Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting Things Fixed Requires an Entourage

Several weeks ago, I noticed that some of the molding in our bathroom had just fallen down, and our couch already needed to be fixed, as well as one of our other bathrooms so we figured it was about time that stuff gets fixed. We arranged a time for the couch and molding to be repaired and before you know it, our apartment was full of people. There was one guy working on the couch, two guys working on the molding, one guy just sitting in a chair, maybe overseeing the quality of the work?, and the landlord and her mother. I thought it was odd that the landlord would come with her mother while things were getting repaired. After all, it must be quite boring to just sit around doing not much of anything. I later understood the reasoning....when women live alone, it's not apropriate here for repair men to be alone in the house with them. So, the landlord and her mother were here for cultural reasons, to make us feel more comfortable since there were men we didn't know working in our apartment. This almost made me feel guilty since I didn't feel that the women needed to be there but at the same time I didn't want to tell them to go home.

Shortly after the men arrived, I asked if they wanted anything to drink; water, soda, juice...I don't know why I didn't think of offering them tea, I've already been here 2 months and have realized that tea is as important to life as eating and sleeping! One of the men asked for tea so I went about boiling the water and asked how much sugar they wanted. I figured there was about a 0% chance that they didn't want tea. 3 heaping spoons of sugar for each mug! Just thinking about drinking that nearly gave me diabetes. I then put some biscuits and pastries on the table for them. You can see this Jordanian sense of hospitality has really rubbed off on me. I swear I almost felt insulted when nobody ate the biscuits and pastries. I was thinking, something wrong? I even worried that the tea wasn't hot enough when I tasted mine and realized it wasn't piping hot. Well, when I get back to the US I'll probably still say please and thank you all the time and I'll be super hospitable. A win win situation for people back home :)

The confusing part was when one of the guys asked if I had newspaper. My first thought was, come on guys, did you forget to bring a drop cloth to cover the floor?! Come prepared! Then he said 'selah' which I didn't know the meaning of at the time. Of course I learned a couple days later that it means prayer. After some gesturing I finally understand that it was time for evening prayer and he needed something to kneel and pray with; newspaper, a blanket, a rug, whatever. All of the sudden it dawned on me and I brought him a blanket. He and the 2 others proceeded to face Mecca and do their prayers...while Gretchen and I sat on the couch not quite knowing what to do.

In the end, it was a learning experience for both of us; always have tea, water and a blanket ready and try not to feel guilty when women come and 'do us a favor' by sticking around when men we don't know are working in the apartment.

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