I’ve decided it’s time to take off the I-love-Jordan-all-the-time hat. I usually prefer that hat because writing about your feelings? Yeah, that’s tough stuff. However, I am feeling particularly brave today. So here you are: my unfiltered feelings.
Living in a new culture is hard, but studying in a new culture is even harder. I took Modern Standard Arabic class for two and a half years. I worked really hard at it and always got good grades. Can you imagine my shock when I landed in Jordan and no one understood a word I was saying? The dialect here is nothing like Modern Standard. After living here a month, I have now learned that Modern Standard is equivalent to Shakespearean English. I have no doubt my face would be a mirror of theirs if they said to me,
Let me set the scene.FADE IN:
EXT. CITY STREET – DAY
A girl (early 20s) walks down the street darting between cars, broken sidewalks, and oil spills. The background music is a chorus of jeers from the men who see her as they pass in their cars. She frequently glances over her shoulder at the traffic, her eyes searching anxiously for an available taxi. None are to be found. She sighs and continues walking.
(ENTER GOLD SUV) As the girl walks, the SUV passes her, the driver inside staring her down. He pulls off to the side and waits for her to walk past him. He passes her again in order to keep watching in a sick game of “visual leap frog.”
(ENTER WHITE UNMARKED CAR) The white car pulls over to the girl who is walking.
Man: You need taxi? Here, come in!
Girl (in horror): No. (WHITE CAR DRIVES AWAY)
The girl hesitates on the sidewalk, not wanting to walk further due to the SUV and not wanting to stand still and be seen by more drivers. She checks her outfit. The only skin showing on her body is her face, neck, and hands. With a confused look on her face, she looks again out at the street. Immediately, she spots a man hollering and blowing kisses at her.
Girl: I. Just. Want. A. Taxi.
This is daily life in Amman for me. It makes me feel objectified, devalued, and dirty. It makes me think of that Dove Soap commercial where the British lady goes, “I couldn’t rinse enough.” …I can’t rinse these memories away anywhere near enough. I came home so upset yesterday because I was just tired of it. I can’t understand why it just won’t stop. What blows my mind is that this, this cat-calling and creeping, is nothing compared to what men do to women in other countries of this region. And here I am complaining.
Between the language and men issues, I was feeling spent. Every comment from a man, every new word I was taught in colloquial made me feel a little smaller and a little more exhausted. I would fix a smile on and collapse on my bed at the end of the day. I needed a fresh start. I needed to get out of my mind’s desert wasteland of negativity.
And then — it rained.
I love rain. I live for rainy days. I’m not sure if it’s my semi-Seattle blood that runs through my veins, or simply something deeper that longs for what rain gives me. What does rain give me? Memories. I remember one afternoon when I was six, I sat on my porch in Portsmouth, Ohio and watched the rain fall down on our driveway. I loved watching the rain bounce off the pavement, because, to me, it looked like thousands of little ballet dancers prancing and leaping around a stage. As I grew older, I loved rain for the smell. That scent of freshness and earth. The noise of it hitting the leaves or a window pane. The idea of life being restored. Last night when it rained here, I was sure I had never been so happy in my life. God knew exactly what I needed right as I had hit my limit. I needed to be able to “rinse enough”. I needed to be able to water my “wasteland of negativity.” And He gave me that chance.
I have also realized that rain comes in many, many forms. People and places can even be my personal rain. A figurative rain shower: I was able to go to church the other night. It had been so long since I’d been able to go because of not knowing where to go and busyness with my program’s excursions. Let me tell you, it has never felt so good to go to church. They sang songs I was familiar with, the pastor was fun and interesting, and I got to sing the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic thanks to Dr. Wright. (She taught it to me back at Cedarville.) The service was all in Arabic, but there were headphones with a translation. The headphones didn’t really work, but I was actually able to keep up pretty well with what he was saying. I was thrilled. All in all, it was completely uplifting and I cannot wait to go again.
I realize that my post this week is not terribly positive or humorous, but I hope you can appreciate my honesty about living abroad. Sometimes adventures aren’t always fun. My dad, brother, and I hiked a mountain this past spring and it took a long, long time to get to the summit. It was frigid, we weren’t prepared, and I was sure we were never going to make it to the top. But we did. And the sight was magnificent, but you know what was the best part? Being able to say we had done it, because that meant we were strong enough to even conquer a mountain. So, that’s why I’m sticking this out. That view from the top is going to be magnificent, and gosh-darn-it, I am strong enough to conquer this mountain.
That’s all, folks.