Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Do you feel a bit down these days?

Do you feel the signs of winter? And do your senses take it the hard way?
For example, you cross the pedestrian bridges above main streets of Amman, and you focus on the recent phenomena of the ugliness of advertisements and of the ugliness of selling out public space. All crossing bridges are rented these days: some people decided probably to make some extra money at/for the municipality and in October the Egyptian workers were putting ad-posts, through and through, covering the informative direction posts. While last month the sign was showing "Jarash" and "Ajloun" and "City Centre", now it promises "Super line Mobile Services (they offer three numbers in your package, to deceive and play better games on others...)", "Investment Potentials" and "Courier Services". Moreover, the posts are fixed in a very cheap and hasty way on the cement of the bridge, promising accidents and misfortunes during the windy days to come. Especially the ones that they decided to add electrical lights, to keep the message eloquent day and night. The bridge that I cross the most, the one of Dostoor, used to be an urban beauty: S-shaped, and painted bright blue and yellow. No, it was not good enough for those who bought their rights in ugliness: First they covered the open spaces though which one could had safe views to Queen Rania Street, up to the university and down to Sport City. Then they added the ad-boards, then THEY PAINTED EVERYTHING BLACK. Are they in their minds in a city that lacks in colour and temperature during the summer day can easily reach 43?
Are you a bit down?
Do not worry.
They found the solution to that: A new device of electromagnetic fields will treat you good... It is specially designed for depression and what is does it is called TMS (Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation). Hopefully soon they will replace the magnetic security-check gates with it. The security checks are just a ceremony aiming at smiling to the guard and receiving his smile back. But just think what a boost in profit it would be for people entering the Malls with a nice trans cranial push of happiness. Somebody should suggest this idea to the municipality. They are good in business, I think.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who does flirt with Slavery in Jordan?

Dreaming of Conditions of Slavery in Jordan???
It feels really upsetting watching all the central efforts of the responsible government of Jordan towards modernization and better general conditions in workers' rights and daily life standards, finding a crashing obstacle on the imperial behaviors of unthoughtful managers, directors or, even business owners.

This is the story that came to my knowledge in reliable details.

The General Manager of, a company of courier services, discovered a broken glass in the trash bin of the company. Directly he threatened all the employees with immediate dismissal. Second thoughts pushed him to reconsider (probably thinking of the cost of compensations). He delivered a warning letter to each and all. Moreover he decided to impose a fine upon all employees for the broken glass and to force them to sign a certifying letter that in case they get a training course and decide to leave, or get fired, they will be obliged to pay the gross amount of five thousands (5,000) J.D., a sum that exceeds for most of them the annual revenues from their salaries.

Is it acceptable to impose a regime of horror above the desks and the daily tasks of people who try to make in an honorable way their living? Does the post of the General Manager or the status of owner allow the frustration that these young people experience in their effort to produce wealth for the company and build up some experience for their future?


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Με το που ξυπνάω...

Με το που ξυπνάω χαράματα, ανεβαίνουν στη σκηνή οι αρλεκίνοι, οι "δεν-με-μέλει" τυραννίσκοι θέλω να πω ντυμένοι αρλεκίνοι, και παίζουν στο μυαλό μου επεισόδια τόσο γελοία που και να γελάσεις δεν απευθύνεσαι σ'αυτούς παρά στην πικρία σου. Κάνω ό,τι ακριβώς απαγορεύεται σε όλες εκείνες τις ανατολίτικες τεχνικές που σου υπόσχονται να σε κάνουν υπεράνθρωπο ή ημίθεο (να επιτρέπεις δηλαδή στο μυαλό να παίζει μάταιες σκηνές που σε παγιδεύουν στο θυμό). Σκέφτομαι πόσα έχω να γράψω για τις "Φρυκτωρίες", τον θεσσαλονικιώτικο γλυκύ Καζαμία μας, και ξέρω γιατί δεν το κάνω. Είμαι τόσο έξαλλος, που "εξ άλλου άλλος γίγνομαι".

Παράδειγμα: ο Επίτροπος της Επικρατείας ζητά να του αποστείλω κάτι υποδείγματα υπογεγραμμένα από τους κατά τόπους διευθυντές σχολείων, μητροπολίτες, προξένους, στρατιωτικούς ακολούθους προκειμένου να ολοκληρώσει τη μεγαλειώδη τζίφρα του στη θέση "Θεωρήθηκε" και παρά τη σχετική σημείωση ότι όπου δε λειτουργούν ελληνικά σχολεία, ο Επίτροπος θέτει εκ νέου και εις διπλούν την ανωτέρω μνημονευθείσα τζίφρα. Έτσι, πρέπει ο ταλαίπωρος γράφων να τρέξει, να συνεννοηθεί, να υποχρεωθεί για κάτι μάταιο. Τα μέρη μάλιστα που θα τελεστεί αυτό το μυστήριο καθοσιώσεως είναι αλλού γι'αλλού: στην Μάνταμπα, στη Ζάρκα, στη Σουεφίε (περιοχές πουτο ταξίδι πήγαιν'έλα θα ήταν και καμιά κατοσταριά χιλιόμετρα ή παραπάνω, τι λέω;;) κ.ο.κ. Συνέπεια: κάτι που έχει σταλεί στα ανάκτορά του από τις αρχές του υποσχετικού Ιουνίου εξακολουθεί να σέρνεται μέχρι τώρα. Μια και το έφερε η κουβέντα, ως διευθυντής ελληνικού σχολείου, ποτέ δεν θα υπέγραφα έγγραφο σε γλώσσα που δεν καταλαβαίνω. Απορώ πώς τολμούν να ζητούν το ίδιο από έναν Άραβα διευθυντή. Η άλλη όψη της σελήνης, η παγωμένη σαν αλήθεια: Είναι μέσα Νοεμβρίου και ο ίδιος Επίτροπος δεν έχει στείλει τα απαραίτητα σχολικά βιβλία ούτε, τέλος πάντων, τελοσπάντων, τελ οσπάν των, έχει ενημερώσει σχετικά. Εμ, κάπου κάποιον αγρόν θα παζάρευε.

Μορόβερ (προσέτι), ξαναθυμόμαστε τελευταία τα πτωχοπροδρομικά συμβουλευτικά ποιήματα. Εξαιτίας της ακρίβειας που έχει επιπέσει στην Ιορδανία σταδιακά από το 2002 εξαιτίας της επέμβασης στο Ιράκ κυρίως, οι μισθοί μας κατήντησαν σχεδόν μισοί απ'ό,τι κουτσό έτσι κι αλλιώς άξιζαν. Δύο καλοί πρέσβεις έχουν στείλει ήδη την τελευταία τετραετία τρεις σχετικές εισηγήσεις για αναπροσαρμογή με βάση τις συνθήκες στην ακριβότερη χώρα της περιοχής. Οι θετικές αυτές εισηγήσεις συνόδευαν το δικό μας σχετικό αίτημα. Επί τέσσερα χρόνια κανενός το αυτί δεν ίδρωσε, ούτε καν εδέησε κάποιος να απαντήσει έστω αρνητικά στο αίτημα φορολογουμένων και πολιτών (γιατί προέχει το "φορολογούμενος"), μ'όλο που αλλιώς ορίζει ο νόμος. Έτσι είμαστε εμείς στο δοβλέτι κι άμα σας αρέσει...
Όταν διάβαζα για το μάθημα "απαρχές της νεοελληνικής λογοτεχνίας στο ελληνικό κράτος", το αγαπημένο μου ήταν η Στρατιωτική Ζωή εν Ελλάδι γιατί ήταν τόσο ελπιδοφόρα: ότι θα παραμείνουμε στον 19ο αιώνα διηνεκώς. Να αρπαχτούμε από την κρικέλα που έλεγε κι ο ημιάγνωστος Ανώνυμος. Κι αρπάχτηκα τωόντι, λησμονώντας ότι είναι στην πραγματικότητα ο γάντζος του χασάπη.

Συμπέρασμα: Πώς νιώθεις; Αρλεκίνος αρλεκίνων, όπερ έδει δείξαι.
Τι θα πράξεις; Θα σου πω σύντομα.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Fixation in Progress...

R.A., for the needs of an assignment, decided to interview me, I have no idea why:)... She sent me some 19 questions, which put me in a big trouble of personal interpellation. For five days I kept asking myself the same questions, and the more lengthy answers I was typing in my mind, the deeper I was entering a continent of memory, unfinished business and a great big hesitation concerning the future tense, both simple and continuous. Somehow, I recalled 1993 and our "Sexuality Group" meetings (a reading and writing group) in Birmingham with Richard Johnson being the discreet hero of acrobatic balance.
En voila a small sample (in the end I picked only 15 questions to answer, not daring for more.)

1. How did you know that education is what you want to do in your life?

This is an insight that you gain both suddenly and in the long run. You complete an hour’s teaching and suddenly you just feel happy and satisfied. You take pride in having managed to complete your planning: to transfer the specific amount of information, to leave space for interaction with the students, to suggest further reading, to keep a positive spirit in class, balancing between the target (information-knowledge) and the condition (conversation, fun, getting more people involved with the subject, you and each other) without feeling pressed with side issues of authority. Concerning the insight that one gains in the long run, let me mention that at the
University of Jordan I have been teaching the same more or less subjects for the last eleven semesters. To me, it has never been the same. I imagine myself translating the same book for 11 times and I experience vertigo. Even the third proof reading of a translated text starts getting heavy on me.

2. How do you view the process of teaching?

You know perhaps the fundamental concept of dialectics. How two different positions/subjects enter the process of dialogue (let us name them A and B), ready to prove, maintain, modify and change through interaction. It is a concept that appears early in Plato’s texts (4th century B.C.) and the manuals of Rhetoric. Here, I refer to Plato’s Dialogues, Socrates starts discussing serious issues with famous and less famous counterparts on the basis of openness and genuine respect. The success of his pedagogic approach would finally rely on forming a third position, which is neither A, nor B, not even A+B, but it is a brand new C>A+B. The process of teaching is one of the most delicate achievements of human mind. Normally we learn the basics by imitating, watching our parents, siblings, and our micro-environment. Teaching, especially academic teaching should be a step beyond this “natural” process. It can or, rather, should be the replacement of imitating an action with negotiating about the meaning. This is the difference between “doing” and “making sense of what we are doing”. Strangely enough though, you might have noticed that, to an alarming extent, societies and economies ask for practitioners instead of thinkers.

3. In your Greek I and II classes, you don't only teach language but you also try to familiarize you students with the culture as well. Why do you think this is important?

This approach developed more with time and it came along with my sense of pragmatism and my theoretical approach to language. I realized pretty early that two semesters of learning Greek language, in a program of three hours per week (which is the normal maximum for a student of U.J.) would not suffice in building up an adequate capacity of communication or the acquisition of an extensive and at the same time active vocabulary. Please note that English for example is taught in Jordanian schools, colleges and institutes for several years, the language is omnipresent in the daily life of an average student through TV, radio, songs or cinema and still the results are not always satisfactory. Just imagine what the results would be for a two-semester course, for a language that is not extensively used in Jordan (except within the relatively small Greek community in Jordan and among the Jordanian alumni of Greek Universities, doctors and engineers). The dilemma for the instructor is either to panic and to try to transfer few extra words and phrases or, to entrust the students with keys for understanding another culture, based on language but taking also the necessary detours in history, music, literature, and sociology. I believe that the second approach offers some advantages. First of all, it deals with language in its real dimensions: language is culture, insight, a treasury of time, difference and similarity. Secondly, by knowing more than some verbs and nouns, the student might feel comfortable to revisit this material, get more information, and personalize his/her learning experience. I find it sad anyway, for someone to know some French for instance, but not to know anything about the country, the history and the people who use the language.

4. Do you think people value education enough in Jordanian society?

Unfortunately Jordanian youth is more enthusiastic about cars, fancy looks, and the persistent daydreaming of personal paradises which would include villas, cars (again) and the exciting jealousy towards a tycoon. It is a massive and typical American soap-opera fantasy. Many boys feel shy to carry books or even allow a notebook to reveal that they are currently students. And several girls care more about their mobile and tiny little leather bags. I hope that fashion will soon dictate bigger shapes and models. I witness complaints about not finding good and up-to-date books, but this is simply not true. Not only there are few good bookshops in
Amman, but I also see how prompt the managers of such places are in asking my advice and suggestions concerning new titles. I believe that the older generation values education more: their chances to get good academic instruction were slim and on many occasions this demanded an adventure abroad which they could not afford. I see parents investing most of their savings in the effort to provide their children with good education. This is daily life heroism. I definitely hope that soon the time will come for the young generation to realize that education is an absolute social value and not a temporary burden. And I wish that all these talents, skills and inherited kindness that I see around, will be invested in picking the suitable specialization (according to the character, the gradually built-‘nature’ of each one) and developing it into a real passion. Only people who find a positive outlet for their creativity and carve the path to communicate their dreams can work wonders and push their society one step forward. Such people inspire others and, eventually, push academia to produce more, and to replace the ivory tower concept with a more pleasurable one.

5. How would you describe your experience in Jordan?

It has been an experience that helps me a lot. I use the present tense because the process is on-going and dynamic. I have not experienced any kind of cultural shock while being in Jordan. By observing the details in behaviors, by asking, reading and learning, I understood better this part of the world, the historical process of transformation, and dealing with a glorious and heavy past under the constellation of contemporary circumstances. The question of transformation has been answered also in various ways by the Greek nation, policy-makers and intellectuals during the last 150 years and with similar features. How does one make sense of him/herself during the transitional period of westernization? What is to be maintained? How does it feel to be the object of orientalist approaches which affect your way of making sense of it all? How does one deal with the refugee identity, the traumatic memory of loss and the pragmatism of “life carries on”? And what about this old, magical, calligraphic, poetic and difficult language? What do you make out of it? You see, my Jordanian experience is an experience of question marks. It is also an experience of faces (people who are dear to me), of houses that they opened the front door for me and made me feel they are homes.

6. What do you like most about Jordan?

The genuine people I have met; and those out of them who honor me by being my friends. I would have chosen them in any geographical setting. I also like being in a taxi listening successively to patriotic songs, Fairooz and Umm Kalthum, dedicated by some Fadi to his schoolmates, by Abu Eyas to his son who studies in Irbed and by some old lady to her family abroad.

7. Who is the main influence in your life? Why?

Nobody has influenced me more than Cavafy, the Alexandrian Greek poet (1863-1933). His work was a strong arm that embraced me on the right moment. Since my adolescence (I mean for the last twenty five years almost) he has been my most stable companion. Cavafy broke in me the mirror of that so called and so much celebrated “simplicity”. The way he negotiates with the notions of memory and identity, and the way he implements his aesthetics have been training me in a worldview that possesses many features of post-structuralism. In this world, a world that stands beyond “simple” binary models, one never graduates, never has the final ‘summary-conclusion’ part typed; so one is allowed to remain playful and wondering. Perhaps, to put it this way, I retrospectively justify the reprimand of the Egyptian priest to Herodotus “Greeks, you remain children indefinitely”. Enshallah.

8. What is one important thing you would like to accomplish in the future?

Writing “it” all down, this would be my most far reaching accomplishment. By “it” I mean the numerous question marks I have gathered (and you see that they are a bit more than few), the instances and the periods, the tree and the forest.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007


November in everything excels

And has his crowns of gray.

To find a leafy new one

With every single day.

November in all and everything excels.

For, a tunic of chrysanthemum he dresses.

Who would so blind be to step on his silver scale?

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Love is... How love is...

Concerning people I have no clue.
I am not entitled to give any diagnostic recipe.
I forgot.
It is not in my hands. It has been. Or it has never been.
But concerning the kindest variety of love, I can submit a short questionnaire.
How do you know you love a text?
How do you know it is love and not an adventurous affair?
What are the details you can give of that lover's face?
Where did you spend the shared days and nights with the paper beloved?
How does it feel the missing after you close the back-cover?
Do you discuss and what do you discuss with it and the elusive provider (author)?
How do you diffuse the news about the lover?
Would you reach the point of sharing with others?
Would you try to know the whole family (sister books, cousin works)?

Take your time, I will come back to them all.
Just I give you here a photo taken on the British Isles.
And another, taken on a Mediterranean shore.

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