Friday, January 21, 2011

Interesting Times

The Next Tunisias [Foreign Policy Magazine, 19 Jan]

It's funny: like everyone else in Jordan, I find I'm left not quite knowing what I can say aloud (or even really what I would say if I had full license to speak).

Why Jordan isn't Tunisia [Foreign Policy: Middle East Channel, 18 Jan]

So... how 'bout that Asian Cup?

Uzbekistan vs Jordan [, 21 Jan]

Bummer. Those Uzbeks really came outta nowhere.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

'trickle trickle trickle' or The Price of Vice

New Year's was a movie followed by an elegant hotel dinner. You could tell it was elegant by the plate to portion ratio: at no point was less than 2/3 of any plate surface visible around the food. Planning at the last minute had left us with the choice of ordering pizza or investing in a meal with an intermezzo course of champagne sorbet. And this is sort of how I've come to think of Jordan: grubby low-end hostel, or ritzy 5 star hotel. There's very little in between the two available.

Final cost of the meal per head: 90 JD. 60 percent of Jordan's monthly minimum wage.

To give you an idea, that's the equivalent of paying 696 dollars for a meal in the U.S., where a minimum wage job will net you 1,160 USD a month.

I haven't decided if I feel exactly guilty about this or not. Just because others aren't able to live the same way you can doesn't mean that you should throw it all over, hole up in a barrel, and only ask that people don't block your sunlight. Still, I wonder a lot about how it impacts my sense of normalcy. I wouldn't spend 700 dollars for a meal in the U.S. even if it came with a free mermaid. (I doubt I'd even spend 130 dollars for a meal, which is what it actually cost me based on the exchange rate.)

Anne pointed out that the service charge meant that our waiter made over one-sixth of the minimum wage in a single night, just from our table. I suppose that ameliorates things somewhat (as I'm certain he will only spend it on morally uplifting literature to read to ailing hospice residents). Everyone here wants their children to be doctors and engineers. Too bad that whole 'alcohol and mixed gender environment' thing blinds them to the economic opportunities of waitstaff.