Yesterday marked my first week in Jordan, and although it was just coincidental, Philip and I went to a party thrown by some of his American friends on the other side of Amman. It was a lot of fun to kick back after a week of hard work and it was even more of a relief to not have to worry about decoding complex Arabic conversational memes and phrases. One thing that I’ve gotten used to during my week here is that there are often fireworks shot off every night, all over town. Especially from our rooftop, overlooking miles of southern Amman, it can be quite a spectacular show. Ahmad told me that it’s part of Arabic tradition to celebrate weddings with fireworks, and my American friends agreed (as the now-familiar sound of explosions echoed around the corner. They also revealed more: the Arabic tradition of firing weaponry into the air at special occasions. This revelation was followed by sobering stories that they had heard from friends, one about an elderly gentleman at a wedding in Oman who was handed an AK-47, lost his grip on it and sprayed gunfire into the wedding guests, leveling and killing seven of them before he was able to drop the gun. According to my new friends, this particular fellow was “spirited off” for several months before it was safe for him to return to Oman. They figured though, that since this was unfortunately not an extraordinary occurrence, he probably was forgiven (although not invited to many more weddings, more than likely).

People have been suddenly more political towards me the last couple of days. I was with Ahmad picking up a check from an organization that owed money to Entity Green, and I happened to get into a conversation with our aide, a short Jordanian with a neatly trimmed black beard who launched into a diatribe against American foreign policy in limited English when he learned of my origins. It was only about five minutes or so, but I spent most of the time nodding vigorously and shrugging helplessly, unable to communicate well enough in Arabic to show just how much I agreed with him. “Your president is crazy,” he told me, pounding the table between us emphatically. “How many people has your military killed? Yes, when Saddam was in power, he did bad things and was not a good leader. But now, with your military invasion, thousands – a million! – are dead! What is the sense?” I wish I could have better communicated with him to assure him of my agreement.

Later the same afternoon, on my way to my sixth (and just as ill-fated) meeting with Orange Telecom, I struck up a conversation with two young men who were waiting for a taxi next to me. We all happened to be going to the Shmesani district, and we agreed to share a taxi. Both of them had friends and business contacts in America (one of them had a sister studying in Kansas) and quickly let me know their background. One had recently returned to Jordan after working in Ukraine for six years, where he had left his family behind temporarily to raise money to move to America. “I am a doctor,” he told me proudly. “My friend lives in Chicago, and tells me that soon after I come, I will be a millionaire.” He showed me pictures of his son and daughter from his cell phone. “But, I do not think I will stay. I do not like the American mindset – all is work, work, money, money. In the Ukraine, people make money, live comfortably, and then relax. Nothing is ever enough for anyone in America.” He said this lightly, with a smile. His friend, thinner and younger, declared loudly that he was a Palestinian who had just moved to Jordan a month ago. “I have family, and friends here – so it is a good place for me. But the Jews…they make everything difficult.” He gave me a long, sidelong glance as we stood in the baking sun, watching the taxis ignore us on the busy main street. “But you are American – Americans love the Jews, do they not?” I told him, quite honestly, that although I had nothing against Jews, I was just as critical of the Israeli government as I was about the American government. He nodded, pleased with this. The two of them emphatically rejected my offer of money to help pay the taxi driver, and saw me to my destination with brotherly concern – I didn’t mention to them that unfortunately I knew all too well how to get to the Orange office.

Because today is Friday, the Islamic holy day, it’s technically a “day off” for Entity Green, and I’ve spent the day trying to scrape paint spills off the floor of Philip’s house (left by the careless contractors) and earlier, he and I caulked up cracks in the tiles in each of the bathrooms. Majid and Rami came by this morning to pick up ingredients for another side project of the organization – making and bottling concentrated lemonade at the huge Ammani bazaar that happens every Friday. Although I don’t know the full details of this project, I believe that Entity Green provides employment and buys the lemons from the growers, and returns even a part of the profits to them to stimulate the economy. Although I’ve only known Philip for a week, I’m extremely proud to have such a dedicated, honest, and hardworking man, Entity Green’s founder, as my employer, and I am eager to be of some real value to the organization with my computer skills.

On that note, Wajih had some good news for me yesterday. The school his children go to is apparently having some computer issues and they’re interested in contracting out with Entity Green. It’s an English-speaking, Christian school, so I’m told that they’re almost sure to approve me because of issues in communication with their previous Info Tech professionals, which were Arabic-speaking Jordanians. I have my first meeting with them tomorrow morning, during their school day on Saturday. I asked Wajih why they went to school on Saturday, and he tells me it’s to split the difference between Westernized weekends and Arab weekends – the kids have their days off school on Friday and Sunday.

Ramadan starts in three days, and I have a mixture of interest and worry about it. The moral willpower of an entire religious group to not eat or drink during daylight hours (which are obviously quite long in the sunny desert) has always struck me as amazing, and it will be difficult for me to watch myself to make sure I don’t offend anyone by eating publically for the next month. However, I’m told that each night there is an Ifthir – the breaking of the fast, which is like “Christmas every night” – that’s definitely something for me to look forward to!