Yallah Y’all: The Same but Different

Written by Lauren Burns (University of Mississippi) Student Correspondent CET Jordan: Internship, Spring 2018

For most people, coming to the Middle East requires a huge transition in daily life. Everything normal to you is completely foreign to them and vice versa. Through it all, I’ve noticed that sometimes life here in Jordan isn’t so different from back home. I lovingly call Amman the “Middle Eastern Mississippi.”

Food: In Jordan, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the most important times of the day. Having just a quick bite isn’t very common, and the value of a homecooked meal is unparalleled. Eating is not just a time to enjoy a meal, but to spend quality time with those close to you. Though it might not be fried chicken, gumbo, or catfish, I still get to enjoy hearty (and definitely carb-heavy) Jordanian favorites like mansaf, maqloubeh, or an entire table of mezze with close friends.

The same, but different.

CET class visit to UNHCR

My class visiting the UNHCR in Amman

Hospitality: We’re all familiar with the term Southern hospitality–the warm and welcoming atmosphere that takes precedent in the southern United States that’s not really found in the rest of the country. Life runs a little slower there—and in Amman too, despite it being a city of over 4 million people. If there’s a car broken down on the side of the road, you can expect to see 3 others pulled over to help. Mississippi, constantly ranked as the poorest state in the US, is also consistently ranked highest in the nation for donating to charity. Jordan, a small country surrounded by unstable neighbors and struggling with unemployment and a severe water crisis, has taken in nearly 3 million registered Syrian, Palestinian, and Iraqi refugees (not including those who are unregistered, who constitute the vast majority of the refugee population in Jordan). The Jordanian equivalent of sweet tea and “Ya’ll come on in,” is an endless, jittery night of Arabic and Turkish coffee.

The same, but different.

Common sight in Jordan

A common sight throughout Jordan, even on busy roads

Religion: Mosques populate the city as churches do in Mississippi. Time: A fast-paced life is not a huge priority. Values: Respect for elders is of upmost importance and family is sacred. Community: Collectivist society takes precedent over individualist needs.

The same, but different.

That’s not to say there aren’t stark differences between the two—there certainly are. But, it’s comforting to find familiar aspects of life even 6821 miles and 8 times zones away.