One of the many pleasures of finding temporary accommodation during reporting trips is dealing with maintenance. We take our daily habits and comfortable routine for granted until we parachute into a foreign culture.
A few days in, the toilet broke down. It took half a day for a beginner plumber to decide it needed a new part. He disappeared for an hour and came back with a brand new whatever. Another half a day later, he decided it was the wrong part. He vanished again.
When he patched up the toilet finally, we realized the washer, full of laundry, hasn’t made a sound in hours. The plumber and doorman played with the On/Off switch about three hundred times then simply walked away. My colleague, Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, moved the stubborn machine an inch, and voila; it spoke.
We came home in the evening to a flooded bathroom. Woke up the next day to no Internet.
The doorman is responsible for maintenance, but your luck varies depending on the guy you get with the apartment. I had the curious opportunity to watch Adel bite into the TV remote control batteries to get it working again.
All of this to say, it makes our trip ever more interesting. Reporting means a lot of time spent on the road, building trust with the people you interview, and definitely the occasional evening out or road trip with the locals.
It’s no secret that driving around Amman and Russeifah constitute an environmental nightmare. Heaps of garbage and factory debris line many streets and some streams close to Jerash historical city. Rich areas crawl upwards, away from the valleys. Downtown is one of my favourite spots, however, with its blackened coffee nooks, gold markets, and historic surprises. I especially enjoy watching drivers, taxis and Service cars maneuver around each other through tight streets. I’m convinced they’re all superb chess players.
As for us, we shadow people, stripping image from sound, recording the echoes of a door handle being pulled, the clicking of heels on tiled floors, make up kits opening and closing, the cheers and clapping of a private women’s party, and the ululations of men. Yes, men do it, too! Every room we enter offers fresh tea, coffee, canned juice or Pepsi. We got into the habit of carrying bottles of water, as the sun over Amman is ever so vengeful.
But the work doesn’t stop when we’re home. There is one glass, dinner table in the living room, and now it’s covered in papers, laptops, recorders and battery chargers. You can spot remnants of the occasional late meal and cups of tea and water rotate constantly. The large windows are open to let in bird chirping, cat fights, the doorman’s handiwork around the building, and neighbours in their balconies.
We listen back to our tape, review the photographs we managed to capture and start transcribing. Then we prepare for the next day with interview questions based on character analysis, hash out ethical concerns, and focus the story:
Why is this important? How do we get listeners to care?
The latter question playing a bigger part in reporting than I’d like it to. We should care. People are stories, and I want to hear them all.