“One thing about this wild wild country
It makes a strong strong, it breaks a strong strong mind
And anything less, anything less
makes me feel like I’m wasting my time.”
-Bill Callahan “Drover” Apocalypse
I think for people like me who have a liberal knee-jerk instinct to devalue America’s contribution to the world, it can be difficult not to see the effects of globalization in Jordan as anything but a repressive aftershock of colonialism, or as the manifestations of the current global socio-economic heirarchy.
American culture is infectious. It is our greatest export. People all over the world listen to American music, and watch American movies.
I am going to need to find reconciliation between these two because I am attracted to the features of American Culture that I was used to consuming in the States. If I view every pirated (another issue entirely) DVD purchase as support for American economic hegemony, it may make for a very uncomfortable stay. In Amman, it is the area around Rainbow street* that most closely resembles a gentrified neighborhood in a big, American city. There are cafes, young people, forward thinkers, and a lot expats hanging around Rainbow. Some locals have been known to refer to this part of the city as little America. Sometimes it feels weak to keep returning to a comfortable and familiar place like this, but I think it might be time to start acknowledging the American influence on Jordan as a significant, but ambivalent, feature of society. It wouldn’t exist here if someone wasn’t buying the cds, paying for movie tickets, or frequenting more often those cafes which conform to American business practices.
As a result of this new train of thought, I have begun voting with my dollars by supporting a local “restaurant”. A more descriptive word for the place I buy my morning meals would be “cart”, and a more specific location would be “on a street near my apartment”. Literally, the vendor man just drives the ramshackle cart right into the middle of the road. My sandwich of choice contains: a slice of soft, white cheese; a sprinkle of zaatar; and a hard boiled egg. The highlight is the bun, which is covered in so many sesame seeds that my mouth often feels a little numb for a few hours after eating one. Its a great sandwich and the vendor man and I have developed something of a rapport, or so I thought until two days ago. No longer does Akhmed wheel out the cart at 7:15 am, but a young man who I can only hope is his son comes in his stead. Now, buying any eggs on the street is risky enough even when you can see the skilled hands of a professional like Akhmed working the spreading knife. But when some strange, dirty, punk kid starts working the zaatar bag, I feel like I may need a new small business at which I could become a new patron.
* Amman did not always have street names. The King recently declared names so GPS devices would be effective here. The name “Rainbow” comes from the old Rainbow Theatre, it just happened to be the largest sign on the street so the name stuck.