Busy, Busy

Three young boys pose for a picture while visiting Roman ruins in Umm Qais, Jordan.

When I arrived in Amman, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew our days were limited but busy; however, I didn’t realize how hectic and informative these days would be. In Amman, there aren’t enough hours in the day. From conducting research in the field, to interviewing families late in the evening, then writing up interview transcripts in the wee hours of the night, there is no time to focus on anything but our work. We are on, all the time, constantly writing about our experiences while simultaneous delving into the environment of Amman and Jordan. Every day is a new adventure, filled with plenty of surprises, keeping me on my toes at all times.

Not only have I been surprised by our schedule, but also I have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness of our interviewees and the Jordanians. Up and down Rainbow Street, we walk all morning and night visiting new restaurants and cafes. The locals and interviewees are extremely pleasant, never rude. Nevertheless, the few interviews I have participated in aren’t likely to represent all of my interviews with refugees in Jordan. I have to prepare myself for whatever information I am given, even if our interviewees aren’t as friendly as I had hoped. The possibility of unapproachability doesn’t discount my other encounters. Jordanians respect and welcome U.S. citizens.

The strength of the refugees we interview is incredible. As an American citizen coming from a sheltered childhood and an extremely protected institution, I have constantly had to recognize my privilege since arriving to Amman.  I have never had to face any situation as scary as having to wonder whether or not tonight was the night I would have to leave the place I call “home”. After dealing with stress of that magnitude, I cannot help but imagine how difficult it is to be strong. It makes me ask: Is strength automatic, when one has to be strong for his/her family? After being displaced, what does it mean to be “strong”? Every day, I am amazed while listening to refugees’ stories of death, loss, hope, and peace. I have learned that refugees are the definition of strength, and I am grateful to witness a small portion of their power.

Over the past week, I have learned that this experience is not about me. My personal reflections about the environment and how I am being affected are extremely unimportant. This month is about something much bigger. While I am here, my job isn’t to reflect on my feelings, but rather bring to light the past and current experiences of the refugees we meet. We are here simply as bodies, listening to the refugees, making them feel comfortable enough to tell us their stories so that hopefully, one day, more people will be willing to listen. Everyone I have come in contact with in Jordan has made me feel astonishingly comfortable, and I am excited to see what the next three weeks have in store.

Idalis French is a T’19 Undergraduate who participated in 2017 Immerse Program, and is a current Kenan Student Research Assistant

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