Another Day, Another Dinar

Greetings from the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom. It’s been a good fortnight over here and I’ll share a bit.

I’ve been working quite a bit lately, which I like. With little experience with green building, the various regional and international standards, and technical & political aspects of this process I’m learning a great deal. I’m in the midst of bringing together the component parts of a document which will, inshala, be the first draft of a comprehensive Jordanian regional standard for green building. Water and Energy are the two most important aspects as Jordan is one of the poorest water states in the world and they import over 95% of their energy. By the way ‘inshala’ translates more or less to ‘god willing.’ People say it all the time and a lot of times it just means it’s not going to happen- kind of like when you were a kid and you would ask your mom if you could get ice cream after going to the grocery store and she’d say “we’ll see.”
A few weeks back I drove up Pella to hike up through some ancient ruins. At the foot of a group of columns I met a shepherd, who kept telling me he was a shepherd, with a handkerchief full of Greek, Roman, and Byzanntine coins that he wanted to sell me.
The hike was hot and dry with steady elevation climb. The view to the west overlooking the ruins, Jordan River Valley farmland, and across that all important imaginary line was spectacular.
I included this picture with me in it because a) I like it and b) I know it will make Gonch roll his eyes which Malcolm Gladwell tells us is the tell tale sign that a marriage won’t work.
So the food is good here–> my chickpea consumption is through the roof and there’s no end in sight. I also regularly visit the sharwarma (arab burrito) stand.
Paco and I saw them bringing a fresh, plastic wrapped, meat punching bag to the back burner rotisserie a couple of weeks back. It took four guys to carry and you should have seen the way that thing parted the crowd waiting out front. I tried to take of picture of the meat Moses but it didn’t turn out.
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Amman & Ramadan

After a mix of planes, trains, and automobiles and just over 24 hours of travel time I arrived in Amman, Jordan. I was on a flight from New York to Amman with three of my colleagues from the program: Katrina, Meridith, and Zahra. During the flight a flight attendant came on the PA and said “We want to inform you that smoking is still prohibited during the flight… we know someone smoked in the lavatory because we can smell it.” We all got a little scolding but I don’t think anyone suffered the wrath of the Federal Aviation Regulation Commission.

After clearing customs, grabbing our bags, and picking up a couple of bottles of booze at duty free we walked out into the main terminal and were greeted by our smiling driver, Rami. We loaded up the car and were on our way. As he honked and weaved through traffic, Rami informed us that everyone was “kind of angry because of ramadan, no smoke, no drink.” He also said that if the police saw a muslim driving and smoking or drinking they would go to jail. Non-muslims are encouraged to be respectful of the fast by not publically eating or drinking.

We arrived at our hotel in the fifth circle, dropped our bags, and set out to explore a bit. Amman is a city of around 2 million inhabitants, quite developed, and buzzing with activity. There are a lot of Burger Kings. We cabbed into the downtown area and arrived just after 7:00pm which marks the beginning Iftar and the time when Muslims can break the fast. It’s quite incredible to experience: all at once the city is remarkably calm and everyone is seated and eating. Restaurants set up tables which spill nearly onto the streets, shop-keepers sit on the floors of their shops with hot plates of food, and people of all ages set up makeshift tables on the sidewalks and share large plates of hummus, rice, chicken, falaffel, and pita. Not a piece of cutlery in sight, not a person seated alone, and all the food is shared. You can feel a sense of relief as everyone sits quietly and eats. Within about 45 minutes almost everyone is finished, tables and chairs are picked up, cigarettes and hookahs light up, and folks go back to their routines.

Over the next couple of days I will start to look for an apartment before beginning an in-country orientation this Sunday with the folks in my program and a crop of Fullbright students and scholars. Eid is scheduled to begin in six days and marks the end of Ramadan. The word on the street is that there is an exodus from the city as folks flock out of Amman towards the coast on the Red and Dead Seas. Should be a good time.