Election Week in Istanbul, Pride Week in Tel Aviv and Ramadan in Amman
My decision to see Istanbul was initially just for sightseeing, but my itinerary conveniently coincided with the week preceding the Turkish general election, in which Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AKP party lost 53 seats in the National Assembly. I saw the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, as well as more campaign flags, billboards and posters than I’ve seen in any general election in the United States. I saw Taksim Square and Gezi Park – the sites of political uprisings televised and seen worldwide.
I visited Tel Aviv to participate in its gay pride week with an Israeli friend of mine. Tel Aviv pride week’s slogan this year was “Tel Aviv-Yafo Loves All Genders” – specifically indicating support for people who are non-cisgender. Rainbow flags were hanging outside almost every restaurant and bar in the city and thousands of LGBTQ tourists flew in to celebrate. The parade comprised almost 200,000 LGBTQs and allies marching through the city and along the Mediterranean Sea.
How will this experience help you in your job search and career?
Arabic fluency is a highly sought skill in Washington D.C. and the U.S. federal government. Studying abroad is an invaluable experience for someone seeking work at the State Department or planning to do research or volunteer work abroad. State Department employees working in Amman actually get a small (5%) bonus because it is considered a hardship post – the lack of drinkable tap water and shortage of any water, drinkable or not, does force visitors in Amman to adopt some significant lifestyle changes.
Why did you choose this particular country/internship?
I chose Jordan because it is the only country that is still considered safe enough to learn the Levantine dialect of Arabic, spoken in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria and parts of Iraq. With many friends in Israel and from Palestine and Syria, the issues in the
Levant are very close to home for me and the Levantine dialect of Arabic has always been my preferred dialect to learn.
What are two interesting things about the country you visited that the average person doesn't know?
Ramadan is incredible in Amman after the sun is down. But very few restaurants and cafes are open before iftar (the meal eaten to break the fast at sunset). Almost all liquor stores close and very few restaurants and bars still serve alcohol during Ramadan. Getting a taxi close to iftar is difficult, because drivers are all home or out breaking their fasts, and most sit-down restaurants will only seat visitors with reservations at iftar because of the surge in demand. That’s a basic rundown of the logistics of Ramadan. I’m also surprised how many of my classmates keep mistaking men here holding hands for gay – that’s just what friends do in the Levant and it’s not necessarily romantic. Fly to Tel Aviv and it’s another story.