Katy Perry Drinking Coffee in Mongolia

Coffee: Not just a drink, a way of life

First of all, you should know that I used to work as a barista at a coffee and jazz house. It was the best job ever. I absolutely loved it. Coming home smelling like coffee and talking to strangers about coffee always puts a smile on anyone’s face. However, due to being surrounded by coffee constantly, I stopped drinking the stuff for the better part of two years. When I started picking up the occasional latte again in college, I found that I’d contracted a very strange problem. I am now super sensitive to caffeine. Whenever I drink a cup of coffee, my body starts to vibrate like an iPhone alarm clock. It’s bad news bears. Those of you who have seen me after a dirty chai or vanilla latte, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Well, guess what? Caffeinated beverages? Yeah, they’re a big deal here.

Example.

Here in Jordan, when a man wants to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, there is quite the ordeal. The man (let’s call him Khaled) first gets showered (no joke) by his other male friends and then parties in his house. After that, the group follows him out to his car and, together, they make a parade to the woman’s (let’s call her Maha) family’s house. Once they reach the house, Khaled would be invited in and Maha’s dad would say, “Please, drink this coffee.” Khaled would respond, “I will not, until you give me what I ask for.” “What do you want?” They would then discuss Khaled taking Maha as his wife, and can you all please guess how they seal the deal? “Please, drink your coffee, Khaled!” He would finally do so and Maha’s dad would say “Now the deal is struck!” They’d fire guns into the air a couple times in celebration and then it’s all over. So, yeah. Coffee gets people married here. Whoa.

Side note
: Tea is just as important, although, less symbolic. Tea is served when you visit people and sometimes before bed. They sell it just about anywhere you go for extremely cheap. What I find most interesting is how they always come in tiny little cups. I constantly feel like I’m just kicking back shots or something. Yesterday, I came down with a nasty head cold. Diana, my wonderful host “mom” (In quotes because she is so young), served me tea to help me feel better. It’s so nice to have someone baby you when you feel so gross. At this rate, caffeine and me? We’re gonna be best friends in no time. This is all to say – you coffee/tea lovers, get yo’selves over to the Middle East!

“Katy Perry, she is very beautiful, yes?”

This morning, when my Modern Standard Arabic class got out, a couple friends and I decided to go study on some benches on campus. At the time I only thought how it might be a little awkward to be stared at while doing homework, but I figured I’d survive it. Never did I think that some people might actually want to talk to me. But, everyday is a day for surprises. A half hour passed when a group of girls came over and said, “You Americans?” We must have decided they looked friendly, because we responded, “Yep!” with big smiles. They immediately lit up and started asking if we are learning Arabic. We explained quickly that we are learning but that our colloquial…sucks. They were all too happy to have us practice with them and even asked each of us to read our Arabic homework out loud to them. They told me I was “very good!” My day was made. Moments like that, make all of this worth it. I just have to keep thinking about that when my course load wants to drown me. Someday, Grace, you’re gonna be able to communicate with all sorts of people. Just got to to keep swimming.

The girls were so kind and told us that they would be happy to help us anytime. My favorite part of the conversation was when they asked us about American things that they know. I’m constantly reminded that the US is such a strange place. I’m amazed by how much the entertainment industry provides our image all around the world. The girls talked to us about Katy Perry, The Voice (Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Christiana Aguilera, and Cee Lo Green), and Adele. I’m not sure how I feel about those people representing our image, but it was fun to be able to really relate with our new friends. Sometimes I try to imagine what America must look like to those living here. I mean, I had imagined Jordan as this large, sweeping desert, mostly dominated by Petra. And I’m sure a lot of Americans just think everyone around here walks around in turbans. Hahaha. So maybe, America, to them, is just a bunch of fat people (direct result of our plentiful fast food restaurants) walking around New York City, Las Vegas, and Hollywood with a few celebrities scattered in? Sounds about right to me.

Mongolia vs. Jordan

I lived in Mongolia for a good chunk of my childhood. It’s still probably the one place I’ve lived the longest, and for that reason I still have many clear, fond memories. Bundling up for the cold, bitter winters. Horseback riding out in the forests of Hovsgol. Having adventure after death-defying adventure. Sometimes I miss Mongolia. And then I moved here. Now, given, Jordan and Mongolia – vastly different places. But there are a few similarities that I thought I’d share. Ready? Here they are:

1) Fanta. In Mongolia, I used to buy a different flavour of Fanta every single day. Lemon, Orange, Grape, Strawberry, Cool Lime, Jumping Apple, Tropical Punch…the list goes on and on. Here in Jordan, Fanta is everywhere. There aren’t as many flavors, but I somehow feel comforted by knowing a Fanta is never too far away. Yeah, I know, I’m weird. I’m cool with it.

2) Everybody loves to copy American chains. In Mongolia, there was a MonRonald’s. That’s right, your very own knock off of a McDonald’s. The golden arches and everything.  If I remember correctly, it didn’t last very long because the American Embassy came in and said, No-No. But they really truly served hamburgers and fries! Or tried anyway. In Jordan, I have spotted the Donut Factory. The font and coloring are exactly like Dunkin’ Donuts. I haven’t gotten the chance to go in and get a donut yet, but don’t you worry, I will. I love donuts.

3) Waste not, Want not. In Mongolia, there is a new year’s holiday called Tsagansar. You get invited to every friend you’ve ever had’s apartment to eat and eat and eat. I remember hating it. Every apartment we’d go to would have a huge, dead sheep sitting on the table and they’d shave off a bit of the butt and hand it to me to eat. I could never understood why that was necessary. Well, last blog post I mentioned how I had the traditional Jordanian dish of Mansaf. I do not think that I mentioned what kind of meat is in Mansaf, however. Usually they serve it with lamb. I found out that Jordanians don’t let any of that lamb go to waste. Raed, my host “dad”, told me that the brain, eyeballs, and hoofs are the best part. Doesn’t that sound delish? Yeahhhh, no. Haha. Isn’t it comforting though to learn that, all over the world, cultures aren’t wasting parts of animals? Yeah, I was thrilled too.

Well, this has been quite the random assortment. I usually try to come up with some sort of connecting factor between my stories, but sorry, not today! Haha.

Keep adventuring, friends!

Oh, advice: Purchase Mumford and Sons’ new album. You won’t regret it. That is all.

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