One of the perks of travelling is the opportunity to see life from a different perspective. Perspective is a powerful thing. Powerful.
For instance, I could tell you that I am sitting at a state-of-the-art computer in an air-conditioned cafe listening to Fairouz, happy and well-fed and appropriately clad.
Or I could say that I am sitting at a filthy keyboard absorbing particularly pungent second-hand smoke while my bed-bug-bitten left foot continues to swell and herald miseries to come.
Yes, perspective is a powerful thing.
The weekend has finally started, and, after finding myself home alone at 12:30 in the afternoon, with hardly anything to do, I decided to throw caution (rather, dinars) to the wind and come to the internet cafe and write for a good chunk of time. I also intended to post pictures from last weekend's field trip, but I inadvertantly brought the wrong combination of equipment with which to do that. So, next time.
Here are some anecdotes and observations from the last week:
When you pray for God to make Himself real to you, be prepared for that reality to be a stinging, slashing rampage against sin in your heart. The other side of the world isn't far enough to get away from sin. Thankfully, neither is it far enough to get away from God. I am both encouraged and humbled by a difficult week.
We ran out of water last Friday. Totally, completely out. Apparently there is a tank for our apartment building, and then a backup tank. At orientation they told us that the tanked-up water should last for about a month. Less than a week in (last Wednesday), the water was sputtering and the doorman turned on the backup tank. By Friday we had nothing at all. (Click here to read more about the water shortage in Jordan.)
This is when we realized the importance of the city water days. The way the water works here is that you use what's in your tank for 5-6 days a week, but for 1-2 days the city opens the tap and you have access to the main water line. It took us a bit to figure out when the water days were, but Amber's awesome communication skills won the day (I believe that her question to the doorman was, literally, "Ya Ahmad, when days much much water?" It worked.). Unsurprisingly, the water days (Sunday-Monday), corresponded with what we had previously noted to be National Jordanian Laundry Day and National Jordanian Mop Your Floor and Wash Your Driveway Day, respectively. Everything suddenly made sense.
So we do laundry on Sundays and Mondays now, and some among us try to take short showers (which is, curiously, made very much easier on days that the water heater doesn't want to work. Gotta do what it takes...). Sadly, we don't have a hose to use on the patio for Wash Your Driveway Day. It's going to take us a while to fit in.
An awful lot of people don't know what they want to do with their lives. At all. It's a sad, sad thing. Like sheep without a shepherd.
The payoff for being in a foreign country where you can talk only about as well as a toddler is that you can take advantage at least of the vagaries of English-language signage. Most signs in Amman (at least in the downtownish parts) are in both English and Arabic.
My favorite grocery store is Food and Food (the Arabic sign says فود اند فود, in case anybody is wondering). Under Food and Food is an everything store called Happy Nice Makeup, where Amber bought a knock-off Chanel scarf. ("Everything stores" are very common. It's like a gargantuan Big Lots exploded all over the city, and pieces of it landed everywhere. You can find the most random stuff, and from all over the world.)
Anyway, back to the English language stuff. On the floor above Food and Food you can find any kind of home appliances. One of the popular brands has the slogan "More Professional." You can buy a More Professional juicer, iron, curling iron, humidifier, you name it. Greg wants to trademark "Most Professional" and give them some competition.
Yesterday, before going to Food and Food, I had lunch with Amber and Greg and Vincent at a place called Toob o Tatoob. Nobody knows what this means, in Arabic or English, but the sign has a picture of a smiling red brick wall wearing shoes, gloves, and a fedora. Normally running into a brick wall is a less-than-pleasant experience, but I'm thinking this may only be a cultural construct.
There are more signs that are escaping me just now, but I'll stay on the lookout.
The downside of having the vocab skills of a toddler is that it's hard to accomplish adult tasks. Yesterday I had to take my first taxi ride by myself (home from Food and Food, incidentally). We take the taxi at least once a day for one reason or another, and I have given the directions before, so I didn't expect it to be a problem.
Well, I got inside the taxi with my groceries and told the driver what my neighborhood was (it's practically on the same street as the mall that has Food and Food in it). He pointed forward and said a lot of stuff really fast about the way there. Since he was pointing forward and I was intending to go forward, I thought it was all good. Heh. After a few seconds I see his worried face in the rear view mirror. He's wiping sweat off his forehead with a napkin or something (actually, probably not a napkin; not many of those). He says something along the lines of "I am new to taxi driving."
It was his first day or something. He spoke no English.
At about that moment, I forgot any directional words except the word for "left."
For some reason he turned right. I said to turn left (rationale: if you're supposed to go straight, but somebody turns right, you can just turn left and everything will be okay, right?).
We turned left a few times.
He kept wiping his forehead with the thing, and I kept trying to look encouraging from the back seat.
After a while of lefts, he pulled over and asked some kids riding bikes where the cancer hospital was (we live right next door). They said there was no cancer hospital.
Not long after, he pulled up to another taxi (one of the benefits of no lane lines) and we got the right directions from the older wiser driver.
Once he had appropriate directions, my driver really perked up and started to try to make conversation. Unfortunately, he decided to ask me my thoughts on Obama. I thought I would pull the King Hussein treatment (EVERYBODY has a picture of King Hussein, but NOBODY will say ANYTHING about him) and laugh indifferently, but he was really hoping for more. It was a good conversation, given the limitations, but not what either of us hoped.
In the end I got a free taxi ride out of the deal. So it worked out. And I got to see more of the neighborhood.
Well, I think that's it for now.
Things are good, but the smoke is getting to me and my foot could really use a soak.