After dinner with our neighbours last night, I was struck by three things:
Firstly, how generous they were to put up with two hours of my stumbling, mumbling Arabic. Conversations with early stage second language speakers is absolutely exhausting; both for the native and the beginner! I was extremely grateful that this couple – after waking up early to their three young kids, working all day, helping with homework, cooking, etc. – was willing to spend 10 minutes trying to figure out what we meant by ‘council rates’ or explain what they meant with various hand actions and lots and lots of ‘littler’ Arabic words, which we already knew.
It has inspired me to up the effort with my own language learning!
Secondly, how that in order to understand the economies of most of the world, you need to forget the idea of the ‘middle class’: those people who, whilst not being born into money, have the opportunity to better their circumstances. We began the night by talking about a topic on most Jordanian minds: the recent hike in electricity prices. This has followed the rise in gas prices due to the expiration of government subsidies (which, to be fair, the government was forced to do if it still wanted to receive international loans to prop up the failing economy.). This family was quite concerned about the extra 5 JD or so a month.
At first, this surprised me. These people just bought the house they currently live in, and the father works as a lawyer; why is 5 JD month extra a month a problem? My subconscious query was soon answered when the someone subtly mentioned that the monthly income was 500JD. To put that in context: it is very hard to find a place to rent for less that 350 in this middle-of-the-road neighbourhood, and most weddings – so they also told us this night – cost at least 10,000 JD.
Here, you can’t ‘save’ money with your income. What your income does is maintain the quality of life you inherited from your family.
There is no ‘up’; if you are lucky, you hold steady.
Thirdly, the realisation that I can’t ‘hold my coffee’. It is very nice to finish the night with the traditional Arab drink, but I have to admit: I was still thinking about how nice it was lying in bed at 1:30 that morning