Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Low-Key Days after the Visit.

The Pope has come and gone, but his effect is still lingering in Jordan. The Jordan Times has run articles every day this week after his visit and the King has been very appreciative of all the work that was done to make Jordan shine. The kingdom is rightly proud of itself.

I will be at mass tomorrow to hear the impressions of parishioners who attended the mass. I think they will have good reports of their time at the stadium. I expect there will be a bit of a lull because so much enthusiasm went into greeting him.

The hard work begins now that Pope Francis has left. He inspired us and now we have to carry the torch bearing the flames he lit.

Our province benefactors left for the U.S. today. It was good to have them around. They had a full visit in the Holy Lands of Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. May God bless them for their support.

We had a nice lunch with an archbishop today. He often comes over for a meal and restful conversation. We can tell he enjoys it and can relax in our presence.

Two nights ago, I walked at night to Jebel Hussein’s shopping district. As I hastened along, I noticed that there is no place in Amman quite like this area. One can tell it was built with a certain direction in mind, but it never materialized in the way they planned. First of all, in a country that is mostly desert, there are no wide open spaces.

Jebel Hussein is the garment district and it has lots of indoor malls that seem to struggle. I noticed there are a few modern or chain restaurants (Popeyes, Snax) but mostly it is a sole proprietor market area. It reminds me of office buildings of the 30’s and 40’s in the U.S.

The small Maxim mall has enough people in them to sustain business activity and the food court essentially has street vendor items (flavored corn cobs, falafel). The district is unique because these are simply the average Jordanian families who are spending their time shopping for household essentials. It is actually quite fascinating and nice to experience.

Some of the smaller malls, though, have an air of desperation to them. For instance, when I ascended to the third floor of one mall, which contained a food court containing two stored, both vendors yelled out to me to come in and eat. I had already eaten so I was not in a state of hunger. When I turned to go down the escalator, I heard, “Please come in. You are welcome.” I felt bad because their visibility and foot traffic is so low. I don’t know how they sustain themselves, even though there are more than enough people living in the neighborhood. I also realized that many of these people live and work in this neighborhood and probably seldom get to the more Westernized areas of the city. There are hidden gems in these places though and some newer stores on the cusp of becoming modern.

As I walked, I was intrigued because I saw a fountain in the middle of the roadway. I’ve walked and driven by this road for two year and this is the first time I saw the fountains. There were actually two. The other Jesuit in the house was always unaware of it.

I sat down to gaze at the fountain because there were park benches. Many people came to sit and chat with friends and just to hang out in the warm night air. The fountains were not incredibly attractive, but it is nice to have them operative. They provide balance to the hectic street life that dominates the area. I very much enjoyed watching how people really connected with one another at these places. For such a crowded area, it was clear that most of these people knew each other and were happy to spend time in leisure with them. Their familiarity with others made the city seem much better connected than other modern cities.

Speaking of connections, I went to a coffee shop on Jebel Weibdeh today, just to get out of the house because I have been tethered to it all week. Every time I go, I run into at least five people who know me. I laugh when the security guards come in from outdoors just to shake my hand. I occasionally buy them a pastry.

As I was doing some work at my computer, I pleasantly listened to a French singer being played on the audio system. Actually, the songs were in French, but I don’t know that she is French, but with a name like Elizabeth Boulet, I presume she is French, but she could be American. I’ll have to google her because I liked her voice and her music. The manager was very happy to stop the music to verify that he said her name correctly.

Speaking of singers, we are in our final week of preparations for the Messiah concert. Bill Culverhouse, our conductor, is a dynamo. Last night, we worked with precision on the dynamics, balance, and blend of certain choral arrangements. It was a strenuous workout and it was our first time rehearsing in the Greek Catholic cathedral. As I am a high sensate, listening to my neighbor is essential for stability. I was dissatisfied with our first seating arrangement and then when the lineup was shifted, everything seemed to fit just right.

We rehearse again tomorrow night and I suspect it will be another dynamic workout. I hope many people come to this event because it is historic for Jordan. It is the first time Handel’s Messiah is being performed as a complete work in the kingdom. It also had an oud  to accompany us and we will sing a few choral pieces with Arabic lyrics. It promises to be an outstanding show.

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