But wait, Bill, you do not know how to play soccer!
Why yes, tiny audience, that is true. I do not know how to play soccer. I have no goddamn clue how to play soccer, and I have not since I was 12 yea—no wait, I did not understand the rules at age 12 either. Never in my life have I really understood soccer beyond the little bit of knowledge it takes to be able to spectate the Asia cup games that consumed life here at the beginning of the program.
We played with these Russian guys, as well as some Americans and an Aussie. Well, some people played, I struggled valiantly to be of some use to my team, but every time I tried to do something like pass or shoot I missed my goal by at least five feet. My teams valiantly made up for the counter-productivity I brought to the field, and a player or two on the other team was unfortunate enough hand me the ball now and again. Sometimes a game is about avoiding making a difference. ‘Cause if you try to make one, it will be a negative one. Nevertheless, I had fun.
Soccer still means running around in the sun and kicking things, which is good for making you feel like a kid, and is good. Afterwards all the programs guys came home with me and Simon and Eric and we hung out. Me, Eric, Simon, Tyler, and Ikram ate delicious food and drank the house drink: mango tang.
Then, about halfway through the meal Abeer walks over to the refrigerator with a glint in her eye. She reaches in and pulls out a hot pepper.
“Eric, eat this,” she says.
“Um,” says Eric, hesitating, “I guess. Can I have a knife?”
“No” says Abeer “don’t cut it up, just eat it.”
Eric takes a tentative look at it, commits, and takes a whomping bite. He chews for a second, and passes it to Tyler. He takes a bite too, and passes it to Ikram. Ikram noms it and passes it to Simon, who laughs at the idiocy of the idea and passes it straight on past to me. I would not normally try such a thing, but the others show no signs of it being hot and there is only a tiny bit left. So I eat the end of it.
It isn’t hot, I let it slide across my tongue, chew and try to get the flavor. There is none, so I swallow it. Then Eric announces
“Hey guys, this is, uh, this is really hot.”
“Yes it is,” agrees Tyler
Ikram shrugs “not really.”
I do not weigh in because my mouth is exploding. And not in a delicious way.
“Maee!” says Tyler, demanding water.
“Maee!” agrees Eric, filling up a glass of maee from the water cooler and handing it to Tyler. Then he fills another. Then another. Then another. Then many more. In lieu of milk to drink, I vigorously chewed Xubaz and tried to lessen the kick, but it took a while. Abeer laughed joyfully and ruthlessly and somewhat evilly, Simon wondered about the pratts he was living with, and Ikram just shook his head at our incapacity for eating spicy food.
After a while we made a full recovery and finished the meal.
So I’ve been asked to comment on the state of revolution, or lack thereof, in Jordan.
As of now there is no revolution and there doesn’t really look like there will be a monarchy-toppling one. Shortly after we got here there were protests, fairly big ones of about four thousand people. They protested the dramatic rise in food and other prices that have followed a cut in subsidies. The cut in subsidies followed the government cutting back in a very Hooverian approach to the recession. In response the King fired the Cabinet and replaced them. With the guy who used to be Prime Minister.
But reform was promised, and the protesters mostly agreed that the new guy should be given a chance to enact his agenda.
It is too bad, then, that things are getting worse, and things are more expensive. Prices are going up, up, up, and I’m wondering if I’ll have the cash for my month in Europe after the program is over. I hope I will, because not being able to pay to feed myself would be lame, and busqueing on my banjoud is as likely to get me lynched as lunched.
Revolutions have been happening since the beginning, and though most people I meet do not seem to want revolution, many of them are unwilling to accept current trends. The protests are on the rise, I saw my first one today as I was walking home. There were maybe two hundred or a few more people in the middle of el-Gardens blocking all the lanes and forcing a detour. Things were peaceful, but nearby there were more than a half dozen police vans full of police in camo riot gear. It was intimidating.
I haven’t heard of protests this far out of el-ballad before. People are scared of revolution, but it does not seem impossible that demonstrations could force the King to embrace true reform. Apparently yesterday three people from either side were hurt in clashes in the demonstrations. If that trend continues, Jordan may be forced into a constitutional monarchy. But if things escalate then we will put our plan for the program to flee the country hastily into action. People want reform, not revolt, and reform will have to happen, but reform frequently does not preclude revolution. It can make it more likely, if it is not sweeping or fast enough. And Jordan could go either way, though the Hashemites are probably staying. It’s more likely there’ll be no revolution while I’m here though.
You know, just because I am so intimidating and all.
Jerash to come. Stay tuned.