Thursday, April 17, 2014

Phones, corncorbs, and Umm Qais

Ah, phone calls. I should document the various types of phone call I receive and make.

This one person called me several times last week. I returned the call numerous times to find a busy signal. Finally, I reached the caller. I said, “Hello, this is Fr. John and I’m returning your call.” The reply was, “Who are you and what do you want?” I restated that I am Fr. John and that I was returning the call. “Why are you calling me? I don’t know you?,” was the reply. “I am calling you because you called me,” I said. “No, I didn’t,” was the reply. “I am Fr. John and I work at the church.” “O.K. Goodbye,” was the reply.

Five minutes later, when I’m meeting with a different person, the phone rings off the hook because that person is calling me back.

Or, there is always a call, which I return, but there is no answer at the other end. So, I hang up and the person calls me back right away. What gives? They weren’t there a minute ago.

On average, it takes about four phone conversations before I can really figure out what the caller wants. I ask many questions to help tease it out, but it is a lot of patient work.

It is often an ordeal to find out the caller’s name. It is something simple that I would like to know, but I often can’t get it out of the person.

Then there are the people who say, “Hello.” So, I say, “Hello.” And then they say hello, to which I respond “hello.” Then they say, “Good morning,” and I say “Good morning,” and then we are back to the “hellos.” Progressing from conversational basics is not easy. It is not uncommon for us to say “hello” or “good morning” apiece for a dozen times before I ask them if they know any other English words. Why is it so difficult to move forward?

I could go on and on about the multi-directions of the conversations. One must be very patient and a skillful puzzle solver to make headway most times. One day, I will have someone call me and say, “Good morning, Fr. John. This is so-and-so and I would like to speak with you about this topic. Is this a good time to talk?” Oh, that will be sweet.

And then there are text messages.

For a place that is often behind on projects, I am impressed by the rapidity by which the Seventh Circle has been transformed from a rotary into a square with traffic lights. It appeared in last Thursday’s Jordan Times and it was virtually complete by Monday. Everyone’s eyes popped with the speed of the work.

Corncobs bombarded me as I was driving home from an appointment the other day. A pickup truck with loosely collected vegetable pallets lost its freight as his high speed of travel sent his products aloft. I spotted the shaky packaging and stayed clear of it as best I could but those corncobs bounced more than I thought they could.

I saw my first funeral procession earlier in the day. Traffic was backed up and cars were honking their horns just like any other day, but I saw a hearse with three cars travelling in caravan behind it at a respectful speed. Everyone was so frustrated with the pace that they rushed by. I just followed behind in order to pay respects for the dead.

Weeks earlier I was wondering where the Christian cemeteries may be. Upon checking, I’m told two cemeteries exist in East Amman. It would be interesting to visit.  

This is the time of year I like to pull out two books: Howard Fast “April Morning” and Johnny Tremain. It gets me in the right mood for Patriots’ Day.

Yesterday I travelled to Umm Qais, the site of the Gadarene (Gerasene) demoniac in the Decapolis. It is a beautiful spot and I visited last May. I wanted to see the north with its beautiful green grass. It was lovely and it felt so peaceful. The day did not disappoint.

The place is located near the Sea of Galilee where Israel, Jordan, and Syria meet. It provides much room for biblical imaginings. Without a doubt, we know that Jesus would have been familiar with this area of the world. I can ponder him taking in the beauty of the land.

It turns out that most of the soil in Jordan is very fertile, but there is not enough rainfall or irrigation to make the land useful. It is quite a shame. I still hold much hope for Jordan’s progress, but being the fourth poorest nation in its water resources mitigates against making the land viable. I would love to see the climate changed by planting many more trees and bushes that would have an effect upon the rainfall.

Umm Qais was filled with field trips from Girls’ Schools based in Amman. Many of these girls introduced themselves to me and had some conversation as best they could. They were so happy. It was a delightful experience. They had a great time exploring the area and being with one another.

On the journey north, I saw a small village outside Irbid that had at least 18 houses painted in purple. Another dozen were painted in pastel pink. The village looked so colorful in contrast the Amman’s monochromatic pattern. If only more places could do this, the place would look cheerful and happy.

My GPS took me onto some roads that just end.

In Jordan, there is always another way around.

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