Saturday, December 28, 2013

A different world

I try to be patient, but when I'm on a coveted two-day holiday, I want some order so that the distractions and drama are minimized. A Jordanian friend recently said to me, "You must understand. We are meant to be an unruly people. It says so in the Bible."

I felt sad because he was not excusing behavior, but he was saying that some people take that is justification to not ever change who they are. It means they do not have to think or consider the other person. It fits into to the belief, "An Arab cannot be wrong." Everyone can see someone do something so objectively wrong, but no one will publicly pin it on him or her. They help the person save face because somewhere along the way someone else must have participated in the activity that made it wrong. Therefore, blame can be shared. Therefore, change never happens.

I would suspect many people here would not get into Alcoholics Anonymous because a first step is to admit one's powerlessness and that one has a problem. Many could not even reach step one. When a sweeping culture is like that, it creates who systems of dysfunction.

I was almost run off the road today because a truck kept swerving. I blew my horn to make him aware and he began shouting - I suppose because I was in the space he wanted to be in.

I have been wondering about the term lawless. There are laws here, but there's a total disregard for the laws. Laws are meant to be protested because they are thought to be unfairly enacted against someone who doesn't want the law there in the first place.

As I was heading back to Amman from Aqaba, I was driving behind a man who was driving at a recognizably safe speed. I decided I would stay behind him because he is a good driver. Wrong! He must have been checking his emails by phone. He approached a traffic light that had turned red, then he sped up and entered the cross-flowing traffic a full five seconds after it turned red. He blew through the light and almost hit another car, then from the very far right lane made a left hand turn. And, in his justification, he did nothing wrong. He was not to blame for anything.

It does make me want to go back to Paul's letters where he talks about justification. Paul was a very advanced thinker for this culture. I can't believe he loved the people that much. He went to Syria, and those people are more rebellious than Jordanians. But the idea of justification must have been revolutionary for a people that self-justifies. How could Paul do this? Christ must have surely worked on his heart.

I wrote on Facebook about my breakfast experience. First, a family of children gathered outside my hotel door at 6:45 a.m. and then lingered for fifteen minutes. I was awake and getting ready for the day, but I would have been angry if I wanted sleep.

I went to the dining room where one other man was in the very spacious room that could probably seat 200 people. I went to get myself a cup of coffee and he bumped into me. Really? Come on. No one else is there and he bumps into me as he passes to get some juice. (It wasn't orange or mango, and the taste was unrecognizable.) He did not understand my look of disdain. He drank up and left, but another man entered.

He was an emaciated looking man with a swagger. Very un-goodlooking. He was probably a businessman, but unkempt with a very bad suit. He coughed loudly and then sat down and started talking - to himself - loudly. He was not on a phone. He looked at me and dropped his head, then seconds later, he starts talking to himself again. I just wondered what question I should be asking myself.

When I checked into the hotel, the clerk asked me if I wanted to pay now or when I checked out. I said, I'll do it when I leave, in case I wanted to stay an extra night or leave early. I had a feeling I should have paid right away. I should have. The desk clerk took my credit card, started punching all types of numbers and I recognized this was not going to be good. After half a minute, he said, "The card was rejected." I wanted to say, "I reject your inefficiency," but I did what I do so often here in the kingdom, "I bit my tongue." He tried several more times and said, "the card is no good." More thoughts crossed my mind, and then a woman came over to help him. She was customarily bossy and she told me to pay in cash. I said I had no cash. She said the man would walk me to the bank and I could get cash. I said, "No way. I'll come back later." I did have the cash on me for a different purpose, but I was not happy. After 45 minutes later, the woman said, "You are angry. Why are you angry?" As I often do here, I bit my tongue and walked out the door.

So, I went to the gas station to fill up. After maneuvering my car through the dug up lot, I told the man to "fill it up." We go through the same exchange at every station. "Full." "Yes, full. 90 Octane." "95?" "No, 90." "How much?" "As much as it takes," "Huh?" "Fill it. Full." "Oh, full?" "95?" "No, 90." "Full, 90." "Full, 90." "Full, 90." "Ah, full, 90?" "Yes, please."

So he fills it and then I hand him a 50 for a 23 JOD bill. He hands me a 50 JOD back. I said, "No." He then hands me a 20 and a 1 JOD. I say, "More please." He looks at me as if I'm cheating him, so I count it out for him. He then takes the money from my hands and then hands it to me one bill at a time because in the long run, he can't ever be wrong.

Manners and competence are not the privilege of a wealthy class, but manners are taught and competence is rewarded with continued employment. I think I'm going to have to pay for competence at some point rather than subject myself to this all the time, however, there is no guarantee that I'll do better at a higher end place. At least I will have at least three people who will share in the drama. You think people would learn.

Just like Christmas morning when I went to the women's shelter. Everyone gathered and was waiting for me to begin Mass. I realized they had been there for an hour because they were so orderly. They showed up an hour early because they didn't change their clocks back two weeks earlier. When I went to Mass the Saturday before Christmas, they said, "We thought you weren't coming because you are so late." I explained that the time in the Kingdom changed and they needed to adjust their clocks. Oh, well.

I did take a very scenic way home from Aqaba along the Dead Sea. For close to 200 kilometers, I did not have to pass any car. There were so few and the roads and scenery were great. Very few trucks until I arrived closer to the sea.

All the signs were in Arabic, but that wouldn't have done me any good because Jordanians have a custom of plastering other signs on top of permanent road signs.

When I was about halfway to Amman, I saw this one car who was going to pass me, but at the last minute he decided not to do it. I saw that there was a police car behind him. I thought, "Oh, this guy is being prudent and doesn't want to get at ticket." So, the police officer guns it to pass both of us and in doing so was almost crushed by the oncoming truck. He almost wiped himself out. There's plenty of space and time. Why do they have to rush to go nowhere? Go figure. A few miles ahead I saw spilled tomatoes all over the road. I wonder if they were connected in any way.

Good news. IKEA is opening an Amman store in January. I've never beent o one. I also stopped at the new Samareh Mall at the Dead Sea. It is small with only twelve stores, but it is a great idea. I'm sure it will lead to more types of shopping for the poor people who go to the hotels and never leave because there's nothing to do there. This should give them a bit of a diversion and build up demand for quality shops. The stores are decent ones. More need to be brought there.

So, I sat at a Wings and Things restaurant and I watched camel racing, but it seemed so odd because none of them had a jockey.

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