"Maryah Has Real Arab Friends!"

or, Heba Comes To the Village

or, Everyone Should Learn To Use a Squatter

Mshairfeh, Jerash, Jordan

From Heba In Mshairfeh

We’d been talking about it for weeks, and my work schedule finally obliged. Yesterday morning, Heba and I set out for the village. It had been almost 6 months since my last visit, and people were starting to feel like I’d forgotten them in the big metropolis, and I was starting to lose my connection to the “real” Jordan. Heba just needed, as she put it, a reality check. She’s in the weird limbo of many bi-cultural kids: not quite Jordanian, not quite American, and struggling to balance the two. Negotiating a balance between these two cultures is part of what makes Heba and I such great friends.

From Heba In Mshairfeh

Dar Nasri and the other families of Mshairfeh have gotten used to me bringing my very American friend Megan up to the village, to see the real Jordan, beyond Amman and Petra. So of course they took one look at Heba and assumed she was another American. “Maryah! Does she understand Arabic?” And I would turn to Heba – “tifhami 3arabi?” – and let her field the question. In fact, Heba was a joy to take to the village, because there was absolutely no need for me to translate anything, and she always knew the right things to say at the right moment. (Of course, she didn’t take belly dancing lessons from the girls, which made Megan an instant hit!)

From Heba In Mshairfeh

It’s not unusual for Heba to provoke this reaction, though. Even in Amman, perfect strangers will start to speak to me in Arabic, will look at Heba, and will ask me, “tifham 3arabi?” [Does she understand Arabic?] Even I sometimes forget that she’s not an American.

From Heba In Mshairfeh

But the real highlight of the evening for Heba and I was potty training! Despite having lived more than half her life in Jordan, Heba had never used a Turkish or squatter toilet, so when she could no longer hold it any longer, we slipped into the unfinished back room of Wijdan’s house, and I taught Heba how to do it. She was so proud of herself, she immediately texted several friends (including my roommates!) to tell them what she’d accomplished. Now we can dress her up and take her out!

From Heba In Mshairfeh

I’m starting to think that everyone should have to use a squatter at least once in their life. At risk of sounding too much like my Marxist roommate, more than half the world’s population pees in a hole, and it’s not that bad! Especially in Jordan, where you have a nice ceramic base to stand on, and real plumbing out to the septic. As we used to say, “This ain’t your mud hut African Peace Corps!”

From Heba In Mshairfeh

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