“Where Are You From?”

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Souk Jara is a popular tourist spot close to downtown Amman. Here you will find many local Jordanians displaying their handmade arts and crafts. My roommate and I decided to go to Souk Jara at midday, which was not the greatest idea. It was incredibly hot and sunny outside. I enjoyed walking through the market and speaking minimal Arabic with the artists and vendors. I learned to ask “how much is this” in Arabic (“kam hadda?”), and basically used that phrase the entire time I was there.

Since I’ve come to Jordan, I noticed myself moving through the stages of culture shock slowly. My excitement and curiosity lingered for a bit, but I did notice myself getting frustrated with things that I could not control or change. I only know a few Arabic words and phrases and I have not yet nailed the accent. Because of this, it is easy for locals to know that I am foreign; it bothered me when people would ask where I was from and it bothered me that I had to answer, “America”. I think it bothered me because I knew that once I confirmed that I was American, the vendors would try to charge me more. In addition to being charged more because of my foreign nationality, I was afraid of how their perception of me would change. I never felt that someone intended harm when asking my nationality, but I knew it changed their perception of me and the way they would treat me. Some people may respond positively, some negatively, and some indifferently. Because of this wide range of reactions, I never knew what to expect. I think what also bothered me about these short interactions was that I would have to admit that I was American, even though I (personally) disagree with the many things America may be known for (like the US’s involvement in proxy wars, or their abhorrent treatment of people of color).

As time went on, I began to reframe my mindset. Every Jordanian I have met so far has treated our cohort with such kindness and hospitality. They may charge me more once they figure I am American, but that is all the more reason for me to get better and better at haggling. At Souk Jara, I bought a canvas painting by a local artist and some small souvenirs for my family back home. I did not haggle at those prices the first time, but I intend to go back to this market to practice my Arabic, learn to haggle, and buy more art!