A physically demanding morning. The details will confirm to you that I am indeed a crazy person.
Sports City Al-Hussein Youth Club--the location of summer camps for children. I took Yumi over
there today to try it out. Conveniently, one does not have to commit to more than a day at a time.
I loaded the girls up in the stroller/on my back and off we went. Our first obstacle, aside from
the eight lanes of traffic with no cross walk, was the the gate to Sports City I intended to enter
was locked tight. This gate provides the most direct route to the club so you can understand I was
disapointed. We continued on, however, to the next gate. Luckily, the path from the next gate to
the club is even more direct, but involved a locked door that someone had to fetch a key for and is
not a guaranteed entrance (I was told). A little foreshadowing: this was the easiest part of our
morning. Thus, we sailed right on into the camp regisration office and signed Yumi up for today's
activities: basketball, taekwando, "little games" (not sure what that was), and "breakfast" (12:30
-1:00pm). I walked her down to the camp area, introduced myself and her to the camp counselors,
and confirmed that she really wanted to do this. The kids appeared to be in between activities and
Yumi was asked to sit down next to some other kids. A television (Dora) was within view and she
automatically looked up at it. When I left her, she was sitting, zombie-like, watcing Dora, next
to a group of Jordanian kids talking animatedly with each other. I felt a twinge of concern for
her...would she have fun? Would she be lonely? I decided to stay within Sports City to be on hand
to come fetch her if she struggled.
Emi, Aya, and I went back to the upper level of the club where we left the stroller. I should note
here that the club has major components on two levels and the front entrance is another level up.
No elevators, no ramps. Just stairs. I knew this would be a problem with a stroller but I hoped
to leave the stoller when necessary and come/go on the same level. I also knew that I could empty
the stroller of children and drag it up/down stairs if necessary. You might think it would have
been easier to have left the stroller at the hotel and come by taxi, but I knew I would want the
stroller during the time Yumi was at camp. This bit of information about the logistics of the
stroller and the layout of the youth club become important later in this account.
As three girls set off in search of the stables. I asked the lady security guard in the front how
to get there. Right off she told me that it was too far to go by foot with children--unkind, she
said, to take them out into the sun for that long. This is a typical response--I have found in my
travels that people always think anywhere is too far to walk. Mind you, I am sure there there are
indiviudal and whole cultures NOT like this, but it is largely my experience that people, when you
ask how to get somewhere to which you intend to walk, will exclaim that it is definitely TOO far.
The fact that this woman added her own judgement of what I proposed to do as "unkind" to the
children is also unsurprising; people do not take their kids out in the sun here (and of course
the sun IS dangerous, I know that) and are not afraid to tell other parents what they should/should
not do. I was not offended. I just asked her again for instructons and she gave them, shrugging
her shoulders. And for those of you who really DO worry about sun and how it affects children, I
assure you I had the sun shades down on the stroller and plenty of water.
We set off for the stables. Once Emi realized what we were doing, she began to sing "Old McDonald"
and did not stop for at least ten minutes. Adorable. She was a good sport, considering it took 45
minutes to get there! No joke. It was a long and hot walk. The girls were shaded; I was not. The
girls were wearing shorts; I was not. The security guard should have been more concerned about me!
:-) But really, I actually enjoy the weather here and was not overly upset about the
distance...just really hoping the stables would be worth it. I had spent the remaining 30 minutes
during which Emi was not singing talking with her about horses. Please, I prayed, let there be
After passing the national squash and tennis courts, the cycling club, and the olympic pool (Amman
has never hosted the Olympics, has it?), we finally reached the stables. My heart fell as building
after building was locked. No one was out, the sun was beating down, and not a horse in sight. It
was also 12:30pm. I had brought some fruit but it was now gone. We needed to find some horses and
Thankfully we did! We found an unlocked stable and received permission to enter. I had to carry
both Aya and Emi so they could see over the stall doors but their delight was reward enough.
"Hello, horsey!" Emi cried. Emi, as most of you know, has THE MOST expressive face and the biggest
smile I know. Her cheeks pop WAY out when she smiles. They were as wide as they get as she saw
the horses in their stalls.
I asked a man if it would be possible for Emi to ride a horse. He directed me around the back
where a man sat chatting with another. I was told that for 10JD (Jordanian Dinar) Emi could ride
for a half an hour. Knowing that she would probably want to get down after one minute, I tried to
get him to cut the price and the time in half. Nothing doing. I agreed, seeing has how we had
come all this way and poor Emi rarely gets any special treatment. The man told me to wait right
there. So we waited. And waiting. It was now nearly 1:00pm. While I knew Emi would not take up
her half hour of riding, I calculated that we would not make it back to the youth club by 1:30pm to
pick up Yumi. The camp ends at 2:30pm but I wanted to get Yumi and back back to the hotel by
2:00pm. A rediculously late time as it is, but our schedule here is a bit different than the one we
followed religiously back in Herndon.
We waited. And waited. I asked Emi several times if she would maybe just like a juice instead of
riding a horse but she was adamant. Horse! I was not worried about a fit if I denied her the
horse ride...I just truly wanted her to have the experience. Well, after 20 minutes of waiting we
went in search of the man. We found him, in an office, where he told me that the groom was
unavailable to give rides at this time. I reminded him that he left us waiting...why did he not
come to tell us? He said he had sent someone. I informed him that no one had come. He shrugged.
Exasperated, I left.
I got Emi that juice and she was a great sport about it all. I sped walk back to the club and
reached it in only 30 minutes, right at 1:30pm. I left the stroller upstairs and we headed
downstairs to collect Mayumi. Emi was particularly excited as she loves to see the large exotic
fish tank located near the kids' gym. She sped down those stairs and ran right into the glass door
entance. She literaly bounced off of it and back a few feet onto her bottom. I held her as she
sobbed--no blood, fortunately. Within 30 seconds she said, crying, "fish, I want to see fish."
We found Yumi, happy, and chatted with the counselors. Predictably, they said she held back and
seemed shy, but that she did fine following insructions and joinging in the group games.
I went upstairs, pulled the stroller down the stairs, got the girls in, and was on my way out the
bottom back entrance when I remembered that the outer Sports City gate to which this route led was
CLOSED this morning and would likely still be. Sigh. I got them out of the stoller and pulled the
stroller up two full levels to street level. By this time I was starting to see double. It was
2:00pm, I was hot, tired, and hungry. Surely the girls were, too. Walking back now was no longer
an option since we were on the far end of the club and FAR from our hotel. We got a taxi pretty
quickly but getting the now hysterical Emi AND the double stroller inside was a real challenge.
The taxi was blocking traffic as I frantically stumbled around trying to get the stroller and girls
into the cab; many cars were honking their horns. I was sweating. I held both Aya and the sobbing
Emi during the 5 minute ride back to the hotel. Getting the girls and stroller out was also a
physical ordeal. Yumi, by the way, was a gem through all of this. Up to the room, had to drag poor
Emi inside. Lunch. Quiet time by 2:30pm. Aya just woke after not more than 1 hr of sleep, crying
hard. Clearly she needed more time but maybe is still hungry? I found barely enough food in our
room to feed one adult; we stretched it among the four of us the best I could.
Well, I am fine with all of this. It was not what you would call a fun morning but I am pleased
that 1) Yumi did well at camp 2) I got in a lot of rigorous walking 3) Emi was, for the most part,
a real trooper. However, I never intend to do what we did this morning again. If I can help it.
I will have to rethink how we will go to and get around Sports City if/when we take Yumi to camp
again and stick around.
This evening: As I mentioned earlier, Aya woke unexpectedly early from her nap, but considering how late I put them all down for quiet time the afternoon was already coming to a close by the time we rolled on out of the hotel to drop off laundry with Abu Manal. The "trooper" Emi had really lost some steam and was pretty uncooperative as we ran this errand. I had to force her back into the stroller and, I admit, shout at her to stop her from howling in anger as we rolled along to our next destination. Sadly, it worked. Next thing I knew she was happily pointing out a cat and had seemingly forgiven for manhandling her into the stroller.
We walked to Safeway, made a few purchases (Pampers diapers to cover Aya during the night as the weak local diapers just don't cut it; cheese; yoghurt; jam; whole wheat pita), met up with Nate, let the girls play at the inflatable playground in the parkinglot. This is generally fun although the dinner we picked up from the Safeway grill was unappetizing (all they had left was "Chicken fajita" if you can believe it and it was neither fajita-like nor tasty) and the girls really could not be persuaded to eat. But it was a chance to let them play, Aya toddle around (yes, toddle!!) and for Nate and I to chat without much interruption. Relatively uneventful walk back, girls to bed by 8:30pm.
I wrote this post on our laptop as the hotel internet server is still down at the laptop alone can pick up a different, rogue server. I wrote it in the laptop "notepad" as opening MS Word on this laptop is just asking for trouble. So please forgive the EXTRA typos with no crazy auto-corrections. For anyone keeping track, I have not yet posted for 8 July as that post is "stuck" on my unconnected iPad. If not before, on Friday I will post the entry for 8 July while using the wireless connection available at church.
A physically exausting day and some problems with Emlette, but astonishingly great behavior from Mayumi. We expect ups (and downs) but Nate and I agree that her behavior now is generally much better than when it was in the two weeks before our departure and first week in Amman. Since that first week, she has been steadily getting better with the occasional setback. It is a miracle, really.
Finally--Some posts back I referred to our engagement photo to describe the "blue" or King Abdullah mosque...it just occurred to me that this very photo graces the top of my blog. You have seen it before...maybe many times. Nate took that picture with a great old funky non-digital camera and the aid of a borrowed tripod.