The Dead Sea

I went out with some friends from my program and took a mini-adventure to the dead sea last week! It was wonderful, salty, muddy, hot and honestly, everything burned. The salt content is no joke, it literally felt like swimming in zero-gravity. Definitely slathered that mud on there too, we are talking the real deal dead sea mud, take that $30 Sephora mud masks!

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Beach Bound!

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The Dead Sea, Jordan

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Dead Sea Mud Pit

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Natural Exfoliant, Am I Right?

Ruins

Just a few days shy from two full weeks here in Amman and so much has happened already! Downtown is always bustling, from indie movie screenings to rooftop hookah lounges, downtown at Rainbow Street is the place to be every Thursday night (Thursdays = Fridays here.) I actually might be participating in a poetry slam at one of the most well-known cafes on Rainbow, stay tuned! Tomorrow is my birthday and it feels weird starting off my 19th year so far away from everyone I love. I decided I am going to do an intense hike down a canyon, Wadi Mujib, and hope I don’t die. Stay tuned for that story too…

I finally have mastered the art of taxis and illegal Ubers as I navigate the city’s dusty alleys and noisy circles. The people here are kind and helpful. For the most part, they can sniff out Americans from a mile away and are eager to help however they can. I can honestly say, though, I have never experienced street harassment like this– hijabi or naked, men here will catcall anything that looks vaguely female and moves. Navigating my identity as a Muslim-American woman in the Middle East has honestly left me in an interesting in-between again: I find I am constantly having to explain myself and justify my identity over and over again:

  • Yes, I speak Arabic.
  • Well no, I’m not Jordanian, I am American.
  • Yes, my family is Jordanian.
  • No, not Jordanian-Jordanian, we are Circassian.
  • Okay, Muslim? Well yeah, there’s a scarf on my head.
  • Convert? No, I just told you my family is Jordanian.
  • Yes, I still pray in America.
  • Family name? Not your business, please leave me alone sir.

It’s infuriating. It’s mostly taxi drivers that dig the deepest, even if you ask them to stop. There are times I want to jump out of the taxi and just take my chances. It’s definitely strange still not feeling at home in the “homeland.” I’m too Arabic for America and not enough for Jordan. Oh well.

Other than that, things have finally started to settle down and normalize here. Alongside a full course-load and an internship, my lovely program here ensures we are getting our fill of being out and about. The longer I am here the more I realize how much there is to see, so much to do! It’s easy to forget that Jordan has a tangible history that dates back to Roman civilizations and biblical days. My first adventure began with the Citadel in the heart of the “Old City” in Amman. We spent the day covered in dust and exploring limestone and Roman ruins, honestly incredible. Here are some shots from the day!

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Roman Ruins at the Citadel

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Roman Theatre Ruins

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Roman Ruins of the Statue of Hercules: three fingers and a bicep

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On the edge of the Old City

 

I have so many of these mini-trips planned, I cannot wait. Tomorrow will be Wadi Mujib, and not a week later I am doing the “Golden Triangle” trip of Jordan: Wadi Rum, Petra, and Aqaba. I will be sure to update and document them all so hang around to check ’em out!

City of Hills

Update: didn’t die!

My flight from Seattle to Chicago was a little nerve-wracking, as it was my first flight alone. Also, the Chicago airport really needs to up their signage, my god. But I found my gate and all is well!

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O’Hare Artsiness across Gate M15

The flight from Chicago to Amman was grueling. A whole eleven hours stuck up by tinted windows you can’t really see out of. Takeoff during a lightning storm was pretty badass, though: we traveled straight through a rainy, tumultuous sky that kept glowing purple and white every so often. The Royal Jordanian itself looked pretty cool too. While up there, there was a surprising feeling of timelessness. Straight up twilight-zone at some point where I think it’s day but we are only 7 hours into the flight and people are asleep. Very strange. My phone was still in Chicago time and it was interesting being unsure of what the local time was or where we even were. Night and day were blurred thanks to the tinted windows so all of a sudden when the tint lifted we were having 7am breakfast in broad daylight, 4pm local time!

 

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The Royal Jordanian

It has officially been a full three days since my arrival in Amman, Jordan. I have a very strong feeling acclimating is going to take more than just a few days. Somehow managed to get to and from my program orientation and even managed some grocery shopping and a shisha lounge. Everything here is located by surrounding landmarks and every street has two names: one on a map, that seemingly no one cares about and one absolutely different name everyone but me seems to know. Mastering directions to tell taxi drivers how to get me home has definitely been one of my biggest challenges.

The city of Amman is also massive. Home to over 4 million people (four times the population of San Francisco, for reference), I have never felt a city more alive. It is seemingly always bustling and is sectioned off by 7 or 8 major roundabouts, translated as “circles” from Arabic. Each section off of a circle is it’s own little “Amman-suburb” and has a microculture of its own, which I have already picked up on. Many of them are on hills, as apparently, the city was originally built on 6 major hills. This also makes Amman impossibly un-walkable. Ergo, traffic here is absolutely awful. I am unsure if I am more afraid as a pedestrian crossing the road or as a taxi passenger. But hey, people seem to know what they are doing so I’m going with it.

I haven’t gone out an explored much, in all honesty. I am mostly just trying to acclimate to my apartment and the area surrounding my study center. I’m certain once routine sets in things will become much easier. It is absolutely beautiful out here in some of the strangest ways. I’ll be posting some photos of the city tomorrow, keep an eye out. In the meantime, I have more Arabic to be studying!

Pre-Departure Reflections

I am currently typing the start of this journal from a golden bubble bath at 7am, seething with both anxiety and glitter. I am sure this will be posted far later today, but for the record, I am bathing and freaking out.

Today is my last full day in the U.S. of A. and my God my dudes I am freaking out. I had my last day as a team member at Jamba Juice yesterday, it was a good summer job. Made some new friends and had some good laughs over a lot of spilled orange juice (i’m talking gallons. oops.) The day before yesterday was my last day working as a Congressional Intern for Congressman Denny Heck. Now that was badass. It was an unpaid internship and driving my ass out to Lacey while also working another job was definitely starting to take a toll but it was definitely worth it. I learned so much and made so many new connections, all the opportunities in my field of study and future career are literally endless. I’m pretty stoked about it.

Fast forward to the end of today. Today was my last day. I spent today quietly. My love and I dug around some serious antique shops today and picked out two beautiful promise rings before I take off. Something a little dated and traditional, but it will be nice to have something tangible to hold when I am over 6,000 miles away from him for the next four months or so. I’m pretty excited about them, actually.

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We hit downtown Puyallup and spent the day exploring in and out of old shops, but eventually found what we needed. I channeled my inner-goth, this lovely last gloomy day here in Washington. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I also made my rounds of goodbyes. I hit my old workplace, had dinner with the madre, and said my farewells to the boyfriend’s parents as well. I sit here with Jake at my side, for a final evening before I depart, we haven’t said bye yet. Saving all that gushy shit for a dramatic airport exit, of course.

I’m excited about a lot of things. I’ve been told that there is no experience really comparable to studying abroad. Integrating into a whole new culture, mastering another language that my tongue is still trying to adjust to, and building new connections I otherwise would never have been able to make. I will be taking four classes abroad and already have a few internship interviews lined up already upon my first week of arrival. I’ll be sure to update on those!

I feel as prepared as I could possibly be. I’ve probably made over a dozen lists in the last week, bags have been packed and unpacked and packed again (I had to add Halloween decor, of course) (I totally have my priorities in line, I promise, but Halloween is very important, too). I have my cameras, my notebooks, backpacks, and poetry. I think I am ready. Yet at the same time, it feels like I am forgetting something like super duper important, the anxiety is beginning to really set in. On the one hand: it’s just a semester. Four months, I’ll be back by Christmas. On the other hand, I won’t be back until Christmas. That is an entire 112 days abroad. 16 weeks alone! It feels like a lifetime. It’s also fun to think my very first apartment will be 6,791 miles away from the city I call home. Ironically, the name of my apartment building actually translates to “The Poet”. No joke. So you know, I’m pretty okay with it.

Here’s to probably the most anxiety-inducing thing I have ever done ever. Wish me luck. Take off in T-Minus 11 hours.

Origin Story

Hey there! Welcome to So Nadine Writes where I, Nadine, write. Incredible, right?

I’ve been making creative content for as long as I can remember and have finally decided to create a home base to publish a lot of it online! This site serves mostly as an archive to help organize my creative stuff for myself while simultaneously providing me with the motivation to share my work with others. This is a brief introduction to me, what I do, and why I do it.

Writing, for me, serves as an extension of myself. My poetry thematically parallels my personal values, beliefs, and opinions. My writing covers an extensive set of genres and I cannot seem to adhere to a specific style. Maybe I just haven’t found what works for me yet. At any rate, I hope you enjoy digging through my digital notebook.

Me, in a Nutshell: I really like cream-sodas with Redbull. I listen to a lot of heavy metal and deck out my own leather jackets with spikes and patches. I wear a scarf on my head as a way to express my choice in the way I want to practice my faith, Islam. I collect the bones of roadkill and other small dead animals. I really like crows, like a lot. I am a proud Washingtonian: I pretty much worship Seattle, black coffee, and Mount Rainier.

I write poetry and journals about the little things I interact with every day, about the kinds of feelings, words, and sounds that those things elicit. Sometimes I write things to read them out loud on a stage. Sometimes I write things and then burn them immediately after. I write about things that evoke a notable reaction from me. I often find myself writing about the love of my life (see: Jake Thomas Shaw and his baby, Radio Reality City). But mostly I write to get my thoughts out and straight. I find it’s how I articulate myself best and I hope you get a kick out of some of the things I have to say.

Real-World Stuff: I am a political science and global development double major student, trying to shove my way into the big-kid world of politics. I recently interned for the U.S. House of Representatives and currently work with a USAID gender project in the Middle East. I strongly feel that art and political activism have always been connected and I enjoy finding and creating overlaps between the two as a means of making the latter more accessible.

I don’t really know where I want to go yet in life or what role my writing will play down the line, but I’m sure if you stick around long enough we’ll figure it out together.

Welcome, and enjoy.

NHNABASS