Interviewing People for ABC News

It sure is an interesting time to be living in the Middle East, especially in Jordan, which sometimes seems like a little island of stability from which we can watch what’s going on in the region. During the Egyptian Revolution, I got questions from so many people about what was going on in Jordan, and I always answered basically “not much.” To be honest, I didn’t really have much more information that someone outside of Jordan couldn’t get too, and I wasn’t really basing my pronouncement on anything but my general take on the political situation here and intuition…. until I hit the streets with ABC News.

A close friend lived in Jordan last year and moved back to the US to pursue a career in journalism (Molly Hunter), starting out in New York working the graveyard shift with ABC News. She had a trip planned to return to Jordan anyway to help out with the non-profit she ran over here (Reclaim Childhood), but she had the luck to have it coincide with the fall of Mubarak. Because of this, ABC decided to keep her in Jordan for a week and have her report a bit about what is going on here. Though Molly’s “Marhabas,” “Shukrans” and Arabic counting skills are pretty awesome, she needed someone who could speak some more Arabic to accompany her to downtown Amman to put together a piece about Egyptians living outside of Egypt and the general feelign of Jordanians. Camera in Molly’s hand, and a list of questions that I pre-translated in mine and off we went!

Now, I could literally name about 500 people who would have been better for this job, but my Arabic is good enough that I was able to ask the questions that needed to be asked, and generally understand the gist of what they were saying to ask further questions. We talked to the juice man, the keffiyeh seller, and roamed around the Tailor Souk (a little alley that is just filled with people outside of their shops sewing’mending suits). People were friendly, excited to be on camera, generally willing to talk,or at least willing to point out people who could. I asked questions about the revolution, life in Jordan, democracy in general, and  anything else I could think of that I could say in Arabic.

The general sentiment:


  • We (as Jordanians) support the people in Egypt in their revolution, but Jordan is a totally different beast. We love the King!
  • If the economic times were better, we (as Egyptians) would move back home to be with our families, though we do get to visit a few times a year. The revolution is great, but that’s not the key to me returning.

The final product: After an hour and a half or so of interviewing, we went back to Molly’s place and watched the footage to pick out the good parts so that Molly could send those to a real translator…. all for what was I guess a short 10 second clip that aired somewhat late at night on ABC news. So if you saw a random shopkeeper in Jordan speaking Arabic on ABC News around February 15th, I’m the goofy, super excited foreigner right outside of the shot asking the questions. And as another final product, my general feelings about the political state in Jordan were now supported with some nice sound bytes from real Jordanians. What’s going on in Jordan? Not much.

This was all probably pretty much “another day on the job” for Molly, but I had an absolute blast.  I think I may have found something to do if I quit my day job…

Posted on March 17, 2011, in Arabic, Jordan, Living Abroad. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Best post!! I MISS YOU!!

  2. SO cool!!! I wish I had seen it!

  3. that’s awesome bowman! you’re racking up some seriously unique experiences. i hope sawaie knows how your arabic is coming along!

    i want to say though, and not to sound critical, but the vast majority of egyptians would have expressed the same things about egypt/mubarak 4 months ago, if you had gone around and interviewed them in the street. that’s not a prediction! just a comment on what people openly express, and how quickly masses can become politically conscious and energized

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