We Have All Got Stories To Tell: Episode 2

Amman, 17/10/2015

Week 2

Places and people tell stories. And sometimes, these stories are worth sharing.
Everything you will read has happened, as far as I can be sure of my sensory experiences. The people and places are real, although people’s names are changed for a matter of respect (as I never asked for permission to write about them).

Meet Inshallah.

It’s everywhere. On the streets, in shops, at home, at school. It’s the first word you learn to recognize, because it applies to anything. Foreigners use it as much as locals to express something like a maybe closer to a yes or a maybe closer to a no, but never exactly a ‘maybe’. Why? Because with a ‘maybe’ you are still undecided on whether or not you are in for whatever you should be in. While Inshallah can either mean ‘Yes except if a lightening strikes me’ or ‘Look, I have got a lot of shit to do, but I will try my best’ depending on the speaker’s intonation. Apparently, if you text someone and they reply ‘Inshallah’, the receiver perceives it as a ‘No, thanks’, probably due to the fact that there is no way to use a particular intonation in a text message (and that is the real reason Whatsapp introduced the voice message feature).

Here is the interesting twist though. If you take it literally, Inshallah strips you of your will and put it in someone else’s will. Inshallah is “God’s will”, and it is God’s decision whether you will or will not go and do whatever it is you plan to go and do.

Now, this is all pretty much speculation and everybody is used to say it lightheartedly without meaning to disturb Allah. There is definitely not that much sociological analysis going on in the guy’s mind when he tells me ‘Inshallah we will play again next Friday.” Nonetheless, Inshallah is by far the most religiously ingrained word used in everyday language that I have come across. Take it a step further, and what Inshallah tells you is that you are not that in charge of your fate. You can plan, and devise and what’s not but that will not change the fact that, to say it in pop culture slang: shit happens.

This is not only religion, it is philosophy: it is the conceptualization of the human condition in one word, one mystery box, available to anyone. Humans have struggled for centuries to lay out the essence of life, the meaning of this world we appear to dwell in; and there you have it, a single word, hidden within the chaos of everyday life to testify that exact chaos: Inshallah.

Meet Mohammad.

He is a young Jordanian man who works as a steward. His Italian is way better than my Arabic. After around ten minutes of polite small talks, he asks me why I want to learn Arabic. I tell him I didn’t want to be conditioned by the images I was fed and the preconceptions that I grew up with, and I wanted to see what the Middle East really looked like. It seems like I gave him the right answer. “I see, so you want to be independent and free. Good.” Freedom and independence to look for “the truth”. Now, I am not necessarily looking for any truth, but I am more than happy to listen to his truth. A sad truth about the sectarian divide in Iraq, where the majority Sunni is living in terrible conditions imposed by a minority of Shia, brainwashed by the warmongering capitalism of the United States. “I was there, I saw the truth”, he tells me. Well then, I guess politically correctness is not part of this conversation. Very well. I ask him about the Arab Spring.

“Didn’t you see what happened? Did you ask yourself WHY most of the revolutions where finished in a matter of weeks, and Syria has been going on for four years?”

Syria was the aim. The United States wanted to get their hands on the last country standing against them in the region (leaving out Iran for the moment). “I don’t agree with everything Assad says and does, but at least he is still against Israel.”

Meanwhile, Western Fear is going mad.

Meet 1437.

The Renaissance is showing its first signs in Italy, with great artists such as Brunelleschi making their appearance. The Black Plague and its deathly scars are fading out, and Europe is ready for an awesome century. Or maybe not.

It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Amman and the city is starting a new week. Around noon, a rumor spreads that Thursday will be a national holiday. Puzzled, the citizens look for answer: I mean, don’t get us wrong, we are more than happy to stay home, but why?

The answer comes via more or less formal formats: it’s Islamic New Year!

Now, one would expect people to know when their new year starts without the need of government communications, but apparently it is “not such a big deal”. So much so that another rumor has it that last year it was not even a holiday (although the reliability of the source is dubious). Foreigners who had not previously been in the Middle East during New Year’s celebrations were nonetheless excited, but they had badly understated the meaning of “not such a big deal”. There was no deal. There was nothing really. I am pretty sure I was one of the only four people in Amman to wish someone else a happy new year (the other three being the people in my company). At around half-past midnight on Thursday, as I was walking home, a man was happily minding his own business inside of a shop in very poor conditions. He was trying to make sense of a heap of cables at his feet. “Someone should tell that man he is supposed to be on vacation”, but what the heck, he looked happy enough.

Happy 1437 everyone.

Like what you read? Give Marco Chimini a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.