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Taxi Chats in Amman
By Tahm L., YES Abroad 2021-2022, Jordan
“I’m from Minnesota, I mean the really cold place that’s next to Canada”. “Oh, I love Canada!” Despite, my numerous attempts to cite the coolest facts about Minnesota and the use of my favorite clincher, the one about Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, none of my taxi drivers have ever seemed truly passionate about Minnesota, preferring to talk about the cool places: NYC, Texas, Chicago, and of course Canada. Even though I have never been able to convince any of my taxi drivers of the wonders of Minnesota, these random conversations with them are still the best parts of my day.
These "taxi chats" as I like to call them, almost always start with simple introductory questions about where I am from and how my day is going. These questions let me practice my Arabic and let me bring up how wonderful Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes are. After our introductions, the driver tells me some white lies about how good my Arabic is, as part of an unspoken under-the-table deal for a five-star rating. From this point of the conversation onward, the chats become increasingly more interesting with topics of conversation ranging from how delicious lamb’s head is to a 1-on-1 tutoring session on how to dance to Arab music legend, Fairuz.
One of my favorite taxi chats was with a taxi driver I had last week. At first, we talked about the basics: where we were from and why I was in Jordan. After a little while of introducing ourselves to each other, he offered me some candy. Thinking of the wisdom my parents bestowed upon me from a young age, I graciously accepted it. However, because of Ramadan, I had to wait an excruciatingly long 5 minutes until I could actually eat it. To fill this time, we talked some more about America and he decided to call his friend in the US to tell him about me. After a very discombobulated conversation, mixing between Arabic and English, and many laughs later, the sun was finally setting and it was time for us to break our fasts. We stopped to get some dates, and together we broke our fast laughing some more about how hungry we were.
Each and every one of these taxi chats leaves me with a smile on my face and a little bit more knowledgeable on a tiny sliver of Arab life. These chats have shown me the true kindness of strangers and the unparalleled hospitality of Jordanians.