Sunday, September 6, 2009

One Month Assessment and Observations

As I have now been in Jordan for exactly one month and two days, I think it's time to update people on the strange / different things I've noticed here in Jordan.

First of all, let's discuss clothing / appearances.

1) Obviously, as this is a Muslim country, women wear a lot of headscarves here. I would say, depending on what part of town you are in, that in the more conservative areas about 95 percent of the women wear the headscarves and in the less conservative areas about 50 percent of the women wear headscarves. This took a couple days to get used to, mostly because you have to get used to sometimes being the only woman in the vicinity NOT wearing a headscarf.

2) While walking around the city, it is not uncommon to see men dressed in the typical Saudi Arabian garb - a white robe-looking garment and a red and white checkered headscarf secured around their heads with a black band. I am seeing this less and less now that many people from the gulf have headed back home after their summer vacations, but as I said, it's still not uncommon.

3) Every once and a while, especially in conservative neighborhoods, you will see women dressed in the full burqa, which covers them from head to toe. Again, burqa sightings have decreased as visitors from the gulf have gone home, but you still see them fairly often.

4) Choice of dress here seems completely up to the wearer and/or the wearer's family. I've seen a girl in a halter top walking right next to a girl in a headscarf and long dress with long sleeves. As they say in Jordan, a'adi, it's normal!

Consumer complaints - stuff I can't find in Jordan

1) It is almost impossible to find a decent selection of hair products at the majority of the shops here in Jordan, though they do have a rather extensive display in Cosmo. You can get all the shampoo you want, but if you want a decently priced AND generous quantity of conditioner, you might want to switch countries. The same goes for hair spray and mousse.

2) Despite the fact that most women here wear make-up, headscarf or no, the make-up selection here is extremely limited as well. Supposedly one mall in the shopping district has an extensive collection of make-up, but I haven't made it out there to see yet.

3) While packing for my trip here, I was sure I could find some more conservative shirts, etc when I got here. And I have found several nice, long, non-revealing tops. However, the majority of the clothing at the shopping centers here is exactly what you would find in the U.S. Some of the dresses and halter tops I found displayed in the City Mall looked too scandalous for me to wear in the U.S. even. When I asked Melissa about this, she said that the girls here either layered these seductive seams over their long-sleeved shirts or they bought them to wear when they go abroad.

Other random things:

1) Children do not seem to have a bedtime here. We see them with their parents out at all hours of the night. When parents have an outing to go to at night, they do not put the kids to bed first, then go out. Nope, they just take the kids right along with them.

2) When riding in cars or in taxis, unless you know the person very well and you are just two or three people, women always ride in the backseat. Always. This involves, at least for me, some interesting leg positions, as people with long legs do not always fit comfortably behind someone whose seat is all the way back.

3) I've mentioned this before, but just about everyone smokes here. And they are allowed to smoke almost everywhere. No one thinks anything of this, nor is it common to ask permission before lighting up. I've been asked if I minded the smoke a total of once in the entire month I've been here. You get used to smelling like an ashtray.

4) The American movies they show on television here (by the way, satellite tv is free. Score.) are extremely strange. All of them have actors and actresses I know very well, but I have never heard of the majority of the actual films. Also, they all portray Americans doing very strange things. If these movies are the closest some Jordanians have ever gotten to Americans, no wonder they stare at us!

5) Our landlady travels with an entourage. I have never seen her without her mother, for one, and usually with three or four kids, too. They all come into our apartment together to talk to us and pretty much take over the dining room table. It's good to be loved!

In another month, I'll probably have a whole new list of strange and unusual sightings of cultural happenings here in Jordan. Can't wait for my two month anniversary!

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