the students concentrate on two to three languages at a time.  Many of my Jordanian friends who are learning Spanish for their first time have really good Spanish accents too.  At the same time I get to use both my Arabic and Spanish to talk with people, but most of the time I have just been mixing the two while I talk.

With only a month and a half before I leave Jordan, I still have so much I want to do.  First, I would love to take a day trip to Muqaba to see the ancient mosaics, I also want to swim in the Dead Sea, and find a new café every Saturday to do homework in.  I know my time here is short, and I know that I only get to do this one study aboard in my undergraduate year, so I want to do well in classes, but also have more fun befriending locals and experiencing the culture.

By zamorse

Studying abroad is all about adventures with your friends. That's why this weekend my friends and I rented a car and drove to the other end of the country to have a little adventure.

We drove down from Haifa on Saturday morning at 6AM all the way down to the Dead Sea, only about a three hour drive, but literally on the other side of the country, that's how small Israel is. We found a spa on the side of the road, and for only about $20, had access to pretty much everything there.

The Dead Sea is a body of water lying on the border between Jordan and Israel that is so dense with salt you float it. You walk into the water, turn around, and fall backwards into the water. From then on you don't have to tread water because you just float where you are. The water is supposed to be really good for you skin. Once we got out, we found a pile of the famous Dead Sea mud and put it all over out bodies. The mud is also supposed to be really good for you skin. Then we went back in the sea to rinse the mud off. And from there we went and relaxed by the pool and ate ice cream. Such a hard life.

Then we drove south to go find our youth hostel. Our hostel was located about 45 minutes south through the desert literally up against the border with Jordan. All of the signs were in English, Hebrew, and Thai, because the Moshav ( a type of Israeli town) we were staying in must have employed a lot of Thai workers, which definitely says something about Israeli society. We hung out around the campfire and then went to bed at 9PM, because we were that tired and because....

We woke up at 4AM the next morning. Sunrise was at 6:22AM. Now that's important to know because it was important that we be at the top of Masada to see the sunrise. Masada is an ancient Jewish fortress atop a mountain that was destroyed by the Roman Empire, and is famous because of the battle that took place there and because all of the families ended up committing suicide to save their honor before the Romans got to them. We drove there in a hurry in the pitch black desert night and hiked up all the way to the top before the sun rose. It was absolutely beautiful. Then we explored the ruins atop the mountain and hiked back down to our car.

We then drove a few kilometers north to Ein Gedi, which is a natural spring and series of waterfalls in the desert. It was beautiful, and we got to hop in the water a little bit, but it the narrow path was so full of Israeli school children that it wasn't as much fun as I had remembered it. We then drove to a public beach and went back in the Dead Sea before we drove all the way back to Haifa.

Such a great weekend, and such beautiful scenery. Weekends like that one remind me of why I studied abroad.