Taxi Talk

Amman, Jordan

On my way to my English conversation class in the refugee camp this afternoon, I had a fabulous, unexpected conversation with a taxi driver.

Recently, as my Arabic gets better, taxi drivers are less and less likely to speak to me. I think this is because of my Bedouin accent. People often now mistake me for actually being Bedouin, and I imagine taxi drivers are afraid of what my brothers and cousins will do to them if they strike up a conversation with me.

This taxi driver, though, when he found out that I was going to Jebel Nathif, where he himself lives, did strike up a conversation. He asked me how long I’d been in Jordan, and when I said almost 4 years, he said, “It must be for love.” This is pretty common. People often think the only reason to want to live in Jordan is because you’ve married a Jordanian. When I explained that it was actually for Arabic, he asked, “Don’t you like Arab men?”

Now, this is a tricky question. I’m friends with many Arab men, and in any case, I wouldn’t want to paint a whole group of people with just one brush. Still, I find it difficult to become romantically interested in Arab men, and today something made me want to be brutally honest. “I spent too much time in the Irbid bus station to want much to do with most Arab men.”

This really got him started, and not in the way I expected. “It’s true,” he said. “Most Arab men want something from foreign women, something they can buy all over the city, as I’m sure you know. If it’s not that, then they want something else, like a Green Card or some other way out of Jordan or a woman who can support them financially.”

Now, if I say this to most Jordanians, they’ll agree, but I can’t remember a Jordanian ever volunteering this information unprompted before. In fact, it was such an interesting conversation, I didn’t even mind that he missed his turn and had to take me around the block to get me to my destination!

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