Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Self preservation

I'd just like to announce that my sense of self-preservation has officially been destroyed. Sorry mom and dad. I'm starting to act like a Jordanian, and that seems to mean walking in front of moving traffic as though it will stop, when in fact Jordan has one of the highest death rates by car accident in the world. So, I'm announcing this to show how silly the Middle East has made me. At home, I will use crosswalks and I won't j-walk because I'm too nervous. At home, cars will probably stop for me. Here, I walk in front of moving vehicles, don't use sidewalks, come so close to being hit that I actually brush the car with my purse as I walk by, get honked at maliciously, and find myself stuck in center dividers on the daily. It's not that I have a death wish, it's just that this is how things are done here, and if you live here for a month, you tend to do as the Romans do (when in Rome... right? did I mess that one up?).

Another thing, which my dad would like, is my totally distorted sense of lines. I will push in front of everyone to get to the front of the invisible lines in this country, and it makes everything faster. I walk directly in front of people who have been standing there for 10 minutes and use my American-ness to order first, because that is another thing that is done here. There are no lines. I even blatantly cut in front of old-people tourists at Petra because clearly, they don't know how Jordanians do things, but since I do I'm allowed to be a total jackass to strangers.
BUT, on the other hand, if someone at a restaurant doesn't want to serve you because they are on the phone with their girlfriend, I have become accustomed to be completely chill about the fact that my coffee is taking 20 minutes to get. I overheard this dumb old man who was clearly Western yelling at the hotel manager in Cairo for the water being cold, and all I could think about was how absurd it was that he would expect that he'd get warm water, let alone water at all, in a hotel even though he was paying for it. Another example: my professors answer their cell phones in the middle of class, in lecture, or if I'm mid-sentence. They just have to see who is calling them, because who knows, it could be someone important. It never is, but I shouldn't expect that they wouldn't stop class for a personal call. My sense of entitlement has left me, as has my sense of waiting in line and my desire to cross streets safely.

Just saying. I'll try not to die with the street thing, but I find it really interesting to see how different my actions are becoming (or how Arab they're becoming). Things don't get done in this part of the world because of their mentality of not expecting anything to get done. "Enshaalah" (God willing, they say it after every sentence) I will show up at the meeting that has been scheduled for a month, but if Allah wills it, I will be at a cafe with an old friend instead. Enshaalah my coffee will be served to me when I order it, but most of the time Allah wants my cashier to call home 5 times before giving me coffee and for my professor to interrupt class for a personal phone call every few minutes.

But really, I get why nothing gets done in Middle Eastern politics, because how could they when there are hundreds of distractions waiting to get in your way, enshaalah? 

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