American Volunteer arriving at Smakieh

A few days ago, an American volunteer rented a house in Smakieh. It is the house of Sharea’ Hijazeen. His name is Chris. He will be both teaching English and learning Arabic at Hmood High School for boys– a governmental school. Yesterday night, I met him in the house of Mukles Torman Hijazeen.

Chris works with an organization called “Peace Corps”. “Peace Corps aims at eliminating the misconceptions that people have about the US” Chris said yesterday evening at the house of Mukhles Torman. What is more, helping promote understanding between the Middle East and the United States is but one side of the coin. “After 2 years,” Chris said. “I will be back in the US. There, I will be teaching my fellow American’s about the Middle East.”

Before coming to Smakieh, he spent two months in Irbid. He used to live at a host Muslim family. In order to understand more about Islam, Chris proudly and happily said how he fasted for five days. His next station was Smakieh. “I was astonished.” He describes his feelings when he found out some facts about this tiny southern Jordanian village. “In Irbid, I was taught how to live in a Muslim society.” He recalls. “I came to Smakieh and I found that it is an all-Christian village.” He regretted.

Mukhles Hijazeen and his wife, one of Chris’s closet neighbors, were very happy. Still, their happiness is nothing compared with that of their children. One of their two sons, Hamzeh, aged around 8 year-old, smiled as if he was sitting beside a king. Most of the time, the tiny hands of Hamzeh held the left hand of the embarrassed Chris. Hamzeh looked like a son clinging to the hand of his mother. You should have seen the embarrassment on Chris’s face when the little Hamzeh kept and kept holding his left hand. Moabite noticed a silent call of help in the eyes of Chris. Moabite, however, never allowed himself to intervene. Moabite thought that if there was anything wrong in the obvious huge compassion the child shows, then his parents are the ones who should react.

Moabite acted as a translator between Chris and this Hijazeen family. “I should make no conversation at all. This is why I was invited to drink a cup of tea, it was because they needed my knowledge of English.” Moabite told himself. Consequently, most of the time, Moabite was only doing translation. Occasionally, he looked at the faces of Muklish, his wife, and his 6 children. Based on previous experience, Moabite used to think that people, especially young children, stares at him when he speaks English. Wouldn’t you stare at a person who speaks a language you don’t know? But that night, not on any of the few occasions he looked at the family did he find anyone looking at his direction. All of the people present, young and adult, males and females were staring at Chris. All of the time, Chris was the center of attention like a singer on stage. “I am invisible!” Moabite thought cynically. Was Moabite upset because of being ignored? Not at all! He gets embarrassed whenever he is a center of attention. “Nice, I hope that no one is looking at me now, no one will be describing my English to Smakieh.” Moabite thought the way his society teaches. He hoped that no one would ‘envy’ him because of his English. How sad is that some people, in the 21 century, still believe in myths as envy!

Over a period of 60 minutes, Moabite and Chris drank 2 cups of tea with mint. The time passed quickly because there was always something to talk about. For example, how much does the organization pay Chris? Chris told them that he receives a salary of 170 JD. Every one present, except Chris and the little children, were amazed. How could it be that an American receives such a low salary? Egyptian workers receive higher salaries. Don’t they? Chris had to explain, for many times, what it means to volunteer. On the other side, more than 3 times, Mukhles and his wife made the translator, Moabite, translate to Chris stories about the Canadian family that used to live in that same house Chris is now living in. “In two years, they spent more than 100,000 JD. All paid by the organization.” Mukhles said amazed. His wife followed him to say how the Canadians toured not only whole Jordan, but also the whole Middle East. “Jerusalem, Syria, Sharm Sheikh…” She gave examples of places they visited. After huge emphasis on the salary issue, the conversation took a turn to discuss the Canadian Family. Both of the parents praised, Ken, the husband, a lot. They stated how nice he was, how he used to come and sit with them, and how different he was from his wife. Talking about his wife, Chris laughed about a description they gave of her character. They didn’t love her as they loved the husband.

In another instance, a hazardous subject was started; Politics. In short, political views of Chris will bring him publicity with a Middle Easter. He stated how horrible America’s foreign policy is. Later on, he described how America, not the American government, wants money from the whole world. In many occasions, he clearly stated the need for a change. In his opinion, laws in America only support the wealthy people (Somehow, I can’t remember this point exactly.) “You are voting for Obaman?” Moabite deduced easily. Chris didn’t object on Moabite’s comment. The conversation about politics ended when Mukhles wife whispered to him, almost stealthily, “Leave it!” Moabite laughed as he was the only one who noticed this warning. Muklhes looked at Moabite and said nothing. From that moment on, politics was history.

“I wash my clothes manually; I want to buy a washing machine.” Chris asked for advice. Mukhles showed him 2 types of washing machines. One of them was very plain that only rotated the clothes within it. It had no dryer. “You can get it as low as 50 JD” I translated after Mukhles. To my amazement, Chris said that this was expensive. He wanted to know if there were cheaper washing machines. Mukhles informed him the bad news. Later, Mukhles told Chris that he can take him to Karak city if he wanted to buy anything. I don’t believe that Mukhles will profit any money from Chris. Chris thinks that 50 JD for a washing machine is ‘expensive’. How could such a person afford hiring a car when he wants to travel? “I will pay his bus fee if we go to Karak castle together.” Moabite took sympathy at Chris because he thought of how an American can get used to living by such a very low income!

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