Monday, June 18, 2007

Scattered Thoughts

Matthew Garza

Hello All,

Belatedly I realized that I was not as thorough in introducing myself as I should have been, so here goes. Sophomore year is over and my longest stay outside the country has begun. The original plan was to spend all my time in Egypt (July-December), but then Sam and Sarah (of Tar Heel Travelers fame) invited me to come and stay with them in Jordan for the month of June. So on a whim I bought the early ticket and here I am! The plan thus far has been to spend some time pseudo-interning with FINCA, the microfinance organization where I interned last summer. Their Jordan office is still in the development phase, but should be completely operational by October. Exciting work with an exciting organization. And in less than two weeks time I will be on a plane to Cairo where I will begin formal language study, perform some terrorism research, and explore other opportunities.

This post ran a little long, so the second installment will appear in the next few days. Enjoy.

1. It is easy to distinguish between the real Jordanian patriots and those who are simply along for the ride. How you ask? The prominence with which they display the flag. But we’re not talking about some sissy American magnet or a token bumper sticker. No, patriotism here approaches a whole new level. The Jordanian who loves his king more than himself will affix the Jordanian flag to the dashboard of his car with the point firmly directed at his face. What better way to affirm love of country than by risking near-certain death every time you start that engine? And seatbelts? They laugh at the thought of it. If you’re not prepared to impale yourself with a slight tap of the brakes, well then I hear Syria has some cheap real estate.

2. The work week begins on Sunday and continues through to Thursday. Friday is the day when all the shops close up and people head to mosque for Jumua', the Friday sermon from the mosque leader. Saturday is a second day of rest for some, but many Jordanians work a six-day week. I am in the former category at FINCA. It’s exciting to get off work on Thursday. That is until the harsh reality of Saturday night sets in. Work on Sunday?! Oy…

3. Satellite TV has arrived in a big way throughout the Middle East. Governments which seek to control the flow of information inside their country now face a barrage of 200 channels in every home. And that’s just the standard package. Outlets like Al-Jazeera, often the victim of unfounded criticism in the US, are just as disliked by the establishment here. Extensive and oftentimes quality reporting on issues pertinent to the region is helping bring information to the people. Furthermore, every house and apartment looks capable of commanding NORAD from the couch. Technology marches on.

As a small side note, several countries have their own channel. So you can tune in to Kuwait, Bahrain, or Saudi TV when Euro ’96 is on repeat. Curiously enough, the Sudan channel tends to play a lot of cartoons. Guess there isn’t much to report on over there.

4. Photos of King Abdullah II are not mandatory items for the household or office, but people hang them regardless. Upon first inspection, it does not appear that these photos are ploys to improve business or brighten the store front. In conversations thus far, everyone seems to genuinely like him. So as you parade down the street, the king is to be found dressed in fatigues, an air force uniform, or a sharp, tailored suit. A limited edition portrait, found in the KFC near my office, features his highness with the wife and kids at home.

That's all for now. Check back soon for more updates.


Sam said...

great post. funny, too.

i followed the link, because i couldn't remember what NORAD stood for. turns out it's "North American Aerospace Defense Command." Oh?

then i saw this picture, which halved my faith in our military:

then i saw this picture, which returned my faith to its previous level:

based on my understanding of jordanian politics, this won't get you arrested. but i'm sorry if it does.

Gale said...

In many Latino, Irish and Catholic homes in the US a picture of President John F. Kennedy was and still is displayed prominently in their living or dining rooms. On my last visit to South Texas (2006) I noted most homes with his picture still displayed and some with his portrait hung above a religious picture.

Glad to hear the people of Jordan have outside communication.

Very sad to hear that the Sudan channel has cartoons, which as an American shames me even more as our government shows such disregard to this region.

Enjoy your stay and hello to all the tarheeltravelers.

Very much enjoy all that is written and very much look forward to all the pictures. Thanks!