22 July 2007

if this is real then i was mistaken.

Paging Albert Camus. I went down to Petra yesterday with Patrick, a UGA law student working at the Jordanian Stock Exchange for the summer. Petra, being an ancient archaeological site, was uneventful - beautiful, but unchanged since last summer. The bus ride back, however, was an affair to remember. Patrick and I were the first ones on the bus, and we thought we'd have the thing to ourselves (a welcome change from the blaring Arab dance music on the way down). Ah, if wishing made it so.

At the next three stops, the bus filled with twenty some-odd (male) soldiers and tech-school students for the three and a half hour ride back to Amman. For those keeping a tally, I'm the only woman. All the other men knew each other, so the kissing, hugging, homo-erotic shabab behavior hit a peak early in the journey. Then, the driver, in his infinite wisdom, welcomed the "ajanibs" (foreigners) and turned on a particularly awful CD, thus initiating a shabab dance party in the aisles. It was only a matter of time before they dragged Patrick into the dance fest and tried forcibly to make him shake his hips like a belly dancer. By grabbing him around the waist from three directions.

But then, I was punished for my hysterical laughter when they also dragged me into the aisles and attempted to dance with me. It was funny until they started shaking their chests and suggesting I do the same. Now I understand how the stripper at a bachelor party feels. When the men started showing interest in me, Patrick and I said we were married, which ended up backfiring in a way the brother-sister cover story usually doesn't.

After the cigarette and bathroom break (the bus was actually non-smoking, wonder of all wonders!), the men were tired and wanted to chat. Patrick, fortunately, doesn't speak a word of Arabic and I was able to dumb down my own abilities, since the men already had a hard time with the idea that only the "wife" could speak the language. But, both of us are actually pretty bright, so despite pretending to have no idea what was going on, we understood.

In sum, the men were asking if we would be consummating our "marriage" that night, and if so, was there a way they could be involved or at least watch. They started by asking to see us kiss, then gradually progressed to discerning where we were sleeping and if that meant "together." One of the creepier guys was even nice (?) enough to offer us his house if for some reason we lacked a bed in which to consummate our love. They also tried to get our phone numbers so we could all "hang out" again sometime soon - we pretended we were just visiting and leaving the next day, which was technically true for Patrick. Thank god we don't have any friends and no one called during the trip. No exaggeration, this went on for the last 45 minutes of the bus ride. We ended up getting off at the first stop somewhere in the ghettos of East Amman just to avoid the further awkwardness.

All the fun and cultural bonding of the dance party was lost by the effects of sexual repression in this country. Honestly - can anyone give me a reason, given stories like this, that isolating men and women from one another in all social contexts is a good idea?

1 comment:

Robin said...

If Patrick was cute, I would say you should have taken the guy up on the house offer.

It's a great story.