As an American blogger, I’d be remiss if I let this season pass without giving some commentary on the ongoing presidential election. So, with your permission, I’d like to digress from the major themes of this blog for a moment to share with you my (relatively educated) opinions on the American political scene. I’m not really saying anything that hasn’t been said already, but if you care what I think–and you really don’t have to–what I think is as follows:
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Response to Serge

August 27, 2008

Take a look at the first (long, and quite articulate) comment on my previous post. Serge makes a number of good arguments that merit discussion, so I’m going to take the opportunity he provides to clarify and expand upon a few of the points he questions.
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In nearly every instance, the myth of “pure” ethnicities is busted by the facts of history; any student of history understands that the very concept of cogency, to say nothing of uniformity, among a so-called ethnic group is complicated to a large degree by the movement of people across political, national and ethnic borders throughout spans of centuries. If, for example, all Europeans (and a good deal of non-Europeans as well) are descended from Charlemagne, then whatever ethnocentric ideological delusions we may uphold in our minds, the fact remains that we are all, to some degree, a) related, and b) Frankish.
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Umm Qais Pictures

August 26, 2008

So, after weeks of me saying I’d go looking for a cable to hook up my camera, and never doing it, it transpired that Jacqui had a spare cable sitting around the whole time. So here, finally, are some pictures from my trip to Umm Qais and the borderlands on August 2.

Yarmouk Valley from Umm Qais
The Yarmouk River valley as seen from Romero’s restaurant at Umm Qais.
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Dinusha’s digs

August 26, 2008

Again, sorry for the delay in updating. I’m going to try to be better about this from now on.

On Friday, Dinusha invited Jacqui and me to lunch at her family’s apartment. She and Kumar came by around noon, and we took a taxi over to Jabal Amman (I think), where her family lives. We were greeted by her mother, her sister and brother, and sundry cousins–Kumar isn’t related to them, but he’s a close friend.

Now, Dinusha’s family lives in a tiny, low-ceilinged, two-room basement apartment on a slummy street . Their bathroom consists of a curtained-off corner with a bucket and a hole in the floor. For all that they don’t have, however, their house pride would put anyone to shame: the apartment was lovingly decorated and spotlessly clean.
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The House of Hashim, or the Hashemite dynasty, is the royal family that had ruled Jordan since its inception in 1921. The Hashemites claim descent from the prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, and as such carry some heavy credentials. What follows is a little history lesson.

In 1908, the Sublime Porte of the Ottoman Empire appointed the Hashemite notable Hussein bin ‘Ali Sharif of Mecca and Emir of the Hejaz. During the first World War, Hussein initially supported his Ottoman overlords and their ally Germany, but once he discovered that the Ottomans were planning to depose him after the war, he turned on his superiors and is now rightly hailed as the leader of the great Arab Revolt of 1916.
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Maid in Amman

August 8, 2008

(Apologies to all my fans for the delay in updating–I’ve been so busy accumulating material that I’ve had no time to write any of it down. I’ll try to be more vigilant in posting regularly, but for this week, at least, you’re getting a week in review.)

Now, for those of you who like to think that indentured servitude is a relic of a less enlightened past, I have some bad news: here in Jordan, it is alive and well. Amman is host to large communities of domestic servants imported from poorer countries to the east–particularly, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. These workers, mostly young women, are brought here under the care of sponsors, who employ them, pay them at their discretion, and hold their passports to prevent them from fleeing the country. While some of these workers, like Hilda’s Indonesian housekeeper, are treated decently and paid a living wage, again, they are the exception, not the rule. For example, Rani, the young Indonesian woman who is employed by Jacqui’s landlady as her housekeeper and as caretaker of the building, has not been paid in three years. She is currently trying to get out of the country, but in order to do so, she must get a new passport.
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Jordanians like to celebrate in style, and their idea of a celebration in essence involves making a great deal of noise. The biggest celebration is, unsurprisingly, that of a wedding, and weddings involve a great deal of noisemaking, which comes in three forms: car horns, fireworks, and occasionally gunfire. On Friday, as I helped Waleed take the roof off his Jeep, we heard the distinct sound of gunshots. I wondered what that was about, and Waleed said it was probably just someone celebrating, probably a wedding (Getting married is one of the things Muslims are allowed to do on Fridays).
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Interviewed

August 3, 2008

Today, I went down to NYIT to meet with Melissa Bos, the director of the English Language Institute. This, like all things, was to be an adventure. Again, on a gut feeling, I pocketed my passport, and again it was necessary (Jacqui advised me later that it’s probably best if I keep it on me wherever I go).
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Umm Qais

August 3, 2008

Yesterday, Jacqui took her class on a field trip up north to Umm Qais to see the ruins of Gadara (pretty much the only thing to be found in Umm Qais). None of them, despite many having lived their entire lives in Jordan, had ever been there before. A funny thing about Jordanians is that they live in a country with multitudes of ruins, parks, and gorgeous landscapes, but never go to see them (I guess that’s not actually so surprising–most New Yorkers never bother to visit their city’s landmarks). Jacqui wanted to take me along, but for reasons involving personal politics between her and her boss (who apparently decided that I was a “security concern”), I wasn’t allowed to come on the bus with them.
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