29 March 2007

uneven remainders.

Instead of long-winded pondering on the state of the world, I offer brief anecdotes of the absurdity that is life in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Saturday, we went to the gladiator/chariot races show at Jerash, the major Roman ruins outside Amman. See pictures. All in English, it was easy to understand, absolutely hilarious, and at times, even educational. Fleming spent some time with the little boys who sell postcards talking about "the allah named Zues" that he, too, could have a personal relationship with, but the boy was having none of it. So, we sacrificed Candace in the ruins of Zues' temple as a peace offering.

Zahara, our downstairs Iraqi neighbor (of the dental xrays fame) just got engaged to an Iraqi engineer she's apparently *known* for quite some time. Her parents rejected him the first time he asked, but they said yes this time (I'll bite my tongue on this one). The wedding's in the summer, so I'm not sure if I'll be around, but the engagement party is next week, so that'll be exciting. I'll probably get in trouble for wearing a dress, but it's an Iraqi party!

For the first time in our sahafa (newspaper) Arabic class, I'm actually in my element. We've been talking about reproductive health policy in the Muslim world, and I'm the only one who fully understands what all the awkward Arabic phrases are referring to (a nice change from last week's economics discussions). The state of reproductive rights over here is somewhat surprising, and also very not. Essentially, birth control has been ruled permissible for "family planning" (i.e. spacing out the children so you can afford to feed them all), but not for avoiding pregnancy long-term (it's technically a woman's Muslim duty to make as many new Muslims as possible). IUDs are popular here, mainly because the burden of planning (and having and raising, come to think of it) the family falls solely on the woman, and these offer a convenient way to stop having babies without having to tell your husband. My roommate works at the Arab Women's Organization clinic here in Amman (essentially the local Planned Parenthood, but European-funded), and her boss was quite proud that they handed out 25 condoms. Last month. I'm confident I've handed out that many over the span of a few minutes in an alligator costume at UF, where the responsibility of preventing pregnancy is a bit more evenly distributed among the participants.

Granted, this is far more progressive than the Catholics, who lost my respect when the pope deemed that 40 million Africans deserve to die when a small bit of latex could potentially save their lives, but I'm still finding the notion that I am first and foremost a procreation machine a bitter pill to swallow. Greg and I tried to bait our professor into an actual discussion of the issue with vocabulary sentences like "It is important for women to have family planning options if they are to be more than a means of procreation" (yes, I made that sentence in Arabic) and "Reproductive rights are a very new idea in the Middle East." He wouldn't bite, much to our dismay. Then we moved onto fertility treatments and egg donors for old women in Britain, and the conversation reached a new apex of awkwardness with a professor who's uncomfortable talking about the vodka exported from Russia.

Quote of the week from radical Islam: "I feel happy whenever someone kills an American soldier in Iraq." I think I've run out of words.

No comments: