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the final countdown

It seems like the last two weeks have FLOWN by. While you all have been living your average (or not-so-average) lives in America (and abroad), I have been learning how to make Maqluba (an Arabic dish who’s name literally translates to “upside down”) and Mansef, writing 15 pages of Arabic, and trying to spend as much time with the people who made my semester memorable as possible. Or at least those were some of the more memorable moments. But here’s the scoop:

  • I made a major impression on one of my newer friends at PSUT when I somehow was challenged to a food eating competition and tied with him (we ran out of time and I had to go home). We EACH ate 27 pieces of shawarma, a side of French fries, a double cheeseburger, and a chocolate-smothered crepe. Suffice to say, I’ve had enough shawarma for the next year
  • My host family a few weeks ago agreed that I needed to learn to make some Arab dishes to take home since I have shown interest in cooking and I promised I would teach my host mom how to make Tiramisu (turns out Tiramisu is the key to anyone’s heart). She taught me how to make musakhan – sumac-spiced/fried onions and chicken on top of a fluffy pita-like bread – a week and a half ago and then this week I learned how to make maqluba from her – a rice, eggplant, carrot, potato, and chicken dish which features cinnamon. Dear Mom, do you see what each of these are served on? I need one of these platters. Or several of different sizes…
  • على فكرة…on that note, I learned how to make Jordan’s national dish as well: mansef! And I have not eaten what is reputedly the best mansef in Jordan twice – that of Karak – because I serendipitously know very generous Karakis. One was my fusha professor who invited us into her home to cook with her. We had a blast that day and essentially had a whole day of class (did I mention that we had a last-minute holiday for the Census? Apparently in Jordan the government will announce holidays the day before…), speaking Arabic and meeting her family. The second time was actually yesterday – and I did contribute what I can now call my world-famous Tiramisu – and I learned how to eat mansef the traditional way: rolling it up into balls with your hands and then popping it in your mouth real quick.
  • I may or may not have acquired several pounds of spices to bring home to the states…and my host family may or may not be sending me home with several pounds more. I’m still not sure how suitcases are going to work out
  • I have now written 15 pages of Arabic – it’s still astonishing to me that last fall I had to write a 5 page paper and this fall I wrote one 10 page paper in addition to a 5 page paper. Moments where I pause to examine what I have done are the moments where I realize I really have come far in Arabic (even if I still have an accent)
  • ah, and we visited Souq al-Juma3 which is a giant, outdoor, weekend market for clothes and shoes. I finally obtained some warm clothing, just in time to go home. On the other hand, each sweater was 1JD, so it felt like a solid purchase

THIS IS NOT YET THE END, but it is unfortunately close to it. Inshahallah I will be in Italy safe and sound on Friday at this time of day, but until then I’m going to cherish every moment left.


** pictures to come **


Un Po’ di Mare

I figured I would post once more today in order to leave my next post exclusively for the Netherlands – my brief sojourn visiting John on his exciting study abroad adventure. Sneak peak: my first impressions of Holland are that there’s a lot of cows and sheep and the Dutch people are loud. Very loud. Especially on trains apparently.

they speak my language in the Netherlands! "I am Amsterdam"
they speak my language in the Netherlands! “I am Amsterdam”

BUT, my last few days in Italy certainly merited their own little spotlight. First and foremost is the Bertolucci-Cuppari tradition of going to Viareggio for bomboloni e pizza. For the longest time when we were little, we would go to the beach city of Viareggio and start off in the inland plaza/park where we would rent these hybrids between bikes and go-carts (i grilli). They only have three wheels and are low, and we would race from one end of the park to the other with only the minimum necessary regard for pedestrians. Then, after about an hour, we would pause for bomboloni: the fresh, sugar-coated, Italian version of a donut. Il Gato Nero was the shop we faithfully attended, and it was basically a small shack that sold drinks and bomboloni. The bomboloni came from the kitchen in a mini blimp that dropped all of them into a transparent, rectangular case, like the ones you can make popcorn in. Then, after this stop, we would go to Athos’ Pizzeria: the best pizza in the world (or so my grandpa claimed in his time). There, we would have slightly undercooked (but delicious!) slices of pizza as soon as we could snag a table and seats. Gelato afterwards was optional but highly recommended. Nowadays we usually skip i grilli and rent bikes, or just go to Viareggio to grab pizza from Athos and maybe some gelato. Regardless, it’s always worthwhile to meander around down there and especially check out the pier. The sunsets are also gorgeous 🙂

Sunset from il mollo di Viareggio
Sunset from il mollo di Viareggio
At Athos'
At Athos’

I also lucked out and found myself heading to Livorno for lunch on Friday. If you’re ever in Tuscany and looking for quieter, but cleaner and more splendid beaches than Viareggio, head to Livorno and I can promise you won’t be disappointed. Livorno is a little farther than Viareggio – it took us about an hour – but well worth the drive, and my cousin took us to a gorgeous little restaurant that was essentially on a cliff overlooking the water. The restaurant may not have looked like much from the outside, but ended up being a great choice (shout out to Francesco!). Although we didn’t have our bathing suits with us, we also stopped at the beach for a walk. I’m also pretty sure I managed to tan half my body since I was half in the sun for all of lunch – who doesn’t a nice ombre tan?

The view from Il Romito
The view from Il Romito

Everyone always asks me whether I prefer the US or Italy. It’s hard to compare though; I’m always on vacation in Italy! Life is easy during summer break abroad, even if it’s close to ending (I can’t believe I leave for Jordan in just less than a week!).

Well, off to a new week and new adventures!