Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Amman, Jordan

I'm in Amman for a week long academic conference. I was a bit concerned about coming here. It's not that I was worried about visiting an Arab country and staying a week in an arab city. I was worried about spending a whole week with academics.

Yesterday, I boarded a bus that took us to the official opening of the conference. I sat in the last free space, next to a seemingly normal and boring looking elderly white man, who was dressed conservatively in blue trousers and shirt. When I looked at him again I saw that he was laughing continuously, a freaky silent laughter, without making any noise, while clutching his white hat feverishly. Then he started bending his fingers one by one very forcibly, apparently much to his delight. I felt like in a horror movie. I tried not to look again. Later I saw him waiting - very patiently - on the women queue for security check.

I always feel that there is something obscene about making a nice livelihood from the detached analysis of a region suffering so much bloodshed, poverty, oppression and misery. Living in a Western or Westernized enviornments, relatively free and safe from poverty and persucation, one can make clever comments on the state of the world. I include myself of course in this privelged class.

Today we were given a presentation on some new online database on the Israeli-Arab conflict. It was accompanied with a light buffet lunch. Unfortunately the organisers did not estimate properly the academic hunger. The scramble for sandwiches showed the wonderful subtle elbowing abilities necessary for the academic profession. I managed to get two: maybe I'll be good enough to get tenure one day.

Inside the overly airconditioned hall (with soft carpet-to-carpet) the organisers explained the benefits of the new database to the sound of munching. The database has thousands of documents on the Israeli-Arab conflict, and provides many delightful possibilities to learn more about a history of devastation; these were demonstrated through a search on the "King David Bombing" - a search which yielded 15 "hits". I thought I could hear them in my mind. And don't forget you can press all these hotlinks on the sidebar! though I thought maybe better not to press on anything.


The Letter N said...

hey mink- hope you are enjoying your time, where are they holding the conference anyway? you are vegetarian, right? if i'm wrong and you do eat meet, you should visit the hole-in-the-wall shwarma place near the second circle (the name is escaping me but it is the best place near the second circle) and have a juicy lamb shwarma with extra onions. anyway, if you are vegetarian, then sorry if i grossed you out.

mink said...

Thanks N! yes I am enjoying myself - Amman really reminds me of Jerusalem. The air is amazing - especially coming from London and it's fun to practice my (incredibly rusty) Arabic.

I confess I do eat meat sometimes. Not often but I might make an excursion to that place.

The conference is at the Meridian. It is really overwhelming (so many people/panels) but yesterday I finally started enjoying it. I wish you and Raed were here! By the way last year he took me to a nice internet-cafe with a large balcony overlooking the old city - do you know the name? I'd like to go and hang out there in Saturday after all this finishes.

Huttonian said...

I am here too and enjoyed your entry. Amman I have loved for years having spent 4 here in the 1990s. The conference has its moments (I ran a panel) but a lot of hot air and as to a contribution to the problems ofPalestine andIraq if this could be done by smothering them in paper-then Oh Boy you are there!

You can see my thoughts on the more medical aspects at www.huttonian.blogspot.com

Natasha said...

Mink, this is hilarious.

And you should know, you fan of obscure visual signs, that in order to submit this comment, I have to log-in, then type into a box the characters I see above it. Next to the box is a wheelchair. Why? I wonder. I hover over it: the instruction is to "listen and type the numbers that you hear" - obviously for visually impaired people who might not be able to see these letters clearly enough. Visually impaired people who all, as we know, use wheelchairs.

mink said...

Mowgli - i think it's a talking wheel chair, it tells them where to go. You can get them on ebay now

I enjoy your comments Huttonian - and, by the way, how did you find my blog? just curious