Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chatting with Taxi Drivers!

So as you may have guessed, my Arabic tends to be slightly subpar. In class, we just moved from only speaking in the past tense, to beginning to learn present tense. I feel like I've gone from knowing a little bit of Arabic, to knowing absolutely nothing. Weird, right? Now that I'm trying to remember two tenses, it seems that everything I've learned has flown out the window.

Now, the majority of the time, this isn't too problematic. The people I've lived with all speak English. The people at the MCC office all speak English. My classmates all speak English. So no problem, right? Wrong. In order for me to get anywhere, I have to take a taxi. Now, while I have encountered a few cab drivers who spoke a bit of English, the vast majority that I've met only speak Arabic. This means that I need to know the name of the place I'm trying to go (which limits my traveling/adventuring down to the three locations I know how to say in Arabic).

Just like in the States, some of the cab drivers don't really talk at all, and some are quite chatty. While most of my rides are pretty quiet, occasionally I'll get a driver who is up for playing the "lets communicate using the 8 words you know in English/the 8 words I know in Arabic/sign language/charades" game! I've even taken to carrying around my Arabic/English dictionary with me so that I can look up a word if need be. 

So far, I've had some incredibly interesting conversations. First, there is usually the "where are you from" guessing game. Most of the time, the US is their first guess, but I've also gotten England and France. Yesterday as I was coming back from class, I had a cab driver who told me "you so tall... beautiful! In Jordan: no tall. In America: TALL! You wear short skirts? In America, wear short skirts!" Keep in mind that he was trying to act out the word "skirt" while driving a taxi (which can sometimes be a dangerous feat here). Hilarious!

I've gotten to sample some pretty incredible Bedouin music with a Bedouin cab driver, discuss Jordanian politics with a Palestinian driver, and have numerous conversations about how difficult it is to learn Arabic and/or English. I've also had three marriage proposals, and two offers to help me convert to Islam. Sadly, I've had to turn down each of these kind offers with the excuse that it would disrespect my family if I got married/converted while I'm away from home. I was told that is the best way to say "thanks but no thanks" ... blame it on your family. I have to say, it has worked out quite well so far.

Being able to talk with cab drivers has been a really great way to not only practice my Arabic, but also to learn more about Jordan. It has also been a great time to help break American stereotypes simply by talking and joking around with people. Also, the drivers are usually shocked that I have green eyes, and they either gape at me for 30 seconds or get absolutely giddy, which is a great way to break the ice.

Overall, I've had a great experience with the drivers here. Every single one of them has been kind and fair. I haven't been ripped off at all yet (which unfortunately happens sometimes, especially if you look like you don't know that 2JD is enough to go just about anywhere in Amman). My car rides have become a highlight of my day, and I'm a little bit sad that my time in Jordan is coming to an end. At the end of this week, we have a retreat with the rest of MCC's Middle East staff, and then I'll be heading to my host family's house in Palestine! Wish me luck in my last week of Arabic classes!


  1. I guess taxi drivers are the same all over the world. I can totally relate to this :)
    Thanks Mere!

  2. Just found a message about your adventure from your dad that was sent in July when we were traveling in China. We love your blog and look forward to hearing more through the year. The Dunlaps in Denver