I’ll be able to start posting regularly because we get internet in our apartment on Monday—huzzah!

What a week this has been. Monday was our first day of classes, and it went pretty well. Until classes start at the University of Jordan in a couple weeks, my schedule looks a little something like this:

9:00-10:00: Homework.

10:00-11:00: Issues class at the Qasid Institute. Everyone in the program has been separated into different groups of about eight or nine, and we all have different teachers for both our Issues and Performance classes. My teacher’s name is Fadi, and he’s awesome.

In our issues class we discuss various subjects in Arabic. And when I say “we” I mean Fadi talks for about forty minutes and then the rest of us try to express opinions—which usually end up being a sentence and a half long. I feel good that I can understand the vast majority of what Fadi is saying, but speaking is a whole ‘nother ballgame. This week we talked about the ins and outs of Jordanian government and the rich history of tribal law.

11:00-12:00: Performance class. Everybody in the class prepares a three-minute presentation on a certain topic, and then we get feedback from the class on how our Arabic sounded. This week we spoke about ourselves in ‘aamiyya (colloquial) Arabic, and about the history of an Arab country in fusha (formal) Arabic. I’m getting to the point where I feel comfortable with Jordanian ‘aamiyya. At BYU we learned Egyptian ‘aamiyya for the past two years (remember when this study abroad was supposed to happen in Cairo?), and Jordanian ‘aamiyya is different. It’s really only about twenty words or so that aren’t the same, but they’re twenty words that you use all the time (what, why, I want, I speak, etc).

12:00-4:00: “Free” time. Except not really. We have to find a native speaker(s) to talk with for two hours, and also have a load of homework due every day at 4pm. We also have four half-hour appointments scattered throughout the week during this time (two fusha, two ‘aamiyya, one writing).

4:00-5:00: Culture class and newspaper review with Dil (our program director). Each day we’re given a three or four newspaper articles to read and translate. (At the minimum, this takes two hours.) 4pm is when our translations are due, and then we go over the articles in this class. We also talk about different facets of Arab/Jordanian culture, which is super interesting.

9:00-10:00: Time for a chunk of miscellaneous homework and vocab review before hitting the sack.


Crazy, eh? I’m barely keeping on top with everything I need to do, and some of our classes haven’t even started yet! I actually really enjoy just about everything we’re assigned to do. I think the newspaper articles are fun despite the fact that there is so much vocabulary I don’t know. Dil tells us which articles to read, and then says “Oh, and by the way, here’s a list of vocabulary you may not know.” Which usually totals about 80-100 words. Sigh.

The speaking portion of the day is what fills my soul with terror. The easiest way to reach your two-hour goal is to catch a taxi to the gam’aa (University of Jordan) during the afternoon and find people to talk to there. Unfortunately, classes don’t start for another two weeks at the gam’aa so there isn’t a ton of people on campus yet, but enough.

Speaking is my least favorite part of the day because A) I sucketh and B) It’s hard finding girls to talk to. Approaching guys (“Hi! I’m Kristi. What’s your name?) is very forward and can be taken in the wrong way, so I’m limited in the conversations I can start.

The women here seem a bit stand-offish. Generally (not just in the Arab world, everywhere) a guy can approach another guy, say “What’s up?”, and they’re instant friends. With girls it’s soooo different. Also, what’s up with women traveling in huge groups?! That makes it even harder to approach them. (Dear Males of the World: I kind of get what it’s like to ask a girl out. Never realized how hard the Friends Fortress was to break into!)

Anyway, on Monday I did find two speaking opportunities. One was with two girls sitting on a bench, and another happened with a larger group. One of the Arab girls in the larger group spoke pretty good English, and she completely dominated conversation. Unfortunately, an English-speaking Arab does little to help me (yet another obstacle to swerve around!).

Even though my speaking experiences on Monday weren’t completely abominable, I left discouraged. Then I went home and got kicked in the face by 100+ new vocab words from my newspaper homework. I went to bed mentally exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling completely hopeless. The more Arabic you know, the more Arabic you know you don’t know.

These feelings carried over to Tuesday. I was on the brink of tears all day and couldn’t bring myself to go out and try speaking again. I was sad, angry and jealous that the guys on the study abroad had things so much easier as far as speaking opportunities go.

Things came to a head at the end of the day. After watching the Jordanian national soccer team play China (that’ll have to be a different blog post!), we were exiting the stadium with friends and heard somebody shout “Willyum! Willyum!” in the distance. Will is a TA on the program, and we went to the soccer game with him, his wife, and their adorable baby boy. He recognized the person who was shouting and went over for a quick conversation. Upon his return, Will explained “Oh, him? That was the guy who sold me nuts at the grocery store last week!”

The guy who sold you nuts at the grocery store last week?!!?

Like I said: So much easier for guys to make friends here!

Will is a really outgoing, fun person and makes friends everywhere, but what kills me is that so am I! But I can’t be that way in Jordan. Around men, it comes off as sexually aggressive. And most women here seem pretty reserved (at least at first)—I feel like my strong, Western personality is a turn-off to potential friends.

So, let’s see what adjectives I’ve used in the past few paragraphs: Discouraged, exhausted, overwhelmed, hopeless, sad, angry, jealous, and sexually aggressive. That’s a lot of emotions! (Okay, so that last one was taken out of context, BUT STILL.)

Anyway, I woke up the next morning and felt prompted to turn to the scriptures. I went to the topical guide and searched for verses that talked about struggling, since that seemed apropos at the time. I turned to Ether 12:27.

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble”—this really hit home for me. It’s no secret that I’m a very independent, headstrong person (dragging my husband with me to the Middle East so I can learn one of the hardest languages in the world . . . go figure). I prefer to navigate through things on my own and sometimes scoff at people who do this thing called “asking for help.” I look at them and think I figured it out. Why can’t you? I think being an oldest child is a double-edged sword for me: On one hand, I’m a very resourceful person who doesn’t rely on others to solve her problems; on the other, I tend to view humility as a sign of weakness.

All my life, I’ve set goals and achieved them through hard work. Most of my biggest goals have been physical--helping my track team win a state championship, completing an Olympic triathlon, the Boston Marathon, a 50-mile ultramarathon. Of course I’ve had the help of the Lord in achieving these things (how else could you explain all these years of running with nary a sprain to speak of?) but physical goals are different than mental goals. It’s a simple physiological fact that if you train hard for something, your body will become strong. And with enough strength, you’ll probably achieve what you set out to do.

Train hard. Succeed. Boom, done.

I wouldn’t say I was overly prideful about the physical goals I’ve met, but I will admit that I felt like I could do them mostly on my own with just a little bit of help from the Lord; i.e. train, train, train, and then say a quick prayer when things got nasty at mile 44. No matter how you cut it, I wouldn’t have succeeded without the Lord’s help, but I’d rest my prideful head on my pillow at night thinking “Well, at least I did most of it by myself.” What am I, four years old?! How awful is that? It takes for granted that the Lord gave me my healthy, strong body in the first place.

I love how Arabs consciously praise God in all things. You ask them how they are? Alhamdulillah. What a beautiful baby you have! Masha’allah. You’re planning on arriving at seven? Insha’allah. Praise be to God, whatever God wills, if God wills. Yes, it gets repetitive and yes, it gets routine, but that doesn’t mean it’s without principle. Arabs are almost humble to a fault, and I think that’s something I’ve tried too hard to avoid. I mean, being humble is one thing, but c’mon—I make my own decisions! I choose my own path, I set the course of my life, O Captain, my Captain, etc. But in an effort to avoid being fatalistic (i.e. whatever happens is God’s will, nothing you can do about it), I have failed to give God proper credit. And by “proper” I mean “all.”

I think the reason Tuesday was so difficult was because I had to come to grips with the fact that no matter how hard I work, I need the help of my Savior. And not just at mile 44, either. I freaking had a breakdown on the second day of the program—mile zero! I’m going to need His help from start to finish. Acknowledging my weakness wasn’t the hard part. I’ve always been able to do that. Accepting it is what humbled me.

I am here in Amman because learning Arabic is one thing I literally cannot do on my own. I need other people to practice speaking with, and I need the Savior to help me buoy me up against continual discouragement and frustration. Comparing myself to others or succumbing to jealousy will only hamper my efforts and lead me farther away from my goals. I know it sounds cliche, but if I hone in and have faith that the Lord will help me be the best that I can be, I’ll walk away from this experience having achieved more than I ever thought possible.

I am weak now, but I know that through faith I will be made strong. I think it’s kind of funny that Heavenly Father knew the only way I was going to learn this lesson was if He dumped me in the Middle East with a seemingly impossible task before me. I must be really prideful! J I am grateful, however, that my purpose in being here revealed itself so early on. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’ll even use Arabic in my professional life, so if I were to go through these next four months thinking that’s the reason why I’m here, it would be very hard to stay motivated. But I know that I am here to develop true humility, true faith, and a true relationship with the Savior.

That will get me through.



  1. You've totally got this.

    And oh my, I know what you mean about the whole gender thing. Totally unfair. The guys can make friends with the locals sooo easily but if I do it I'll either get raped or start a cat fight. Great.

    But it will get better :)

  2. That was an amazing blog post, Kristi. And while I've never been to Jordan and had to try to speak Arabic with strangers, I have felt the same way. When I became a teacher, I thought I was doing alright, and then learned I was doing nearly everything COMPLETELY WRONG. It was so disheartening and hard, and I never would have gotten through it without God's help. He strengthened me and taught me and helped me do all I needed to do and showed me how to do it. I look back at that time and STILL wonder how I even made it through. I know that God was helping me every step of the way, because I could never have done all of it on my own.

    You'll make it through - lots of prayer, lots of faith, and then as much work as you can muster. To echo Sadie: you've got this.

  3. Loved this post Kristi! I will admit, I have been missing your updates. This one was particularly awesome. It's interesting how God knows the best way to show each of us our weaknesses. And it's even more interesting that he doesn't show them to us just to humble us, but he wants us to then improve and make that weakness our strength. Enjoy your time in Amman, sounds like a lot of fun!

  4. When Arabic gets hard, you can picture all of us on the sidelines of the market or wherever you are with little flags and foam fingers and cowbells hollering "YEAH KRISTI!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!" like the most obnoxious fans ever


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