Tuesday, June 12, 2012

12 June: Jordanian slushies and other stories

12 June The bathroom in our hotel suite has a hose with a spray nozzle attached hanging near the toilet.  This is, of course, for the predominately Arab guests staying here.  Most people around the world use water, not toilet paper, to clean themselves after using the toilet.  The methods vary from country to country (the Japanese have bidets and dryers built right into their toilets; in India and Africa you have a bucket of water and a cup for scooping it handy next to the toilet) but one thing they have in common: the absence of toilet paper.  Our hotel kindly offers toilet paper but it is clearly not meant to be taken seriously.  Each day we are given about 1/4 a roll which we use up before the day is out.  What we are supposed to be using is the water sprayer next to the toilet.  Which we don't.  Until yesterday.  Yumi and Emi finally noticed it yesterday and realized how closely it resembles a microphone.  This led Yumi to leap onto the toilet with the nozzle in hand, speaking into it as though she was leading the primary at church.  The girls had a riot playing this game until it abruptly came to and end when Emi unknowingly squeezed the nozzle and doused herself thoroughly in water. This morning began with the usual breakfast, workout, and shower.  Everyone slept more or less alright with only one wake-up apiece from Yumi and Emi.  Emi had fallen asleep with her light on and awakened, confused, in the middle of the night.  She began to cry and ask for a band-aid for a nonexistent ouchie.  Yumi also came to inform us that she had a ad dream...but both girls--and us--went right back to sleep.  Whew!  I think we are almost adjusted to the time zone.  I woke at 7am and woke everyone else so we could continue acclimating. I figured we would try to find the cultural center The Lonely Planet guide had suggested that we could not find yesterday.  Our Egyptian buddies told us to which neighborhood the center had moved and near which landmark, so with that information alone we jumped into a taxi.  Well.  30 MINUTES LATER we roll into the destination neighborhood and the driver begins to ask everyone he can where this center is located.  At least 3/4 of the 20 people he asked were certain they knew of it and where it was, but their directions were fruitless.  After at least 15 minutes of searching I knew we had to give up.  It was now 12:30pm.  The girls had been AMAZING during the ride out there but they were obviously getting restless.  The crazy thing is that I had left the hotel with enough cash for a round trip taxi ride to any neighborhood within a reasonable distance and for lunch;  now, I could see, we were barely going to have enough to get back.  Not enough to get back to our hotel, in fact.  I had the driver take us downtown Amman where I knew we could get cash and lunch.  This involved  another 30 minute drive.  The girls really amazed me by how well they handled it but Emi was on the floor of the taxi during the last ten minutes crying that she was "all done." With great relief we fell out of the taxi in front of a bank downtown.  It is hot, the girls are hungry, and I haven't enough money to buy them lunch or to get us back to the hotel.  So you can imagine my momentary panic when the first ATM I tried refused my card.  I used the little change I had to buy the girls  slushies (yes, their very first and I don't feel too bad about it) and ushered them across the busy downtown Amman traffic, clutching their slushies, to another ATM.  It worked!  Hummus, falafel, pita, and baklava followed (the two big girls would only eat the bread and the baklava) and a ten minute agonizing search for a taxi.  I kept marveling how easy it is to get around Amman without children and how insanely hard and stressful it is with children.  Now, I really must give the girls credit here:  they behaved awesomely...like I imagined they would.  They more or less uncomplainingly followed me around along this entire adventure this morning.  That is how I fantasized this would all be.  But I knew at any moment they could meltdown and that I'd not have an "easy out" (e.g. Hop in the car and go home when the kids get cranky).  That knowledge that at any moment one of them might just lie down on the sidewalk and refuse to go another step really had me stressed.  I could see they were getting close;  I left them sitting on plastic chairs in front of a shop while i stepped out into the street (Aya in the ergo of course) to try to hail a taxi and when I looked back to check on them they had picked up the chairs and were fencing with them.  :-) Add to that fact that I knew they weren't actually having an fun, and you might see why I could not fully just enjoy the avant-garde-ness of it all.  But hey.  I really was trying to find an activity they would like (lonely planet suggested this place for kids) but life had other plans.  They might not have had a blast and I may have been anxious for fear of meltdowns, but all's well that ends well. Or so I wrote this afternoon while everyone was napping.  This evening was a bit more challenging, probably because we are stretching these girls further than with which they are comfortable.  Nate was back from the embassy by 4pm so off we went together on errands: picking up the laundry, more water, milk for Aya, more fruit.  This was all fine.  These errands were accomplished in a small business enclave not far from the hotel so we can throw everyone into the stroller/ergo and Nate and I can chat while we walk along.  The sun is shining, it is warm but not humid, and we are getting exercise.  The two challenges this evening were 1) the girls are actually sick of eating out (and to be honest, so am I) and 2) Yumi is understandably annoyed with Jordanian men pinching her cheek and tickling her, but now she shouts "don't touch me!! (in Arabic) at the top of her voice whenever she sees a man.  As for #1: The girls actually begged us not to take them anywhere and honestly eating out with them is becoming a chore.  But we do not have any real food in our hotel room AND heading out to eat is one important form of experiencing the language and culture.  We could just order in but...that just seems sad.  Maybe we could start eating lunch in our hotel? Possibly that will increase everyone's interest in eating out?  As for #2: This evening we went to a restaurant on the main street of the neighborhood (about a 20 minute walk away) that we visited last week.  I posted a picture on FB of one of the waiters holding Yumi with her looking unhappy.  Since then I've told her that she can tell people not to touch her if she doesn't want them to, and she's taken this to mean that she can shout "don't touch me" if someone even looks at her.  Emi has also taken up the mantra although she doesn't even know what it means.  Well, this evening, Yumi took one look at that waiter, shouted at him, and then burst into tears and would not be calmed.  We ate a turbulent dinner on their carpeted section where you sit on pillows and lounge while you eat...ha.  Impossible to keep Aya out of the food and even more difficult to keep Yumi (who is still crying) and Emi from behaving badly in front of the other diners.  The girls lost the privilege of the juices we promised them and you can imagine how well that went down withi Yumi.  On came her second tantrum of the day. This was sad considering her three day hiatus from the tantrums, but they weren't quite has hateful or long.  So that's something, isn't it?  I can see, though, that I really REALLY need to create some normalcy for the girls.  They are still getting a schedule (story times, quiet times, craft times, snack times--these are the same every day) but all of our outings have been exhausting and (I think) relatively unenjoyable for them.  I need to work on that.  Nate tried to get us on the family list for the social club at the embassy.  Once upon a time I would have turned my nose up at such a thing but I was actually really looking forward to taking them to the pool.  I figured there will be Arab staff for me to talk to and they could have what they consider to be fun.  Alas-Nate's petition to accept us into the club was denied seeing as how we are here so short term.  So, back to the drawing board.  Stay tuned!


Unknown said...

I am screaming with laughter about the 'toilet microphone'....I recall the picture we took when I was in Egypt with Hilary was it 2004? We found a rectangular toilet!!! No 'microphone' attached as I recall!!!

Chelsea Russell said...

Hilary, you are doing an AMAZING job!! I definitely understand what it is like to go against what you ever thought you'd possibly do in a situation, but do it because it makes things easier. I know what it is like to be out and about and have that anxiety where you know, at any moment, there may be a melt-down. Only, I have one child; you have 3!! Keep hanging in there.

You may have to make more concessions. That doesn't make you a bad person, it makes you a parent! I think that your idea for having one meal in the hotel room might be a good idea, especially with Yumi's anxiety with people touching her. It is certainly difficult to prepare a decent meal with only a microwave and a refrigerator. Is it possible for you to acquire a toaster oven and/or a hot plate? Will the hotel allow you to use these items?

Would it be more cost-effective to have shoes and clothes sent to you from home for the girls? Is there a small "comfort" item that you could allow each of the girls to bring for your outings to keep them occupied (for hailing taxis) that you could easily tuck into a backpack? Is it possible to pack a light snack (sliced fruit, etc) to also tuck away.. just in case?

I know you are a mom and that you know to do these things. You are doing a great job. The things that have worked so well for me traveling with Bella so often is to explain to her what we are going to do and then go through the list throughout the day, so she always knows what to expect; I always carry juice or water with me and snacks for her; I bring at least one change of clothes for her and a toy; I give her two options that both benefit me; I put her in time-out A LOT. I do not have experience with traveling with 3 children, so I would have to elicit your advice for that. Hmm.. do I know anyone else who travels to foreign countries with children? No, I do not.

You are brave and strong and wonderful and amazing. You are AMAZING at making friends. It's funny that you say that you haven't been successful in 1.5 weeks. It takes some of us (me) months to make friends using our native language in the United States with or without children. You should give yourself a break and a pat on the back. You are doing an excellent job.