(excerpts from a letter to E)
I’m writing from a ‘tiny house’ (believe it) in someone’s backyard in Burlington. It’s actually super sweet (it’s just big enough for a queen size futon and a nightstand, is lit by Christmas lights and a desk lamp, and there is even an aging white cat named Che that comes to visit) and is wonderfully accessible to downtown. Tomorrow I’m going biking along Lake Champlain. I have already done too much shopping.
I visited L, and his wife R (and their two boys and two dogs, the latter of which are short, curly, black and white, and not super bright- the former of which are much improved from these) today in Montpelier. Man, what a house. R and L and I spoke for almost 4 hours on the subject of Jordan, KA (the school), moving to Jordan, teaching at KA, dust storms (infrequent and not usually a big deal), celebratory gunshots, etc.
The verdicts are as follows, duly reported by me to you:
– Bring a Kindle. 3G if you can. For your pleasure reading, it is the best option. There ARE bookstores in Amman, but they only stock foreign bestsellers basically; the selection is poor and the prices are high. The library at KA is probably the best in the country, but is obviously limited by what the librarian (?) obtains, and it’s not open on the weekends.
– Bring less than you want- you’ll need less than you think. Repeated frequently by both parties. This is not to say that Jordan has everything one wants (many fewer options for healthy food was the lamentation by R), but rather that they found they simply needed less.
– Going the luggage route is heavily encouraged- skip the shipping because it costs a lot, takes forever (1-3 months), and isn’t guaranteed to arrive safely or at all. Which means I will be leaving some precious things home.
– 95% of the faculty are awesome: very good at their jobs, friendly, willing to help out, share materials, culture, etc. The rest of Jordan: poorer than you might predict, but still friendly. Madaba is more conservative than Amman. Publicly declaring certain political/cultural stances (pro-gay marriage; atheism) is not super wise. The kids at KA are great but definitely exhibit the lack of a culture of reading and some do come from a background of extreme privilege (the tale of the kid who had never tied his own shoes was corroborated). Generally, R and L were very positive. They agreed with J’s “100-day mark” (when you say to yourself, Holy shit, what have I done) but believe that it quickly gets very good and the experience is very rewarding.
I have some remaining worries about a policy R mentioned called the “2 layer rule” for women. Other than that, thinking a lot about my curriculum, and packing, of course.