Thursday, June 21, 2012
21 June: To the souq!
21 June Our quest for kid-friendly activities in Amman continues. Turns out there are quite a few, even if they are very similar and are pretty pricey. Today we set off for MyGym Jordan. Some of you may be familiar with this children's activity zone chain. We had a difficult time finding it and almost had to ask our taxi driver to give up. Seems as though I had given him some wrong information and it was all my fault (or so he claimed...). But no worries! Even arguing with him afforded me more language and cultural experience. MyGym turned out to be a padded jungle gym of slides, zip lines, ball pits, trampolines, and other activities. The girls were naturally pretty jazzed although I could also seem them equally as interested in the snacks for sale. Of course! They always want snacks. I was initially disappointed to see that the women assembled were primarily Filipina nannies of Jordanian children. The woman who took my money (12USD/child--sheesh!) was blond and spoke with some kind of accent...French, maybe? We'd come all this way so I was not about to leave without paying and giving the girls a chance to play, but inwardly I sighed...no Arabic here. The blonde woman gave the details about membership and discounts and clubs and camps...I only half listened as I figured this would be our last visit. At the end of this I thanked her and asked her name. When she gave me her name--an Arabic name--I realized she is Jordanian! Nisreen, the owner, and I had a very nice chat while playing with and watching the girls play. We even got off the usual getting-to-know-you topics and into a discussion of social class. New words! And I learned the word "to crawl," which is what Ayame Little Pants is still primarily doing. Well, exclusively. If she is standing and you inch a bit away from her and encourage her to come, she will, a few steps. But you have to get down on the floor next to her--not super comfortable on the tile floors of our hotel room. And probably not too comfortable for her to fall on as well! But on the padded floors of MyGym, she got some practice in. All in all a good activity although we arrived late (11:30am) and stayed too long (1:00pm). I bought a few snacks (those squeezable applesauce containers) to tide them over but they were definitely grumpy by the time we got back to the hotel. Which probably contributed to Yumi's big fit at lunch. Sadly, it was her second today. Sigh. I am seeing regression. I am not sure what put her off this morning. She said she was tired so it is possible she is not feeling well. We also Skyped this morning with my parents and that could have put her on edge; my girls never do well with Skype because either they refuse to share the camera space with the other or break some rules regarding the electronic equipment...or something!!...and it almost always puts them on edge. So while Nate was out on his run she completely melted down and screamed, cried, flung herself about and even once ran out in to the hall of the hotel, howling. Wonderful. Nothing I tried worked. I am happy to say that I did not lose my temper externally but on the inside I was dying. I don't how long I can handle this and the thought that I will be putting up with this behavior for years to come is extremely galling to me. Finally, she accepted one of my hundreds of attempts to comfort her and she collapsed in my arms. Nate came back and took in the scene--no explanation necessary. I fed the girls from microwave oats I keep on hand for Aya because I was not about to face the trial of breakfast at the buffet. Not this morning. And as for me, I had no appetite. I just kept the girls on our usual morning schedule and, as I described above, took them out after Aya's nap. I am probably to blame for Yumi's lunchtime collapse. She was being whiney and rude and, after how horrible she was to me this morning, I just began to respond sharply and bitterly. She outdid me pretty quickly and right away I realized I had made a big mistake. I back peddled frantically and poured out saccharine sweetness; one thing I needed was a quiet time and I was willing to do whatever to salvage it. Fortunately it worked and they are all pretty quiet right now. This evening: I wanted to try the souq held in 'Abdali on Thursday nights and Fridays. It looked festive and I hoped to pick up some extra shirts for the girls. I also thought maybe the girls might enjoy a few ladies' dresses to use for dressup play. In addition, I had heard of a special bakery in 'Abdali--so we decided to make an outing of it. The bakery was an experience! I had heard it served great "ka'ek.". I thought ka'ek was a kind of cookie, but had been assured that one could eat a meal there as well. A restaurant AND bakery, I assumed. So you can imagine our surprise, then, when we walk in and see...ovens. And men pulling bread out of them. And creates. And no tables. The man behind the counter said something to us in rapid fire Arabic and gestured toward a narrow opening between 12 foot high stacks of crates. What else to do but go thru? There was not much to see on the other side (no dining room, no sign of menus) but after a couple of seconds we figured it out: on a long table lay piles of freshly baked bread of a variety I have only seen in the Levant. It is basically a roll, covered in sesame seeds, and sold in rounds, long ovals, and in strips configured into circles and ovals. I've eaten it millions of times on the street, cut open and sprinkled with za'taar (Jordanian thyme) and occasionally cheese. Super delicious. So THIS is ka'ek. And in this bakery, you take your own ka'ek, cut it, adorn it with soft cheese, baked eggs (literally--they were pulling more racks of whole eggs out of the oven as we arrived), salt, and za'taar. We were charged by the number of each of those items we used after we assembled them. We also bought a sheet of a confection I have enjoyed many times in the Levant but never knew its name. "Baraze" is basically a sesame seed bar glued together with honey. Arms full of ka'ek, we bought a bottle of water for the right to sit down in front of some guy's convenience store/shack/cart and dove into our sandwiches. Although the meal sadly lack any kind of vegetable--a situation all too common for us this summer as we basically eat fast and street food every meal--it was darn tasty. Stomachs full, we headed back up the hill to the souq. And to cut to the chase, I did find some shirts and shorts for the girls, and two long house dresses for the girls to have fun with. Our window of opportunity for cooperation from the girls was rapidly closing, however, and we knew it had to end before they got any edgier. Nate and I commented on how it would be a lot more enjoyable to take the girls to a souq if we did not have to worry about then snatching up everything they see and, if it's food, putting it in their mouths. And generally acting like barbarians. But then I have to remind myself that they are 4 and 2.5 and what can we expect? We definitely had some adventures today but it was also a discouraging one. Here's hoping tomorrow will be calmer.