Monday, September 30, 2013

Short Takes

I'm still waiting for my camera to be returned to me, so I still don't have pictures of Wadi Rum. In the meantime, I thought I'd post briefly about some of the little things here I notice every day, but that aren't really worthy by themselves of a full length post.


Living in Jordan makes me much, much more appreciative of the strict littering laws in the United States. In my home state of Oregon, intentionally discarding garbage is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and/or $6,250 in fines. Police enforce it with relish. A friend of mine in Oregon loves to pick up anything he sees other people litter and passive aggressively hand it back to them.

By contrast, according to a Jordanian I spoke with, the only place in Jordan with an anti-littering law is Amman. Even here, the fine for littering is small and rarely enforced. The result is garbage piling up, especially in empty lots. Even in popular natural areas like the Wadi Rum deserts and the beaches of Aqaba, Jordanians routinely litter. In Wadi Rum, I watched a Bedoun guide drop a soda can in the desert without a second thought. Garbage stuck out of sand dunes every ten or fifteen feet. I'm not saying this to pick on Jordanians; I'm sure the situation is not too different in other recently developed countries.


Schwerma is amazing. If you don't know what schwerma is, it is essentially a grilled wrap of greasy chicken or meat with mayonnaise, pickles, tomatoes, or other vegetables. It tastes great and is dirt cheap - about $1.60 US dollars for a big one. I cannot understand why I never had a schwerma in the US - it must exist, but I don't recall ever finding a schwerma joint. As foreign foods go, this one is practically made for Americans - cheap, greasy, and can be prepared in five minutes. I'm not sure what I'm going to do without it when I go home - I'll probably end up scouring Minneapolis for a schwerma stand. If I can't find one, maybe I'll open my own and rake in the money.


"American" coffee, as defined by a large cup of black drip coffee, is not typically available in Jordan except at Americanized cafes, and it also tends to be rather expensive. Most mini markets, cafeterias and cafes here sell instead small cups of Turkish coffee. As a University of Jordan student, I can get a Turkish coffee on campus for about $0.25 US. I rarely had Turkish coffee in the US, but I've come to enjoy it a great deal and intend to start making for myself when I go home. It's very strong and with the right amount of sugar, tastes excellent.

Despite the ready availability of awesome Turkish coffee, most Jordanians seem inexplicably enamored of Nescafe instant coffee. I consider instant coffee the lowest of the low on the coffee totem pole, but damn near every corner stand sells multiple varieties of Nescafe, and Jordanians (especially my fellow UJ students) buy truckloads of the stuff. It's not like it's cheaper either: a cup of hot water and packet of Nescafe costs about twice what a similar sized up of Turkish coffee does. Perhaps it's due to the slick marketing campaign: I often see Nescafe ads in Arabic on TV, typically featuring a nice college-aged young man wowing a pretty girl in a cafeteria by giving her a cup of Nescafe.

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