The Sun Sets on the Jordan DOC
Five weeks, one textbook, and countless bug bites later, I’m sitting in my apartment trying to cram my belongings into my suitcase. In ten hours, I’ll be on my way to the airport, nursing mixed emotions as I prepare for my flight home.
The past five weeks have brought a lot: friends both from Northeastern and Amman, too many vocabulary words to remember, and a bag full of souvenirs that, in shah allah, I’ll be able to take home without breaking. However, they’ve also taken a lot: hours of studying, time getting lost in the city, and more dinar than I’m proud to admit. But, for every minute that I spent in the classroom, doing homework, or making Quizlets, I was able to gain time speaking to locals and using my language skills to navigate the city.
Doubtless, the first week was an adjustment. The language barrier was one of the hardest parts, prompting me to name my personal blog “Englabic Diaries.” As I have in my other travels, the majority of the people I encountered spoke at least some level of English. Like I did in Rome, Paris, and Athens, I felt a mixture of awe and embarrassment speaking to people in Amman in English. One half of me was impressed at the English proficiency I encountered, which prompted the other half to feel self-conscious on behalf of my mono-linguism. The place of language education in the United States is radically different from that in other developed countries; in the US, our station as a world power speaks to our privilege in being able to use English virtually anywhere, allowing us to quietly move language education into the less important, feminine realm of ‘soft power.’
Our timing in coming to Jordan brought another reason for adjustment. We flew in on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, which didn’t end until the last week of our stay. During Ramadan, the Muslim world fasts from sunrise to sunset each day; since over 90% of Jordanians are Muslim, the majority of restaurants in Amman were closed until Iftar (dinner) time. As an American student who enjoys whipping out her laptop at Pavement or Tatte to do work, it was difficult to register that my daytime activities would be limited during Ramadan. Too many times, I ubered to a cafe to realize it was closed or was saddened by the barren state of the streets at noontime. Many of the places that were open were aimed at non-Muslim tourists, who were okay with shelling out seven dinar for a sandwich.
By the end of the first week and a half, I began to settle in. I understood that daytime was the time to maximize my efficiency in schoolwork so that I could explore the city after sundown. Around seven at night, the streets began to wake up; vendors lifted the grates closing off their markets, the smell of falafel drifted from windows, and people lined up outside of ice cream shops to challenge their caloric intake before the sun came up. There’s nothing more beautiful, more buzzing, than the center of the city on a Ramadan night.
On my last day, my emotions are mixed. For sure, I’m ready to see my family, and I’m looking forward to ordering my first iced coffee at Dunkin. But nothing could compete with my time here— now, I understand Amman, and I feel love for it and the culture that guides it. With every experience here, I’ve been humbled. I’m going back to the United States with a full heart and double the language fluency that I came here with. What more could I want?