Many of you are probably sick and tired of me referencing Jordan on this blog. I constantly toss in side notes, anecdotes, and the ever so obnoxious “Well back when I was in JORDAN” that probably annoy you to death. So, the appearance of this post shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise. Does this mean I will silence my Middle Eastern referencing from now on? Probably not.
However, I call up that experience so often for a couple of good reasons: 1) It was very recent. Last spring isn’t so far away yet, and I will not lie-not a day goes by that I don’t think of my time abroad last semester, and miss it very much. 2) It’s my only other extended-stay abroad experience, so it’s what I have to go on. 3) Peru and Jordan just so happen to have a few aspects that are reminiscent of one another, although I still consider them to be very different worlds.
So, just going to throw together a quick list comparing and contrasting the two countries based on experiences I’ve had so far. I’ll go ahead and skip the painfully obvious-Jordan is an Islamic, conservative country for the most part, and Peru-or really, I should say Lima, because I haven’t been anywhere else yet like the more rural, traditional areas-is very much “westernized”. Now, on with it!
Toilets: Yes, we’re starting there. Why? Well, because they work the same! That is to say, neither country has pipe systems built to handle paper waste. So all toilet paper goes in widdle trashcans in each stall/restroom that are emptied out frequently. A shockingly hard habit to break at first, but once you get used to it, it ain’t no thang.
Showers/Water Supply: On a similar line…in Jordan, water is a disastrously scarce resource, and the population is using way more than they really should. That being said, people are often asked to take shorter showers & turn off water when lathering, etc, and to conserve in other ways. (I won’t go into detail about how people ironically often waste water there…but just rest assured that both I and a friend of mine wrote long papers on the topic last semester.) Peru, likewise, has a large portion of the country in the desert. Lima, actually, is smack in the middle of a desert. But can you tell? Nope. This city is BURSTING with green, and watering trucks literally drive around spewing water out of hoses to keep it that way. So showering is not a problem, although I try not to waste water anyay. I haven’t looked into the subject, but I’m assuming that Peru’s UBER diverse geography (mountains, deserts, rainforests, and literally I think several hundred micro-climates overall) provides water from other parts of the country to Lima.
Niswanjiin/Mujeriegos: In Arabic & Spanish, respectively, these terms mean “womanizers” or men who pursue women at obnoxious lengths. In Jordan, this means lots of whistles, staring “pss pss”-ing like at a cat, and on occasion some very forward motions. Especially if you make the mistake of doing something they could interpret as being interested. However, I have always found that very icy, business-like mannerisms kept me out of trouble there. In Peru, as I have noted, I have experienced the same sort of catcalling, which doesn’t bother me thanks to Jordan, but also much more aggressive behavior that has, on occasion, required me to be QUITE forceful and rude–I have been pursued even after blatantly telling men to leave me alone. This surprises me, as I personally feel that rejection is supposed to discourage people, rather than make them continue? But mostly it just angers me. Note: Not saying that all men in either country are like this! I know many who are quite polite and kind. But they exist!
Clothing: Well, obviously, in Jordan, women’s and men’s clothing CAN be quite a bit different . Islamic women (almost all, anyway) wear the hijab or even more–however, their daily clothes can range from long trench coats (easiest way to describe in English) to perfectly western clothing (making sure to cover up, of course) and Christian women obviously have a bit more freedom. As a general rule, provided they can afford it, Jordanian women like to dress more stylishly. Most men in the cities wear more or less what men in the USA do (well, ok, a few more button down shirts I’d say..perhaps a bit more business-casual?) but of course there’s always a traditional outfit or two to be seen. In Peru? It’s more or less like the USA. You have the stylistas, of course (fyi, women’s boots are a BIG thing here in the winter) but there are also tons of hoodies, leggings, etc. Oh, also, in Peru leather/imitation leather jackets are EVERYWHERE. Luckily, out of sheer coincidence I bought one right before arriving. 😀
Food: Sorry, can’t compare here, really. Both absolutely amazing but even more different than apples and oranges. Apples and steak, is more like it. I give positive points to Peru for giving me my piggy options, but so far I have been less than impressed with their bread…a big blow for a carbivore like myself & something at which Jordan excels. 🙂 As I said, the types of cuisine are way too different to REALLY compare, but they do share elements here and there like abundant use of rice, lentils (at my house anyway), huge portions, and a serious commitment to bringing people together over meals/pride in their cuisine.
Transport: Well, in Jordan I typically rode in taxi’s ALL the time. A wee expensive, but the most convenient way to get to where you wanted–provided you knew WHERE that was. Street names are NOT known in Jordan except for a few. Relative location is key, so you either have to give directions most of the time or have a good reference point that your driver will know. Other than taxi’s I took small buses to get to the gym after classes-you get on, sit down, tell the control (man who stands at the door shouting destinations to waiting crowds) where you’re going & pay him. These exact same buses-micros– exist in Peru as well, with the same payment system. (Although here you are given a ticket stub when you pay, which you should hold on to incase the control needs to check to see if you paid.) Also, destinations here are shouted and also painted on the sides of the bus. Helpful. In Peru, I have so far NEVER used a taxi except coming from the airport with a driver trusted by my host mom. The thousands of street taxis (normal cars with “taxi” signs in the window) are not safe for foreigners, because you never know who’s going to have a gun and rob his passengers or something. There are yellow taxis here & silver/blue”taxi metropolitano” that are more safe to take, albeit a little harder to catch, but the only super-duper-trooper safe taxi’s you have to call for from private companies. They are much more expensive, but were I in a bind late at night, you bet your bottom dollar that’s how I’d be getting home.
Animals: Ok, I haven’t really met a lot of animals in either country. Really I just wanted to take a moment to make note that camels and llamas/alpacas are related. Long necks, love to spit and bite, rather terrifying smiles? Yep, family. And that’s awesome. Although I guess I could make the note here that Peruvians keep pets-they absolutely LOVE dogs and cats, and all the cats I’ve seen roaming parks are petted and fed by locals regularly. Jordanians, however, think dogs are dirty in general and most don’t keep them or any other pets. Cats are pretty much street animals who are neither loved nor cared for, and exist somewhat like we would think raccoons do.
Foreigner fears: Bit of a complicated thing to explain, but I’ll do my best. When I was in Jordan the “fear” (I never really felt it, but go with me) was always related to something grander…random acts of terror (unlikely, but always possible) protests during the ongoing Arab Spring (existent, but never near me, so again…no real fear, but a presence!), or the classic World War 3 breaking out in the region. Of course one always had to be careful about taxi rides or walking alone late at night (for women, mostly) and whatnot, or being cheated out of money, but in general I felt very safe there. Hospitality is a point of pride amongst Arabs of any country, and Jordanians (Arabs & non Arabs alike) take it VERY seriously. In Peru, I feel…unsure. People don’t stare at me as I walk down the streets like I did in Jordan. Not to say that I don’t still stick out (red hair will do that to you just about anywhere), but not as badly nor do they care as much. However, I received SO many warnings upon arrival about people who will rob me at any given chance, put rufies in my drinks, etc, that I unfortunately lean towards distrust a little when it comes to people on the streets. Students at the university? Not so much. Actually everyone I’ve come to KNOW here has been so wonderful and kind and hospitable and helpful. But I think it’s just the constant reminders that Peruvians themselves give me about not going into dangerous barrios or watching my purse or not trusting most taxis or whatever..it has me a little paranoid. It’s because crime DOES happen here with enough frequency for it to be a concern, and for me to be a prime target. However, I counter this by pointing out that Chicago is still one of the most violent cities on earth, any large (or even small) USA city is gang-ridden, and given the senseless STREAM of killings and shootings going on in the USA in the last few months, I should really be more afraid of going home, logically! It’s just one of those things where, when you’re home, you’re able to have a better sense of your surroundings, people you meet, gauging situations, etc. Here, intentions are unknown, and social norms are still unknown.
Money: I’ll make this one quick. In Jordan, the currency (dinars) are permanently fixed to the US dollar in a not-so-happy way. Usually around 2/3 dinar=1 dollar. So, everything was more expensive there. Also, prices in general were just a lot higher for many things. (Not necessarily things like cheap street food, but clothing, restaurants, coffee, etc.) In Peru? 2.62 Nuevos Soles = 1 US dollar, last time I checked. (Sometimes it’s as high as 3). So, not only are prices on most things lower here, but they just straight up cost less anyways because their money is so much less valuable. Gotta love it. (Clothing in particular here is WAY cheaper, as is good food!)
Ok, enough. Once again, far more than I meant to write. I give up, people. I can’t do short updates, even on things that aren’t important. Guess you’re just going to have to learn to deal…or skim. 🙂