Monday, June 18, 2012
18 June: The island in Amman
18 June You didn't know there is an island in the middle of Amman? It IS well-guarded, but not a secret. Can you get voted off? Definitely. Exclusive? Absolutely. The American Embassy is an attractive but imposing structure in the upscale neighborhood of 'Abdoun. This was not my first time to a US embassy (I've visited the embassy in Cairo several times), but it was certainly my first time to visit an embassy for the sole purpose of swimming in the pool. One of my new friends from church invited us to the embassy pool today. And what an experience it was. I accepted the invite in order to offer the girls a chance at "normalcy"--a chance to have a bit of the summer they were planning on. Mayumi had her bathing suit on about three seconds after waking, she was so excited. So it was devastating for all of us when she threw another big fit going down to breakfast and disqualified herself from going to the pool. Why the fit? Well, we were in a hurry to have breakfast and get on our way since this kind friend had generously offered to meet us outside the pool to provide us the escort we would need to get inside. Knowing she would likely have her four kids in tow, I did NOT want to make her wait. Yumi, however, immediately picked up on our need for move quickly and began to balk. It is like she feels backed into a corner and just bares down. She just refused to move. There we were, both Nate and I, extending out hands to her, first asking--than commanding--her to just come DOWN the stairs to breakfast. And she refused to move. Acting like a caged animal, but ironically forcing US into a corner. Because what can WE do? Just let her get away with it? Nate hauled her back upstairs and I headed down to breakfast with a heavy heart. Nate had planned on staying back at the hotel anyway to study so he suggested Yumi not be allowed to go to the pool. It was the right idea, of course, but I was so sad as I headed to the embassy. I was greeted at the embassy gate by a US marines and a long queue of Jordanians applying, I assume, for visas to the US. The initial processing is down outside of the embassy so there they are--lines of people--papers and wallets in hand. It feels weird to just walk into a place like that wielding nothing but a little, but powerful, blue book. My sadness turned to anxiety as I was informed that I should have entered at the back gate but would now be "processed" at the front gate after many papers were signed, ledgers filled out, passes examined, and an escort found. The minutes ticked by. My cell phone--which I had to surrender anyway--was dead, so I had no way of calling my friend to apologize for being so late. After 30 minutes I could not keep back the tears. While the Jordanian embassy guards tactfully looked away and played with Emi, I faced a wall and just cried. For these first time since coming. But once I started, boy, I could NOT stop. I was frantically trying to think happy thoughts and get under control when the escort they found me--one of Nate's coworkers--rescued me. He was very kind and said he'd be a rich man if he had a nickel for every time he'd cried in a foreign country. He had two other people with him, including the Community Liaison Officer, so we made quite a procession crossing the embassy compound: me, wiping back the still flowing tears, cute Aya on my stomach, Emi patiently waiting to go to the toilet, and three embassy employees trying their best to make me feel better. And all because I wanted to go to the pool. But we made it! And we had a great time. I enjoyed chatting with the other visitors to the pool and my girls loved being in the water. We stayed for over two hours and quite honestly did not want to leave when we did at noon. But I knew Nate had to get to class and he'd want me back to take over Yumi Duty. I was surprised, then, to find them both gone when we returned to the hotel. Since my phone was dead, Nate couldn't call to confirm when I'd be back (well, and I'd not have had it anyway, would I? Surrendered it at the gate.) so he decided just to leave for lunch and class-and to take Yumi with him. So I had to get the now very tired tired and hungry Emi and Aya back into a taxi and down to Nate's school to pick Yumi up. Emi had a meltdown but what can you expect. It was a big morning for her but I know she had fun. Yumi seemed just fine when I collected her. She made up some story about Nate taking her to some really great pool--better than the embassy pool--where there was candy and cake and treats and..... I asked her "oh, so what will daddy say when I ask him about it?". She was quiet a moment and said "oh, mom, I forgot. It was my grandpa that went to that other pool, not me.". Hmmmm. A smart and tricksy girl. This afternoon was pleasantly uneventful. After putting the girls down for naps and writing the above account of our morning, I got in the workout I'd missed by the early visit to the pool. I released Yumi from her quiet time in the bathroom so I could take a shower, but then spent some time with her looking at the craft she made during nap time. Everyday she makes some grand creation with the 5,000 stickers I brought with us to Jordan. After each girl had awakened, we went out to the little commercial area close to the hotel. Nate met us there. We made a set of purchases that we make every three days or so: a package of diapers, 6 pack of 1.5 liter bottles of water, and several cartons of milk. Other days we may get a bag of fresh pita and a round of cheese. We have also kept a canister of oats on hand for which to make oatmeal for Aya (something I can easily feed her while at a restaurant to ensure she gets enough to eat). This canister is now empty so that is on my list for tomorrow. We make these purchases at a shop in this little commercial area. We also visit the bakery, where they press upon us some little treat. Today it was chocolate milk. The launderers is next door. You may recall our most recent mishap with a different launderer; I think from now on we will go to "Zeydoun" launderers in this little shopping enclave. There is also a gym that Nate checked out today and may join. I may too, if we can figure out what to do with the girls. It is open in the mornings to women and the evenings to men. The Egyptian fruit/veggie seller is also on our visit list; he has an actual shop with a wide selection and imported (I learned that work today!) goods so he is not nearly as cheap as the guys with the cart on the street down from the hotel. But he has those equadorian bananas! My girls just can't get excited about local bananas. I also bought apricots and one carrot; my plan is to try to slowly but surely get the girls used to eating fresh veggies again, a battle I had to give up on these last few weeks. We shall see. The Egyptian guy who owns the shop is awesome. He always has a treat of fruit for the girls. After spending nearly an hour visiting every institution in this small shopping area, we ordered some take out from the restaurant (shawarmas) and ate it in the hotel dining room while chatting with the Syrian cook whom Aya has a BIG crush on. This is the same dining room with the cockroaches so I kept a wary eye on all the corners of the room. We ate our shawarmas in peace, however, and our Syrian chef friend (Mohaned) added some fresh cucumbers to our meal. Fresh green vegetables! At last. Showers, bed. All in all, a good day!