Mohammad and I headed north again today along with the eldest Qatari son, Ahmed, and ended up climbing a mountain that offered an excellent view into Syria. Yesterday we had climbed an inactive volcano that wasn’t as close but gave me my first glimpse of the neighboring country. It is really incredible how close we are, towns on the other side of the border are easily visible from here. I’ve tried to broach the subject of the current situation in the north a few times, but haven’t gotten much past a general agreement that Bashar al-Assad is haram. My inquiries about whether there have been any problems here or unique perspectives on the issue have been met with a resounding no. I guess they’re getting their information from the same place I am: Al Jazeera.

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I had an interesting run in with the grapevine-like communication structure here in the Badia today. Earlier today I jokingly mentioned Mohammad’s late night, hushed phone calls to his girlfriend in Amman while hanging out with him and another young man, Khaled. We all laughed and I didn’t think anything of it until that evening when Khaled promptly reported the information to a large group of the village men. I’m sure it was at least a minor embarrassment to my host family and I really hope I haven’t caused any major problems. The role of gossip in encouraging social conformity is really fascinating and it seems to be a really pronounced phenomenon in small town environments where everyone is privy to everyone else’s secrets.

That said, this is actually something I’ve experienced in Amman as well. My host family is related to one of my classmate’s family and I’ve often shared mildly embarrassing personal information in our Arabic class, where our Arabic professor encourages culture questions. On more than one occasion, this information has made its way back to my classmate’s family and though I don’t think any of it has been particularly damning for my family, it’s easy to see how news travels quickly.

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