A Subdued New Year

Amman, Jordan

Happy New Year!

Despite that exclamation point, I didn’t feel much like celebrating this year. It was going to be a quiet New Years anyway, with Megan in the Cayman Islands and Ryan snowboarding in Lebanon. Not only that, but I wasn’t really in the mood to celebrate, having spent two days watching my Jewish and Arab friends vilify each other (though they don’t know each other) on Facebook over what’s happening in Gaza, which finally decided to boycott temporarily.

But one of the advantages of Facebook is their IM system, however primitive and problematic. Aktham IMed me to say that some of our mutual friends from Tareef Cycling Club were getting together across town, and he invited me to join them. I was reluctant, after dark, to stray more than a few feet from my space heater and get in a cab by myself (I’m still very much a village girl in Jordan, despite 6 months in the big city). But I finally convinced myself that being a hermit was not going to make me feel any better. I almost gave up when I had to wait quite some time in the cold for a cab, but of course that was the moment when a cab finally stopped for me.

We were meeting at an absolutely huge Gloria Jeans Cave in Medina al-Munawwara Street, the size of the Starbucks in the Union at Indiana University. I went right in and ordered a coffee with some nostalgia; Gloria Jeans at the Galleria Mall was a special treat in my high school years. It wasn’t until I was waiting for my drink and looking around for Aktham and the others from Tareef that I realized, while I thought I could hear Tareef on the second floor, I didn’t see a single other woman in the place. This is something I would have noticed right away in Irbid or Jerash, or even just this past summer in Amman, as sensitized as I became in Peace Corps to gender. Since living in Amman, though, I have lost a lot of sensitivity, and this was sort of a sucker punch, and on top of my rough two days.

From New Years Eve

But sure enough, I went upstairs and followed the sounds of the loudest group in the place, and as soon as I saw Anis’s fine-boned face at a table that was half women, I knew everything would be fine.

And it was. The members of Tareef are very non-judgemental, and that’s why I enjoy their company! While there were occassional mentions of Gaza, there were no politics at the table, and it was a real relief.

Even still, I couldn’t stop myself from what the Palestinians must see as crocodile tears while I was explaining to Aktham why I was boycotting Facebook and didn’t think it was a good idea to go on with them to a protest in the City Center. I mean, in principle, it would have been okay, as it was billed as a silent candlelight vigil, but this is the Palestinians, and like Greeks, Italians, Jews, Spaniards, and other Mediterranean peoples, they’re loud! But, in an attempt to distract me and make me feel better, Aktham convinced me to go with some of the rest to get food across the street, and the Shawerma Wok puts on quite a show!

From New Years Eve

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