While it’s only “hump day” in the States, the weekend is just around the corner here in Jordan where the work schedule follows Muhammad’s example rather than Paul’s. As the week draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on just a few of the lessons I’ve learned after only four days in Jordan:

  1. A deluxe studio apartment in ‘Amman is a very different thing than a deluxe studio apartment in the U.S. The first thing I did upon moving in, after checking to see if the air conditioning worked (it didn’t…doesn’t), was to make friends with the crickets living in the drain in my bathroom floor. (Yes, I do have a drain in my floor since, apparently, Jordanians don’t believe in shower curtains; opting instead for squeegee-ing the entire bathroom after every shower). I just told the crickets that as long as they stayed in the drain and were content to be seen and not heard, I’d be more than willing to live and let live. So far they’ve kept up their end of the deal.
  2. Taxis are actually very cheap despite the fact that the meter starts off reading “150”. It seemed obvious to me that the “150” was missing a decimal point, but it was anyone’s guess where that decimal point was supposed to go. After a ten minute ride to the city center, the meter read 1850. My assumption regarding the decimal placement made the taxi driver nearly 16 dinars richer than he expected, but he had no scruples about leaving me blissfully ignorant. After having a few hours to wander around the city and reflect on my surprisingly expensive method of conveyance, however, I came to the conclusion that there was no way the economy could support the number of cabs I’d counted (hundreds, really) with those sorts of prices; the same cab ride back home cost a much poorer, but wiser, student a mere 1.85 dinars.
  3. Despite all the hype these days surrounding “immersion language learning,” the process still makes my head hurt. Learning Arabic grammar in Arabic is one thing, learning about politics, history, culture, and religion is another. By simple deductive reasoning, the former becomes a fairly straightforward matter; however, trying to learn grammar in the middle of learning about politics, history, et al., is closer to learning to parachute by jumping from an airplane with some fabric, a ball of string, and a harness in one hand and the “Idiot’s Guide to Building a Parachute” in the other.
  4. Jordanians suffer from the same hyphenation fascination as Americans. I’ve met Jordanian-Palestinians, Jordanian-Syrians, Jordanian-Lebanese, Jordanian-Iraqis, and even Jordanian-Jordanians. The difference between Jordanian-Jordanians and Americans is that the former hyphenate to show their pride in being different from the numerous immigrants and mixed families, pride in being purely Jordanian, while Americans use the hyphen to place as much literary distance as possible between their true identity and the American tag. Even the word order of these labels is instructive as there is a not so subtle difference between being Jordanian-_________ and being _________-American. National patriotism here is very apparent; from the labels people use to identify themselves, to the approval in the eyes of the local population whenever the king’s name is mentioned, to the poetic metaphors my history texts use to describe the rich and colorful history of Jordan, to the smiling and benevolent face of King Abdullah II peering out from store windows, billboards, and walls in both public and private places.

Previous posts on my travels in Jordan:
An American in the Hashemite Kingdom

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Posted by Tex

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