Tawjihi, the mall, and H20

Not much time left in Jordan, so I’ve been really busy and haven’t really had a lot of time to write a lot of blog posts so I’m going to compress a few topics here.

Tawjihi

In the US, everyone freaks out about their SAT score in their college application, but alhamduhlillah, it is not the deciding factor in your application, for the college also looks at your essays, letters of recommendation, and grades in school. In Jordan, however, in the 12 grade, students take a test called Tawjihi. The score one gets on this test is the sole deciding factor for where one is placed in college in Jordan, so it is really really really important. My host sister has been studying nonstop for this exam: she goes to school to study for this as well as goes to a different school for extra practice and then spends even more time reviewing at home! The amount of time spent studying for this exam is starting to make me stressed for her!

Anyway, the results for this year’s Tawjihi came out at the start of this week, so during the night, people celebrate the results with fireworks, parties, and driving around in cars honking and playing loud music. It was funny to see this because in the US, people don’t really publicly celebrate getting into their college, so its nice to see the city coming alive in celebration.

The Mall 

Yesterday I went to Taj Mall to see how some of the malls are here. I felt like I was back in the US. All the stores were American or European (H&M, Starbucks, Victoria Secret…) and there was air-conditioning (finally!!!). Basically, it was a really nice mall and I immediately felt transported back to the US, so we didn’t stay too long, but it was interesting to see!

H20

In Jordan there is serious water shortage. This means that each house gets a ration of water each month, so if you run out of water, you can’t buy more water… your water ration is simply over. Of course, different neighborhoods have different amounts of water, so nicer neighborhoods have more water than others.

Regardless, in Jordan, one needs to be very aware of the water, so showers need to be reaaallly short and not every day. The benefit, therefore, of joining a gym was taking showers every day for more than a few minutes! I have to say that I am looking forward to this aspect in the US, of not being constantly worried that I am using up my family’s limited water supply!

Spring Break

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, and I’m sorry about that! I have been pretty busy, but luckily today was a bit more low-key, so I’ll try to update my blog a little bit. Last week was Spring Break, and it was my first Spring Break in a while not with my friends at the beach! Actually, I did spend many of my days this past week at the beach with friends, but this break was definitely very different from my past vacations on the beach in Florida. At first I was not looking forward to my break at all because my break does not align with my host family’s vacations (so they worked and went to school last week) and I was afraid that I was going to be under home arrest for 10 days (since I cannot drive here, no one would be home, and there is no public transportation). Alhumduhlillah, we talked to the man who drives us to school, and he agreed to take us wherever we wanted any day for 5 riales each day ($13, but since I went with Anna and Liz, we got to split the costs amongst ourselves). This development certainly made my Spring Break amazing!

  • Thursday I went to Mac’s house and slept there. Though I have to say that my life reached a low when I went to bed earlier than her 4-year-old host brother.
  • Friday Mac, Kirby, and I took part in another modeling photo shoot (for a different salon). Again we got lots of Arabic makeup and hairstyles! It was only for head shots though, so unfortunately, we did not get to wear elaborate outfits. I am still waiting for the photos from the photoshoot!
  • Sunday I met up with Anna, Liz, and Kirby, and we went to City Center (our favorite mall in Muscat) and hung out there during the day. Since I don’t really go shopping very much here in Oman, and I am a (since Oman, recovering) shopaholic, it was lots of fun to go shopping. Though I have to say, due to my lack of shopping, my shopping stamina and interest has gone down tremendously!
  • Monday I hung around my house and caught up on some homework and reading. In the evening, I went to the US Ambassador’s house to celebrate the first night of Passover! I’m going to write a separate blog post on this experience.
  • Tuesday we had plans to all go to Wadi Al Shabb together, but these plans fell through, so I hung out in the house and finished more homework and watched a movie.
  • Wednesday Liz, Anna, and I went to Shatti Al-Qurum (the beach area with restaurants that we so love) and we hung out in a cafe, went for a long walk on the beach, ate lunch, and then walked some more on the beach. The weather was beautiful and the beach was gorgeous; it was overall an amazing day.

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  • Thursday I went to Oman Dive Center with Anna and Liz. Oman Dive Center is the beach area that our program took us to on our first day in Oman. It is a gorgeous private beach that is visited mostly by expatriates, allowing us to be able to wear bathing suits and swim. There is also a pool, so that is fun too. We hung out there in the morning and swam, ate lunch, and then swam a bit more until our hurried departure when I had an allergic reaction and had to go to the hospital. I’ll write a blog post about that as well. No worries though, I’m fine now!

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  • Friday was our last AMIDEAST excursion. We went snorkeling and it was a wonderful trip! We met up (all the NSLI-Y and YES girls) and first went on a small motorboat to see dolphins. We had to go out in the water for a bit to see them, but we finally spotted a few of them and got to go pretty close! Then we went to a calm area of the water that has a lot of fish and we got to go snorkeling, aka, I got to check off an item on my bucket list that I have wanted to do for a long time! The water was so clear and we got to see gorgeous fish—even parrotfish! Then we went for a late lunch (by late, I mean late… it was 4 PM) at a yummy Turkish restaurant before heading home. It was an amazing day!
  • Saturday I hung out at home and finished up some reading and homework. My Spring Break was already over!

This Past Weekend

On Friday, I went to Liz and Anna’s house (they are living in the same host family) and we went to Muscat Grand Mall with their host sister. We wandered around for a while, ate dinner, and then saw the Divergent movie (not too impressed with the movie). Muscat is so small that we ran into Kirby in the bathroom– she was there to see Divergent too! The movie theater (which in this case, is in the mall), is quite similar to movie theaters in the US. The benefit here is that they sell boiled corn and caramel popcorn at really cheap prices (a big container of caramel popcorn is about 50 cents). There’s also a photo of Sultan Qaboos at the front of the room where you buy food, so that’s pretty cool.

Saturday morning I went to the beach with my host family and got to go swimming for a bit. The beach that we went to is a beach that I posted pictures of a while ago (it is near the area where a lot of people live who work in the oil industry). It was the first time that I’ve been to that beach (before, we just looked at it from above) and there were mostly expatriates at this beach. Though the water was a bit cold, it was so clear and it was great to go swimming!

In the evening, I went with my host mother and host brothers to  my host cousin’s first birthday party. Most of our extended family from Al Hamra was in attendance (only women) and they played music and had small competitions (like blowing up the biggest balloon and musical chairs). I won one of the games and got a glass container, woot woot! They laid matts out on the ground outside, so everyone was sitting outside and watching as the kids played the games. Then we ate dinner (it was a potluck) and they brought out a huuuugggee cake. Afterwards, we went home and my host father’s father, brother, and sister came over to spend the night before going back to Bahla early the next morning.

Saturday not much happened. I caught up on some homework and reading.

Nizwa (fail)

December 22, 2013

In the morning, we went to the Grand Mosque (it is open to the public between 9-11, excluding Friday, when it is closed the the public for the whole day). I love the Grand Mosque so much; it is such a beautiful building.

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We then drove to Nizwa, which is in interior Oman (close to Bahla– I already did a post on Nizwa, so check that out for more details). I wanted my parents to see a bit of what interior Oman is like (in a lot of places, it is less developed than Muscat, with older houses). We wanted to go to the Nizwa Fort, but unfortunately, it was closed for bug prevention spraying. Instead, we walked around the souk for a bit before it closed for lunch and then ate lunch ourselves.

There was not a ton more to do, so we drove back to Muscat and went to Carrefour so that I could buy some things I’d been wanting to buy.

In the evening we met with Homeid (my Arabic teacher) for dinner at a delicious Arabic restaurant where I got shwarma!

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Citrins Reunited!

Wednesday, December 18

I was super excited all day because my parents were coming to visit! Yep, the Citrins were reunited!

They flew into Muscat at about noon and were at AMIDEAST (it’s pretty close to the airport) by 1! They got a chance to take a look at my school, meet my friends and teachers, chat with me, and sample my lunch.

At 2:00 I had my language partner class, so they left AMIDEAST to drop their bags off (they are staying at my uncle’s best friend’s house– who lives in a great location!) and were back at my school at 4, when my class finished. We went to the Souk Mattrah and walked around for a while. We walked by the water during the beautiful sunset and it was so great to be able to catch up with my parents.

During the evening, we met my host family for dinner. We went to a Turkish restaurant and had a delicious meal– we even drank fresh melon juice served in a whole melon.

At first, I was nervous for dinner as my parents would be meeting and talking with my host parents and siblings. But luckily, it was all ok, and the dinner was quite fun. My host parents and my parents actually have a lot in common, so the dinner conversation was lively. And my host brothers got some new Legos, so that kept them busy for the rest of the night!

I said goodbye to my parents for the night and went back to my house with my host parents.

 

Thursday, December 19

In the morning, AMIDEAST took us to the mall to go shopping. At around noon, my parents came to pick me up from the mall and we drove to see Wadi Fundi. It is one of the closest wadis to AMIDEAST, so we walked around there for a little bit (it is pretty, but quite small)

Next, we went to Al Qurum beach. We walked around the beach for a while and it was wonderful to be able to talk to my parents for a while. We then went to the Starbucks on the beach (yep, typical tourists, I know) and hung out there for a while. It was a great relaxing afternoon.

We made a quick stop to see the Sultan’s Palace!

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I had to go back to AMIDEAST because Sarah (the AMIDEAST manager) invited us to her house for a Christmas dinner. I said bye to my parents for the night and went to Sarah’s house. The dinner was lovely; she lives in a beautiful house in a very nice area and we sat outside and ate very tasty food. I was exhausted by the time I got home, but it was worth it for such a great day!

Shopping Therapy

(Written November 25, 2013)

Today we (NSLI-Y) girls went shopping! We needed a break and some people were going through culture shock, so we figured that the mall would be a good place to go. It was so much fun and I got to buy some new clothes, get a bunch of things I’ve been needing at Carrefour, have frozen yogurt, and hang out with my friends. The best part was finding BERRIES!!!! I’ve been missing berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries) so much and everyone has told me that you cannot buy them here. Ladies and gentlemen, they are WRONG! In a little corner of Carrefour, there is a shelf with berries!!! Liz and I almost walked by it, but then I stopped to check. I think we almost had a heart attack and spent a while looking at the berries with immense happiness. I think people were a bit concerned about us or thought we were crazy. Well, I’m used to that anyway; anytime I go to Carrefour or Lulu, I get a slightly crazed look in my eyes as I hurry to try to find everything that I’ve been needing.

It was a fun evening. Besides, where else would you be where they sell kumas in the mall and you can run into the people who did your nails for a photoshoot?

Scavenger Hunt

Today the NSLI-Y girls and the YES girls went on a scavenger hunt! It was an event held in the Muttrah Souk, so AMIDEAST arranged for us to attend it. Most of the people at the event were non-Omanis; I really think that these types of events are things that non-Omanis all meet at. Unfortunately, everyone was older than us.

We were divided into groups of four, so my group had Lydia, Shanayya, and Mae (the last two are from the YES program). We were given a sheet of clues that we had to find the answers to by the end of two hours. It was HARD! The questions were so specific (like find the textile store with the red roof or find the hardware store that sells animal trappings), and for a huge souk that even locals get lost at, it was almost impossible. Liz and I teamed up halfway through and started to get stressed and exhausted from the futile chase, so we eventually gave up, as did all the other NSLI-Y and YES girls. But no problem; we got a chance to walk around the souk for a while! Liz and I bought a shwarma, but it was a poor excuse for a shwarma; it was terrible! Violating our shwarma rights.

We then went for lunch at an Indian restaurant, except it was sad for me because most of the food had nuts, so I couldn’t eat very much of it.

Then we got a chance to walk around the souk for a bit more time and walked along the water. It was so beautiful and I loved having a chance to walk around the souk. I bought some scarves to wear over my hair in the village, since my neon pink ones made me stand out a bit too much!