Monday, July 16, 2012
16 July: Bedouin tent
16 July We came here with two duffle bags and a backpack between the five of us. One duffle bag was filled with a nifty travel crib (thank you, Schofields), a plastic porta-potty (thank you, Christine), and other hardware: flashlights, battery-powered nightlights, a fan, two hefty power converters...the list goes on. The other bag was filled with clothes. You may have noticed the lack of toys in the above inventory. We brought absolutely none aside from the stickers/whatnot for the flight. Nate's government per diem is generous enough that we often have leftover and I figure if that money is meant to facilitate his stay here in Amman than let's do just that with it. Let's get some toys. Yumi left with Nate at 9:30am this morning for the sports city youth club summer camp. After my workout, Emi, Aya, and I went down to the lobby, chatted with the staff, and eventually caught a taxi. We headed to a large toy store across town. After a 30 minute ride with good conversation with the driver (which rarely happens--it is difficult to hold a conversation with a driver when I have all three girls with me), we arrived. The girls were in heaven. Toys, toys, everywhere. Aya got to play--for once--in a mini inflatable ball pit. Emi locked onto one of those little tableaux filled with water and little figures (in this case, Ariel and friends) that you can buffet about with air jets you activate by pressing buttons. What are these things called? Does anyone know what I am talking about? Well, within seconds, she was clutching one. We were eagerly attended by a salesman who insisted on speaking to me in English. I gave him my "I am Russian" line; he rushed back from a Russian woman from accounting. Ugh! I have to stop using that one. Another salesman, observing all of this, patronized me by speaking to me only in Arabic, letting me struggle while I tried to describe the things I was looking for: beach/sand toys, a little rolling pin for play dough, scotch tape (which does not seem to exist in Jordan). I ended up getting none of the above but DID come away with a doctor kit and play dough (planned purchases), a new coloring book and markers (unplanned but a new good quiet time activity for Yumi), and a grocery basket of plastic fruit (a last minute impulse-buy but perfect for Emi the bag lady). A shopping bonanza. The poor driver that had the bad luck to pick us up groaned when I told him we wanted...needed! I would not have gotten out of the taxi if he had refused....to go to Sports City. Traffic traffic traffic. We eventually collected Yumi who was brought up to the road by her camp counselor Farrah. Emi was wilting and unsurprisingly totally melted down when it was time, eventually, to get out of the taxi, and she found herself unable to carry all of her new toys at once. She balked. Yumi got out and disappeared, to safety, I hoped. Emi was flailing and toys were falling out of the cab and into the traffic. The driver was trying to help from the front seat. It was a disaster. I had to drag her inside, up the elevator, into our room. Sigh. At least her fits have very little vitriol and are to be expected developmentally. She eventually calmed and everyone made it to quiet time in one piece. I feel good about our morning: I enjoy shopping and I enjoyed some good Arabic conversation in the process. Yumi seemed to have a great time at camp. Poor Emi was probably over stretched. Too much excitement and too much time in a hot taxi. This evening: A trip to the Safeway. All three girls had a ball and I had a great conversation with the boys who run the joint. Two new words: shaded (as in covered) and broom. The latter came up when I chided them for not keeping the place free from cigarette butts. I had to keep a constant watch over Aya to prevent her from popping them into her mouth. Blech. This time I did not try to have dinner there. Instead, after a good 1 hour of hurling themselves about the inflatable structures, I corralled them into the stroller without too much difficulty and we headed home. This new approach--not trying to eat out--is a product of my musings yesterday. And it worked well. 6:45pm is still late to be having dinner but the fact that it happened on barstools in our room meant 1) a more complete meal and 2) no battles. The girls simply ate. I asked Nate to search for a muesli or kashi at the Carrefour near his school and he found sort of British cereal that resembles shredded wheat. That, topped with fruit and veggies on the side, is significantly healthier than we have been eating. This plan, and the resultant calm behavior of the girls, allowed us to take them to the hotel courtyard and drop in on a party in progress. Well, just barely starting, as it was only 7:45pm. It will be going on until midnight. The party was, like last time, held by the hotel owner on behalf of her recently graduated son. The hotel staff had transformed the courtyard into a Bedouin tent. Picture red and black stripy low-slung couches, stained-glass lamps, fountains, and Jordanian flags everywhere. Magical. An additional detail: the call to prayer began while we were down there, and many of the female guests, one by one, donned a makeshift skirt from a sheet and retreated to a corner to offer up their prayers. Men praying in public places is completely normal but you rarely (never!) see women do it. Could it be because Ramadan is near? Or out of gratitude on behalf of the graduate? I don't know. You may remember the slaughtered sheep from a few days ago (see FB). Dear Mohaned had been working nonstop to prepare a zillion dishes, all of which he was just bringing out when we took the girls down. I tried to get him to let me help...and honestly, at this point, I feel like we are more than hotel guests (for better or for worse...). For that matter, we were there at the invitation of the hotel owner, the only hotel guests to be invited I am sure. So, on the one hand, we were "specially" invited, and on the other, I feel like we are behind the scenes and would be proud to help Mohaned to set out the food. At any rate, he did not allow us to help but DID sneak us each fatayiir...a cheese samosa. Yum! We took the girls up, had family prayer and scripture study, and then I took Yumi back down. Probably I should not have, considering she has a cold and needs all the rest she can get, but I wanted to treat her to something. She did very well today and deserved an outing of sorts. We stayed there for only an additional half hour but I enjoyed chatting with the graduate, his mother (the hotel owner) and HER mother. And the rest of the family, in turn. Yumi flitted about, mostly attaching herself to the hotel staff who were wandering about adjusting the decor, setting out food, etc. She charmed everyone. Good times. We did not stay to eat as 1) we just had eaten and 2) who knew how soon they would start. There will be leftovers and some of it will end up in the breakfast buffet. Sadly, I had to ruin some of the kismet by snapping at Nate upon my return upstairs. I have not felt what you would call really happy the entire time I've been here, but I've been feeling worse the last couple of days and I've taken it out on Nate. I don't like it when people, under pressure, lash out at me...so I need to be careful not to do the same. Things aren't likely to change for the better dramatically; I think I am going to feel under pressure and frustrated for the rest of the summer and possibly will continue to for the next 18 years or more. Sigh. I wish mothering came more natural to me. But anyway, I need to get over this little slump because I doubt I am very fun to be around right now. A final cute story: when we were down in the courtyard for the first time this evening, Yumi's hand was lightly caught as the wind closed the gate from the road down into the courtyard. I saw no mark but she was pretty upset. I whisked her out of the courtyard, through the offending gate and onto the sidewalk so as not to disturb the party guests. This put us within the line of site of the hotel doorman Abu Wisam--a kindly older man (probably 67) whom I cannot understand to save my life. I could understand his intent, however, when he asked why Yumi was crying, so I told me. He probably cannot understand me very well, either, but he clearly figured out my meaning this time. He came on down to the gate with a stick in hand and said, while beating on the gate, "Bad! Bad gate!". His thoughtfulness cheered Yumi right up and touched me deeply.