In searching my hard drive for something else, I found a zip file my father gave me of pictures he’d taken when he visited me in Jordan. I’d completely forgotten about them and it was such a wonderful experience seeing them again. I feel nostalgic and homesick for the place I’ve called Dir Edis!
I don’t want to post pictures of recognizable people, so most of them won’t go online. But here are a few pictures of places I’ve mentioned in these posts.
Thursday, June 21, 2001
Alice and I are in Istanbul, and we want to take a bath. A real bath, not a sanitized one at a hotel. So we have been wandering around the charming streets of the former Constantinople at the direction of our Lonely Planet guide. The first bath we found was full of men and also seemed really gross. The second was also full of men and smelled like mildew. This one is our third try: a “hidden gem” the guide says is popular with locals and is women-only, and which seems tidy and presentable from the outside.
So we bravely open the door and discover a flight of stairs so abrubtly inside it we almost tumble down. At the bottom of the stairs there is another door, and behind it a curtain. Then across a little vestibule there is another flight of stairs. It’s already a bit of an adventure and we’re not even anywhere yet! Finally at the bottom we discover someone who appears to be in charge. She is also stark raving nekkid, as one might say. She seems totally unconcerned both by her own nudity and our unexpected arrival.
A lot of what they tell you about this experience is crap, just flat-out. And even more of what they don’t explicitly tell you is crap. So I’m grateful, in retrospect, for the few scraps of great advice I got from people who have been here and done this. My recruiter, for example, who told me “It is going to be really hard. And it is going to be stupid stuff that’s really hard, like just getting through your day. And you are going to have to push yourself to get the most out of the experience. It’ll be really, really tempting to just hide in your house.”
It really, really is. There are times when it just feels unfair that everything from laundry to groceries is A Thing That Requires Major Effort. It’s very tempting to leave that all outside and refuse to go out. I succumb more often than I should.
Okay, I don’t want to leave you in too much suspense, Dear Reader. There was actually no reckoning.
Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein and her husband sign their marriage contract. (Stolen from her website.)
In fact, the post-wedding evening was pretty anticlimactic. After our cake and cleaning we all went to sleep just like usual. In the morning, newly-married Enas made breakfast and managed her siblings just like she did every day. Presumably her new husband was, somewhere else in Jordan, also going about his regular business. It was all a little peculiar, in fact, as nothing at all had changed. Enas was a bit richer and we were all a bit sleepy. That was all.
(How the night began.)
It feels like I’ve only been asleep for minutes when I feel a toe discreetly, if not quite gently, poking me in the ribs. It’s Shakur, looming over me with a piece of plywood and a hammer. “Get up,” he says, as he would to any of his sisters. “We have work to do and you are in my way.”
I blearily rub my eyes as I sit up and look across at Asra and Enas. Asra looks like she could use another couple of hours of sleep herself. Enas, however, springs up from her mat and begins her normal breakfast-making and child-wrangling with a spring in her step. Sleep deprivation is no match for the excitement of an actual wedding.
Alice and I have been summoned to Namus. It is unusual for the Namus families to use the phone, so they only did it once: they called Alice, and asked her to call me and tell me the big news. Enas is getting married! At our last visit there had been significant eyebrow-raising and nodding in her direction, so we’re not completely surprised, but we are relieved: she didn’t finish high school and didn’t go to college and, at twenty-three, is a bit older than most other unmarried women. But we love her and want the best for her, and here, that’s a good husband and a solid household. Now here we are, grubby and dusty but bubbling with excitement, walking the last several blocks to Um Shakur’s house.
Technically, this weekend isn’t the actual wedding. As far as I’ve been able to work out, weddings go in two stages. First, a groom expresses his intent and is approved by the bride’s family. Then there’s an “engagement” party, at which the legal marriage document is signed, dowry gold is exchanged, dancing occurs, and a sheep probably meets an unfortunate end as a plate of mensaf. Thereafter the bride and groom are technically married, but they don’t move in together. They can, however, get to know each other a bit better without anybody’s reputation being damaged. In more progressive areas they can even do scandalous things like go out to dinner, hold hands, and even kiss. For most of my acquaintances, this period appears to have lasted about a year, during which time the groom stockpiles household goods, with or without his bride’s input. At the end of the year, there’s another party with the same gold presented again, more dancing, and more sheep meeting unfortunate ends.