Thursday, June 26, 2008

how to overstay a welcome

We met Hassan in the dairy section of the grocery store. As an employee, with great English, he was determined to help us find sour cream. Up and down the aisles, this search became the foundation of our friendship. When the sour cream was discovered, we had already exchanged numbers and he had invited us to go out with him to his home. It was settled, he was picking us up at 7pm. Together we cruised through the Jordanian hills in his father's 1976 BMW, and about 30 minutes later we arrived into his neighboring town of Salt. At the door, we were introduced to his father, mother, and two of his sisters (a brother and four other sisters also make up this big family). It soon became very obvious, they were eager and delighted to play host, and we were their honored guests! It began with Arab coffee, a coffee so intense they only serve it in half ounce shots. On their best silver trays, they presented Pepsi, pears, water, chocolates, mango juice, tea and watermelon. As far as we knew, to reject any offers would be offensive, so we carefully and strategically managed to consume all the offered confections and drinks. During our third hour together, in fancy little glasses, they presented us with infamous Turkish coffee, and after the coffee the evening continued. This sweet family sat with us for hours; without understanding any English, they were committed to being proper hosts. Eventually I whispered to Joe "Do you think we should go soon?" But we both agreed, that might be rude, so we just sat there content, enjoying the kind hospitality of this wonderful Jordanian family and the warmth of this quiet little town. Finally, in our fifth hour together (and just before midnight) another round of coffee circled our way. Like any good guests, we drank up... and with our limited (but humorous) Arabic vocabulary, we continued to fuel the conversation. As another caffeine rush subsided, Hassan said "If you are ready to go, just let me know." Without wanting to appear too eager, we waited a few more minutes, then started our goodbyes. It wasn't until one week later that we learned a very important lesson in Arab hospitality: When the host serves coffee, it's a signal that the evening is coming to a close, and the guest knows it's time to go after the coffee is gone. Our gracious hosts catered to us for almost five hours and through multiple rounds of "this is your clue to go" coffee--if only we had known!

10 comments:

anjuli paschall said...

OMG! i can't believe it! you won't forget that story for a life time :) good thing to know for the future :)

Corrie said...

Oh it kills me. I love it. Smiles and nods can only communicate so little. Hopefully the family will forgive you for being weird americans.

Melissa said...

That is hilarious! Better to learn in a week than in 3 months:)

james said...

I just want to know how you got any sleep that night with all that caffeine. Turkish coffee is POTENT.

Stuarts said...

That's hilarious. What a great story.

renes said...

That's classic!!!! Reminds me of a story of Shay's step brother while in Korea...he kept eating up all the food on his plate...and so they kept serving him more food. He knew the family didn't have much money and he thought it was rude to leave food on his plate. He was sooo full! Then a little later, the Korean friend, whispered, if you are done, make sure to leave a little on your plate. I guess sometimes, you just can't avoid these kinds of situations. Simply classic! ;oP

zanoh and co. said...

hahaha! you guys are so funny :) i love this story.

Alqurin said...

It's hard for me to believe that the two of you could ever outstay your welcome at all...you guys are too wonderful for that...but it is a funny story

Katester said...

Gas to take Americans in the BMW: $8

Beans to make ten rounds of coffee: $10

Five hours of polite nodding and smiling with complete strangers who don't speak your language:

Priceless.

Leila said...

ooh.. Wanida.. i was reading the story and cringing every time you mentioned them serving coffee!!