Ayn Jenna, Ajloun, Jordan
[Ayn Jenna means “font of Paradise”]
I’m in Ajloun visiting Wijdan’s family. Here, again, not much has changed except that the kids have gotten bigger. It was nice to be able to visit them, not just because of the fond memories it recalled, but also because it so obviously gave them an excuse to see each other.
When I talk about Jordan, I always talk about how close families are. I like to describe to people how I lived next to my headmistress and all her in-laws, and how they all used to gather at the grandfather’s house every night to just be together, to be a family. I talk a lot about the family from Zarqa coming to visit, or going to visit the family in Zarqa. But that was with the headmistress and her family.
What I don’t often take the time to talk about is how economics can divide a family. I’m beginning to see this even with the headmistress’s family in Zarqa, who are not able to come out to the village and visit as often. But it has always been an issue with Wijdan.
We had to postpone this trip to the village twice because of last minute obligations I had to the school, and we almost postponed again when we determined that Megan would not be able to make it to the village and/or Ajloun this weekend. But in the end I decided that I, at least, needed to go, because otherwise Wijdan wouldn’t have the chance to see her family. It’s always been expensive to hire someone to drive from Mshairfeh to Ajloun and back, a trip of well over an hour, but now it’s getting rapidly more and more expensive as fuel prices have gone up all around the world. Prices are down a bit at the moment, but no one is counting on that lasting. But I know that Wijdan could only justify the expense on my behalf … and anyway, I fully intended to pay for the trip and not take ‘No’ for an answer, which she probably expected.
And I’m glad that I did, because we got to stop along the way and see her sister Zain, and once we got to her parents’ house in Ayn Jenna, two of her other sisters came with their families, one all the way from al-Khaldiya, a village in Mafrag where not one but 3 Peace Corps Volunteers I knew were living. Some of Wijdan’s aunts came, as well, including a fascinating woman named Umm Hamze. She’s a Macedonian Turk, so she grew up in Yugoslavia under Tito, but her native language is Turkish. Then she married a Jordanian, and has lived here for 10 years, and her Arabic is nearly perfect. Her children are both bilingual, Turkish and Arabic, and fluent in English; unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet the children, even though her son had brought her to Ajloun, as the men were all sitting in the parlor. (Wijdan’s father is rather more conservative than I’m used to from Mshairfeh.)
I also just really enjoy spending time with Umm Firas and Abu Firas, Wijdan’s parents. Abu Firas has always referred to himself as my “Baba Jordan,” my Jordanian dad, and although it’s a little weird coming from someone I barely know, I find it very heartwarming, in large part because it shows me just how important my friendship is to Wijdan.