Cats, Dogs, and Smokers! Oh my!

Surprise! The Middle East is hot. Now, to preface that statement, it actually can feel like a cool, summer day when you’re in the shade. However, in the direct sunlight it feels a little bit like what I imagine hell would feel like. The worst of it though is being so entirely covered up. I wear long maxi skirts or jeans every day and a blouse that covers my shoulders and usually reaches my collarbone. With this kind of heat, I’d rather be walking around in short-shortshortshorts and a tank top. However, that would attract even more unwanted attention. So, to make myself feel better, I’ve made some extreme decisions. The day I return to the United States of America, I am joining a nudist colony. There’s bound to be one in like…Portland or something. Just thought you all should know.

In other news, cats. You can find them in the trash. You can find them when you hear a crash. You can find them in the house. You can find them eating a mouse. You can find them here and there. You can find them anywhere. Cats, you see, are everywhere. True story. I like to lovingly call them the smelly, starving, dumpster cats. I’m not sure why Amman is so overrun with the poor scraggly things, but they are in desperate need of help. If any of you would like to help me start a nonprofit for the kittens of Amman, just let me know. I’m thinking of turning Petra into a kitten sanctuary. It’s a work in progress.

To complement my animal theme, I will tell you a story about dogs in Amman. Yesterday, some friends and I were on a journey to find ACOR. ACOR is a building that is mainly used to house archaeologists staying in Jordan, but they have kindly opened up their library, wifi, and bathroom for us poor American students. ACOR resides on top of a rather large hill, a short walk from the University of Jordan’s campus. Well, my friends and I accidentally went up the wrong hill. And, in all my wisdom, I thought maybe we could take a short cut to the other hill. We walked in the direction of ACOR and came upon a large, desert wasteland filled with trash, rocks, dirt, and terrible smells. There was a slight drop off, where we had to go down and then back up another hill to reach ACOR. My adventurous spirit cried, “Onwards!” Three steps later I regretted saying anything. The building we were passing, as we headed down the dirt hill, erupted with dogs barking like mad. I was so caught up in wondering how many dogs could possibly be making all that noise, that I was shocked when I realized I had almost stepped on top of an old, dried-out dog jawbone. Suffice it to say, I’m fairly certain we stumbled upon a huge dog pound, or possibly Amman’s most terrifying dog-fighting ring. But, you will be happy to learn, that we did eventually reach ACOR.

I have news. Since arriving in Amman, I have taken up smoking. Sorry, Mum and Dad. I just figured there was no point in fighting it anymore. Don’t be alarmed, it’s not first-hand, but second-hand. Everyone’s favourite. I had no idea how much I had taken for granted concerning the no-smoking laws in America. Today, I was studying in a cafe and the room was so filled with smoke that after ten minutes my chest started to hurt. The taxi drivers I get rides from at least twice a day are often smoking in the car. They usually have their window open but, when I’m sitting in the middle of the backseat, a lot of the smoke comes right back in my face (and, of course, into my lungs). I have decided that cancer is inevitable at this point.

Another note: Water. You know those movies where people are lost and they’re crawling on the desert floor? Their vision becomes all blurry and they start imagining oasis after oasis and they keep mouthing the word, “water” over and over again? I have a moment like that at least once a day. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but I get really parched here. Haha. I have taken to buying (and drinking) a massive bottle for .30 JD everyday. Yeah, I’m that girl. No big deal. I love water.

Oh, maybe I should say a little somethin-somethin’ about my classes. I’m really enjoying them. My Arabic class is going to be challenging, I think. But that’s for the best, I’m really hopeful to get my knowledge of the language on its feet. My colloquial Arabic is like learning an entirely new language. Yesterday, we had to re-learn all the basic question words. It’s frustrating, but thank goodness my professor is highly amusing. My area studies class are both very interesting. Funnily enough, both classes discussed the same thing on the first day. And that is this: What is your definition of the term ‘the Middle East’? …No one ever has an answer. What about ‘the Arab World’? ‘The Islamic World’? Is it geographical? Demographical? Religion? Language? It seems there are no real borders. There is not just one connecting factor. It all depends on who is asking and who wants to know. I find it to be an interesting dilemma.

In my Middle East: Alternative Perspectives class we watch and discuss movies, books, and writings about the Middle East. The professor spoke about how in Transformers 2, the characters go from being at the Pyramids (In Egypt) and then head over to Petra (In Jordan) without crossing a single border. While this is just an example, he asked, “When we are willing to erase geography (take away borders), what else are we willing to take away to make your film “better”? Ethnicity? Religion?” We blur these lines, just like we blur borders. We see this in so many aspects, especially when it comes to the Middle East. It’s worrisome. I think, we often become lazy when it comes to understanding the vast diversity that makes up the cultures, people, and geography of this area of the world.

Food for thought.

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