al-Mshairfeh, Jerash, Jordan
All throughout Ramadan, I’ve been thinking that the holy month just isn’t as fun in the city as it was in the village, and I’ve been dying to get back to al-Mshairfeh. And the more I’ve said this to my roommate Megan, the more psyched she’s been about seeing the village.
Unfortunately, the transportation’s a little difficult to arrange in Ramadan. We’d been trying to get a ride from Abu Alaa’ or Abu Anis on their way home from Amman after work. Unfortunately, their oldest brother Abu Ahmed, who was my landlord in the village, has been in the hospital. He has brain cancer, and since an operation in mid-Ramadan, has been deteriorating rapidly. He no longer recognizes his family, and speaks as if from twenty years in the past.
Eventually, however, we decided we’d take a chance this last weekend of Ramadan, and see if we could get a “service taxi” to the village, and we had good luck. For once, Um Anis actually told me I’d gotten a good deal on the trip!
It was so wonderful to be back in the village, even if it meant fasting with the others. It was really like going home. The food tasted right, the language sounded right, the people were familiar and did all their familiar things, the weather felt right…. I felt more certain than ever that coming back to Jordan was a good thing … a place where I already have a safety net and a family. (Although I still maintain that I wouldn’t want to live in the village again, as nice as it is to visit.) And given no alternative, Megan proved to be more than competent at Arabic, despite her constant protests that she was not very good.
Just like last time in the village, too, everywhere I went, people knew me and would shout out my name. When we went to Wijdan Um Tareq’s house, all her in-laws came to see me (except, fortunately, the creepy brother-in-law). Megan kept saying, over and over again, “You’re a celebrity!” ad I thought, it’s just what my mother would say I always wanted; that’s why she called me Sarah Bernhardt as a child.
Standard Arabic, anyone?
When we got to Wijdan’s, she asked if Megan spoke much Arabic, and I said that she didn’t speak much colloquial, but that she was brilliant at talking politics in Standard Arabic. “Then we’ll talk about politics in Standard Arabic later!” declared Wijdan, and in true Wijdan fashion, an hour or so after Iftar, she started asking Megan questions about politics in Standard Arabic. This sparked an intense conversation with Abu Tareq’s cousin about why America had such a thoughtlessly heavy hand around the world, to which we could really only say that we agreed. And although Megan frequently turned to me for translation, she really understood as much or more as I did of the conversation.