05 February 2007

three americans and an iraqi walk into a hospital.

It's not the beginning of a joke, that was my yesterday. We went downstairs to return our neighbor's plates from the (beefy) meal she brought us last week. I was planning to go get xrays for Peace Corps with her while Ashley and Robin (my roommates) were going to go to the Safeway for some grocery shopping. Zahara (Iraqi neighbor) is rather lonely in town and anxious to improve her English so she can pass the TOEFL and study in the States, so she instead proposed that we all go to the hospital and then go shopping together. Since she was doing me a favor and it's heartbreaking to tell her no, we agreed.

While she changed, we had an awkward conversation with her father - he asked "What's your nationality?" In retrospect, "Canadian, eh" would have been the smart response, but we went with honesty. He replied, "I'm Iraqi," in a tone that silently added "thanks for decimating my country, assholes." We turned the conversation back to polite discussions of what we were studying and practiced our Arabic with him, but I think the damage was done, because he changed the TV to the Iraqi anti-American propaganda channel featuring footage of kidnapped, wounded, or killed American soldiers, gruesome pictures of Iraqi civilians, and a streaming line of propaganda across the bottom, all set to Arabic rap. Thankfully, Zahara's mother brought out the candy and offered tea to smooth things over - she was more interested in getting to know us than starting a fight, and she silenced dad with a pointed glare. Awkward...

The xrays at the hospital were actually quite painless - nothing in Jordan ever takes the five minutes it's promised to, but this actually did. It was handy having a contact since she could bypass the appointments, have her friend take the xrays, print them, then I paid (a mere 10 JDs, or $14!) and we left. Too easy, as it would turn out.

But then we went shopping. At the Safeway way out in Sweifeiyeh, not the one a half dinar ride from our apartment. Granted, this one is bigger and fancier, but she wanted to give us the grand tour first. There's an enormous buffet restaurant on the first floor, and she took us through and proudly read the (english) labels on every dish. This coming after her conversation about how "Americans are so big!" the week before, so we couldn't help but feel that the buffet was a subtle dig at the fat Americans. Then she showed us every aisle of the store. Including the fresh meat section, where she was bewildered to discover that none of us ate beef (ironically, this is also the same location where I mistook a whole cow hanging in the window for a pig while shopping with Matt last week. Whoops.) Long story short, four hours later, we made it back to the apartment from what was supposed to be a brief excursion. Life just moves slower here.

PS. It's been near-freezing raining for five days now with no signs of stopping, safe a brief hour of sunshine this afternoon. Whoever thought I was moving to a desert was sadly mistaken. On a brighter note, you can buy processed queso cheese dip in this country (a flava of love nod to Leah!).

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