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Meet The Family

May 16, 2012

“Don’t stop,” says Ragad , handing me (yet another) chocolate, this time a Snickers, as we sit watching television for the seventh hour on their sage green couch and my new sister declares to the television host, ” the most handsome man in the world,” “Marry me, marry me, I will pay you!”

Welcome to my new family.

The home of Rateb and Lina is in Marj Al-Hamam (means meadow of doves), a large city in Western Amman. The house is the last on a quiet street off Al-Shabaque duar (circle), a rented place that looks out over a vast wheat field with olive trees. There are olive trees in our yard as well but the vegetation is untamed, tangling with old furniture and random objects, such as the metal trees my host father — a wedding planner — uses to decorate the wedding parties.

Backyard view.

The chaotic backyard vegetation embodies the spirit of my host family. They are silly and fun and it’s obvious they delight in each other’s company. Every person in the family is quick to crack jokes, but it’s Ragad who is the comedian. She is constantly dancing and laughing, mabsoot (happy), even when Lina forgot her birthday.


It’s a house in motion, with people constantly coming and going through the front door. The permanent residents are Rateb, Lina, Sultan (24), Sara (24), Saif (21), Mejed (16) and Ragad (a freshly minted 15). Chris, the American cousin from Alabama, is staying here as well. And on our first night, the last student who stayed with the family came back for the night to visit.

Aside from the two newest resident additions (Sam and I), there are also some new animals who Sultan brought to the house while his mother was in Palestine this past week: two chickens, two one rabbit (as of last night, Antaer had escaped), two ducklings and one dead goldfish in a cloudy bowl in the living room. Ragad had named the escaped rabbit after her pregnant cat that had recently been put on the street by her mother.

First there were two.

And then…

“I call them Antaer and they go. No more Antaer. I will get a dog and I will name it Lucky!” Ragad said.

The best part of my first night though was after Chris arrived. He lit up the room with his mixed Arabic and thick Alabama accent, calling out a “Hey, how are y’all doing” and a “Hello habibi (my love)” to the family in the living room. I had a moment where I sat back amidst the smoke coming from five different cigarettes, listening to a Palestinian-American speak about Jordanian-Palestianian relations in a Southern accent, while side conversations were happening in fast Arabic and a truck alerted people to the propane they were selling with ice cream music in the street. Meanwhile, the television programs being switched between were Turkish serials and Training Day.

I’m living in a sitcom.

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