The last couple of weeks have been a total blur. I can’t remember much in between my time stepping on my first airplane, and right now where I am sitting in Amman, Jordan writing this blog. I am amazed by God’s faithfulness in bringing me here. I am already surrounded by loving adventurers and new experiences. There is so much good to come. We have taken some time within this first week to do the touristy things: traveled to the Roman Amphitheater, saw the temple dedicated to Hercules, drank too much Turkish coffee, and ate all we could at the best falafel shop around (although I think the best is actually in Shmeisani).
Through all of my smiles and the picturesque scenery, I am sorely aware that I have not chosen an easy or comfortable study abroad experience. This touristy week will soon slow, as I learn what my purpose is here. When my team and I walk through the streets, Arab eyes glued to us, we recognize that we are a phenomena of white kids from America (and one student from Canada) in a large Middle Eastern town (with the exception of tourists at some sites). People seem to be just as curious about me as I am about them. Through all of this curiosity, my awareness of my own culture and how it influences others in a real life situation is brought to the surface. Sure, I have studied culture and ranked well in tests about intercultural knowledge, but this bitter feeling of being the absolute outsider brings all of my head knowledge into action in a fresh, exciting, and totally uncomfortable way. Loss says it well when he says that culture is “…what makes you a stranger when you are away from home.” As I am away from home and clothed in strangeness, I know God will work in this realm. I am just holding on, learning, and listening.
Culture shock has been lightly sprinkled here, but hasn’t totally overtaken me. My internal struggle of what it means for me to be here is soothed by the population here already. I am so thankful for the Jordanians I have already met, and a future thanks to the ones I will meet. As I said before, I am a total spectacle here-strange but interesting American, even still, the hospitality towards foreigners is a large part of the Jordanian culture, and I have experienced that love already. I already have a handful of stories to tell you about the kindness here, and I am sure you will hear more in my writings, but here is one great experience from me to you:
A group of students and I recently met a Jordanian couple at a coffee shop (Dani and her husband). As soon as I mentioned to Dani that I was a student from America, her joy was enough to fill the whole room. She asked so many questions, invited us to a local business her husband owns, and wrote us a long list of the best places in Amman to shop, eat, and get Turkish coffee (still working my way down the list, but ecstatic about it all). Some of my classmates have already been invited to weddings and we are assured that we will be invited into the homes of locals as a welcoming and warm gesture soon enough. This isn’t even the only example. As I walk through the streets of the city, I am blessed by the smiling eyes of a beautiful Muslim woman behind her niqab when we exchange a peaceful greeting. This isn’t the scary Middle East my peers tried to convince me exists. Instead of finding angry Muslims, I found hospitable and accepting Jordanians and Middle Easterners. I am so welcomed by these Arabs whom I was conditioned to be bitter towards as I grew up. I am not minimizing any issues that do exist in the Middle East, as I will get my share of studying those, but I can tell you with confidence that Middle Easterners were misrepresented in my realm of life as I was raised. I look forward to unpacking what it actually means to be a local here and what my place is in it all. Here we go!
Lord, Keep my mind open. May any presumptions I have that are not biblical about my brothers and sisters in the Middle East be cleaned by your truth. I have experienced so much unconditional love already here, and I look forward to learning more about your beloved people living in the Middle East. Please keep my team safe, and may our words be a clean window into what is happening here to those back home.
All praise and glory be to you,
Peace be with you.