it’s hard to know what to say, what to describe. most importantly, generally, things are very good. here is what i have been thinking about:
-Arabic culture will take some getting used to. interacting with women is easy and actually very sweet; women seem much more receptive to talking, eye contact, and caretaking gestures (compliments, reassurances, shoulder pats, etc.) than in america. i don’t sense much competition among women*. it is striking not just in the women i am meeting at my school, but even the extremely gregarious and lovely woman who was my seatmate on the plane- we talked for over two hours. however, she and several others have told me to watch out for Arabic men. not only should i be careful about clothing (which i knew), but i should also avoid making eye contact. this will be challenging for me. already, there are workmen doing construction and touchup projects on campus and i have had to negotiate whether to say Hi or not to them. (obviously i can, it is ok, but kind of strange culturally for me to do so).
* = lack of competition may be due to the far smaller emphasis on outward appearance — well, for observant Muslim women who wear headscarves. i mean, i’m sure they care very much about their outward appearance, but their dress is usually quite plain (deliberately so, and maybe instructed to be so, religiously?). we are all clotheshorses next to them… although, i am oversimplifying. possibly they are wearing amazing dresses underneath their robes. and there are women who wear headscarves but not a robe; just a dress. not designed for attracting attention, though. so, in summary- less of a culture of female competition as enacted in dress / fashion. … that i have seen so far.
my apartment is very nice- spacious and clean and new (all the buildings are only 6 years old), a little sterile, but i will change that. the campus is very nice, the view is incredible, the weather has been a nice change from New England. it is dry, yes, but not stunningly [the campus has grass and olive trees and the like]- and it is hot but obviously not at all humid; there is a gentle wind. i am a big fan of the wind. there are crickets at night. also wild dogs that were slightly alarming (barking and howling) until i understood they were miles away. sound carries in the desert. apparently there is a neighborly donkey that hee-haws some time in the early morning, but i have not heard it yet. once students arrive, there will be many more noises…
the desert smells good. the environment itself reminds me of central oregon (shout-out to michelle and jim), or new mexico. i’ll be seeing more in the next few days as they take us to see notable places in our new faculty orientation.
the town we are nearest to reminds me of Peru or Mexico. buildings are generally concrete, there are many small shops selling foodstuffs or clothing or whatever, people are hanging out (well, men) on outdoor tables smoking or drinking (tea). we only rode through Madaba last night though; we will see more of Amman in the next few days. Amman has a much more modern feel. Apparently, there are several Starbucks. also, a Bojangles.
there are some stray cats. i will probably adopt one or more.
it is nice to be at a private school: the fridge was stocked with basic food* when i arrived; there were sheets and a duvet on the bed; i received a new laptop, a basic mobile phone, and got a cash advance to go grocery shopping tomorrow. all medical care is free. phone calls to the US are free over a shared Vonage line. food is quite decent; i keep thinking it’s a special event and trying to help, but that is someone’s job. weird to have people to drive you and feed you and help you.
* food details (not in my fridge, but at meals at school and at restaurants): mezze mezze mezze. it’s all about the mezze. tabbouleh, hommus, babaghannouj, pita bread, grilled vegetables, squeaky cheese, roasted tomatoes, little sausages, stuffed grape leaves, etc. then grilled meat (shish this and shish that), and watermelon for dessert. tea tea tea. no wine, but no dairy products either. kind of refreshing so far. no pork, obviously, which i don’t miss yet; there is always chicken and lamb and beef. hopefully goat as well. nice spices.
i’ve been having interesting conversations about the students: their economic diversity (the school gives financial aid; no other private school nearby does, apparently), their academic background (they are not used to reading), their spirit (everyone says they’re great kids). i think i will have fun with them. it is helpful to remember why i’m here: i like teaching.