Speaking Arabic to the Japanese and Spanish with an Argentine… - 10.06.2005

Today I spent most of the day taking Arabic lessons and then visiting the main University in Amman. After which I had my first trip to a supermaket in the Middle East, it was interesting, and much like any other small supermarket I had been to in the past.

Guess what the word for supermarket in Arabic is? That’s right, Supermarket!

So although the trip was enlightening from a sociological perspective, and strengthening my Arabic will be helpful, most of the day wasn’t particularly productive. However, I wasn’t too worried since I had an interview with a British Iraqi planned for the evening.

After a short nap I had dinner, used the internet, and by 7:30 my interview subject still had not shown. I was beginning to get discouraged when Raafat appeared! Raafat is my contact in Amman, someone I have been unable to reach since arriving here five days ago. Before arriving in Jordan, Dahr Jamail had highly recommended contacting Raafat.

You can imagine my excitement and pleasure when he arrived unexpectedly. We spoke for a little while and he apologized for arriving so late, he had been in Aqaba for five days, staying near the desert with little phone service and no internet. I told him it was no problem, and we quickly decided, rather than waiting for the interviewee, to leave him a note and head to the Al Saraya Hotel.

It quickly turned into a very productive evening, and great fun as well! At Al Saraya I met Fayez, the well educated and highly opinionated, but humorous, manager of Al Saraya. He had a lot of interesting things to share about the situation in the Middle East, as well as intriguing opinions about where things are going in Iraq. I’ll try to put together an article about the various opinions I have heard from the Arabs here about the situation, perhaps tomorrow morning before I meet Raafat again.

As the night wore on I met a volunteer Japanese nurse who spoke almost no English, and found myself communicating with her in Arabic, and if this weren’t enough, later an Argentine journalist showed up who will be leaving for Baghdad in the morning. This journalist spoke little English and no Arabic, so I ended up communicating with her in my broken Spanish, while relating what we were saying, mostly in English, to Raafat and Fayez!

It was an experience I never expected to have in Amman! After many cups of coffee and tea, and far too many cigarettes (I never smoke in the States, for those of you who aren’t aware, but it is fast becoming a habit in the Middle East! I have a joke with the concierge here at Al Munzor that he is trying to kill me with his cigarettes because I am an American!) Raafat and I rose to leave. We were enticed to remain for just one more cup of coffee and after a bit of haranguing, we decided to stay.

This was quite lucky, for shortly after we made our decision, another Arab journalist appeared who has been receiving much in the way of media, videos and photos from the Resistance and others in Iraq. I am not sure yet what to think of him, but he swore he had many videos, that he will show us tomorrow. I am excited, but also a little cynical, since the photos he did show me I had already been shown by Raafat earlier in the evening.

Tomorrow Raafat and I will try to meet some Iraqis here and, inshah allah, we will get an interview or two on tape. Then in the evening, after Iftar (the breaking of the fast during Ramadan) we will meet the Arab journalist, and I will post another update. If the journalist gives me any new photos, those will be posted as well. I suspect there will be at least some more photos from Raafat tomorrow, so check back during the day!

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