By Emma Kumpf
“Expect complexity and diversity.” These are the words my professor used to introduce my Gender in Islam class today, but I think they are also an appropriate introduction to my time here in Jordan. There is so much here that is different from my home, but at the same time there are so many similarities.
Jordan is a complex and diverse country overflowing with people to meet and culture to learn about. One of my first observations was the different ways that people dress. Some women dress in clothing that covers them from head to toe, while other women dress in clothing that looks very similar to what you and I might wear in the U.S. I have noticed these extremes,but also every layer in between. The same goes for men.
I also see complexity and diversity in the treatment I receive out on the streets. There are many that are welcoming to Jordan and I love the hospitality that has been showed to me even from people that I will probably never see again. Most times that I hop into a taxi, the driver is quick to say welcome and introduce himself in his broken English. Other taxi drivers have given short Arabic lessons on the drive, eager to introduce their language and culture to any guest in their home. Many Jordanians welcome any outsider with warmth and excitement.
However, there are times I feel like I want to run back home. As a woman, it can be intimidating walking alone or even with other people. American women are given extra attention and I have already received my share of catcalls while out in public, even if I am dressed conservatively. There are other times where taxi drivers can try to take advantage of my unfamiliarity with this country and its cultural norms by trying to overcharge me.
Still, there are more layers to this incredibly rich and diverse country. It has a population of six million, but those numbers are nearly doubled when the refugee population is included. Jordan welcomes refugees from many of the surrounding countries in this tumultuous region. Also, of those original six million, 70 percent are Palestinian Jordanians. There is so much to learn in order to understand the culture and dynamics of Jordan.
I have learned so much in the short time that I have been here. I am eager and excited to see all that God teaches me while I am living here. There are so many layers to this beautiful, diverse, complex, incredible country that I get to call home for the next three months. I think Jordan is like an ogre, and to quote my friend Shrek, “Ogres are like onions… Onions have layers.” Jordan has many layers and I can’t wait to start peeling the onion to find all Jordan has to offer.
Until next time,