Finally, here comes the part, where I share my travel experiences with you. I must admit that I tend to compare a lot when I travel abroad. That’s my way of processing the experiences I make. I guess it comes naturally when you grow up daily in between three cultures and try to figure out what behavior trait has its root in which culture. It’s the everyday cultural madness.
The fact that I was born and bred in a so-called ‘First World’ country makes people from so-called ‘Second’ or ‘Third World’ countries (I hope nobody is offended by these terms-sorry!) have certain expectations from me. Or to put it better: They don’t expect certain things from me. For example, they don’t expect me to be fine with a simple room with just a bed and a cupboard in it. They don’t expect me to love the heat in their country. And they certainly don’t expect me to have no issues with their local kitchen. I have been to Sri Lanka a couple of times and I know what it means to live there. I know that some of my friends here in Germany would freak out if they had to share their room with cockroaches so huge, you can see their eyes from far. Not to mention the trouble the local food would give them. Usually, I am fine with local customs. In fact, I never miss a chance to immerse myself in a new culture and mingle with the local people. And while most people have tummy problems with the exotic food in those countries, I have always been a stranger to those problems. And then came Jordan…
One week or so into my stay in Amman, Jordan, my host mom, her sister and niece took me to a friends place for a ‘casual get-together.’ Since we were in an Arabic country and my host family values religious and cultural traditions very much, I thought it was going to be something like a ladies night – ladies only. I must say that the house was at a unique location with a beautiful view of the hills and typical stony Jordanian landscape. When we arrived we were offered the usual warm-hearted welcome and a drink. We were only ladies. Actually I was pretty occupied with admiring the beautiful scenery – one side of the living room had huge windows reaching from the ceiling to the ground. It was also Maghreb, time for the Islamic evening prayer, the sky was colored in red and pinkish hues and there was a flock of birds gliding to the sound of the Athan, the call to prayer. It should become an unforgettable evening, in so many ways.
After awakening from my revery, I finally showed some attention to my welcome drink. I took a sip and oh-my-god, I swear I have never ever drunk something more horrible in my life! I can remember somebody asking our host what was in it: She answered something like water, lemon, lime and a lot of sugar. This was a tricky situation. I didn’t want to offend my host and I know from my aunties that they’d be hurt if I didn’t drink what they offered me. Somehow I forced myself to gulp that diabolic drink down my throat. And the dizziness started. Next thing, the door bell rang and two young men stepped in. I thought it was a get-together for ladies only? No problem. I grew up in Europe, I can deal with it. Truth is, the entire conversation of that evening slipped from English to Arabic and my attention faded away. In the end, I wasn’t listening all. I was just sitting there and meddling with my phone (I know it’s rude, but I didn’t follow the conversation). When we finally bid our goodbyes and walked towards our car, my friend and my two host moms started laughing. They were actually laughing so hard, they were holding their tummies. I didn’t get what it was about. My friend just pressed out: ‘Double-date!’ Double-date? Double-date!!! My host mom’s friends tried to hook us up with her nephew and her friend! And we went there without a clue. My friend and me called that evening the ‘mix and match’. That whole evening was just such an unreal experience, I didn’t even realize that I was in the midst of an Arabic double-date. But now at least I can say I experienced one and it wasn’t so bad how I had always imagined it…
The consequences followed the next day. I had lunch in an authentic Arabic restaurant with my friend. I couldn’t eat more than ONE falafel (that’s so not me)!!! Afterwards we met with another friend to do some shopping. I felt so terrible; I just wanted to go home. I asked my friend to take me home and on our way to the car I threw up in the middle of the parking lot. Just like that. Seriously, the last time I threw up I was an 8-year-old kid and had the flu or something. That stunt in Amman just took it to a whole new level. I was seriously embarrassed. After embarrassing myself a bit more in public, my friend finally dropped me home. Later on we realized that it was food poisoning, since my friend and the two host moms didn’t feel too well, either. Our host from the other night puréed the fruits with the skin for the welcome juice. We speculated that there were some pesticides on it and that that must have caused the tummy calamities. The difference between my host family and me is, that they are used to those kinds of incidents and didn’t have much more than a tummy ache. My spoilt tummy from Germany was not used to these…let’s call them ‘flavors’. I needed 2 days to recover (I was pretty lucky. I heard of friends with similar incidents spending weeks in hospitals).
The next day was Friday: the Islamic holiday and for many people the family day of the week. I was so fortunate to have been invited by the ladies of my host family for a Friday picnic. After we loaded our car we headed to the outskirts of Amman. There we met up with what felt to me like 50 other ladies of the family and their kids. The scenery was super nice, the place they chose very tranquil.
We spread our sheets there, had a wonderful time chatting, singing and eating. Unfortunately, thanks to the juice-issue I still didn’t have my appetite back and couldn’t nearly enjoy the delicious food all the Mamas cooked for us the way I usually do. If anyone of them reads this, I sincerely apologize for my poor appetite that day. But what I tasted was delicious, and I’d love to go out for a picnic with you guys anytime again!
The most beautiful part of that day to me was the prayer in congregation. It was a scene not so familiar to me, since I grew up in a non-Islamic country. It was simply amazing. The melodious prayer of the prayer leader and all ladies standing in a row; the joint movements; the spirit of the unity in that moment; the whole atmosphere outside in that beautiful scenery.
Once again, my host family brought me a memorable day. I met so many interesting and smart people, learned more about local customs and made new friends. Even though I was still a bit sick, it was definitely worth it spending the day outside with my new friends.
This first post on my trip to Jordan brings back to my mind, that I experienced and learned 3 interesting things in 3 days:
#1 I can say that I experienced an Arabic double-date.
#2 That trip taught me that even my Sri Lankan tummy isn’t invincible.
#3 I had an unforgettable family day with the ladies of my host family.
Thank you if you read until this point. I hope you learned something new or had a moment of laughter. I cannot promise when, but in future you will find more stories of my trips abroad. I will add some more stories from Jordan, and of course also new ones from Spain, the Balkans, Dubai, Sri Lanka and much, much more with the one or the other handy piece of advice. Until then, enjoy the spring in Europe, dream of far destinations and nurture your wanderlust. I always have itchy feet, because THE WORLD IS MY HOME.