Archive for the ‘A Day In The Life of A (Real Stories from Amman)’ Category

 

Let Us Imagine

Let us imagine,

The rivers are burning afar.

We hear the silence; when suddenly,

Music comes our way, to kill us,

So that the dance may gain strength and momentum,

Under the white sun.

Many Jordanians, or at least the ones I have on my Facebook feed, for some time, have been discussing the meaning of a poem painted over Al Fuheis complex in Down Town Amman.

The poem is by Moroccan Poet Mohammad Al Baz, and the artwork is by Abdallah Al Karoom. The piece was curated by Darat Al Funun.

So what is the meaning behind this poem?

It means a lot of things for different people.

Poetry, whether induced by drugs – not that we encourage or write poetry that way – or by uninfluenced imagination, is supposed to make us think. Poets want us to take a moment, whether short or long, and contemplate our existence.

As a visual piece this poem is also an excuse for you to look up a little. Aren’t you just tired of looking at your feet as they heavily shuffle over the pavement — the result of gravity?

If every poem came with York Notes* we’d be a less civilized thinking world, but then again the ongoing wars and murder of people over thoughts that question existence, and everything else, are proof that we are far from civilized.

We are where we are because of our thoughts, words, sentences and paragraphs; written and visual.

What is nonsense to someone makes sense to someone else.

Read Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, “Waiting for Godot“, which will probably not make much sense after the first reading.

The first time I read the “Let Us Imagine” poem I did not give it much thought either. Now that I am 37 and have a little more understanding of life and literature, or so I like to believe, I decided maybe I should try to give it my own interpretation.

Remember I am not trying to enforce this interpretation on anyone; I am merely trying to give you the approach of an English Literature student to a poem.

Let us suppose a professor came up to me and asked me to explain the poem to him.

I would first translate it into English, and then break down its imagery, similes and what have you.

So here goes!

The first line:

Let us imagine,

In the very first line the poet is inviting us to imagine. He is not asking us to believe. He just wants you to take a moment and imagine a scene with him, a scene from his own mind.

The second line:

The rivers are burning afar.

What the poet did here is he gave water, from rivers, the characteristics of a combustible substance. He gave us a supernatural setting. It is either that or someone illegally unloaded chemical waste in a river somewhere.

So where are we now? We are most probably standing on the bank of burning river –part of an apocalyptic vision.

If Adele can Set Fire to the Rain then Moroccan Poet Mohammad Al Baz most surely can set rivers on fire.

The third line and fourth line:

We hear the silence; when suddenly,

Music comes our way, to kill us,

Silence is given a voice. Giving silence a sound is not a new thing. Simon and Garfunkel would know what I am talking about. So what did the poet do by giving silence a sound? He turned him into a person.

In the fourth line we have another case of personification. Music is given a human attribute in the form of action; the ability to kill. The line also bears a symbolic connotation to the emotional effect that music can have on our minds.

The fifth line: 

In the following line:

So that the dance may gain strength and momentum,

This line tells us of the motivation behind the actions of Music, the person.

Assuming you’ve survived the attack you will find a way to grow stronger. The attack is on our senses. When hearing music our muscles – commanded by our senses – will break into dance.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche says,” that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

The sixth line:

Under the white sun.

The sun in reality is the color white; and white symbolizes purity. We all end up dancing under a pure sun; in a pure world.

Remember the above is what I understood from the poem.

A poem is no different than a mirror; it only bears your own reflection, or what you choose to see, or read into that reflection.

*York Notes are a series of English literature study guides. I remember seeing many students buy them while studying English Literature in the University of Damascus in Syria. Instead of reading an entire novel or a play one could easily buy York Notes and pretend to have read a book.

A while ago I tweeted the following:

“Wake up, Wake up / Grab a brush “Ya Hind” and put a little makeup! System of Yehia ِAl Saud! Stay strong Miss Fayez!”

It was my way of commenting on the incident in which MP Yehia Al Saud, ordered MP Hind Al Fayez to have a seat during her recent outburst.The phrasing itself, “Eg3odi Ya Hind!” with the tone he used and in our Arabian society is a phrase that automatically translates to “be quiet!” and not in a very polite context.

Fortunately for us and every woman in Jordan, and in the Middle East, MP Hind Al Fayez stood her ground. Her bold stance made international headlines.

I am positive that if my Editor Mr. Walid Kalaji (Abu Hassan) was alive he would have written an editorial of what happened under the supposed “Jordanian Dome of Democracy!” I am also positive Miss Maha Al Sharif, our most patient boss, would have also had a say in the matter.

Abu Hassan would have upplauded MP Al Fayez for standing her ground. Ghassan Joha would have most probably been there.

“I am glad you stood your guns!” he once told me after I finished defending a piece that I have written. It was a piece that was slated for publishing. I cannot remember if my piece was not altered but to be honest after giving a good reasonable fight you somewhat feel a little better about yourself when it does get altered.

I always fought for my pieces with every editor I worked with at The Star, and other local publications. Ali Al Khalil, one of the bright editors, and a man I admired for his love of arts, films and books, was no exception.

Journalists, writers, and editors are supposed to give each other headaches. If there are no headaches the result of arguments about a sentence/a paragraph; its phrasing; or the information it is supposed to entail within the mind of a reader that very sentence/paragraph would be lifeless, if not useless.

I am guessing I am missing journalism and my own State of Play or “Something Something Dark Side.” Major spoiler ahead! Yes, I watched State of Play (2009), directed by Kevin Macdonald, starring Russel Crowe, Rachel MacAdams and Dame Helen Mirren, the other day.

As the end credits rolled by to the visuals of a newspaper in print to the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s As Long As I See the Light I found myself yearning to those sleepless nights. You see I was there amidst a family of journalists!

Time to stop reminiscing!

In addition to that Tweet about the Og3odi Ya Hind incident a t-shirt with the hopeful hash-tag that came to be #la_teg3odi_ya_hind was made with the help of a friend and a fellow cartoonist, and with one thing in mind:

A simple design … but a loud message.

Hind Don't Sit
For a better Jordan where no one asks you to have a seat by saying “Og3od/Og3odi!”

Good day all :-})

 

Coppella Main

A Ballet with 75 Performers

By Mike V. Derderian

The hall was overflowing with people. Wherever one looked there was someone sitting on the footsteps of the carpeted aisles of the theatre at the Royal Cultural Centre.

It was a Saturday, and to be more specific the 25th of October, 2014.

A month later I decided to write a review of the wonderful ballet, choreographed by the ever glowing Rania Kamhawi; a review I was supposed to write the moment I’ve returned home.

I was there with my wife and daughter Amie and like anything you would expect from The King Hussein Foundation: The National Centre for Culture & Art it was an evening of enchantment.

If there was any shortcoming, and there was one, it was not the fault of the 75 performers, Miss Kamhawi and the artistic and technical team behind Coppélia as a production; it was that of the theatre itself: It was too small for such an unforgettable beautiful performance.

Coppélia, as a ballet transcended the boundaries of the narrow stage of the Royal Palace. It was genuine and heartfelt; performed and played out with fervor by all 75 dancers.

If it wasn’t, the theatre hall wouldn’t have been overflowing with attendees to a degree that made having such a crowd in one single space rather dangerous if a fire, God forbid, broke out.

An elderly lady and three others, younger in age, Lebanese judging by their accents, sat next to me on chairs that were placed at the last moment. Like everyone else present they were transfixed by the balanced blend of classical music, dance and acting.

Every few minutes and throughout the performance my daughter, who usually pulls a Footloose on us when we go through clothing departments in malls that play loud dance music, started swinging her arms and standing on one leg.

A sense of pride with some embarrassment swept over me as I watched her face light up to the tempo of the music to which the performers of Coppella danced.

If I was writing this piece for The Star Weekly, where I worked as a journalist for eight years, I wouldn’t have included some of the above paragraphs but since this is a personal blog I am sure you will forgive my transgression.

There are many elements that turned Coppella into a beautiful and enjoyable ballet, and as I have mentioned earlier the genuine delivery of dance and theatrics are among those elements.

Before we go into that let me list the creative team behind it:

Artistic Direction & Choregraphy …. Rania Kamhawi

Head Dance Instructors …. Rania Kamhawi & Svetlana Tahboub

Dance Instructors … Ruba Abu Sabha, Tamara Haddad and Natalie Salsa

Costume Design … Hind Dajani

Set Design … Hamada Shweini

Graphic Design … Ala Al Qaisi

Financial Administration … Mohamad Badran and Bana Wreikat

PR & Marketing … Randa Fakhoury and Nour Dirieh

Technical Staff … Jamal Masri, Mahmud Hamad, Mohannad Al-Tal, Mohammad Attiyeh, Fawaz Al Rawashdeh, Faisal Huneiti and Omar Rawashdeh

Volunteer … Zeinab Al Shrouf, Saba Obeidat, Suzan Al Banawi and Mohammed Zemirli.

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Anyone reading the program will come upon a special thanks to Ms. Lina Attel, Mr. Mohammad Abu Sumaqa, Firas Al Masri and the Royal Cutlural Center.

I would have loved to include the names of all 75 performers with the above credits but to be honest I could not for lack of time – sure if I wanted I would have asked for a soft copy of the program but I didn’t. Continue reading please!

The talented 75 performers had roles that ranged between feasting friends, giddy school children, exuberant butterfly catchers, anxious toy makers, lovely dolls, and energetic sickle dancers swaying and dancing during a wheat harvest dance.

The National Center for Culture and Art – King Hussein Foundation Coppélia is a ballet in three acts: Act I, A Ballet in Three Act; Act II, The Deception and Act III, The Wedding. It tells the story of a screwy doll maker, Coppelius, who lives in a village full of nosy life-loving people, who are constantly breaking into his toy shop out of curiosity and interest in his humanoid inventions.

Also living in the village are Swanilda and Franz, who are gradually falling in love with each other to the backdrop of a festive village.

The three main characters are performed by Natalie Salsa (Swanilda), Bijan Qutub (Franz) and Apo Yaghmourian (Coppelius).

The beautifully tailored costumes gave the performance a European production value. The set design was simple and practical – allowing quick shifts in between scenes without disrupting the flow of the story.

One of the most memorable scenes was the dolls ballet scene at Coppelius’ toy shop where the lead female character Swanilda and her friends decide to toy with the old recluse.

After breaking into the toy shop Swanilda and her friends find themselves facing colorful dolls by the dozen. The moment the eccentric toy maker walks into the room they all hide behind the dolls. A few seconds later the lifeless dolls, each representing a culture, come to life to the sound of gentle music and well-choreographed ballet movement.

The entire production seemed familiar and reminded me of a ballet performance that I saw on television 25 years ago. The distant memory of an old toy maker getting angry with young men and women, who snuck into his workshop came to my mind as the performance neared its finale.

Premiering on the 25th of May in 1870 Coppélia was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to a musical arrangement by of Léo Delibes. I still haven’t found the tele-ballet that I saw a couple of years ago but I will, and when I do I will share it.

What I loved most about the Coppélia choreographed by Miss Kamhawi was how all the performers, young and old, were really into their roles. The friendly smiles and the inviting hand gestures intermingled in the background adding to the movements of the graceful dancers floating in the foreground.

It was a magical night for this writer, his wife and his daughter, and I cannot wait to attend any upcoming performance by the National Center for Culture and Art – King Hussein Foundation for I know I will not be disappointed.

“Thank you for enduring with us especially with such a full stage. We truly apologize for that! Based on tonight’s attendance we are to perform the ballet for another night,” Miss Kamhawi, who was surrounded by her dancers at the end of the performance, announced to a cheering audience.

“I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is of utmost importance to us that you attend our performances. Thank you for supporting us,” Miss Kamhawi concluded.

On a final note the next time you hear of such a performance that is choreographed by the ever-passionate and gentle Rania Kamhawi make sure you buy a ticket.

About the writer/blogger:

Mike V. Derderian is a writer, a disc-jockey at Radio Jordan 96.3 FM and a journalist with 13 years of experience. At the moment he is working as an illustrator and a street artist. For writing and illustration assignments e-mail mikevderderian@yahoo.com

After putting the finishing touches on a cockroach I was illustrating for a poster I realized that I had to head out to the Royal Film Commission’ Filmhouse. It was almost eight o’clock. I was running late. Still, I went on foot; it was a great evening for a walk in Rainbow Street. When I saw Nadine Toukan in the street I felt good as it meant they still haven’t started screening When Monaliza Smiled, the latest feature length film by Fadi G. Haddad, produced by the RFC, Nadia Eliwat and Toukan.

This was one film I did not want to miss. I don’t know why! Call it a gut feeling. I quickly spied a seat close to the screen. It was anything from a private screening. The place was packed with a lot of familiar faces but I was no longer in the mood to be familiar.

The moment the funny and unexpected prologue of When Monaliza Smiled ended and the audience and I found ourselves in a modern day Amman, where a shy woman who goes by the name Monaliza lives, I realized this is going to be an enjoyable piece of cinema.

This was a few weeks ago.

Tonight I decided it was time to express my love for this beautifully made film with a blog post/review that I was supposed to write directly after the screening.

What happened? Upon returning home I found myself illustrating a minimal poster that came to my mind halfway through the film and that I finished the following day. The poster that you see in this blog post is my way of showing how much I loved When Monaliza Smiled. Anything that inspires you to produce a visual or written statement is good and this romantic comedy is beyond good.

To say Haddad’s film will teach us, Jordanians, how to smile is a naive statement. We know how to smile but we don’t smile as often as we should and you can thank our esteemed Jordanian government for that. My statement will probably come out as naive too but When Monaliza Smiled celebrates life and is in a way Haddad’s Cinema Paradiso.

I say Cinema Paradiso because every single frame, piece of dialogue, character behavior and plot twist reveals Haddad’s passion for cinema especially in the more fantastical moments that unfold in When Monaliza Smiled.

This Jordanian feature film celebrates the breaking of the inane social norms that govern our lives; it celebrates coexistence; it celebrates compassion; it celebrates humor; and it does all this as it tears down racial prejudice; religious prejudice, and most important of all the thunderous hallow figures of authority and power.

Haddad writes real people and the characters in his film are as real as it gets. Other characters in his film are a balance of reality and cliched stereotypes like the Armenian photographer. The moment Haddad told me in an e-mail that there was an Armenian photographer character I told him, “Hope you didn’t go for the cliched Ana/Inti typecasting of Armenians ;-})”

“Actually it is the stererotype ana/enti armenian dude. Lol! But it is intentional the whole film kinda plays around stereotypes. That is somehow the point of the film. I hope that doesn’t offend the Armenian community! :S” he replied back.

Well it didn’t offend this Armenian. Funnily it made me proud because it was a bold statement reminding the world that photography in Jordan was pioneered by my ancestors, and Haddad paid homage to that. My grandfather and father are photographers who spent their lives capturing faces and moments in time at Photo Paramount, a photography studio that used to exist between Jabri and Al Qudus restaurant.

Watching how that poor photographer (Nabil Koni) tried to make the mild mannered Monaliza (Tahani Salim) smile took back me to how my father used to position the faces of people in his studio, asking them to reveal their set of pearls, sometimes to no avail.

Plus Haddad wrote some cliched Jordanian stereotypes like the governmental employee, Nayfeh (an amazing Nadera Omran), who is very real and gives other hardworking government employees their bad reputation.

A good comedian pokes fun at himself and this is what Haddad did as a filmmaker; he placed a magnifying glass on a large section of our society; on us.

Eliwat, the producer, asked anyone who will be writing about their film not to give away important plotlines so in short and not wanting to spoil the film that is slated for commercial distribution here is the synopsis that you will find on the Facebook page, “WHEN MONALIZA SMILED is a romantic comedy about a love story between Jordanian Monaliza, and Egyptian Hamdi, set in present day Amman among a community of nosy stereotypes and quirky characters.”

The writing and dialogue is natural like something you overhear in a bus heading to Abu Nsair or in a traditional restaurant in Down Town Amman. The acting is fluid thanks to a good casting call. There isn’t a single miscast actor or actress in this film.

Shady Khalaf as Hamdi gives a brilliant powerful performance as the Egyptian underdog, who is struggling to make a living in Jordan. Through Hamdi’s character Haddad sheds light on an issue that is seldom tackled on screen or in news reports and which is the lives of Egyptian citizens in our country.

Haifa AlAgha as Afaf, the overprotective sister of Monaliza, gave out a sincere performance that bordered on psychosis. Suha Najjar, who played the neighborhood’s foxy lady Rodayna, boldly reminded us why we should never judge a book by its cover or in the case of Homo sapiens a human by its skin.

Tahani Salim’s Monaliza characterization was fun to watch especially with her awkward disposition and inability to smile. Creating a central character who is unable to smile even though her name is synonymous with the act of smiling and putting that character through a series of circumstances, one of which is the Jordanian society, and that are beyond her control like falling in love was brilliant.

Fuad Al Shomali, who zealously played the role of Abu Sara, Monaliza’s work supervisor, at the end of the screening said that “Fadi had a beautiful eye and knows what he wants with every scene.” He was 100 percent correct and Samer Al Nemri’s cinematography most certainly had something to do with that.

The color tints were delicious and fresh giving the film a dream-like sequence quality that was accentuated by the score. When Monaliza Smiled is a happy film and it will make you feel happy as films should at times.

What is left to say about this lovely piece of Jordanian cinema I will say to Fadi G. Haddad sounding like a cliched Armenian character in a celluloid world: Fadi G. Haddad Inti Wahda Shatra!

Bravo to you and to everyone who worked on this piece of cinema that won’t be forgotten long after the credits rolled.

A day in the life of … a garbage truck team

Sayyed: Hearing a thank you or a pat on the back is what keeps us going

By Mike V. Derderian

After scanning the six mirrors lining the left and right sides of the truck’s compartment, Khader Abu Rommaneh nodded before he started operating the trash compactor. Two men dressed in orange overalls, in the meantime, could be seen standing at the rear loading area of the truck as its lifting contraption landed a dumpster onto the asphalt surface with a thud.

A short beep followed. Abu Rommaneh turned off the compactor before shifting into first gear gunning the truck through the back streets of Shmeisani. It is 8:30 a.m. and it is time to move on to another alley to collect the trash.

Nael Al-Joughol and Omar Al-Sayyed, the two waste disposal employees at the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), had already stepped onto two foot ramps and held on to the iron handles that are fixed to the rear of the truck as it labored its way uphill.

The three hardworking men, whose first shift starts at 7:00 a.m., constitute the team that operates this colossal vehicle-cum-machine.

“I always was into heavy machinery. I used to drive a truck, which made it easier for me to learn how to operate this one,” a vigilant Abu Rommaneh told The Star; boasting that he knows his work route like the back of his hand.

Despite the air conditioning, a tangible acrid smell that Abu Romaneh didn’t seem to mind filled the driver’s compartment. Imagine how the smell is in the rear loading area, where the two men are forced to stay throughout their shift.

No sooner had he turned on the compactor, than the compartment started shaking irregularly. “It has an 8-tonne capacity. If the trash we collect is moist the compactor would work more efficiently through more piles of garbage” shouted Abu Rommaneh, always on the lookout for his two colleagues, before he added with a note of sympathy, “I try not to push those two as they are literally running the route.”

According to Abu Rommaneh there are 126 garbage trucks working round the clock in the capital Amman and its suburbs. So how does a compactor work? The rear loader compresses the waste against the moving wall of a cylinder hidden under a rectangular crate. The elliptical non-stop motion moves the waste to the front of the waste collection compartment of the vehicle.

Moments before Abu Romaneh pulled over, the two men could be seen running past the truck and reaching out to few plastic trash bins lined at the entrance of a villa; they hauled the bins and unloaded them inside the compressor in a matter of seconds.

“Look they’ve started honking [referring to three cars stuck behind the garbage truck]. We try as much as we can to avoid creating traffic congestion but people who shift the dumpsters to the left side of the street force us sometimes to park more to the left. This is the biggest problem that we face during our work, which is the result of conflicting neighbors, who keep shifting the whereabouts of the dumpsters that are in place according to municipal charted plan,” complained Abu Rommaneh, who mans the large truck with dexterity.

Another problem that faces them is solid waste like pipes, rocks, dirt, bathroom accessories and tree logs that the compactor is unable to crush. “There are special vehicles that roam the streets and clear such harmful objects out of the dumpsters,” Abu Romaneh, added, “People think the compactor can go through anything.”

As the two men stood knee deep in a pile of garbage at the loading area of a mall both men worked a total of 11 minutes. They patiently cleared bags of decaying meat and vegetables in addition to other types of soggy foodstuffs that emanated an unbearable stench—all the while without a mask.

“It is our job to keep Jordan clean,” said Joughol, who started out 12 years ago as a street sweeper and is now a truck runner, “I am content with what I do for a living.”

The three men, who head out to their families at the end of a non-stop six-and-a-half-hour shift, are proud of their jobs, which help maintain their country clean and disease free.

“Hearing a thank you or a pat on the back is what keeps us going,” stated Sayyed, who has been working for GAM for the past ten years, adding, “Surely there are people who sometimes treat us badly; however we cannot do anything but be polite and ignore their remarks and continue our work. “

The three men, Abu Rommaneh, Joughol and Sayyed, work together with an uncanny synchronization. They don’t need radio communication as their facial expressions and hand gestures are more than enough to get them through a taunting day, whether it was during hot summer mornings or freezing winter afternoons.

P.S:

A few days prior to the writing of this article Joseph Zakarian and I took a ride with the hardworking team of this garbage truck. While I sat in the front talking to Abu Rommaneh the amazing Joseph Zakarian, a great friend and a greater photographer, spent the entire time with the two GAM employees. It was one the best outings for a Day In the Life piece.

This piece/blog post is dedicated to all the hardworking waster collectors of GAM without whom are country would be flooded with garbage.

These pieces have been taken verbatim from the original edited series “A Day in the Life of a …” published in The Star Weekly on December, 16, 2004 , as I want to remind myself of my progression as a writer.

The series was edited by Walid Kalaji without whom I would have never scratched the skin to reach the mettle. I added the V a few years later as a tribute to my amazing father.

A total of 44 pieces were written. God willing I will publish one each month.

A day in the life of a… salop vendor

Shukri: Winter is the best season for sweets

Mike Derderian
Star Staff Writer

For those passing through downtown Amman on a cold winter day nothing beats a cup of hot salop (sa7lab) to warm their chilled bones and stop their teeth from clattering. Of course if you are one of those people who grew up with the traditional ambience of our old marketplace  then you are no stranger to Abu Rateb’s place where Mohammad Shukri has been making and selling the stuff for more than 17 years.

“Our recipe hasn’t changed; it is prepared by our employer’s sons, my father and myself,” commenced Shukri before being interrupted by a client, who asked if they had licorice juice. “No sorry, we only serve it during summer,” politely answered the 30 year-old Shukri to the disappointed teenager.

Located at the corner of Al Khayam Cinema’s Uphill Street, Al Mardini’s place according to Shukri has been around since 1951 and like the many shops in Al Balad (downtown) it has become a household name to a lot of Jordanians, especially to those who savor the spicy white blend.

Placed on a slow fire, salop gradually brews into a white thick liquid that consists of milk, starch and vanilla for flavor, announces Shukri. Before scooping salop from the brass caldron into a cup for an eager customer he slowly stirs it once or twice. The young man then skillfully sprinkles shredded coconut and cinnamon over the warm salop and places a wide straw in the cup before handing it over to the customer who takes careful sips—salop is near boiling—as he walks away in delight.

“In wintertime we switch to salop; however in the summer we sell cold beverages like lemon, licorice, carob and tamarind. We also sell warm harisa, which is our specialty, in addition to awama and the traditional sweet known as Asabe’ Sit Zeinab,” elaborated Shukri, “winter is the best season for sweets.”

Expressing his comfort at working with the Mardini family, Shukri says that a person working in downtown grows accustomed to the area, streets and neighboring shopkeepers. Consequently his long working hours at the shop appear shorter and less tedious.

“We open shop at 6:00 a.m. My shift starts at 4:00 p.m. and continues until 12:30 and sometimes till one past midnight. My father has been working with the Mardini’s for 37 years; today he happens to be on leave,” said Shukri, who further added that it was because of his father that he continued working in the business, “I wanted to help him out and here I am.”

On how they prepare the juices and sweets Shukri said that they have a small workshop located atop the shop where most of the beverages are mixed and sweets packed.

“I am an active person. As my shift starts late, I utilize mornings in doing my usual errands. Basically I don’t have a holiday but that doesn’t bother me much,” added Shukri, “our working days are almost the same and nothing much changes during festivities and holidays.”

As in any profession, the juice business isn’t void of intruders, who are in for the easy gain as the young man puts it. “Not everyone knows that it is vital to work according to a recipe. It is a lucrative business and this is what attracts them.”

According to Shukri people of all sorts and ages, especially the younger generation, are attracted to Abu Ratib’s salop place by word of mouth. “They come to us saying that their parents or grandparents used to come here and no matter how late or early it is, people still come to us,” joyfully added Shukri.

Most Jordanians nowadays live by the clock and are always in a hurry, so it is no longer a favorable pastime to stand placidly opposite Abu Ratib’s marble counter in order to enjoy a hot or cold drink, where trays of hot harisa glitter as the neon light reflects off its syrupy surface. However, you can always order a takeaway salop as Shukri puts it pointing to the plastic containers that are neatly placed on a shelf next to the hot caldron.

“A lot of Jordanians drink salop; it is a nutritious drink for the body, and wherever you go people know salop which is a very old recipe,” expressed Skukri, “there are a lot of salop vending shops in Jordan yet people prefer to come to us because of our reputation and the unique flavor we offer.”

P.S:

These pieces have been taken verbatim from the original edited series “A Day in the Life of a …” published in The Star Weekly on December, 16, 2004 , as I want to remind myself of my progression as a writer.

The series was edited by Walid Kalaji without whom I would have never scratched the skin to reach the mettle. I added the V a few years later as a tribute to my amazing father.

A total of 44 pieces were written. God willing I will publish one each month.

A day in the life of… an envelope vendor

Bawwab: ‘I still have the spirit in me’

By Mike Derderian

Star Staff Writer

Prancing around holding a small key to a mailbox, the eight-year-old boy approaches the central post office downtown. He is proud for his father finally allowed him to bring in the incoming mail, if there is any.

As he goes into the office he passes by an old man sitting next to a cardboard stall, where a bundle of large and small envelopes are neatly aligned next to a set of paper-writing pads adorned with flowery illustrations.

Sixteen years have passed now, the child has grown into a man and he no longer rushes to the mailbox, a lot of things have changed.

The post office was given a more modern metropolitan wrapping, as if it will affect the circulation of the incoming and outgoing mail, some shop owners passed away peacefully or retired leaving their ancient business in the hands of their sturdy offspring. Yet, one thing hasn’t changed entirely, except in age and appearance, over the past sixteen years.

Abu Ibraheem, the envelope vendor with his stall full of stationary, still lingers around the post office watching life as it changes through his wet spectacles, wearing a wool hat that shelters his balding head and his undying dream of having a decent kiosk.

For those whom haven’t bumped into Ismael Ibraheem Bawwab during their rushed strolls at the first leg of Prince Mohammed Street then they will fail to realize that he has been standing there for more than 35 years.

Abu Ibraheem’s story started in the mid sixties when he decided to open up his humble rickety-rackety stall next to the post office’s former entrance in order to provide ends meat to his family. Selling writing paper, envelopes and pens was his only way to earn money and still is.

“It was easier for people to buy the necessary postal stationary from here than to go to offices and bookshops far from the post office. In addition to its being a decent source of living I felt like I was offering people a service,” commenced the elderly man.

A Sri Lankan woman handing over the 60-year-old man a coin grabs the envelope and rushes away into the scattered multitudes, before a man throws a friendly salute to Abu Ibraheem, calling him by his first name.

“When you treat people decently, they will in return treat you the same. I haven’t harmed any one throughout the years I’ve stayed here minding my own business,” gently expressed Abu Ibraheem, whom appears to know everyone passing up and down the street.

Even the policeman, who assists the old man in pulling the small newspaper stand into shelter from the scattered rain drops, appears to be on friendly terms with him and jokes with him all throughout our interview.

“My only demand is that the Amman Municipality would allow me to put up a small kiosk that will allow me to sit in out of the sun’s reach—It’s been ages since I’ve asked for that,” added Abu Ibraheem, masking a sense of bitterness for the way he was treated.

Having a kiosk will not only help boast Abu Ibraheem work—which according to him is sufficient to cover the costs of living for himself and his family—but to provide a comfortable environment where he can sit during a rainy day or a cold frosty morning, allowing him to spend longer hours working. “Rainfall, to me, means folding my stall, packing everything inside the wooden box I have around the corner,” said Abu Ibraheem pointing at the post office’s back entrance, “and going home early.”

Off course the ride home is not as easy as person would expect for the man resides in Sahab and he has to ride three different transportations in order to get in and out of Downtown Amman.

Abu Ibraheem supports a family of nine girls and five boys, whom according to the vendor were allowed a decent education through his selling envelops. “There were times I used to sell a hundred Dinar’s worth of stationary,” said Abu Ibraheem, who further added that he now barley sells above thirty or forty—the arrival of the modern correspondence technologies led to a decrease in sales.

“One of my sons works in the air conditioning business, he only earns JD 170, which barely suffice his own family’s needs for he is married,” explained Abu Ibraheem on why he still works. “Even if they ask me to retire, I will work, so long I still have the spirit in me.”

On how he acquires his merchandise, Abu Ibraheem says that he buys the stationary from different libraries and sells them at his stand, where a person can also buy copies of local newspapers.

“Believe it or not, a lot of people approach me by saying that my prices are expensive until they go to a library and find out that my prices are actually less,” smilingly says Abu Ibraheem, whose customers are mainly foreign laborers residing in Jordan, like Indian and Sri Lankan nationals.

Ironic enough for a man whose living revolves around selling epistle stationary, Abu Ibraheem admits that he doesn’t know how to read and write, which is one of the major reasons why he can’t find another job.

P.S:

These pieces have been taken verbatim from the original edited series “A Day in the Life of a …” published in The Star Weekly on December, 16, 2004 , as I want to remind myself of my progression as a writer.

The series was edited by Walid Kalaji without whom I would have never scratched the skin to reach the mettle. I added the V a few years later as a tribute to my amazing father.

A total of 44 pieces were written. God willing I will publish one each month.