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5 Things I Wish I had Known

by - 10:44 PM


I thought i'd take this moment to go through the difficult task of copy-and-pasting my homework assignment, turning it into a quick blog post, since midterms are here and i'll most likely be MIA for a little. These are 5 things I wish I had known about Jordan. Enjoy! Also...don't forget to leave a comment because i'm needy and need to feel appreciated. Just kidding. But really, leave a comment. 

1. Jordanians Don’t Run
Growing up, I was always taught to look right, look left, and look right again when crossing the street. I imagine that children growing up in Jordan are taught to either a) sprint across the street b) avoid crossing the street, or c) look right, look left, look right, look left, look right again,  look left again, and than proceed to decide between option A or option B. Considering that i’ve never seen a child, teenager, adult, or anyone but a foreigner frantically run across a street, i’m guessing that the Jordanian-nonchalant-walk across a highway is an acquired talent. In addition to not sprinting across the street, in general, running in Jordan is fairly non-existent. I realized this when I went to Israel over Eid break and found myself in sheer awe at the amount of people moving their legs. This could be due to the fact that sidewalks in Jordan are rare, and when they do exist, various trees are planted down the middle. If someone is seen running in Jordan, you assume that they are either foreign, being chased, someone stole their falafel, or all of the above. 

2. Saying No to Food is Not an Option
It would’ve been great if my program told us to pack another stomach, some stretchy pants, and be prepared to come back a little larger because for those of us in host families, saying no to food is not an option. The first hour I was in my host families house, I managed to eat more food than I would normally be able to digest all day. What I thought was a celebratory, “let’s feed our guest and show her how much food we can afford” kind of day, actually foreshadowed the rest of my semester. Not only is it seen as rude to turn down food in Arab culture, but once it’s on your plate you’re expected to be a member of The Clean Plate Club. I learned to simply copy my host sister and reply with a stern “walla, ma bidee” (I swear to God, I don't want anything) when asked if I want more food, which works only because one cannot lie and say “walla”...so my host mom believes me.

3. Unnamed due to the fact that I don’t know what to title this without it sounding awkward and uncomfortable.
Either Jordanians are blessed with extremely large bladders, they don’t ever drink water, or they strategically plan their day around which restrooms to use (the latter seems highly unlikely because planning something in Arab culture is a prolonged process which may or may not happen). In the two months i’ve been here so far, i’ve never seen a Jordanian girl actually use the bathroom for any purpose other than re-adjusting her hijab, spraying massive amounts of perfume, or gossiping with friends. The fact that 99% of bathrooms in Jordan don’t have toilet paper and are literally porcelain holes in the ground may contribute to this, but my theory is applicable to my host family as well, where we have packs upon packs of Fine tissue, running water, and actual toilets. Riddle me this. 

4. The Science of Hijabis
You can tell a lot about a girl by the size of her Hijab. No, she most likely wasn’t blessed with thick, voluptuous hair, there’s a whole bouquet of flowers under there. Hanging in almost every store window you’ll find little bouquets of flowers that look like hair scrunchies from the ‘80s. As explained by my host sister, the Qur’an instructs both men and women to dress modestly, so the girls that wear makeup, tight clothes, and have hijabs the size of Texas are usually wearing it as more of a fashion statement, rather than a religious one. 


5. Who run the world? Girls
Being a woman in Jordan is a lot different than being a man. This isn’t heading in the secular-feminist-rant direction that you probably predicted, but instead the i’m-rather-shocked-and-impressed approach. Coming from the West, we have the idea that wearing the hijab is oppressive, and that women in the Middle East aren’t respected by men. While i’m only speaking from my experiences in Jordan (obviously women in Saudi Arabia or Iraq are a completely different story), women are idolized, powerful, and in most cases, the head of the household. Wearing the hijab is seen as more respected, but is not mandatory, and is often more of a fashion statement than a religious one. In my host family, i’ve seen how huge the woman’s role in the family is. For lack of a less-cheesy description, she’s not only the main decision maker, but she's the glue that holds the family together. 

Sorry if that got increasingly un-entertaining. That's what happens when you try to do your homework assignment in the middle of the night after spending 8 hours crossing the Israeli-Jordanian border.

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1 comments

  1. It really opens your eyes when you see how others in the world are so different to us. Love your blog and how it shows us a whole diffferent world out there :)

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