Things change. This is a very obvious truth that, if not observed enough, can pass us by. Our understanding of a place or the people there might remain static while the reality on the ground is changing. In the beginning of 2015, while working full-time before university, I had a month-long stay in Amman, Jordan. Whether it was my Arabic language skills then or my lack of local context, I was challenged by the difficulty of doing online research about the city. It turned out, the best way to discover a new spot was to meet people and to get their suggestions. Of course, this can present a catch-22 for students abroad; how can you find good places to go if you don’t know people and how can you meet people you like if you’re not at places where you are comfortable? Thankfully, by the end of that trip I had pieced together a good experience. But I thought that many steps to enjoying the city as a foreigner could be streamlined by a better connection between the online world and real life.
This notion changed when I got a ride in an Uber instead of a taxi for the first time in Amman. I was able to summon a driver who knew exactly where I wanted to go all without worrying about how much I was paying. Hallmark, but oftentimes trying, Jordanian experiences like taking a taxi are smoothed by technology. Without this update in my mind, I would have wrongly believed that Jordan is more disconnected from the net than it actually is. This lagging of understanding is certainly a factor in personal biases and even poor foreign policy decisions. Technology is a tool that can be used to make easier accomplishing goals. Contrary to the negative sentiment about social media, I have found that many technologies improve my ability to connect me with my real life interests.
Pictured: Streamlining a hallmark, but oftentimes trying, Jordanian experience.
Technology connected me with a group traditionally outside of my normal sphere, in this case Jordanian society. I actually made a Jordanian friend simply by following and eventually talking to him on Instagram. By a stroke of luck, we were able to meet in-person in Washington because of a work trip he had. A month later, we met up again in Amman when I came for my study abroad trip. I learned so much about little cultural norms that color Amman in that one meeting. I feel fortunate to have this new connection which has given us both friendship and intercultural understanding. This solidified my belief about technology being a tool – meaning that those who are tech-savvy can make themselves life-savvy.
Pictured: My Jordanian friend and I enjoying a baseball game in Seattle before my trip to Jordan.