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The following is a guest post from AUA Mosaic Fellowship recipient Brent Mullen. Brent recently arrived in Jordan to teach English through Geovisions. To find an amazing volunteer opportunity like this one, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today.
My last week in Jordan has crept up on me and there are many reasons that I’m going to miss this country and its citizens. When traveling to and living in places with different customs and a different language, you’re vulnerable to anxiety and fear. You are out of your comfort zone and the traditional unspoken boundaries of your home life. It is easy to feel completely lost, physically and mentally, but I believe traveling also makes you a more confident person and brings out the best in you as you navigate through the different norms. Situations that draw you out are those you most remember as time passes, and your daily interactions with strangers-turned-friends seem bolder, too.
I have collected a number of stories during my time in Jordan that I will tell to my family for years to come. I was lucky to be in Jordan during Eid al-Adha, also called the Feast of the Sacrifice. It is an important holiday for Muslims, and I could feel the celebration mood in the streets. As the preparations revved up for the celebration, I saw trucks filled to maximum capacity with sheep to be prepared for the holiday feast that Jordanian Muslims and non-Muslims enjoyed with family and friends. Businesses closed and families either stayed at home or traveled together to various destinations, such as Beirut or Sharm el-Sheikh. I will never forget being handed a knife to take part in the sacrifice ritual – it was the quintessential out-of-my-comfort-zone experience. People gathered around roared in laughter as they watched this American willing to eat the meat but unable to kill it. Thinking back on that day, I realize if I was born and raised here in Jordan, I could have easily sacrificed the lamb, but the parameters of my comfort zone were defined in a different culture.
While in Jordan, I also witnessed another major event. A few weeks ago, the government announced a significant increase in fuel prices which lead to massive demonstrations in the capital of Amman and throughout the country. The majority of the citizens held peaceful demonstrations solely to express their anger at the fuel price hike, but a handful of individuals were hell-bent to wreak havoc. A bank was set on fire, cars were burned, and security personnel were injured. In response to the violence, people came together to rally for the support of King Abdullah of Jordan. I was in Aqaba, and I saw hundreds of people come together as friends to show that they continued to support stability and peace. Jordanians say they are a peaceful country in a rough neighborhood. After the demonstration, everybody gathered for cups of coffee and tea and shared jokes with each other.
While I am sad to say goodbye to my host family, friends, and the overwhelming hospitality of everyone in Jordan, I am excited to return home. I am looking forward to sharing stories and photos with my family and to wishing my host family in Jordan a merry Christmas via a Skype call.