Sunday, June 17, 2012
17 June: Safeway
16 June My plan today was to go to a large souq, or outdoor shopping area, located in a former bus/share taxi depot near Nate's old apartment from 2006. The depot it called 'abdali and it is very near near the King Abdulla Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque). Some of you may remember our wedding announcement photo (framed and hanging in the hall heading into our basement); this is a picture Nate arranged with a tripod in the street in front of his apartment with the blue mosque in the background. It is a cool photo, if I may say so. I am attached to this particular area ('abdali) because it is not only the point at which I arrived in Amman in 2006 (in a share taxi from Damascus), but also the station at which Nate I would meet each morning and from which leave for the Amman university area where he was studying and I would go to the gym and sit in on his classes. I am very fond of 'Abdali. We had been told that 'Abdali was not longer a major bus station and had become a souq. Fine by me! I figured it would be a fun place to take the girls. The hotel staff, however, informed me on my way out the door that the souq is open only Thursday nights and Fridays. We changed course to the shopping district of Jebal (Mount) Hussein. I should say here that Amman is built on and around mountains (large hills, really), and the hills themselves form the various neighborhoods of Amman. Jebal Hussein is close to Shmeisani, where our hotel is located. We wandered about the out-and indoor shops. The girls were fine but would not stick close to me. They wanted to pick up every item they saw...the impulse for which I can understand but I also feel compelled to curtail. So the whole experience mostly involved me telling them not to touch things. Naturally you don't want your kids to finger (and break things) in, say, Target, but there aren't employees hovering over your shoulder, compelling you to corral your children every second. Plus, you can avoid the whole situation by putting them in carts. This kind of comparison that makes me cringe (Target vs Arabian souq). OF COURSE I prefer a souq to Target BUT Target is easier with three children. So...I am just trying to figure out how to make this all work for everyone. My goals were to buy socks (so the girls could slide down the inflatable slides in the children's gyms/playgrounds we may occasionally visit). Also, I only brought about 4 outfits for them apiece and this is getting a bit constraining. To be honest, today Mayumi (age 4) is wearing a 2T shirt and size 18 months shorts. We wandered about and did buy socks, baby soap, and hair accessories, but I just could not find clothes I wanted to buy for the girls. What I want is utilitarian (and cheap) stuff--since they are getting so dirty and nearly destroying their clothes. All that was on offer, however, where really cutesy (and moderate to expensive) clothes. Some things in Jordan are cheap, to be true; it is not dirt cheap, however, and many things have the same price as goods sold in America. We are on the same budget as always so I have to be careful. I did try to buy a bathing suit since we have plans to go to the embassy pool in two days. This was a moderately stressful experience since the girls ran around madly while I tried explaining to the shop girl just why I didn't want any of the suits she gave me to try on (too big, too revealing, to ugly...). I can pretty much give up on the idea of the girls quietly sitting at my side while I have lengthy conversations with people in stores and on the street. What we REALLY need to find are some Arab friends, with children, with a house and/yard of some kind, who operate on our schedule (Arab families don't really get going until the evening and they stay up until midnight). The kids will, ideally, be nice to our girls and include them in their play, while their parents will speak to Nate and me in Arabic. Does such a family exist? Nate and I certainly hope so. We chatted about it long and hard after he came home from work and while the girls napped. Can we make friends as American parents with children WITH Jordanian parents with children? We have plenty of experience making friends with people (single and parents) when WE had no children. Adding our children into the mix makes is so much more challenging, in SO many ways. To name a few: 1) Even having enough time to chat with someone to work up a friendship is difficult with our girls around; in fact, it hasn't happened yet in 1.5 weeks--astounding, considering when as a woman without children I would get invitations to dine from nearly every woman (and yes, man) I spoke to. The girls get plenty of attention but no more than surface attention. And I've had difficulty getting beyond surface getting-to-know you questions with those I meet because the girls constantly are on the move. 2) We are staying in an area where the kids must stay inside their gated villas/compounds most of the time. I have barely seen any in the neighborhood. 3) Let's say we did meet a family. We can't really have them over to our hotel room that easily. We COULD meet at a restaurant, but that would be awkward. We would have to rely on their hospitality for everyone to have fun. Of course, then, if we did end up at a Jordanian home, we would need to stay for hours per cultural requirement. Which would be a challenge to our western children who need naps and regular bedtimes...but assuming we had no meltdowns I'd be happy to risk it for the chance to make friends. After Nate and I discussed all of this during nap time today, I vowed to try harder. Sure, there are barriers to making friends that I never faced before. But I am not one to give up easily. So I approached our hotel staff and told them that we were desperate for friends. :-). They probably think we are so weird. But one of the said that when his siter comes to visit amman from the northern town of Irbid, he would be happy to introduce us. That is a start. Then, when I took Mayumi to the little convenience store down the street we bumped into a teenaged girl we have seen before (who was there buying cigarettes for someone, or so she said when I called her on it). She seemed anxious to get back (her father is a chain smoker and just finished his last smoke?) but I delayed her long enough to find out that she does not have younger siblings but would not mind hanging out with my daughters sometime next week when her younger neices/nephews come to visit. Well, who wonk owe if anything will come of it, but it is a start. I am going to try to be more proactive. Making friends with Jordanian families may not be as easy as I thought it would be but I will NOT give up. Finally--we went over the Amman university area this evening for dinner. How nostalgic, where we spent our first (and only, really) days of engagement. We went to a Yemani restaurant we used to frequent. Delicious. They had several aquariums that were either new or I'd never noticed before. The girls loved them. Not much to keep them both from throwing massive fits on the ride back to the hotel, however. If I had a dollar for every fit thrown in a taxi in the last 1.5 weeks I could pay for the fee to change our tickets to come back early. Woops, did I just write that? Well, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought of it. Of course it isn't an option but I have definitely thought of it.