All the world’s a stage but…
By Homo sapien a.k.a Mike V.Derderian
…Jordan is my Voyald…
A year ago, I stumbled upon a book entitled Voyald by Armenian-American writer William Saroyan. I bought it for one JD, after arduously digging through piles and piles of dusty books, from a cardboard box lying around the corner of a used book Kiosk, in Down Town Amman.
I recently found out what he meant by Voyald. No, it wasn’t an ancient Armenian word.
Voyald is how world is spelled with a Brooklyn accent. Saroyan used Voyald to describe his world; the world that he found on the land of opportunities or opportunists, the latter compliments of the Bush Administration, after his family was forced out of Armenia.
Years ago my grandfather traveled to Palestine, where he met with my grandmother. Needless to say they fell in love and got married. In 1948 they moved back to Jordan, where my father was born. That was the second time they were forced out of a home. My father in turn a few years later, in 1977, met an Armenian woman from Syria, fell in love, got married and brought her back with him to his home: Jordan. Their firstborn was me—needles to say I was their first Nakba.
Growing up I always thought of myself as a proud Jordanian of Armenian roots. Yet every now and then I meet Jordanians, who cannot comprehend the fact that I am Jordanian.
It must be the IAN at the end of my nine syllable surname. These three letters have such an amazing effect on paranoid nationalists that I meet in my line of work, and whenever I flash my Journalism ID in their suspecting faces.
My favorite type of skeptics, however, is the over analyzing taxi driver, who like many I encountered during my trips around Amman seem to start to gape in wonder at my hand as I reach out to the passenger seat belt.
No sooner the poor driver recovers from shock I am bombarded with questions. “You are not from around here are you? Where are you from?” a snoopy taxi driver would ask me after noticing my un-Jordanian Arabic accent, which is a blend of urban working class Ammanite Jordanian and metropolitan Syrian. Don’t ask!
Another question is asked after I pull the seatbelt over my not-so-slender-waist. “How did you do that?” the baffled driver inquires. “Years of grueling practice and discipline, a strict diet and adhering to traffic laws you licensed dummy!” I smugly answer in my mind.
To cut to the chase and satisfy the fierce and annoying Spanish inquisitor in him regarding my nationality I simply say, “Ok, I am made of Armenian parts proudly assembled in H.K.J. Made in Jordan not Singapore. You want to look at the manufacturers’ tag on my behind or do you want to see my national number just to make sure. Now I wouldn’t want to ruin your day by proving you wrong.”
I am born in Jordan hence I am Jordanian, period.
After reading Voyald and Other Stories I’ve realized that in order for a writer to succeed in establishing an ounce of credibility among readers, whether local or international, he either has to write about his own surrounding, or his surrounding in relation to his roots; one way or the other both will eventually collide with fascinating results.
One day I will write about my own Armenia, which is forever embedded deep in my Jordanian heart. Jordan is my country and I grew up loving it, even though at times, I am saddened and angered by the behavior of stupid drivers, idiotic traffic laws, blatant nepotism, taxes, low salaries, false bearers of creativity, the in-your-face-tribal-pride that is shamelessly displayed by some individuals, the university support JD that the ministry of finance swindled from my credit without my approval, and of course the corrupt and bigoted human specimens that I am to ashamed to acknowledge as Homo sapiens like me, who are simply trying to get a hold of a banana in a world governed by apes.
All I know is that I am a four generation Jordanian of Armenian roots and Jordan over the years has become my Voyald. No one can ever deny me of my Voyald, and no one I boldly proclaim has the right to do so.