Man Cannot Live on Bread and Hummus Alone

Day-to-day life in Jordan rumbles steadily on. The haywire that was this weekend’s travel spree is over and we’ve been back to the five-hours-of-Arabic-a-day slog since Sunday. Sometimes I forget to breathe.

Here’s a snapshot of my daily routine. Woken up by the pneumatic drill outside at about half seven, if the sunlight doesn’t get me first. Breakfast of one of a variety of egg-based dishes that would make the creative minds behind Durham’s potato team sweat; fried, scrambled, thyme-infused green, veggie-packed omelette etc. Eggs, eggs, eggs. I thought I’d go full veggie out here, but at this rate I’m in danger of becoming a qualified ovivore. The fact of the matter is, eggs are the cheapest thing around. Fruit and vegetables, much as I’d like more of them, are frustratingly pricey in our neck of the woods. If you want variety in your breakfast, you have to go downtown. That’s like going shopping for your groceries in Central London. Barmy. Especially so when we’re paying $500 a month each for a two-room apartment in this ‘convenient’ district…

Class starts at eleven, but more often than not Andrew and I are in Ali Baba an hour in advance, if just to make use of the internet – a little slice of home. I’d use the excuse ‘I need to check my British Council’, but I’m not alone – we all do. The waiting game continues, almost eight months since application began. That’s usually a good time to review last night’s homework, too. Then it’s a two hour slog in Arabic until break at one, which lasts for twenty minutes – just enough time to rush home for a mug of tea and/or some sneaky hummus – and then back to work until three, with about two hours’ worth of homework on the books. We’d make a start on that immediately, of course, whilst we’re still in the zone, but at 3 on the dot we have our language assistant sessions, which means Arabic conversation for about an hour and a half. Once that’s over, we can finally get started on the homework… so by the time we’re done with the day’s work, it’s about six o’clock and the Ali Baba staff shut up for the night, at which point we split up and head home to collapse into bed for a well-earned two hour sleep – because by that stage of the day, we’ve little energy for anything else.

Wake up again at around eight thirty and read some Henry Rider Haggard. I’m into King Solomon’s Mines at the moment and I’m planning to bomb my way through his entire collection whilst I’m out here. Anything about Africa would do just fine for the time being; I’m still missing Morocco something awful, let alone Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. (If anybody knows any great fiction set in Africa, let me know – I’m on a reading streak like I haven’t known since I was twelve!) One or all of the girls might join us at around nine thirty, at which point we head to one of two locations: Doors Cafe, a shisha joint on the neighbouring street, or Downtown, where all the action is. It being Ramadan, nothing really gets going until about ten o’clock anyway. Even so, we’re not usually out that late, and like as not we’re in a taxi bound for home by midnight.

And so it goes, day to day. Amman’s not the easiest place to knock yourself out, so to speak, unless we’re talking in the literal sense, in which case it’s a simple matter of trying to cross the road; any one of the local drivers will do that for you. I didn’t expect much in the way of entertainment, it being a capital city – fun is what you make of it – but what this place lacks more than everything else is somewhere quiet and green. I’m glad I’m not alone in that regard; Eloise, also a country girl, is feeling the absence of it. After a costly bit of road-tripping last weekend, we’re going to take it easy this time around. If there were a decent park nearby, this’d be the time. In the absence of that, I think I’ll blow the dust off the novel and flex my writing muscles for a bit. I’m no athlete, so I guess I ought to be flexing a muscle of some description. BB x

  

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