now it can be told:
the story too hot for the Times-Courier to print -- a tale the STAR and A Current Affair want. Now -- the censored, edited "out-takes" of the above story -- the truth of an Irish lad in the Muslim world.
dear folks --
To visit the sprawling city a bus system runs hither and yon but we have yet to figure out "the system." Cabs are a cheap way to fly -- truly. They soar at the rate of 10 Fils / 100 meters, or 24 ¢ / mile. Andrew couldn't enter a D.C. cab and close the door for that price.
* You can't be "shy" about living here.
They won't let you.
Every time you blink someone says: "Coffee? Shay (tea)? or Cha-eye (tea)? or Shy (tea)?
"No, they will not take "No," as an answer.
So learn to say "shy" or "cha-eye," and if they still don't understand -- just say, "Lipton."
si ti tahw uoy won --- now you know what it is
daer dna cibara eb ot eikl --- like to be arabic and read
sdrawkcab egap eht ssorca --- across the page backwards
teachers makes 3,600 JD / year -- $4,800.
My starting Batavia, N.Y. pay was $4,500 -- 33 years ago.
It just doesn't compute
-- even with a liberal government housing loan policy how do they float a loan an
pay it off?
We infer the people never pay off the loan. Never even come close to paying off the loan.
the landscape brings memories of Sicily. Building construction is always going on but never done. On the Mafioso-island they say families -- (does-ah-Italian-ah-fam-ah-lees) -- build their house thruout their lives. When they get a few extra Lira it translates into a few extra bricks. Slowly onward and ever upward.
I got a haircut today (sat - july 16th)
Donna, my "hair stylist" back in Charleston is going to have to add more flair, precision and subtract 16% from her fee if she wants to keep my business. This guy started out with a shampoo -- ended with a shampoo -- coifed -- shaved -- razor cut -- snipped every hair individually -- powdered me -- added mousse -- and splashed on lotion for 5 JD - $7.50. Donna charges $9. With the 1 JD tip to a guy who looked like Ricky Ricardo -- we came out even.
"Stylists" over here have to ply their trade on men because so many women wear "the scarf" that no one knows or cares if they are having a "bad hair" day.
Andrew called again tonight regarding the OJ Simpson story. Amazingly, JTV had film of it an hour later. It's the only USA news they have aired in this first month of duty.
Even trying to find out what happened since 1967 is very difficult.
Geez, all these folks arrive, efficiently do their job in a fortnight and disappear. No one else is staying three months. This confirms an age-old suspicion: if you want a job done slowly, hire me.
So how do these two countries ever get together for peace talks if they don't write each other or answer the phone?
p.s. August 8th: you can now call the West Bank direct - a couple JD / minute.
Jordan's resources are lean - no oil - and stretched beyond basic infrastructure
needs. As a country it supports an army who has defended the turf; well, sand,
more than the locals want to remember. There is also a world embassy system
which must be maintained. Such debits drain the assets needed for other basic
things -- like schools.
It's a constitutional monarchy with 30 Senate members appointed by the King while elections fill the 60 seats in the Lower House - 30 each from the East and West Banks. Fifty members must be Muslim and 10 are Christians.
Now there's a political litmus test.
Americans have seen more of the King this summer than we have.
Well, not really. Pictures of The King are everywhere and I don't mean, Elvis. All currency bears his picture, and a new coin called a Qirsh was just thrown into Jordanian pockets. Not surprising, it bears a likeness of their Sean Connerly look-alike. The King's image is omnipresent: classrooms and hallways and lobbies and atria and offices and stairwells and billboards and buses and cabs and airports and tvee and . . .
The squeaky clean Jordanian world inflated in the previous paragraphs is showing its human side. There's broken automobile glass in the streets; and some wailing sirens but not the number expected for a city this size nor from all that broken glass.
Two buses collided near Syria, killing 32. There on a rural Jabal is the outline of something identical to my hometown landmark, Attica State Prison.
The paper even ran a story about an 11-year-old killing a 12 -year-old, so not everyone coming toward you on the street is fondling Prayer Beads. More about that story and its political implications, later.
At the our office a 12 year old girl drown in the pool, and tomorrow 14 of her peers take off for the Little League World Series in Germany.
The new class of ninth graders at the Jubilee Magnet School has been chosen -- about 80 kids from Amman's 34,000 eight graders, and boy, are their parents are beaming.
So the Jordanian society is much like any other. There are day-to-day smiling triumphs and some life-long tearful tragedies.
Commensurate with its speeding vehicles, Amman is a town noted for its 15 inch sidewalk curbs, with the NCAA record (National Council of Arab Athletes) being a 20" plunge and climb. The curbs give pedestrians a sense of security - "beep- beep" - however false - and at the same time underlines an insensitivity of its Streets Department to needs of the handicapped. Ironically, many a person has joined the ranked of the handicapped with mis-steps to or from the alpine heights which separate pedestrians from motorists. The curbs provide a nice ricochet wall like the ones from which people love to bounce while driving bumper cars at the county fair.
After scaling the curb height pedestrians stroll the equally-dangerous walkways which are often a jumbo of fractured concrete resulting from repair of something subterranean or the disrepair caused by foot traffic and time. American merchants would cower in the shadow of their lawyer were the front of their store crossed by such rubble and they envision shoppers slipping, sliding, stumbling and suing.
For those who like to spot "new license plates," this your mecca:
Right now there is a program on that is in English but has a French voice- over with Arabic subtitles. Someone with sensitive ears and lip-read-eyes could become tri-lingual in an hour.
For those who claim that American tvee is the pits, they need to see rejected pilots, sitcoms and adventure series that weren't good enough to play in Peoria. We have. The good news is that they are only on a few hours a day.
What is Clinton doing these days? Whether the newscast is in Arabic, Hebrew, English or French, there is only cursory mention of the USA. - and that's a World Cup report. Reporters are busy on the "local beat" : Gaza; West Bank; Golan Heights; Syria; and Iraq. By the way, we ran into some America GI's who are training with the Jordanian Army. The latter makes no bones about it: Iraq really did win "that war." That would be news to George Bush. On the mideast news there are no sound bites. Once "a suit" gets hold of a microphone, it's a solilquey in the sun and sand.
So much for the video, now, what about audio?
After a dozen weeks of listening to the incessant wail and terribly loud, monotonous droning voices combining with unimaginable instruments to produce non-danceable Middle East music, my ears crave a little American Rap. Naaaaaaw . . . . not yet.
Though this is the desert, winter can bring snow to Amman - 3300 ft above sea
level. A few years ago they received 19" in one storm. With all that snow and all
these hills, all those motorists were paralyzed and this town shut down for a
couple of silent nights. No beep-beep.
No weather maps on tvee -- maybe they don't want the people to think they are breathing "used air" -- particles that were in the lungs of a Jew just a few hours ago -- as forecasters simply report the high / low temperatures in five national regions. In the eastern desert the temperature differences are truly night and day -- an eye-popping 20 degrees Celsius. That's a shivering 36 degrees if you listen to Gabriel Fahrenheit tell the story.
Allenby had a bridge named after him - a tiny structure spanning a huge political chasm over the Jordan River. Later -- a few pages from now -- an account of my traverse of that span.
It was 40 C today in Aquaba -- 104 F. Muslim women, many in "total black
cover" - take their kids to the beach just like any family. Cultures usually adapt
their clothes to the environment but going to a 40C beach in black -- Hmmm.
Took a JETT to this Kingdom's only port: Jordan Express Transit and Transport (bus).
The road south - singular - is filled with the 18-wheelers and it's four lane about half the way. Then the "obstacles" appear. With a wadi on one side and mountains to the other, drivers play hopscotch - downhill en route to sea level and uphill while "going home."
Aug 4th update--
To build the new road ( ~ a few miles) between Aquaba and Eilat they detonated 30 land mines today. My July statement about the difficulty of making the short trip was right on target -- literally. Ka-boom.
In Aquaba there are 2,000 hotel rooms. In Eilat there are 20,000.
Jews know how to have a good time.
Hammah is a tiny town known for its hot springs but none of the grandiose homes of Amman are found here. It's dirt poor. Poverty plus. Or maybe, poverty minus. Visitors get to see what is probably a more realistic picture of living conditions in so many rural parts of this desert Kingdom. Grim.
Then it was a stop at Ajlun - a huge castle with links to the Crusades. As the guide said: "It dates to a time of the European occupation of our area." In our area people are pre-occupied with the concept of occupation. Ajlun overlooks the Jordan Valley and on a clear day the Holy Land is right there on the retina.
To wit - "report to a police station within two weeks of your arrival."
Well - how serious are they about that? With the first four items printed on the half of the card that was surrendered at the Immigration gate, who could tell. Was there something there that placed negating parameters around #5 ?
The predator was teasing the prey about losing the contest and rocks were exchanged. A child died.
Surprisingly, it was all due to the fact that
Jordan has a very active N.R.A. That's the National Rock Association and
they maintain that every citizen has the inalienable right to own a rock - be it
igneous, sedimentary; or metamorphic.
And everyone does.
You see them
nightly on the news:
Legislators are saying
that in urban areas like Gaza, Hebron and Jericho there should be restrictions on
those who automatically start tossing rocks before seeing if the situation
warrants such an assault.
Kids on both sides wear "fanny packs" and with great ritual place 47 stones there to commemorate the 1947 UN agreement to divide Palestine and ultimately created the Jewish state in 1948.
The canvas carriers are called Arab-Kosher Paks or A-K 47's. Liberals want these dangerous, multi-stone assault depositories banned but the conservatives say that civil liberties shall not be taken for granite. They point to David who needed only one shot to kill Goliath. Good point. And then there is the N.R.A. credo which correctly insists, "Rocks don't kill people - people. . . "
Unfortunately there are many grandmothers on both sides of the channel who don't get to see their families and ironically their tears of sorrow could fill this almost waterless creek.
Allenby is only a 90 ft bridge with no fancy ironwork structure but it sure is one whose political framework is towering. Jerusalem is only 70 miles from here. You could "do lunch" there and be back in the office for an afternoon of work.
Politically its distance is measured in light years -- or speaking like an Arab, "Ohhh aquaba (obstacles)." We were told that with this summer of negotiated political change, Americans and other third country nationals didn't need West Bank Permits. Wrong. Attempting to cross the bridge brought this comment from the lady with a machine gun: "Permit ?"
That began the 35 mile retreat to Amman's Ministry of the Interior to fill out forms which asks for the identical information that is on every Passport. So why do you need another form? Ooops, one new question: "What is your religion?"
(Larry: the Ministry is north of the Marriott where the guy with a machine gun stands on the overpass of Al Jame ah Street & Queen Noor Blvd.)
After a purchase of the 22¢ permit stamp throw it into the pile to wait a least a
day. Back to the Alleby / King Hussein Bridge: actually, I never saw "the
bridge" --- it's down the road a bit.
The buses and cars stop at the "depot" because Jordanian license plates are not allowed "over there." The scene is chaos. The bus parks and people file into a huge terrible-smelling building, where they wander and wander from line to line looking at other people holding a rainbow of paper: yellow forms and green forms and white forms and pink forms -- and Passports and pained expressions that ask:
"What if this is the 'pink form' line and I only have 'yellow forms'?"
Was michael in the right line ?
Five times the answer was, "No." No one would have anything to do with me until some kind person said -- "Out -- Out -- you don't belong here." Tugging me by the arm out the door he said: "There - you belong there" -- pointing to a small, new, clean building with a door hosting the only English sign in the place: "tourists." And that's when they broke the bad news -- No permit --- no West Bank.
Back in the 70's the Buffalo Springfield sang:
But before you ever get to the guys with the guns -- you are involved in a paper chase in two buildings - one on the east bank and one on the west.
Sit and wait -- stand and wait -- pace and wait.
Bottom line: Amman to Jerusalem = 70 miles.
Time of trip: 7+ hours.
It was not a NASCAR record.
The good new is that as a third country national, it wasn't a 12-14 hours trip like the Muslims usually endure. It takes them a day to cross and a day to get home, so any trek is a minimum of three days.
The man "right here" wants to look at your Passport foto because he doesn't trust his colleague who just checked it 200 m to the east. So the cab stops; the passengers sweat both physically and emotionally, and the inspection begins. In less than 800 m the cab stopped four times and Passports were check while its cargo tried to assume the pose the camera assumed they were in when the shutter clicked.
Near the St. George was a gas station (2.88 schekels/liter or $3.75/gal) where a radio was blaring R.E.M's 1991 monster hit, "Losing my Religion." How ironic -- losing your religion in this town ? No way. After all, Jerusalem is the home of "The Big Three" -- GM, Chrysler and Ford.
Judaism; Islam; and Christianity all began here. But have you every heard of the Armenian Christians and the Coptic Orders and the Belgian Monks and .. and .. and --
See, we're talking about more than just the "Big Three" because also camped here are all of the spin offs; look-alikes; copy cats; and wanna-bees, too. How about this sign :
"The First Holacaust was the systematic extermination of non-Christians by the Vatican with their Crusades."
Will fax that information to the Holy See and see if their Spin Doctors report the story the same way.
On second thought, R.E.M., you really could lose your religion very easily in this town because after visiting all the mosques and churches and synagogues, it's possible to forget which holy cloak you were wearing when crossed the threshold at Damascus Gate.
The 51 guys and 38 gals -- the future leaders of Jordan; were chosen from an eighth grade class of 34,000.
All government (nee: public ) schools are either male or female - because it says so in the Koran, but this one is coed. The principal is a native son with a PhD from Purdue. It was tremendous to go in for a couple hours and then disappear, but the "poor" teachers who have to face them every day would be pressed to come up with something new and challenging. Whew ! What a gang ! This fall the school will have grades 9-10 and plans call for a 9-12 HS campus adjacent to U. of J. with dorms and students from the entire Moslim world.
Two analogies from the animal kingdom describe this experience. One comes from my visit near the North Pole and the other originates south of the Equator.
Sled dogs constantly lunge against their harnesses before, during and even after the race. It's a trained behavior: pull-pull-pull.
And then there was the experience of feeding the piranah from the dock of our jungle hut hotel in the Amazon Jungle. With lightning speed and from every direction the carnivorious fish would attack the pieces of ham thrown into the river. This is a natural behavior.
The smiling, beautiful, humerous kids at Jubilee School were a cross between the sled dogs and piranah -- nurture and nature -- their piqued curiosity lusting to know who, what, where, when and why.
We presented them with a variety of problem-solving activities, and while their answers were not always correct --- (heck, they are only 14 ) --- their confidence and willingness to risk was overwhelming. Some students at EIU might pale in their mental glow. When the workshop concluded they wanted us to --
Kids -- was the highlight of the trip.