Archive for February, 2011

JESSICA: Poverty in Jordan

28 Feb

This week I want to talk about one of the biggest problems facing the Middle East- poverty.  The average  Jordanian makes about $5000 U.S. dollars a year. The average American makes about $45,000 U.S. dollars a year. This gap is bewildering to me. I can’t comprehend how anyone can live on such a little amount, but they do. Many things here are much cheaper, such as food or rent, but many other things here are 3 or 4 times as much as in America.  A $15,000 car in America can sell for $40,000 here. An average person living on an income of $150-250 a month cannot afford such luxuries. Most individuals will save their entire lives to buy a car. And although things here are much cheaper than America, they are still extremely expensive to the average |Jordanian.  Rent here (for an average apartment)  can range from $150- $300, where in my home town of Barre rent is from $500-$1000.  So even though rent is cheaper here, it is still more expensive as it will take up a higher percentage of one’s monthly income.

The country receives most of it’s income (60% I think) in aid and is still suffering. Everything is expensive. Inflation is very high here, around 1.7%. I am constantly hearing people complain about the rising prices. The public debt is 70% of the country’s GDP which is only 33 billion.  Economic growth is extremely slow. Official unemployment is about 13.5% but unofficial unemployment rate is 30%. Many people can’t find work. The prospects for college graduates and youth are very low. The average age here is 24 compared to 36 in America. Because the population is so much younger, unemployment will only increase.

People here have a lot less and it makes me feel guilty for how we live in America. Many people- especially in the village- only have a couple changes of clothes and wear the same thing over and over again. Most people don’t have cars and can?t buy own their own houses. Extended families often all live together because it is cheaper. Men can’t get married if they don’t have enough money. It is extremely sad. That’s all for now! I’ll try to write again soon about everything else I am noticing.


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JEN: Where she lives

23 Feb

Hey guys!

So today I thought I’d just do a little post about where I live. St.Petersburg is a really interesting city in the fact that it is divided in many parts by the Neva River, which create separate islands throughout the city. Therefore, the area is covered in really beautiful canals and bridges.  I am fortunate enough to be living on the lowermost island, known as Vasiliyevsky Island. It is bordered by the Bolshaya and Malenkaya Neva as well as the Gulf of Finland. I live about an 8 minute walk from Приморская (Primorskaya) Metro station, which is the last stop at the top of the Green Line.

View from outside my apartment complex
View Apartment in a larger mapI have about an hour commute to school each day, but luckily a lot of my friends live really close to me on the island and we usually travel together so it makes the trip there and back much less boring.

Every morning I leave my apartment at about 8:15 and walk down what I can best describe as an overhang located in front of the several shops which line my street. I love it because the overhang blocks the wind and any snow or rain so I make it to the metro (relatively) warm. I meet up with my friends in front of the metro station at about 8:25. We get to the Chernishevskaya Metro Station at about 9:30 where a shuttle provided by CIEE brings us all to Smolny which is about a 5 minute drive away.

Metro stops circled in pink above.

All in all I love where I’m living, its a great location and is very beautiful. Yesterday I met a Russian man who lives nearby and he was showing me pictures he had on his phone of the area in the spring and they were GORGEOUS. I can’t wait for some of this snow to melt so that I can look out my window and see the beautiful canal that leads into the Gulf everyday. Everything is going great so far, I am having a blast and I really feel like my Russian is improving each day. Check back next week for a post about my classes!



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JESSICA: First few weeks in Jordan

22 Feb

Hi Everyone! Sorry I have not written yet. My time here has been crazy and I have had little to no Internet! I am so used to being able to access the computer and get things I need instantly that life here is a big adjustment. Also- I can only access the Internet at a few minutes at a time, so please ignore my misspelled words and awkward sentences! I have to rush to write this!

While I’m here in Jordan I will live with my Aunt and Uncle and they will be my “homestay,” as I am half Jordanian and have a lot of extended family in the city. I was greeted here by 4 uncles, 2 aunts, a bunch of cousins and my grandmother. They were all dressed up and had a big bouquet of flowers for me- it was so very sweet. We then went to my Aunt Eklas’s house (where I will be living for my stay here) and they had a huge feast prepared for me. The next day I went to my Uncle Emad’s home which is an hour away from the city, so that I could visit for a few days before school started. My entire extended family came as well- and all slept over for almost a week! Family here is literally everything. I know we all say that in America, but it seems so different. At home I normally see my Aunts and Uncles and extended family from my moms side only a few times a year during Holidays. Here extended family will live together for most of their lives and it will be normal. Children do not move out until they are married. It’s much different than in the States. There is really no sense of privacy or being an individual- everything is always done in groups! My extended family here from my dad’s side has gone out of their way to help me get adjusted. I have witnessed some of the biggest acts of kindness I’ve ever seen in this past week. People who don’t have much are willing to give you all they have. My uncle bought me a cell phone and got me set up with a plan. My hair straightener blew because of the power difference and an hour later one of my other uncles came home with a brand new straightener. I didn’t even ask for one and he went and bought me one- this really touched me because electronics and stuff are imported and are very expensive and he does not have much money, as he sits outside and runs a vegetable stand for income. The average person here makes $5000 compared to $45,000 in America. I then went to an orientation at a hotel for 4 days with CIEE ( the program I am here with) and have met a lot of the other American students. They are very friendly and I am excited to get to know them more throughout the year.

The city of Amman is huge and beautiful- there is over 2 million people here! The weather is also beautiful. It is about 40-50 degrees everyday. I love it. :) I started school today and I have been learning how to get around. I take a bus to school and sometimes I get out at the wrong gate to enter the University and must then take a taxi to the other side of the school. The school has 5 gates and you must have an ID to enter the gate. I feel silly taking a taxi from one end of the school to the other but I can?t even explain how big the school is. There are 35,000 students here, but the school has everything. I am in a computer lab now and the floor below me has a hair salon. This building also has all these stores and there?s a bank and post office also within the University gates. It’s crazy. UVM is so small compared to this. I have gotten lost a few times which seems to be supper difficult because I can barely speak Arabic and asking for directions is a huge challenge.

I have faced many other challenges here, but the biggest has been learning my way around and learning basic words to order lunch or get a taxi! I think I am coping very well though. Another thing that I have noticed and have had a hard time dealing with is the gender segregation. Public schools are gender segregated (separate buildings for men and women) and I never realized this because when I grew up here I attended a private school which was not gender segregated. Universities are the first time most students are in a class with someone of the opposite sex. The bus system is also segregated and men and women will shuffle seating arrangements to keep the segregation when new passengers get on. It’s so strange! Men and women are not friends unless they know each other through church or a mosque or something. They don’t spend time alone together and if you see a man and women together it is assumed they are engaged or seeing each other behind their family’s backs. Dating is not allowed. Premarital sex can get you murdered. It’s all sooo crazy. I have been dressing super conservative, but sometimes people can tell I’m American (like if they hear me speaking on my cell phone in English) and try to make a move on me. It’s really annoying. I get men trying to give me stuff and hollering at me all the time. I look away and keep walking. Most of the time I look at the ground when walking by men. It is ridiculous. Other than that I love it here! The food, people, and city are all amazing.

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