The longer I am immersed in Jordanian daily life and learn about culture here, I feel more informed and knowledgeable. I also feel like I am informing others at the same time. This week I had a meeting for my Gilman Scholarship that made me reconsider my approach to life. As a Gilman recipient and American abroad, I am a representative of the US for Jordanians and might be the only American they have a genuine relationship without on the flipside, I am also not eh unofficial spokesperson for Jordan to the rest of the world. With that intrinsically, I have become the spokesperson for the entire Middle East, Arab World and Islamic Faith (which by the way is very diverse). In America, I always felt like there was this constant defending of my interest in the Middle East and want to learn Arabic. But while here, I have only been welcomed with open arms. I have never felt more comfortable speaking Arabic in my entire life, honestly that partly might have to be because if I do not I cannot communicate with anyone. There seems to be no judgement, yet of all the people in the world, they have every right to judge because it is their language and culture that I am completely butchering!
It is also crazy how biased and ethnocentric the American approach to World History is. I have never felt to uninformed regarding modern history in my life. To be able to see the actual significance and impact of important historical events that I can only recall as a fact I memorized to pass an AP test is absolutely insane. From the British and French colonization of the region to the Sykes-Picot agreement and Oslo Peace Treaty! I see it all every day.
But this week’s trips and adventures have further opened my eyes to how skewed American media and understanding of things are.
This week I visited these sites:
- King Hussein Mosque
King Hussein Mosque was built in 2008 by King Abdullah to commemorate his father’s legacy. The mosque is the first mosque I have ever been in and the largest most grand in Amman. The mosque can hold thousands for the Friday payer and is absolutely stunning. It was beautiful to see a place that I have only ever read about in textbooks. Also I do not know what I was expecting, but the mosque was so serene and peaceful. I felt reaffirmed. I believe there are so many misconceptions and sheer ignorance towards Islam. PLEASE NOTE HOW I SAID ISLAM. I believe that all religions are for the most part inherently peaceful. I do not think that there is a major religion that preaches being a bad human. And this might have been a fear of mine; to go to a mosque and realize that Islam is not the religion I have learned and seen it to be. DISCLAIMER: When I say Islam, I mean the religion. Not how people practice the religion and the culture that Muslim majority countries might follow. Also while I am at it, I think it is also important to distinguish that “Muslim” refers to the people who practice Islam… NOT ARABs. Being Arab is an identity that DOES NOT imply being Muslim or believing in Islam. Oh Surprise! There are Christians and Jewish Arabs!
- Eco Park
Wednesday was spent at an invigorating and revitalizing natural retreat center/protected site two kilometers from the Israeli Border. As an America, I always struggle with why people littler in Jordan and in the United States also. Eco Park is also a bit controversial in itself because the nonprofit organization has offices in Israel and does work there. The locals have threatened to destroy the land because of this tie, despite the incredible work they have done. They have even implemented a GREY WATER system and are almost 100% sustainable on solar power alone! They also practice what they preach and make all aspects of the park environmentally focused.
My class and I did some community service volunteer work at the park by helping them dig holes to start in the construction of more cabins for people who wish to camp at Eco park. It was hard work and I have been privileged enough to not have to do such physical labor in my daily life. The ground was filled with huge rocks. Breaking up those rocks with a pick ace in the sun was much more difficult than it sounds. I also was not dressed for the occasion.
- Zain Innovation Center
There are three main cellphone and internet providers in Jordan, one of which is Zain. The Zain Company has an innovation center that often has lecture on technology and entrepreneurship. The lecture I tried to attend was on youth and how technology can be used to solve environmental issues. Unfortunately, I was dropped off by the taxi at the wrong place. Instead of the innovation center, I was dropped off at the Zain Headquarters in Amman. I was lucky enough to find a Zain employee who went out of his way to help me find the innovation center. He even helped me find a cab. When I finally arrived to King Hussein Business Park where the innovation center was supposed to be, I discovered that the business park was much larger than I had originally anticipated. I spent the next hour and a half wandering aimlessly in circles around the park in the dark. I eventually gave up and just went home out of frustration.
Sadly, this was just the start of place that did not go as planned. The next would be a failed trip to Zaatari Camp.
- Zaatari Camp
Zaatari Camp is a Syrian refugee camp and city that is in the north of Jordan by the Syrian and Iraqi border. The camp is one of the largest in the country. I was disappointed in the cancellation of the trip because some people were worried about the safety. I am still determined to go before I leave. My parents were boat people during the Vietnam War and came to America as refugees. I think it is important for me to see what not only the current refugees are experiencing, but also get a glimpse of what my parents endured in order for me to have the privileged life that I have.