We start the day by heading to Suk Abdali, which only happens every Friday. It’s a huge flea market set up in parking lot, with everything from fresh green peanuts to used sneakers. Before really exploring the suk, we needed coffee. We spot out a coffee shop close by, and it was helpful (to me, at least) that there was a picture of a coffee mug on the sign. Here, we met a Syrian shopkeeper who was so friendly. He spoke no English, but still tried to communicate with me a little bit. Getting interspersed translations from my friends, he really could not get over how beautiful Damascus is and how much nicer and prettier it is than here in Jordan. You could tell he really misses his home. He friended Becca and Corey on Facebook and not me, but said maybe after they teach me more Arabic. He gave us all coffee and water bottles for free, even after insisting we pay, and then insisting we at least pay for water. What a warm welcome.
From Suk Abdali, we headed to Sports City, which is basically a huge park with an arena in it also. It was more than cute when all a sudden a boy on his bicycle slows down and says “Bicca!” It was Becca’s host brother, Ahmed! She was so thrilled to see him and he her. The extent of English was adorable, asking “how are you” and responding “good” to everything.
Here I got to witness some of the familial culture in Jordan. People come here just to hang out and let their kids play unsupervised.We saw a little boy, less than 2 years old, scooting himself around on a small plastic car, that almost headed uncontrollably down an incline. Kids here must learn a greater sense of independence at a young age.
We needed food. “Oh Jordan,” as Becca would say, “you try so hard,” you went and named your huge chain supermarket and restaurant HABOOB. Becca and Corey begin chatting up the guy at the meat counter. He identified as Palestinian and was happy to prove he speaks English, while my American friends responded to him in Arabic.
There’s not really a thing in Jordan called vegetarianism. I had potato wedges as a meal. It’s fine.
Becca then took us to more of the “slumps” of Jordan. Like, she was surprised that there wasn’t a thick layer of trash lining the streets like there usually is. She pointed out the apartment she used to live in, and I honestly expected the area to be worse. It wasn’t as bad as she made it seem. After touring the side streets we got to a main road and couldn’t resist the corner-store bakery. This guy was Syrian with atypical stunning blue eyes, who let us sample just about every type of dessert in his store. After we said we were from America, he starts by saying something about Obama, then I heard him say George Bush a couple times and then I heard Saddam Hussein. After leaving with a nice array of pastries, I learn that he said Obama is weak and that George Bush killed Saddam Hussein who didn’t do anything. Interesting.
Our next taxi driver was a 70-year-old Palestinian, who wishes that Hitler won the Second World War… Him and his family would not have been displaced and by implication there would be less Jews. Although I had no idea what they were talking about in the moment, I’m pretty glad we got out of that cab almost right after he said that.
We were now in Abdoun, the most affluent part of Amman, filled with diplomats, expensive restaurants, mansions, the Taj Mall (*giggle*), and Ferraris and Bentleys lining the streets as apposed to garbage. Abdoun was no doubt in sharp contrast to where we had just been. We stopped at a restaurant and they spoke to guy who was Palestinian by heritage, not by birth. He said he would definitely go to Palestine if he could, because it’s his homeland.
We get in yet another taxi with a Palestinian driver from Bethlehem. He gets to go home once a month, and sends money to his four kids. He said he would not want to go back to Palestine, because the work in Amman is good. It also probably has something to do with him actually having the opportunity to see his land regularly, and realizes it is now not a place he would want to live. As apposed to the guy earlier who still views his homeland as this ideological holy place. We spent a while in this taxi because the guy did not know what we meant by “Roman citadel.” He called one of his friends to ask him where to go, and then we ended up seeing the same guy we talked to on the phone on the road a little later! They drove window to window through awful traffic, talking and laughing while various honks playfully boomeranged all around us. After accidentally taking us first to the ruins we wanted to see after the citadel, we finally make it up hill. We overlooked the whole city and it was incredible. Now imagine many many years ago there was just a huge temple on top of a mountain, with the rest of the city below it. Except the city was called Philadelphia (who knows why…) sometime before 2nd century AD. Freaking Romans built everywhere. Walking through the ruins, we hear weird music being played. We follow the noise, and it is in fact none other than two Bedouins, in full robe and red kufias, playing Yankee Doodle on bagpipes and drum. I so so wish I go a video of them playing Yankee Doodle, but here is a glimpse of what I was able to catch on film. Oh, and note the Jordanian flag tied onto the bagpipes. Priceless.
Just as we are about to leave the Citadel, the Call to Prayer begins. We quickly climb back to the top, hearing and feeling the Call echoing around us and the entire city. In the distance was the huge Jordainian flag swaying with pride in the same wind lifting the kites above us and the spirits of everyone heading off to pray. A bunch of young boys were flying kites right next to us and I couldn’t not think of The Kite Runner. Yes, Arab boys do in fact play with kites. Yes, there is so much more controversy here and around here than I’ll ever be able to see for myself. And, yes, I can just sit here and soak up the Jordanian sun and try to return to my ignorance. Or I can gaze into the distance at what was once the biggest standing flag in the world and realize it is the same flag as the Palestinian flag, but with a star. Realize the sorrow these people are living through everyday. Realize as they call out to Allah that Jews believe in one god too. Realize not everyone is a radical. Realize there are radicals in almost every group. Realize that people over in the “Western neighbor” don’t realize so much. Realize that I was one of them.
Tour Guide Becca was so proud of herself for finding this random staircase that leads directly from the top of the mountain to the bottom, where the Roman amphitheatre lays. At the foot of the ampitheatre we saw the most grass in all of Amman, with “our city/nation, Amman” written in Arabic within the grass.
Since we were already at the bottom of the mountain, we were also basically in downtown, which is filled with various shops. We go into this one shop, buy a few things, and get to talking with the shop keepers. One of them speaks English really well, and also knows French and obviously Arabic as well. They are so nice. They are Palestinian and so of course, they tell me they like my kufia. I think they asked my friends why I was so shy, because suddenly attention was turned to me. I say “ma barif arabi,” which means “I don’t know Arabic,” and they laugh because I said it in Arabic. They start teaching me Arabic and how to count. They say the numbers are so similar to English so it’s easy to learn. I had to hold back from saying, “no it sounds nothing like English it’s basically the same thing as Hebrew!” It made it easier to learn the numbers, but at the same time harder. The pronunciation is so strange and certain sounds even stranger to my untrained sheltered ears. I think I really took for granted going to “Palestine” knowing the main language and being essentially fluent in it by now. Experiencing Jordan, I can now really relate to some of the international students I know who came without speaking a lick of Hebrew. They can’t go to the supermarket without it being a challenge. They can’t always get around, although soooooo many more people speak English in Israel than they do in Jordan. I would be so lost in Jordan if I didn’t have my Arabic speaking peoples with me. I wouldn’t be able to get around I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do becauase everything is in Arabic. There is so little English here that I have to tell what shops sell by their pictures on the sign. I have to guess what people are saying by their gestures and intonations. It’s challenging, but I’m thanful people talk animatedly enough for me to understand a lot more than I thought I would. At least they use their hands to point out the bathroom, and directional terms are very similar to Hebrew.
We talked to these same shopkeepers for quite sometime, and Corey brought up that he wanted to get a haircut and ask them if they knew a place. The guy walked us all the way there, waited with us, made sure we got tea while we waited, stayed with us until Corey was completely done with his first straight shave. What hospitality! I was really astounded by how nice this guy was. Maybe he had nothing better to do, but still.
Hashem’s! No, not Hashem, like Jew G-d, but Hash-em’s, was where had the best and cheapest dinner with the quickest service. In less than 30 seconds we had falafel, french fries, 3 bowls of hummus and pita for everyone on the table. And it was so delicious. We had met up with Becca’s friend who is from Syria and is currently living in Jordan. He also speaks perfect English. It was really interesting to see his point of view on Jordan, seeing as he has lived here for a while. He has a pretty pessimistic view of Jordan. He was saying that Jordanians never smile. They never laugh. Because they live in a shit place.
Corey and I wanted to go to sleep early because we were leaving for Petra at 5 in the morning. So, of course, I had a hard time trying to fall asleep.
When I crawl into my creaky bed
I lay my head that’s spinning
Staring at the dark ceiling
Somehow I’m reliving my day
Overwhelmed by the unknown
Try so hard to decode
The input overload
Somehow letters I don’t know
Start to float unconsciously
And even when I close my eyes
They’re still there
Calling out to me
I can’t make sense of the gibberish mess beaming colorfully through my mind
So I’ll try to unwind and to take the time to decipher my new friend, arabi.