As you read this I am jet lagged and most likely asleep after yet another business trip to Jordan. This was my eighth trip to Jordan in the last two years and probably not my last. A lot of people ask, “What is a suave sophisticated international man of intrigue like you doing is a rustic setting like Jordan?” OK, they usually don’t use those exact words…OK nobody’s ever used those exact words, but people do wonder why I spend so much time there.
The short answer is that it beats getting a real job. My job could be considered legitimate work ... if you’ve never done legitimate work, but I know better. The truth is that I get paid to travel comfortably around the world and spend large amounts of other people’s money. It’s not bad work if you can get it.
Lately that traveling has been to Jordan and, despite what you may think you know about Jordan, it’s not a bad place to be over paid and pampered. Jordan is an American ally and the only real danger I’ve ever faced there is being overfed. When a Jordanian hosts you, they are not happy unless you are actively eating or drinking something at all times. I know ... it’s treacherous duty but I get paid well for taking the risk!
It’s been my experience that the average Jordanian is well versed in American history and culture but the average American doesn’t know squat about Jordan, and most of what they do know is wrong. For example, did you know that Jordan isn’t an oil rich Arab nation? There’s no oil in Jordan and gas prices are much higher there than here. They have all the liabilities of being in the Middle East but none of the assets…but the good part about that is nobody attacks you if you don’t have oil.
Jordan is a monarchy but their king is a real genuine Special Forces tough guy. Most kings and princes around the world dress up in ornate military uniforms with lots of medals, but like military school cadets, it’s all make believe. I’ve met the army general who trained the king, jumped out of airplanes with him and went through Ranger training beside him. This guy is a genuine soldier yet he’s never claimed to know more than his generals and his people genuinely love and respect him. I think there’s a lesson to be learned there.
Granted, he has never been featured in a WWE pay-per-view event, shaved Vince McMahon’s head or fired anyone on national TV, but he’s doing all right.
Jordanian women are amazing. Bet you didn’t see that one coming did you? Despite the stereotype of the oppressed black ghosts, most of the women I’ve met over there are well dressed, educated and cultured and who are way too classy to hang out with an American slacker like me. A few months ago I met a very nice lady who was a doctor, a successful businesswoman and a member of the Jordanian parliament. What was left of my stereotype of women in Jordan went down in flames when I shook her hand.
Besides, there’s just something very cool about the way they say my name that I really like. Being snubbed by gorgeous smart women with an exotic accent kind of trips my trigger. What can I say; I’m sophisticated like that.
There are miles of rugged desert, camels, shepherds and Bedouins living in tents just like you might expect. What might surprise you is that many of the Bedouins have generators, satellite dishes and big screen TVs in those tents. I didn’t believe it myself until I actually visited one, but sure enough.
Within two city blocks of the beautiful and ornate national mosque in downtown Amman there are three large Christian churches. The two retired Jordanian generals I work with are business partners and best friends; one is Christian and the other Muslim.
I think it’s the unique mix of the ancient and the modern, shepherds tending their flock while playing on their cellphones and the lush green farms of the Jordan Valley contrasted with the desert wonder of Petra that appeals to the contrarian in me.
I keep going to Jordan because I get paid to but also because it’s a cool little country that’s nothing at all like what it seems at first glance. That’s something I can identify with, so I like it and I’ll go back ... as long as I get paid.
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.