One of the highlights of my trip so far has been the overnight stay in Aqaba I did with my roommate Tracy. She actually organized the trip and invited me to come along! We stayed in an Airbnb and took a bus to the south of the country.
Aqaba is a coastal city on the Red Sea and has many amazing beaches. The owner of the apartment we stayed in was a really friendly man who drove us to the beach and gave us snorkel equipment. He even swam with me pretty far out, and we saw so many different kinds of fish and coral.
The experience in the Red Sea was emotional, which I wasn’t expecting, but I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. From the shore, we were able to see Egypt and Israel, and I was so overwhelmed that I was lucky enough to be in this position. I’m from the Midwest and I’ve never spent much time in the water, so I will never forget snorkeling in the Red Sea and exploring the environment.
Aqaba is more of an international city than Amman because of the resorts, and in our apartment there were six people and I was the only American. It made me wonder what the world’s perspective is of American people and the American government. I’ve been asking most people that I meet to describe their perspectives of the US, and the responses have surprised me a bit. I thought that Americans would seem brazen and over-the-top, but most people have said that Americans are very friendly and outgoing. From my perspective, I would describe Americans as emotionally-open when compared to Jordanians. In general, from what I’ve seen, Jordanians view emotions as very private experiences and are not to be shared in passing. Once you sit down and talk with someone, they are more than willing to laugh and smile and express themselves.
I met a friend when I was walking around the University of Jordan one day, and we’ve met several times for lunch. I asked her if she had any views on the American government, and she was honest about how she felt. She said that she has a serious problem with America’s foreign policy and that Jordan is in desperate need of outside help. This view is one that seems to be shared by a lot of people here because they feel forgotten and demonized by both the media and the government in the US. It’s hard to disagree with them when you view the coverage of Muslims and the Middle East from an outside perspective.
The international students in my class and my professors have expressed similar opinions of the US, but they have also been quick to say that the Jordanian government is not without its flaws. The difference as they describe seems to be that America is supposed to lead the world in human rights and social freedoms but the government routinely follows paths that contradicts this. One person I interviewed cited America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia as particularly problematic and distressing to the people here.
Overall, I was happy to hear that American visitors to Jordan have represented the country well and that people generally have a positive opinion of American people, and I felt very honored that people trusted me enough to be honest about how they feel about the United States.