The Jordanian Learning Curve

Written by Ian Edwards, (Gonzaga University) Student Correspondent CET Jordan, Summer 2017

Since day one, my time in Amman has proved to be an invaluable adventure and I found fast friends in the other CET students. During our first night, everyone who had already arrived and unpacked went out for a group dinner to celebrate our first Iftar in Amman. After the thirteen of us did our best to consume four massive plates of rice and chicken, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the meal cost us roughly $4 each – thankfully, this trend of shocking affordability has carried through the entirety of our stay here, thus far. After dinner, we walked onto the street to find what would prove to be a cherished memory. While some students found a group of young Jordanians to play football with on the sidewalk, others befriended a man and his donkey, both of whom frequent the busy street along the north gate of the University of Jordan. The man has given us Americans many friendly greetings since then, and has offered up too many free donkey rides to count (as the old saying goes,
when in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Amman, ride street donkeys
guided by strangers”
).

However, this sort of hospitality doesn’t stop with our neighborhood donkey-handler. Many employees at local shisha spots and restaurants seem eager to find out what all of us American kids are doing in Amman, what we’re                                                                             studying, how we’re enjoying the city, and more. They’re often more than willing to help us improve our vocabulary and pronunciation, and to help us feel comfortable in this wonderful city. Even strangers and shop-owners standing on the sidewalks will greet us with a friendly “welcome to Jordan” in English, which adds to the welcoming aura which seems to permeate the city.

However, there’s also been a slight learning curve that has come with making certain lifestyle adjustments in order to become acclimated to life in Jordan. Among the most difficult have been observing the fast in public during Ramadan, which forbids eating, drinking and smoking in public, even for non-Muslims; the cultural norm of nearly always wearing long pants in public – even when the weather tops 90 degrees – and struggling to understand more than a quarter of what another person is saying at any given time. But as these struggles become increasingly routine, it becomes easier to eat and drink solely at home, to forget you’re wearing jeans in the hot sun, and to slowly understand more and more of the local dialect.