Written by current MESP student Shannon Pedersen (Messiah College, Pennsylvania)
Over the Muslim holiday of Eid, I was invited to spend the weekend with the family of one of my local Jordanian friends. Going on a Jordanian homestay was most definitely not what I expected. As I travelled out I learned that the entire family was Christian (Catholic), so it wouldn’t be a typical Eid holiday celebration.
Driving through Jordan was absolutely beautiful. It was hilly and with a lot more vegetation (another welcome surprise). When we got to the Rahini home, we were welcomed with “Merhaba” and Arabic coffee. We were also very well fed. My friend who was hosting us was Basheer. His parents spoke and understood very little English, so that was a real challenge. Thankfully Basheer and his siblings all spoke English fairly well, so they translated a lot. As a vegetarian, not being able to eat meat was initially a problem, because I think the mom found it offensive, but when she served us fruit as a snack and breakfast and lunch the following day, she learned that I really do love her and her food and meant no offense.
The first evening, the whole family came to visit. We quickly connected over card games and got to practice some basic vocabulary and numbers. I even met this young woman, Rita, who is 17 years old and absolutely marvelous. She talked to me about a camp in Maine that she participated in, Seeds of Peace. I now plan on at least applying to work there as a counselor (I highly suggest other students interested in Peace and Conflict look at it as well).
My favorite part about this weekend was learning about general Jordanian family culture. Here, the family unit is so much more pronounced. Everyone lives within 5 minutes of each other. Even Basheer and his brother live close to one another in the bustling city of Amman. I also love how everyone greets each other as if they haven’t seen them in months or years. Our greetings in the United States are so casual, and the way I greet my friends’ families is more akin to how Jordanian family members greet each other. Nevertheless, I always felt so welcome and loved. I truly do love them in return.
Another aspect of their family was their gardens. At the Rahini household, they grow olives, plums, pomegranates, mint, thyme, and cactus. The plums they picked off the vine were by far the most amazing ones I have ever tasted. I also loved the fresh olive oil, and I hope to bring some home with me as well.
To pass the time, we played card games, did homework, and watched the extensive video footage of Basheer’s and Ramina’s wedding. They had over 1,000 people attend the ceremony (the receiving line lasted for hours) and the reception had about 300 people. I love the way they dance, as it is very fluid, gentle, and energy-conserving. Also, I was surprised to see how liberal the dresses were. Perhaps I will be able to attend a Muslim wedding sometime while being here.