Tea with the census guy

Miriam and I were intercepted on our way home from the dry cleaner's this morning (my skirt still isn't ready, but I'm not complaining since it's only costing 1.5JD). We walked up to our door and saw that our elderly neighbor OmmAatif's door was wide open. She invited us in, of course, and we accepted.

The reason her door was open is that she had the census guy in her sitting room. Here, you never close the door if you're alone with an unrelated member of the opposite sex. And that's if you even invite them in - Jeremy once had to have a female teaching assistant from Jordan University sit out on our front steps for 20 minutes, waiting for me to get home from work so she could come inside.

OmmAatif was having a great time chatting up the census-taker, and was in the process of preparing tea. She put some baboonej on for Miriam and me (it's kind of like yansoon), and then continued answering Mohammed's (the census-taker) questions.

It turns out it's not really a census. It's actually an official survey about landowners in Jordan, specifically those who own farms. Fortunately, OmmAatif owns some land up in Jerash, so she had a lot to talk about with Mohammed. As it always does with OmmAatif, the subject of her recently deceased son came up. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of compassion showed by Mohammed, a complete stranger. He talked her through the feelings she expressed, and then commiserated with her over the recent wedding of her niece, which she was unable to attend due to intense feelings of sadness.

And then the tea was drunk and it was time for Mohammed to move on to other residents in the building. I asked him if all he did all day was drink tea, since under Arab hospitality I knew he must be offered a cup at every house he visited. He said he actually didn't end up drinking that much, even if he had plenty of opportunities. Privately, I was relieved for him.

He left, but Miriam and I stayed a little longer. OmmAatif insisted on feeding her lunch, and then cheered Miriam on every bite with "kuli, kuli!" Eat, eat!

Then it was time for us to leave as well. I'm glad OmmAatif owns land in Jerash, since it gave her the chance to have a pleasant morning's conversation with a nice young man named Mohammed.

Congratulations, Petra!

Salt's Turkish Cemetery