When It’s Time To Go

Amman, Jordan

It’s best to leave a country while you’re still happy there, while you can still look forward to returning. It’s so easy for daily frustrations to morph into racist generalizations. I feel myself in danger of it sometimes, and it’s an ugly side of myself I don’t want to explore. I admire Abby for being brave enough to face double-digit unemployment in America to keep her love of Jordan alive.

Jordan is a difficult place to work. Management styles in both the public and private sectors tend towards micromanagement, Kafka-esque bureaucracy and shouting. lots of shouting and high emotion. At least so it seems to Americans like Abby and I, though we spent a lot of time this evening talking about how this is often a cultural misunderstanding. Then there’s dawam.

Dawam is a word ubiquitous in Jordanian English because its translation, working hours, completely fails to convey its nuances. Dawam is completely inflexible. Big companies are now installing complex biometric systems to enforce dawam. I have to submit my right handprint to a scan to record the exact minute I arrive or leave. If I arrive 5 minutes late or leave 5 minutes early, it can be deducted from my pay. (If I were a Jordanian, it would be deducted from my pay.) If I stay an extra hour, though, it makes no difference. It won’t even negate the 5 minutes I was late to arrive.

But what I do within the hours of my dawam is of far less importance. By my nature, I do my job and a half … and then get in trouble with my boss for making others look bad. But teachers in my company have been known to miss entire classes and suffer no consequences, because at least she signed in and out at the right time.

It’s turning me into the kind of employee I despise, the kind that does the bare minimum and nothing more, the kind that obsesses over what I’m owed at the expense of productivity. I’m starting to not like myself, and I envy Abby, with the gumption to couchsurf across America for as long as it takes to find a job.

I’m also just gonna miss her!

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