Teaching in Jordan: East Meets West – The Culture

(BONUS: mini videos!)

Scroll all the way down this page for little video clips of the journey getting to Jordan and living there!

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Before heading off to Jordan, I had two thoughts (among others) frolicking around in my head when it came to culture: how broken will my Arabic sound to locals? And, will I fit in with the way I look? (They probably might think I’m Jordanian until they hear me speak Arabic. It’d probably throw them off a little, I thought.)

God used my insecurities in incredible ways this summer. He used my weaknesses – they became strengths. I witnessed Him do the unexpected. The use of Arabic (that I thought would be useless) quite frankly ended up being one of the highlights of my trip.

Arabic was practically in the air I was breathing. It helped me feel a little more at home. It helped connect me to locals like I never thought would be possible.

I ended up translating for our bus driver. I had conversations with people that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I spoke to the kids in Arabic. I made jokes in Arabic.

I can practically feel the smile coming up on my Middle Eastern friends’ faces reading this right about now because they know how ridiculous I sound when I try to speak.

My kiddos called me Miss Bateekha by the end (Miss Cantaloupe in Arabic). Still unsure why they reached to the conclusion that I was in fact a cantaloupe. I’ll wear that name with pride though because it came from the sweetest little souls – sweeter than cantaloupe.

I loved being able to teach more effectively because I knew how to speak their language. It’s honestly a game-changer. Revelation #1 of many: I must learn the language of the locals – wherever I go. As broken as I sound.

We’re all broken beings anyway. Okay we won’t open that gate though.

The streets of Jordan are unique. They’re beautiful. Serene, yet populated. They speak to you and they listen. They’re pixelated with humans carrying stories. It almost felt like these streets were always part of my identity yet they also felt foreign.

I fell in love with Jordan and, I’m itching to go back. (Lowkey considering starting a whole school there with some friends. We’ll see how that goes. Talk to me in 10 years.)

Now this culture that I was “warned about” before getting here ended up being one that barely resembled the one I had heard so much of.

Shocker?

The West is far less fair about the Middle East than I thought it was.

The people of the Middle East are not ready to kidnap you. The people are not dirty. They’re not uneducated. People here are just like you and me when it comes to basic necessities and basic values. Hospitable to the foreigner. Ready to help. Eager to learn from you.

Now I’m not going to be that naive traveller who believes the world is perfect and nobody out here is going to intentionally hurt you, because there are people who will. We should all know what we’re getting ourselves into.

That’s not to say we should believe everything we hear though and to belittle our hopes and dreams because someone with different priorities in life discourages us from them.

Go and do life – see things for yourself.

I will admit I saw the following: a lot of instability on this side of the world. There’s brokenness, poverty, fear, tension, history, as in any other part of the world. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t see or hear awful things.

But on the other hand, there is so much hope here. So much reverence for God and faith. So much community. There is less rush. Less of an urgency to be the best, get the best, or live for the best.

Someone once told me they’d rather retire in the Middle East instead of the States and I thought that was absurd – until I spent a month here. There’s an overall unspoken rule that everyone helps each other here. You visit each other frequently because you’re all neighbours (compared to that 20-minute drive I gotta take to get to my grandma’s place that makes me think twice on cold, winter days – which is most of the year here in Canada.) Or when someone knocks on your door here and you pretend you’re not home. In Jordan, you make sure everyone is fed, comfortable, complete, and content.

On the nature side of things: the sun is your friend. The night is never quiet. The food brings you to the table. Speaking of the food, don’t get me started. (Let’s just say I hit the gym almost every day once I got back home. Yeah, that good.)

I can seriously go on about the culture in Jordan.

One thing I realized as a woman is how noticeable you become when you don’t cover your hair. Fun fact: you apparently shouldn’t cover your hair here if you’re not Muslim otherwise you’re considered a prostitute. I know, what!?

Speaking of covering up: my friend was once in a smoothie shop waiting for her order when a woman wearing the Niqab (full body and face covering, so you could only see her eyes) stood beside her. My friend complimented her eyes, “jameela” (beautiful in Arabic) and the lady pulled up her face covering completely and winked with a, “jameela!” as if to say “girl, I know I’m cute.”

The people we tend to judge so often who may dress differently from us have personality. Now you and I don’t have to agree with the reasoning behind someone’s life choices but thank God it’s their life and not ours. I don’t have to be forced to adopt their beliefs. At least not where I live, anyway. That’s a whole other topic.

The point is: these people who we think are inferior are not void of emotions. They are human. They are loved by the same God who created you and I.

Who am I to judge what someone chooses to do with their body? I can only love, educate, and live my own truth.

I thank my friend for sharing that sweet story with the group, I hold onto it to this day.

I hold onto all of these stories. All of the memories. Every interaction, good or bad. This trip to Jordan shaped the way I look at the Middle East now and forever. It makes me even more curious. It gives me purpose.

I am so excited to continue believing in positive engagement through education as a Middle Easterner myself who wants to see the land of her roots thrive. And I believe this vision doesn’t have to come to a reality in my own lifetime, as long as it does some day.

I gotta add I’m so in awe of all the history that’s intact here in Jordan. It is a treasure to be discovered, it is your history books in real life, and Jordan made me realize I don’t know as much as I thought I did about this world.

In other words, I know enough to keep me curious for the rest of my life. Thank God, because my pride needs some work.

Thanks for reading this one – message me if you want to hear more about this aspect of the experience, I’d love to tell you more!

-Miss Bateekha


The following will be fully videos because I think you get to immerse yourself better into the culture that way (also because most of my pictures of the streets are pretty blurry…)

We’ll start with the journey getting to Jordan: Enjoy! Xo

Us pretending we were already in Jordan because of this beautiful mosaic of Petra that we found at the airport: (If you didn’t know what Petra was, it’s okay I didn’t either until I learned more about Jordan itself, but it’s basically a World Wonder there!)

 

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Getting super pumped now to check-in for our flight to Abu Dhabi (connecting flight!)

 

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Boarding our flight to Jordan after our 14-hour one! *IT WAS SO HOT OUT THERE Y’ALL* but I miss the Middle Eastern heat, not gonna lie:

 

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LANDING IN JORDAN!!! Fast-forward the video to 1:01 minutes!

 

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Heading to our hotel for training in Amman!!

 

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Amman, you’re a beauty! 

 

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Caught a video of the Muslim call to prayer that you would typically hear 5 times a day in Jordan:

 

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This one is from my time in Amman – being in a Subway restaurant in the Middle East was pretty cool so I had to document it:

 

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That rich history I was talking about earlier:

 

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Going to and from the school/work in the bus that felt like it was gonna stop running every 5 seconds: 

 

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Trying to befriend a donkey on the street at night, did you catch my gasp at the end? HOW CUTE IS IT!?

 

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Food!!! 

 

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And the beautiful streets of course, that I’d never get enough of:

 

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A little celebration at the airport full of dance!!

 

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Lastly, a little bit of a vlog all about how I’d been dealing with being in Jordan the first week: 

 

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Thanks for stopping by!!

-Manda

Peace from the Middle East!

Have thoughts about the ones I shared above? Comment down below:

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