Patience, I think, is the trait that has been most exercised and also most beneficial throughout my time in Jordan. I’ve had to exercise patience towards others, patience for myself, patience for my work, and I’ve seen patience exhibited countless times by the people that I’ve met, or merely encountered, here.
It isn’t easy to live in a country that’s entirely unlike your own in so many ways. I thought it was, however, for about the first month I was here. I think the relative ease of the transition compared to what I had expected, paired with the “honeymoon phase” of being here, made me feel as though I had successfully created a new comfort zone for myself without having to go far outside of my previously established one. As the rose colored glasses wore off, though, I began to become frustrated by the petty annoyances that I don’t experience in America, whether the insane traffic, the near-constant street harassment, or the constant need for paper money, preferably in small denominations, to pay the taxi drivers, despite the fact that many shopkeepers are reticent to exchange your big bills for small ones. As all of this began to get to me, I forgot that I’d had a great first month here, and wondered why it was so hard to adjust to life, after being here for a decently long time. It would have been easy to just remain frustrated, with Amman and with myself, but more productive was to be patient, with all of these people who are just living their life as they would in this country, which is theirs not mine, and with myself, as I tried to find a new equilibrium. Eventually, I was able to adapt my routine to avoid the traffic, block out most of the street harassment or find humor in the more flamboyant attempts to get my attention, and create a routine with the man at the dukkan where we (or at least I – it was probably one sided) joked (or seriously complained) about how annoying it was that I always gave him at least 10JD for a 0.25JD water bottle. Had I not been patient, I think those frustrations would have remained, when really, they were easily mitigated; it just took some time, energy, and the patience to allow myself to change.
In work, as well as in life, patience has been abundantly necessary. While I’m used to offices that are intensely busy, full of constant meetings and phone calls, deadlines, and somewhat impersonal interaction, Jordanian business culture is so much more relationship based. People chat, they take the time to get to know their coworkers, they have coffee together and talk about their lives rather than their next assignment while they’re drinking the coffee. There’s a true personal connection, but sometimes it feels like that’s coming at the expense of accomplishing a ton. Sometimes, I get impatient. Why are people so unconcerned about what’s going on?!? But when I take a moment to think about it, to exercise patience, I see that it’s not that they’re unconcerned about the work, but they are also concerned with themselves, with each other, and with the relationships that they have with their friends and co-workers. It’s a desire for balance in life, not a lack of desire to accomplish work, and when I look back on a day, plenty gets accomplished, just not in a way that I’m used to. I think this way of working leads to a happier, more relaxed but still productive workplace, full of people that are patient with me when I struggle to convey a thought though I don’t know their language or get lost in the downstairs hallways.
Patience is one of the most important things someone can give others, and also one of the most valuable things to receive. I’m glad that I’ve learned so much about patience through my time here, and I hope that these lessons, which are only a small fraction of all that I’ve learned here, stick with me.