Finding Salaam in Amman Jordan
At the young age of 18, I embarked on a journey to Amman Jordan to study Arabic. Although I was in a very serious relationship (too serious, actually), I was ready to set off on my first international adventure. Looking back, I was subconsciously running away from my toxic relationship, but we’ll come back to that later.
Jordan is a beautiful country with a vibrant culture, amazing food and gracious hospitality. In Amman, I lived with a homestay family. They spoke maybe three or four words of English, and although I knew some Arabic, I was scared to use it. This made for a very tense household, and I didn’t feel like their homestay child, more an unwelcome guest–or just a pain in the ass. There were many instances of miscommunication, and even times when this miscommunication was cause for a scolding in incomprehensible Arabic.
I’m not quite sure why I was so scared to just try and speak Arabic with my Jordanian family, but it was a hard lesson I quickly learned. As a wannabe linguist, I now look for any opportunity to speak another language, whether by ordering my food in Spanish at the local Mexican digs in Arizona, or chatting with the Middle Eastern woman standing in line at the grocery store. I’ve learned that the smallest of actions go a very long way when it comes to language.
Between the constant anxiety of being a foreign female in a male-dominated society, my toxic ex-boyfriend and the social situation that I faced with my fellow American students, attempts to achieve inner peace were overrun by inner chaos.
Living in Jordan was hard. As the youngest in my class, I was perceived as ignorant or careless. Maybe I was, but I felt like an outsider among my peers who were the only other Americans and native English speakers in my day-to-day life. My platinum blonde highlights stuck out like a sore thumb in a crowd of hijabs and dark hair. I was the only student who didn’t live with another American roommate because there were an uneven number of students. I was the odd number. To top it all off, my boyfriend back home had been cheating on me and contacting me almost daily to remind me that our downfall was my fault. I was alone.
If 18 isn’t already a hard age to be, try living in a Middle Eastern country with minimal local vocabulary, facing sexual harassment every day, and being the social outcast in your group. It was a major eye-opening experience for me. But somehow, I still came out of it with a deep passion and drive for understanding language, culture and what brings us all together as humans. Love. Peace. Salaam.
Between the constant anxiety of being a foreign female in a male-dominated society, my toxic ex-boyfriend and the social situation that I faced with my fellow American students, attempts to achieve inner peace were overrun by inner chaos. I still searched for it. I went to the gym every day. Yet, I still hurt. I still walked the streets of Amman with a deep bitterness toward each man who tss-ss-ss’ed at me. (Apparently it’s called catcalling for a reason, I’m not a damn kitten!)
I continuously reminded myself what my mother always says: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
One day, I tore the Tiffany diamond necklace that my ex had given me off my neck and tossed it off a balcony. I thought of the day he bought it for me. He was drunk (per usual) and brought it to me when I was working as a Hostess. He was so drunk he almost got me fired as he tried to romantically bestow the present to me while I was seating some guests. As I tossed it off the balcony onto the roof below, I imagined the day a child playing on the roof, or maybe a laborer, would come across it. What an amazing surprise it would be! In that moment, I felt peace.
Although my experience in Jordan was one of heartbreak and harassment, I continuously reminded myself what my mother always says: “Wherever you go, there you are.” As I had written in my journal while in Jordan:
“I have stopped and closed my eyes and just inhaled the moment, took pictures with my eyes while everyone else was taking selfies, praying with so much gratitude for every cool thing I come across or the people I am surrounded by, some good, some bad, but nonetheless a learning experience of my true character.”
If you look outside yourself, you will find beauty in every place you travel to.