Friday, December 9, 2011

I am writing this post from America.

Well, kind of. I'm sitting in Turtle Green, a coffee shop with American-compatible electrical outlets and American-level prices. I ordered my tea in English. Today's the first time I've come here and not found any of my ex-pat friends, but I'd wager that the group of English-speaking kids upstairs are from some American university.

my contribution to hipster art
One of the biggest challenges for me here, in Amman, is to balance my personal comfort with linguistic/cultural immersion. I blame it partly on Amman. Amman! Why do you speak so much English? Why do your cafes feel plucked from Cambridge? Or San Francisco? Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted there's a non-smoking section. But when I climb onto an arty high-chair at Turtle Green, I feel like I'm bending the rules of space and time to sit amongst the laptop-wielding elites of funky coffee shops across the world. Prices are the same, french presses are de rigueur, and the hipster art pays homage to each other.

Bob Marley just started playing.

I came to Amman to learn Arabic, gain international exposure, and give myself a little time to ponder the next steps in my life. Admittedly, Turtle Green isn't doing much to help me achieve my first goal. I learn more from going to class, chatting with real live Jordanians in Arabic, and listening to BBC Arabic.

But it's 8:30 at night, and I wanted to go to a cafe to get some work done. My other options are mixed-gender hooka bars (lethal to my weak lungs), or all-male cafes. Walking alone into an all-male cafe would be roughly equivalent to walking into a sports bar in the US with a "Let's have sex!" sign taped on my back. So I'm here at Turtle Green, feeling guilty about gravitating towards the familiar.

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