StoriesBack to Stories

Thanksgiving in Jordan

Jordan Students Outside With Flowers

By Gavin T., YES Abroad 2022-2023 Jordan

If you had ever told me that I’d be running down the streets of Amman Jordan, wind whipping against my face, holding a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers, I would have without a doubt questioned your sanity. And yet, there I was all the same, a foreigner in a nice sweater frantically trying not to be late. You see, my cohort had been invited to a Thanksgiving party hosted by a staff member of the US Embassy in Jordan, an incredible honor and a way to help with some of the homesickness the holidays provide while abroad. 

I had gotten ready as soon as I got home from school and scarfed down a plate of delicious plate of Mujadara (a delectable dish that includes lentils, rice and caramelized onions) my host mom had insisted I eat. In broken Arabic I had explained that I was going to a Thanksgiving party and that I was not very hungry, but nevertheless, there I was a bit frustrated, though enjoying my food. Soon after eating, one of my cohort members texted and asked if I could get flowers to bring to our host tonight, she lives in my neighborhood, and I knew for a fact that there was a flower shop halfway in between us that I could stop at. I obliged and set off, giving myself 15 minutes to make the 10ish minute walk there and get flowers. It was a bit chilly for Amman and the wind was not doing me any favors, but I pushed forth and quickly arrived at the lovely corner of a flower shop and froze as I forgot all Arabic relating to flowers. Luckily the shop owner spoke enough English, and I spoke enough Arabic that I was able to communicate that I wanted a medium sized bouquet of sunflowers (his choice of flower). 

Students At The Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Happy with myself, I stood while a woman put together a quite elegant bouquet that would be just appropriate for the occasion. It took a bit of time, but I watched the little tv in the corner showing the world cup game for the night as I waited. She finally finished and I paid 10 Jds for the assortment and walked out, not thinking about the time crunch. I finally looked down at my watch and realized that I only had about 3 minutes to complete the approximately 6-minute walk that loomed ahead. Not fully considering that two to three minutes was not actually the end of the world, I sprinted. To fully understand what follows, it's imperative to understand that the sidewalks of Amman are not incredible, guaranteed, or usually smooth. Picture a 16-year-old American boy running and practically hurdling over the rough sidewalks. To anyone watching, I am sure that it was a hilarious cacophony, but to me, I was flying. It was a challenge that I just needed to overcome, a roadblock that most wouldn’t think twice about, an unforgettable experience. 

To make an admittedly not very long story short, I made it just on time, my cohort member was waiting and had just ordered an Uber for us. I stood there panting, the sunflowers perfectly intact, proud of conquering my personal race against time. The Uber ride to Thanksgiving was nice. I talked with my cohort member and excitedly awaited a classic Thanksgiving meal, that was until we hit the dreaded 4th circle, notorious for being terrible for Amman’s traffic for many hours of the day. Usually I would just sit back, maybe have a conversation with the driver to practice my Arabic, or just generally not care, but we were supposed to be meeting at the house around 5:10, and it was 5:00. The cars all started the routine of honking and lurching forward, as if the inches gained on the car ahead of you truly made a difference in the grand scheme of things. I’ve done this dance before, so I knew that there was no way I could speed things up, but as if reading my mind, our other half of the cohort texted, they were also stuck in traffic, we would not be the only ones late! 

As we finally made it to our hosts, it became apparent that almost everyone was facing the same issue as us, in fact, we seemed to be perfectly on time. As we finally sat down and got to know some other American high schoolers studying at a boarding school in Amman, I realized that it was good that tonight had been a bit crazy, it had distracted me from even thinking or worrying about my family in the US, which made me smile. The food was perfect, and it really made me feel like I was back in America, if just for one night of relaxing. Turkey, Pecan (pronounced pe-cahn for your information) pie, and even the ever-divisive cranberry sauce brought me back to a peaceful feeling, and it made me smile knowing that while over 10,000 kilometers (about 6200 mi) away from home, I’ve never felt closer to it. That night, I ended up really enjoying the company as well, I made some friends while also having insightful conversations about how other students saw Amman and this country, which we are all calling home for now. Though I’m not sure about the many Thanksgivings of my future, this one will not be topped for a while!