09 July 2007

Last Week

I hate the good-bye ritual. I hated it last year, and I still hate it as much this year. This last week has been crammed with great food and last-minute conversations. I’ve been filled with this urge to document and archive every moment of my last week here. Maybe this is not so strange. Many of the obnoxious academics I’ve met this year have spent their careers documenting and reenacting their own sentimental history. I’m just asking for one week.

Almost one week ago we took Yo to Reem al-Bawadi for his good-bye dinner. He’ll be back in Jordan at the end of the summer, but still. I won’t see him again until November in San Diego. Reem al-Bawadi was great. We sat under the tent and pigged-out. We smoked and had coffee and fresh juices, and still for 6 of us the bill was only 50 JD. Not bad. It was a fun evening filled with immature conversation and bad words. My kind of evening.

A few days later Emir, Miss A and I went to Hasham. We sat in the corner and at one point I realized everyone in the restaurant was wide-eyed and looking over my right shoulder. I turned around and saw a roach the size of my Volkswagen. Our waiter came over and squished it. The roach fell to the ground near Miss A’s feet, and the waiter left it there and walked away. About 5 minutes later Miss A yelped as she realized the thing was only half-squished and it was dragging its body toward her foot. I yelped. Then another customer summoned a worker who came and gave it a final, crunchy squish. I made eye contact with the customer and nodded. The worker told us that it probably came from the clothing store next to them. What ever you say. Classic.

A few days after that Emir and I went downtown to go suit shopping for him. We began in the Balid, and then took a serveece up to Jebel Hussein and looked at more suits there. He tried on a few, but didn’t commit fully to any. A picked us up and we went for coffee. A told me that my new blind engineer friend wanted to have dinner with me before I left. A made plans with Abu Khalad, the blind engineer, and dropped me and Emir off at home.

The next day at 5 A picked me up and we went to Reem al-Bawadi with Abu Khalad. It was interesting for several reasons. This was the first time A has been in a group with me and he has been the one made to feel uncomfortable. Usually, I’m the minority and I feel odd. I must admit I rather enjoyed watching him look a bit uncomfortable. Abu Khalad has been married 4 times, but divorced only twice. His second wife is younger than all of his children. The man is hilarious. We talked about politics, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Then we talked about marriage. He told me his oldest son is going to get married this year. I asked him if he gave his son any advice, and he told me that he did. He said that a man should marry a woman with some education so she isn’t capable of only talking about her shoes, or Nancy Ajrum. He said that a wife should be pretty, but not wear make up or be too focused on her looks. At this point A sat up and joined the conversation and said that this was all weird, and that all a man needed was a “religious girl.” Abu Khalad turned to A and said, “Oh, yes, of course sheikh,” and then turned back to me and continued to talk about beautiful women. After dinner we had coffee, and I know this is when A wants to have a cigarette, but because he is a sheikh, he won’t smoke in public. Abu Khalad ordered a nargilleh for himself and one for me. He told me I am a beautiful and dangerous woman because I like to smoke the shamam-flavored tobacco. He and I sat and smoked in front of A who must have about died of a nic-fit. I enjoyed talking with Abu K, and I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed being the much less-repressed me in front of A. After dinner A and I went for more coffee. He told me that in this year he has learned a lot from me. He said that he has watched me interact with people and this has taught him the value of patients. He said that Muslims are supposed to be chartable, kind and patient, and he told me that I displayed all of these [even though I’m not Muslim]. I think the essence of this was that he learned that kindness can be motivated by many things, not just Islam. It was nice to hear, and I sat there stunned into silence for several seconds. The funny thing is that I’ve learned a lot about how to interact with people from him! In any event, it made my year to be told such kind things.

Sometime later I went to Jebel Hisban for the 40th anniversary party they had there. I must admit, I didn’t go to see the archaeology, I went because our Moudera told us that we’d eat at Haret Djudna after the whats-a-whose-it. I did have one more opportunity to see David Hale (and his 5 bodyguards) come and give a content-free speech, so I guess it was worthwhile going to Hisban. Good times. Then we went to H.D. in Madaba and sat under the fig trees and ate while BAP got Abu Ahmed to talk about his 45 years of working for ACOR. Interesting stuff.

The next day BAP, C and me went to see and Iron Age site near Wadi Mujib (actually, it is quite close to Diban). I went because C said that if we had time we could go to the Bani Hamida weaving center (in the middle of NO WHERE) and look at rovings and yarn. They also have finished rugs for sale, but went to see the fiber and yarn. A lovely woman came and opened up on a Friday for us. BAP and C purchased lots and lots of stuff. Somewhere south west of Madaba, we could see the Dead Sea. We found a narrow road that looked like it headed west into the Ghour. We had a wonderful and relaxing road trip. We saw more archaeology, and then headed back up to Amman.

Now that I’m preparing to depart, a few academics have asked me for some time to talk about my work [at their convenience]. Funny, I’ve been here for 10 months, overlapping with several of them for more than 6, and yet a few have just now decided to speak with me. Oh, the hubris. I would be offended if I thought for a moment that it has crossed their minds how rude that is. But instead I’m just reminded how important it is to make sure that a PhD doesn’t turn me into an utter ass.

Ok, off the soapbox. Two nights ago A and I went around Amman so I could take pictures. We spent a lot of time in Whedat, where there are great falafel shops and great views of the city. I finally saw the Abu Darwish Mosque up close. I have had a week of good-bye dinners with my friends and families. They have been intense and exhausting. When I return to California, I think I will sleep for two weeks. Last night I had my last good-bye dinner with the people who have made my work possible. It was the dinner I least looked forward to because they are the family with whom I am the closest, and the thought of saying bye to the kids and women and brothers made me feel sad and exhausted before they even picked me up.

Tonight I’m going with my American peeps to a place in Fuheis that I hear is great (and the name of which I cannot remember right now). I’m also going to attempt that RJ early check in thing I’ve heard about. Rumor is that I can take my bags to their 5th (or 7th?) circle office, check them in, get my boarding pass, and be permitted 50 extra kilos of stuff to bring. What I imagine will actually happen is that A and I will go there and find the office shut without explanation during working hours. A and I will go for 3 cups of coffee, talk about religion, return at 2 and find workers smoking who will tell us they are closed. A will argue with them, and then they will tell me that this 50 kilo thing is untrue, and I can’t actually get a boarding pass, but I can leave my bags and Inshallah they will arrive in Chicago. This is not to diss RJ at all. I actually have nothing but good things to say about them. The food is good, the legroom is merciful. I’m just looking forward to one more attempt to do business in Amman before I go. I’ve finally convinced myself this is all very reasonable. If it goes easily, I may actually be disappointed.

What I will miss about Jordan (in no particular order):
1. Ramadan lights
2. Great food
3. Eating dinner at 10 at night
4. Nationalism
5. Driving
6. Pine trees and basalt deserts within a 40 minute drive
7. DVDs
8. Stair cases potentially measured in kilometers
9. Archaeology
10. Conspiracy theories
11. Aramex
12. Flags
13. Fireworks
14. Smoking
15. Most people
16. The ‘Inshallah Lifestyle’
17. Jebel Amman (particularly the Turkish Bath)
18. Fine
19. Mobile Com
20. The word “y3nee”

What I will not miss about Jordan (in no particular order):
1. Mansef
2. Phone calls at 6 in the morning
3. Diesel pollution
4. Abdoun
5. Lack of privacy
6. Qursh
7. The shabab-factor
8. Racist expatriates
9. Smoking
10. Dry eyes

And the last list I need to make before I go? The rules for the AMP Drinking Challenge! If AMP says:
1. That’s fucking disgusting,
2. It makes me want to puke
3. (Takes the Lord’s name in vane)
Then we must drink. This is not for the faint at heart.

Good bye Jordan.


Blogger Untitled said...

I usually read your (and Dave's) blog as I like to hear foreigners', specially Americans, experience in Jordan. I very much liked your miss and not list. I am glad that your miss list is longer than your don't miss list. Yes, sadly, Jordanians, believe in "conspiracy theory" in almost every thing. Hope you spread good word about Jordan and Jordanians in US as Glen Beck (CNN) and Bill Oreilly (Fox news) are wasting no time and effort to spread hatred about Muslims. I told you we believe in conspiracy theory :-) I really hope you enjoyed your stay in Jordan.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Weeping Sore said...

You probably wouldn't be the first person who, upon leaving Jordan, says (in a deep, heavily accented Austrian voice) "I'll be back".

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and Jodan will miss you, best of luck

1:03 AM  
Blogger Oksana said...

I am oksana arkhypchuk. Currently living in Jordan. I've posted on your previous post about the Qasr Burqu. I'd love to go travel there! It's been fascinating me for long time now!

You seem like the person who's gotten to know the 'deeper' parts of Jordan (agree with you on racist expats). Wanna get in touch? I'd love some tips on this country that has become my home in last year.

Please, write to oksana.arkhypchuk@gmail.com

Thanks in advance

Ukrainian living & working in Jordan

10:57 AM  
Blogger MMK and YMR said...

I guess a continued blog couldn't still be called "Driving in Jordan" if you aren't there, but surely you will keep up your blog in some form? After all, judging by the thick series of large red dots on your Cluster Map, you have fans covering most continents (those slackers in Antartica are apparently a bit slow!), and so you shouldn't disappoint us by retreating into Rivercyde Haven and denying us your insights! right?

11:36 PM  

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