Written by Anna Horton (University of Michigan), Student Correspondent CET Jordan Summer 2019
CET is all about making sure you don’t leave Jordan empty-handed. Your heavy class schedule, your excursions to historical sights, and most of all your improved knowledge of Arabic testify that you gained something from living in this country, most of which can be transferred to whatever job or degree you choose next.
But in addition to the curricular boost and the internship experience, there are some things that living in Jordan simply instills in you. Even after only two months, the rhythm of my daily schedule (which I’ve described in Arabic ad nauseum to patient teacher’s assistants) is going to stick with me for a while, leaving a shadow too faint to be reverse culture shock but dark enough to influence who I am. Likewise, the deep respect I’ve gained for Jordan and Jordanians is going to color how I look at the world from now on – which, again, is exactly what this trip is about.
With this in mind, here are a few quirks, tics and trademarks that you might find yourself carrying with you after your time as an honorary Jordanian citizen. Most of them are inconsequential and might wear off after the first week, but others might stab at your heart a bit. This was, after all, a once in a lifetime experience. Carrying it well involves a little heartbreak.
1.Wearing shorts is weird
Especially for us girls, it’s super likely that your sense of fashion and/or propriety has been influenced while in Jordan. Although temperatures have topped a hundred degrees, I’ve never felt the need to wear shorts, and my fellow CET members and I have commented on how much we instantly judge people showing a lot of leg. This isn’t to say, of course, that you’re going to swear off shorts entirely, but don’t be surprised if it feels a little weird to have more than your ankles exposed to the public.
The perks of a desert climate? Zero humidity. Even on days when the sun was sweltering, Amman conjured up the occasional life-giving breeze, and the air never felt like it was trying to crawl down your throat. For all my friends from southern states or tropical countries, the shock of going from a clear and sunny heat to a steamy fog is going to take its toll, perhaps making you long for the days when, despite blistering temperatures, walking outdoors didn’t feel like entering a sauna.
3.”بس”, “يلا”, “زي” etc.
Like crumbs left over from an excellent meal, Arabic has these little, multifunctional buzzwords that are more than happy to sneak their way into your English. There simply isn’t a better way to say “let’s go”/ “get going”/ “hurry up” etc. than “يلا” (yallah), and anyone whose ever had to bide time during an Arabic presentation knows the power of a good “يعني” (y3ne). When these gems pop out during your everyday conversations, consider them part of your new vernacular. Who knows – maybe we can get them to catch on!
4.Where’s the argileh?
I could add Turkish coffee and cheap cigarettes to this question too (‘cause let’s be honest – some of you have become chain smokers since you’ve been here). The prevalence of café culture is something I haven’t experienced anywhere else, and I think one big reason for that is not everywhere else has a ready supply of argileh. As a result, unless you can cut the habit entirely, you might find yourself searching for “hookah” or “water-pipe” lounges that just don’t carry the same friendly, old-world atmosphere.
5.Where’s the bidet?
Hand reaching out for a sprayer hose that’s no longer there? Feel regretful tossing that toilet paper in the toilet rather than a nearby trash can? Maybe you’re experiencing the “bidet effect.” Weirdly enough, something that used to be an oddity and maybe even uncomfortable has become second nature, leaving you feeling like you’re missing something when you leave the bathroom (or maybe this is just me…?).
6.Dancing and Arabic music on road trips
Quiet road trips are a non sequitur now, am I right? I mean, sure – maybe hearing “اللعب يلا” at 7:00 in the morning on your trip to Petra isn’t the fondest of memories, but it feels weird to be in the car for an extended period without some sort of beat. Although your friends might not be ready for your entire Arabic playlist, you might consider bringing in a song or two. Or three. And bust a couple moves from the back seat while you’re at it.
7.Why don’t people use WhatsApp?
Why hasn’t this convenient group-texting app caught on in the States when it’s all the rage in Jordan? Who knows. But since you’ll be holding onto it to keep up with all your new Jordanian friends, why not start spreading the love? Tell your friends to ditch GroupMe and start using something that’s globally recognized, not to mention convenient when it comes to adding international numbers.
8.Celebrating weddings and graduations in the streets.
There aren’t many cities where you can rip down main streets at full speed in your SUV while your friends stand up and ululate out the sunroof. Although Jordanian traffic police may be strict about some things, I never saw them stop wedding or graduation processions, no matter how fast people were driving. Unfortunately, however, if you’re feeling the need to celebrate your graduation with this kind of fanfare in the U.S., you might be better off cruising down back roads – or better yet, going to a park and getting a bunch of little kids to join in.
9.“Home” is a changing concept.
It may sound weird, but after two months abroad, I don’t feel that belong in the U.S. as much as I used to. The friends I’ve made, the culture I’ve grown to appreciate, and the language I can now speak with greater ease all tie me to a place my U.S. friends and family can’t relate to, which can feel not only unsettling but confusing.
This feeling of reverse homesickness, however, is perfectly natural – after all, unless your family is wiling to sit through endless conversations about your experiences, it might be difficult to find someone to talk to. The best solution to this feeling, then, might be keeping up with your new Jordanian friends and keeping an eye on Jordan in the news. After all, if it’s a sense of belonging that made Jordan special, why not make sure you’re primed and ready for a trip back?