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"Sure, I Don't See Why Not?" by John Jessen

"Sure, I Don't See Why Not?" by John Jessen

One of many hungry cats in Amman, Jordan waiting for my host mother to drop bits of labneh from the balcony. Photo credit: Jessen, 2019

Days before boarding my flight to Amman I walked into my university library with one thing on my mind: I wanted to borrow a camera. With a camera I could photograph my first journey to the Arab world, a world I had heard about in Arabic class, but had never experienced for myself. A world in which Jordan was far, far away from my sleepy Williamsburg, Virginia. Traveling back from Amman wasn’t enough; I wanted to preserve what I would see.

A flicker of color on Amman’s citadel. Photo credit: Jessen, 2019

In the library, an attendant graciously spent his time booking my camera, helping me find a device that could, in my uncertain words, “take pictures and videos?” After making the necessary arrangements, he returned to me with a camera that easily weighed more than a small toaster. Proudly he said, “With over 30 settings, our largest lens, and an updated memory, this is the best camera we have.” My eyes narrowed… where was the picture button?

Hesitantly, I asked for a camera “more suited to beginners,” and thankfully he brought one more my speed. However, the camera still looked very confusing. When I asked if I could take it out of the country, he referred me to his manager. When I repeated my question, the manager shrugged and said “Sure, I don’t see why not?” — words that would fatefully change my experience of Amman forever.

A friend digs into a bowl of hummus at the bustling restaurant “Hashem” in downtown Amman. Photo credit: Jessen, 2019

Entering Amman from the United States for the first time was like landing on another planet. I felt as if every moment was filled with new information. Everything drew my attention: the scenery, the people, and especially the language. For the first time in three years of studying Arabic, I had my chance to speak with Arabs outside of the classroom. Everything moved so quickly and it’s only now that I have had time to reflect on my experiences.

Although I’m learning to use my camera now, with the help of many Jordanians and AMIDEAST students, I’ve managed to capture images that isolate beautiful moments in Jordan. These isolated moments help me focus on one aspect of Amman at a time. In reviewing my photos, I felt as if I was seeing each for the first time. I could stop and enjoy them fully, without other events and information crowding them out in the moment. Every image becomes its own subject rather than part of a greater image. Each moment can receive some contemplation and enjoyment. 

It is funny to think that the words “Sure, I don’t see why not?” allowed to capture these photos. However, I am grateful to have them.

Sandstone and marble built ancient Amman. The same stones build Amman today. Photo credit: Jessen, 2019

Introduction to Blog Abroad Correspondent Laurie Jones

Introduction to Blog Abroad Correspondent Laurie Jones

"Adventures in the Emerald Isle" by Ashley Morrill

"Adventures in the Emerald Isle" by Ashley Morrill