What is exciting about living in a novel environment is figuring out how to do “normal.” Normal means to me following the logic of those who live here apply to accomplish their goals. A big change for me was becoming more adept with the transportation situation in Amman. Without a car, I either depend on taxis, ride-sharing services, or mini-buses. I was initially afraid of the buses because I did not understand anything about it. How much did I pay? Does the amount change depending on where I go? What are the routes? Are there specific bus stops? Where can or can I not sit? What are the rules for sitting next to women? And that’s just to name some of the questions! Thankfully, my friend who I spoke about in this post showed me the ropes and answered my simple but important questions. Also, I was able to seek out some answers to these questions from a website about the buses in Amman made by volunteers.
Pictured: Informal bus route map for Amman from maannasel.net.
Thinking here vs. thinking there
That’s the interesting thing about critical thinking, an often highlighted skill in university outcome goals, is the results of thinking critically in environment over another might look quite different. This is because variables, like relations, values, costs, and rewards are weighed differently in different contexts. Your critiques of other people’s actions are shakier if you don’t understand their motivations and reasons.
That being said, it is fair to critique actions when you are arguing changing the weights for different factors. For instance, the state of transportation and traffic in Amman is bad. Critics state that more people would like to take the bus, but that often times buses and the like can be unreliable. This then creates more traffic by incentivizing more taxis to be on the roads. When more people take taxis, there is less incentive to invest further into transportation! This is a challenge even for countries that do not already suffer from economic problems.
Pictured: Painted trees at the University of Jordan. Why do they do that? For some reason, obviously.
Here is a shortlist of things that I have worked to understand the logic behind them:
- People lining up isn’t really a thing. You have to push your way to the front, but there is a general sense of who ever was there first goes first.
- Business interactions can involve multiple interactions at once. Whether this means waiting for the next customer to pay so that you can get proper change, or buying something from a store while the employee is working or talking with someone else.
- Pedestrian traffic does not have a logic that I yet understand. The amount of times I’ve narrowly avoided shoulder bumping people is concerning to me. The normal left/right splitting of foot traffic doesn’t really exist, probably because…
- Car traffic is more fluid than structured. Lines are a suggestion, the grace period of what is considered running a red light is extended here. Also, horns are used to warn others about you overtaking them.