Life in a Christian Village

Our work day was pretty well scheduled. We were up by 5 am to have oatmeal, drove out to the dig site before the sun rose, watched the sun rise over the Wadi Mujib, worked in the dirt taking a break for tea brewed over a fire (shai narr) around 10:30, and headed home around 12:30 for lunch. After we ate, we had a chance at a nap and a shower before scrubbing the pottery sherds we had collected that day. We each took turns cooking and cleaning in the evenings. This didn’t leave a whole lot of free time, but the time we did have was spent relaxing. My favorite thing to do was to sit on the porch and watch the neighborhood. The kids would walk by and wave “Hi how are you? Hi how are you?” without knowing the response if you asked them the same question. It seems that every Jordanian learns three phrases in English: “Welcome in Jordan!” and “Hi how are you?” and “I love you!”

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Sometimes you find kids who have learned some rather interesting offensive phrases, probably learned from an older brother who taught himself the most offensive English phrases he could find on the internet. Sometimes, when I was very bored, I would walk to the local shop for an ice cream. The neighbors all invited me for tea or a meal, and all wanted to talk to me. Unfortunately, at that point I didn’t know more than 5 words in Arabic, so you can’t get very far with “Hi how are you”. The neighbor girls all loved to sit with me on the street. They would play with my hair and steal my iphone to take pictures and play music.

One night the neighbors across the street invited me over for dinner again. They were barbecuing meat and taught me how to make mansef. When we started eating (most meals are with your hands or using bread as a utensil) it was unusual and amazingly delicious! I ask ‘what meat is this?’

‘Sheep. I kill him myself last week!’

wow, you killed a sheep yourself?

‘yes. he was in the wild. I shot him once and he didn’t die, so I chased him and shot him again and he was dead’.

Wow, I didnt know sheep could run that fast!

‘no, wait, not a sheep. What’s the word in english? In Arabic it is gazelle’

Okay then, BBQ Gazelle is one of the best tasting meats I ever had! I would rather not think of it as that I just ate an endangered species, but rather that I ate the food that was served to me as an honored guest.

Before I came to Jordan, I met a man through our blogs. He actually helped me do my research paper on the region of Moab. Through some messages back and forth, I learned that he was actually from the village I was staying in! He had met the dig director in 2008 when he was in the area. I invited him over for tea with me and the director! He is studying to be a doctor in Karak. We discussed social issues in the area and compared cultures. He is very educated and worldly, and as such has a very different perspective on his country than the average Jordanian. It was interesting to learn about how people live in a city with limited civil works; how they deal with trash collection and water issues. It is really remarkable to me how much the internet can bring people together! What are the chances of me moving to a rural, tiny village in the middle of a desert that is mostly populated by bedouin tribes living in tents, and already knowing someone on facebook from there!

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