Author Archives: Sofia in Jordan

About Sofia in Jordan

Hello! My name is Sofia Sinnokrot and I am a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I will be studying in Amman, Jordan for the 2018-2019 academic school year. I am currently on the road to running my first marathon as I push to train on the hard hills of Amman. Overall, my goal is to improve my Arabic language skills and knowledge on middle east history and affairs. I am particularly interested in international human rights with middle eastern refugees and the laws surrounding this topic. Inshallah I will travel and explore bordering countries as well!

How Jordan Reshaped My Running and Writing

As a runner from the midwest, Jordan’s terrain has inexplicably taken a toll on the ease of my runs. I have been running long distance for the past six years now, and for the past year and a half, I have been recovering from runner’s knee. Runners are possibly some of the most adventurous people you will ever meet; no matter what situation we are facing, we always find a way to run and we always yearn to run. Since high school, running has occupied most of my little free time. However, when I was badly injured last year, I had to find a new hobby. Running is my outlet and it is my way of clearing my head and coping with my emotions. Without this outlet, I grew very anxious and agitated, and that is when I took up journaling and found my passion and love for writing. My writing ranges from day to day reflections, polaroid memories, and poetry. Studying abroad in Jordan has reshaped and propelled the runner and writer that I am today.

Running

Amman is a city built on seven hills. I come from Illinois, a state where I have to go out of my way to find a hill to do hill workouts. The hilly terrain of Amman, Jordan, has made my easy runs extremely difficult. What I would normally consider an easy 5-mile run, I now have to account for it taking longer with all the hills that tire me out. On top of the hilly terrain, there are no sidewalks in Amman. I am often times finding myself running on the street with cars (a habit I picked up running in Chicago is to make sure I am running opposite the direction of the cars). Because of the terrain and lack of sidewalks, walking is not common in Amman, so you can only imagine how much I stick out while running. This often times leads to cars honking at me, slowing down next to me, and other general harassments. To say the least, being a runner in Jordan has been a physical and mental challenge for me.

On September 1st, 2018, I ran my second official half marathon in Petra, Jordan. The course of this race was breathtakingly beautiful –emphasis on the breathtaking– and it was truly an amazing experience. I ran through the desert, alongside camels, Bedouins, goats, sheep, etc., and ended up climbing 142 floors throughout the race (the Sears Tower in Chicago is 110 floors to give an idea of the mountains I had to climb).

I am now currently training for my first marathon that I will run in March. My training, as I stated, has been difficult on many levels, but nonetheless, I will persevere, as running my first marathon while abroad is one of my goals. Living in Jordan has challenged the role running plays in my life, but I will without a doubt return to the U.S a stronger and more confident runner.

Poetry

Writing has always been something I enjoy, but it was not until recently that I started identifying as a writer. Coming from marginalized backgrounds, my identity is inexplicably important to me, and it is even more important that I have my voice heard. I have had numerous heartwarming and jubilant experiences while studying abroad, but I have also had many dark moments that took a toll on my time here. That being said, I would not change anything from what it is. The bad moments have pushed my growth and have shaped who I am and who I am going to be and are equally as important as the good experiences that filled me with joy. Everything this past year has influenced my writing. I never realized how much I love writing poetry and I would have never imagined sharing my deepest words and most sacred feelings to anyone. If you asked me six months ago who I was, I would have never told you I’m a writer, an artist. I would have never shared with the world (about 60 people, a mixture of expats and locals in a small cafe located in Jordan, a very tiny country in the Middle East) my vulnerability and fear of public speaking. I never would have imagined that sharing my work at poetry slams in Amman would play a big role in my study abroad experience, but it is the things you do not expect that reap the biggest reward.

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Finding Balance

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” 

-Cesare Pavese

Study abroad is strange in the sense that you immediately begin to build a temporary life with people you have met just days before. This temporary life, I have found, does not necessarily coincide with the life I live back home. As a matter of fact, the life I live now is completely different from life as I knew it. Because of this, I am constantly in a state of inconsistency. I am so used to the comfort of conforming with a rigid daily schedule: wake up, go to the gym, go to class, eat, do my homework, go to sleep. Now, everyday is a new adventure. What part of the city will I explore today? Which country will I travel to tomorrow? What people will I meet? What sights will I see? The best outcome to all of these questions never requires a rigid plan or structure. All of these adventures, relations, and experiences form spontaneously.

The days began to pass right by me starting from the Golden Triangle Trip where we traveled to Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba.

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We hiked through one of the world wonders, rode camels through the same desert that Aladdin is currently being filmed in, and snorkeled in the Red Sea. The weekend after, my fourth weekend here, I was already traveling to Beirut, Lebanon, with my established friend group – people who I had just become close with a week or two before. 

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Traveling to Beirut felt like I was traveling outside of the Middle East. The heavily French-influenced city was very lively and filled with way too much to see and do than our three day trip allotted.

The beginning of October was when the off-balance really took a toll. I became anxious with time and my inability to time-manage without being on a rigid schedule; inevitably overtaking my emotions. How am I nineteen years old, living 6,000 miles away from my parents trying to manage school, an internship, social events, and marathon training, along with doing groceries, cleaning, and spending hours a day commuting? I grew frustrated over simple things like not being able to find liquid chicken broth in the grocery store, or not being able to have a normal monthly phone plan like I do in the U.S.

I accepted the fact that it takes patience to live this new “off-balanced” life I am now living. My days here will never be the same and that is privilege in itself. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to travel and to grow outside of my comfort zone, while most people never get to move outside of the small town they were born and raised in. Every day I am faced with a new challenge, and every challenge I overcome is a testament to my long journey of growth. There are many moments in life that are breathtaking. A recent breathtaking moment of mine was seeing my second world wonder, the pyramids of Giza.

 

My entire trip throughout Egypt in Cairo, Luxor, and Hurghada was filled with spontaneous adventure and breathtaking sights and experiences. But all of these breathtaking moments and experiences are opportunities to self-reflect and to simply take a breath. It is not easy to start a whole new life abroad at nineteen years old. I want to do and experience everything, I want to learn and excel in all of my classes, and I want to remind myself to take time for myself. The greatest lessons I will learn are derived from the thoughts I collect when I, just for a moment, find the perfect weight to balance my life and take a long, deep breathe.

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A New Beginning and A New Lifestyle

Marhaba! My name is Sofia Sinnokrot and I am a second year student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the 2018-2019 academic year I will be studying abroad in Amman, Jordan. Being half Palestinian and visiting the Middle East several times in my life, I do not share the culture shock that many of my fellow peers have experienced from the moment they saw the McDonald’s sign written in Arabic.

McDonalds

However, visiting the Middle East and living in the Middle East are two completely different situations; the latter in which I was not prepared for. In the United States, we take for granted many aspects of our daily lives that are additional privileges in other parts of the world. For example, Jordan is one of the poorest water countries in the world. That being said, my apartment is only given a measurable tank of water for the month. Once that water runs out, we have to wait until the next refillment period or pay a large amount of money to get a new tank before. We are not able to drink the tap water from our kitchen sink, and have to pay for additional water jugs once we run out of drinking water. It is emphasised that laundry should only be done on the first day that our water is refilled since a load of laundry requires a significant amount of water. Water alone is a major change for me to adjust to while I am here. Being a runner, I consume at least 3 liters of water a day. Not having access to water fountains in buildings is something that is actively on my conscious and an adjustment I have had to account for in my daily routine. Coming from Chicago, unlimited drinkable running water was a norm for me that I took for granted. The same goes for electricity. Electricity in Amman is very expensive, and drying machines are rare household items. Instead of having my laundry done in a few hours, I have to hang my clothes up outside and wait two days for them to dry.

porch

Life in Amman is very different compared to life in the United States. Most of the food in the supermarkets are imported from nearby countries. Thus, grocery shopping can become very expensive. Vegetables that are imported are sprayed with an extreme amount of pesticides and the chemical taste of them has made eating food an unpleasurable experience. Although I could go on forever comparing the simple life of living in America to the more complex adjustment of living in Amman, there are many positive aspects to each scenario. For one, I have become water conscious. With global warming on the rise, gaining environmental friendly traits is NOT something that should be talked about in a negative way. Jordan being a poor water country is extremely unfortunate, but I am now conscientious of my water usage. As well, instead of buying from supermarkets where goods are imported, I have learned to buy from local sellers. Not only is the food comparably fresh and cheap, I am helping the seller’s family as well as the Jordanian economy.

veggie stand

It is the little things that I do not normally think about that make adjusting to life in Amman a little bit more difficult than I expected. Nonetheless, I love my life here so far and I am very excited for the next few months!

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