Forces

One word stands out in my mind: Entropy. Entropy seeps into our lives here in ways only entropy can. It crumbles the concrete stairways climbing to the residential parts of the hills, it siphons the heat out of my room through the poorly insulated walls, it bores inexplicable holes in the ceiling of our eternally wet bathroom, it provides shelter for dozens of feral cats scavenging through time-melted aluminum dumpsters, and it breaks the clip off my god-damned pen in a full-past-capacity cab ride.

The general sense of decay is palpable. Every morning I walk to class past unexplained fields of rubble, trash receptacles proudly boasting their forty percent success rates, and various other examples of the human detritus that has probably plagued these hillsides since before the invention of writing. Many of the older buildings seem to be an experiment in architecture that I can only speculate at; the squarish concrete is redolent of a half-baked abstraction molded by the unskilled hands of a novice potter. The split-level sidewalks are plastered together using the same technique, and the result imbues the city with a sense of having run, or of having melted in the sun.

The power of entropy is endured in much the same way as the over-equipped military personnel idling in sensitive areas of the city. We’re all aware of the slightly uncomfortable, slightly oppressive presence. We feel it encroach a bit farther on our personal space than we’d generally like. We all silently ignore it. And it’s all a result of second great force of Arab Relativity: Money.

Money talks softly and carries a big stick. While entropy lies like a blanket over the city, the influence of money runs just beneath the surface, easy to ignore, but easier to find if you look for it. Take Rainbow Street, for instance, paved with cobblestones and patrolled by “policemen” with assault rifles. The shops and eateries are western and therefore expensive. The street signs are almost entirely in English. The bars play the latest American pop music. The fact that there are bars is a dead giveaway. Eastern Amman, by contrast, is populated largely by refugees from, oh I dunno, every neighboring country except Saudi Arabia. But you can guess who has the biggest stage presence. And you can guess how much money is dumped into refugee camps as opposed to Rainbow Street or the Royal Hotel. Follow the money, you’ll find the military, the clean streets, and the Sushi restaurants filled with affluent Jordanians. And when you find an affluent Jordanian, as my friend told me, you need to stop and ask yourself: who is this guy and who does he know? It’s a mantra as old as the medium itself, but money is power.

It’s way later than I’d care to admit. I have class at 11 a.m.

~Eric

posted 2 years ago

Friday was wet. Wet air, wet earth, and very wet hair, as I made the rather poor decision to shower before I’d bought a towel. It had been raining since morning, and the sidewalks, more reminiscent of linoleum paneling than concrete slabs, were slick with water and pulverized cement. Living on top of an impressively steep hill does little to ameliorate the effect; descending the twisting slope, my feet seemed to slide more of the distance than they walked.

First thing in the morning, I donned as many layers of clothing as seemed socially appropriate, grabbed my camera, and left the room. In daylight, I could see for miles, all the way to the tops of adjacent hills. Minarets and steeples impaled the overcast sky like spikes on the spine of some great scaly beast. I realized that I must be underselling the altitude of our apartment; looking up, I could see clouds racing southeast at an almost cartoonish clip, skipping off the tops of buildings, missing our roof by no more than twenty feet. After a few mediocre attempts to photograph the mist-laden hilltops opposite me in a way that did them justice, I sheathed my camera and continued downhill to look for some food and water.

Eight thirty a.m. on a Friday in the Middle East is apocalyptically quiet. Everyone is either sleeping or at the mosque, and I encountered precious little signs of life as I wandered the streets. I dined on a few warm spinach pastries and a bottle of water, sat on a plastic bag on a ledge to avoid getting wet, and enjoyed what warm sunlight managed to bashfully peek through the tempestuous cloud layer.

Later in the day I finally met up with my roommate, and we grabbed dinner with most of the students who were already here, moved to a hookah bar, and the final four of us ended up at a bookstore-cum-bar on Rainbow Street, effectively a slice of London or Paris slapped like an unneeded bandage across a hilltop to the south. Naturally, foreigners turn up in droves to indulge in the less savory habits of Europeans and their ilk, far from the disapproving glares of the indigenie.

After returning to the apartments, I embarked on my ill-fated quest to acquire a towel and the toiletries necessary to shower before bed. I stopped in a few shops, all of which confirmed that no place that was open this time of night sold towels. In the last one, I struck up a conversation with the store manager, eager to stress test my quickly returning Arabic. His confusion at my being of both German and Catholic heritage was endearing. He welcomed me to the Holy Land, and sent me on my way.

Despite having failed in my quest, I showered and drip-dried in the bathroom. It was alarmingly uncomfortable.

Friday night my fatigue caught up with me, and I slept for 12 straight hours. Finally dragging myself out of bed around noon, I met up with the group and we took cabs out into the city, spending a few hours in King Hussein Park, and returned to eat Yemeni food, which is essentially a variety of stews eaten by hand with shreds of a massive pita. I’ve dubbed them emergency samosas. After working out a few cell phone discrepancies, we huddled in an awkward circle and failed miserably to exchange numbers, went out to the shops, then parted ways.

Its 11 p.m. local. Orientation starts tomorrow morning.

~Eric

Tried and failed to post this Saturday night, I got in a fight with the internet and the internet won.

posted 2 years ago

Conanthrations

Jordan is a lot colder in the winter than one would expect for an area that’s mostly desert. They told us it would be. Didn’t believe it. Either way, I think it’s finally registered. The apartment is fairly open to the elements, the windows left ajar and the basement entrance unencumbered by such garish accoutrements as doors, so it was difficult to resist the quintessentially American urge to leave the heater on all night. Even as I write I’m anxiously waiting for the rising warm air to work its way down to the floor. The ceiling’s height is discouraging.

Shut-eye is a bit hard to come by. You’d think after 17 hours of travel, peppered with a few brief interludes of the closest thing to sleep one can accomplish on an airplane, that I’d have fatigue enough to last me the next twelve hours at least. Not so. Philly to DC, DC to London, London to Amman. Just enough time in between to get a bite to eat and run to my gate. In DC I had a Potbelly sandwich and an Oreo milkshake, a ceremonious final American meal; in London, a “mature cheddar and tomato toastie” and a Honey Dew ale. I’ve come to realize that even British food is dripping with delicious sarcasm. Their menus read as if each entry is punctuated with an unseen eye-roll.

I’m not particularly given to stress when I travel. The mental ball and chain I more often find myself burdened with is boredom. When my eyes tired of reading, I took to people watching, a hobby I’d mostly dismissed as a trivial pass-time for trivial people, a symptom of our reality TV-infused popular culture. But I’ve realized there can be a very sincere beauty to it. I encountered a certain poetry to the subtle interaction of anonymous beings scattered around me. My introversion left me bored of people at a relatively young age, but as the humanistic roots of poetry can attest, people are all that really matter. Each in our own bubbles, drifting almost silently through reality, surrounded by our personal solar systems of friends and loved ones and enemies. I was an early hominid, staring up at the night sky, mapping constellations of people.

The ride in from Queen Alia was a roller coaster, but one more physical than figurative. Amman, like much of the Holy Land, to my knowledge, is built on cascading hills that seem to sweep under the city, lifting entire sand brick neighborhoods on the crests of great earthen waves, apartments and shops and strip malls spilling haphazardly downward into the main causeways as they rush indifferently by, surging rivers cutting through solid rock.

Figuratively, the final stretch of my journey was more akin to BASE jumping. A peaceful moment of post-air-travel free fall, abruptly shattered by the realization that I had little to no idea where my dorm was. I had the directions and the address, but urban planning in much of the Old World is more of an organic accident than a conscious decision. My cab driver was a trooper, though. Realizing how lost I was, he didn’t let me out of his sight until I had found the correct apartment and was led away by the landlord. Obviously, a kingly tip was in order. I also have his number in case I ever need a ride again.

After getting put in a temporary room (my roommate was out and has the only key) I left the building, bought one of those primitive but famously durable Nokia cellulars, and grabbed a bite to eat at a Turkish place down the street. Arab mint tea never changes and never gets old.

It’s around 8:00 a.m. local. Going to shoot some pictures and explore the area. Orientation starts the day after tomorrow.

~Eric

posted 2 years ago
philnoto:

Finn and Jake!

philnoto:

Finn and Jake!

posted 2 years ago via philnoto
blurover:

funkalmighty:

sheisalovelybanana:

llmdykily:

i got happy, honest, sweet

 naive, mental, passionate, and sweet

Apparently I am passionate, charismatic, and have pica.

Talented, Charismatic, Sweet, Passionate.
I laughed at the Pica bit.

Lazy, Naive, Thoughtful and Witty. I think that’s pretty accurate…

blurover:

funkalmighty:

sheisalovelybanana:

llmdykily:

i got happy, honest, sweet

 naive, mental, passionate, and sweet

Apparently I am passionate, charismatic, and have pica.

Talented, Charismatic, Sweet, Passionate.

I laughed at the Pica bit.

Lazy, Naive, Thoughtful and Witty. I think that’s pretty accurate…

(Source: darksweetpiano)

posted 2 years ago via blurover

I’m so glad this exists.

posted 2 years ago via blurover
posted 3 years ago via fakescience and tagged as Science Abacus Math Computers

Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.

— Stephen Colbert, via Dave (via heather-rivers)

posted 3 years ago via heather-rivers
posted 3 years ago via spokeart
blurover:

Someone discussed doing this with the computers in the Diglab. I’d love to try it out.

The only problem would be that it would only look this awesome from the angle the picture was taken at. Otherwise, you would have essentially invented a cloaking device. Which the military would promptly steal from you (though, as I understand it, they have their own in the works anyway).

blurover:

Someone discussed doing this with the computers in the Diglab. I’d love to try it out.

The only problem would be that it would only look this awesome from the angle the picture was taken at. Otherwise, you would have essentially invented a cloaking device. Which the military would promptly steal from you (though, as I understand it, they have their own in the works anyway).

posted 3 years ago via blurover