Of all the cities I have to compare it to, the closest place I’ve ever seen to Amman is Washington, DC, except what I’ve seen of Amman is newer and nicer, shinier and bigger. (Keep in mind that the only cities I’ve seen are D.C., Boston, New York, Bamako, and Dakar, and I don’t really remember Boston). I know no one would agree with me on this, but Amman gives me the same feel as D.C…kind of an “oh, I don’t really belong here because this is where super rich people live” feeling.

I’ve never traveled in a country that had a McDonald’s…Amman has McDonald’s, KFC, Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits, Applebee’s, Pizza Hut, Fuddruckers, Subway, a million coffee places that look much nicer than any Starbucks, not to mention all the other fast food places that aren’t American. Sometimes I just stop and look around me thinking, “what country am I actually in?” Pretty much all of these are within walking distance of our school. Our student center is crazy nice. We have to scan our fingerprints to get in, and the facilities are amazing. There’s free wireless in almost every cafe and restaurant, way more than in the U.S. I’m honestly a little shocked by it. I kind of miss the charming chaos of Dakar, which I remember seemed like the Ritz compared to Bamako. I remember thinking that Dakar seemed very globalized compared to Mali. HAHA how little did I know! Globalization doesn’t even have time to visit Senegal because it’s too busy enjoying its stay in Amman. Maybe it’s just the parts I was exposed to.

The point is, I’m seriously homesick for Senegal. So many bits of advice here seem so strange to me. They say the traffic is a huge danger. I mean yeah, but it’s like Richmond, VA compared to Dakar where life is a constant dance around taxis and death. The cabs here actually have METERS!! That’s a big improvement from where I was. They can’t just say “you’re white so you pay extra because you’re richer,” which is a common response from the Senegalese taxi driver. I got warned that they “try to rip you off,” but if all you have to do is remind them to put on the meter, what’s the big deal? The American girls tell me they feel like a piece of meat here. I guess I need to stay longer to know for sure…but I’m pretty positive they could spend a day in Senegal and come back feeling like every Jordanian treated them like a sister. At least we can blend in a little here!

But wait, I’m making Senegal sound terrible. It isn’t! I love the rhythm of life, the patience and interaction. I could see myself living there, teaching my children that other people are more important than what you have on your to-do list and that it is always important to share. Although there are days when I don’t like everyone being in my face, sometimes it makes me feel like the world is that much closer to me. When I go home, everyone seems so cold and distant and disinterested. I hope our director was right when she said that here, everything is negotiable and relations count for everything. That sounds exactly like West Africa, and it’s something I’ve grown to understand although I can’t yet really profit from it because of my shyness. I’m sure she is right because she would know, and I think it will make me feel at home again.
I don’t mean to make America sound horrible either. Everywhere is wonderful, particularly America because I know it the best. Every place has its warm  and sunny spots, and you just have to bask in them accordingly.

About Virginia Vassar

Virginia Vassar is an Arabic major in the Georgetown College, pursuing a certificate in African Studies from the SFS. Her hometown is Richmond, Virginia. She just finished a semester of homestay and study with the CIEE program in Dakar, Senegal. She is now moving on to the CIEE program in Amman, Jordan to begin rigorous Arabic study and immersion in a homestay. She will split her year between the two countries to get a unique perspective on Islam and religious values in Africa and the Middle East. She will attempt to use the insight gained on this trip to help foster a greater understanding and respect for Islam in her community, both at home and at Georgetown.
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