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.