me in the ME

the semester of fun, sun, and Arabic

Archive for the tag “middle east”

Continent-hopping and other daily activities.

Even though the program has officially ended and I’ve left Jordan- depending on who you talk to, I’m still in the Middle East since I’ve country-hopped to Turkey! I’m staying with a friend of mine from Tufts and seeing the sights in Istanbul before finally setting of for home. I find Turkey to be really fascinating because while included in Wikipedia’s “Traditional definition of the Middle East”, the country, and literally this city, bridges Europe and Asia. Suitably then, it is also included in Wiki’s list of recognized European states. If we want to be technical (which we do), I continent hop every day when I cross the Bosphorus, simply going from one part of the city to the other.

From what I’ve seen though, the Asian (read- majority) part of Turkey isn’t acknowledged so much/at all. I flew in on a 2 hour flight on Turkish Air in which I was served a hot breakfast- I can see why they won the Best Airline in Europe award for 2011. Seriously, it’s rare to even get good drink service on a two hour flight, let alone a full meal. Driving around the city, I see signs telling me that Istanbul is the 2012 European Capital of Sport. Today, I saw the heaviest chandelier “in all of Europe”.

I never learned that Turkey was European in any of my classes, ever. So trying not to offend anyone, I’ve been catching myself a lot from saying something like, “Turkey and the rest of the Middle East.” That’s funny too though, since I never really considered it a part fo the Middle East, just like Morocco isn’t really the Middle East. Both are included on Middle East map quizzes, but then again those also include Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc… which is going much farther out of the Middle East than I generally define it. So it all depends on whose definition you use. Apparently, I’m in Europe. Who’da thunk it. Read more…


Sobering Facts- Domestic Workers in Jordan

I remember when we studied slavery in my U.S. history classes, everyone would always say that of course, they would have been abolitionists, don’t be silly! At the very least, they would never have owned slaves and would have looked down upon the practice. That’s a wonderful, idealistic view of humanity. It wasn’t until AP U.S. History that I remember anyone ever saying that, you know, if you were raised with slavery and it was a part of your everyday life, you might not have been against slavery. That your family might have owned slaves and since it was what you had always known, you would have been ok with the practice or even supported it. And heaven forbid someone should try to take away your right to own a slave!

That’s what I felt like here a lot of the time. My former host family has a servant. “Servant” is a polite word used to describe a practice that is more like slavery. Read more…

Don’t Read This If…

Don’t read this if you want to continue to believe Jordan is a blossoming desert flower, sunshine and happiness all the time. This post is not sugarcoated. It’s me, being (brutally) honest about life, not just the good parts that make people want to live vicariously through me. Feel free to skip over it, because it’s not so happy or about amazing things I’ve done in the past week. And while I do have a pretty rockin’ time most of the time, sometimes…

Sometimes, Jordan really sucks.

It’s easy to not think about day-to-day life, and just go with the flow. I’ve got my routine down now. I know when I have to leave to get to class, I recognize a couple different ways from my house to the university, and my lunch plans don’t really change much ever. I feel more as if I’m living in Amman now, instead of just visiting. Which is really great! But then you also start seeing the underlying problems and inequalities present within the society. And yea, it’s usually pretty easy to enjoy things and have an amazing time doing things that simply aren’t possible in America. But then sometimes, I start to actually think about things here- and it just makes me sad and frustrated.

Like how when we play soccer with kids in the street, it’s more accurate to say we play soccer with boys in the street because it isn’t appropriate for girls. Or how at the soccer game we went to a couple weeks ago, we were the only women there and we had to leave for our own safety before the end of the match. We’ve been told that if women want to watch the game, they do so at home, on TV.

Or the story from some girls in the program about how their host family told them their laughter, outside, at 7pm, wasn’t appropriate because they’re girls. The neighbors wouldn’t be ok with it.

And while I personally don’t experience sexual harassment on a day-to-day basis, a lot of the girls in the program, and Jordanian women as well, do have to deal with it every single day. The University of Jordan is located in the “Red Light District” of Amman, where any woman, especially a Westerner, can and will be assumed a prostitute. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, there will still always be something. One of the girls in the program summed it up pretty well when she did a guest blog here. It can range from honking, cars matching your pace, being followed on foot, to actually being groped. The stories I hear every two weeks when we have meetings in English are even worse and I am horrified each and every time because I honestly live a sheltered life in Jordan. I’m lucky in that my homestay is in a quiet neighborhood and most of my commute is by cab. My experience by far is not everyone’s though.

I never know if I can trust the men I meet or talk to. Because I’m a woman, from the U.S., who isn’t fluent in Arabic, who is still new in Amman, etc etc etc… For a whole host of reasons, I feel boxed in. And while I’m sure some of the people are innocent in their intentions, you never know. Because there are creeps out there, sadly quite a few, who do try to take advantage.

Or closest to home, the issue of domestic servants and their “rights” in Jordan. And by closest to home, I mean actually in my homestay, where there is a servant. Her life, to be completely honest and uncensored, sucks. And it’s just too hard to stay positive when someone you live with starts saying that death is better than life. I’ve been assured that people often say that here because their lives are really, truly difficult and some do live for the afterlife. It’s not normal for me to hear that though, and I’m not prepared to counsel someone in English, let alone Arabic. Suffice to say- I’m not ok with the whole situation.

That’s not to say everything is bad, or I feel hopeless all the time. I’ve met some amazing Jordanians as well, who I know would never act in such a way and are some of the nicest, most giving people I know. I just got back from a hiking/camping trip with the program that was freaking awesome (stay tuned for a post about that). There are good days and bad days, just like in good ole Amreeka.

It’s just been a bad week.

In which Jordan has a snow day…

So I may have been a bit optimistic when creating this blog. If you look above, the subtitle is “the semester of fun, sun, and Arabic”. I listened to all the students last semester who said it rained twice, and they went dancing outside when it did.


Two days ago…

Somewhat shockingly (but like SERIOUSLY), there is a winter season in Jordan. It involves rain. And I don’t mean just a drizzle. Yesterday a bunch of the roads were completely flooded. Which is good for Jordan, since any water is so precious here! But seriously, seriously unexpected.

Also cold. As in cold enough for…


Read more…

Middle East Time Zones

Seriously, who came up with this map? I am so confused by this. I had no idea there weren’t “stripey” time zones like the US in the rest of the world. I knew all of China was one time but this is crazy! And apparently more normal…

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