Memories are made with people!
Jordan is a beautiful country there is no doubt about it. I have been amazed by Roman theaters, Umayyad Palaces, Islamic Mosques (I’ll include a picture because they are beautiful), and I’m going to Petra tomorrow which will be breathtaking I’m sure. However when I leave Jordan it won’t be these places that stay with me. Rather it will be the memories of the wonderful people I have meet that I will keep with me for years to come. I won’t be too specific because I wouldn’t want people to be talking about me without my knowledge, and beware because this will be long for I have many stories already, but I want to share a few of the many stories of my experience with Jordanians so far. I hope and wish that these stories encourage you to get to know Jordanians and Arabs as a whole as well as I have, because the friendships I have made have made this trip worthwhile.
When I first got to Jordan I had to buy a visa in order to live here, and buying the visa I thought would be nerve wracking especially if the guard person didn’t speak English. Yet it was easy and the guard took the time to chat for a few seconds with me on where I would be studying, and congratulating me on studying Arabic, it was then that I heard three words that I have heard at least 30 times in the last 2 weeks and that is Welcome to Jordan. Nothing too fancy but those words made me feel very welcome especially at 9pm after 25 hours of plane rides, and a hectic layover in France, the fact that this guard took the time to say hello to me, and welcome made me very excited to get to know Jordan. Since then I have heard Welcome to Jordan multiple times a day. It is very fun to be walking home from the market or school and to have people yell out their car window at me Welcome to Jordan, shocking at times, and also very hilarious, but mostly a sign in my eyes of how supportive Jordanians are of foreigners that they would welcome a stranger they don’t know while driving down the street.
Last week I went to the souk (market) with my roommate. The souk I went to is really fun because it’s only set up on Thursday and Friday, and it just this huge outdoor market, with nice clothes for cheap. As I was shopping I noticed a little girl watching me, so I turned to look at her, and said Marhaba (hello). Looking very shy she said to me in English how are you? So I said good thank you, and then she ran back to her father, looking at her father he said to me that she is learning English in school and was excited to have someone to talk to. I barely said 3 words to this girl and yet she was happy to talk to me, and I could tell that her dad was happy I talked to her. This conversation though short means a lot to me because to me it shows the happiness of Jordanians to speak with foreigners whether in English or Arabic. This excitement to get to know each other can be seen every day when I take taxi’s to school and back and I will with the driver. It is always fun to have a mixed Arabic English conversation where I realize that both the driver and I have to be willing to meet half way in order to understand each other. This mixed and hard to understand at times conversation is more memorable than any fully English or fully Arabic conversation I could have because I know that the person I’m talking to wants to talk with me, and is willing to speak broken English and deal with my kindergarten level Arabic to have that conversation.
I love talking with locals and a great time to do this is when shopping. When shopping prices aren’t fixed so to speak, and if you talk with the owner and be kind them might just lower the price, bartering here is necessary or you will get ripped off. For instance one day I was souvenir shopping with my friends and as we were looking around this cute shop the owner brought us tea, and we sat and talked. Then when we did go to buy something they would throw something in as gifts like postcards, or give you a better deal, for you my friend only 5jd. When I went to a fruit stand my roommate and I were grabbing a bunch of veggies and we talked with the owner a little, then he threw in our bag a tomato, so we could make salad he said. These moments are moments I will never forget; I love when people say welcome to Jordan, or want to talk with me, the generosity that I have experienced from total strangers is something I hope everyone can experience because having a total stranger be kind to you and expect nothing in return makes you feel so amazing about people, humanity and generosity to each other. This generosity doesn’t have to be only in giving but also just talking to each other when you don’t have to can change a person’s whole day. One time when I was buying a dongle which is like internet in an usb card for your computer, my friend and I were talking with the salesmen and we told him that we are studying Arabic. So he is like good then you can only speak in Arabic from now on then. My friend and I are not very good at Arabic though so she goes to whisper to me in English, and the salesman says I can hear you, Arabic only! My friend and I broke out laughing because here is this guy we just meet joking with us, and trying to help us with our Arabic. That experience lasted less than an hour but I can remember the happiness I felt in being able to joke about my horrible speaking skills days later, and that is the memory that will last when I leave Jordan.
I have had so many great experiences with locals in Amman and it is these experiences whether with the nice guy who sells fruit on my street, or my peer tutor who gives me sweets and tells me to call her if I need anything, these experiences have made my trip to Jordan a trip worth remembering. Talking to people back in the states I know that there are some horrible stereotypes about Arabs, and yes not all Arabs are great but you shouldn’t judge the whole group based on one bad apple. The only time I have felt scared in Jordan is crossing the street, and even then my peer tutor held my hand to make me less nervous. Jordanians are very welcoming and sweet and I hope and wish that you can get to know any Arab as I have come to know my friends because they are friends that will last a lifetime and cross continents. Without each other the world would be lonely, and no memories could be made or shared. So my hope is that today you go out and you talk with a stranger, share a cup of tea, or give 20 extra cents to the nice taxi driver who told you his life story. Go out and make a memory you won’t regret it!