Saturday, June 30, 2012
29 June: Bicycle shop adventure
29 June Sabbath Day in Amman. We arrived to church services on time--a miracle!--and with everyone more or less in a good mood. And everyone--more or less!--stayed that way throughout the two hours of services. Our hotel Internet server is down. Luckily, the wireless service in the building where we attend church is excellent. While Nate entertained the girls in the garden behind the villa, I quickly checked email and paid the bills via our iPad (a purchase I made reluctantly before coming but now am SO GLAD to have). We returned to the hotel, ate lunch, and put the girls down for naps. And that is when my adventure began. Carrying NOTHING but my purse and the wheel with the flat tire Nate had removed from the stroller, I set off for downtown Amman. Freedom! I made my way downtown by bus and then the last mile or so on foot. For the first time since arriving over three weeks ago, I took public transportation! So fun. I originally imagined that I'd shuttle with the girls from here to there on public transportation but it just has not worked out. Mind you, unless I put all three of them on my lap, I'd have to pay for three tickets--which amounts to the same as a taxi ride in most cases. Taxis really do make more sense given our circumstances and economy, but still. I've really missed the thrill of figuring out and mastering public transportation--to the utter astonishment of local people on board. Today I had my way. I bused nearly downtown and then walked the rest of the distance through the downtown Friday souq. This souq goes on for blocks and blocks and today I delved further inside than I've ever gone. It grew noisier, dirtier, more crowded and pungent. I felt like I was in Egypt. All along the way I stopped to ask shop tenders where the nearest bicycle shop it. The responses were consistent so I knew I was on the right track and yet I am still amazed I found it. Abu Suleiman operates out of an alley piled high with bicycle frames and surrounded by a gang of cycle manic teenaged boys. To the inexperienced foreigner he may have seemed frightening--shabby, wild-eyed, gruff--but I found him to be very charming. After taking off the offending flat tire, inflating it, and immersing it into a tub of water to identify the holes, he dug out a new tire and attached if to the wheel. I watched carefully, asking questions, and chatting with the gaggle of boys hanging about. The boys clearly thought I was bizarre but Abu Suleiman could not have actd less surprised at the visit of a foreign woman speaking eccentric Egyptian Arabic to his alley. He fixed up the tire and refused payment. "It isn't all about the money," he said. "I am doing this for your three daughters." What a sweetie. My return to Shmeisani and our hotel was just as enjoyable. I bumped in a demonstration that featured the usual burning of an Israeli flag--an unsurprising scene I've witnessed many times. While I waited at the foot of Mount Hussein for a share twxi within spitting distance of the hostel in which I lived in 2006, a young man approached me with the usual questions: "What is your name? How old are you? Are you married?"' After questions 2 and 3 (followed by 4: "Do you have children?") he moved on. But I had to smile: Jamila is not gone forever. I took that share taxi up past the King Abdullah mosque and walked with one of my fellow riders to a bus that took me the rest of the way to Shmeisani. I returned to our room just as the girls were getting up. It was the most enjoyable 1.5 hrs I have spent in Amman thus far. We had an invitation to dine at the home of people from our church congregation tonight. As I had heard of a playground near this family's home, we planned to arrive early so as to check it out. It was disappointing. Covered in sand, hot, empty. No where to set poor Aya down. I love Amman but its playgrounds leave a lot to be desired. Such a statement by an expat would have made me cringe had I heard it years ago in my travels here. "Just learn to live like the locals!" I would have thought in disgust. Well, now that I have very inflexible little people who love parks with grass and shade, I am making this statement: Jordanian public parks are challenging. Go prepared to hold your toddler the whole time and bring lots of water. And a hat. We had arrived more than a half an hour early so as to "play" on this playground but everyone was done after ten minutes. Luckily, a group of young men approached with a horse! Now, people are always carting things around with horses and donkeys in Egypt but you don't see this so much in Amman. They gave our girls a ride--fun. Dinner at our new friends' home was also enjoyable. Return home and relatively calm--if not late (9:00pm)--bedtime routine. Barring Emi's usual 5 minute screams after being out to bed. That has not changed. Finally--I am hoping to adopt a better attitude. See if you can spot it. While I intend to record everything including the girls' bad behavior when it happens, I am going to try to see the silver linings in things. And write about them. I can't let this experience defeat me; the girls are not likely to change at all but I have it in me to change. And I will try! I will try.