Love Shot in Amman

I was only shot once today, by a 9 year old in the thigh while clowning in a football field. These children were mostly palestinian refugees who've been in Jordan for a while, some Syrian. While we boarded the bus to leave the stadium, a cheap yellow piece of plastic from a toy pistol bounced off my leg. Only because they didn't want us to go. I think. Or maybe they were just little boys raised in violence.

It's a holiday. One where they kill a sheep and feed it to the poor. It's like Christmas they say. But instead of christmas tree stands in parking lots across the city, there are sheep slaughtering stations. And instead of shopping, giving.

On the bus to the stadium our awesome med student guides taught us the silliest Arabic song about a man asking a woman to hide him in the food store. This has become our first impression. Some kids ran up and hugged the bus when we parked while others held back. The heat couldn't beat us, but a few of the kids did, with the juggling clubs I passed with Yahoo. Really there wasn't much of a difference from being a 5th grade substitute teacher in the states, except that we couldn't communicate or send them to the office.

Patch removed his shoes and touched his forehead to the grass with the men when the call to prayer echoed across the field. Although a father of one boy put a stop to his son teaching Yahoo how to kneel his head to the ground.

I had children sit down while I lassoed around them. They would say, "Cowboy, cowboy," and ask me an accented "what is your name?" again and again just to shake hands. Since the moment we arrived, one kid would just flit from clown to clown trying to grab and pull whatever he could from our arms incessantly. I finally figured out how to foil him by just by big hugging him with an awwwww everytime he approached. To my surprize he responded.

As we drove off they ran by the bus shouting, "we love you!" while we shouted, "Ana meh heh beck!" meaning the same.

On the way to the health care center, we stopped at a fancy cafe to eat our sack lunches, pee, drink turkish coffee, and fool around for the customers. Patch did the usual cram strangers together in a huge pair of underwear and parade around the room singing "calzone, calzone" (the Arabic word for underwear) while his son Lars shaped a beard with bubbles from the fountain. I danced like an idiot to the excellent middle eastern music on the speakers and had to take pictures with every table and give out my email.

One of our med student guides confessed to Patch and I on the way to the clinic that he had an extremely rare condition that he believes will never allow him to be married let alone have children. His culture has made him ashamed his whole life. In and out of surgeries throughout childhood, his parents never told him anything about his differences. The rudeness and discrimination he received from his very own doctors lead him to take up the medical profession in revolt against its uncompassionate practices. That's how he found Patch Adams and this mission. Most days of his life he's felt fatigued and depression. Today, he told us, he felt a new and profound happiness and energy leading us in that silly song and spreading joy. Patch explained his philosophy on being happy as a choice.

"We didn't make you happy today, you did," he said. We talked of how everyone's culture (government really) suppresses happiness. America sells us fear and sadness. We are trained to go home and watch T.V. not interacting with our families and eating propaganda for dinner. "Everyone needs to question his or her own religion and culture," said Patch. He's never believed in any God but he sings hymns while walking with old women and sees it as holy medicine. Our friend tells us that he wants to shout about his condition from the mountains and that he is deeply proud of his attributes it's given him. Patch says, "Well if you want to shout from the mountains then why don't you try it and see how it makes you feel."

We pull up to a free clinic in a crumbling part of town, tumbleweeded by plastic bags. An old building with no running water in the basement rooms. We square dance with the Malaysian med student volunteers while waiting for the timid children. When they arrive, wide-blinking-tiny-eyed, Yahoo and I sneak into the mob of kids on our knees and raise our hand for every name tag they call out. We finger paint and play the afternoon away, singing nonsense songs in the courtyard. With big goodbyes and peace sign pictures, it takes an hour to load the bus. We return to the hotel exhausted. I sleep in teary smiles. My heart rips at the seams.

Clay Mazing