Peace Corps Wasta, Still

Amman, Jordan

I love it when being a former Peace Corps Volunteer still gets me stuff, like a free ride home, all the way from the village!

This weekend in the village, I stayed longer than intended, and missed the bus. So a couple of the boys got me a ride down the hill to Bleela with a carpenter going home to Bleela, and even though it was on his way, I gave him the last few coins in my wallet. He tried to protest, but I know how much everyone needs the money here, especially in the villages, and I insisted.

So I’m standing on the side of the highway, trying to flag down a bus to Amman, which is much harder than it used to be, now that they’ve established at the Irbid bus station a ticket system, instead of paying the driver directly. Another man with his wife and infant son were also trying to flag down a ride to Amman, and I heard his voice behind me: ‘Isma3i! [Hey, girl!]. I turn around and he’s flagged down a car. He asks me where I’m going. When he ascertains that we’re going the same way, he tells me to get in. Normally, I wouldn’t do such a thing, but he had his wife and baby with him, so I decided it was probably safe, and got in.

I had a nice chat with the wife, who is originally from Bleela but married an Ammani. She told me that she had once met the Peace Corps Volunteer in Bleela. I pointed out that Bleela requested a Peace Corps Volunteer after I worked in Mshairfeh with teachers who were mostly from Bleela.

The family paid 2 dinar and got off about ten miles before the edge of Amman. I asked the driver where exactly he was going, and it turned out he was going to the Eighth Circle, just a hop, skip and a jump from home, so I told him I’d get out there. So then he wanted to know if I was Jordanian, and since I wasn’t, how had I learned such excellent Arabic? so I told him I’d lived in Mshairfeh, and he told me he was from a town just a few miles further north, al-Na’eemah, and that I should visit sometime. I pointed out that the mother of one of my 8th graders was from Na’eemah and I had gone there once to meet some of her 11 brothers who had all studied in the States.
“Really? Was she from the X clan?”
“Maybe…. The name sounds familiar….”
“Or from Al-Akaleeq?”
“Yes! That was it! Her name is Rihan.”
“I wouldn’t know who she is. It’s hard to meet women in the village. But I probably know all her brothers.”
I mentioned that all her brothers were named Abed (Abdullah, Abdassalaam, Abdarrahman, Abdalmalik, Abdalmajeed, etc.).
“She has an uncle who’s a dean at the Jordan University for Science and Technology, and his hand’s all curled up.” My guess is, the uncle has had a stroke.
“Yes! I met him at a welcome home party at her house for one of her brothers!” We had, in fact, a fascinating conversation about Jordanian women in universities.
And so the conversation went on.

When we got to the Eighth Circle, he wouldn’t hear of dropping me there. I was now his guest, and he was determined to deliver me all the way home. We compromised on his dropping me at Safeway, where I needed to pick up a phone card and some groceries anyway. When I tried to give him a couple dinar for his effort, he refused to take it. I insisted, but he was adamant that I was his guest and he wouldn’t accept money. So I did what I had seen my headmistress do dozens of times in the village: I dropped the money on the seat beside him. Well, then he was almost angry, and threw the money back over the seat at me. So finally I thanked him and accepted my free ride. And I didn’t even have to give out my phone number!

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