Saturday, October 16, 2010


Q. Are the people and the overall pace of life as hurried and frantic as it can sometimes be in the US or is it a bit more relaxed there? Aside from the driving I mean:)

A. The pace of life in Jordan is interesting.

In Jordan, there are not as many things to keep yourself busy with. Generally speaking, you aren't running around after school with after school activities such as football, gymnastics, volleyball, etc. There are few opportunities for fishing, swimming, boating, hanging out at the cabin on the weekend or after work. We don't have large yards that need mowing, raking leaves, or shoveling snow from the sidewalk/driveway. These activities in the USA are so much enjoyable, yet they are what we keep ourselves busy with outside of work and housework.

In Jordan, time is spent wasted. I spend a lot of time (and stress) waiting to get the normal activities done. Such as paying bills, not many bills can be paid on-line and there is no mail that comes to your doorstep - so when you want to pay a bill, you have to first drive to the bank to pull out cash (as most places do not take checks or check cards), then you have to fight traffic as you drive to the place to pay the bill, wait in line to pay the bill, and then pay the bill. Another example of time wasted is government agencies, hospitals, clinics, etc. There are no appointments made, so you arrive (with half of Jordan) in the morning just as they open and you wait and wait and wait and wait.....sometimes for hours until it's your turn - many times we found ourselves waiting forever and when it's finally our turn the guy tells us that we are in the wrong place.....time wasted. Really, nothing in Jordan is easy. Even the housework is more work. The dust in Jordan is awful! It never gives up. I have to dust my house every 2-3 Minnesota and Wisconsin, if I had dusted less than once a month I would have had less dust than what I have after 3 days in Jordan! Cooking is also mostly from scatch. A lot of women do not have automatic washing machines, many do not have clothes dryers, and most do not have a dishwasher. This means, time wasted scrubbing clothes in between washing cycles, time wasted hanging clothes on the lines to air dry, time wasted ironing every piece of clothing (including socks and underwear), and time wasted hand washing dishes.

The Jordanian people are very lively people: when they are happy-they are so happy, when they are sad-they are so sad, scared-very scared, annoyed-very annoyed, angry-very things can get frantic because everyone is waiting, wasting time, nothing is easy and people are lively. There are very few things that are organized here and that also makes life frantic here. It seems as though, like the traffic, people are always pushing to get them self next in line, to get their ideas heard, to get themselves recognised.

I am not saying anything is necessarily wrong with this way of life (although I prefer the American way of being organized and set up for convenience). Things work for them here....but I know there are easier ways of doing things. I often talk with the people I know (Jordanian or American) who have spent considerable amount of time in the USA. We always laugh amongst ourselves of how we use to think things were tough in the USA. How we use to think we had no time. Now we are living somewhere where things are not convenient, things are chaotic, and we are often finding ourselves wasting time.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Q. What are some of the greatest personal insight that you have gained through the Islamic faith?

A. Great question! Islam has given me a sense of peace. Peace is obtained in many ways through Islam and being Muslim. Interestingly, in the Arabic language (which is the language of the Quran and therefore the language of Islam) all words come from a 3 letter root which defines the meaning of the actual word. The interesting thing is that root for the word Islam, is SLM, and this root means 'peace'. You may notice that the root for Muslim is also SLM, and if you understand Arabic, the M in front of the word indicates 'the one who'; therefore, Muslim broken down is M-SLM, and its definition is 'the one who has peace'.

1-Islam requires that the Muslim prays at minimum five times everyday. The Muslim prayer requires a ritual cleansing prior to prayer which takes about 3-5 minutes, and the prayer itself can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes or more. This means that the Muslims takes at minimum 8-20 minute breaks from life, five times a day, to forget about life and to pray to God. These breaks from the daily activities give us a chance focus on what is truly the only importance, God. These breaks from life, give me peace.

2-God teaches us that he is in control of the world. As humans we are given free choice to do as we please; however, God is in control of what happens to us-Good and Bad. Those things that are given to us and we consider as Good, are given to us as gifts from God. We must thank him for these by saying, "Alhumdillah" -Thanks be to God in English. On the flip side, those things that are given to us and we considered as Bad, are given to us as tests from God. We are tested during the 'bad' times. To be successful during tests we are to remember the 'good' things that God has given us by saying, "Alhumdillah". This thankfulness for our goods during times of bad, give us a sense of peace as we are constantly reminding ourselves of the good given to us - even as we deal with the bad, we are not completely focusing on the bad. It is interesting living in the Muslim community because it is rare that you find people who will listen to your complaints for very long, instead they ask God to give you strength, say Inshallah (God Willing) things will improve, and Alhumdillah as remembrance for you. I have peace because I know that everything happens for a reason and not to get too anxious when things don't happen as I planned-I know that there is a better plan being presented by God.

3-Peace is also reached because we know that whatever God has instructed us to do, has validity. Nothing God teaches us or asks from us goes against the nature of the universe or the nature of the human being. In the Quran, God teaches us many scientific facts about the insects, animals, humans, nature, earth, our sun, the galaxies. There is nothing in the Quran that contradicts current scientific laws (remember the Quran was given to us 1400 years ago when scientific thought was proven incorrect hundreds of years later-think about it-how obvious it is that a book. The Quran, written 1400 years ago has accurate data describing accurate science?)! There is also nothing in the Quran that prescribes the Muslim to do anything that they are not capable of doing and what does not make sense. Even if we don't understand initially why something is asked of us, once it is applied to the Muslim life, the reason becomes obvious. I have peace knowing that God knows everything and I can rely on the Quran for guidance.

4-Peace from knowing that God forgives me for what I do not know and for my repented sins. As a Muslim, we are expected to learn and educate ourselves about Islam in order to apply it in our lives. We are expected to fall from the path from time to time, but to repent, and work towards becoming a better Muslim. Muslims know that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) by the Angel Gabriel over a span of 23 years because God knows that his people cannot change over night, and that it takes time for a Muslim to learn about and apply Islam to his or her life. I have peace knowing that I am not expected to be perfect today, but I am expected to learn, apply, and work towards the perfect.


Q. What are some of the major recreational outlets/hobbies of people in Jordan, and is it that much different from recreational interests of America?

A. My husband says, "Fishing in the Dead Sea"...LOL, there are no fish in the Dead Sea and this is a good comparison as there are little recreational outlets in Jordan! Seriously though, the most common interest here is spending time with family. The Jordanian families are always getting together, all days of the week. They eat supper together, smoke hookah, eat sweets, drink tea and coffee, let the kids play as the adults talk. During the Spring, Summer and Fall, weekends are for grilling. The Jordanian families grill kabobs, meat, and veggies everywhere from their garden (backyard), parks, and the kids of busy highways. Going to weddings and funerals are a big deal also. Jordanians have huge immediate families, in addition they include people like the children's' children of a distant cousin as part of their family! Therefore, someone is always getting married or dying. There are activities for around 3-5 days for every wedding and every funeral, and everyone is expected to attend at least part of these activities.

Outside of the family get together, Jordanians like to spend time in the pool, on the soccer field, at the playground, playing cards, and in the malls. Unfortunately, there are not very many people interested in recreational activities. There are the few who do hunt, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, and other activities among these lines. There are also centers in Amman for your children to get in activities such as Soccer, martial arts, biking, gymnastics, etc; however, they are usually expensive and therefore not widely used. Even within the school system here, not really an extraciricular activities for the school is for studying academics here in Jordan.


Q. How have you overcome culture shock?

A. Interestingly to me, before I moved here and for the first few months I didn't think of myself having issues with culture shock. As I have been married to an Arab, I am close with his Arabian family, I had been to Jordan numerous times over he past 12 years; I thought I wouldn't have any trouble with culture shock...I thought I knew the culture.

As my time here has lengthened and I have been working within the Arab community, I realise more and more the cultural differences. I have little problems or concerns about the culture itself, really it's a pretty good community; however, things trip me up sometimes. I would give examples of this; however, I don't want any of my Jordanian friends and family to read my blog, misunderstand or misinterpret my posting, and feel hurt by my words and shy to ask what was truly meant.

That being said, how do I overcome culture shock....#1-find Americans who relate to me, the circumstances of Jordan, and the Jordanian culture. I have found this to be the most helpful thing. I have Jordanian friends and family who I can talk to and I have American family and friends living in America; however, they just don't get what I mean by certain things. Verses an American living in Jordan who totally gets it when I say something like, "I wish there was a Target anywhere in Jordan, as I would drive 3 hours to get there - just to look around!"

The other things that has helped me adjust to my new environment is to #2- understand Jordanians, understand their culture, cultural norms, why they do things a certain way, and their way of thinking. I have started to think as a Jordanian. Even though I am American and I have my own view on things, if I understand Jordanian thinking I can then think as them to understand what to expect.

Lastly, to #3- find humor. I don't always get the culture and sometimes I don't want to get certain why do you have to walk, literally, two steps away from my car as I am passing by you at 40 km?! Are you not afraid of me and my car?! find humor and people who get your humor about the new environment....back to the idea of having friends from your home community who just get it and just get me!

Good luck with your transition. On those tough days, just talk yourself into believing that you have a great opportunity that not everyone live within a new community, a new culture, a new language, that sometimes you don't get, but that you will definately learn from. You will take what is good from what you knew, from back home, and what you now know, in your new home, and you will make it your own...the best of both worlds will mold you into a great person with a unique perspective!


Q. I was wondering how long it took you to be accepted into the different religion? I was just wondering how long it took you to convert?

A. Converting to Islam is easy. There are no special classes that need to be taken, as you mentioned for Catholicism. The only requirement to covert to Islam is by saying the Shahada. The Shahada is the first Pillar (of 5 pillars) in Islam. The Shahada should be said in front of at least one witness and can be said in Arabic (the language of the Quran) or in the converts native tongue and goes like this:

لا اله الا الله محمد رسول الله ( ilâha illallâh, Muḥammadur rasûlullâh) (in Arabic)
There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God. (in English)

Once someone takes the Shahada they are Muslim. Muslims, love Muslims converts and they are accepted immediately into the religion and community. In communities who have Islamic Centers, Mosques, or a Muslim community, there are classes which are taught for all Muslims (and sometimes non-Muslims are welcome as well). Many new Muslims attend these classes to learn more about their religion and build new relationships.

I converted after many years of studying the religion and taking Comparative Religion classes at the University level. Contrary to popular belief, women who marry Muslim men are not required to convert and the Quran states that a Muslim man can marry a Muslim, Christian or a Jew; however, when a Muslim woman marries she must marry a Muslim man (convert or born Muslim). Therefore, I did not have any pressure to convert, as people often think. In fact, I did not convert until we had been married for 7 years! I took my time learning, studying, praying until the truth was obvious to me. It is difficult for my family at times; however, I have never questioned my decision. It is not only my chosen religion, it is my religion, and I thank God for blessing me with Islam.

Joseph Salzman

Q. What is the cuisine like and how hard was it to adjust to the different food?

A. Traditional breakfast is a variety of dips of hummus and fava beans, cut up vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers, cheeses, olives, tea, and serves with flat pita bread. Supper usually consist of rice, meat or chicken or vegetable sauces, and salad. The food is really good and I haven't had any trouble adjusting to the food. It have been easy for me, especially because I have been married to my Arab husband for 12 years and we cook a lot of Arabic meals in the USA. Jordan also has most fast foods and many restaurant chains that we are use to in the USA, such as McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Chilli's, Pizza Hut, TGIF, etc. Although, when I was in the USA this summer, I gained about 5 pounds because I ate out a lot because there were specific restaurants that I missed from my hometown, and of course my Mom's cooking!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Q1. I am wondering about childcare and schools there.
Q2. Also, is the language in school Arabic then?

. School here is quite similar to the USA. It starts with optional pre-school, followed by the required Kindergarten through Senior year of high school. However, there is a huge difference in the Senior year. At the end of the Senior year there are tests that are required to be taken by all students. If a student does not pass satisfactory in these tests, they must repeat the Senior year regarding that subject(s) they did not pass. The Jordanian curriculum is far more difficult and advanced than the curriculum in the USA and to pass these tests takes a lot of effort from the student. When the students find out their scores and realize that they passed, not only do the students celebrate but also the families. There are huge parties in honor of a student passing the Senior year. Another very interesting and different thing about the Senior year is their final score. So once a student passes their Senior year, they have an accumulative score. This score depends their future!!! The score determines what they are allowed to study at the University level. For instance, if you want to be a doctor...the student must get a 98.2% or higher...nothing lower than this will permit them to study medicine in Jordan. (This is why many Jordanians leave Jordan and study medicine somewhere else, like the USA!

Childcare is available for working families. There are many live in maids/nannies in Jordan. There are childcare facilities like daycare. However, the most preferred way to do things here is to have your mother or mother-in-law watch the kids while you are at work. This is the safest and best according to most people in Jordan...yet if it is not available, then there are the other options I mentioned.

A2. The language in schools here is a very interesting topic. Arabic. English. Arabic and English. French. German. Whatever you want for your child is offered here. Jordanian program. American Program. International Program. What program do you want?! The majority of schools here are Arabic and English. Meaning that the students learn subjects in Arabic and then learn the same subjects in English. English is not offered as just a class, it is a curriculum. English is strongly encouraged and widely used in Jordan - as it is the universally used language for business around the world. As I am currently looking at school for my daughter to attend next year, it is important for me to find a school that is in Arabic so she can learn to communicate with those around her, as well as a school that is heavy in English as this is the language that I can help her with her studies. I am so thankful that Jordan uses English widely, if they didn't it would be very difficult for me here. I think to the USA and how it is becoming the norm to have Spanish as a second option of communication and I am so thankful for that as I understand the frustrations of an immigrant who doesn't fully know the language of the country.