It’s my first full morning in Wadi Rum and I hear a commotion. It is coming from the back of the building where I live and work. I am just twenty-four hours in Wadi Rum Village and have not checked out the property too closely, so I go for a look.
The building where I work is part of a larger compound that includes the family homes of my hosts, the Al Zalabeyh family. This family compound includes the typical Bedouin inventory of livestock including a herd of goats – the source of the commotion.
My host Ahmed’s two youngest brothers Abdullah (9) and Zeyd (7) are herding the goats. They may as well be herding cats. There are goats everywhere. There are goats on the street and there are goats in the front courtyard of the office and there are even goats in the reception area. I am not sure where the goats are supposed to be, but they clearly are not supposed to be in reception. I encourage the goats to leave reception.
To the side of the office courtyard area there is a section that is lower where there are goats trapped and they cannot, or do not want to, make the jump out.
I stand and watch Abdullah and Zeyd try in vain to get the goats to jump up out of the lower courtyard. I watch because herding goats is not in my job description, nor do I have experience in herding goats, and the ‘other related duties’ clause was never mentioned.
I am about to go get my camera when a frustrated Abdullah shouts at me in Arabic, motioning to me to help pick up the goats and help them over the ledge. His orders don’t take the first time and he shouts again, eyes wide and fixed on me, with a slow motion mimic of lifting a goat over a ledge. I don’t know what he is shouting, but may translate something like, “Dude, you are six feet tall. I’m three feet tall and nine years old. The goats are bigger than I am. Pick up a goat, you useless Canadian!”
I assist three adult goats over the ledge with Abdullah and Zeyd standing there acting out the motions of heaving goats over a ledge, nodding with reassurance with each goat transfer. Zeyd picks up a baby goat and even though he could have easily placed it over the ledge, he hands it to me to put over, shaking his head in frustration all the while.
After the goat fiasco, having clearly demonstrated my ability to assist things to get where they should be, Abdullah climbs the wall in front of the office and motions to me to help him up to the archway above the front entrance to the office. As he hangs from the bottom of the archway, holding on only with his tiny fingers, I look to our camel wrangler, Abu Baka. Abu Baka shakes his head and conveys an emphatic “La!”. I turn to Abdullah and pass along the “la” and leave Abdullah swinging in disappointment.
When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in. – D. H. Lawrence