Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Eyes Wide Open

I don't speak any Arabic. I have some semi-usable French and what I refer to as Taxi Cab Bahasa (Indonesian). It was just enough to be polite and to get me home in a cab.

Many State Department employees are put through rigorous language training before they head off to their next post and spouses are able to join them when space allows. However, when the employee in question does not need to interact with the local population for their job you are sent off to a new land with nothing but your wits and a translator app that you have downloaded on your own.
Lest you think we are completely left hanging we can take free language classes once we arrive.

This is me taking the long way around to tell you about adapting to our new city.
Everything is new. Every culture has their own way of doing things and trial and error and watching can sometime be the only way to find out.
Ideally you would ask. But I can only ask so many questions about why and how. Because at the moment I know two words in Arabic. Thank you and no.

I should note here, if your first language is English, or you speak it well, you should be very very grateful. Imagine visiting another country where you don't speak the language, if you speak English you might get by. But if you don't you are pretty much out of luck. For example, French speakers visiting Amman better brush up on their English skills because all the secondary signage is in English.

So while it is not possible to get all my questions answered, I am so grateful for the world population that speaks even a little English. And here in Amman that seems like most of the population.

Other than the standard hand signals, how do you figure things out. If you are like me, it becomes all about observation. I'm sure I look a little odd, standing and watching, but how else am I supposed to figure out how it's done? For example, my America friends may not know this, but when you are grocery shopping in other parts of the world the weigh station for produce is in the produce section. Do not head up to the cashier without being pre weighed or you'll cause problems.

Here in Amman, I have discovered many local shops for cheese, spices, coffee or baked goods. Every one of these has its own process.

In some of the grocery stores, an employees will unload your cart for you and then they bag your groceries. Do not get in their way.

There are coffee shops that just sell coffee. Not to drink there but to take home to prepare. You select your beans and whether or not you want cardamom and they will grind it for you.

We've learned that the falafel shops do sell hummus but not shawarma. I've also learned that more often than not it seems the locals are there just to pick up supplies and they will assemble it all at home.

So, there is me. Eyes wide open. Watching. Trying to figure it all out.
My new favorite falafel shop

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