Sometimes, when we complain about feeling under- or mis-utilized, our overlords tell us that half of what we’re doing in Jordan is Setting An Example. We’re supposed to be the friendly face of American foreign policy, I guess. And in this country, we’re also supposed to be strong, independent women who manage to get things done without a family structure to lean on.
The problem, of course, is that most of the time I don’t manage to get things done without help. And I have this conversation with myself every time I come to the point of asking for help, especially if I suspect that the question I’m about to ask has a really, really obvious answer and I’m going to look like an idiot.
That happens a lot.
Tuesday, February 27, 2001
I made sun tea two days ago in a big glass jar I bought. Um Jameel came and rang my doorbell and asked me if I was aware that I’d forgotten my tea outside and it was getting cold. I said no, it was actually getting HOT. She was thoroughly grossed out. I offered her some later and she said no THANK you, she preferred her tea hot thank you very much.
This afternoon I went in to Irbid with two things on my shopping list: a heater and a wool shawl. Shawl wasn’t that hard — I simply went into all the stores on Eidoun Street that had pretty shawls in the windows. Wool was a bit harder, since I don’t actually know the word for that in Arabic. I could tell that the pervasive shawls are mostly synthetic and if I’m going to spend that much of my limited funds on an article of clothing I really wanted wool. In retrospect this seems silly, but the little things start to mean a whole lot to you here, and I was just bound and determined to have wool, damnit. So, yeah, I ended up traipsing into and out of every women’s clothing store in Irbid and, yeah, bleating like a lamb and doing sheep-charades. But hey. I left with a wool shawl, thanks.
December 9, 1999
A few nights ago I was on my roof, and a donkey went past in the road. He was going at a pretty good clip, but he was utterly riderless. It reminded me of when one of the dogs will suddenly stand up and make a beeline out of the room (or into one) as if she had an errand to run. I don’t know where this donkey was going but he thought he was late!
I visited Cairo once before, with my parents and younger sister. It was a difficult trip even before my sister started throwing up into every trashcan she saw. It was summer, it was hot, and Cairo is a really overwhelming city. But the tourist economy meant that we could hire a guide, check off the appropriate tourist activities, and mostly stay out of trouble.
It’s been different this time. In a fit of motivation, we decided to do the whole trip from Amman in one day. This kind of plan is much less fun on a backpacker’s budget than when your parents are working through a travel agency. By the time we disembarked in Cairo proper we were all teetering on the edge of completely losing it. It was one of those moments in traveling in a group when things can get said that make the rest of the trip difficult. So it may, in the big picture, have actually been fortunate that just at that moment a young boy — probably not even a teen — biked past our little huddle and, as he passed, casually grabbed my breast.
Thinking of joining the Peace Corps in a country whose language you don’t speak?
Let me sum it up for you in one paragraph I just found in an old letter to my parents.
For some reason school got out an hour early today. Nobody ever explains anything to
me. I just noticed that everybody was leaving, so I left too. Sometimes I feel like I’m
living in the Twilight Zone.
There you have it, kids.