July 24, 2006

Three Weeks in Jordan

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow I will have been in Jordan for three full weeks. In terms of crossing things out on my list of things to do, places to visit, and people to meet, I have accomplished almost nothing. The reason is simple: when you are in Jordan, you have no control over your time.

No, I’m not exaggerating. My sisters, parents, and I have been working and studying all year, and we like to think that these six weeks in Jordan will be a break from the stresses of daily life in the US. Indeed, we are extremely naïve to assume that this would be the case. I really am holding myself back from pouring out all the complaints I have and elaborating on everything that has annoyed me since being here. But alas, I must let off a little steam.

So back to the time issue. No control over it at all. Every extended family member here wants you to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with them. If you don’t want to, they will swear to divorce their wife or swear that they will not speak to you again. If that doesn’t scare you, then they will just come to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at your home.

Privacy, with regards to every aspect of your life, is non-existent here.

When you are in Jordan, expect your phone to ring at any time in the early morning or after midnight. Expect the doorbell to ring at those times as well. Expect that every person who visits you unannounced has at least one cell phone attached to their ear every other minute of the day. Expect that they will stay for an undetermined amount of time without any regard for any of your own plans. Expect that they will all complain about the economy while they have the newest cell phone, just refurnished their home, and just bought a new car. Expect that most Jordanians will agree with you if you sympathize with the Lebanese and Palestinian people, but that most of them will laugh sarcastically if you suggest that there’s anything you can do to help them. Expect that while the country next door is burning in flames, Jordanian youth are busy watching Haifa Wehbe videos, downloading the latest ringtones, and smoking cigarettes or sheesha. Expect that it is not out of the ordinary for you to be hit with a stroke while your in Jordan for a few weeks if you are not used to living here.

Thankfully, I haven’t had a stroke, yet. It’s because there are other things here that I really do love and admire and it’s those things that help you get through your unusual vacation. It’s the grandmother’s kiss and the aunt’s hug that are always available. It’s the feeling you get when looking out your window watching how simple life is for the goat herder across the street. It’s the smile that spreads across your face when you watch the little sheep play with one another. It’s the nice old man in the mini-market who asks you how your family is doing when you stop to buy a pack of gum. It’s the feeling you get when that old man tells you that all those chocolate bars you just bought cost barely a dinar when you used to pay a couple of dollars for them just a few weeks ago in another country. It’s the fact that you don’t need to go to four different stores to buy ice cream, nail polish remover, tomatoes, and plastic plates; they’re all found in the old man’s mini-market down the street. It’s the aroma of corn and shawerma sandwiches in the busy streets, and the scent of ground coffee I’m smelling right now sitting in the veranda of my grandparent’s house. It’s the generosity of most Jordanians that extends to everyone and is truly overwhelming.

This is what I try to remind myself every minute I am here, to appreciate the small things that one takes for granted all the time. The key word here is try because it gets really hard when you are constantly faced with a reality that is totally different from the one that you are used to living. I think I’ll stop my complaining here, and start praying that I will have more control over my time for the next three weeks so that I can really start doing the things I’ve been wanting to do, seeing the people I want to see, and visiting the places I want to visit. These include meeting with bloggers, visiting the Dhana reserve and other tourist attractions, shopping for things not found in DC, stopping by some museums and in Amman, etc.

I got a kind of late start yesterday when my family went to visit relatives in Ajloun and Eshtafaynah. The drive from Irbid is absolutely breathtaking. We took lots of pictures of the drive-by scenery as well as those of the fruit fields that we hiked through, but the internet right now is not fast enough for me to post them. I'll try to post them on Flickr asap and possibly again on this post sometime later.

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At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Batir said...

We live in this trauma in Jordan each and every day. You are lucky to face it for 6 weeks. My advise for you is to declare to your relatives that you have travelled out of Jordan, close your mobile and try to see places and people that you select.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger Abed. Hamdan said...

The first part of ur post cracked me up ! lol! It seems you lived so long in the US that you forgot how this situation should be the default case lol..you forgot SMS messages we recieve constantly..

The second part is sad, and I agree with extent...This really makes me burst. Im fighting everyday with my class mates, but no response, It's just like beating a dead horse.

The last part is wonderful, this is indeed the only advantage we have in the Arab world, I've been to Syria, lebanon, kuwait, and Palestine. All have the same simple oriental life flavor (Kuwait not always). but Im afraid that we will lose it in the near future.

Anyway, Enjoy your time with the family...and do post us the photos , asap :)

At 3:02 PM, Blogger moi said...

Batir-- Allah y3eenkom, seriously, I admire all these people who handle all this pressure. Your advice is on target and my family actually did that last year when we just packed up and went to Petra for the weekend without telling anyone. Hopefully this year we can do the same and visit other places :)

Abed-- I'll try my best to post the pics soon! Thanks for your comments and for the link on your blog.


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