Ilana Chamelly Off-Campus Study
|Location||Chile & Jordan|
|Date||Fall 2009 & Spring 2010|
Ilana Chamelly, ‘11
IES Santiago, Chile – Fall 2009
SIT Amman, Jordan – Spring 2010
Like the sand and pebbles I discovered in my suitcase from the Wadi Rum and Atacama deserts months after returning to the States—remnants of my study abroad experiences are a sweet reminder of my year abroad. As I walk on Denison’s campus as a senior, I sometimes wonder if it was real: studying in Santiago, Chile and Amman, Jordan being immersed in two distinct and beautiful cultures, learning two incredibly detailed and elegant languages.
New experiences were rampant while studying in Chile, varying from celebrations of Chile’s 199th year of independence with new Chilean friends, to learning the traditional dance of Chile, La Cueca. It was with my Chilean friends that I encountered many influential and educational experiences. These friends made a point to teach me about the history of Chile through music, celebrations, and dance.
During my semester in Chile I attended a benefit dinner for the blind and music performances by Chilean folk artists who performed songs speaking to political and social issues. I also witnessed the funeral of acclaimed artist and political figure, Victor Jara, who was tortured and murdered during the dictatorship of Pinochet. These firsthand experiences contributed immensely to my knowledge about Chilean culture, history and society =learned in the classroom.
Leaving Chile behind, my semester in Jordan offered a vastly different but equally rewarding learning experience. Having visited The Middle East once before, I felt a level of comfort stepping off the plane in Amman. I knew what to expect from this deeply cultured, and historically rich region. My program in Jordan provided more academic structure than I had experienced in Chile. I enjoyed the educational opportunities given by our program director, which included: meeting the former prime minister of Jordan, His Excellency Mr. Abdel-Rauf Rawabdeh, working on a month long independent research project, and spending a week with a Bedouin family in the south of Jordan where I lived with the Sheikh in the small town of el-Grein. These experiences continuously challenged me. I gained a more personal understanding of Muslim culture by speaking Arabic (a language I didn’t know very well before arriving in Jordan), and experimenting wearing the thobe (long loose fitting dress) and hijab (head scarf) when going to the market.
My program gave me the ability to try new things and become immersed in different cultures outside of the more ‘westernized’ Amman. I remember admiring the many mosques and feeling comforted by calling the ethdan (call to prayer) five times a day, however, one evening in particular stands out in my memory. During my weeklong homestay in the badia (desert) with the Sheikh and his family I was invited to go to an engagement celebration at a neighbor’s house. Upon my arrival, I was ushered inside a small bedroom where about twenty-five women were seated on cushions on the floor. I was waved over to the back corner of the room by three older bedouin women wearing their back thobes and hijabs with little orange ringlets of henna-dyed hair sticking out from the front of their scarves. I tried with all my might to carry on a coherent conversation, but my Arabic was too elementary at the time to communicate well, so I smiled and nodded and carried on simple conversation.
Keeping with the Middle Eastern hospitable tradition, I was served first during the meal. A young lady brought out an enormous platter of Mensef- a rice dish full of lamb, yogurt, and pine nuts. I was stunned to find that the massive tray set in front of me donned a sheep’s head with the tongue gracefully hanging from its mouth. It is tradition for guests to be served by the person sitting next to them. As a result, the woman in black sitting next to me used her hands to pile meat, tongue, and yogurt on my section of the massive platter. While I was incredibly appreciative of her gesture, I was somewhat apprehensive about being served by bare hands, and encouraged to eat lamb’s tongue from a communal platter.
Studying abroad was an experience that brought my academic learning full circle and allowed me to learn firsthand about the different cultures, histories, and languages that are now a part of me. As I continue on Denison’s campus this year, I am reminded of my experiences from the little pieces of sand and pebbles that I found at the bottom of my suitcase.
|marketplace||daily life||people||camel ride|