January 2008


A few days ago I got a fortune cookie that said “silence is the best response”, and it got me thinking about silence and about responses. We’ve been taught that actions speak louder than words, so does this make silence an action or just a lack of words? Either way it got me thinking about my responses to different things and different situations. 

In anger I usually respond with silence the first few times, but then if you don’t get it, I let it rip. I don’t scream and shout but rather very quietly make sure to use words that are polite yet loaded for maximum hurtful impact. Its very rare that I reach such a stage. I can only think of one occasion last year, the year before that also one occasion only then my anger had been festering for a few months and the choice words were not said but written in a long long letter. I have mixed feelings about those occasions, the words made me feel better each time, but I had come to regret those actions later on. Would silence have been the best response though, I don’t know.


 

It seems that with time we learn how better to deal with our emotion, our actions and our reactions.  In the last couple of years I’ve learnt to open up and let things out. I write, talk, walk, dance, and allow the steam out in various ways. This way I may remain silent verbally, but it is not my actual response. So I guess silence is not the best response, but its how you let the words or emotions out that makes all the difference.  

I have a tailor in Jabal Amman, and I love dealing with him. He does alterations and fixes the odds and ends of clothes that need an extra stitch. What’s special about this man is not his tailoring but rather his method of communication.

When I walk through his door I neither knock nor call out, but rather I appear before him. In complete and comfortable silence we sign and gesture through pleasantries, needs and deadlines. When I leave we both have smiles on our faces. If you haven’t guessed my tailor is a deaf mute.

Every visit to his shop is a relaxing experience in silence. We communicate the necessary and so the relationship we share is simple, straight forward, easy, and honest. There is no fuss, no pretentiousness. We are friends without knowing each other’s names and in that anonymity there is a familiarity that I love.  In our silences there is ease. I enjoy visiting my tailor in Jabal Amman and the big smile in his eyes when I visit reflects the same J, so here is to the tailor of Jabal Amman.

Last night I went to the Orient Restaurant and Par. It’s a dinky little place downtown. There I got my belly replenished and my soul rekindled.

The Orient aka Abu Ahmad’s is a very old establishment. To get there you walk down a dark, wet, and smelly alleyway, through a doorway and up a couple of dingy flights of stairs. Once past the door you are in a dimly lit room with glitzy decorations taped to the ceiling and Marline Monroe hanging in the corner next to a brown Styrofoam Petra that takes up an entire wall. The tables are covered in the same gold cloth used for the curtains and are draped with protective plastic coverings. The bar is lined with small bottles of cheap alcohol and a small TV perched at the end.

We sat down for our meal while the TV played an Egyptian movie. We were the only women in the house. The waiters were not phased. The patrons were a mix of amused and annoyed that two women have invaded their male domain. We were made to feel welcome nonetheless. After an amazing meal that is simple, heart warming, and belly filling, we made our way out. But not before this simple place with its simple life restored a bit of reality and simplicity to my life, through the music of an old old friend: Um Kalthum. Her music penetrated deep into my soul, her voice took me to heights of giddiness and the depth of emotion and everything in between.  She  sings of great love and great pain and with every note and every word you live within that moment.

It was just the right experience to quiet the disquiet within. I love my little forays into the real world outside my bubble. This time I ventured into The Orient and emerged with a happier me.  

I read a headline that one of our prestigious banks turned a billion dollar profit last year. And somehow that didn’t make me happy. This is a capitalist institution and its supposed to turn a profit but turning a billion dollar profit in a country where the poor are getting poorer. People can’t make ends meet. Their homes are cold and their bellies are empty and here you see a front page news item that one of their esteemed institutions has turned this huge a profit. 

Now a number of people may jump to the defense of this organization since it supports the arts and culture as well as has numerous charitable functions. But what they do is a tiny drop in the ocean of poverty here in Jordan. With this much in profits you’d think their contributions back into society would be much more. I truly think that the haves should give more back to society than the have nots and I am not talking about individuals but rather institutions and organizations. 

Corporate social responsibility is something that such large corporate should invest in and invest in heavily. Jordan is going to start an economic era of need and desperation. When you have these two conflicting pieces of news side by side you can’t help but think what is wrong with this picture?!

I hope that I am wrong and that the organization in question and many others are investing heavily (not just tiny drops) back in the community and the country where it really counts.

The smoke of a hubbly bubbly is a sweet smelling heady haze. Smoking a hukka I blow out circles of smoke, the circles immediately get lost in the thick air. Now if you know anything about me you know I don’t smoke, so what is this contradiction in behavior. My only response is I am chasing circles in smoke.

The smoke circles are like the thoughts floating in my head. I try to chase these circles, watching them as they move farther and farther away, getting bigger, distorting into the ether. Like my thoughts these circles are many and intertwined within each other. One leads to the other to the other forming a chain of smoky thoughts floating higher and disappearing in a puff as a new one is formed.

The smoke of a hubbly bubbly can either give you a nice buzz or a massive headache. The thoughts in my head do the same. Yet as I chase smoke circles trying to capture the lightness of being, my wandering mind too, when working well that is also helps calm me by putting me in a positive state of mind. So you are welcome to chase my circles both of smoke and rhetoric with me anytime anywhere, and perhaps we will get lost in the headiness of it all. 

As I was driven south last week to Mutah University I couldn’t help but notice two things: The desert and the dead animals. I’ll start with the first since I love the desert. 
 

It is a gorgeous landscape. With so many hidden mysteries. Our desert is a hilly one with many hill tops and valleys. Some of these hills in the distance are covered with black volcanic rock. Others are pebble strewn and some even have shrubbery. But what struck me the most was the even though it is now mid January, a time when these valleys are brimming with life and water, the stream beds were dry. So dry that I felt that I should be hiking in them! The rains are coming later and later each year, and the amount of rain is getting lesser and lesser. 


 

The other thought that struck me about my surroundings was that the only things stopping desertification was urbanization. In the past we were worried about the desert encroaching on everything and spreading. Now one of my main concerns is the spread of the concrete jungle. Which if the two is more dangerous? Which is the lesser of two evils? Do we continue to “modernize” our world with buildings, roads, and infrastructure and give way to structure and stone of our making? Or do we stop and wait for the rains to come, plant more trees, and all the green to battle the stone?


 

I wonder what this very same drive would look like five or even ten years from now. Will it be the beautiful desert or a bigger one, will it bigger wider roads and buildings on either side? Mother earth is not happy with her molestation and rape, and so the sky too has conspired to express its displeasure.


 

We don’t help matter either with our disrespect for life. On my way there and back I saw approximately 10 dead animals, killed on the road and thrown to the side. Why do our drivers not care? How can they be this callous? I also wondered who moved these animals to the side of the road? Why is life, any life, thrown aside so casually like it is worthless? This wasn’t the first time I had seen road kills, this was the first time I had seen so many, too many. I hope that our drivers are not making this the norm now, and are more careful on the highways. An animal too has a soul, is a life, and should be respected. It is not just road kill on the side of the road.

It was snowing all morning and as the a blanket of pure white covers the streets I can’t help but think how pretty it all looks. The purity of white cover the streets and all its potholes, broken pavements and naked trees. The flakes lightly cover the old and the new, the tired and the energetic. Everything that is outside is kissed white buildings, cars, streets, trees, and all.  The snow gift wraps our life and with a stretch of the imagination you can see the silver bow tied around the gifts. But the truth remains, even as we watch from our windows, as the flakes from, the world has not changed.   

The views, the look, the symbolism of white, all give us hope that a new life is buried below. But as the snow melts what it has hidden underneath will come back to the surface, a bit shinier, somewhat wetter, but unchanged in essence. The potholes of the roads are still there. The tired old cars will still cough into life, the bare tress will shiver with the wind until spring is here, and we will continue on our merry ways doing what we do. 

The snow though gives us a bit of a respite, a break, to look at a white, brighter hope. Knowing things could be different, things could hold hope for us. This is what rejuvenates the world, this is how we know the cycle of life continues.   

I hope that with every flake fluttering down that the earth is invigorated.
I hope that with every flake fluttering down that hope is born.
I hope that with every flake fluttering down that life is renewed. 

Stay warm, stat happy, stay healthy. I hope that with ever white flake the new white dress worn by this city inspires change for what potential exists.

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