"there is no sahil."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

on the bus

(written october 1st)
I’m going to try and write a little update before BIGGEST LOSER (awful and addicting American weight-loss reality show) comes on. Thankfully, watching it has not become a nightly ritual…yet. When I got here I was fearful that my host family would have the TV on 24-7 and that we would be parked in front of it, since previous students and the director had warned us about this “family time.” I lucked out in that my family doesn’t watch TV really at all except for the news late at night and a little bit on the weekends.

Today I caught a glimpse of the ugly side of Ramadan. I think that now that the first week is over, people are getting a little bit cranky and the novelty of fancy iftar food and sweets may have worn off, leaving everyone hungry and grumpy that we’re but less than half-way through the holy month. This is very apparent on the road. In fact, today I was in a little bit of a bus accident on the way home from school. As we were changing lanes (with a warning honk instead of a blinker, in typical Jordanian fashion), a car on the left failed to fall back and let us into the lane, instead veering right into the side of the bus. In sha’Allah, no one was injured. After patiently waiting on the bus for about 20 minutes, we were told to get off and onto other buses, all of which were standing room only, so I gave up and took a cab home. (Please see photo of typical public bus at left).

Even during Ramadan people are patient. It took me a while to really notice how slow life is lived here and what a nice thing that is. Reading for my Islamic civilization course made me think about this a little more. I used to think that praying five times a day was intense and maybe bordering on ridiculous. Salat (worship) is actually pretty amazing. The attitude toward worship here reminds me a little bit of going to mass on Sunday night in Dublin. It’s not a big deal, it’s built into your routine and no one really thinks twice about it, granted it’s a once-a-week thing. Although the adhan (call to prayer) can be a nuisance if you are a light sleeper or in the middle of class, it’s awesome. People everywhere just stop what they are doing and find a quiet, discreet spot to pray for a few minutes, whether on the street, in their shop or kiosk, whatever.

The general attitude about time here probably has a lot to do with these reminders throughout the day to stop and put distractions and worries aside. Everything takes as long as it takes. No one stomped off the bus when we were sitting there stopped in traffic today (at least until about 15 minutes had gone by). There is always time to relax. When I come home from school most every day, my sisters and my mom take a nap for an hour or two sometime between 4 and 7. There is always time for friends and family, and the idea of eating alone is pretty foreign. My sisters finish their homework early in the day so that all evening they have time to visit outside with cousins, friends and family who stop by, or so that we will have time to take a walk to the circle and chat with the shopkeepers and neighbors my family is friendly with. You don’t just go out to buy milk. You put on your nice shoes, stop in to visit the old lady at the junk shop, chat with the deli man in the little grocery store, the cashier too, and maybe have coffee at a friend’s on the way home.

In other news, it’s October! When I wrote the date today I was wondering about the weather and that fall-smell that I’m missing out on. I can’t complain about the weather here, but I wouldn’t mind starting to integrate those sweaters I brought into my tired wardrobe. Also, let it be known that I am not missing out on the Halloween sugar—there are plenty of sweets unique to Ramadan that I’m being introduced to almost daily. And they are a lot better than fun size snickers.

This weekend a few friends and I took a day trip to Mukawir by way of Madaba, a little town south of Amman. We went to hike up Machaerus, a mountain/big hill where Herod the Great’s Castle was located. The hillsides are littered with little caves, one of which was where John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod (and given to Salome on a platter). Although the ruins aren’t so great, the views were beautiful—you can see across the Dead Sea and around the countryside for miles and miles. We were under the impression that it was a pretty well-traversed tourist and hiking destination, but we were mistaken. We hired cars from Madaba to the hill, and definitely had the place to ourselves. The village of Mukawir itself was deserted; we saw two people the entire day. We had big plans for a long hike to the Hammamat Ma’in hot springs which were supposedly within hiking distance, but there were not really any trails aside from small shepherd’s trails, and with no one around to direct us/no maps, we decided a couple of hours there was sufficient—not to mention no one felt like bathing in the hot springs after hiking in the sun and 80+ heat. Living around here, especially in biblical times, would not have been too cushy.

Today in the CIEE office we were talking about foods that we miss and fluffer nutters came up—I haven’t eaten one of those in a few years, but I wouldn’t mind one right now. What a strange combination. Also, I would love to watch Napoleon Dynamite.
AND my parents should call me sometime.


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