Thursday, August 9, 2007

Welcome to Amman


Okay guys this post is about 2 weeks over due, but I had a really hard time getting away from the family to actually post it. Here we go:

Wow! I’m only using the word “wow” because they have not created a word yet to describe my reaction to my first few days in Amman. There is so much to tell I’m not sure where to begin, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief. I guess it would be fitting to start where I left off.

As I finally walked out of the exit of the most disorganized baggage claim I’ve ever experienced, I heard a loud cheering coming from the center of the throngs of people standing there waiting for their loved ones. Now you have to understand, I had just traveled for over 35 hours with medicinally suppressed vertigo (on a plane…ehh). Within seconds of hearing the cheers, I was surrounded by those very people. If you can try to picture the scene: these people who I would come to know as my family, took my heavy bags right off my shoulders. I’m not sure if I can explain this in a way that would truly capture the emotion of the instant, but within moments I was receiving hugs, kisses, people touching my face and hair as if I was that cute five yr old that left 17 yrs ago! I believe that the truest sense of the word “catharsis” may be the word I’m searching for, but in all sincerity what I experienced is enough to bring any grown man to tears! I’m not going to go into the specifics of how after I was able to breath again, I was whisked away to the closest shawarma shop, but I did just want to mention that they (my family :)~ followed it up with something even better: After 17 years, I swallowed my first bite of Nablus style Kanefe! Oh and one more thing for any of you who read my last post, it happened just as I told you in my last post: My cousin Mahmoud gave me one of the strongest embraces I’ve ever known in my life.

My first impressions of Amman:

For someone such as myself who is not yet so well traveled, the culture shock is pretty profound. We take so much for granted in the United States. It’s truly a shame. The first thing that comes to mind is water. Good ole H2O! Water conservation is a joke in the United States. These guys (I’m staying with my mom’s oldest brother) get water pumped to their house only one day a week. They have to fill up their tank that day. After that if they use up all the water they have to wait until the next time the city pumps water!

The way people speak to each other here is very peculiar to me, and this can only be understood if you have a mild to medium understanding of the Arabic language. Unlike America, the gap between the rich and poor is very huge as well as the actual amount of people in the middle class is more limited than in the States. Jordan is not a poor country by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I’ve seen some houses (referred to here as palaces and villas) that are quite a rarity in the America, in terms of their grandeur and architectural style. But what I mean is that while the rich are excessively rich, most are either poor or strapped for cash. So when two people are speaking to each other (i.e. a taxi driver and passenger) they are doing this sort of dance with words. It doesn’t translate well and it especially happens when the conversation is about money but a conversation might end with this kind of back and forth:

“May God keep you for your kids”

“May God keep you for you kid’s kids, even”

“We are very happy to have met you”

“We are even happier”

It’s very off the cuff, and really funny to observe this because actually each person is trying to get more out of the other, but if you didn’t know you would think man, these people really love each other. Arabic sweet talking! In Arabic they call it Moo-Ja-Mal-At. There’s nothing like it!


Lauren Jill Hatshepsut said...

Mike, so good to read your post. You deserve that strong hug (I haven't read your earlier post). Have a fantastic time there.

I got into ARAB I again. This time with Ahmad Asfour, who's an excellent teacher; he tutored me some last year. I've been working through Alif Baa and its homework, to get an advance start, and hopefully I've figured out how to get some vocab to take root in my brain (vocab does help).

Salaam [peace] and all the best to you!

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Anonymous said...

hi Mike and all, I came across your blog when I was looking for some accounts of the live in the Middle East and to sort of vicariously live through other's experiences while I'm myself stuck at uni for the next couple of months. So many thanks for sharing your observations and experiences, it's truly a fantastic read! I have a little question, how would you translate moo ja ma lat into English? is it "polite talk"? I'm only going to take arabic formally this semester so I don't know if those words already don't mean some kind of an idiom. An explaination would be much appreciated!

Bashar said...

Hi ... I dont know how i came across this post ... but .. i found it really interesting and has alot of quality ...

"to be it" ... mojamalat which is a one word and its a plural, its singular is mojamaleh ... ppl do majalamat/mojalameh in order to keep the bond between eachother and to keep the conversation going as well as showing empathy to others .....
this could be in a form of "come to lunch" " how about you eat with me" "please have a bite"
in a way its not easy to explain it until you experience it yourself.
if you have any other questions, ill be more than happy to help :)