at the airport, the guard, who the kind of person who probably has two eight-year-old daughters, checks my boarding pass and does a double take, looks it and exclaims at me with arched eyebrows: you're going far! and so I say: I'm going far! with a shrug.
once I get here, though, I am here. there is nothing else. I am, obviously, not far from where I am. what was here is now there. there was a flight, and then another flight, and then the flight touched down at sunset, orange light penetrating through the cabin and exiting out the other end like a neatly fletched arrow. arabic everywhere, and I roll them around in my tongue, trying to remember each letter of the alphabet.
after customs, and the immigration counter (which is two meters away from the customs counter), we get our bags. we are eleven people, a little pool, coagulating in corners, high surface tension. we move like amoebae. we get into a van. Hassan drives us to this hotel, and he is quiet, but we are talking, and meanwhile the world passes us by, a sliver of a crescent moon. it is Ramadan, which means that everything is open late because everyone has just started eating, drinking, talking. there are many cars on the street. (beautifully paved asphalt, I think, thinking about Mongolia.)
and then we go and eat, and it is full of hummus and baba and tabouleh and all these familiar things, and then my itching legs take me down and I wander, we wander down the street. what is jordan, amman? what is this place? again, of course, what comes to me directly, bluntly, is the differing quality of infrastructure, the colors of license plates, power plugs, these small little things.
but this time - this time - something about this seems immensely familiar, and I can't decide whether it's good or bad, whether it means the shock of the new has receded into a healthy appreciation of the different, or whether it means a numbing-ness of wonder. but look, you see: there are underpasses, there are roads with and without lanes, there are the usual western franchises, the black-and-white striped road curbs. this makes sense. this kind of sidewalk, this makes sense.
what is important to note, I think, may be not the difference, or the not-difference; it's not surprising that starbucks, or chilis, or kfc, mcdonalds are here; it's not a tragedy, not so much the sign of an extreme american imperialism. someone with money wanted to make a restaurant here and thought it would be popular if it was a foreign brand. gucci bags and prada operate the same way, except that 'identity' for items are thought to reside within the item, while 'identity' for a restaurant may probably always be thought to refer back to the originating country. but that's not so much it. the natural forces of desire, business, imagery, and idealization working in concert. in other words, the change is not top-down; it's bottom up. it's probably better or interesting to think of, maybe maybe, a country as having these very specific levels of development; and these are not incongruities but just a different list of expressed priorities. for example, 'wireless internet without drinkable tap water' is not necessary weird, it's just an inversion/flipping/change/reordering of what is possible and what is done.
tomorrow, we cross the border into palestine.