It’s Sunday? We haven’t even been in Jordan for a week. We arrived last Monday to 3amman, and the whole group seems to feel as though it’s been at least a month. Staging, or a brief and general Orientation was held in Philadelphia on Friday October 22. On Saturday, October 23, we all piled into two coaches to ride up to JFK. Following a mild catastrophe involving a piece of luggage too heavy to even tack-on an overweight fee, I had to redistribute some of the weight from suitcase to backpack, and finally boarded the airbus around 9:30PM. NB: The food choices are severely lacking at JFK.. surprisingly sheisty airport. Sunday, October 24 we spent showering at dayrooms at an airport hotel and getting some air around Olde City Frankfurt. Around 8:30 PM we boarded a smaller plane with more leg room, and arrived in 3amman drowsy and disoriented by 2:00 AM.
The next four days, Monday, October 25 – Wednesday, October 27, were at the Palmyra Hotel in 3amman for administrative Orientations, cell phone distribution, shots, the like, as well as the first language, technical, medical, and safety & security sessions, which continue throughout training. The US Ambassador to Jordan stopped by for an hour to speak about Jordan’s role in the region, our role in the country, and to answer our excellent questions. On my birthday, the 26th, we had the opportunity to visit the Citadel in 3amman, a breathtaking view of the sprawling city, Roman ruins, and a museum with some really fascinating artifacts including bits of the Dead Sea Scrolls (for you nerds out there like me). Thursday, October 28, we moved to al Al-Bayt University in the al-Mafraq governorate (our home base for the training period), for homestay briefing, two language classes per day, and sessions entitled “Fielding Inappropriate Questions” and “Aiming Techniques (with Regards to Turkish Toilets)” — I kid you not. Thursday night we were treated to a “CULTURE NIGHT,” featuring debka dancers, henna for the ladies, the national dish –mansef– and Jordanian konafa, which is made with goat cheese. The mayor of al-Mafraq even showed, as well as the Deputy US Ambassador to Jordan, who is a graduate of SIS, and per our conversation, not very proud of it. Burn. Friday, ominous Friday October 29, we moved into our host families’ homes, and now I’m starting to lose track of time.
al-Mafraq is a governorate, comprised of the city of Mafraq and surrounding villages. Our group of 40-some has been divvied up into fours and fives, and each small group is living in a different village. We have one day off, and that day is Friday, which we spend at home with our host families. Two days of the week, usually Mondays and Tuesdays, we are back at al Al-Bayt University for language, technical, medical, and safety & security training sessions. We sleep in the dorms on Monday nights, and there should be internet access for these two days at the university, but it may or may not be working. The rest of the week, we are in our villages, where we have morning and afternoon Arabic language sessions at someone’s house with our Language & Culture Facilitator (henceforth, our LCF). We have a two-hour break during the day to eat lunch at home with our families, and the girls must be home before dark.
My training village is called Thoghorat al-Job, and this is the first time that Peace Corps Jordan (henceforth PCJ) is using the village for training. Obviously, this in itself presents challenges. Whereas other villages are larger and several families have hosted Peace Corps Volunteers (henceforth PCVs) before, our village is quite small and I’d wager that not one of them has seen an American before. Maybe in Irbid. The group of us in Thoghorat consists of three girls and two guys, and a male LCF. The guys all live together, including the LCF, so we meet at their house for lessons.
This is the heavy schedule we’ve been easing into. The week must feel like a month because the massive volume of information we’ve been absorbing, the number of people we’ve met, the quality of the relationships we’ve forged, and the magnitude of the experiences we’ve already had in such a short amount of time are wildly disproportionate in the ratio to everyday life. How lucky we are! I think I speak for at least the grand majority of the J-14s when I say that although we may be tired, we’re still ready for more.