The Kingdom of Jordan is a unique place. As I sit to write, the country is reeling from the shock of the murder of their pilot, Lt. Moaz al-Kassasbeh, a brutal event that shocked not only the people of Jordan, but also the world. In the past days, the country has rallied in the streets in memory and protest. F-16 fighter jets have shaken windows as they soar towards battlefields in Syria and Iraq with further death and destruction in tow. And I have sat in company of new friends and family as they mourn death and celebrate life.
I assure all of those at home that I am safe. I am in good company. And with every event that tears people apart in this world, there comes an opportunity to bring people together.
My term in Jordan is coming along. I am far from where I started; however, I still have a long way to go. I tend to find myself looking at the delicate balance of reflecting on the past and expecting the future. As I continue on, I find myself day-by-day settling into a routine and in this routine is where I feel like I am settling into a life. As I start to feel as though I am living in Jordan, more and more, I find that my new home is often portrayed in a different light than its reality.
A glimpse into my daily life is the best way to express my new home in a tangible fashion. My days start before sunrise, as the call to prayer echoes through my bedroom lifting me from sleep for a temporary reminder of where I am. I later wake to head to Arabic classes, where I fumble through butchered attempts at understanding a new way of talking and thinking. I then head to work, where I try to find ways to put my limited skills to use to give back a small part to both my home in Jordan and my home in the United States. Once work is finished, I return home to cook, read, watch movies, and see what little things I can find to give me a boost to continue with the next day. As the evening wears on, darkness falls and another call to prayer ushers in a time of peace until I am woken to start the next morning. On the weekends my life is shaken with an increase in variety. I often find myself discovering new restaurants, wandering the city, and seeing what unique experiences I can get myself into. Hopefully, I make some new friends along the way. Although my life can be boiled down into a paragraph, the day-to-day adventures surprise me. I find myself with people and in places that leave me asking questions about what happened in my life to put me where I am right now. Most of the time I am grateful, even if I cannot put the pieces together. It is only by looking back that I can see how long I have been here. And with few occasions to reflect personal change back upon myself, it has been hard to see. But I know it is there.
“Welcome to Jordan!” were the first words that I heard as I stepped off my plane in October and I am certain that on my last day, those same words, “Welcome to Jordan!,” will welcome me home as I find my way through the airport. The hospitality of Jordan has been ceaseless, providing a living testament to the possibility of a community that can care for all of its members when they are in need. Even in these times of sadness and anger, the hospitality of Jordan has shown bright. For every news article, story, account, or example of the negative nature of this part of the world, I can find an endless amount of counter narratives showing the positive nature of Jordanians and the Middle East. It is hard to understand without living it, but as I have come to Jordan to attempt to paint a new picture of this region, an accurate picture, I have found a home of the friendly people who love their life, love their community, and love their land.
When I first arrived in Jordan I had a chance to spend an evening with my host father and his friends in a café. At this gathering, everything was on the table from politics, to family life, to jokes and fun stories. One of the men had been translating to me because my Arabic was limited to no more than five words at that point. We started talking about the situation in the region and about the power of collective thought. His words have lingered and I will restate them here as they apply to the current events around the world. When looking closely at them, we can find a small way to start moving forward.
If you are in a room with twenty other people and one person says something, right or wrong, and the nineteen other people believe it, then it becomes right, no matter if it is or not. And if you are in a room with twenty other people and one person says something, right or wrong, and the nineteen other people say that it is wrong, then it will be wrong, no matter if it is or not.
Life in Jordan goes by before you know it. Then you stop for a second, and look back, and you see that you have come a ways.
Nathaniel Bailey serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem/Orthodox Initiative (OI) in Jordan. His appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.