Eating in Jordan can be an ordeal lasting hours. This lunch went from 1-7 p.m. The meal, Oozi, is a layering of chicken, rice, peas, beef, roasted nuts, parsley and eaten with yogurt, pickled cabbage and scooped with bread. Throw on top of that a few cups of coffee and then a few of tea.
It was one of the greatest experiences we’ve had with Jordanians yet. The family is from the suburb of Zarka, just north of Amman. The father, Abu Ramee, was born in Zarka but is clearly of African decent. He gave me a ride home in his tractor-trailer truck from near the Iraqi border to his hometown, which is about 4 and a half hours from the border and close to where I live. We had English and Arabic lessons in the cab of his truck. My Arabic got better in the 4 hours of his truck than it did in a month of lessons.
The mother is from Palestine and was unbelievably warm and caring, and Abu Ramee’s large family was immediately comfortable and curious with their American guests.
Archive for February, 2006
The Iranian Kurds I met at the refugee camp near the border with Iraq have been persecuted for years. In fact, some of them have known no other life. I photographed and interviewed members of a large Kurdish family who were all born in refugee camps. When asked the question of what the first thing it is they would want to do when they get out of the camp, they each said go to high school.
It was difficult getting these children to speak from their hearts. I would ask them what they wanted to be when they get older and their father would whisper doctor, and they would answer doctor. Their father had seen so many journalists come and go, and he was frustrated with the lack of results from their reporting. The father was honing his skills of persuasion. For hours he would ask me questions about what I thought I could do for them and what my photographs or words would do to change their situation. What could my photographs do for them? Looking at these twin boys and knowing they were born in a refugee camp and have spent their whole lives in tents in the middle of the desert, what do you feel and are those emotions enough to make you do anything about it?
Last night I got back from a trip near the Iraqi border, about 70km. The desert in this part of the world looks less inhabitable than the photos brought back of Mars. But people live there, some voluntarily and other because of the war. This is the reason that brought me here, a refugee camp for those pushed out of Iraq when the war started. More photographs will come from my trip.
This is the same image in color. To me the boys seems more like you and I, or like the Karate Kid and some of the guys in high school with rough attitudes, but that if you got to know them they were really nice guys. Truthfully these guys were amazingly nice and curious. They looked after me.
The black and white version definitely strips needless information away and distracts you less from the faces, but for some reason I feel a distance from the men in the photograph.
While editing some of my images from the Palestinian elections, I came across this photograph. The boys in the group asked if I would take it and I’m glad I did. Someday I would like to go back to the West Bank town of Hebron and find out what happened to each one of these guys. Each one had a hard edge to them. They were nice in a friends-with-a-bully sort of way, but they were also the trouble makers of the town.
I originally took the photograph in color but converted it to black and white to see how it would look. I will post the color version a little late. Let me know what you think of both versions or what you think of color vs. balck and white.