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culture shocks

October 13, 2010

I’ll be interested to see how the ebb and flow of culture shock affects me as time wears on–people tell me that in about three months, my honeymoon phase will come to an end, and the next transition will occur. But it’s the little “shocks” of adjusting to a new culture that keep me amused, exacerbated, and energized these days.

For example, I successfully renewed my visa today. But here’s the story: I live just out of the downtown police station’s jurisdiction, so instead I headed to the one located in Wihdat (established as a Palestinian refugee camp after 1948, and now more of a sprawling, crowded neighborhood than a “camp,” but still populated by refugees nonetheless). I guess they don’t get tons of visa renewals there, because they remembered my roommate from her visit two months ago, which was pretty impressive/weird. Everything went smoothly except for this little hiccup of a conversation between me and the police officer:

Him: Who do you live with?
Me: I live with her. [Gesture towards J.] We live together.
Him: And?
Me: Huh?
Him: [totally serious] And…you live with a Jordanian man?
Me: What? No. Wait, what?!
Him: You don’t live with a man?
Me: …No!
Him: [looking surprised] Okay.

Seriously! Unless something was lost in translation (which I doubt because we were speaking in English, and his was very clear), this guy assumed because I was an American woman on my own that I was living in sin, or something. Single women always live with family here–although maybe with siblings or uncles instead of parents. So to suggest that I was unmarried and living with a man (or even weirder, that both of us were) was, in retrospect, kind of offensive. But we were both so caught off guard that we had trouble holding in our giggles after that. “If that’s what they assume,” I said later, “no wonder they look at us like that in the street!” Like we’re either prostitutes or aliens, I mean. (I’m exaggerating, of course.)

Still. Just thinking about it makes me laugh.

We also completed some errands on the way back, which means my phone can now make calls out instead of just receiving them, and I have all this delicious baklava to eat that I may or may not be consuming a little too quickly. The pieces are so tiny and scrumptious! It’s like eating nothing at all that turns out to be a full meal’s worth of calories! I guess I’m pretty good at “pacing myself” unless sugar and butter are involved…ah well. Win some, lose some. We also split the cost of a hairdryer, which is great news for my mornings and my reputation: wet hair somehow signifies that you’ve just had sex, so if I showered in the morning, I always had to leave enough time for most of my hair to dry. But not anymore! Yay.

Finally, my roommate now has video of me yelling at an adorable kitten to “go eat some trash!” In my defense, it was climbing through a hole in the window screen INTO OUR KITCHEN. Somehow, having stray kittens wandering through our apartment is even scarier to me than cockroaches (one of which is dead in my doorway as we speak). Sorry, cat-lovers.

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