Monday, June 11, 2012

Is the Middle East still magical for Jamila?

Hello friends!  The following is the blow by blow description of our first five days in Jordan.  I believe I mentioned before that I intend to use these blog entries as my journal for this summer.  I am not sure yet to what extent I'll be doubling blog and journal entries but to be on the safe side, I'll be making them entries pretty detailed.  See facebook for pictures-turns out I don't have any way of getting photos to my blog but can easily upload them to facebook. 6 June-our first full day in Amman.  I awoke at 9am and found everyone completely fast asleep and Yumi in our bed.  The hotel offers a breakfast buffet of hummus, delicious thick yoghurt, bread, eggs, and cheese.  It is tasty but lacks fruit!  Not a speck of fruit.  On this morning and every morning since,  we have gone down to the breakfast area and eaten as a family.  The advantages to this setup: this is the first time in years we have regularly breakfasted as a family, since Nate leaves for work fairly early in the morning.  The girls also enjoy the parrot that resides in a cage next to the breakfast area.  I enjoy not having to prepare for or cleanup after breakfast.  The disadvantages to this setup:  we have to all get dressed for breakfast and someone (me) must hold Aya on their lap the entire time.  Also, as good of eaters as my girls are, they are tiring of hummus (imagine!) and I can tell they are craving cereal and a green smoothie.  Getting them to eat a full breakfast is turning out to be difficult and tiresome.  Alas! Nate went into the embassy that morning and I took the girls on a walk to the nearest commercial area-a somewhat hazardous and complicated walk up and down broken sidewalk ledge often 1 foot high.  The Phil and Ted stroller can handle it easily but it is a workout!  We've gone to this particular neighborhood several times now.  On this particular day, I put the two younger girls in the stroller and Yumi walked.  She was exhausted by the time we arrived so we just had lunch--shawarmas--and came back to the hotel for naps by about 2:30pm.  After naps we went to the heart of Amman--downtown--where I stayed in a hostel the summer of 2006.  We went to the restaurant across from the hostel where Nate and I frequently dined and had their only offerings--hummus, falafel, salad (tomato and onion) and foul (pronounced "fool"- a bean, olive oil, and spice mixture).  We took the girls for freshly squeezed orange and carrot juice.  The girls plunked down next to a Jordanian woman (see fb for picture) and I heard Yumi talking to the woman in Arabic.  Yumi asked the woman, among other things, "where is your husband?". The woman looked startled by the question.  We stopped in a men's clothing shop to tent Nate a belt.  Yumi was entranced by the manikins and took one by the hand--which promptly fell off into her own.  Talk about startled!  We bought me a cheap cell phone so I can be reached in an emergency by family and Nate (who was issued a phone by the embassy).  We stopped into the hostel (The Ciff) where I stayed summer of 2006 and where Nate proposed to me.  The girls used their excuse for a bathroom and we provided the management a great deal of entertainment.  Not many backpacks bring their children there I take it. 7 June-Thursday Emi ended up sleeping in the bathroom last night because she and Yumi just cannot seem to share a bedroom.  Argh!  After breakfast and while Aya napped, I did a P90X workout.  I have to work off all this hummus.  Yumi-I am sad to say--has being throwing horrendous tantrums for the last couple of weeks.  Today was one of them--and, in fact, there has been one every day for the last three weeks.  After an exhausting session with her, I took the girls (Nate went to the embassy) to the recommended "Bird Garden"--a playground surrounded by cages with some exotic birds.  It was pretty fun-the most "normal" thing the girls have done in the last few days and I could tell the girls were relieved to see something familiar.  All the same, there were only Jordanians at this park so I got in my Arabic chatting opportunity.  As our hotel room does not have a kitchen, we plan on eating out most meals.  Thus, after the bird garden experience we had to set off to find a restaurant.  Not easily done in this residential area.  While I carried Aya, Emi and Yumi bravely walked nearly a half a mile through hot (and nearly deserted) streets and down one of amman's ubiquitous steep stone staircases (the whole city is built on hills and many neighborhoods are connected by long stone/cement staircases.  After a roast chicken lunch we ended up back at the hotel for naps by 3:45pm.  We are still on a crazy schedule.  That evening we took the girls to an upscale neighborhood known as Rainbow Street.  We ate a dinner of fatiir (bread-y pocket of cheese) and visited a great bookstore full of chidren's books in Arabic that I may have to take back to the US with me (yes, the whole store).  Yumi had another massive fit out on the street that lasted the entire taxi ride back to the hotel.  We got everyone in bed by 9:30pm but everyone was still up by 1am.  Ugh! 8 June-Friday Considering our late night, it is surprising we got up at all but we wanted to try to get to church.  Our ward (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) meets on Fridays in Amman.  We knew where it meets from our previous time in Amman but did not remember the time.  We arrived at 10:30am (we aimed for 10am but a late departure due to another Yumi fit), just in time for the end of the two-hour English meeting block to end.  Emi and Yumi got to go to nursery/primary for exactly one minute.  We stayed for part of the 11am Arabic meeting but the girls were pretty disruptive.  We will try again next week.  For lunch, we headed downtown for a traditional meal at our fave place mentioned earlier.  This was an interesting time to be downtown as it is also the location of a famous and popular mosque and we were there right at noon time Friday prayers--when the faithful are treated to loudly broadcasted sermons that are frequently anti-Western.  We neither saw nor experienced anything unfriendly but the Jordanian police were out in full displace of force as I am sure they always are for Friday prayers.  After naps we headed to the neighborhood main drag for a try at a new restaurant that ended up being very enjoyable in terms of friends made--the staff there loved the girls (of course) and were happy to chat with me and Nate which is the whole reason why we were doing this.  The girls tasted mango purée for the first time--one of my favorite drinks.  The best best thing about the afternoons is that Yumi did not throw one fit-a welcome respite. 9 June-Saturday Nate went to his first day of language training.  We were groggy due to the fact what Yumi and Emi fighting in their room resulted in an awakened and upset Aya...who did not settle for hours.  I did another P90X workout and took the girls out for a walk in the morning-the highlight of which was buying apricots from a street vendor.  We stopped in a traditional place for lunch but the two big girls appear to be on strike from hummus and the like.  Can you believe it?  This saddens me.  I thought they would really embrace the culture and excitement of this trip but I can tell they are already worn out.  Yumi has asked multiple times if she can just go back to Herndon.  Sigh.  I suppose I had better to be carful not to overwhelm them in my need to experience the middle east in the way I used to do.  At any rate, they did not eat a bite of lunch and I will need to start to figure out about keeping food on hand in our room.  That afternoon we all went back to the bird garden as a family.  It was about 5pm and the place was hopping!  Turns out families come here in the evening when the weather is cooler and really settle in with coolers of drinks and snacks and picnic blankets (on the sand) and the like.  We had some Arabic chatting opportunities and plenty of chances to observe Jordanian families at play.  Yumi, amazingly, did not have a single fit all day-a huge landmark for us.  She did, however, fall off the monkey bars onto her head.  That, coupled with the fact at she definitely has some sort of stomach/bowel irritation, made her super cranky.  No fit, but no fun.  We should up at the neighborhood drag traditional restaurant in a cab full of crying children--not an infrequent occurrence for us as it happens.  The restaurant staff had to help us peel the kids out from the backseat--unbuckled, by the way, since the cabs do not have seatbelts.  I can't believe I am zooming around Amman with my kids out of carseats and unbuckled multiple times a day but what can I do?  After dinner we walked back to the hotel via a pharmacy where I found some Benadryl equivalent that, the pharmacist assured me, had a sleep agent.  And it mostly worked...except poor Yumi really isn't feeling well and apparently got Nate up several times in the night.  I slept through it all, amazingly, but held her while she threw up the next morning.  Even now, as I write this at 9:53pm, she is in the bathroom with Nate for like the 5th time since we put her to bed (on the couch in the living room with Aya-since Emi and Yumi just cannot seem to share a room). 10 June-Sunday As I just mentioned, the morning started off with Yumi being sick.  She slept during my workout and Aya's nap.  I know I should have just let her veg on the couch but I just could not handle the idea of staying in this morning so I took the girls downtown.  Yumi did pretty well for not feeling well.  The experience was interesting in that it was exactly the kind of activity I dreamed about when we cooked up this scheme of us joining Nate in Amman for his language study.  I imagined I'd take the girls downtown daily for lunch and juice and a walk through the souq to get fresh fruit or any other little trinket.  I had it all planned out--the kind of activity I used to do here in Amman and all over the middle east.  Well, today was my first day of taking them downtown on my own and it didn't really turn out well.  I expected that we'd be a spectacle--and believe me, we were: a white women with three small children in a sea of Arab men and women out shopping sans children.  Everyone just went crazy over the girls and before I knew it Aya was being passed around from street vendor to street vendor.  Everyone, particularly men, paused to pinch yumi's cheek.  She started to get really mad and began to shout at people to stop touching her.  She even broke down and cried twice after someone had pinched her particularly firmly.  I bought the lunch I had fantasized about and we sat out on a ledge in the market to eat it just like I used to do--and I talked to the throngs of people (mostly men) who came to gawk at us...all activities I used to do daily and enjoy.  But it just wasn't quite as fun with the girls because Yumi really didn't like it.  Emi didn't want to eat anything but has no problem with the attention from passersby...and of course Aya does not care.  But Yumi really is not having any of it....not yet.  Is she really my daughter?  After naps we all went to Rainbow street again, ostensibly to buy a street map of Amman at that bookstore but we ended up staying for dinner and juice (banana and milk with honey...a favorite of mine, like a smoothie).  This entry has taken me over 1.5 hrs to write and in that time Yumi has been up multiple times to the bathroom.  I think it is going to be a long night.  Goodnight to you all!  I'll write again soon.  Thanks for your notes and emails and comments!  Always great to hear from friends.  

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