Yesterday, we took an afternoon to go shopping.
At first I felt guilty, walking away from refugee visits to go and spend all our money on souvenirs. Then I tried to justify it to myself by saying we were contributing to the small businesses in Amman. Still, it felt a little wrong. I haven’t completely reconciled myself with that thought yet. But I do want to talk about something that happened while we were shopping.
The first place we went was a large store full of Jordanian ‘souvenirs.’ One of our translators is friends with the owner, so he promised to give us good prices. Along with that, he also handed each one of us a free gift upon our entry and exit of his store. The parting gift was a souvenir keychain of Petra. The greeting gift was a tiny little pin that caught me quite off guard.
Two flags, equal sized. Crossed as if in unison, like teammates. Like family. Jordan and the United States.
I don’t think of the U.S. and Jordan as teammates. And though I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I have an extremely limited understanding of U.S.-Jordan political interaction, I think I can safely say that Jordanian people are not exactly in the forefront of most U.S. American peoples’ minds. I’d wager a good portion of the population couldn’t find Jordan on a map, and more would hardly know what to say about the country if asked.
But one of the things that I’ve noticed here is that wherever we go, people are happy to see us. They ask where we’re from, they smile and laugh and try out their English on us, and then they give us something. A pet store owner gave me cards for two of his three businesses. This evening we stopped by a bank to exchange some money and the tellers gave us a handful of pens. Whatever they have, they share. They seem to be eager to create a connection with us. They seem to want to make a good impression.
U.S. Americans barely know what Jordan is, and Jordanians are making pins with our flags crossed and falling over themselves to show us hospitality.
It doesn’t feel fair.
That I grew up in one of the ‘best’ countries in the world. That I speak only English and everywhere I go people accommodate me. That everywhere I go, the first thing people notice about me is that I’m from the U.S.
I don’t mind being stereotyped, but I do mind that there are truths in it. That I am privileged, whether I like it or not. And all this came from being handed one little pin – a pin I will keep for the rest of my life to remember this experience.
Jordan seems to love the U.S., but I’m not sure that I do.