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.