an american tribe in amman

Words, as often, fall short of telling exactly what we feel for the people we know. Words, as Conrad once said, are great foes of meaning. With all this in mind, I’ll try to write some words about some friends who have left Amman, just today.

This is not the first time we receive an American student in our little apartment in Amman, we had a good experience with a guy last semester, his name is Ryan. This time, this student became our best friend and brother, and his friends, the SIT tribe, were all great as well. Paul Balmer, a smart student and a promising athlete, coming from Portland, Oregon, in the Northwest, and studying middle-eastern studies at Pormona college. His Arabic was good, he used the word “6ab3an” a lot, and, of course, a whole set of new Arabizi vocab that he developed with Ben, Biff, Ian, Anna, Tim, Andy, and of course Dave, and the rest of the”tribe”. These words include “Zakilcious”, “Shoks” (shokran+thanks), “Deens” (JD’s), and the brilliant “mish mosh” (Mish moshkelah= no problem), and most recently when they came back from Egypt “Eeeg” (short from Egypt). If these “shabab” would stay some other months in Jordan, they’ll definitely develop their own variety of Jordo-Palestinian Arabic!

Paul has always shown, during his stay,  the most endearing qualities and manners. We’ve been extremely happy, and lucky, to host such a guy this semester. His independent study project was about the student government at the university of Jordan, and how the Arab spring is influencing its activities and attitudes. It was an interesting study, I tried to help as much as I could, he interviewed me on the topic, as a student at JU, and I tried to help him interviewing some guys that I know, who are interested in student politics there. He read whatever he could find on the issue in English, and through the questionnaires and interviews with the other students and researchers, and of course a meeting with the current president of the union, he came up with some results and insights. One general insight, as far as I remember, is that the student union at JU is not in a position to greatly push the reform process in Jordan from inside the university, especially in light of what he described as a sweeping apathy among the students regarding student politics. A large number of JU students do not know the name nor the political background of their union’s president. Students may only take to streets and participate in the demonstrations if they wish to effect real change on a national level. These students, normally, do not actually represent the student body as a whole, since most of them will be affiliated with a party outside the university.

We had long discussions about this issue, especially the idea that the student union is subject to two opposite powers, the official power of the university administration, taking into consideration the influence of the security apparatus and its palpable intervention in students’ lives , and the power of the control-freak leadership of the the opposition parties, namely in this case, the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, that influences, in a way or another, all the decisions taken by the union. This is a fact that was directly expressed by the president of the union during a discussion with him; he told me that he’s keen on letting students know that he’s a member of the movement, and that “we obey our leadership”. Of course!

The Palestinian issue occupied a good space in our discussions as well. Paul is politically moderate, he likes Obama, and he’s positive that there’ll be some changes in the US policies regarding Palestine. At the same time, he was clearly against the Israeli crimes, illegal settlements, the blockade on Gaza Strip, and all of the other “shabab” as well, including Sarah and Ben, who are Jews. The issue of Palestine, fortunately, was the issue which helped creating a friendly atmosphere among us. Religion, as well, was more of a unifying aspect rather than being a factor of possible disagreement and clash, Al7amdulellah.

Paul, learned to be a good arabic coffee maker. He made with Biff and Ben a nice video “In Search for Arabic Coffee”.Watch this:

I really hope that he had a good experience with me and my brother Omar in our apartment, which is more like a dorm room, and with my family downstairs. The elevator “the dumb-waiter” was of a great help all the time. Everything will come upstairs by a ring on the internal phone between the two apartments, and will be available after you hang off. It was a lot of fun, except for the never-ending process of washing the dishes!. Omar was no help, but I found out during Paul’s absence that he started getting better in this regard. Washing the dishes was almost divided proportionately between me and Paul, since we lost hope in getting any help from downstairs kaman.

Every night, a question is raised: What are we going to eat tonight? (sho bedna nokol?) It was crazy; lots of nights we’d be satisfied with some Labaneh, Hummus, Falafel, Cheese, Za3tar. But we also had some good dinners downstairs, in some restaurants (cheap, but good ones), and alfresco! Burgers and pastas were a special treat of course, Paul made a pasta one time, it was “zakilicious”!

I actually don’t like writing this in English. I really hope that Paul and the guys would be able to read my language one day as I do theirs. I can say that Paul is, inshallah, getting better and better in Arabic, and I believe he’s set some plans to do more work on it. Ben and Ian are making a good progress in learning the language, I also hope they’ll keep up the hard work.

Living with Paul, I can write endlessly about the things we’ve learned from, and about each other. I can write about Paul’s effort in encouraging me to do some running with him and to slim down a bit. I’ve become more environment-friendly and learned from him some good ideas about leading a green life and protecting the environment. I can say that I have a better understanding of different issues that contribute to the intercultural tension between Americans and Arabs. I can also talk about the value of friendship, and brotherhood, from a new perspective. Spending this good period of time with him made me more intent on pursuing my studies in translation, and encouraged me to write up my thesis as soon as possible, in order to head forward to get a PhD in translation studies or cultural studies.

Paul should be in Africa now, in Mozambique, for quick visit for his sister who’s working there. We already miss him, my dad’s only wish now is to receive another student just as Paul! I think this is not impossible, but Paul has definitely raised the parameters!

Now, we are waiting to receive a new student, on June 15 I believe. It’ll be another story, and I’m sure we’ll have another good experience, but Paul and his friends will always be the best.

تتطلب عرض الشرائح هذه للجافا سكريبت.


6 أفكار على ”an american tribe in amman

  1. I really enjoyed reading your excited experience with Paul and his friends. I am sure he also enjoyed his stay with you and your friendly family. They all are welcome in Jordan anytime.

    I could not watch the vedio ragarding the Arabic Coffee, I could not open it.

    Please do not forget to share us with your next American friend 🙂

  2. صباح النور،،

    جميل جداً عن جد.. يعني انت وعائلتك عن جد ناس رائعين جداً وعندكم الروح الحقيقية للمسلم الحقيقي.. ما شاء الله عنكم.. الله يجمعني وعائلتي بكم في جنات الخلد.. اللهم آمين..

    أنا بس حابة أعرف فكرة استضافة طلاب أجانب لفترة وجيزة عندكم بالبيت،، من وين أجت؟؟ وكيف خطرت على بالكم.. ومين الجهة اللي بتنسق بينكم وبين الطلاب.. وغريبة انه الوالد موافق على هيك شي، غالباً ما حدا من الرجال الشرقيين برضى حتى لو كنتم بطابق منفصل عن البيت.. بس الصراحة تجربة عميقة وجميلة وممتعة ومفيدة..

    هل هدول الطلاب جايين فقط لدراسة اللغة العربية ولا بيكونوا جايين لدراسات تانية مختلفة؟ يعني أنا شايفة انه هاي الفكرة زي فكرة العرب اللي بيروحوا يقيموا عند الأجانب مشان يتعلموا اللغة الإنجليزية على أصولها ولكن أنا حسيت انه انتم المستفيدين أكتر من إقامتهم عندكم لأنهم ما بعرفوا عربي وبالتالي النقاشات والحوارات كلها بالإنجليزي،، يعني انت المستفيد بالدرجة الأولى وليسوا هم!!

    أنا كتبت تعليقي عليها بالإنجليزي عشان لما مسيو بول يقرأ يعرف انه الك أصدقاء كمان بيرحبوا فيهم في بلادنا العربية والإسلامية.. مع انه التعليق بسيط كتير لاني ما عرفت أعبّر بالإنجليزي 

  3. مرحبا وديان،
    الفكرة إنو في مؤسسة صغيرة هون في عمان اسمها مدرسة التعليم الدولي بتتعاون مع الجامعات الأمريكية اللي بتدرس دراسات الشرق الأوسط أو السياسة أو اللغة العربية أو الدراسات الإسلامية، وهاي الجامعات فيها متطلب إنو الطالب يمضي فصل كامل في المنطقة اللي هو متخصص فيها. هاي الفكرة، وطرحها علينا مدير المعهد اللي هو صديق والدي.
    الوالد كمان سعيد بهاي التجربة، لأنه بيئتنا محافظة، ووالدي بشوف إنو هاي البيئة اللي لازم هدول الطلاب يتعرضوا الها، حتى تكتمل الصورة عندهم، ويعرفوا اساليب حياتنا العربية الإسلامية
    بالنسبة للفيديو، حاولي تشوفيه يبمكان غير أبو غزالة، بتعرفي ما شا الله القوانين اللي عندكم بالشركة!!

  4. جد هادي تجربة كتييييرر رائعة عالأقل الواحد بيكتسب منها طريق جديدة للتفكير وبياخد خبرات مو من الممكن ياخدها بسهولة خاصة وانه احنا بنعيش بمجتمع متحفظ نوعا ما على المعتقدات والأفكار السائدة فيه….
    nice experiment>>

  5. Once I have seen Mohamad,I expected that guy to have many capacities, and when I read your writings I realized that…. Great; great !!!!!! I really liked your style of writing in both Arabic and English, Carry on Mohamad, I wish to see your books everywhere in the libraries nchallah, Mounia

  6. Thank you sooo much mounia for your nice words, I really hope I could be able to write more. It was such a pleasure meeting you at the university and having that nice conversation with you. I hope to see you soon when you come back from Algeria.

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