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.


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