Marhaaban from Amman, Jordan! When I told people where I was studying abroad, I’d always be met by a beat of surprised silence and then, “So, like…the Middle East?”
Yeah, the Middle East.
It seems crazy that a college student like myself would choose to study in a country surrounded almost on all sides by tension, where alcohol is taxed 200 percent and where gender roles are the polar opposite of what you find at your average frat party, but here I am!
My main reason for coming to Amman is to study Arabic, as it’s one of the last cities deemed “safe” for Americans to go study abroad. I’ve been taking Arabic for a year and a half and can barely hold a decent conversation, so hopefully after four months here speaking Arabic won’t feel like drowning in a pool of cement, inshallah. This is Arabic for “God willing,” and used to describe things that will happen in the future, usually as a euphemism for “we’ll see,” or in other words, “this might not happen,” which is likely the truth in my case.
Now, let’s move on to what you’re probably wondering — is Jordan safe? Long story short, yes, it definitely is.
The security situation definitely intensified this past week with the announcement of the brutal murder of the Jordanian military pilot by ISIL — a shocking and horrific event that shook the whole nation. But the reaction of Jordan to such a devastating loss was not anti-American sentiment or blind anger. Rather, there was an intense nationalism and a renewed sense of responsibility and earnestness to uphold such in the region. Jordan is the model of stability and a rare one in the Middle East, and is holding strong in the face of such radical terrorism. Over this week there were many planned and peaceful marches, candlelit vigils, and even some unofficial car caravans of young Jordanians, honking their horns and waving flags all throughout the main streets of Amman. It feels much like post-9/11 America — overcome with sadness and mourning but also renewed unity, patriotism, and commitment to a cause. I do not feel unsafe here by any means. Yet, that does not mean that awareness, judgment and caution are not absolutely essential for us as Americans at all times.
Wipe away all (okay, most) of your mental images of Middle Eastern cities as seen on Homeland or any war film, because Amman will shatter them. It’s a crazy-busy metropolis of endless hills and beige buildings as far as you can see, of crowded traffic circles and ginormous megamalls. Amman doesn’t seem to adhere to any guidelines as far as cities are concerned; every neighborhood is different and linked by crowded highways and overpasses. There’s little public transportation here, so to get to school we take a twenty minute cab ride, which so far has lent itself to some pretty interesting early-morning conversation and definitely a lot of groggy, half-forgotten Arabic.
Nevertheless, it’s a great way to see a city where there’s never a shortage of things to look at, and has definitely helped me orient myself in this overwhelming place. My first two weeks here have been completely amazing, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next!