Monday, November 03, 2008

Is That a Terrorist Training Camp?

You know, so much of our perception of events depends on our background and our baggage. In addition, it depends on the words we use to express our experience. Let me give you an example. Some years ago, El 3atal, MimiBean, and I traveled to Jerusalem. I was a little bit concerned because the situation had been a bit tense, but when we got there I found there was nothing to worry about. At one point, we passed a small protest being held by the Palestinians. We didn't know what they were protesting, but it was a simple peaceful protest with people holding sign and chanting. Nothing worrisome. My self-preservation radar didn't go onto alert. The next day we picked up the paper and saw a photo of the protest under the headline "Rioting in Jerusalem." Hmmm... Such a difference between those two words. Sitting in the US, I read about rioting (the very thing that made me concerned about going on the trip) and assume that since the new media chose the word they know what it means. Apparently not.

Well, each morning when I drop the Beans off at school, I'm close enough to hear a government school beginning their day. And, boy do they do things differently (both the government school and the Bean's school) than my school when I was a wee one. When I was a kid, each morning we stood next to our desks reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in unison with the intercom. It was piped into each room. it was used for making announcements, reciting the pledge, and for calling people to the office. And it was in each room (very convenient). But Jordan is a different place. The construction is different, the needs are different, the practices are different.

The first time I noticed the government school across the street, it realized that for your average American, it called to mind videos of Al Qaeda training camps. First, the beginning of the day routines take place outside (as do those for ButterBean). They use a loud speaker system installed in a courtyard (parking lot) outside the school building. And, instead of calm, bored voices reciting the pledge, you have lots of young kids shouting at the top of their lungs. I thought, now what American wouldn't find this unusual. The cacophony coming from these kids is amazing. I haven't hung around to hear the entire routine, but at some point they play the national anthem. The kids shout along (in case you are unaware, Jordan seems to have 2 volumes loud and shouting).

**Warning tangent in progress**
I'm not sure if this is accurate, but it seems like the national anthem of Jordan is only one or two paragraphs long. I have to say I think it's genius. It's simple to sing (or shout), should be easy to remember, and fits into short period of time. This is in contrast to the American national anthem which is generally regarded as extremely difficult to sing (lots of highs and lows and quick breaks between them), is very long with convoluted, often mis-sung verses that requires at least five minutes of standing around. Hello, US, take note our anthem is too hard. We need a new one, teehee.
**Tangent complete**

Once I noticed the school's morning routine, I realized that part of the reason that it sounds so "terrorist training camp-y" is because the shouting kids sound angry. Of course, when El 3atal and I first married I thought he and his folks were always angry at each other when they spoke Arabic. The normal decibel level is so much louder (I blame wedding receptions and kids' parties with ridiculously loud speakers causing hearing damage at the youngest of ages) that it really is shouting to our tender American ears. (By the way, Hispanics are also always angry based on their volume level and hand gesturing.) So, then I started to listen. I realized that it really sounded like they were counting. Maybe they are. That would be pretty smart at this little school (I think it's only KG and maybe one or two grades). Since you're spending the time in the morning, use it to reinforce in-class learning... At any rate, it's funny how your perspective is colored by what is "normal" for you. In the end, the difference between a protest and a riot or reciting and shouting is in the eye (and agenda) of the beholder.

Happy Indoctrination!


At 3:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saturday I finally heard a quality recording of the Jordanian national anthem, after hearing it my whole time in Jordan JUST as you described.

It was lovely AND inspiring!

Oh the decibel level will be funny to see what our kiddos say about it as adults. :)

At 7:47 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

You mean you think our kids will actually have hearing left when they're adults?!

At 8:50 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Good observations. I live near an Islamic school and every morning the loud speaker cracks on (between seven thirty and eight am) and we (the whole neighborhood) are treated to the anthem, announcements, Quran recitation by young boys, and other unknown issues which are screamed into the microphone. We are used to it after four years, but sometimes it grates on your nerves. Problem is, these schools don't have an assembly hall big enough to hold the student body. They couldn't do this indoors if they wanted to. Our major break comes in bad weather, when the forgo the whole thing since no one is going to stand in the rain with a microphone...ha ha.

At 11:33 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Nicole, exactly. It's something about the tone and tenor (and the lack of an interal intercome system)...

Interesting about the bad weather... I'll have to wait to see how it works at the school I har.

At 8:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

bitch, leave jordan if you don't like it. Otherwise shove a gym sock in your smushed mouth.

And, nicole, f u for complaining about the "screeching" microphones at 8am. It's probably a wake-up call to get off your lazy ass and wake up.


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