Posted by: jewelinthelotus | December 14, 2013

Two months in Amman

Well it’s a snowy day and I thought perhaps it is time to write a blog update now that I’ve been in Jordan for two months. I haven’t felt particularly inspired and energized about writing so have been dragging my heels. My energy level has definitely been very low the last month. It doesn’t help I was sick for about a month while here and only now feel I am starting to get my energy back. The air quality and lack of air really took a toll on my lungs and energy level. So enough of the excuses I will now attempt to summarize the last two months.

My arrival was a bit bumpy for many reasons and some I can’t even remember in this moment, but it started me thinking about the truth about traveling. The parts no one mentions-the hard times, the frustrations, unless of course it makes a good story.  Those are the parts people skip over to make it all sound like one big grand adventure. The adventure is a truth and I wouldn’t trade one single experience and feel blessed I am able to go to the places I’ve been. However, the frustrations and challenges are part of it.  Currently, I am in this phase that all our experiences are part of the larger picture of life. We shouldn’t have to carve out only the happy positive experiences or turn lemons into lemonade for the sake of being positive. I’m not saying get stuck in endless complaining, but admitting something is hard and challenging doesn’t make someone a cynic or pessimist. I think life is more about embracing all that is, not telling yourself others have it worse so you don’t have a right to your current feeling.  There are always others who have it worse and better, that doesn’t negate your right to a feeling. In fact, I think being true to your experience allows you to be there for others in their experience. The reality of travel is it often is one long string of challenges. No doubt the challenges are part of the experience and how those are faced is what allows for personal growth, which to me is the biggest part of foreign travel.  Those waves of feeling helpless, frustrated, exhausted, rage at being taken advantage of because you don’t speak the language or based on your nationality, the desire to sit on the curb and say fuck it when lost or unable to communicate in your own language. Those moments happen – at least to me. Those moments of frustration are the lesson, it is what do you do after after the low moments that determines the entire experience. Where do the moments take you?

The upside of traveling in current time is it is much easier than what it used to be. I remember traveling when there was no internet, then post internet when finding an internet cafe was a novelty, when getting lost could very well be how the day was spent. I certainly remember a few bus rides to towns I had no intention of visiting. Despite the rants people have about technology I LOVE it! Now thanks to an unlocked iPhone I am able to access the internet, make calls far cheaper than in the States and I’m grateful for what I do have. In moments of feeling alone it creates a connection even if it is superficial.  Only one time it worked at when I was in a taxi and the driver had no idea where I wanted to go, I was able to find the number of the location, call and hand over the phone to the driver- problem solved. Of course, as some who are connected with me on Facebook know technology has not solved my attempts to get to work.  This continues to remain a challenge. I start Arabic classes in January so I am hoping learning some basics of the language will be of some help. Still seeking that english speaking taxi driver for hire. 

Many have asked what exactly am I doing here. In reality it isn’t that different from my job as an Administrator in a US hospital. I am responsible for the administrative and HR needs of the hospital. The hospital project is set up to receive patients from Yemen, Syria, and Iraq who are victims of violence.  This includes women and children, who are not necessarily victims of war violence, but of domestic or household accidents, respectively.  Patients are identified by a medical team in the respective countries who need orthopaedic, maxillofacial, or plastic surgery and in theory cannot receive in their own country. They arrive in Amman and are housed at what is called a Rehabilitation Center, a set of apartments/hotel rooms, to await surgery. They then receive surgery and physiotherapy and return home or back to the Rehab Center to wait on further surgery and/or healing. On paper this seems straightforward. I assure you, it is not. Some patients need multiple surgeries so the logistics of their stay becomes complicated as does validating their needs. However, despite the politics and complexity that I will not write about, it is an amazing project and vital to the overall work MSF is doing in Syria, Yemen, and the refugee camps. I hope during my time here I am able to visit the refugee camps in Jordan. For obvious reasons won’t be able to go to Syria or Yemen. My hope one day is to be much closer to the emergency front lines.

We have complete freedom here to move about; however, as a woman that does not equate to what it means to move freely in the West.  I am working through some of my anger that has caught me by surprise as a result of a very male dominated culture.  The positive of this freedom is it has allowed me to attend a few political debates and to understand more the cultural context we are working in. I am happy to write one on one if anyone is curious to know more, but won’t go into detail on a public blog at the risk of misunderstanding, including my own. 

One of the hardest things I see daily is the amount of cats on the street. They are not the typical feral cat as they allow you to get close to them and pet them. One Saturday I spent half the morning coaxing one out of a tree and when he got close enough for me to reach him, he allowed me to pull him out and I still have all my fingers to prove it. However, I have passed one too many dead kitty and the image of vacant eyes is forever a memory stain.  My roommate and I attempted an Operation Kitty Rescue this morning as we are concerned some of the kittens won’t survive the storm. We didn’t have any luck finding any roaming the streets. I have no doubt our flat will have a few kitten guests in the near future. 

Well, I am sure this is full of typos and there is a lot I have left out, but this is my quick summary on a snowy Saturday in Amman. I will try to write more often. Regretfully, I didn’t bring my camera, but if you want to see photos, you can follow me on Instagram.

I wish all a very Happy Holiday season!!!


  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for your honesty, Debbie! I have HUGE respect for your courage and strength to face those endless, maddening challenges and discomforts of international travel. And especially since you do it all to be of service – thank you for your excellent work in the world. You are an inspiration. Good luck with taking care of those kitties! love, Emily

  2. Hi Debbie, So good to hear more from you. I totally understand what you are saying about international travel. It is a challenge is not always easy, nonetheless, part of the journey. Thank you for sharing and for the work you do for others. Love & Peace, Brenda

  3. Thank you Debbie. That was an amazing post. I was both moved and enlightened. I can’t wait to see you, hopefully in May.

  4. Thanks for the insightful update Debbie. I love hearing about all of the cultural differences and challenges. I’m sure I’ll email you with questions.
    It’s really a shame that as the world has become more open because of technology and the ease of travel, that people seem to have also become more suspicious and less hospitable of visitors from other countries. I think its great that you’re taking Arabic and showing Oman your willingness to understand and navigate their culture. I’m sure just basic words and phrases will be a help in daily logistics and ease that frustration. I’m personally a big fan of learning to ask for a rest room in every country I visit 🙂

  5. Good perspective on travel and accepting all that it is…I am much more interested in the honest approach to the travails. I was only in Amman breifly abotu12 years ago – did not know air quality was such an issue. Hope you stay warm! Sounds like an interesting project…. Enjoy!

    • I think I am just not used to the pollution. The constant exhaust fumes, draftiness of the houses and office, smoking, etc. respiratory system went on strike.

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