I'm back in Amman doing some short-term work. It's odd coming back to your former home town as a guest: staying in hotels, no car, no furry companions, no Friday bike rides. You get it. I'm once again 100 miles from the Syrian border. I could get in one of the project cars and be in Syria in two hours. And the odd part is that you can't tell anything is different. There must be a word for the strangeness of the absence of something you're sure should be present. Back in DC (or Kigali, or wherever I happen to be), I follow the Syrian conflict at least as much as the next guy, having lived so near. By any measure, what's going on 100 miles north of me is a disaster of epic proportions. The violence, bloodshed, and wanton destruction are so big and so bad that sometimes I think I can feel it through the screen. And there are 1/2 a million Syrian refugees in Jordan. Half a million where eight months ago there were almost none. Think about that: 500,000 extra people in a country of just over six million. If 2-1/2 million Mexicans suddenly came across the border, wouldn't you be able to tell in El Paso?
But here in Amman everything in my life, and the daily lives of my Amman-based Jordanian colleagues remains the same. I've asked everyone I talk to about the impact on daily life. Most people say "nothing here, only in the north." If pressed people will mention vague complaints about rich Syrians moving here and driving up the cost of living. But that's about it. Of course in the north, on the border towns, things are much worse: shortages of commodities, lack of housing, you name it. And the impact on the government budget is severe. While western nations have pledged hundreds of millions to relieve Jordan of this burden, a small portion of the pledges have actually made it to the bank.
But I still look around, looking for some impact on my West Amman daily life. And everything seems pretty much the same as it ever was.