Tuesday, July 31, 2012

30 June: Green smoothies in Jordan

30 July

Today, so far, has been a a much needed "good one." Other than a little grouchiness at the girls for bickering during my workout (I just cannot seem to ignore it!), I have felt calm and happy all morning.  Aya helped by waking at the acceptable hour of 6:30am.  I can deal with that.  Nate has been sick but woke feeling much better.  I am still concerned about Emi, and intend to have her looked at by a pediatrician, but have been reassured by emails from family and friends.  Nate gave her a blessing this morning during which all girls participated reverently.  In other words, a MUCH better morning than our last few.

We went to the embassy pool today--also a generally enjoyable activity.  We met some friends there, swam, played on the playground, ate grapes, enjoyed the humidity free warmth graced by a nice breeze.  Love the weather.

Yumi is getting bolder in the pool; today she zoomed all over the deep end with the aid of a water noodle--a first time taking off without me swimming near her. I started out with her in the pool but she noticed other kids swimming about with the aid of noodles and the peer pressure had its effect.  For the first time as well I got her to blow bubbles (I know, we are a little behind schedule...).  Once I got her to do it she did not stop.  Bubbles bubbles bubbles.  You have never seen a kid more proud of herself.  Her independence AND the existence of the playground gave me a little freedom to swim around with the Chub and chat with my friends.  Emi loves that playground.  I ADORE the playground because it is gated and covered with grass and playground turf, not sand.  Emi spent most of her time there today because she refused to put on her floaters and I would not let her in the pool without them.

Everything went smoothly, even our departure and return trip.  I had to beg a driver to take us back to Shmeisani, infamous for its traffic, but luckily succeeded.  It is 2:41pm and I am going to sneak out, leaving the girls here, and go down to the lobby to access the Internet/wait for my teacher and babysitter.  I moved my lesson to 3pm today so as to reduce the stress I feel when leaving all three girls awake (and crying/fighting) with Erapie.  This way, only Yumi will be awake (ideally).  It gives me less of a "quiet time" but I consider my lesson to be a treat AND I will enjoy it more if I don't hear my kids screaming from the fifth floor.  

This afternoon: Have I mentioned how much I am enjoying my Arabic lessons? :-) Not only am I improving my language skills, I am enjoying the friendships I am forming with both my teacher, Nisreen, and my babysitter, Erapie.  Nisreen listened yesterday, at great length, while I explained what happened to Emi over and over with the new words she had taught me.  She could see my agitation and offered to speak to her doctor brother about it.  Her brother called me just now, listened to the story once again, and gave me his opinion that rabies treatment would be inappropriate.  He offered to prescribe her an oral antibiotic AND gave me the names and numbers of two specialists at the Jordan Hospital where he works.  I am grateful to have found such a kind and caring friend in Nisreen. 

And Erapie--she brought paints for Yumi and spent the full hour with her one-on-one.  Dear Erapie also asked me if she could take Yumi on a little "date" some afternoon this week after my Arabic lesson. Heck, yah!  I am blessed to have some wonderful people enter our lives in these last few weeks of our stay here.  We have met many fun and kind people this summer whom we see daily (hotel employees, Abu Manal, Samir, Noora of the museum, etc) BUT these people have remained on the perimeter for the most part.  I have not cried in front if them, for example, thanking them for their time like I did Nisreen.  And while we ADORE some of the hotel staff, they are nearly all men whom I have not/could not hug Iike I have Erapie and Nisreen.  Does this make sense?  These two ladies have truly become, in a matter of days, close friends.  For that I will always be grateful. 

A little note about my conversation with Nisreen.  While discussing her future plans she told me that in her family they do not marry relatives.  When she starts to "shop" for a husband, events will likely unfold as follows:  she will be on outings with her mother and friends of her mother will start to ask her questions.  Should these ladies find her attractive/smart/nice/religious/"fill in the blank" enough, they will ask Nisreen if she'd like to meet their sons.  Nisreen will agree to a first meeting and go from there.  She will eventually begin to "date" one of them (not like we might date in the West but unaccompanied outings to public places are totally acceptable) and marry him. While not the first time I have heard about traditional Arab marriage practices, it was fascinating to hear about it spoken of so practically.

A bonus to moving up my lesson time is that a late afternoon shopping outing is still possible.  Oh, it still took an hour to get out the door, but we were able to get out and back within an acceptable timeframe.  Today's destination was Safeway and I have to say--I think it may have been my last visit there.  I have never enjoyed this dark and crowded store but enjoyed the inflatable playground in the store parking lot.  Well, I enjoyed taking the girls there, I should say.  It is closed now, for Ramadan, so there is no other reason to visit Safeway other than to buy peanut butter, mozzarella cheese, and cornflakes.  These items, by the way, are not for ME.  I can live very well off of hummus, thank you very much, but some little people I know just seem to require their favorite foods to be happy. At any rate, in future I can ask Nate to pick up these speciality items at the fancy grocery store (Carrefour) next to his Arabic school.  No more Safeway for me.  

I did buy something in addition to imported goods at Safeway today.  I purchased something that looked similar to spinach and what I hoped to put into our smoothies.  Green smoothies in Jordan-yay!  Well, whatever it was, it totally overpowered the fresh mango, banana, pineapple AND orange in the drink.  The girls surprisingly drank their portions but I could not finish mine.  Way too bitter.

Dinner tonight was from the Safeway buffet: rice with a few veggies and chicken.  Tasty enough and available even before sundown.  I may in fact go back to Safeway for the fact that they have hot meals ready to go even during Ramadan.

Today was one of those today in which I felt we are doing just fine.  The girls were manageable and I had a academic outlet in the shape of my Arabic lesson.  I also acknowledged once again that we will mourn the end of many aspects of this adventure--and that day is coming swiftly.  In three weeks, actually, which suddenly seems astonishingly soon.  I am sure there will be days within the next three weeks in which 22 August cannot come soon enough, but hopefully more frequent will be days (moments?) in which I fully appreciate what we have seen/learned/felt here.  What I can say absolutely is that I am sad we could not have simply moved here permanently.  Some of our difficulties were rooted in the impermanent nature of our accommodations and life here.  We are just starting to make real friends, make headway in the language, get into a grove; sadly, we will now need to leave all the positive aspects behind when we leave in three short weeks.  Very important to make these next three weeks really count.

 I returned to a happy Yumi and two other still sleeping girls.  Happy day!  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

29 July: In need of rose-colored glasses today

29 July Another rough morning.  Mornings can be brutal around here AND at home in America.  My girls are just so cranky in the mornings and often their first words to me are screamed.  It is very demeaning.  To be fair, Yumi was very pleasant for the first 1/2 hr of her day.  Before bed last night I had coached her on how to guarantee a good day by starting out with kind words.  She mimicked exactly my sample phrases: "Good morning, mother?  How did you sleep?" This was appreciated considering Aya woke us all up at 5:30am.  Not fun. Since we were all up early I decided to take Emi to the medical center before Nate would need to leave.  Better than taking all three girls, I figured.  I needed to find out if the three small wounds on her forehead from her altercation with a cat warrant rabies treatment.  Of course I hoped the doctor would assure me that the wounds are superficial and treatment would not be necessary. And that is exactly what happened.  However, I was not reassured.  Firstly, the nurse who saw us initially said firmly that ALL punctures to the skin by an stray/wild animal should be treated for rabies.  AND the medical center, incidentally, does not offer this treatment.  Oh.  Great.  Thanks. The doctor strode in wearing a t shirt and jeans.  I suppose the stethoscope around his neck was his proof of his credentials.  He looked at her forehead and found another little nick inside her hairline that we had missed and--yikes!--still had the crusted-on blood from yesterday.  Other than urge me to clean it (he didn't!) he said not to worry; the wounds are too small and there should be no problem.  Inshallah.  He actually said it--inshallah.  God willing.  He could see the doubt on my face and said again that I would just need to believe him.  And with that, he was gone.  He just walked away? Would this reassure you?  Right.  Of course not.  And while I understand that there is a very small likelihood that this cat has rabies and even smaller (I guess?) chance that the small nicks the cat made in Emi's forehead were deep enough to transmit the virus, I am stuck on the "rabies is always fatal" aspect of things. So what to do now?  Nate consulted with the embassy medical people today and they, too, say it looks like simply keeping the cuts clean and free from infection is the only concern.  Rabies is unlikely.  But if I want to get her treatment I should try to find a private pediatrician.  I am torn.  I am sure you can see why.  I will write more on this as soon as I know more. Cranky girls and an annoyed mommy=difficult morning.   We went to the children's museum but traffic and other pre departure delays made us really late.  I think we did not arrived until nearly noon.  I had to haul Emi out, crying, at one.  The ordeal of getting in and out of a taxi with a stroller makes we wonder if the museum visit is really worth it.  That's discouragement talking, however.  I am sure we will go back.  Each visit we discover a new and fun exhibit: this time it was related to music. The actual ride back was much better than the ride there.  No need to restrain girls from hitting or kicking each other.  Yumi was actually quite pleasant and helpful.  Lunch, naps.  My heart nearly stopped when, only 45 minutes into nap time, Aya began to cry BUT thankfully she went back to sleep.  My Arabic teacher and babysitter are due to arrive any minute.  Yay! This afternoon: Erapie (air-rah-pee) came to watch the girls and Nisreen came to teach me.  We held our lesson/conversation in the hotel courtyard, from which I could hear the occasional shriek and cry from the fifth floor. Sigh.  Why are my children so hard?? Why can't they just play nicely and obey?  But anyway, aside from that distraction (and it was distracting!), I had a good conversation with Nisreen.  I explained to her what happened to Emiko and she taught me all the appropriate terms: to bite, scratch, examine, to be treated, to be infected, to get sick, treatment, rabies.  Such a scary word--rabies.  She, like everyone I have told, seems to to positive that there is nothing to worry about.  I definitely want a second professional opinion and will try to find a pediatrician starting tomorrow.  Nisreen's brother is a doctor at the Jordan Hospital, as it happens, and even though she thinks there is no reason for concern she graciously offered to help me get a second opinion.  She said she would first check with her brother who, as a bone specialist, is not likely to be up on the latest in diseases but might know something or someone who does.  I guess we will go from there.  Emi seems just fine and her little scratches/wounds (just little dots no more than a millimeter across) look fine.  Initially, however, we only saw two and washed only those; yet, the doctor found one this morning and Nate found another this evening while bathing her.  The other two were hidden in her hair.  Both had bled, and were crusted with dried blood, but only a little.  Underneath it all, they were just the same little marks. Claw marks?  Teeth marks?  I wish I knew.  And now I am grateful that the cat didn't scratch her eye!  Good grief.   Nisreen taught me the above terms and I rehearsed them by telling and retelling her the story.  Despite the unfortunately conversational topic, it was very enjoyable.  I have her engaged for five days this week.  I hope to keep it up for the remaining three weeks until my parents come but I will have to see how disruptive my lesson is on the girls.  Unlike last time, all three girls were awake and, at some point or other, crying.   When I returned, it was just Yumi being, quite frankly, embarrassing.  Am I terrible to say this?  Every kid I know behaves badly sometimes...or even always in certain situations (like, for example, when it is time to leave a place or to share a toy).  There is very little rhyme or reason to Yumi and Emi's bad behavior; they do it any time, all the time, in the presence of anyone and about anything.  I never know when one of them is going to turn around and whack the other or throw a fit.  They get into shouting matches.  They shove each other down.  They refuse to obey.  I did not scream or shout at them today.  I did not lose my temper with them today.  No one had any serious meltdowns today (well, Emi did, but her fits are not toxic and don't really bother me).  But their behavior toward each other, to me, and to Erapie was horrific.  Contestant fighting, shouting, picking, grabbing, poking, defying, whining.  I was like a yo-yo all day long, one second desperately trying to praise and reinforce some shred of good behavior, and the next second pulling one girl off the other.  I am, in a word, exhausted. We had to run errands after my lesson.  While I enjoy the excuse to get out, getting the girls out the door is a chore I was barely up to today.  They are no longer interested in this little outing we make almost daily.  I know they have fun once we get there, saying hello to our friends and receiving the often offered gifts of fruit or pastry.  But they never want to get out the door.  I have to pry off their dress-ups and coerce them into a toilet visit.   We bumped into Nate on our way out the door so he took Emi back for a bath.  Yumi, Aya, and I collected laundry, bought fruit, purchased milk, yoghurt, and oats, and refilled my prepaid cell phone.   We dined on hummus, fuul, and babghanoush (us adults) and oatmeal (girls).  Aya would not eat anything until I blended up her oats with fruit and served it in a bottle.  PLEASE do not let her wake before 6:30am.

28 July: Rabies scare

28 July I feel really, really stupid.  Why did I let the girls play with a stray cat at the park today? In retrospect, it seems like the dumbest idea but at the time I was happy they could "love on" a cat.  Sigh. We went to a new park recommended by several acquaintances today.  And while by shabby by American standards, it was without question the best public park we have seen in Amman.  We arrived late after delay upon delay. I was in a terrible mood, to be honest.  The girls had been really hard on me all morning and I secretly hoped I could just sit on a bench and watch them play.  I was already emotionally and physically exhausted and it was only 11:30am.   So when a friendly and docile cat appeared, I was happy with the distraction.  The girls petted the cat and picked it up.  I watched carefully at first and saw no sign of irrigation on the part of the cat.  Very tame, I judged.  Used to children.  I let them play with it.  Other kids periodically came to pet the cat too, and their mothers did not seem concerned.   Emi just did not want to leave the cat alone, however, even when I could tell it just wanted to rest in the shade.  I told her to leave the cat alone but did not insist.  It was at one of the points when other kids and mothers were gathered, enjoying the cat, when it lashed out.  I did not see what happened but it either scratched or bit Emi on the head. The wound is small--just a very shallow small puncture.  There was some blood (and of course, tears).  We left immediately and I called Nate.  He contacted the embassy medical people and a nurse called me before we had even reached the hotel.  She advised washing the wound in warm water and soap and applying antibiotic cream.  This we did.  She also asked us to bring Emi in to see her tomorrow but, upon learning that Nate's dependents are not covered by embassy medical service, recommended that we take her to a different (recommended) medical center.  Based on the information and description I gave her, she judged that we need not take Emi to the doctor before tomorrow.   Of course I am seriously stressed about it.  Nate and I spent the evening reading up on rabies and have learned that the chances of contracting rabies from a cat is very low.  I observed the cat closely and can testify that it was not behaving strangely.  It only lashed out after being loved on too much when it wanted to rest.  We know we should not worry but that we should take her in to a medical professional for his/her opinion. What I am worried about is if the doctor says that we should get her rabies treatment just to be on the safe side.  From what we can tell from our reading, the treatment is horrendous.  And yet, considering rabies is always fatal if contracted and untreated, how can we NOT treat her if recommended to?  Of course we will.  I am just praying that the doctor will take one look at her wound and judge it to be too shallow or small to possibly have received any/enough rabies virus. After all this, I suppose you would think it crazy if we did anything else the rest of the day.  And yet we did.  The nurse did not believe an immediate examination necessary, Emi clearly felt fine, AND we had reservations both for pony rides and transportation to the stables--so I figured we might as well press on.   Our friend Ahmed transported us once again to some stables recommended by several different people.  Located about 30 minutes out of town, the stables are located among acres of farmland and enjoy a spectacular view.  The girls were given riding helmets and placed atop ponies.  Ahmed and his cousin kept Aya with them back at the riding school club house while the big girls and I set off with two Pakistani grooms.  Emi would not proceed a step without me holding her hand so I walked with her and her pony the whole way.  Other than that, the girls both had a blast.  Emi sang "Old McDonald" nearly the whole ride.  It was a glorious 1/2 hr, walking through the Jordanian countryside with my two big girls riding proudly on their ponies. We returned to a somewhat anxious Ahmed, ready to get back home and break his fast.  The trip did take longer than I had said it would; not only was the pony ride twice as long as I expected, we had some difficulty finding the place to begin with.  Maybe I should have paid him more than we originally agreed upon?  He DID take care of Aya for a half an hour on top of it all.  Ah well.  I am unaccustomed to paying young men to drive me around; I much prefer the Jamila days when they just offered to do it out of gallantry (or whatever).  But a family man has to earn money where he can, right?  I will definitely call on him for any other out of town trips we may take, although about five minutes into this one I thought (for the millionth time) "If I have to ride ONE MORE TIME in the back of a car with three girls climbing/fighting/squirming around/on/over me, I just may not be able to control my temper." That was the only down side to the whole excursion--the ride there and back.  So maybe we WON'T go on any more excursions!  But I think we will.  I just need to suck it up and pull out the electronic devices.  That'll subdue 'em. Going to bed now.  Trying not to worry about tomorrow and the doctor visit.  Hoping for a better sleep tonight as well; all three girls woke us up crying last night.  Aya was brief and went right back to sleep.  Emi woke at 3:00am and once again loudly grieved the absence of her "toys." Yumi cried outside our door for her mysteriously disappeared pillow (which was there all along).  I think she was half asleep.  Inshallah tonight will be better.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

27 July: Dead Sea

27 July Sabbath Day in Amman.  Not the smoothest pre-church period possible; Yumi and Nate tangled, leaving us all irritated.  No major altercations during the first meeting but keeping the girls occupied, in their seats, and quiet left us both wiped out.  After the meeting Nate vocalized what I have thought many times: going to church USED to be an enjoyable and spiritually recharging experience.  Not so much, anymore.  Not since Yumi was born. I really like the Amman congregation, even in its diminished summer state.  Ours is one of only three families with children currently attending services.  There are many Filapina ladies, however, and a good handful of military men here with or without their wishes.  Even in this stage of transition (state department families having left and incoming families not yet arrived), it is still as big as a congregation in which I was "stationed" when serving as a missionary in Japan.  So the smallness of the group does not put me off.   The services last only two hours normally but will begins reduced "summer" hours next week.  1.5 hrs-only two meetings.  I am disappointed because, to be honest, I enjoy sending the girls off to primary and nursery for as long as possible.  :-).  However, I will try to be positive: with this new schedule, we could put the girls down even earlier for naps and have a longer period on Friday afternoons to go on a bigger outing.  Out of town, say.  Like we will attempt today!  That is all I will say about that until it actually happens. After our usual romp around the church villa garden we returned to the hotel for lunch and naps.  Not much to report there although some people continued to display some residual irritation from this morning.  Not that our girls do not easily invoke irritation...they do.  If it isn't Yumi hitting Emi than it is Emi knocking Aya down....and neither of the big girls giving any heed to anything us adults say.  Nate and I often disagree on which approach is appropriate to take with them; considering they often act like unfeeling and disobedient barbarians, he tends to think an iron fist is the only sensible and appropriate response to their often terrible behavior.  I am no endless fountain of patience but try (TRY!) to refrain from displays of anger and to be flexible and strategic in issuing consequences.  I do not know...it is not fair of me to judge Nate for how he reacts to the girls because I am the first to admit that they are hard....hard.  But I often get defensive when he does get irritated with them.  I tend to flinch at the tone of his voice and wonder at how quickly he has lost his patience.   That being said, I am a total hypocrite!  I just now contradicted everything I said.  It is 1:47pm.  On a typical day, I may not have even put the girls down for their naps, but on Fridays we really have nothing else to do after church and we put the girls down early.  Today, that was 12:15pm.  Both Aya and Emi usually sleep for at least two hours so I made our afternoon plans for 3pm.  I was counting on them getting a good rest so as to be in the best possible mood for our upcoming adventure. Well, I can tell Emi has not gone to sleep and of course Yumi is awake in the bathroom.  Normally, she just crafts away until I get her 1.5 hrs later, but about five minutes ago she started fiddling with the doorknob and moaning.  I don't know if it was that noise (she was being quite loud) or what, but Aya woke unexpectedly and sadly.  She is crying hard in her bed right now, after only a 1.5 hr nap.  Grrrr.  I am now annoyed and much of that is directed to Yumi who may (or may not) have awakened her.  Yumi kept up the rattling and moaning and, instead of ignoring it or going to the bathroom door and nicely whispering to her to keep quiet, I did exactly the opposite of what I said I aim to do in such situations.  I practically shouted at her to knock it off.  Well--no one was asleep so why keep my voice down?  Alright, so not a wild rampage of anger, but definitely not calm and cool.  I was annoyed and I showed it.  No patience involved. This afternoon:  We went to the Dead Sea!  I was hesitant to mention in this record my plans earlier in case they fell through.  Lindsay, my friend visiting Amman for work, is moving on to Jerusalem via a two day rest stop at the Dead Sea.  I figured--why not?  We have had success lately with Jamila-type adventures so why not keep the ball rolling.  Since Nate usually goes into the embassy after church on Fridays and stays for hours, the afternoons are always a bit long and lonely for me.  I figured this was both the best chance to take the girls to the Dead Sea and the best way to spend a Friday afternoon. We know a guy who moonlights as a driver so I called him and asked for his best price.  His offer was not what you would call cheap (approximately $50 for the round trip) but cheaper than what the guidebook advised.  I cringed at the thought of hiring a driver for a trip I could normally make via public transport and/or hitchhiking.  I had my doubts about both of those options and not just because I'd have the girls with me.  The heat, Ramadan, the fact that Lindsay's hotel (the Marriott!) is not on the main road, AND the girls--all major wrenches in the public transport/hitchhiking plan.  No, I had to be pragmatic and acknowledge that the whole trip would be a colossal disaster and fun for no one IF I did not arrange for a private car.  We may have rented a car for less than that BUT how to drive a car with three girls rattling around in the back without cars eats?  Nate really needed to study so I could not ask him to drive while I sit in the back with the girls (or visa versa).  Justifications abound--so I called Ahmad and arranged for a 3:00pm pickup.  Considering everyone was up by 1:45pm so we bumped the time up to 2:30pm.  He and his cousin picked us up and away we went.  The girls did fine on the ride, bouncing and wriggling around more than I would prefer but what really can I do?  Ahmad's cousin and I chatted the entire ride while the girls worked their way through the grapes, apple slices, and cheese sticks in my bag.  I'd bought my iPad but did not find it necessary for entertainment.  Before we knew it--45 minutes later--we were pulling up to the Marriott. We spent an enjoyable 1.5 hrs with Linds.  The Marriott is right on the Sea so it was just a walk down through the hotel's amazing network of pools and waterfalls.  The girls strained to be let loose to play in the pool but we passed by them, heading even further down, down, down below sea level.  At least we arrived at the rocky beach and the shimmering sea of salt.  It was blisteringly hot and the sun beat down on the glassy water.  The girls, suited up for swimming, marched right in.  Emi sprang out just as quickly; the little scrapes and cuts on her legs had begun to sting due to the salt.  She was so miserable that Lindsay offered to take her back up to her room to get her washed off.  Yumi, on the other hand, really got into the experience.  She floated with her hands guiding her on the bottom of the shallow water.  When a Palestinian family came down to the beach and began to slather themselves in the famous Dead Sea mud, Yumi joined them and covered her body and face in the stinky stuff.  I had neither a bathing suit on or freedom to swim due to Aya on my hip, but I waded in and enjoyed the experience with Yumi.  Later, she insisted that she did not like the water, but ultimately I had to persuade her to get out when it was time to leave.   We all washed off in Lindsay's shower and got ready to return to Amman.  Ahmad and his cousin were waiting in the lobby, ready to get back to Amman by sunset and Iftar.  The return trip was much like the trip out: snacks, wiggling, lots of Arabic chatting opportunities with Ahmad's cousin.  Glad I brought lots of snacks as they helped keep morale up to a acceptable level.  The girls did complain and fight a bit but nothing unmanageable. We returned nearly at the same time as Nate and ate leftovers for dinner.  Emi was sent to bed without all of her "toys" (read: junk) and cried hard about it for a while.  Just now, at 10:30pm, she started to cry again and Nate found her stuck between her bed and the wall.  He was so sad--worried that part of her crying earlier in the evening was because she had been stuck, and she had simply just fallen asleep in that position.  I assured him that I sincerely doubted that was the case.  Her cries were normal angry cries and not those of fear or pain.  All the same--too bad she had been so sad AND that she had fallen into crack between bed and wall. All in all, a great adventure.  I feel a renewed sense of excitement about our last three weeks here before my parents arrive.  Maybe we do not have to solely make the rounds of amman's sandy parks and indoor play areas.  Maybe we can actually have some adventures!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

26 July: The littlest tourists in Amman

25 July Another 11 hour sleep for Ayame Little Pants!  We do not "sleep in" here by any stretch, but because we usually go to bed by 10:30pm we get a full night's rest of 7-8 hrs.   Potential altercation with Yumi mostly averted this morning as well.  I caught her slapping Emi hard multiple times on the back and insisted on a time out.  She screamed and refused all kind gestures after her time out was over.  I tried the same tactic as last night--informing her of the consequence for continued hysterics and then giving her one more chance to shriek.  It worked!  She was distracted by the novelty of getting out one more shriek and then pointed out something amusing Aya was up to.  I jumped on that chance for diffusion with humor and made a big deal of Aya's silliness.  Before I knew it, everything was back to normal.  I was able to discipline Yumi, as was necessary, but it did not devastate everyone.  Yay!  If course, I am looking forward to the day when she accepts discipline with a mild "alright, mother," but I am happy with how far she has come. I had tagged today for a trip downtown, assuming (rightly) that there would be less people on the sidewalks due to Ramadan and the heat.  This, I hoped, would simplify navigating around with little girls my wake.  I initially made nothing but the simplest plan--to find an open juice shop and drink--but our success at the citadel the other day emboldened me.  Why not visit the Roman Amphitheater?  My last (and only) visit there was in 1999 as a BYU Jerusalem Center student.  I remember standing on the "stage" and belting out some show tune.  I had an inkling the girls might like it and, considering the amphitheater is right in downtown Amman , I decided to add to our outing today.  Success again!  They loved it.  Yumi wanted to climb to the top--something I wholeheartedly supported but nixed when I found climbing with her, with Aya in the ergo, to be really scary.  Emi had not wanted to climb up with us and we had left her down at the bottom by herself.  I suddenly realized how irresponsible it all was and got down as quickly and safely as possible.  I was so pleased, however, that the girls were enjoying themselves despite the heat and lack of princesses/dressups/slides/etc.  They just loved having the space in which to move around freely.  The acoustics in the theatre were an added bonus.  Lots of calling back and forth. We wandered into the small museum.  The primary exhibit featured many manikins (with faces) dressed in Bedouin garb and posing in the act of various traditional activities.  The girls were fascinated and frightened by it, but their fascination won out and they had to be persuaded to leave after over twenty minutes of exploring.  This gave me plenty of time to chat with the guy running the museum.  He and the tourist police officer were very cute with all three girls, offering us water from the employee kitchen.  We were all drenched in sweat and I knew I needed to get the girls food and (bottled) water soon or I'd have a riot on my hands shortly.  Thing is, they were having too much fun to want to leave.   Promises of juice finally lured them out the door.  It took about 20 minutes to walk to the nearest open juice stand; along the way, we found (and bought) water, sesame bars, and two flimsy tiaras from street vendors.  Thus, I am happy to say, I still had happy girls when we arrived at the end of our long hot walk and stopped for juice.  While the big girls drank in the shade, poor Aya had to follow me out into the street to try to get a taxi.  And alhamdulileh I found one--beating out three other people who lunged for it.  I hollered for Yumi and Emi who, thankfully, obediently came and jumped into the back seat.  I ignored the driver's repeated question "where do you want to go?" until we were all safely in.  I was not taking any chances that he would refuse to go as far as our hotel--at least a 20 minute ride away.   The whole experience was delightful! Oh, the girls began to fight over their silly little tiaras and accompanying hair clips so I had to confiscate them, but the above-mentioned tactic nipped yet another Yumi fit almost in the bud.  Whew!  Lunch and naps! This afternoon:  Arapee came at 3:30pm to watch the girls during my lesson.  Only Yumi was up so they were able enjoy some games and play dough together.  By the time I returned an hour later, Emi was still asleep!  I think that helped matters considerably. My lesson was, as always, awesome.  Worth every penny.  While I waited for Nisreen to arrive, and she was 15 minutes late, I sat in the lobby and chatted with the hotel owner's son--the one who recently graduated and for which the party in the hotel courtyard was held.  He is very cultured, wealthy, and of course fluent in English, but he was kind enough to allow me to engage him in a conversation about his field of interest--manufacturing engineering.  A strange and difficult topic in which to try to have a conversation in Arabic,  but I persevered.  The real martyr here was the hotel owner's son, however.  The fact that the beloved cook Mohaned, who was sitting with us, kept shaking his head and laughing, alerted me to how incomprehensible my speech became as I strayed out of familiar topics.  Well, practice makes perfect, right? Mayumi, Ayame, and I went to Safeway after Nate got home.  He stayed behind with Emiko Leila.  It ended up being a long and arduous experience--we did not get home until 6:50pm--and I just realized I forgot one of the main items I hoped to buy.  Safeway does have a small buffet of grilled meats and rice which was up and running despite ramadan.  I bought as much chicken, rice, and veggies as I figured could fit into our postage stamp refrigerator.  I am considering a big afternoon outing tomorrow so having dinner already sorted will be helpful.  Check in tomorrow to see if it pans out... Pre-bed routine was fine. The girls got to watch about 20 minutes of one of their favorite Disney Arabic movies--"Lilo and Stitch"--for reaching their respective goals.  Yumi earned all her stars today despite several mini fits.  Emi hadn't any toilet accidents.  She has been having minor accidents lately--nearly every day for the last week--so we are going back to focusing on getting her to the toilet regularly and rewarding dryness.  I guess I cannot complain; she potty trained within a matter of days before we left for Jordan and she has been amazing this whole time.  I bet with some incentives and attention on the matter and she'll be accident-free again. Inshallah. We are heading early to bed tonight.  This was a physically demanding day for me and intellectually/linguistically demanding for Nate.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

25 July: Ode to high chairs

24 July Pool day at the embassy.  A friend from church kindly "hosted" us even though she has no little kids of her own to bring along.  She helped keep Aya from diving into the pool while I gave each girl turns "swimming" around the pool.   The morning was linguistically unproductive as I probably exchanged less than ten words in Arabic with the lifeguards, but the girls had fun.   It was "early" (12:45pm) when our friend needed to leave so I thought maybe we would visit the high-brow wooden toy store located next door to the embassy.  Fun to look at the toys and chat with the Jordanian-French owner; not fun to deal with the subsequent Yumi-fit.  The fit lasted about half the ride home but I am proud to say I did not react.  I also managed to talk her out of it by explaining the consequence for screaming the whole way home (no lunch, straight to bed) and giving her the chance to moan/wail/gnash her teeth one more time before the consequence took effect.  Amazingly, it worked.  We returned, had lunch, and the girls were down for naps by 2:30pm. My speaking partner/teacher Nisreen came at 3pm.  We sat outside the hotel room on the chairs on the landing.   Our hour together was so enjoyable.  I asked questions on a range of topics, from fasting (for Ramadan) to her thoughts on differences in expectations for young Muslim women and men with respect to sexual morality.  I am thrilled to say I understood mostly everything she said and was able to easily identify all kinds of new words.  Such as "consequences."  She agreed that both the man and the woman are responsible if the woman gets pregnant, but Nisreen did acknowledge that socially, the woman is considered to bear the greater guilt.  And without question girls are "protected" more than boys because they are meant to be kept pure for their future husbands.  She seemed a big befuddled by my repeated questions about the notion of male "purity.". It would seem there is no such notion.  She acknowledged what is obvious--that girls have different rules than boys--but that only makes sense because they ARE different.   I have encountered a justification along those same lines for laws that perpetuate what we may call gender inequality in the West.  It was explained to me by my old friend and "host sister" Ghada that female Muslims do not want the so-called freedoms of the west because they know that God does not want it to be so.  And what God wants or does not want should absolutely be legislated by the government.   The whole experience--speaking, learning, sharing, and bonding in Arabic with an Arab is EXACTLY why I came here this summer.  One of the chief reasons, anyway.  I tried to explain this to Nisreen at the end of our hour, to thank her for making an effort to come to me when she is fasting and lives nearly 1/2 hr from the hotel.  All for one hour of conversation and modest compensation (not dirt cheap, mind, but less than I would do it for in her place).  As I thanked her tears sprang to my eyes and I had to struggle to keep from bursting into tears.  She could see my emotion and grasped my hand in empathy.  I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity in the latter half of my stay here. This evening: We met up with dear Lindsay at a very Western bakery and restaurant in South Amman.  Quite near the US embassy where we were only hours before.  The kind of place that serves food all day even during ramadan.  We actually ate pasta--ha!  I shed any guilt over the cost and westernness of the place when they delivered a high chair to our table for Aya. A HIGH CHAIR!  Do you know that I have not eaten a meal this entire summer without Aya on my lap for at least part (usually most) of it?  The few meals we eat at home (which we do more often now), Aya sits in the stroller and has to be fed everything by hand.  No high chair tray on which to spread out chunks of banana or vegetable.  Ah, the gloriousness of that high chair.  Thank you, Lindsay, for suggesting dinner and for so generously treating us.  Spending time with Lindsay these last few days has been a highlight of this summer.  Interestingly enough, I also remember her work visit to Cairo when I lived there in 2004-5 very fondly.  Lindsay and I go way back and have many excellent shared memories. It was a bit late when we returned to the hotel--8pm--but the cupcakes Nate bought at the restaurant helped get everyone ready for bed quickly and pleasantly.  Bedtime stories, alone time with Nate, even a little bit of time to watch the British TV series we are working through (Foyle's War).  Quite content.  I had to stay up to record our day AND try to buy my parking permit for the GMU Arlington campus at which I will be taking two classes in the fall.  Exciting.  And yes, after several days of trying, I succeeded in buying the permit.  It is 12:02am--time to get to bed.  Or eat another meal, if I were Muslim.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

24 July: In search of royalty

23 July This morning may have been our best morning yet in Amman.  In the first place, it was free from major incident.  Oh, Aya woke us all up at 5:55am, so that made for a groggy mommy and a cranky Yumi, but we all recovered.  I was a bit put out because my plan for today--a Rainbow Street visit--was falling apart. I learned last night while on Rainbow Street with Lindsay that our favorite pizza/juice place (and all nearby eateries) are closed during the day for Ramadan.  I called "The Good Book Shop" to confirm it, at least, would be open...and was told that it is closed.  Totally.  Until after Eid.  As my plans for the morning crumbled, I felt discouraged that I do not have an easy backup plan here in Jordan, such as an impromptu playdate in our backyard or a gym visit.   I fought off this gloom, however, and pulled an idea out of the air: a visit to the royal palace.  Someone had told me that it could be seen from the road; while I had no idea about the neighborhood, I assumed that a stroll in front of the gate and a few pictures might make for a memorable morning.  I pictured a sort of Pennsylvania Avenue/White House set up.  The girls would surely get a thrill looking through the gates and knowing the the king and queen may be inside.   I had an inkling my plan B would also crumble when our taxi driver did not know where the palace is located but did see to know that one could not see the palace from the street.  After asking directions from multiple people, we pulled up to a heavily garden gate.  From where I sat in the taxi, I could see regular buildings through the gate but nothing ornate or fabulous.  Guards surrounded the taxi and insisted we move on.  We were not allowed to get out and approach the gate at all. Hmmm Fortunately, our driver suggested the Amman fortress/citadel.  I would not have thought of it.  Not that I figured the girls would be that thrilled to see it, but at least I could make good on my promise of seeing a "princess house.". Mind you, the citadel was never a residence for royalty, but the word for citadel in Arabic is the same offer "castle," and you KNOW how lives in castles.  PRINCESSES!  I made sure to clarify that no princesses live there NOW but that we were headed to a castle...and hoped their imaginations would take it from there.  Having been to the citadel before, I knew we were going to need a lot of imagination.... The citadel lies atop a very dry and hot hill.  A citadels go, it is very modest, but it has been reconstructed into a decidedly castle-like structure.  The girls could see it from the entry gate--good thing, since it was a long and hot way uphill--and they were genuinely excited to explore it.  Not that there is much inside to explore but they ran about, examining everything.  The three completely unoccupied tourist police officers inside got a huge kick out of all three girls.  While they watched Aya, I joined Emi and Yumi in a bit of exploring myself.  I also enjoyed a bit of chatting with these men and learned a new word: energy (something they agreed the girls were full of).  I was pleased to see they were having such a good time doing the kind of thing I pictured us doing when planning this summer--going to culturally and/or historically interesting places and investigating them together. A little bag of grapes in my purse got us slowly but surely out of the citadel and down to the road.  The girls spotted and wanted to go down into a cave.  I was happy to oblige; they are both usually so quick to complain about thirst, hunger, injuries, and fatigue that I was eager to accommodate their enthusiasm for good, healthy exploration.  We popped into the museum which, Yumi proclaimed loudly, was "boring." Having been inside once (enough) six years ago with Nate, I did not feel the need to linger.  Yumi found two busts of Zeus side by side and said "Look, mommy, Heavenly Father and Jesus!"  The ride home, lunch, going down for naps--all relatively pleasant!  This was, without question, our best morning all summer. This afternoon: a bit too crazy.  Lindsay came over at 3:30pm with several gigantic shawarmas.  Bless her heart.  She, Yumi, and I chatted a bit before waking a very unhappy Emi.  There was nothing for it, though;  we had to go pick up the laundry and a few other items.  Loading up took, of course, forever, and it was 4:30pm by the time we left the hotel.  I had to be back by 5:00pm for my lesson and Lindsay had to be at a meeting at 5:00pm just up the road at a hotel near the pool (that is closed for Ramadan...).  That did not give us much time.  We hustled on over, picked up the laundry, fruits, and dairy products on our list.  Fun to have Lindsay along.  Abu Manal, upon learning that this second visit by Lindsay to his shop would be her last, scavenged up a box of perfume as a goodbye gift.  How sweet.  Lindsay is a charmer! We parted ways--Lindsay, to her meeting and us, back to the hotel for my lesson.  I basically made Yumi run.  We walked in the lobby at 4:59pm.  Arapee was waiting for us, cute and excited as always.  I left the girls with her in hopes all would go well, and headed down to the courtyard to meet with Nisreen.  I LOVED our hour together.  Every enjoyable.  More conversation about all kinds of topics.  We identified and worked on words I use all the time, but incorrectly.  I learned new words and used them in different context.  Thoroughly enjoyable.  I thought I heard the sound of Yumi shrieking from upstairs but I tried to ignore it. I returned to our suite at 6:00pm and found everyone: the girls, Arapee, and Nate.  He was busy eating with the intent to get out the door to visit someone from our church congregation.  He wasn't really communicative but did manage to pass along that Yumi invaded the treats stash and had gorged herself.  Arapee was quiet and a bit awkward but I do not know if that was because the girls had been hard on her or if she was feeling reserved in Nate's presence.  At any rate, I cannot say if this was a success and if it needs to be tweaked.  I guess we will see.  I know from experience that I prefer engaging a babysitter in the evening who will put the girls down for bed before I come home; I'll admit it--I do not like to be bombarded when coming home with angst and tears and a harried-looking babysitter.  Not that today's babysitting experience could be characterized in this way, but it was not clearly a GREAT experience for all.  Anyway, we shall see.  I will not give up the lessons if I can help it, but maybe there is a better time of day.  I paid Arapee generously; at least I know she was well compensated (relatively speaking--babysitting is pretty cheap here) for her service. Nate was gone before I could really talk to him.  Dinner was a joke; Yumi was almost sick from her binge and could not eat.  Emi was distraught over Aya touching "her toys" (a motley collection of bags and detritus) and could not/would not eat.  She spent most of the rest of the evening closed in her bedroom because I did not want to hear her hysterics and see her push Aya away/down one more time.  Aya was not interested in eating as well, and repeatedly knocked the spoon out of my hand, spilling chicken and rice everywhere.  AT LEAST I managed to make and drink a carrot, peach, and banana smoothie in my new blender.  And we all ended the evening cuddled in Emi's bed, reading stories.  That is something to be happy about.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

23 July: Closed for Ramadan

22 July This is the mantra we are living by right now.  I need to find someway to celebrate (and enjoy) Ramadan even if we aren't fasting (and feasting) all night long).  Maybe buy some Ramadan decorations?  All these closures are supposed to help people get through fasting/staying up all night, and probably are also in the spirit of family togetherness.  We aren't fasting so the closures aren't doing us any favors in that department.  We do not really care to stay at home and enjoy special Ramadan television programs together either, so the closures have us stymied doubly.  I can see us fasting/feasting when we live here in the future and the girls are older.  Likewise, they will have school off for Ramadan and I can see us taking advantage of the family time by going on vacations or putting together gigantic puzzles together...you know the kind of thing.  What you do during Christmas vacation.  But THIS time...what can we do in Jordan during Ramadan?   Well, one thing you cannot do is go swimming.  At least not at the pool we visited today.  A friend from church who will be watching the girls during my Arabic lessons came over today with the intent of accompanying us to the pool.  This, by the way, was a first for me--"nanny" help.  My friend, a Filapina lady named Arapee, is a domestic worker.  She has a job in the morning elsewhere and has agreed to help me during my three-four times a week Arabic lessons.  I am grateful to her as I am only offering her an hour of work and I am sure she would like more.   She had the morning off today so I suggested she come with us to the pool to get to know us and we, her.  Once she arrived at our hotel I showed her our "getting out the door" routines.  Loaded up and headed out the door.   The pool is only a twenty minute walk away so I suggested we walk.  I pushed the stroller and carried Yumi on my back.  Arapee carried the backpack of swim supplies.  Arapee is probably still shaking her head in wonderment at the difference between me and her previous employer.  It was a hot walk involving weaving in and out of traffic and a steep hill, one that I am sure most normal people would not enjoy.  Me--I love it.  I cannot be happier when I am walking.  Why is that? This was our first time visiting this pool.  We had seen it before and enquired within about rates, but our first visit.  We were all ready, in our bathing suits, loaded with floaters, water guns, and goggles.  And what did we find?  It was closed.  I left the stroller with Arapee and went into the adjoining office building to the complex manager's office.  With Yumi still in on my back and my hair plastered to my face with sweat, I must have been a surprising sight.  The manager answered my question, though: the pool is closed for Ramadan.  Come back after Eid.  The sad thing is...that is exactly when we are leaving!  No more pool, no more Safeway inflatable playground, no more camp.  It will all open again after we leave. But, I will tell you what IS open, if for limited hours: the bird garden!  That was my Plan B.  I also suggested a stop for juice to soften the blow of no pool but, of course, not an open kiosk was to be found.  So we just went straight to the bird garden.   We pulled up under the big tree near the teeter totter and unloaded.  And to my astonishment, a little girl walked right up to us and greeted Yumi by name!  This little girl then turned to me and said, in very clear Arabic, "I met your daughter at camp."  Indeed!  I was visibly surprised and the family sitting nearby seemed to enjoy this whole scene.  They got involved and explained the whole thing: yes, this little girl is named Anousha and no, she is not our daughter but this is her Russian grandfather who does not speak Arabic or English, and yes, she obviously knows your daughter and please, sit down and join our group.   I did join them and while Mayumi very slowly but surely warmed up to Anousha and the other kids, I chatted with this nice family.  Arapee took Emi for a walk to see the birds and I tried to keep Aya from eating cigarette butts.  The sand toys I had recently purchased attracted a crowd and were joined by all.  We stayed quite a while; Arapee needed to leave at 12:30pm but Yumi was only just starting to actively play with Anousha and the other kids visiting the park.  There was a group there with a supervisor, probably a camp of some sort for kids whose parents still work during Ramadan and do not have extended family to care for them.  Yumi clearly yearned to play with them but is pretty shy around Jordanian kids.  Arapee left but, as I said, Yumi was finally playing with other kids so we stayed as long as I thought wise.   Eventually we left.  We found one vendor open in the nearby Shmeisani Mall--McDonalds--and bought some water.  I asked the girls running the counter why McDonalds stays open during Ramadan.  Company policy, they said, but they only serve takeout. Returned home while we all sing the BYU fight song.  Aya bounces up and down in the ergo as we walk/sing.  Despite the sweat, heat, hunger, fatigue, and thirst, we arrived home and had lunch without incident.  Melted cheese on pita, cucumbers, and fruit salad. This afternoon: late down for naps so late getting up.  With one thing or another (including lots of crying by Emi), it was 5:30pm and Nate was home.  I had ordered food from Salsabiil that he picked up and I...I took off!  I went to meet Lindsay for a fabulous Iftar (break the fast) at a Lebanese restaurant.  We met at her hotel, chatted, and strolled about a bit before dinner.  After a gigantic and delicious meal...plates and plates of Lebanese "salads" and sumptuous meats....we walked and talked for another hour.  I slipped in and passed the sleeping girls at 10:30pm.  It was such a wonderful evening.  Thank you, Lindsay!  I really needed it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

22 July: A visit from an old friend

21 July Few people stir during the day during Ramadan but one benefit to this is that the children's museum was refreshingly empty, making it easy for me to both chat with the employees/other moms AND keep track of the girls.  For the most part, it was an enjoyable trip.  The girls sang in the taxi on the way there and we arrived in a great mood.  We saw our friend Noora and other employees we've come to know.  They had special exhibits related to the art and science of Ramadan; see FaceBook for a picture of the girls with different important characters from Islamic history that were wandering through the museum.   Things went a bit sour when Yumi shoved Emi to the ground.  Yumi had been doing so well all morning and I assumed she was our her funk of yesterday.  Alas, she did not meekly submit to her punishment of time out in the corner of the museum, although on reflection, it could have been a lot worse.  No flailing or hysterical screaming. Definitely a lot of "no!" and complaining/stiffening/overall bad mood-ness.  That is when I knew we needed to leave, and small wonder: it was nearly 1pm.   I opted not to bring the stroller today--maybe a bad choice because it is a long walk to the main road--but we caught a taxi pretty quickly.  And I managed to grab a little snack for the girls from the nearly empty--but still operating--kiosk in the museum.  I do not think I noticed the degree to which food is unavailable for sale when I experienced Ramadan in Egypt 8 years ago.  That is probably because I nearly always ate lunch with my "host" family and did not think about dinner until after sundown--which comes earlier in Egypt.  By 5:30pm restaurants would be serving food and I rarely ate before 8pm anyway.   I am acutely aware of the lack of actual prepared food for sale now that I have to provide it for three small people.  My parents joke that they "nearly starved" when in Alexandria, Egypt some years ago during Ramadan but it can be a problem.  They told us this evening, for example, at Salsabiil that the police would shut down their establishment if they served food in the dining room; take-out, apparently, is allowed.  I wonder which came first: people electing to fast or shops closing during Ramadan?  I can see a two-way causal relationship.   The ride back from the museum was fine but we had more hysterics getting into the room.  Alas--we had a usual lunch of pb&j pita, veggies and fruit, and off for naps. This afternoon: my dear friend Lindsay is town for work and this evening she came to play with us.  So great to see her!  She joined us on our daily walk to Abu Manal's to drop off laundry, to buy fruit from Amir, to get a can of oats from the shop.  She observed the little ticking time bomb Mayumi who, on our excursion, barely held it together after the disappointment of Emi being the first to find a little fake gold chain necklace on the ground.  She just could NOT accept that Emi had first "dibs" on it.  But we made it back to the hotel without too much of a scene and enjoyed Lindsay's company while I assembled dinner--smoothies and cereal (girls)/hummus (adults).  So happy to have Lindsay here and can't wait to spend time with her over the next few days. Final note: we just cannot seem to keep the girls clothed properly.  I brought for them about four outfits a piece and have since added a few items, but still it just does not seem to be enough even though we take the laundry to Abu Manal every four days or so.  In the first place, I occasionally forget to bring the girls' soiled clothes along as they put their dirty clothes in a different cupboard than ours.  And/or if we drop the clothes off on a Thursday we cannot get them until Saturday afternoon.  Add to that the fact that the girls clothes get so dirty that they simply cannot wear anything twice between washings...or shouldn't.  I will admit that I have had to back through their dirty clothes and pull out things that weren't too soiled... Today was the bottom of the barrel.  Yumi literally had nothing to wear.  She opened her drawer, found it bare, and said (in Arabic) "oh well, I have no clothes today."  She then very matter-of-factly took a shirt and pair of shorts from Emi's drawer and pulled them on.  She may be very vain about her hair but she does not seem to be too concerned about her clothes.  Good thing, at least today: an I "Heart" NY shirt size 2T that showed a silver of her belly and size 18 months boy cargo shorts belonging to my nephew Niels that somehow came along with us to Jordan.  Funny thing about those shorts is that all three girls have worn them at least once!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

21 July: Arabic lessons at last!

20 July Aya woke us bright and early at 6am this morning.  I will take that over nighttime screaming for three hours any day, but it was a bit of a rude awakening.  I don't know if that was to blame for Yumi's meltdown later this morning...a fit, sadly, she never quite recovered from.  Alas!  It was time for a dip after several days of stellar behavior. By 7am we were all ready for breakfast but of course there was none to be had.  Mohaned the cook said he'd leave a plate for us in the refrigerator but I could not find one.  While down in the kitchen I observed the scurrying of cockroaches...the main reason why I do not want to ask for permission to  cook any of our personal meals down there.  I know most industrial kitchens have cockroaches but ugh.... Dear Mohaned brought us up a meal 1/2 hr later.  Not sure what he puts in his scrambled eggs (1/2 cup oil?) but the girls sure do love them.  This is the second morning he has furnished us with our own personal meal delivered straight to our room.  I am grateful but am worried he will continue to bring us heart attack scrambled eggs.  I may need to ask him to bring us boiled eggs instead.  The girls like boiled eggs just fine and I won't feel so disgusting after eating them.  Ramadan Kareem! After a workout and shower I took the girls to Hawawati bookstore.  It was on the cab ride over that Yumi began to meltdown.  Both Yumi and Emi wanted to lay on my lap.  Not only did I just need a little space (ha! Pretty funny considering I have Aya strapped to my chest...), I neither wanted Aya to grab either girls' hair (which she would do if they were lying on my lap) nor did I want Yumi/Emi to fight over how much lap they would get (which they definitely would do).  So I refused lap space to both.  Emi cried, threw herself repeatedly on me, but got over it after I gave her a little spank.  I had to do it, people--she just will NOT stop until she gets the spank.  Yumi, however, just cried, sobbed, then screamed.  She met each suggestion of turning back with more screams and, like other times, I figured I would be better off moving forward than going back to the hotel.  Just what would I do with her at the hotel?  Chances are good that after arriving at the destination she will calm down.  Which she did, if a little mopey.  She read books, moped around, painted.  I bought some great new books.  All three girls played well for about ten minutes on the attached playground until Yumi hit Emi.  Yumi handled my immediate reaction--let's go home!--poorly but not terribly.  Ride home, lunch, naps.  Lunch bordered on brutal--all three girls crying at one time--and I tend to get extra irritated in this situation when Nate is around.  I feel extra stressed because 1) I feel like I have someone else I have to take care of AND 2) I always expect--unfairly, I suppose--for him to make it all better and find myself disappointed.  Sometimes we work well together to solve these problems but usually we all just get irritated with each other.  Today was no exception but we regrouped after we put the girls down for naps.   Being a Saturday, Nate did not have class.  He studied all morning and would continue to study through naps, leaving me free to adventure.  I hopped a bus downtown and went straight to Hashem's restaurant.  I wanted to see if they would sell me hummus and fuul to have on hand, considering dining out now is going to be difficult if not impossible.  The usually packed restaurant was empty, chairs stacked, no dining room service.  Not during Ramadan.  They would, however, sell me take-away fuul and hummus.  While the young man scooped up piles of delicious hummus into a plastic container, I asked him for Hashem's recipe.  He joked about it being a secret but then confirmed the ingredients--the same I put into mine.  When I told him I aspired to making great hummus like hashem hummus he said: "only one person in a hundred can make great hummus." Some of you out there may have had my hummus.  What do you think: am I one of the lucky few? My other goal this afternoon was to buy a blender.  I should have done this first thing but I thought we'd get to juice shops every day and we'd be drinking green--or at least carrot--infused smoothies daily.  Not so--the closest place is a twenty minute walk so we just don't do it every day.  A couple of times a week and now, during Ramadan, they will not even be serving during hours we are out and about.  I went in search of a blender.  I found one, too expensive, and did not buy.  But the search was enjoyable and invoked asking lots of people lots of questions and directions.  I love that. I got back to the hotel at 4:15pm and rushed Yumi out the door for a trip to Safeway.  She was perfectly good but maybe me rushing her about set the stage for her later meltdown.  We bought a blender, bread, fruit, potatoes (I am going to try to microwave them....).  I had to rush her about because I has an appointment back at the hotel at 5pm! I dropped Yumi and the groceries off with Nate and then met my new TEACHER in the lobby.  Yes!  The niece of the hotel owner has agreed to work with me three days a week on my Arabic.  It was an extremely enjoyable hour.  I got very nostalgic thinking of my dear friend Ghada in Egypt who was my first teacher and worked with me so patiently each day from 6am to 12pm. Nisreen is the name of my new teacher and she is every bit as darling.  I am going to thoroughly enjoy working with her. Nate took the girls out for a walk during my lesson, which we held in the hotel courtyard.  I could hear them return due to Yumi's hysterics.  She  apparently did not want to go back to the hotel and was straining against the straps of the stroller, howling.  We got her upstairs ASAP and, since she refused to be released from the stroller, wheeled it into the second bedroom and closed the door.  Sad.  She kept it up for nearly an hour.  We would come in, offer to release her, and she would refuse.  At least she did not scream hateful things.  She did, however, wet herself because the refused to cooperate and was in "time out.". Meanwhile, I made us all smoothies.  That, plus cereal for the girls and hummus/fuul for us adults, was our dinner.  Have I mentioned that I feel like we are camping?  This is a long camping trip.  But to be honest, you can't make smoothies when camping so this is definitely a step up. :-) As badly as we wanted to be done, we desperately needed to bathe the girls.  They were filthy.  That all fortunately went well and we actually had them all in bed, quiet, by 8pm.  Here's hoping for a good night's sleep so I can kick this cold!

Friday, July 20, 2012

20 July: Ramadan!

19 July Ramadan Kareem---a traditional greeting during the holy month of Ramadan. Similar--in intent--to "Merry Christmas," but "kareem" means "kind." And the traditional response to "Ramadan Kareem" is to say "allahu akram," or "God is kinder."  Today was the first day of Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Arabic name for a month in the Islamic calendar.  The 28-day period is dedicated to fasting by day (food and physical intimacy) and feasting by night.  Today, and each day of Ramadan, Muslims ate a large meal before dawn (around 4am), likely after staying up the whole night.  Most people will have slept in late and done as little today as possible.  And when the sun set over Jordan, exactly 27 minutes ago, everyone broke their fsat first with something light and sweet--usually dates--and then likely dug into a gigantic meal.   As it happens, today was also our Sabbath Day.  Luckily, we had some oatmeal on hand because the hotel did not, nor will not during Ramadan, offer breakfast.  The hotel was as silent as a tomb; the few guests staying here were all asleep, all staff but the on-call/part-time guy who's name I cannot remember were off...even the lights were out in the reception.  We slipped out and went to church.  Nate and I gave talks, or mini sermons, at the main worship service today.  The assigned topic was gratitude.  Thinking about and preparing for the talk has inspired me to renew my efforts to train my "gratitude muscle." Being grateful...for things beyond the obvious and especially when one feels burdened...is a habit that takes effort to maintain.  I am going to try harder to be aware of my many blessings and marvel/rejoice in them. Yumi stood in the middle of the aisle at church waving to me the whole time I spoke, much to Nate's annoyance.  Not much he could do about it without risking an altercation.  Other than that, Yumi has been great the whole day.  Just like her old self--spirited, occasionally defiant, quick to aggravated or be aggravated by her sister, but not bitterly angry and hysterical when receiving a reprimand or order.  For that, I am GRATEFUL. After church services and a brief playtime in the garden behind the villa, we returned to the hotel, ate another makeshift suite 501 meal (but at least we had some food!!), and napped.  Yes, all of us but Yumi napped!  Both Nate and I feel head colds coming on.  I am sitting here with a box of tissues now.  As Nate just pointed out, however, we have all escaped major illness thus far and that is another thing to be grateful for.  After naps I took the girls for a very un-Sabbath Day activity.  We went to Mecca Mall--my first visit--to meet the Jordanian-American family we met last week on Rainbow Street.  I had suggested meeting up at park, although I am not sure how much more "reverent" a park would have been.  They rejected the idea considering the heat and countered with a mall visit.  Thus, that is what brought us to the near ghost town of Mecca Mall this first day of Ramadan.  Usually packed, especially on a Friday, the mall was relatively empty.  All the restaurants were closed.  I had plenty of opportunity to observe just how closed they were as we waited 45 minutes in front of the food court for our new friends to show up.  Once they arrived, however, they took us to a little play area where we all enjoyed ourselves.  The girls played well together and I enjoyed chatting with Ashraf and Angie.  Angie is a Muslim convert so she, too, was fasting today.  Both she and her husband are physicians and live in Northern Virginia.  I expect we will see them when we return and continue getting to know each other.  They, too, have three girls, two of which share the same names as my girls' middle names: Mariam and Leila.  And my Leila and hers are both in the middle.  Fun. The mall closed at 6pm for Iftar (breaking the fast) and would reopen again from 9pm until midnight.  Catching a taxi proved difficult and I had a very thirsty and cranky Emi on my hands by the time we returned.  We were all tired, hot, hungry, and a little sick.  As there was suddenly no drinkable water in the suite, Nate dashed out with Emi to the store.  Luckily, it was open.  It seems everything will be closed from 6-8pm, exactly the time we do our shopping and dining.  We are going to have to be creative about meals now; time to learn how to cook a meal in a microwave.  I am happy to once again be in the Middle East during Ramadan but it is going to make our domestic arrangements even more challenging.   One last statement of gratitude: Aya only woke once last night and went right back to sleep!  So, SO grateful about that.  Let's hope for the same tonight.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

19 July: Lights out in Amman

19 July 47 degrees Celsius and the electricity just shut off.  Apparently we have reached some kind of heat record and Jordan's electricity grid just cannot handle it.  That is, at least, what the hotel staff told me when I slipped downstairs to enquire.  The girls are napping and shouldn't be effected unless they are bothered by the lack of air conditioning (absence of cool air AND the electrical hum that blocks out other sounds).  Hopefully it will come on again before night...I've spent a night without AC in the dead of summer in Virginia and we relied heavily on our electrical fans.  Without the use of a fan (and we have one, as it happens), no one is going to get very much sleep. Not that we did last night, either.  Ugh!  Aya has been a gem of a sleeper her whole life and, thankfully, has done just fine here.  Beyond the first three nights she has slept nearly 12 hours straight each night.  Amazing.   But last night was the third night in a row she as awakened and not gone back to sleep.  For a LONG time.   Initially, we decided to leave her in bed this time after checking to make sure the problem was not a soiled diaper.  I checked (it wasn't) and gave her a bottle with water.  It was 2am.  She cried HARD for a very long time.  Maybe an hour!  I am sure you cannot believe we let her cry that long in a hotel room but I could see a trend had started and was determined to put an end to it.  And Yumi, who shares a room with her, miraculously stayed asleep.  After an hour, or so, she stopped crying and I figured we had seen the worst.  Now, I thought, she will know to just go back to sleep and not expect special treatment at night.  Well.  She woke again, and to make a long and exhausting story short, we finally got her out if bed at 5am!!! We had been awake THE WHOLE TIME and so had she, nearly.  We held out for three hours and finally I snapped.  Or broke.  Whatever it was, it was brought on by exhaustion AND the fear that this problem will continue throughout the rest of our stay here.   I don't know what is worse: Mayumi's hysterical fits (which are fewer and fewer in between now, thankfully!) or being up for hours in the middle of the night.  Some people with colicky newborns deal with the latter problem every night for months; we've been blessed in that department, however, and I don't know how I can handle it.  If and when our girls have needed a little sleep "reprogramming" I have not had to fear that the crying child will wake her sister/s and I have had a far corner in the house to go in which to escape the noise.  Not so, here.  I now dread the likely fact that I will wake each night from here on out and will either have to listen to her cry or bounce her back to sleep in my arms.  Such a scenario would be unpleasant during a one-night stay; exhausting for a week-long stay; nearly inconceivable for five weeks. Well, we shall see.  I intended to visit a pharmacy this afternoon to see about teething gel (when we DID get her up she refused a bottle of milk and just wanted to gnaw on the plastic case of my ear plugs).  All stores may shut down, however, thanks to the universal power outage.  Also, I bought some batteries today for our flashlight with the intention of giving it to Mayumi and taking her little battery-powered nightlight and giving that to Aya.  That is what I tried at 5:15am this morning when I put Aya back in bed; she is fascinating by the light and I used it to lure her peacefully back into her crib.  Good thinking, buying those batteries.  We may need them for more than one reason now. There is, of course, the possibility that her stomach was bothering her.  If the number of her diaper explosions are any indication, I would say that she is likely experiencing some gastro-intestinal discomfort.  Which leads me to the next major event in our morning of 18 July.  We were able to sleep in a little, resulting in about 5 hours total of sleep.  Moving slowly, I got the girls fed, ready, and Yumi out the door with Nate.  I put Aya down for a nap even though she had only just awakened 1.5 hrs before.  I figured she would be tired anyway due to the loss of three hours of sleep during the night.  I could hear, however, that it took her a long time to go to sleep.  She did not cry but was vocal nearly 1/2 hr into her "nap" time.  Eventually she quieted down.  I did a workout and took my time getting ready so she would have an hour to sleep before I woke her.  I went in to her with my shoes on and ergo around my waist.  My intention was to strap her in immediately if she did not need a diaper change and head right out.   A terrible smell met me when I opened the door to her room.  Not only had she had an explosion, the mess was all over her body, in her hair, and crusted on.  Gracious.  Naturally, I scrubbed her and her crib down.  She was very sad.  I wasn't too happy about it myself but cleaning up after messes is much more straightforward than dealing with an hysterical four year-old and I know how to tackle them.  Tackle, I did, and then we still headed out on a abbreviated version of our morning plan: to go to Books and More library. Emi, Aya, and I enjoyed our brief visit to the library (where I exchanged our Foyle's War DVDs for new ones) and even briefer visit to the nearby Safeway.  This library--and Safeway--is quite far from our hotel and sports city; it took us 1/2 hr to get back to the youth club where we met Farah and an ebullient Mayumi at the entrance.  It seems as though Yumi had a great last day at camp.  Alhamdulileh. And that brings us to now.  With the help of an uncharacteristic purchase of string cheese from Safeway--something I don't even buy in America--I had very happy girls in the taxi ride and at lunch time.  And here we four are now; only one of us is asleep while the rest of us reside in our separate quiet time spaces and sweat.  Yes, it is quite warm in here now.  This evening: The electricity (and air conditioning) came on again after only two hours.  Not bad at all.  It was super hot but that did not keep us from going out.  We picked up laundry, fruit, and dinner from the usual places.  Everyone is holding breath waiting to find out if Ramadan starts tomorrow or the day after.  Ramadan is a lunar holiday and begins with the first sighting (in Saudi Arabia) of the new moon.  The girls enjoyed the decorations adorning the shops--similar to Christmas decor but instead of candy canes you get suns, moons, and stars. Our original plan was to meet Nate over at sports city after his workout with a picnic dinner, but it was too hot and, more importantly, just too late. It was 6:30pm by the time I had even purchased our dinner; too late to head off for a picnic.  We agreed to meet up at the hotel.  I arrived first and got the girls eating.  Then ready for bed.  I was starting to worry about Nate when he called at 7:30pm wondering where I was.  It seems as though he asked the hotel staff if I had come in yet and since no one saw me come through he figured I just was not back.  He got into a conversation with the hotel owner and before he knew it, 45 minutes had passed.  Ah well.  I am marveling at how much effort it can take to get three little girls ready for bed EVEN when you have a small space and few distracting toys.  In addition to the usual routine, I gave Aya two medicines--one for diarrhea (new word!) and one for teeth pain--and gathered various supplies in case of another nocturnal crying marathon.  Wish us luck!  I think we will be going to bed early tonight just in case.  But first Nate and I are going to eat our own little picnic dinner here on the bed.  The girls opted for cereal over the shish tawook, pita, and hummus that I picked up at salsabiil, so I saved it for us adults.  As Nate did not arrive home in time for dinner, we will be eating it here on our bed..

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

18 July: Omanis to the rescue

18 July

I was shaken to learn that one of our friends/hotel staff was in a car accident two days ago.  I noticed that she was not in yesterday but did not think anything of it.  When I saw her this morning I could not hide my astonishment; she looked haggard and has a quarter-sized gash on her lower lip/chin.  She told me the story of the accident—her taxi driver was drunk and crashed into a road barrier.  Thankfully, she escaped without major injury but she showed me how her lip had either been bitten or pierced through, and described the massive bruises on her back and legs.  I feel terrible for her...and feel extra dread about transporting my little girls to and fro without car seats or even seatbelts!  Sobering thought.  And the best I can do is pray we are blessed with sober drivers.

Another rocky start this morning but less dramatic than yesterday.  Yumi kept on demanding “right now!” about a few things and Emi conked Ayame Little Pants on the head.  A fracas—the best word to describe it.  Cacophony–another apt word.

Oatmeal with fresh apricots, peaches, AND pears cheered them right up.  Nate came back from his workout in time for me to take Yumi down to breakfast and to use the internet available these days only in the lobby.  Pita, fuul, fatoush...a tasty breakfast. No oatmeal for me, no matter how fruity.  My girls may not embrace Arab breakfast but I sure do.

Mayumi left for camp with Nate and I strove to get in a mini workout.  We got up a bit late this morning and, what with the fracascacophony, we were behind “schedule.”  We had plans to meet friends at the embassy pool and needed to arrive by a certain time to be checked in by them.  Thus I had only about 25 minutes for a workout which was interrupted by a call from Nate.  Seems as though Yumi did NOT want to be left at camp after all and, seeing as how he needed to get to class, could I come pick her up from his school as soon as possible? Sigh.  I also knew he felt under pressure to get to class and aggravated that Yumi was not cooperating.  Yet if I agreed, we would have to nix our plans to go to the pool.  Collecting her would make us too late.  I did not want to change our plans because of another Yumi fit.  I advised him to apologize to the staff but, considering he had already paid, ask them to just try their best to cheer her up.  As I heard nothing from him after that, I assumed everything was fine.

I had been at the embassy pool for only 5 minutes, however, when my phone rang. Yumi’s camp counselor Farah was on the line, informing me that Yumi had not stopped crying since her arrival.  Double sigh.  I told both Farah and Yumi that I would be there to pick Yumi up at 1pm...in two hours.  Maybe I should have gone to collect her right away; she IS only four, after all, and in a foreign country at a camp without any friends.  But I really REALLY wanted her to try to sort out her problems and turn her morning around without me.  And since I did not hear from Farah again, I assumed everything was fine.

Pool was fun.  We left in time to reach Sports City by 1pm.  I called Farah when we were just a few minutes away to ask her to bring Yumi up to the main gate.  She apologized but said she could not get Yumi to come with her.  Apparently things had not improved. Triple sigh!  I am not sure why I did not ask the taxi driver to wait; I suppose I figured it might take longer than would be fair to ask him to wait for us.  We found Mayumi and Farah outside the gym, Yumi in tears. Farah explained that Yumi had perked up some after her initial distress at being left by Nate, but then had an “incident” on the playground; I assumed Yumi had been wronged or at least took offense and just could not recover emotionally.  At least she was not flailing about on the ground.  She was, however, crying, and did not stop when she saw me.  She did not even seem that happy to see me.  I apologized to Farah and led Yumi away.  That was when she told me that she was sad because she had thrown some sand at a boy on the playground and had been reprimanded.  I cannot imagine she was punished harshly; not that they shy away from firm discipline here but surely they would not be rough with the four year-old daughter of an American.  Don’t take that as a sense of entitlement but just an assumption based on experience.  No, I doubt they did anything more than make her sit in “time out,” but she took it hard.  On a positive note, she admitted her wrongdoing to me of her own accord and explained that her sadness was because she had “chosen the wrong.” 

Getting out to the main street was simple enough; finding a taxi proved to be more difficult.  I had the girls sitting in the shade against a storefront and Aya/I were out in the street trying to get a taxi to stop.  For about ten minutes.  And then a giant SUV pulled up next to me.  Picture this: a Gulfi man in flowing white robes at the wheel, a woman completely covered in black (barring her eyes) in shotgun, and a prim Indonesian woman with a headscarf in the back seat.  Non-taxis will often slow down while I am out trying to catch a cab, the drivers leaning over with a head shake a and hand twist that means “where are you going?”  In former days, I would have jumped right in.  My hesitation now is not so much out of concern for my daughters but for the kind Samaritans offering the ride.  They do not know what they are getting into when they are offering me and my ticking time bombs a ride.  So I do not let them. 

Today was different.  I needed to get these girls home.  Without hesitation I began to toss little girls into the back seat.  The kindly woman in the front jumped out and began to help me.  Emi caught sight of my water bottle and asked for water.  Hearing this, but not seeing the bottle, this woman ran into the nearest store to search for a bottle of water.  I assured her husband we were well equipped with water and he called her back.  The Indonesian woman—unquestionably their maid—looked on, silently. 

These were Omani tourists here for Ramadan.  As they did not know the streets, I had to direct them to our hotel which, luckily, I could do.  As we drove and chatted, the wife began plying the girls with fruit and treats.  Thankfully, my girls were gracious and well-mannered.  Sports City is near our hotel so we arrived within minutes.  Without hesitation the Omani woman took my backpack and Emi by the hand and crossed the street.  We parted, kissing cheeks.  The whole experience, commonplace during my hitchhiking days but a first for this summer, was a refreshing reminder of why I love the Middle East.

This evening: Pretty basic.  “Pretty basic,” however, is still relatively intense when compared to our old life.  After saddling myself up with Emi (on my back), Aya (in the stroller), Yumi (walking) and yet another batch of laundry (stroller), we headed off to our usual afternoon destination: Abu Manal’s shop.  We made it quick; we had a date to meet Nate in 20 minutes in front of the hotel.  We all went to “Thaqaafa” street for shawarma, veggies, and fruit cocktails.  Tasty and uneventful.  We saw two rabbits in someone’s yard.  We got the girls ready for bed quickly and yet it was 8:30pm by the time we turned the lights out.  I am glad for the exercise but tired after carrying Emi/Yumi on my back roundtrip 2 miles.  People often ask why I would carry one of the bigger girls and leave Aya in the stroller but I like to give the little Chub a break from the Ergo when possible.  At any rate—as positive end to the day.  I know my last few posts have been rather negative so I am happy to report that I have had a generally positive outlook today.  A few more things to report: 1) I was in touch with that couple from Arlington, VA today and it looks like we will get together on Friday. 2) I may have found an Arabic conversation partner/teacher who will come to the hotel to practice and speak with me several times a week. 3) I also may have found someone to come and watch the girls for me while I meet with said teacher.  We shall see! I report on these events as they develop.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

17 July: New friends

17 July One month from yesterday and my parents will be here to visit and accompany me and the girls home to Virginia.  Nate will stay behind an additional three weeks.  I guess I had better start trying to make this experience work out as we originally planned before it ends on me.  Or wait, isn't that what I've been trying to do this whole time? I am happy to say that this morning HAS worked out.  Yay!  I needed it.  The day did not start well and I am frankly surprised at how well it has turned out.  Aya woke around 4am, crying, and I was worried for poor congested Yumi.  I really did not want her to wake up and be unable to return to sleep.  Thus, I leaped out of bed and rushed to Aya.  A diaper change and a warm bottle did the trick (boy, I hope she doesn't make a habit of this after such nice treatment...).  Yumi DID wake but presumably went back to sleep.  I was not so lucky.  I finally dozed a little between 6-7am and woke extremely groggy.   Yumi was still asleep so we did not wake her.  Instead, I got Aya and Nate went into to read to Emi.  Some minutes later, when Yumi found herself the last one to wake, she began to cry and complain bitterly.  I tried to "get on her level" and acknowledge her feelings in language she would understand in her distressed state.  This is a tactic I've been trying but, as I have mentioned, seems to work better with Emi.  I only makes Yumi mad.  I am sure it helps for her to know that I have heard her side and understand, but other the that...honestly the things that seems to work best is low-level ignoring.  Nate felt for his workout in the middle of the anguish and offered up a "good luck." I honestly envy his ability to just disengage.  If it were me, I'd never have been able to leave. What I did was this:  I acknowledged her complaint (e.g."I want to get up FIRST!!") for a few minutes and then I let her rant and cry about it for a minute without saying much.  Then I told her that she could say it more more time and that was it.  If she said it yet again, she would have to go to time out.  Amazingly, that seemed to work and she stopped that particular mantra.  She started a new one: "I want to be alone outside!" I repeated the process.  We did this several times until she had nothing to rant about and was just crying loudly. The final step was to allow her to cry for one more minute and warn her that any additional crying would result in time out.  And she stopped!  Amazing. It was not fun but it was pretty short-lived.  Like I said, I was astounded by her comeback;  she's been perfectly cheerful all morning.  Such a relief and a welcome change. Being as today's activity at the youth camp was an all-morning bus trip to the zoo (too many unknowns for my comfort), Yumi did not go to camp.  Instead, we went to Rainbow Street.  I had the girls draw their "maps" of our destination.  Someone suggested I do this and it has become a tradition; before we leave, the girls will often sit down with construction paper and crayons and draw a "map." Yumi's is usually quite good and she will attempt to write the name of the place at the top of the paper. A pleasant--if lengthy--drive to Rainbow Street through downtown Amman.  We learned from the driver where to go to see King Abdullah's residence/palace--something I have oddly never seen before.  It is apparently right next to downtown Amman. I switched up our Rainbow Street visit and I believe it was a good idea.  We went first to the Egyptian juice and saaj restaurant.  Instead of agonized waiting for food while hungry and cranky girls complained, they were fresh and cheerful.  We also beat the lunch rush.  Delicious carrot/orange/banana/strawberry "cocktails" and saaj (cheese for the girls and thyme/olive oil for me).  A Jordanian/American couple stopped in to order.  From our perch outside, Yumi kept pestering me to invite them to our hotel.  She does this all the time--she clearly is lonely and misses our days of nearly constant social interaction.  I hesitated because of pride; I did not want to appear too eager to get to known other Americans or "western" Jordanians.  Honestly, I normally don't even make eye contact with westerners when I see them.  Is that weird?  On behalf of Yumi, though, I set aside my pride and struck up a conversation.  Yes, in English.  Some of you may know how much of a sacrifice that was for me. :-) Yumi was elated, especially to learn that they also have three girls (two were at summer camp) and THEIR names are also Mariam and Leila (these are Aya's and Emi's middle names and that is what they go by here).  This family is returning to their home in...Arlington, VA!...next week but we exchanged numbers and made plans to get togeher Friday afternoon.  Yay! After lunch we paid a visit to the British Counsel--an English school as far as I can tell.  We have not been there in a while and it was a fun change from our usual rainbow street stops.  First--a visit to their excellent bathrooms.  We looked for some friends we've made but did not find them.  We did make new ones, however, primarily a woman who works in the cafe on premises.  Next--upstairs to their children's reading room.  Not very grand, really, but the girls love it and we read a few books together.  Finally--a stop in at the cafe for the first time.  We found our new friend there and she introduced us to all her fellow employees including her husband.  She was sweet with the girls and carefully examined each of their maps, still clutched in their grubby hands.  We purchased three yogurts and sat on the GRASS (such a rarity in Jordan) to enjoy it.  1:30pm we left for the walk to the circle at the head of rainbow street, caught a cab fairly quickly, and returned by 2pm.  Without incident.  Girls down for naps within ten minutes of returning.  A dream! This evening: A fine one.  Plenty of one-on-one with Yumi after her quiet time and before Aya/Emi woke.  We went on an hour-long excursion to the nearby commercial center, making all the rounds: Abu Manal, Amir, the cell phone store, the toy store, the shop, the restaurant.  We had/made a little business in each.  By the time we finished I had Aya in the back of the stroller, Emi on my back, Yumi walking, and the front loaded with 12 liters of water, yoghurt, canister of oats, two cartons of milk, a ton of grapes and nectarines, more cell phone minutes, and take-away for dinner.   Dinner was fine although Emi refused to eat it and spent the rest of the evening--really, only 20 minutes or so--in her room in "time out." Other than her howling from the other room, all was well.  Nate took Yumi on a "booza walk" and I prepared the girls/hotel suite for bedtime.  We got everyone in bed by about 8:15pm.  Now it is 10:27pm and Aya is crying.  All my girls have been relatively good sleepers but I find I have to be very consistent and firm with them with regards to nighttime interaction else they take advantage.  If, while traveling, I have to soothe them in the night so as not to disturb of hosts, they tend to wake every night of our stay.  Ugh.  When Aya woke early THIS morning, I changed her (unnecessarily but I figured I just would) and gave her a warm bottle of milk.  She had not awakened in the night like that since our third day here.  I bet she expects another bottle of milk.  Although Nate just confessed to me that he did not attach her pacifier to her pjs when he put her to bed.