My time in Jordan has allowed me to grow culturally, academically, and emotionally. In my past few blogs, I focused on the positive parts of my experience, but on this last blog I would like to point out some of the things that I struggled with and talk about how I overcame them in the hope that anyone else who is planning on going to Jordan can be well equipped should they face any similar experiences. While I have fallen in love with Jordan’s hospitality, rich history, and warm culture, it is important to recognize the things that made it a little difficult to live here.
The culture is very family-focused and social and, as a person who’s lived in America’s hyper-individualistic society for some time, this can become a big change. Privacy is almost non-existent in my home stay, and I have felt as if I cannot be alone in my room because my host mom may think something is wrong with me. At first, I thought it was kind of her to want to spend so much time with me, but progressively I found myself needing “me time”. Therefore, I began to tell my host mom that I wanted to nap, enabling me to finally get some much-needed alone time.
Another challenge of everyday life is the sexual harassment and catcalling women in Jordan face on the streets. Because we are foreigners, don’t look like most Jordanian women, and are typically likely not wearing a veil, we experience harassment a bit more than Jordanians. This at times made me feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and very frustrated. However, I cannot provide a solution to this so my advice is to always travel in a group and to learn to ignore them. Just keep your head up high and move on with your day and remember that some men’s inappropriate behavior does not reflect the behavior of all Jordanian men.
The final challenge that I have been struggling with these past two weeks is facing the reality that I’m going back to the United States. I have loved my life in Jordan and there is so much more that I would like to see and do. The memories I’ve made, the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve fallen in love with are something I am not ready to give up. My time in Jordan flew by, and while I faced the difficulties mentioned above, it truly has taken a part of my heart and I do not have any advice on how to deal with leaving. So if you’re going to Jordan, take advantage of this opportunity, cherish all the memories and people you met, and remember to stop and take it all in, because time flies.
Maybe it doesn’t have water, but Jordan sure is rich in culture and history. In these past three months, I’ve had the honor of learning from Amman’s rich history, amazing sights, and from people’s stories of religious tolerance and cultural identity. Jordan is known around the world for its devotion to peace and humanitarian efforts as it takes in thousands of refugees every year and provides them with the safety and security they can’t find in their own countries. Because of this, Jordan has an incredibly diverse population filled with many different cultures, religions, and identities; yet, somehow, the spirit of unity and tolerance is preserved.
I was witness to this in what became one of my favorite experiences here in Jordan as I took a taxi to school one morning and met one of the kindest drivers in Amman. Immediately after I got in the car, my driver, Khaled, demonstrated genuine interest in who I was and where I came from. I shared that I was from Costa Rica, but I had migrated to the United States when I was younger and was completing my studies there. Enthusiastically, he told me he had moved to Jordan from Palestine when he was young and that Jordan had provided him with opportunities he wouldn’t have had if he had stayed. He shared that his parents had made the difficult decision to leave their home, because they wished to provide him and his brothers with a safe life and better opportunities. Curious, I asked him if he struggled to find an identity as a Palestinian in Jordan. He explained that because of Jordan’s diverse nature and continuous acceptance of refugees, he had been able to take on the Jordanian identity proudly while also identifying as Palestinian. He told me that his background would always be Palestinian, but that he also identified with the Jordanian national identity for the country had provided him with a safe home and great generosity. As traffic got worse and our time together lengthened, he pointed to the Qur’an sitting on the car’s dashboard and explained that he was Muslim and that he was also thankful to Jordan for allowing him to preserve and practice this identity safely. He then asked me what religion I practiced and I explained that I am Christian. Demonstrating, once again, great excitement, he proceeded to talk about how our religions were similar and how much he admired Jesus as a man of good deeds. He explained how our being able to have these conversations was what made the Jordanian identity so great for him. The genuine interest in learning about my identity, his life story and open-mindedness, and our being able to share our experiences is a reflection of the accepting and welcoming Jordanian society that I have grown to love during this time.
During this last month here, I hope to continue learning about this central part of Jordanian history and society. Even if I don’t get to learn in as much depth as I did with Khaled, I am eternally grateful for this experience for it gave me a more personal glance at this country’s diverse yet tolerant nature.
This cold, sunny day marks the end of my third week in Amman. Each day has brought new adventures, amazing views, new friends, and delicious food. From the moment I arrived, Amman has kept me busy with its beauty and incredible people. I have seen Jordan’s well-known hospitality in every corner, beginning with my first day in Amman as my host mom welcomed me home with a big hug and a warm meal. I live with a small family and have a new little sister. We’ve become close really fast and have little dance parties every day when she comes back from school. My mom’s cooking outshines any other and her mom instincts are to feed me three times as much as I usually eat. My family has definitely been one of the highlights of my time here thus far.
Traveling has been another highlight from this trip and Jordan offers countless places to explore. My favorite has been Jerash, a small city just North of Amman. Along with a great group of friends, I explored the Greco-Roman settlement of Gerasa and admired the arches and columns of the Temple of Artemis. After enjoying the city’s history, we headed further up into the mountains and stayed in a small villa. Here, I witnessed the most beautiful sunset and views of the city. This charming place allowed me to take a peek at Jordan’s rural, peaceful way of life.
Classes have already begun and I have enrolled in thought-provoking courses as well as extensive Arabic learning classes. The professors are all extremely qualified and passionate about their work, which creates an even more intriguing learning environment. My favorite class, thus far, is Islam in the Modern Context, where my professor has created an open-discussion learning setting and encourages us to open our minds to controversial topics. CIEE has truly impressed me with its selection of great courses and professors.
While my experience here has been mostly positive, there have been some challenges. The language barrier has definitely been something to get used to. However, even though I have only been here for a little bit, I can already feel my Arabic skills improving and feel more confident in my speaking. Another challenge has been getting around the city and knowing where I am. The first week, I got lost every time I took a taxi and that created lots of anxiety. However, I have overcome this and can now direct my driver without a problem. While it was complicated at first, I can already say that I feel at home here in Amman.
For my next blog, I hope to share more of my travels around Jordan and other countries in the Middle East. I also hope to begin my research and learning on immigration and identity in Jordan.