Monday, March 28, 2011

Update

Today I have an essay on graffiti across the city due. Wednesday, I have an essay on Mohammad Ali due. Not the Boxer, the leader of the Egyptian revolt against the Ottomans in the early 1800's, and subsequent Monarch. I am therefore declaring myself too busy for a real blog post today. But I will update you about the situation I described in the last post.

Since last I posted, it has been generally disproved among the public's perception that the second death at the protests happened. The first one for sure did. But the government's been making the case that it was a heart attack and not violence.

The family of the dead man did not accept the government's word. Apparently he was attacked, and his body shows bruises. So they paid an independent agency to perform an independent autopsy. The results came out that he indeed died of a heart attack. So that is being widely accepted

The use of fire hoses was a move by the regular police, who were present initially at the demonstration and counter-demonstration. They at first used to hoses against everyone, in a way to force separation between the two antagonistic crowds.

But violence broke out anyhow. Young pro-government men attacked the protesters, and the riot police came in. They apparently attacked the place where the violence was happening, and then continued pressing against the anti-government protesters. One of the people on the program has heard stories that the riot police and the counter-protesters sang a song together after the protests were dispersed.

Since then there have been signs of support for the king everywhere. On many of the cars there are Jordanian flags with the pro-government phrase "Jordan First" superimposed on them. People have put up more pictures of the King. There is a big chunk, I don't know whether it is a majority or not, who vehemently and genuinely support the King.

So.

There's that.

See Y'all

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Word on the Demonstrations in Amman


I swear I really was going to write that post about the writing system. Well, there was a bit of a problem there.


That’s not fair to say. The problem has nothing to do with the writing system, or my readiness to write about that. Arabic is, after all, incredibly frustratingly fascinating as a writing system. Talking about the hardest languages in the world to learn, Arabic is frequently cited. In large part that is because of the writing system, which is apparently just harder for the brain to process then almost all other writing systems.


The problem was in Amman, with the whole “Semester of Revolutions” thing. Yesterday there were protests against the government, for reform.


The crowds were apparently pretty big, bigger then they have been for a while. Back at the beginning of the semester things were heating up. There were consistent and growing protests on Friday, in el-Ballad. But they were different, they were accepted, they were legitimate, the police did their best job to show the cameras they were looking after the protesters. They handed out free Pepsi and water at some places and times.


The King understood he had to do something. Especially with the tide of revolution in the region, he had to do something or he would go the way of Bin Ali and Mubarak, or worse. So he replaced the Prime Minister, made some minor reforms, and promised more reforms.


What said Jordan?


Jordan said, “Arright, sounds kosher. We’ll put a hold on the protests, and give your guy some time to reform.”


I love Jordan for that. Well the new PM din’t reform. At least, not in any way anybody noticed.


So now it’s starting again. The protests are back. And they are growing. They are not just in el-Ballad any more and the political factions look like they are all going back into the fray. Last Thursday I passed this protest in Dewar Raneea.



That night the protest there continued. The protesters apparently stayed in the area. They tried to set up tents but were told by police to remove them, before the police forcibly removed them. The protesters took down the tents. Later that night they were assaulted by a gang of “Pro-Government counter-protesters,” young men who threw rocks. The police were present but din’t intervene. I have to wonder what the right sort of intervention should have been. From their point of view arresting either side would be shooting themselves in the foot.


Yesterday there were the real big protests, starting close to the downtown and moving outwards. One of them ended up in King Hussein Park on the outskirts of town.


Well apparently those were attacked by the police. Not shot-at or clubbed-attacked, but set on with fire hoses. Gotta wonder if they know or care about the parallels with the Civil-Rights struggle doing that sort of thing might create in the minds of the American voting public.


But that isn’t the part that is most worrisome. The pro-government men reappeared and started to throw rock at the protesters again. They beat then with sticks and attacked them. The police did not intervene this time either. In the attack, two protesters were killed and a hundred were injured.


Yeah.


So.


There is the question of who the pro-government protesters were. The history of other “pro-government demonstrators” who attack anti-government demonstrators in the Arab world suggests that they might be government-hired. Certainly every single Jordanian I have heard from about it seems to think it could have been directed by the secret police.


At the same time, there were more demonstrations today, and walking el-Gardens I saw two father-son teams attach a Jordanian flag to their cars and drive off towards the protests. In the back windows of both were prominently displayed pictures of the King. Given the Kingdom’s political climate, they could have been protesting either for or against the government, though I got to think the former is more likely.


I do not know who the assailants really were. I have no idea what the truth is and I will not speculate right now.


If the situation deteriorates we have plans in place to evacuate to… Cyprus looks like the most likely option now. It would not ruin my semester experience, but I hope for the sake of those who could be hurt and maybe even killed that the situation here doesn’t return to violence. I want to do something to alleviate the hurt that will be felt in these conflicts, but I can think of nothing. I am an American boy in a foreign country, hell if I know how this all works. So I guess it’s pray and hope for everybody’s safety. I hope you’ll hope for the same.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recommendation

So.

I'm sure y'all've picked up on how things can be in this country. Amman, Jordan, the Jordanians, the wars, people, the whole universe, even just yourself. It is not an uplifting situation. And it's one of them days when I need to not write.

But I do have a quick story. It will lead up to a link you should follow.

It's Tuesday at one o'clock. I ain't got a gorram thing to do for the JICRC, and I'm trying to keep my brain in a happy, distracted place. On the computer. Kind of reading a book.
Then a blonde head pops through the door. And then the rest of a person. She turns on the lights and starts talking... in English.

It is about the happiest I have been in this building all week. English. Blessed mother-toungue. It sounds like music to me these days, after so much struggle through 3rabee. Damn you Fus-ha. Damn you Ami-eh.

Point is, in comes Julia. It looks like she'll be working for JICRC, and seems like a rad person. After chattin' for a while she tells me about her blog, which is good. It's about life in Jordan. You should go read it, because you ain't gettng any more writing out of me today.

But my half-finished next post is about arabic writing and the history of the writing system. After that I'll tell you a little about the Arabic languages and their history.

Assalamu Aaleeekuum, Y'all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Price of Amman

Falafel Sandwich: 45 cents.

Shawaarma Kaeebeer from Reem: 1 JD.

Assassin's Creed 2, Civ V, Napoleon Total War, Galactic Civ, The Sims 3, EU Rome, Empire Earth 3, Warcraft, Warcraft 2, Warcraft 3, Warcraft 3 Expansion, Starcraft, Diablo, Diablo 2, Two More Computer Games, The Boondocks Season 2, Rome Season 1, Rome Season 2, The Tudors Season 1, and The Tudors Season 2 from the Souq: 20 JD.

Realizing Your Weekend Starts Tomorrow, on Thursday Night: Priceless.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Post Wherein I Hate On Wi-Tribe

Oh dear God.
I have been neglecting this blog something terrible. I think it might be dead. I think it might require a lil resurrection.
Well. Arise, you blog! Arise and breathe once again!
Good.

Then why has this blog been comatose these recent days? Well for the latter half it is entirely down to me. Since Sunday night I should have been posting. But alas, personal circumstances have just made that too difficult for it to have been worth it. You know how it can be. Things happen and you lack motivation to write. It’s life. Maybe it’s like your life, for sure it’s like a decent number of peoples’.

But before Sunday, why did I not post?

Wi-Tribe. Damn Wi-Tribe. What has to be the most useless Internet Service Provider since the invention of ISPs.

It is atrocious. Here’s how it’s set up.

In every home that Wi-Tribe services, there is a wireless router. It is pretty standard, you hook your computer up to it like you hook your computer up to any wireless network. That router, however, is hooked up to another wireless transmitter. That is supposed to connect to either a) satellites, or b) similar equipment, but somewhere on the ground in Amman. It is supposed to connect.

Well apparently there are rush hours in internet use, or something. Starting at about six PM every day, increasing as more people come home, and reaching maximum at about nine, there is a traffic jam. Maybe that is not what it actually is, but it acts like a traffic jam.

It starts by slowing down, is becomes slow until it can only creep along at about the same loading speed you got in the days of dial up. Then frequently, it just stops. The internet in this city just gives up. It stays like that, maybe for an hour, maybe for longer. Usually by midnight, it is starting to work again. And on a few randomly scattered days it works and it works decently from about 9:45 onwards.

Ha. It’s rare.

Sometimes the router will reset itself, so your computer has to go through the several-minutes long process of setting itself back up. And then you have to go through the Wi-Tribe login pages all over again.

And sometimes the internet pulls what it pulled last Thursday night. Most of the group went out, myself included to the Australian Embassy party. They thought it was for St. Patrick’s Day. But really it was for Leila’s Birthday. It was interesting. In the aftermath there was chicken everywhere.

And when we came back there was no internet. There was no internet until Saturday.

After several resets and a solid day of frustration, the internet resumed existence. It was slow. It was the slowest. It creeped and it crawled and it died and came back for seven second spurts.

Slowly it regained speed. Until the router reset itself. But wait. Wait. Eventually

It came back. And it’s stayed usable almost consistently since then.

Sometimes I hate this city and everything in it. And especially the internet.

Stay tuned. More to follow. I’ll teach you how to write soon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nabateans and Things

So at the beginning of Spring break week I left with Tyler and Arielle at five in the morning. We were headed off a adventure to Petra, Wadee Ram, and Aqaba.

By 6:30 AM that Friday we were on the JETT Bus, cruising south along the King’s highway towards our first stop. As any decent human being would expect, we were all deliriously tired. But I shared a row with an older Canadian guy, and we spent a good hunk of the ride talking about each other and the whole prospect of tourism in the Middle East from an American (sort of) way of lookin’ at it.

We rode for like four hours. The landscape changed from city, to village-ed hills to scrublands to flat desert, and then abruptly to Mountains. We descended into them and were in Wadee Musa, the modern tourist-town at Petra.

We thought the cost to go in was going to be fifty dollars a day, so instead of going into Petra we hiked the town. We poked our way into an olive orchard and walked the outskirts, the area where everybody thought we must be lost and offered to point us in the direction of town. And when we thanked them but refused, invited us in for tea. It was a cool day, though I spent a good chunk of it missing my Earlhamites, and my Milsonites especially.

This sorta thing went on 'til next morning.

We approached Petra at six in the A.M. and paid our fifty JD’s to get in, and started walking down the path. In retrospect some of the coolest buildings were along that path. The stout sandstone cliffs narrowed in and began to constrict the valley down. Erosion had turned the stone walls into something that looked like it had to be from some planet in science-fiction or fantasy. Into that landscape were carved incredibly nifty buildings.

The valley narrowed down to the Siq. The Siq is a narrow and towering canyon from which all the water was diverted. They put the road to Petra down it. It twists and turns and was gorgeous, and then suddenly BAM there is The Treasury, in an open courtyard of stone. Falling back from its right side were more and more tombs and mausoleums, leading into the cliff-carved city. Lots of it was done in an Assyrian style and looked like this.

So who were the folks that made this City

In ancient, Biblical Israel there were the Edomites, right? They lived sort of to the south, sort of to the east of Judah. They were the tribes that inhabited the land on the edge of the great howling waste that was the Arabian desert. They were Judea's neighbors, buffer state, and kind of sworn-enemy-so-let's-waste-em-all!

Well, the Israelites did not waste 'em all. Instead the top brass of Judah all got taken away into the Babylonian captivity. Their departure left a power vacuum in Judea and the Edomites started to press into that vacuum, being strong and considerably less in-captivity. Besides, all they had to do was wander over with their herds and take the Istaelite grazing lands, then kill anyone who disagreed too loudly.

Well it ain't like there's really a strong and consolidated Edomite kingdom at this time either. There's something of a power struggle there, in fact. Well one group of Aramaic-speaking-Arabs, the Nabateans begins to become predominant among the Edomites. They a bunch of desert-dwellers who are accustomed to a hard life. And they make their living mostly as traders from the lucrative trade in the Sinai region as it heads into Egypt. They build a kingdom and their capital at Petra.

So that's who they are, Edomites turned to their own distinctive Arab culture, building a trade kingdom across the bottom of Israel and the east bank of the Jordan river, and out towards the rough border in the desert. I can't nerd out about this proper right now, but they’re just the next wave of that biblical history.

So they're there for a few hundred years, consolidating the region and making their place in it. They're traders and they build their HUGE capital. They build it half into the sandstone cliffs of Petra and half as regular city buildings in front of the cliffs. All in this badass Assyrian architectural style. They start off as allies with the Hasmonean Kingdom of Judea. But they have a falling out as the Kingdom gets more power and more bull-headed. They have wars, and tend to win.

Too bad for them when the Roman Empire subtly begins to take over Judea, and suddenly they are on the wrong side. Rome tries to destroy them but can’t quite manage it. Eventually they come to peace with Rome by becoming a client-kingdom, a dependency with Roman recognition and military alliance. Well after that sort of thing happens it's only a matter of time before Romanization and annexation. That is exactly what happens.

We walked around the city and the roman city, before hiking up to the Monastery, where we sat around and I started to miss people on this crag overlooking the mountains and the great rift valley and Israel. At that time, around late morning, I start to miss people, and end up making signs like this one, but from all around Petra.

Not much to say after that.

We hiked, we went back home, we ran into the Canadian guy I met on the bus and ate with him, and then we went back to the hotel to miss people and go to sleep in time to wake up for the six AM bus to Wadee Ram.

More about break to come, and then I will flat out steal Anna’s blog idea and show y’all a little about how to write and read Arabic.

Bashuuf!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Maintenance

Got back from spring break yesterday, and have quite a few stories. But alas, a pall has settled across Amman, and I'm once again too sad to write. So another short hiatus. But there will be more posts by Sunday. Be lovely, lovely readers. And God bless all y'all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stop It, Hollywood. Stop It Now.

Yesserday I was walking from my internship to Arabic. I was standing on the median of a street and waiting for a break in the cars to jaywalk my way across. I had a chocolate-caramel biscuit-style cookie in my mouth, and was nomming away at it joyfully.

I happened to look up and to my left and I made awkward eye contact with the guy standing next to me. He was pretty short, kinda round in the features, and ever so slightly be-stubbled. We exchanged the manly "I see you" head nod, and as the traffic lightened went back to our own businesses.

Or that's what I thought. A half a block later I looked up and he was right by my side saying
"Hello, ahlan uu sahlan, welcome to Jordan."
"Err, ahh. Ahlan!" I said back.
He said "shuu esmak? What is your name?"
I said "Esm... esmee Bill, shuu, um--"
"Amerikee? Min Amerika?" he innerjected.
"Aeewa, men ghareeb medeenat Washington" I said. Most Ammanites have never heard of North Carolina, so I usually just say "near Washington."
I finally remembered my possessive noun endings and asked "shuu esmak?"

His name was Mohammed. A minute later he told me "America! Aeewa! America very good! America in Afhganistan! Christmas! America Christmas!"

Figure that one out.
No really, what the frack does that mean?

I said "Uhhhh."
"Here!" he says. He pulls out his smartphone and furiously fiddles with it, keeping awkward pace with me.
"Here," he says, handing me the phone. "Aanaa!"

On the phone is a picture of him in the Hashemite-styled camouflage of the Kingdom's army. He's with his arm around the shoulder of a big American boy- both beaming in a goofy smile. He enthusiastically takes me through the pictures on the phone. He throws in "America: very good" while I tell him "el-urduun, mumtaz!" We try and talk in each others' respective languages until I get the basic idea of him having deployed.

We approach the traffic circle. And he says "Student Politic History in Amman, American student. Amerikee, means [incomprehensible arabic] right?"
"Uhhh, baHkee schwaee 3arabee..." I say. "I only speak a little Arabic..."

He looks puzzled for a moment, then says
"Amerikee! in Jordan, Arab women love you, lots of sex, right?"
He proceeds to make rude gestures with his hand and chikka-chikka-chikka noises.

"Uhhh," I say.
"Aeewa? Aeewa?" he says, elbowing me playfully.
I say "No, look I'm an American, not a whore. We're not all like that, only some of them."
"No? But Amerikee!" he exclaims, looking severely disappointed.
"No," I say. "Look, I'm not going to talk about that. I'm just going to keep walking to my Arabic class."
He casts a look of sheer and utter disappointment at me. And eventually just rolls his eyes.
"Okay I have to go on this street anyway," he says as he veers off at the circle. "Yalla-bye!"
"Bye," I tell him.

I scuttle away and across the big streets as fast as I can.

I brought up the incident later, and my Arabic teacher, without missing a beat says "Yes, this is what all Arabs think. They see Hollywood movies and assume."
Goddamn it Hollywood. Not every Muslim or Arab has to be a villain, and not every American has to be a whore. So Hollywood... stop it. Stop it right now.

Oyyy Vey.

Tomorrow's the last day before Petra, Wadee Rum, and Aqaba. I'll see if I can't get a few posts up from the road.

Bashuufkum!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Adventures

I was eating a LION bar. It is made by an American company for an Arab audience. It was delicious. I didn’t do much there at the ol’ internship but at least I did something. I arranged for Fr N to attend a C-1 conference in Kiev next month, but that’s all. I walked to Arabic and ate some chips and other delicious food. And drank about ten cups of tea. Not much new there.

That night we ate Spinach and meat cooked together and served over rice in a way that made it awesome and delicious in a way spinach never is. Eric and I went and lay down on our respective beds in our room when our host ma Ghada came in and said.
“We going now. My husband he does not sleep here tonight. So. You bring over your girl-friends. You bring over everyone and have big party. Right? Just make sure the house does not burn down.”
We all burst out laughing. Girlfriend-less and party-supply-less I shoot a look of “we have the funniest host mom ever” over at Eric, but when I look back Ghada is giving us her “No, seriously” expression. It’s the same look she gave us when she told us she was going to take us to buy whiskey during the first week, but then actually took us and bought whiskey. We’ve seen it a few times since then, so when she left we just sat there kind of flummoxed.

A few minutes later I was eating a slice of chocolate cake that Ghada had left with us and Eric was texting people to see who wanted to come try and have a shindig. The cake was pretty good. Not too dry and not to moist, but that sort of monotonous monotextural cake that you always have just-too-much of a piece of We were discussing what to do, we had a few drinks around and no access to much of anything. We wanted to try and watch a movie, but that wasn’t very practical because we’d no DVD player.
It turns out that the only one who could make it was Tyler. Eric, Simon and I are all okay with just the four of us, so he heads over and the el-ballad boys assembled. What did we end up doing? Wait, Eric—you got a season on The Boondocks on your computer, right? Yeah. So? Ohhhh…
We walked out to el-gardens street where one of my compatriots got some gin, another got some absinthe, and I got soda.
Oh come on. What?
So we returned and stayed up until three in the morning, sitting around and sipping and watching The Boondocks and talking about life and playing my banjoud. It was severely excellent.
Tyler crashes at our place and the next morning we all wake up at nine thirty or so. At ten we are about so start making food when Abeer arrives with a whole slew of hot xubaz, falafel, fuul, and hummus.

We feasted like kings that happened to be eating xubaz, falafel, fuul, and hummus. Xubaz is merely area pita bread. Falafel is fried mashed chickpeas. Fuul is spicy mashed beans with oil and seasoning. Hummus is hummus, but better than American hummus and with some spices and oil in. And then we trudged to Sports city in the morning light. At eleven-thirty we met with the Russians, the Americans, Japanese, and the Aussie and played messin’-round soccer for two hours.
It was fun. Well I can’t say it was fun for everyone. It may have been frustrating if you do not know how to play soccer.
But.
I thought it was fun.
After that we started heading back home for lunch when Ivann and Toshi invite us all up for pancakes. Their apartment was down several back streets near our Arabic class, on the top floor of a building on a hill. From their balcony you had the most gorgeous panoramic view of Amman. We accepted and sit around with them, Valenteen and Rob, eating pancakes, talking about where we’re all from, and everything, and reenacting World War II.
So many pancakes. Delicious, delicious pancakes.

That night we’re sitting in the Cantaloupe Gastro-pub and Eric and I were splitting a plate of fried cheese-stick-things. They were delicious and just a touch greasy and fried to crunchy breaded perfection. Everybody had drinks and there’s happy chatter. We’d met up with a few more Earlham people and were going to meet with the folks from pancakes and soccer, but only Rob came. Chatter went on into the night, but I got lost in my corner thinking about what it must have been like to be there when the Germanic branch of Indo-European split off from the rest of the languages and the “P’s” started shifting to “F’s.” Some other things also happened in that linguistic split, but none of them are so ready as “pater-pisces-porcus” becoming “father-fishes-fearch.”

The next day I was nomming a hot lamb-pepper-onion-sauce-full shawaarma or two after class and when I met up with Eric. Then, for the first time in months we went and messed around on a newly-discovered basketball hoop. We went back two days later and when he grabbed rim he tore the hoop half off. But it is still playable.

It was a swell while.

Next week I will be updating very sporadically, as it will be spring break and I will be on camels.

Bashuukkum, yall.