We have lived in Amman, Jordan for nearly 3 years now….3 years…wow, that seems like a long time, yet has gone so quickly. During this time, I have made some really great friends here This summer I will be losing 2 of those friends and possibly a 3rd as they move out of Amman and on with their lives elsewhere. It seems to be a trend. Each summer, we lose some of our friends who move out of Jordan and we gain new ones who move to Jordan. As my friends and I get together to celebrate the time we have spent together and to wish our friends farewell, the conversation revolves around living in Jordan and moving out of Jordan. It has me thinking of all the things that make Jordan a more difficult place to live, and also the things that I have grown to love about this place that we are currently calling home.
I thought it would be of interest to blog about “Living in Jordan: The Good and The Difficult”, from my personal perspective. However, as I start writing, I realize this needs to be a two-part series. So….I am feeling positive tonight. I will start with those things that I love about living here….next time I will write about the things that make it difficult.
Living In Jordan: The Good
- God is present. I love living in a country where the call for prayer goes off 5 times a day. That you can see people praying on the side of the road, at your place of work, where the store owner stops and takes time to pray near the register, people pray at the bus stop, in the park, you see people praying openly anywhere and everywhere on any day. There are signs posted throughout Jordan, mostly at traffic lights, that say (in Arabic), “Remember God”, “Ask God for Forgiveness”, “God is Great”, and the like. I also love that the people remind each other endless times a day to Thank God for your blessings and to also Thank God for your challenges…as everything comes from God and we should be thankful for everything that he has given us.
- Strong family bonds. Family is family no matter where you live. People all over the world love their family and would do most anything for each other. However, here in Jordan, the family is defined at a much larger level – at a tribal level…yes, Jordanians have tribes…which means that many, many, many family last names belong to a specific tribe and each of those hundreds/thousands of people with those last names then fall under that tribe, and they are all considered to be family and they all help each other. I cannot describe the meaning of family bonds here, but I can give an example. I delivered my son here in Amman via c-section. After my surgery, I was sent to the Recovery Room. The Recovery Room Nurse, saw my (my husbands) last name and said to me that she is from the same tribe; therefore, we are sisters and she will take really good care of me. She took excellent care of me…she went way above and beyond the usual duty of a nurse in Jordan. She then told her colleagues that we are family and to be careful with me and to take good care of me. I appreciated her hard work and help, but honestly, she is not even a cousin of a cousin, of a cousin, of a cousin, of a cousin, or anything near that to my husband – much less me who is an American married into the family. This is common practice here, families not only take care of each other but they go above and beyond the usual call of duty.
- Friendship. The expat friends I have met here are W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L! We just get each other in ways that people back home or in Jordan cannot. We live separate, but parallel lives. We have left our families, moved to Jordan from other countries, are converts to Islam, married to Jordanians, are raising by-racial and bi-cultural and bi-lingual children, speak limited Arabic, and face similar excitements and disappointments about it all. Literally, there are an endless number of invitations for get togethers, playdates, and lady nights. Each invite is an opportunity to meet a new friend, as there are so many expats moving in to our neighborhoods. There is a special bond and sisterhood we share.
- Amman is open. The capital and the people of Jordan, Amman, are -in many respects- more open than many American large cities I have lived in. What I mean by that is the following:
- English is the second language spoken in Jordan. You find nearly all road signs written in Arabic and English. Most people here speak some if not fluent English. All schools teach English from K-12 grade at some degree. Many schools and Universities teach all subjects in English 100% of the time. Many businesses and sectors are conducted strictly in English.
- Most people here L-O-V-E people from outside Jordan. There is a certain respect the Jordanians give to expats, especially Americans. Most Jordanians have been to the US or have a brother or sister who live in the US. Jordanians are very welcoming and interested to talk with you, either out of curiosity, because they lived in the US, or to practice their English.
- Jordanians don’t care if you are Muslim or Christian. There are churches scattered all over Amman. Christmas is a National Holiday and Easter is given off to Christians, even though only 10% of the population is Christian.
- Amman is where the Eastern and Western Culture collide. I love that I can grab a falafel, humus, foul, with fresh bread and veggies for breakfast one day, have a shwarma sandwich for lunch, and the next day I can order Domino’s Pizza delivery or go out to TGIF/AppleBee’s/Chili’s. I also love that there is very traditional bedouins would live in burlap tents and live completely off the land, and just down the road from their tent you find a mall with stores like Gap, H&M, Louis Vuitton, etc. There are young farmers herding their sheep across a busy street in the heart of Amman where Mercedes and Hummers are stuck in traffic waiting for the sheep to cross the road.
- I love my kids experience. I love knowing that I am giving my children the chance to not only experience another culture, but to live amongst it – and to not only experience another culture, but a dying culture. So many cultures today, Jordanian included, are looking towards to the west as a model. They are leaving their roots, culture and heritage to live more western. I am happy that my kids are experiencing a Middle Eastern culture, while is still exists. I love that my children are not only learning another language in school, but are required to use the language in daily conversation. I love that my kids can experience both cultures (my husbands and my own). That they are learning and experiencing life differently and uniquely from many of their peers around the world. I hope that they grow and learn deeply from these experiences. I pray that they will be stronger and more wise from the time they spend here. I know today, it is normal life for them, but someday, Inshallah (God Willing) they will benefit.
There are many things that I have always loved about Jordan, there are many things that I have learned to love over the years, and there are many things that I do not love about Jordan. It is what it is. Living here has made me stronger, has helped me learn about myself in ways that I would have never learned elsewhere, has given me character, and has helped me build a better bond with my husband. It is not always easy living so far away, in a culture so different from your own, learning a new method of communication (Arabic). However, it is what it is. We must make the best of our lives and we must Thank God for the good, the great, and the not so great. I am sure that one day, when I am not feeling so positive or simply as promised, I will write Part II to this blog….Living in Jordan: The Difficult.