25 January 2010

East Amman: Now Further Away Than Ever

I can’t decide if I’m still jet lagged, or if going and seeing one family in east 3mman last night (and returning home early this morning) is what caused me to wake up at the mid day prayer.  My desire to quit coffee has officially failed.  I had A LOT last night.

I’ve been here a few days, and until last night I’ve been around west 3mman.  B, the director here, invited me to her lovely apartment for dinks a few nights ago.  I showed up at 6:30 in my customary un-tucked t-shirt and wrinkled pants to find an apartment filled with 1) people much older than me; 2) much better dressed than me; and with 3) real jobs.  B is as thoughtful as I am awkward, and that’s pretty thoughtful.  She introduced me to several people and made sure I had a constantly filled glass of wine.  I spoke with Jordanians and Europeans/Americans about my work, following the thoughtful prompting of B.  Though these people have lived here for years, or for their entire lives, I get the impression I’ve seen much more of 3mman than they have.  Every single person was shocked to hear that Urdustenees in the camps are very religious people.  Many actually said, “What a shame,” a sentiment with which I’m inclined to agree, but only because I dislike religion, and not because I think that Palestinians “need to learn to do better.”  In any event, it was a good reminder of how disconnected 3mman’s elites are from everyone else here. 

Last night I was picked up at 8 to go have dinner with one family in one of the camps in east 3mman.  First off, there are a lot of new babies to meet.  So far everyone I’ve seen has at least one new kid, and one woman has had two in the last three years.  My mother will be happy to know that I delivered her gift to A for his wife.  He quit smoking just over a year ago, and went to 3mmrah last year (that’s going to Mecca when it’s not 7ajj time).  They have a 5th child, a son.  They are doing well, though I haven’t seen his family yet, just him.  The family I went to visit last night, however, is not doing so well.  There are more kids, and less to go around.  The tone of our conversations seemed different to me.  I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m not used to it anymore, or if we all really have changed. 

Some things have stayed the same; they still dislike worldly stuff, and they still think I need to come to my senses.  W, the lady of the house, asked me if I finished school, and I told her I did.  She told me that I shouldn’t get too hung up on the accomplishment, because “these things are not what matters to God.”  Then, not 10 minutes later when a neighbor came by to say Salaam, W went on and on about how a doktora is visiting them.  So much for not important.  I’ll just wait right over here for my graduation gift…

I found them to be even more religious than last we talked.  I thought that wasn’t possible, but I stand corrected.  They are focused more on Iran, and remain convinced that Iran has taken over Iraq.  That’s not so far off the mark.  I was surprised to learn that many of them have begun to interact more with the Iraqi Shia here, though.  There seems to be a big push to convert them to Sunni Islam.  According to my friends, this push is pretty successful, because, of course, Sunni Islam is the obvious truth, and it’s based on evidence.  I guess I was surprised to hear them speak more openly about direct action, as opposed to talking about Islamic praxis and proof, which was the theme 3 years ago. 

Also surprising, they were willing to talk about politics.  This is big.  This has never happened.  Last night, though, they did it unprompted.  That’s going to take some getting used to.  Of course the Zionists are still responsible for everything terrible, but this time they were able to be much more specific instead of relying on the good old Middle East standard unit of information: The Rumor. 

They like Obama, though I could not convince any of them that he is not Muslim.  The good news for Obama is that despite his inaction, he has not yet pissed away the good will people here are extending to him. 

I guess, in short, east 3mman has moved to the right, while west Amman has shut its eyes even tighter. 

But, some good news.  S took me to a cupcake place in 3bdoun.  We went late, and they were out of everything.  But, it’s wonderful to see such a great shop here.  I hope I get to try one before I head back.

Some weird news.  My phone number is only one number different from A’s.  He told me that his oldest son asked about me, and 2 hours later I called him. 


Blogger Weeping Sore said...

Coffee, cupcakes and politics. More kids and more religion. Sounds like home to me. Happy about A and the almost-Haj. Is there an Arabic word, equivalent to Hadji, that would identify someone who has been to Mecca in the off-season?
Also, presume you remembered how to wear a head scarf properly. Like riding a bike: you always remember?

8:29 PM  
Blogger Martha in Michigan said...

Thought of you last night while watching The Hurt Locker, filmed in Jordan. Glad you are able to get back for an update. I've gotten through the hard parts of your dissertation and now look forward to the more anecdotal sections. (Confess I spent a lot of time reformatting it first, as I just couldn't seem to read the double-spaced version.) I've already learned a lot and hope there's time to discuss it by email before you get really busy in March!

9:31 PM  

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