It's typical following any move to find yourself comparing one life/home/neighborhood with another. Even in our situation, I cannot help but compare our new life in Jordan, with our lives in Kuwait or even Cairo. And so far, allowing for the possibility that I may completely negate myself in the future, I would say that Jordan seems to be the perfect melding of Cairo and Kuwait. How so? Well, Amman is definitely a modern city like Kuwait. It has well-maintained roads, malls, coffee shops, movie theaters, sports clubs, etc. But it still has a touch of Cairo's wackiness with quaint back alleys and kitchy shops, road-side sellers and camels grazing by the highway.
As usual, however, their similarities are far less interesting than their differences. And as we continue to settle in, I find that I'm discovering more and more examples of how different Jordan and Kuwait are. Here are the most obvious differences I've noted so far:
1. Seasons! Jordan has four seasons and I can't tell you how utterly thrilled that makes me. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and not only do we get cool temps here, but we also see leaves changing (just a few, as most trees are palms or firs, but I'll take it)! Who needs Vermont, right? (Okay, it's not nearly that colorful, but I've been so deprived of seasonal changes for years that I'm reveling in this.)
2. Women's hair; it's everywhere. This is closely tied with numbers 3 and 4, and it's all in relation to Jordan being less conservative than Kuwait or Saudi. Yes, it's still predominantly Muslim, but I've seen only a fraction of women in full black coverage (niqab, abaya, hijab, etc.), whereas in Kuwait that was the norm. And in almost two years in Kuwait, I don't recall seeing one bobbing ponytail. Some women still wear hijabs in Jordan to cover their hair, but they're often colorful like in Egypt. But I'm still seeing more women's hair flowing than I've seen in years. It's like a never-ending Pantene commercial.
3. Crosses worn openly. I was honestly shocked at the number of women I've seen wearing crosses on necklaces and bracelets. Which, in and of itself, told me that it had been an uncommon sight in my life that I hadn't really even noticed. It's a little odd to notice an absence, isn't it?
4. Martini Mondays. Kuwait was a dry country, meaning no alcohol, even in Italian restaurants (which drove my husband crazy). However, in Egypt, restaurants would serve alcohol, and there were even shops called Drinkies that not only sold beer and wine, but would also deliver it to your door. But even still, coming to Jordan where there are actual liquor stores and popular restaurants advertise "Martini Mondays" and "Tequila Tuesdays" is a bit of an adjustment, even for me.
5. Bookstores selling books. In Kuwait, I spent a few months searching for bookstores. I was able to find about three, and they were tiny. The Virgin Megastore that had been touted as Kuwait's largest bookstore was closing within months of our arrival. I overheard a clerk telling someone, "We can't sell anything here. The censorship is too strong." Maybe he was making it up, maybe he wasn't. Regardless, the one book we bought in Kuwait was a child's Arabic vocabulary book, and we bought it at the grocery store.
6. Sidewalks (sort of). Don't get me wrong, Jordan is not lined with suburban American sidewalks, perfectly maintained, bedecked with hopscotch outlines, a haven for jogging strollers and dog walkers. However, they do exist, and there are times you can actually walk on them. Granted, there are also times when trees are planted in the middle, or cars are parked on them, or the hills of Amman have caused the curbs to be almost 48" tall (completely blowing away Cairo's "buns of steel curbs" which I had thought were the highest), but as a mom with a stroller who loves to walk, I can say that they're sort of walkable.
7. No red onions. Maybe not earth-shattering, but strange, no? We've looked in all grocery stores, from large chains to smaller shops, we've checked out the road-side veg sellers and the fruit and veg bodegas, and not a red onion to be found. So sad.
8. Prius, yes; Maserati, no. This is such an amusing change from Kuwait, I can't tell you! Not only have I seen one Prius, but I've seen several. And while BMWs and Audis and all are seen, I've not seen one Bentley, Lamborghini, or Maserati. Not passing judgement, just making an observation.
9. Traffic and right-of-way. Okay, this is still similar to Kuwait. For whatever reason, and I don't know who started it, but Jordan, like Kuwait, has a bias against left turns. Conversely, they love medians, the longer the better, u-turns and traffic circles. Unfortunately, also like Kuwait, the concept of right-of-way, and priority given to already turning vehicles, remains foreign and untranslatable. Hence, driving here is almost as frustrating as in Kuwait (though they don't reach the speeds of the yahoos in Kuwait, and seem to have a lower crash rate; interesting parallel).
20. Western seepage. I truly do wonder just how many places in the world there are left that remain untouched by greasy hands? Jordan, like Kuwait, Dubai, Cairo, etc., is thoroughly doused in KFC, McDs, BK, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Starbucks, Caribou, etc. And not to be outdone by fast food, there's also Ace Hardware, True Value, Bath & Body Works, and there's even an Ikea coming. Progress or regress, you decide (though I do love a good Ikea).
So, for good or bad, this is not Kuwait and it's not Cairo, but it is home. And home is what you make of it. And as long as we plan accordingly, we should be able to survive three more years without making one left turn.