"there is no sahil."

Friday, January 26, 2007

it's been a while!

January 25, 2007
You’ll have to excuse the late posting of all of the below—I tried to post those entries the night before I left for break, but the website was being grumpy and after several failed attempts at posting I gave up and went home to pack.

I got back to Jordan at 2am two days ago after the most awful 16.5 hour layover of my life in the Sharjah airport and a total of two days in transit. Over the Pakistan-India border on foot, to the Amritsar airport by taxi, Amritsar to Delhi, Delhi to Mumbai by air, Mumbai domestic to Mumbai international shuttle bus, Mumbai to Sharjah, and Sharjah to Amman. I left Lahore, Pakistan at 8:30am on January 21st and arrived back in Amman at 2am on January 23rd . I got to my friend’s apartment at 3am, took a shower, and then woke up and went to orientation at 9, and I still haven’t really stopped. All of the students who are here for the year were required to attend the same mind-numbing orientation a second time as not to disrupt the group dynamic, to share our wisdom, and to be updated on security concerns. I’ve been meeting the 25 or so new students, and doing laundry. Thankfully, at this point I’m more or less immune to being overwhelmed, so I’m just really exhausted. Orientation II ended today and so my metaphorical top is slowing its spin. Tonight I will go to bed at 8pm shamelessly, in 22 minutes, and I’m looking forward to having the next two weeks (intensive colloquial Arabic class only, just 3 hours a day) to brush up on Arabic, go to the gym, see “night at the museum,” catch up with my friends here, get my internship prospects and course schedule in order for the semester, reply to all of the emails I’ve received since December 14th when I went more or less MIA for break, and also to piece together a coherent, comprehensive, and of course entertaining account of my last 7 weeks. Look forward to it.

In the meantime check out this headline from the Jordan Times—
Father shoots 17-year-old daughter
By Rana Husseini
AMMAN – A 17-year-old girl was shot to death by her father in one of the southern governorates on Tuesday night in what official sources said was a crime of honour.
The minor was shot four times in the head at her home.
The victim’s father turned himself in to police shortly after the incident, claming he killed his teenage daughter to cleanse his family’s honour, the source said.
The suspect told police during questioning that his daughter went missing from her house for two weeks, according to a second source.
It was not clear why the teenager left home or where she stayed during that period.
Police found the girl almost two weeks ago and handed her over to her parents after undergoing a virginity examination by government physicians, the source said. The examination showed the victim was not involved in any sexual activity, the source added.
An autopsy conducted at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Amman on Wednesday established that the victim was shot at close range.

There hasn’t been one of these in the newspaper for a while now. Even though they happen pretty regularly not just in Jordan, but in collectivist and tribal (not necessarily Muslim) societies all over the world, they’re equally shockingly horrific every time I read about them.

December 13
Today was the last day of the “program,” so I just got back from the big group dinner and “re-entry orientation” for the students (probably around 24 of 33) who are going back home now. It was sad! I am definitely going to miss some people a lot. The group dynamic next semester will be completely different and interesting, especially since I’m going to be late for orientation and so miss some of that immediate first-couple-of-days bonding…
Bringing me to my next subject!
Tomorrow morning at 8am I am headed to Syria with a couple of buds. We don’t have visas, so inshaallah we’ll get through and this time tomorrow we’ll be settling into Damascus for a couple of days.
From there, we’ll continue on to Beirut and Tripoli, visiting a couple of friends I made at the UN conference along the way, and my awesome Arabic teacher from last year who taught me the alphabet! We’ll come back to Amman after that and go on to Jerusalem (with a possible pit-stop in Ramallah) for the days before Christmas and fingers crossed, go to Christmas eve mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Then I’m going to get myself back to Amman again and head straight to the airport, and fly to Mumbai at 2:30am on the day after Christmas. In India I’ll be visiting a couple of friends from Smith who are studying there; one in Varanasi in the northeast, and one in Madurai in the very very south. And let’s not forget a little jaunt over to Lahore, Pakistan to visit Mahnoor, another Smithie.
I’m pretty psyched about the next few weeks. Should be exhausting, scary, and really fun.
Have a beautiful holiday season and pray for me—safe travels and no amoebic dysentery or malaria are my specific requests.
I’ll be back here to start school on January 23rd, looking forward to chapter II.

Photo--me and host parents at end-of-semester dinner. This website is awful with posting photos.

December 11, 2006
SO I’m finished! There is a distinct possibility that I will be receiving a C in the Archaeology of Jordan and Palestine, but no biggie. I finished reading Bill Bryson’s “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” tonight too. Overall it was relatively amusing; most of the essays were light-hearted stuff about diners and motels and supermarket variety and other things that there aren’t in Britain (the premise of the book is that he lived in Britain with his family for 20 years and then moved back to the States, and then wrote a newspaper column for a British paper about quirky differences and anecdotes). There were a couple of socially-conscious type essays; he had one really good essay on how wasteful the United States is and how much energy we use, but he also had one really dated and tired one about Wal*Mart. He was worrying about the threat of Wal*Mart invading his small town, and arguing that people in America are hypocritical for mourning the loss of small towns and businesses and main streets, and that most people supposedly adore these things but “won’t make the small sacrifices in terms of time, cost, and foot power that is necessary to sustain them.” Well, Bill Bryson lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, a town that “miraculously has so far managed to escape most of this” and that he is hoping will resist the trend. This maybe has something to do with it being ridiculously rich (hello, Dartmouth College). When I think of small town America, I think of working class America. I think maybe he is wrong in idealizing Hanover as one of the very few and very precious preservations and perfect examples of small town America, because its not. That’s like saying Exeter or Wiscasset remains an untainted and quaint miracle. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Land Rovers are what the people from “small town America” drive.

In Jordan, most large doors at entrances and exits open both ways. No need for those “push” and “pull” signs that everyone always ignores and dumbly figures out which way to go via trial and error. HOWEVER, in Jordan, there are also palm trees planted in the sidewalk. Please see photo documentation below. The Jordan Times had an article recently that made the front page, explaining the new project the city of Amman is embarking on to uproot, transport and relocate all of these dumb trees in order to make the sidewalks pedestrian friendly.

One more thing I doubt you’ve ever seen in your life is pickled cauliflower. It tastes better than it looks, and it tastes even better when it matches your sweater and your face-paint.

December 6, 2006
Ben Lee – No room to bleed

Today I went to the embassy to pick up my second passport (for convenient and hassle-free travel to Israel) and I was in and out in 10 minutes, including the security checks! I think that alone makes up for a few of the things I mentioned above…
I just finished my paper on misyar in Islam and I surprised myself by supporting the idea. It’s actually great. It’s long-term relationships, common-law marriage, and dating in an Islamic framework. What a novel idea—allow casual sex and all of the above mentioned institutions, but give it another name and require a license or contract for it for a little added thought on the part of the parties involved, and voila, the Islamic world is caught up and didn’t even have one of those pesky sexual revolutions.
A couple of choice quotes:
(Iranian President Rafsanjani encouraging mut’a, temporary marriage in Shi’a Islam)
In one paradoxical statement, Rafsanjani urged people not to promiscuous like the west, and instead to utilize temporary marriage.
According to Rafsanjani,
Presently, in our society for our youth to remain pure and honourable, and to respect the societal norms [of chastity and virginity] implies remaining unsatisfied until they are 25 or 30 years old. They will have to deprive themselves of their natural desires. Deprivation is harmful. Who says this [deprivation] is correct? Well, God didn’t say that this need should not be satisfied. The Prophet didn’t say so. The Qur'an doesn’t say so. The whole world doesn’t say so either. Besides, if one is deprived, then harmful psychological and physical consequences will follow. Science has proven this. To fight nature is wrong (Haeri, 1994:202).
Another good one from the NYT (Mohammed Javad Larijani, Berkeley-educated former legislator)
''What's wrong with temporary marriage? You've got a variation of it in California. It's called a partnership. Better to have it legal than have it done clandestinely in the streets.''

December 4, 2006
I definitely just typed “November” when heading this entry. Whoops. Soon enough I’ll be messing up and writing 06 instead of 07. Time ceases to amaze.
Tonight I went to the internet café on the circle near my house and was completely unproductive. I thought I would be good since I was alone and I have a relatively interesting and not hugely challenging paper going, but of course when the teacher gives us a tentative or flexible deadline, I give myself procrastination.
Today walking home I was reminded that I must take some photos of Jordanian sidewalks. In orientation, it came as a shock to us how often they told us we would use taxis and how little people walk here. Sally explained that sidewalks weren’t really for walking and that there were trees in the middle of them. I didn’t believe her, but then I went outside.
Another thing that kills me is how they garden the university grounds and have elaborate hose and watering systems for the red-dirt-with-a-few-bushes that covers campus when this country is in the top ten, maybe top five water-poor nations. Just another example of general poor planning/incompetence, or in the words of my friend Andy, reason #257 why this is still a developing country. Other reasons include:
-Post office closing 12 minutes early
-Spending one half-hour at the Syrian embassy and failing to get an answer to the
question “if I go to the Syria-Jordan border, will I be allowed to enter your
country?” (see also “if so, for how long, and at what cost?”)
-The American (punctual) embassy opening one half-hour after posted time
-Ordering a coffee and cake on a restaurant “hot drink & dessert” special, but not
being given the deal as the coffee was ordered forty-five minutes prior to the cake therefore rendering void because “already put into computer”
-Public bus fender benders on a regular basis
-Public bus stopping for gas on route and leaving engine running while filling up
-Rotation of tires on public bus while filled with passengers and running at station

December 3, 2006
I am working on a thrilling paper about misyar marriage (misyar means “visit,” so this is sometimes called “traveller’s marriage,” or temporary marriage) and an ad for 7up keeps coming on TV; I’ve seen it now probably three times and I am still a little bit dumbfounded. The ad is nothing fancy, just a cartoon dude surfing a wave, and it only lasts maybe 5-10 seconds, but…the song playing in the ad is “THIS CHARMING MAN” by the smiths! Talk about random. There is a very smug and very hip ad exec somewhere out there who is very content in knowing he is responsible for broadcasting 8 glorious seconds of Morrissey all over the Arab world a few times an hour.
My little sister has one of those mini-electronic-computer-learning-toys for English and it is so awful. The word that it uses to demonstrate the letter “y” is “yacht.” Could you think of a more impractical English word to teach a six-year old? On top of that, the quality of the sound on it is pretty bad, so she insisted that it was “byacht” because the words kind of run into one another. Another dumb word that should not be one of the first 26 taught to little kids is “kite.” Who even flies kites?

Some other fun things having to do with English in Jordan:
-I bought this really great kids’ English literacy chart from a bargain store near
my house. I am almost positive it was made in China or Taiwan since some of the phrases on it include “The rice cooked by mother is savory” and “Make glutinous rice dumpling in the dragon boat festival.”
-One day I was walking through the tunnel underneath the university road, and there was a poster advertising TOEFL and ESOL classes or tutoring or something, and the tagline was “English has never been easiar.” Oops.
-A friend and I were buying some ingredients for baking at safeway, and we wanted brown sugar, like legit domino-brand-light-brown-sugar for cookies. We discovered by chance that of course “light” brown sugar is in fact stocked in the diet food section of the grocery store in Jordan. We got a good laugh out of that one, although logically it does sort of make sense.
-There is a fast food restaurant on Gardens with a big sign that says “Reefy Broasted Chicken.” No joke.
-And who could forget all of the “saloons” in Jordan that serve only haircuts, not beer.
-My youngest sister just said to my oldest sister “Jacqueline, shut up your mouth”


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