Friday, July 06, 2012
4 July: Taxi-jacking
4 July Agitated. I am agitated. I am sitting on the black sofa with at least 14 cushions and trying to unwind from what has been a VERY stressful two hours. Today was Yumi's day of Arabic Camp. My new friend Amanda and her Jordanian husband Samer organized a summer camp co-op with other families with English-speaking children that want to learn more Arabic. Some of the kids are half Jordanian half something else...at least one of the kids comes from an American family that has lived here for eight years and does not intend to leave. These families banded together and hired a teacher to engaged the kids in organized play based on different themes, all in Arabic. While the kids are kindergarten and older, Amanda and her group agreed to let Yumi participate. Nate and I decided that Yumi would participate, at least temporarily. Certainly we will not force it...that would obviously be foolish. I sent her off this morning with Nate hoping this would be a good experience for her. Please...let this work!!!! Nate dropped Yumi off at 9:30pm on his way to study/work. He called later to tell me that she seemed happy when he left her. He added that the way to the Camp host's home was tricky so I should give plenty of time to get there to pick her up in the afternoon. Mind you, we had no address for this place, just instructions like "go to the hotel formerly known as the Teiche and walk behind it. Look for the 4th or maybe 8th house down with the red car in front." Yeah, you are probably shaking your head in disbelief. With Yumi gone this morning, I was able to get in a more thorough workout and spend some quality time with Emlette (we had a "picnic" with the new play fruits I purchased for her). Getting out the door was only half has hard! I felt good about this new plan. We went to Sports City today. A note on behalf of sister Monique and anyone bemused by the name of this place. In the Middle East it is very common to give the name "City" to a district within a city or a suburb. Each "city" will get a very grand name to distinguish itself from the others. It might be the name of a president (US equivalent: Obama City), an important date (4th of July City), or something to do with its purpose (Silicon City). Sports City is simply a neighborhood created to house the national soccer stadium, national gyms, equine stables, etc. It is covered in trees and surrounded entirely by a gate. It is very close to our hotel but not easy to reach due to a very busy main road, a tall gate restricting entry at the point closest to our hotel, and the fact that the main gym with the pool is even further away--on the other side of Sports City. I am still trying to figure out the best way to get there: taxi (direct to the gate closest to the gym but it takes nearly 10 minutes to get there AND no stroller); vs. walk (takes at least 20 minutes to walk to the gym BUT you get the stroller and no wrestle in the back of a taxi. AND it is free to walk, you get exercise, AND you do not have to wait for a taxi to bring you back. You just get the kids in the stroller and GO. Both options have pros and cons. I have not yet figured out what our relationship will be with Sports City but I intended to try to determine that today. What do I mean by that? Well, they have a gigantic pool complex (three pools, really) that neither takes 1/2 hr to get to nor do we need to wait for an invitation to visit it (such as the embassy pool). I am considering a membership. They also have summer camps for kids. I met with the camp director today and got the scoop. Each day involves different athletic activities, including swim lessons and horse riding! The price is reasonable (US$18/day) and one can participate any day or days one wants. I discussed with the director the feasibility of bringing her late (10am is too early if Aya is going to take a nap) and/or picking her up early (2:30pm is too late for us--naps!!). "Breakfast" is supposedly included and issued at noon. "Lunch and dinner" by the way, are offered for for kids who are literally staying overnight and are presumably provided after 2:30pm. Well, that is the schedule around here. But I would want to pick her up no later than 1pm. I discussed all this with the camp director and was pleased to know we have another option other than this Arabic Camp. Emi, Aya, and I decided to take a dip. The pool complex is remarkable even compared to American standards. Not only does it have the usual features of a pool, it has multiple pools of different depths, a pretty serious diving platform with multiple levels, diving boards, slides, bridges reaching out over pools, plenty of shaded pools side seating, and GRASS. Yes, grass upon which people were stretched out sunbathing. Of course, the whole place is available only to the wealthy (and the relatively wealthy like us) and part of me shies away from such places. The other part of me thought "Could I actually put Aya DOWN on that grass? Can I just LIVE here?" Admission is not cheap (US$18) but heck--there I was and we had on our suits! We had to go in. Emi headed straight for the slide but balked up at the top. Nothing for it but to climb up there and slide down with her AND Aya. I hit the bottom --with MY bottom--pretty hard and all three of us got an iold old dunking. But it was FUN. There was a breeze so it was actually a bit chilly. I walked a shivering Emi around the pool and swung a very enthusiastic Aya around the water a few times. I made some friends and had a very enjoyable time chatting with a woman, her sister, and their many kids. They helped me keep track of my girls and were very gracious/friendly. I can assume that any visit to the pool could involve chances to mingle with Jordanians. That is a huge plus. Emi did not actually enjoy her time in the water that much played poolside with the kids we met and really enjoyed herself. Suddenly it was time for us to go pick up Mayumi. I made a bad decision to take us to the changing rooms to get out of our slightly damp clothes; it took too long and it was too difficult to keep Aya from taking off. This is when my two hours of agitation began--I realized I was probably going to be late to pick up Mayumi. Also, it was 1pm. It isn't so odd in our current life to be out at 1pm without having had lunch--not a situation I would have been in back in our old life, ever--but we were realistically still at least an hour away from being back at our hotel and I only had some peanuts on me for snacks. I could have bought some processed goods from the snack kiosk on may way but I just couldn't do it. Nate was right--the home at which Yumi's camp met WAS hard to find. I was very close by 1:30pm--ending time--but could not find it. I called Amanda, stressed out. Aya was crying, probably starving. Amanda found me and corralled us into the home of Jennifer. Yumi came running up, excited, and then ran off presumably to continue playing. My anxiety lessened a notch; obviously she had been doing well. Emi ran off to join her and Aya was munching on a piece of bread I begged off Jenn so I relaxed a bit more. There was time, I figured, to chat with Jenn and Amanda about what and how Yumi had done at school. I learned that she had held back a little but eventually began to participate to the degree that the teacher realized that our little Yumi speaks Egyptian Arabic. It was close to 2pm when I realized I was going to be in trouble. Yumi was now back at my side, shoeless, begging for food. Jenn was not offering and was probably ready for us all to be gone. Emi was no where to be seen. I had to quietly but firmly tell Yumi that she could not have one of the muffins sitting on the counter since Jenn had pointedly reminded Yumi that she had already had one. Sigh. I honestly could not believe she would not offer Yumi another but what could I do but haul my now sobbing girl of her house. And it just got worse. We were standing on the side of a massive busy road for over 15 minutes waiting for a taxi. In that time, Yumi and Emi began to tangle, resulting me shouting at Yumi. She began to march off down the road. I screamed after her (mostly because of the noise of the six lanes of traffic). I screamed loudly, however, and gained the stares of other people not far away also waiting for taxis. Waiting fruitlessly. The few empty taxis that passed refused to stop. Sometimes this happens but it happened multiple times in a row. I am not sure if these cabs are off to pick up passengers with reservations or what, but they did not stop. All three girls were now very upset I was praying VERY loudly for a taxi. An empty cab approached. I called to the driver. He did not stop. Did not even look at me. I called again, louder. He looked, then looked away. He had to slow because of a suddenly stopped car in front of him and I did not think twice. I yanked open his back door and threw Yumi inside, shouting as I did it: "YOU WILL TAKE US TO SHMEISANI" and invoking several Islamic phrases reminding him of his duty. He was mad but what could he do? We were in the car. I intended to give the taxi driver extra for picking us up when no one else would...but I changed my mind when he scowled at and chastised Emi for standing up on her seat. He was mad and rude about it so we paid him in exact change and got out. Our ascent to our room was equally challenging. The girls always dawdle and/or are distracted by the parrot/employees/whatever. Imagine every time you go or return from anywhere you have to coerce your children to come in/go out and not play with the neighbor kids/cat/whatever. That is what it is like each time. And if I want to take the elevator up because hauling three kids and bags up five flights isn't on my to do list, at least one of them wants to take the stairs and has to be forced into the elevator and again into our room. Argh! After an hour of writing this and I am still agitated. Well, I will try this Arabic camp again tomorrow. Next time I will bring a snack to lure Yumi out and keep the taxi waiting. That should help matters. This evening--once again, late naps, so it was 5pm when poor Aya woke up with another explosion (not nearly as bad as the other day). I told Nate we would meet him on the road but he arrived back at the hotel before we had made it out the door. We decided to stay local this evening. First, we went to Abu Manal's to pick up the laundry. When Nate dropped off the clothes yesterday, he asked Abu Manal why the the price kept going up. Apparently Abu Manal gave him a lecture about how he is an honest man and his rates are posted....Well, I had only to walk into his shop before he began to lecture me! I was fine with it--a good chance to listen to someone articulate say the same things over and over. I am happy to say I understood much of what he said and caught the drift of some unknown words based on context. Again, it did not hurt that he repeated himself over and over as it gave me that chance to figure out the meanings of these new words. But really--I still cannot figure out how someone can charge that much for laundry. I never had my laundry done in NYC but at most laundromats you can have the workers there do yours for you. Anyone have any idea what a full load of colors and a half load of whites would cost for washing and drying? I know I keep harping on this subject but it just blows my mind that a full and tasty meal for a family costs $6 and 1.5 loads of laundry costs $40. That seems bizarre to me. Okay, moving on. We purchased fruit and veggies from Amir milk/yoghurt/jam from the convenience store, and stickers from the toy shop. By this time, the dinner that I'd ordered from the restaurant was ready. We enjoyed a shawarma platter and a a dish called "qalaiya" which is basically "stir fried" whatever. The options limited and we always go for tomatoes and onions. It is actually really delicious. I had them replace the ubiquitous french fries for fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and it made a delicious meal. This place, like most, has a television and it not hurt any that Madagascar (the movie) was on. For once, the girls sat in their seats and ate their dinner. Getting ready for bed routine was interrupted when Yumi's foot found a piece of glass from the fallen light fixture of some weeks ago. It must been a tiny piece and there was only a little blood, but OH! the drama. I had to carry her for place to place until bedtime. Yumi did have a few setbacks today, but I feel as though her earlier meltdown was not as terrible as they have been. And I learned my lesson about keeping the cab waiting and being prepared to quickly lure my girls back IN to the cab with food. I probably need to get a larger bag to keep more snacks on hand; I foolishly thought that I should/could downsize to a small purse this summer because I would be carrying Aya around and my usual purse/diaper bag would be too bulky. What I have been using barely fits my phone, pocket dictionary, hand sanitizer, and wallet. I can squeeze in a small tupperware I keep filled with nuts but the nuts apparently aren't cutting it. Aya can't eat them anyway.... Well, we live and learn.