By Malena Price, 2nd-year MSc-GH student
One month ago today, I arrived in Jordan to study Arabic and conduct research on family planning among Jordanians and Syrian refugees. I cannot believe the time has passed so quickly. When I sit and reflect upon my experience in this country thus far, I cannot help but acknowledge what a welcoming place this is.
Not just welcoming, as in, when you pass people on the street, they say, “Welcome to Jordan” with large smiles upon their faces. What I mean by welcoming is that since 1948 when Palestine was occupied by the Israeli state, Jordan welcomed Palestinians with open arms and allowed them to make this country their home. Jordan gave them a chance at a better life, and they have admittedly said it has been a blessing ever since. Jordan not only welcomed Palestinians in 1948, but they welcomed them again in 1967 after the Six-Day War between several Arab states and Israel.
I had always known that of all countries in the Middle East, Jordan was the one that didn’t think twice to open its borders to those who needed them most. However, what I didn’t realize was that most people I’d meet here upon asking them if they’re Jordanian would say, “Yes, well I’m from here, but my family is from Palestine.”
Jordan didn’t just stop at extending its borders to Palestinians, but they have become a home to Iraqis after the U.S. occupied the country in the early 21st century, and they have become a home, as most know, to Syrian refugees fleeing demise and catastrophe post-2011.
Jordan is also home to many Westerners. Due to the job opportunities in development, technology, and human rights, I have met countless people coming from Europe, the UK, Scandinavia, Canada, and the U.S. Jordan has become a permanent home for many, all coming from differing backgrounds, cultures, and traditions.
Some venture here for work and educational opportunities, while others come to escape war and bloodshed. But the common thread among us all is that we are looking for new opportunities and a place to call home, and Jordan affords this to us. After previously traveling to other countries, those in the Middle East and those in the West, and learning more about immigrant and migrant policies among these nations, I cannot help but to applaud Jordan.
Given its size and limited resources, particularly water, which is to run out by 2030, Jordan to me embodies true humanity and love; Jordan should serve as an example to many other countries that are divided in their stances on foreign policy due to xenophobia, a lack of empathy and understanding, and the prioritization of capitalism.
Despite the beauty here that is apparent and admirable, it is only fair to acknowledge the pitfalls of being such a welcoming place. The streets are crowded. Areas that were once empty, filled with only a few apartment buildings, are now jam-packed. Traffic is unbearable between the hours of 4 and 6 pm. Upon speaking to an older generation of Palestinian-Jordanians who arrived to the city of Amman decades ago, they shared that the city has become unrecognizable.
More importantly, though, is that services for refugees and those under impoverished circumstances are quickly running out. The UNHCR, the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, the organization I am collaborating with, and organizations alike are doing their very best to provide to the masses of individuals who came to Jordan for help. However, it is a large feat to take on.
Despite these obvious and unignorable challenges, I feel very blessed to be here. It’s no coincidence that many of the ex-pats here studying, working, and/or conducting research have been here for a long time and do not intend to leave. Many whom I’ve met are here for the second, third or even fourth time. “Jordan just keeps pulling us back; it’s one of those places,” they say. I have no doubt that I will share these sentiments by the end of the summer.
Days filled with two to three interviews learning about the struggles that couples face in their reproductive decision-making and accessing of services, followed by several hours of one-on-one Arabic lessons have kept me busy, to say the least. My brain is on overload, but with only three months to make the most of this learning experience, I would not want to have it any other way.
I am more than thankful to Jordan, the city of Amman, its welcoming borders that have afforded me the opportunity to do my research here, and the people whom I have had the fortune of learning from.
“Yawteek al A3feea, Jordan,” which, in the local language, means, “It’s been a pleasure, Jordan.”