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.