Tuesday, August 21, 2012

21 Aug: The End

The end! Can you believe it?  We leave tomorrow morning.  A driver (NOT Ahmad...another man I met while going to the Turkish Bath) will hopefully pick us up at 3:45am tomorrow morning (ugh).  Our flight leaves at 6:20am.  I dislike arriving early to the airport and much prefer walking onto the plane just as they are about to close the doors...but that plan does not work so well when you have three small children.  And my parents.  They like to be at the airport 2 hrs before any flight.  Who knows, as well, how fast or slow the system will be at the Amman airport.  Better to arrive early.

I am very happy with my last "morning outing" in Amman.  We went to the King Abdullah Mosque--the bright blue one featured in here on my blog.  I had never been inside before, and although the outside is far more stunning than the inside, it was still a pleasant experience.  Finding the main entrance involved some wandering about in search of SOMEONE; no one mans the back or sides, let me tell you that right off.  We did, eventually, find the right gate and the woman who hands out the black robes with hoods necessary for my mother and me to enter. 

Modestly attired, we went into and explored the main room of the mosque.  It is a wide open carpeted space--the girls' first exposure to carpet in three months.  They loved it.  I insisted that they whisper but did let them sashay around the room, which they did with great glee.

Eventually, we made it back outside and down to the gift shop.  The girls began to batter each other almost immediately with the miniature flags of Jordan the shop owner handed them.  After confiscating the flags, I confined each girl to a chair on opposite ends of the gift shop.  This is the second day in a row I've done that--just confining them to a spot in public if they misbehave.  I use time out at home all the time but hardly ever in public.  It backfired on me when I tried it at Mecca Mall (as you may recall); it worked today, however.  Oh, they weren't happy about it, but they did just sit there.  Even when I wandered out of view, they remained sitting in their spots.  I wish they would just behave while in public but if not, it is good to know that I might succeed in putting them in time out even in a public place.

We returned for an enjoyable lunch at our hotel and the girls have been in quiet time for the last 1.5 hrs.  Time to get Yumi up.  Nate came home early so he could spend time with us on this, our last day.  I am all packed--I just finished packing up our in-flight activity bag.  I am nervous about the flight tomorrow but have confidence based on our flight here; it wasn't fun, by any means, but other than the fact that Mayumi threw a huge tantrum in the Amman customs hall, everything else went all right.  The girls did not sleep until the last hour of the 14 hour journey, but they did alright.  This time will be much better--I am sure of it.

Finally--a few thoughts:

Things I will miss (about this summer):
-The chance to study and speak Arabic daily, even if I had less of a chance to learn/speak than I thought I would.
-The girls’ exposure and daily progress in Arabic.  Both Yumi AND Emi can make their needs known in Arabic.  I am blown away, particularly by Emi, as Yumi was already speaking Arabic before we arrived.
-Easy access to shawarma.
-A few people we have met here: Nisreen, Erapie, Mohaned, a few others.
-Being abroad in general, even if we missed certain services only available to us in the U.S. (counseling for Yumi’s behavior, Emi’s pediatrician, etc.).
-Jasmine bushes EVERYWHERE.
-Constant variety.
-Evenings with Nate (once we put the girls to bed, we are “stuck” in our bedroom together.  During the school year, I am studying/preparing joy school lesssons/etc. for half the evening and only spend the second half with him.  Here, we’ve spent long evenings together and I will miss that).

Things I will NOT miss:
-Living in a hotel—everything about it.
-Not having a high chair (why didn’t we buy one??)
-Eating out nearly every day.
-Eating in the hotel every meal for one month when I only have teeny refrigerator and microwave at my disposal.
-Taking taxis everywhere.
-Sandy parks and the lack of parks in general.
-Using laundry services out of the home.
-No place to put a screaming child.
-Whatever it is about this summer—if anything—that has contributed the to excessively bad behavior of my girls.

-The hotel: I will miss the staff and there IS something nice about someone doing the cleaning for you almost daily.
-No kitchen: I am sick of eating out (or eating PB&J each meal during Ramadan), BUT there is something nice about not needing to cook all of the time.
-Afternoon outings: at home, I always find afternoons before dinner to be a conflicting time.  I want to go on outings but a lot of factors discourage it: 1) none of our friends like afternoon outings much 2) traffic is heavier 3) dinner DOES have to be made sometime...  HERE, our afternoon outings have been both painful (it takes at least an hour to get the girls out the door AND everyone is starving or tired when we get home) AND necessary (I just cannot stay inside the hotel room with these girls for more than an hour without going crazy).  Painful as they have been, I have secretly liked the excuse to have multiple outings a day.
-The burning need to be out of the hotel: I have hauled myself and the girls out of the hotel at least two times each day this entire summer because 1) we cannot stay cooped up together for long 2) we often actually NEED something (water, laundry, whatever) and 3) we are here to learn Arabic and MUST get out to be exposed to it.  Thus, in spite of the difficulty, we get out and about.  I will miss that but will be relieved to no longer feel compelled to be out every second of the day. 

There was a point toward the beginning (okay, and in the middle) of this summer when I wondered if I would honestly be able to say I was glad we came.  I pictured myself, back home, unable to face friends as they eagerly asked about our adventures.  I would be constantly fighting back tears due to the fact that I had had, in fact, a terrible summer.

I am happy to say that I AM glad we came.  Some aspects have been bitterly hard.  I do not need to rehash them now.  I am ready for the worse of them to be over with.  It IS time for us to move on from living in a hotel.  If someone were to offer us two choices: 1) continue to stay in Amman but in a hotel or 2) go back to Herndon for the rest of our lives—I’d choose the latter.  At this point.  I am SO done with living in a hotel. But if someone were to offer us the chance to stay here but in a house, I’d happily stay (that is, if I didn’t have a Master’s degree to finish).  I LOVE Amman.  I do NOT love living in a hotel.

So there you have it!  Our summer in Amman.  This has been my personal journal that I chose to share online with whoever cared to read it.  At times, it may have been too personal.  It has often been whining and negative.  Often repetitive.  Thank you to those who have followed along and offered insight.  And even if you have not been in touch but still were reading along, thank you for keeping us all in mind.

Ma’salaama (With peace),


Monday, August 20, 2012

20 Aug: Tour of the bakery

20 Aug

Our second-to-last day in Amman!  We met up briefly with my parents this morning for breakfast--in the hotel restaurant! Yay!--before they left to drop off the rental car.  The girls had been difficult from our early wake-up (6:00am-thanks, Aya) so I confined them to two different places in the hotel room and demanded that they sit there quietly.  And they did!  Of course, I gave them books and blocks but it was a blessed break.  Of course, I wish desperately that they would just behave nicely when allowed to play freely together BUT it is reassuring to know that if I need them to stop their caterwauling I can just simply insist that they "take a break" and they will.  While they were taking this needed break, I packed up!  Crazy, but it is true; I packed up our two large duffles, leaving Nate only most of our clothes (they are all dirty anyway and we won't need them during the three weeks he will remain here) and his own toiletries.  We are headed home.

My parents returned from the rental car agency and we left for Rainbow Street--the first time in a month!  Thanks to Eid, nearly everything was closed BUT the fatayir place, The Good Book Shop (yay!), and a gelato place.  We enjoyed all three.  The girls were predictably overwrought and cranky on the taxi ride home but I got them down for naps within minutes of returning.  

During naptime I took my mother off on adventure.  We hopped a bus down to 'Abdali and to the Salah id-Din bakery to check out the ka'ek sandwich making process.  My mother writes a travel column, frequently about food, and wanted to highlight the process.   We watched and chatted with the young men who make the 4-5,000 rolls by hand that they sell DAILY.  We saw the box of wood shavings in which they place raw whole eggs and bake for 7 hours.  We were the first in line to receive today's first offerings of delicious, sesame coved ka'ek straight out of the oven and to make our own ka'ek, cream cheese, baked egg, salt, and za'taar sandwiches.  It was fun to interview these guys who run the join and get an inside view of the operation. Fun to act as translator for my mom's 400 questions.  All in all, a great little adventure.

This evening: we met up with Nate and Erapie downtown for a last dinner at Hashem's.  To be honest, we had wanted to eat at the family restaurant Al Quds for some Jordanian food BUT, of course, it was closed.  Eid.  Hashem's did not disappoint, even if it was nearly deserted.  It was, at least, open, and we  enjoyed our last meal of hummus, fuul, and falafel.  It was all too much for the girls, I guess, because they were just wrecks at the end.  Embarrassing and disappointing me right and left with their behavior.  Time to get them home.

And so we did.  They were in bed by 7:30pm.  Time to hang out with Nate and to contemplate the future.  Nate is facing two opportunities: 1) accept a job offer in Doha beginning 2013 or 2) accept a job offer in Bagdad for one year and then begin a series of two-three year posts in the middle east.  The first option is strictly a two-three year post and we (his family) may accompany him.  The Bagdad post of the latter option is unaccompanied BUT after doing this "dirty job" he will have his pick up back to back posts in the middle east.  We prefer to live in the middle east indefinitely rather than for a limited two-three period, but having Nate gone for one year to Bagdad is obviously unpleasant.  On top of that, I am conflicted about the whole idea of being an expat government employee family in the middle east.  I used to think it was such a great idea but I am less enthused now, and not for what one might think of as "normal" reasons.  Do I want to live in the middle east if I cannot live like a local? Do I want to live in a region--and a lifestyle--that is unsustainable?  Our entire lives will depend solely on the existence of and access to OIL.  Not that we live off the grid back at home, but somehow it feels more sustainable.  Do I want to commit to a region that does not have open green space on which my children can run and play?  

These are troublesomecg questions considering Nate and I married each other with the expectation of living and raising our children as expats in the middle east.  And of course there are many reasons why I DO want to continue along that path.  But it is just not as easy of a decision now as it once was.  I just keep reminding myself that we have fasted and prayed about this and do not feel BADLY about proceeding forward down the path that will lead to a career in the middle east (i.e. the Bagdad job).  I feel lots if anxiety about it but do not feel it is wrong....I think.  Ugh!  Time to go to bed.

19 Aug: The fourth wonder of my world

18 Aug

By the time we left this morning, the plan had changed fifteen times.  What finally happened is that my parents, Nate, the girls, Erapie AND I all piled into a van and drove to Petra.  Thanks to a wrong turn, traffic, and a stop at the famous Karak castle, it took over six hours to get there.  Good news is that Aya slept part of the way and that Erapie was on hand to help.  And we arrived at Petra safely.  

We checked into the same hotel at which I'd made reservations for my parents.  My friends Sally and Tim will be happy to learn that our hotel is owned by the same people (and bears the same name) as the hotel at which we stayed together back in 2005.  At this time of year it is complete empty.  Good thing, since I wanted two rooms on the spot--one for me, Nate, and the big girls, and one for Erapie and the Chub.  

My parents made their own plans so the rest of us found a restaurant that would serve us before sundown (yes, it is STILL Ramadan but it ends tomorrow).  A plate of chicken and hummus later we headed back to the hotel.  Erapie took Aya off to her room (bless her) and we have been bumming around here.  The girls are tucked into their bed and watching Princess and the Frog (in Arabic!).  Thank goodness for portable DVD players.  Although we have been staying in a hotel all summer, we've not all been in the same room.  I have no idea if we are going to get any sleep.  I suspect we will be up multiple times in the night.

I am excited to see Petra tomorrow.  This will be my fourth (?) visit and I am still thrilled.  I doubt we will stay long--the girls will tire easily.  What we will have to decide is if we (Ayer fam and Erapie) are going to return by car or by bus--and which bus.  My parents said they would let us have the car and they would return by bus, but I feel like they should take it.  We can't all just come back together because they will likely want to stay longer than us.  And if they had the car they'd want to take some side trips that we don't want to take with the girls.  We should just insist they take the car and try to catch a bus.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

18 Aug: Hilanatumikome and the Last Crusade

18 Aug

By the time we left this morning, the plan had changed fifteen times.  What finally happened is that my parents, Nate, the girls, Erapie AND I all piled into a van and drove to Petra.  Thanks to a wrong turn, traffic, and a stop at the famous Karak castle, it took over six hours to get there.  Good news is that Aya slept part of the way and that Erapie was on hand to help.  And we arrived at Petra safely.  

We checked into the same hotel at which I'd made reservations for my parents.  My friends Sally and Tim will be happy to learn that our hotel is owned by the same people (and bears the same name) as the hotel at which we stayed together back in 2005.  At this time of year it is complete empty.  Good thing, since I wanted two rooms on the spot--one for me, Nate, and the big girls, and one for Erapie and the Chub.  

My parents made their own plans so the rest of us found a restaurant that would serve us before sundown (yes, it is STILL Ramadan but it ends tomorrow).  A plate of chicken and hummus later we headed back to the hotel.  Erapie took Aya off to her room (bless her) and we have been bumming around here.  The girls are tucked into their bed and watching Princess and the Frog (in Arabic!).  Thank goodness for portable DVD players.  Although we have been staying in a hotel all summer, we've not all been in the same room.  I have no idea if we are going to get any sleep.  I suspect we will be up multiple times in the night.

I am excited to see Petra tomorrow.  This will be my fourth (?) visit and I am still thrilled.  I doubt we will stay long--the girls will tire easily.  What we will have to decide is if we (Ayer fam and Erapie) are going to return by car or by bus--and which bus.  My parents said they would let us have the car and they would return by bus, but I feel like they should take it.  We can't all just come back together because they will likely want to stay longer than us.  And if they had the car they'd want to take some side trips that we don't want to take with the girls.  We should just insist they take the car and try to catch a bus.

Friday, August 17, 2012

16 Aug: Grandma Glo and Papa Ro

16 Aug

They are here!  My parents arrived at 9am this morning at the Queen Alia International Airport.  It is now 4:29pm and it has been nonstop fun.  Here's the story:

 Nisreen and her cousin picked me and Emi/Yumi up at 8:15am this morning.  Erapie had planned to watch the girls for me but was caught up with a previous engagement.  Alas--I knew my parents would be thrilled to see the girls sooner than later.  Considering Nisreen's generous offer to drive us, bringing the girls was not so bad.  Riding in any conveyance along side them, not strapped into carseats, is not exactly fun, but at least in Nisreen's car we had a little room to move.  

Forty-five minutes later we arrived.  Thirty minutes and three bags of popcorn later, my parents emerged from customs. Yay!  It is always so fun to meet people at the airport.  This is my third time meeting my parents at airports in the middle east, actually.  First time in 1999, meeting my dad in Tel Aviv.  Second time in 2004, meeting my mom in Cairo.  And now in 2012, meeting them both in Amman.  I guess you know where to go if you want to find me. :-)

The girls were tired and wiggly by the time we reached the hotel again, but were actually behaving very well.  We got my parents' room sorted out--located on our very same floor--and then set off for a walk to the Al Bayrouni Street commercial complex.  I introduced my parents to our friends there and picked up a few supplies.  The Chub, tired from missing her morning nap, zonked out in the stroller.  

We returned to my room and got lunch underway.  Mayumi returned from camp with Nate at around 1pm.  I had been nervous about her arrival onto the seen; would she be nice or difficult? It could go either way.  Al hamdulileh she was great!  My dad focused on Emi, sitting with her at the table and playing blocks/eating with her.  My mom focused in Yumi and the two of them ate around the coffee table.  I think the girls both felt they were getting the attention they wanted and did not need to compete with each other.  I had honesty expected mayhem and crying so was thrilled to see how everyone enjoyed their time together.  Nate did not have class today so he was, unusually, here to have lunch with us.  While my dad played with Yumi and Emi, and Aya entertained herself with a cookie cutter and a milk bottle, us remaining three adults were actually able to get in a good conversation.  Have I mentioned how amazed I am at how well it all went?

Everyone went down for naps without complaint.  Nate was on hand to babysit so while my mom took a nap across the hall in their room, my dad and I took off for downtown.  I get my interest in history and antiquities from my father so it is not surprising he was game for a visit to the roman amphitheater.  We tried to catch a cab but after two rejections ("Downtown? A this hour? Are you crazy?") we had no alternative but to catch the bus.  Perfectly fine with us.  It took nearly 30 minutes to lumber downtown in the bus but we had a great chat along the way.  My parents came via Beirut, Dubai, and Muscat (Oman), so my father caught me up on their adventure of this last week.  

We jumped off the bus and walked the remaining 20 minutes or so down to the Roman Amphitheatre.  We stayed only briefly but I know he was perfectly happy with the experience.  It was now nearly 4pm and time to get back to check on the girls and my mom.  At my dad's request, I called Nate to ask him to wake my mom by knocking on their door.  She did not want to end up napping too long.  As the two big girls were up, Nate took then over to her room and that is where I found the when we returned.  That is where they are still; I hear no screaming so apparently all is going well!  

This evening: The good times continued.  I eventually went to check in on the girls and all truly was well.  We all spent time together in different combinations between our two rooms for the next two hours.  Very enjoyable.  Then, cute Nate took over command and I left for an evening out with my parents!  What fun.  We took the bus downtown (again) and headed straight to Hashem restaurant, the tasty and popular joint across the street from my old hostel from summer 2006.  The restaurant was more full than I'd ever seen it before; where the chairs and tables usually spill out into the alley between the two buildings and down to the street, tonight the tables filled up the sidewalks intersecting the alley on both sides.  Somehow the restaurant staff found us another table and we joined all the other Jordanians waiting to break their fasts.  There we all sat, waiting for the sun to set.  As the first strains of the call to prayer echoed off of the hills bordering downtown, everyone dove in to their bowls of hummus, fuul, and falafel.  

We ate and chatted for over an hour.  Fun.  Next in the agenda: shopping.  Problem was, most shops had closed prior to sunset for Iftar and would not reopen until 9:00pm.  We hung about, chatting and drinking juice cocktails.  We visited a few shops that had remained opened but nothing really struck my mom's fancy.  At about 9:30pm we hoped in a cab and slogged our way through serious traffic back to our hotel.  Everyone was asleep by the time I snuck into our hotel room at 10:30pm.

What a great day!  I am so proud of how well the girls behaved and thrilled to have my parents here.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

15 Aug: Jordanian fashionista wanabe

15 Aug

Oh joy! My last “regular” morning before my parents arrive and it was a great one.  Another early start (we both woke even before Aya’s 6:00am dulcet tones) but we made good use of it.  Nate took Yumi off to camp and I relished in the relative peace that comes from the absence of either Yumi or Emi.  When they are together, it is like a mine field.  Any moment, an explosion.  I got the two younger girls ready, put Aya down for a nap, and did what may be my last home-exercise workout EVER.  I knew, going into this experience, that I would not likely be able to workout at a gym this summer.  I expected home workouts to be difficult—and they have been.  For lots of reasons.  Let’s just say I am a highly motivated person but this has tested my resolve.  I am happy to say, however, that I have had a morning date with Tony Horton six days a week this entire summer.  The workouts were often interrupted and were rarely more than 30 minutes but still.  Still!  I did it. Today may be my last as I will definitely not be working out Thursday through Sunday, and we leave on Wednesday.  I think.

I took a little extra time getting ready this morning.  I have not appeared in many photos this summer and there is a reason—I think I look terrible most of the time.  I did not bring any hair styling implements or products so my hair has either been a drooping mop or piled up on my head.  Once my signature white eyeliner ran out I stopped wearing much makeup.  And my clothing?  Ha.  As I’ve mentioned before, I only brought two pair of pants and four tops.  I always, ALWAYS look grubby.  Today, however, in light of my recent scrub down, I felt compelled to do myself up a little. Nisreen will be delighted.  She has cautiously mentioned before that she thinks I’d look “great” in make-up. :-)  She, incidentally, is beautiful, and is always carefully made-up.  This is normal among Arab girls, particularly if they wear the headscarf.  As Nisreen put it, one feels compelled to accentuate one’s facial features with make-up when your head and hair are covered.

Looking rather nice, if I may say so, I slung Aya onto my front, took Emi’s hand, and headed down to Queen Alia’ Street.  There, we caught a bus!  Yes, I figured on this, my last “normal” day, we would go downtown by bus.  I had imagined myself taking the bus everywhere this summer but quickly realized the agony involved would make any outing completely not worth it.  Not that riding the bus itself is painful, but taking/relying on public transportation with three small girls...ugh.  Not having Mayumi, though, made all the difference.  Emi just quietly and nicely entertained herself while we waited ten minutes for the bus to arrive.  Uncomplainingly she sat on my lap, wedged in on three sides by the seat in front, the man on our left, and Aya at her back.  She just bounced on my lap and quietly sang “The Wheels on the Bus...”  Darling.  Aya, also squished between Emi and me, was a bit more wiggly, but was entertained by the man sitting behind me.  All in all, it was great—great to hop on a bus like the good old days.  And all for half a dinar.

The bus downtown doesn’t actually go all the way downtown.  This would normally be another factor pointing away from public transportation.  We had to walk at least fifteen additional minutes before we were at the main souq.  Emi was, once again, Emi the Good.  She just held my finger and skipped along side me.

The point of this visit was to scout out good clothing stores to which I can take my mother.  She, too, loves Arab clothing styles, and wants to stock up.  I want to take her shopping in the souq but wanted to identify a couple of good stores in advance.  It was a good excuse, anyway, to come downtown.  Oh, and when I told Nate I was going to scout out stores for my mother, he raised an eyebrow.  “Just for your mother, eh?”  Ha.  I am sure I will end up with a few more tunics when I take her shopping but today was truly just a fact-finding mission.  I DID find some great stores.  I love how Arab women dress and look forward to trying out their look a little when I get back. While I do not intend to cover my head with a higaab (head scarf), I do love their long fitted tunics worn (usually) over fitted pants or jeans.  I have a modest collection of these tunics at home and have since added to my collection.  Maybe I'll post a picture of one of my purchases on Facebook.

Emi was a peach!  We ended up at the juice stand where we chatting with our friends who run the place and drank our freshly squeezed orange juice.  Found a taxi in a snap and sat in traffic for 20 minutes.  Nate dropped Yumi off at the hotel shortly after we returned and we had lunch.  Lunch, naps—all clockwork. So far, a GREAT day.

This afternoon: Both Erapie and Nisreen arrived late but at the same time.  I left an awake Yumi to play with Erapie while Emi and Aya slept.  To my surprise, Nisreen’s cousin was also waiting for me down in the lobby. I was wary, at first, at his request to sit in on our lesson; when I had a lesson with Nisreen late one evening in the hotel courtyard the hotel owner’s son had requested the same thing...and then sat and smoked and talked on his phone the whole time while sitting at our table.  Annoying.  I was wary with her cousin but felt embarrassed later when he revealed his true reason for wanting to show up at our lesson—to offer me a ride to the airport tomorrow to pick up my parents.  It seems Nisreen has been telling him all about me/us the last month and he wants to help me out since Nisreen and I have become such great friends.  Very kind.  We had a great lesson, with her cousin only piping in when called on.  Really, a very nice guy.  As I have said before, I feel blessed to have found Nisreen.  Our lessons and friendship have been an excellent (and much needed!) aspect to our last month in Amman.  The cost of lessons and babysitting has completely eaten up Nate’s government per diem, but as far as I am concerned it has been well worth it.  I hope he agrees...

Nate, too, had been studying in the hotel courtyard.  He and I went upstairs to relieve Erapie.  Once again, we found three happy girls.  Yay! This time they were doing crafts. The Chub was standing on the coffee table and raised her arms in glee the moment we walked in the door.  Love that Chub.

Dinner: bran cereal (not tasty), hummus and bread (yummy).  Based on yesterday’s success with the post-dinner outing, I decided to try it again.  This time I took everyone and gave Nate an extra hour of study.  We went back to Abu Manal’s to pay (I forgot my money yesterday) and to buy fruits, diapers, and nail clippers.  We chatted with the toy store owner’s wife (usually his son watches over the shop).  We lingered about as we usually do.  The people who work and linger about there must think we are pretty bizarre.  This is what they are saying: “One day, this American family started showing up nearly every day and loitering for about an hour.  They visit every shop, usually make some kind of purchase, and linger some more.  Their kids are highly amusing, often crying, usually pretty grubby looking.  And remember that day the youngest one’s diaper exploded and her parents were on their hands and knees, using an entire package of wipes to clean up the baby and stroller?”

Back at the hotel we had another seamless pre-bed period!  Smoothies, scripture study, prayer and then (drum roll please)....microwave popcorn with some movie time.  Oh, the girls were in heaven.  Everyone in bed by 8pm.  Perfect.

My parents come tomorrow! Yumi will be at camp but I will take Aya and Emi with me to the airport.  I had planned on letting Erapie watch them while she babysits another set of kids from church, but now that I have car transport I think I’ll bring them.  Let’s just hope that Aya does NOT wake at the crack of dawn again, considering she will NOT get a morning nap today.  But whenever she wakes, I have reason to hope it will still be a great day. Yay...hope!  A marvelous way to end this summer.

14 Aug: The Turkish Bath

14 Aug

This is the week of “last visits to...”  After our morning routine (and VERY LAST P90X Legs and Back workout EVER insha’llah), I took Emi and Aya to Hakawati to buy books (ostensibly) for our friend Danielle and family.  These are the kind people who are watching over our house in our absence (along with other neighbors—thank you!) and they, coincidentally, speak Arabic.  After a summer of slowly but surely buying up all the children’s Arabic books in Amman, I’ve become acquainted with the bookstores and types of books available.  I put this knowledge to use and made a large purchase of books for Danielle. Fun. I love buying books. I will admit that I bought a few more for us, too.  How could I resist?  I found “The Lorax” in Arabic—what else could I do but buy it?

Emi made use of the painting and craft table at the bookstore and BOTH girls enjoyed the attached playground.  All in all, a good morning.  We met up with Yumi and Nate back at the hotel.  Mayumi seems to be enjoying camp.  Unsurprisingly, she has not told us much about camp; I have always found it very difficult to get her to share her experiences at preschool or other playdates.  I hope she opens up sometime or we can add that to the list of potential difficulties facing us with her teenagehood.  It is clear, however, that she is enjoying herself.  Not tears, no anger, etc. 

I put the girls down for naps at 1:30pm and Erapie met me here shortly thereafter.  And I was off! Off to the Al Basha Turkish Baths.  I visited the baths back during the summer of 2006 with Nate.  While we were certain the baths would not be co-ed, we expected there to be separate rooms for men and women.  We discovered, however, we arrived at Al Basha around noon that the baths are open only to women during the morning and early afternoon, and to men in the late afternoon and evening.  Nate graciously offered to wait while I underwent the whole Turkish bath experience.  I remember it well; lots of hot water, loofa, massage.  Jasmine and sandalwood.  Steam.  It was wonderful.  I came out, scrubbed and glowing, and found my cute fiance still waiting for me in the reception area.  The reception, by the way, and the entire Al Basha complex features decor and architecture of a certain era in Arab history I cannot name but is certainly exotic.

THAT was in 2006. Today was wonderful due both to nostalgia for that magical time six years ago AND for the relaxing opportunity to just be on my own.  The same hot shower, steam room, jacuzzi, loofa, and massage.  I love the scrub and massage because they are VERY thorough...far more thorough than would be allowed in the United States.  You just lie there on a surprisingly comfortable slab of marble and they get to work on you.  Scrubbing you practically everywhere from head to toe, all the while dumping bowl after bowl of scented hot water on you.  Heavenly.

I left with a spring in my step and headed back to the hotel.  Nisreen was waiting for me.  After an enjoyable one hour lesson with her I met up with Nate—who was also studying in the hotel courtyard—and we went upstairs to face our children.  Surprisingly, they were all doing well.  Yumi was in her “dress-ups” (an ugly floral ladies’ housedress I bought for her earlier this summer) and a belly-dancing scarf (called a “shal”).  While Erapie clapped out a rhythm, she performed a dance for us she’d been practicing with Erapie.  How nice to find her being so pleasant.  Today marked the first day of an expected (and hoped for) upswing in her behavior.

We had dinner (microwaved potatoes and cheese, veggies, fruit) and I took Yumi/Aya with me to pick up the laundry.  As it turns out, having an earlier dinner and THEN going out was much more enjoyable than our usual drill of outing followed by dinner.  No one was hungry or irritable.  Pre-bed smoothie, baths, scripture study, prayer—all without hardly a hitch.  I am super tired...Aya has been waking at 6:00am the last few mornings.  Usually she does not wake crying but is vocal enough that sleep is no longer possible.  And if Yumi sees us sneak out of our room to the bathroom, she insists on coming into our room and joining us, making any sort of lie-in impossible.  Alas!  With a few exceptions, the sleeping arrangements this summer have worked out pretty well, considering.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

13 Aug: Lunch playdate

13 Aug

The days and hours are speeding by now.  We paid what I am sure was our last visit to Sports City today.  Maybe my folks will want to check it out--we shall see.  After Yumi left for camp and we completed our morning routine, I took the two little girls to meet friends at the Sports City pool.  

We had a great time!  We found an innertube for the Chub with which she was able to zoom around the shallows, tripping and falling face first into the water only 25 times.  Luckily I was right there, every time.  And that kept me busy the whole visit but it was still fun.  Amy's boys were in love with the diving boards and her 7 year old boy jumped off the highest diving platform--something I would never do even if you paid me.  Nate arrived and dropped Yumi off after camp.  I had wanted to meet her at the hotel but Amy and crew were not quite ready to leave by the time Nate needed to pass Yumi off.  She arrived as we were packing up and was inevitably mad about not getting to swim with us.  We barely made it out of there without a full-scale fit.  Luckily, Amy and crew were coming back to the hotel with us for lunch--our first (and only) lunch playdate of the summer.  Seven kids and two adults in a small hotel room; crazy, but fun.  Pita sandwiches, fruit, veggies.  Yumi definitely has a crush on six year old Cyrus and I don't blame her; he is an awesome and cute kid.  Amy has all boys and all are fortunately typical unemotional boys--else this little lunch date would never have worked.

I managed to nab a bit of quiet time for myself before my Arabic lesson with Nisreen.  I learned the word for anti-social (Nate) and threaten (what I have to do to my girls every two minutes).  I returned back to very cranky girls.  Things only got worse as I had to load them all up to go drop off laundry.  So much contention and anger from them.  I had come back from my lesson in a perfectly good mood and yet had to put my own self in time-out for a few minutes just to regain control of my temper.  

Getting out the door took so long that we did not get back from our Bayrouni Street errands until nearly 7pm.  I had to "fix" dinner from scratch (microwaved potatoes and smoothies) so we did not begin eating until 7:30pm.  Everyone went to bed just fine but Nate and I were hammered.  We are at out wit's end.  I am noting how Emi is picking up a lot of Yumi's antagonistic behaviors, such as threatening to hit or saying that we don't love her.  Rarely does Emi pass Aya without knocking her down.  It is enough to break your heart.  It IS breaking my heart.

Sigh.  Since I have given up all hope of a positive attitude today, I might as well report about another "incident" with our hotel today.  Emi dropped a commemorative Ramadan class someone gave us and it shattered on the floor.   I called down to the reception for help and a broom and was told "in ten minutes.". Sigh.  For ten minutes I tried to keep the girls away from the glass.  Finally, we cleaned it up ourselves with paper towels.  No one ever came.  Can you believe this place?

On a positive note: I AM GOING TO THE TURKISH BATH TOMORROW!  I am pretty thrilled about it.  So I guess I cannot feel too sorry for myself.

Monday, August 13, 2012

12 Aug: Farewell to the birds

12 Aug

I felt a little like I was seeing Yumi off to her first day at school.  It is only a week-long summer camp but, as I was telling Nate this morning, it is the longest chunk of time for the longest period of consecutive days I have sent her off to do something.  Usually, I come along too.  But we enrolled her in the very last week of the US embassy kids summer camp and today was the first day.  She will leave each morning at 8am with Nate and return with him by 12:30pm.  He will exercise and study there each morning this week while she runs, jumps, and swims--in an all-American setting.  

She was excited when we told her yesterday that she could go to camp, but woke this morning very anxious.  She frankly admitted to being scared because the camp is something "new." She was worried the kids and counselors would only speak Arabic; while she can get what she needs done in Arabic, she obviously feels excluded among Arabic speaking kids.  I tried to assure her.  Nate admitted to feeling a little nervous on her behalf as well.  Mayumi is pretty reserved; it is impossible to predict, however, in what situations or with what type of people she will retreat into her shell/display negative social behavior.  I would assume that she'd really enjoy a camp in familiar territory that features a playground, pool, and ice cream, but I've been wrong before.  I will keep my fingers crossed.

With just Emlet and Ayame Little Pants for company, things were very quiet and EASY.  I put Aya down for an early nap and did an entire P90X workout (Legs and Back...ugh!).  Emi just puttered around, as pleasant as can be.  We eventually left at 10:30am for the commercial district south of our hotel.  Our first destination: the airline office to confirm our flights.  That done, we proceeded on to the Bird Garden!  Maybe our last visit.  Emi just cannot get enough of the birds and Aya, too, noticed them for the first time.  Before, I've always kept her in the stroller so as to be free to chase after Yumi and Emi if needed.  This time I got her out and she discovered the birds!  She was glued to the cage fronts.  Good times.  

After playing in the sand with our fairly recently acquired sand tools, the girls teeter tottered their hearts out.  Before we knew it it was time to jet.  We needed to meet Nate back at or near the hotel where he would deposit Mayumi with me and continue on to class.  We stopped in at a pharmacy and bank on our way down to our neighborhood, arriving at Samir's fruit shop just as Nate pulled up with Mayumi.  He left and I eventually got everyone back to the hotel, fed, and down for quiet time.  Yumi did fine at camp but seemed oddly neutral about it.  Not ecstatic but clearly fine with it.  She probably just did not make any friends today.  My suspicions have grown as throughout the rest of the day she has mentioned just about every friend of hers back home and the few she made here (before they all left for the summer). 

I had a few minutes between the time I out the girls down for quiet time and when Nisreen arrived for our marathon two-hour lesson.  We meant to have a lesson after shopping yesterday but never got to it.  I would have just been fine with missing it but had already paid her and I got the feeling she did not want to simply apply that credit to a future lesson.  I o not blame her--I have my own policies too when I give private lessons.  And so we spent our first hour sitting in the hall in front of our room and the second, after Erapie had arrived, downstairs in the courtyard.  Interesting conversation as always.  Much of it today involved review of "shopping words" and a discussion on fashion.  We agree, we discovered, that not everyone is meant to wear skinny jeans. 

I returned from my lesson to find an agitated Yumi.  Erapie was pretty anxious to go so I assume Yumi was not easy to work with today.  All three girls were up but Aya and Emi seemed perfectly content with their activities.  The moment I returned Yumi started in with whining and moaning...her usual routine.  I was calm with her but did not tolerate it.  She did not change her attitude--and continued to be difficult until the very last second tonight.  Sigh.  In the meantime we went, as a family, to the Sports City running trails for a picnic dinner.  They are located in a "forrest" and the girls had been asking to go back there for a while.  As outings go it was alright.  Physically demanding; the closest gates were all closed and so we had to all squeeze through a missing bar in the fence and Nate lifted the double stroller over his head with one hand and passed it over the fence into the other hand.  My husband, Hercules.  The girls' behavior ranged from trying to aggravating but they definitely had fun running about.  Aya was filthy by the time we were done and had to undergo a serious scrubbing by Nate when we got home.  I made smoothies, we read stories. Yumi was so resentful and angry.  I fear that is how she will wake tomorrow morning.  As always, I ask myself: why do our girls have such bad attitudes most of the time? What am I doing to contribute to this problem?  I wish I knew.

To end positively with two "smart girl" stories: 1) Emi said to me, completely out of the blue and of her own accord in Arabic, "Are we going to the bird garden?" 2) If you sing "Old McDonald had a farm..." Aya will then gleefully chime in with "ee aiy ee aiy oh."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

11 Aug: A walk down memory lane

11 Aug

I did not get a chance to record yesterday's events at all so I am madly trying to type up this post in the ten minutes left to me before Nisreen comes for her lesson.  I've left the girls upstairs in their quiet time spots--none the wiser that I'm no longer there--and am sitting in the lobby where I sometimes get Internet access.

Yesterday was Saturday.  After our usual morning routine, I took the girls downtown on a foray for souvenirs.  We only want a few, and found just what we wanted.  I won't say what because most of them will be sent on to little nieces and nephews. :-). But it was fun and the girls were completely manageable.  They even walked quite a few blocks further without complaint in order to enjoy a freshly squeezed orange and carrot juice cocktail at our usual spot downtown.  At noon we caught a taxi up the hill to nearby jebel alweibdeh--where Nate used to live when he was a student at the University of Amman and when we were engaged.  The plan was to roam around his old neighborhood  a bit and then walk back down the hill using the shortcut we used to take each night when he would accompany me to my hostel down the hill.  The shortcut features several sets of those impossibly steep stairs only found in Amman.  

We did not make it back down the hill, as it happens, but we had fun nonetheless.  Nate met us there and, after taking a loot at his old apartment and nearby convenience store, we headed to at-shirt store we'd recently learned about.  New since we lived in the area, this shop features those humorous t-shirts featured everywhere online--but with Jordanian humor.  We bought a few and then headed home.  Cranky girls.

While the girls napped I went shopping with Nisreen!  I bought some of those long tunics I love to buy and wear in the Middle East.  We had a great time.

Erapie was watching the girls for me while I was out.  Nate was studying in the courtyard.  I came back and we all met up downstairs to eat another or Erapie's delicious meals.  Good times.  I took Yumi out on a little date to buy water and other supplies, and everyone was in bed by 7:30pm!  A good night.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

10 Aug: Breaking our fast

10 Aug

Sabbath Day in Amman.  We enjoyed a blessedly quiet night aside from a brief wakeup by Ayame.  We arrived at church on time--a relief since Nate was slated to speak.  He gave an excellent talk on charity and, thankfully, the girls were quiet throughout.  I kept Aya strapped to me in the ergo the entire time just to eliminate one possible cause for disruption.  I should add that his talk inspired me to recommit to ore charitable behavior, a goal I have already blown but at least it is on my mind.

Aya was welcomed into the nursery--a little bonus in a ward with (currently) only two nursery-aged kids and two nursery leaders.  She doesn't stay the full hour and one of us usually has to come get her after a half an hour or so.  Aya is a generally very content little girl but still falls (and cries) a lot.  Today she fell hard enough to bite her lip and I found her with blood trickling down her chin.  Considering these two ladies are doing us a favor by letting her into the nursery in the first place, we try to scoop her up and take her away quickly if she starts to fuss.  And considering how used she is to a morning nap at 9:00am, she does get fussy by 10:00am.  

Yumi is currently the only girl in a primary of six boys.  She like these boys but was ultra reluctant to go into her class today.  I was brisk with her, telling her to make her choice quickly between going to primary or sitting in the "boring" adult meeting all by herself.  She reluctantly went into class.  I felt badly about it and returned about five minutes later to apologize and show some empathy.  She did not look very cheered by my pep talk but I felt better for having apologized.

I chatted a few minutes after church with the husband of the missionary couple serving a humanitarian "mission" in Amman.  I have not had a chance to speak to them at all this entire summer but gather that the wife of the pair was a missionary many years ago in Lebanon!  That area of missionary service was small and closed long ago, and it is rare to find to find someone who served there.  She is only the second person I know of who has.  You would think in a congregation this small I would have found the time to chat with her but there is always the problem of what to do with the girls.  They do not just wait quietly after church is over for us to chat with people.  Either Nate or I must actively watch out for them or they may just leave the building to play unsupervised outside.  

Today was a perfect example of how difficult the process of keeping track of the girls can be and how it so often causes irritation between me and Nate.  I was chatting with the missionary, getting info on church services in Beirut where my parents are RIGHT NOW.  I saw the girls walk out of the room but saw Nate, Aya in his arms, leaving nearly right behind them.  I assumed he was watching them so I could finish my conversation.  A few minutes later he came rushing back, panicked, because he could not find them.  I finished getting the info and left the building to look for them.  I don't know if they were there all along but they were exactly where I would have expected them to go--behind the church.  Regardless of that, Nate had every right to be worried if he could not find them, but I bristled at his irritation that I was "just chatting" and not watching the girls.  Considering that 1) I watch them all of the time and 2) justifiably thought he was watching them, I felt his irritation to be unfair.  Of course, as he explained later, his irritation was compounded by the fact that the girls, one found, did not listen to his order to come with him immediately.  As I mentioned yesterday, they simply to not listen to us unless we dangle a reward or threaten a punishment.  Offering all kinds of cutesy options so as to motivate them to make a right choice can get tiring.  One does not want to have to always offer to swing or bounce to the toilet.  One wants their child to simply go to the toilet was asked to go.  The occasional defiance or deaf ear is to be expected and should be tolerated with patience; consistent defiance is just demoralizing.  It is really draining us and makes us very irritable with the girls.  How could it not?  

This little rift led to Nate leaving immediately for home with Aya.  I wanted to stay in the church garden for a few minutes and take advantage of the wireless Internet, something we rarely have these days at the hotel.  While Yumi and Emi played, I sent off an email or two.  We returned home and, amid the sadly unsurprising bickering and whining of the girls l put together lunch.  Nate came home yesterday with a package of what looked like pancakes.  I'd seen them being prepared and sold in mass quantity and Safeway and assumed they were a Ramadan treat.  Just what is so special about the rather bland-looking pancakes I have no idea but people are obviously eating them.  I did not know that this "pancake" is a Ramadan treat Nisreen had mentioned to me only a few days ago.  That the pancake I'd seen and the treat she loves were one and same was revealed when Nate came home from class early yesterday and happened upon us in the courtyard.  He had with him some Carrefour purchases including a package of this treat and maple syrup.  Ah, cried Nisreen.  The treat about which we had only just been speaking.  I can't remember its name right now else I'd include it here.  Apparently one puts cheese between two of these pancakes and then lightly pan fries it in butter.  Sounds good.  She was amused at Nate's intended use of the treat--to drizzle it in maple syrup and eat it with a fork.

This is what I fed the girls for lunch, along with strawberries.  We all miss Nate's homemade wholewheat pancakes he makes on the weekends.  I am fasting so I did not try these makeshift pancakes but the girls seemed to enjoy them enough.

Aya was just plain tuckered out and cranky, so I could not get the girls down for naps fast enough.  Nate left to study elsewhere soon after we got home, so I am all by myself here.  Hopefully Emi will fall asleep soon so I can stretch "quiet time" as long as possible.  We are expected at Nisreen's home for a visit at 4:00pm.  I am excited!  This will be only our second visit to a Jordanian family this entire summer--and probably our last.  Unlike our somewhat challenging visit to the home of the taxi driver almost two months ago now, I think this visit will be easier.  Nisreen has two small nieces that the girls can dote on and, possibly, play with some of their toys.  Nisreen and her family are fasting for Ramadan so we will not have to worry about the matter of meals.  It is always a quandary; you know the host has prepared something but is not likely to bring it out until several hours into the visit.  You do not want to leave before they bring out the food--such would be rude--but you just can't stay for hours OR you are starving.  You don't want to ask and the whole time marveling at cultural differences and the "difficulties" that arise from them.  This time we won't have to worry about it;  they are not eating and won't be until 8:00pm.  Nisreen knows that our visit must be no longer than two hours; she has heard enough about the girls to realize--however different it apparently is in her culture--that we just cannot stay for hours and hours when visiting.  The girls will just not tolerate it.

This evening:  Sometimes I have to laugh when I re-read my entry on the first half of my day. Occasionally I will announce our evening plans and it is always interesting to see how much the actual events differ from my intended plans.

We arrived at Nisreen's beautiful home at 4pm as planned.  Fun to see her without her hijaab (head scarf).  I almost didn't recognize her when she met us at the door.  Their home is quite large and occupies the first floor of a building they own.  Her sister and family live on the floor above.  They rent to several other families but these apartments are intended for Nisreen's brothers when they marry.  She has three brothers, all of whom I met met this evening. 

I assumed Nisreen's little nieces would be a part of the gathering but we never saw them.  That is the first important thing that differed from my hopes for the visit.  The presence of her cute little 1.5 yr old niece would have been the distraction my girls needed.  Without it, they were bored bored bored after about fifteen minutes into the visit.  Second change from my "plan": within five seconds of arriving Nisreen's mother announced that we WOULD be staying for Iftar and she would hear no excuses.  Now--of course I was grateful and touched for the invite but here it was 4pm and they would not be eating until 7:30pm-ish.  Not until the official sundown.  I knew I could beg a snack off Nisreen for the girls but I dreaded having to entertain them for hours. It would be hours of me trying to keep them from embarrassing us by complaining, fighting, crying, and just acting unhappy.  The Iftar would undoubtedly be delicious but Emi would likely not eat anything and Aya would certainly make a mess.  And forget about getting them to bed before 9:00pm.  All of these are very grim statements but without a doubt true.  This all ran through my mind when Nisreen's mother insisted we stay.  And there I was, thinking Nisreen understood that our visit would need to be short.  I looked to her for some help when her mother told us we were staying but Nisreen just smiled and nodded.  We were staying.

Of course I am glad we did because: 1) This was the only Iftar we've had an who better to have one with than the darling Nisreen? 2) Leaving after the invite would have been rude and I wouldn't want to offend Nisreen or her family. 3) I enjoyed talking with Nisreen and her family...for hours.  4) It was great to be in such a lovely home with a garden complete with fountains, waterfalls, bench swings and grape trellises. 5) The Iftar WAS delicious.  The best meal I've had all summer and that even includes the awesome restaurant at which Lindsay and I dined.  See the picture I'll post on facebook.

It was NOT a relaxing experiencing because I had to keep the girls happy for four hours in a house without toys and other children.  I finally succumbed to plunking then down in front of a movie on my iPod.  They were not terrible by any means, but it is exhausting to be constantly urging them to be polite or quiet or nice or whatever.  I think they had a fine time, however.  They played in the garden and drank Sprite for the first time and watched Lilo and Stitch.  They did not complain much and only did a little crying.  I guess it is just me who stresses over their behavior and could not fully relax. Not when I literally felt trapped; we could not have left before 8:00pm at the earliest and just knowing that stressed me out.  What if they really started to get cranky?  I'd just have to keep apologizing for them and pray the time would pass faster.  Luckily the worst did not happen but again, like I said, there was the stress of knowing what could happen and that I'd have no "out" if it did.

Nate had offered to come initially but I knew he would rather study.  I called him, though, at Nisreen's mother's urging to invite him to the Iftar.  He did and I am grateful because I would have been at my wit's end at the Iftar table trying to feed all three girls.  He nicely held and fed Aya--a chore I usually have and do not particularly enjoy.  We also had to walk quite a ways to find a taxi--another task made easier by his presence.  For those reasons  I am glad he came.  I could tell he was not happy to be there, though, and my enjoyment of any event plummets if the girls or Nate are not also having a good time.  I despise that about myself; does that make me codependent?  But when any of those four other people are in any type of sulk then I no longer enjoy myself.  I don't know what he was not pleased about--I really did not want to ask because I knew I would have a hard time emphasizing with his reason--but we have barely spoken six words together since he arrived at Nisreen's until now.  At the present he is asleep;  we put the girls to bed, he said "I hope you girls had fun" (in a nice way, mind, not meanly) and then he rolled over and went to sleep.  Granted, the girls were really a mess when we got back and there was lots of crying.  We could not have even dreamt of having a conversation.  But my days are so trying and I need his company in the evening to feel like a person again.  I always feel wretched when he just shuts me out like that and goes to sleep.  I know he is overwhelmed with the sheer difficulty of dealing with our girls.  I am too.  The problem is I want to recharge by talking and laughing with someone. He, however, just wants to sleep.  I know this difference between us is not that uncommon between spouses and shouldn't grieve me so, but it does.  I am often left feeling uncharged because he is unavailable, recharging on his own in dreamland.  I want something to take my mind off discouragement and yet so often just feel worse for the fact that the person whose company I want the most does not need mine.

Friday, August 10, 2012

9 Aug: All night long (all night)

9 Aug

The tone of my post today is going to be--at least in part--whining.  And annoyed.  And a little outraged.  Let me explain:

It started last night around 10:00pm.  Some sort of party was definitely in it's beginning stages in the hotel courtyard below.  I had heard they were planning so-called Andalusian Nights "from sunset until sunrise" on Thursdays (every Thursday until the end of Ramadan?) but it was only Wednesday night.  More than the background noise of glasses clinking and male voices we hear every night from the courtyard since Ramadan began, this had the distinct sounds of an MC'ed event.  Microphone feedback, the works.  We sighed.  This happened last week, too, and the karaoke went on until midnight.

We turned out the lights around 10pm and went right to sleep.  At 2:30am, however, I was jerked awake by the sound of someone singing--badly--in our bedroom.  Nate was sitting up beside me.  It had started a half an hour ago, he told me grimly, and he had already called down to the reception about it.  Knowing how little good that did last time, I decided to go down and speak to them myself.  Nate threw on some clothes and followed me down the stairs.

The following scene was not pretty.  We made our displeasure known (read: Nate shouted at them and I told them how shocked I was at their complete lack of disregard for their only guests in the entire hotel) and waited in the lobby until the hotel owner's son (who had been fetched from the party in a hurry) came up and assured us they would stop the karaoke immediately.  I was shaking as we went back up the stairs.  I was embarrassed at being essentially forced into bitter complaint and outraged at their complete lack of regard for our us as paying guests and human beings.  I was also worried that this was just the first of a run of parties leading up to Eid--the big holiday that ends Ramadan.  Would these Andalusian Nights be of the same ilk?  Were we in for sleepless nights for the next two weeks?  And even more worrisome--I made reservations for my parents at this hotel!  I can't expect then to put up with such goings-on.  Not in the hotel courtyard!  One cannot control once from the street or even the noise from neighboring buildings.  If a neighbor hotel or cafe has held such a party it would have also been vexing (if not quite as close and LOUD).  But the fact that the administration of the hotel, knowing that we, their only guests, are still here, still allowed this party to happen...it left a bitter bitter taste in my mouth.

Thus began my all-nighter.  Oh yes.  I did not go back to sleep.  The girls has amazingly slept through this all but either their sleep had been disturbed OR they just picked a bad night to be restless but all three of them woke in the following four hours and needed tending to.  Aya's issue was minimal.  Emi, who likes to sleep with the light on turns it back on when she wakes in the night (after we've turned it off before we go to sleep), woke and found her lightbulb burnt out.  She began to sob about it "not working." Luckily I had another flashlight on hand; Yumi gets one and I keep an extra in case Aya wakes and needs some sort of distraction to get her to back into her crib quietly.  Yumi woke later and found HER flashlight "not working" and of course I did not have a spare for her.  She ended up sleeping on the floor of bedroom.  Me?  I was awake through all of this. The last time I saw the time was 5:30am before I finally fell asleep for the first time since my rude awakening at 2:30am.  I woke again at 6:15am when Aya woke but Nate nicely went to get her up an entertain her in the other room, giving Yumi and I an extra hour to sleep.

Later today I returned from our morning outing to the hotel owner sitting in the lobby.  I decided to go straight to the issue and, after apologizing for some of us losing his temper and shouting at the evening receptionist Ibrahim, I directly expressed my displeasure about the party and the feeling that I should cancel my parent's reservation.  She assured me that there would be no more parties.  I was still shaken by the whole event but felt reassured that at least it would not happen again as long as we are staying here.

Sadly, the story does not end here.  I reported the burnt out bulb when we deposited our key with the reception upon leaving for our morning outing.  I was assured it would be changed.  I was not surprised when I came back hours later to find it still unchanged.  This is the hotel that you occasionally have to beg to get clean towels.  I asked again when I left around 5pm to pick up the laundry.  Oh yes, I was told.  Right away.  I came back an hour later.  No change.  I called down to the reception.  Yassir--the hotel handyman--is out, I was told.  Inshallah.  I stewed.  I thought about just giving Emi a flashlight and having her deal with it.  She would not be happy and we would likely hear from her several times in the night, but shouldn't I try to be flexible?  And then the bitterness rose in me again.  NO!  I will not accept this.  I marched down into the lobby.  No one!  I searched and found two employees in the kitchen.  I told them in no uncertain terms that I expected that light to be changed and pronto.  But Yassir is out, I was told plaintively.  What can we possibly do?  I demanded to know if they had even called Yassir.  No, they had not.  Trying very hard not to shriek at them, I told them in a low and dangerous voice that they had better call him now.  They did.  No bulbs in the hotel, they reported after speaking to the missing Yassir (who, by the way, had been here all day).  SO WHAT??? I shout.  Okay, I gave up trying to be calm.  One of you leave and buy a bulb and come back and get the ladder and install it (the ceilings are very high--no way to screw in a new bulb without a ladder).  Okay, they agreed with a sigh.  

Five minutes later one of them was at the door with a new bulb.  He handed it to me with an apologetic smile and turned to leave.  "The ladder," I said in a steely voice.  The ladder was fetched and the bulb changed.

I still can't believe this place.  We have had many days without incident here but when something like this happens I cannot believe they charge people to stay here.  I LOVE the employees here and they have been very kind to us.  But competent service?  Hardly.  I have not written about the little but frequent things--dishes "washed" in the mini kitchen that still are covered in food, multiple requests for toilet paper, no housekeeping on Fridays--but now I am feeling bitter.

Well, I warned you.  I have taken a pretty ugly tone here.  Mind you, I really do care for the friends we have made here and this will not effect how I feel or act towards them.  But if asked to give honest feedback on the hotel I cannot give them high marks for their service.  Am I expecting too much from a hotel that does not cater to Western guests?  Should I be more tolerant?  Is this poor service or actually a cultural issue?  Would Arab guests find these situations tolerable?  I dislike myself for being enraged over poor service but am I (or am I not) justified in this situation?

Well.  Moving on.  Our morning was fun.  The usual weekly visit to the children's museum but we met up with friends from church there.  And while I regrettably did not get my usual chance to chat much with the Jordanian employees, the girls had such a great time running around the nearly deserted museum with Amy's four boys.  And Any gave us a ride back to our hotel--a huge plus due to how arduous it is to get back from the museum.

My lesson with Nisreen was, as always, a highlight of my day.  I was embarrassed to hear that she had heard of our little altercation over the party noise last night.  News travels fast.  Of course, I desperately hope all these people are saying to each other "Yeah, I can't believe we/the hotel would even think of having kareoke at 2am when there guests trying to sleep only feet away..." but fear they are saying "Who do these people think they are, anyway?". Sigh.  Nisreen was very understanding but is she really?  How can she really understand when she was undoubtedly awake at 2:30am herself?  

Our early evening errands were uneventful; laundry pick up, fruit, take-out grilled chicken and hummus, water.  I slowly maneuvered the double stroller--filled to the max with 12 liters of water, one large load's worth of clean clothes, potatoes, cucumbers, apples, strawberries, takeout, and Ayame Little Pants--back to the hotel.  Yumi on my back, Emi walking by my side.  Dinner from 7:00-7:30pm and bed by 8:00pm.  

Nate and I were getting pretty exasperated with the girls due to the fact that they do not listen to anything we say.  We tell them 35 times to change into their pjs and they pretend they don't hear.  We need to be better about giving then choices (do it by yourself or with help) or articulating the consequence if they do not make a choice and obey--and then following through.  I just hate to have to issue a little threat each and every time I asked them to do something.  The worst offender is Emi; she absolutely never responds to directions unless 1) there is a reward or 2) you attach at threat to the direction.  This gets tiresome to say the least.

Other than the fact that I an exhausted and had several really bitter encounters today, it was actually a fine one.  Really!  You don't believe me?  

Thursday, August 09, 2012

8 Aug: When in Rome...

8 Aug

Our week of adventures continued today with a trip to Jerash.  Jerash is a town north of Amman that boasts the largest and best preserved Roman town in the entire world.  I visited Jerash as a BYU Jersualem Center student back in 1999 and was astonished by it.  I just could not get enough of the gleaming white of the columns of the cardo or the Roman chariot race in the hippodrome.  For some reason Nate and I did not make it there the summers of 2006 and 2007 so this was my first time back in 13 years!  I really did not intend to take the girls here knowing full well that they would have little or no interest in the history or uniqueness of the place.  I had a change of heart, however, when I saw how much they enjoyed the Roman Amphitheater downtown Amman.  I had a hankering, as well, to get out of Amman on some little forays into the country.  Jerash, I realized, is a natural destination as it is only 1/2-1 hr a way, depending on traffic. 

And so we left shortly before 8am for the Northern Station.  Our trip earlier this week spoiled me; I half expected to find a bus nearly full, ready for us to board and depart.  Alas, there was no bus, and was still absent 1/2 hr later.  The girls were doing all alright but I was nervous because I did not see anyone waiting for the bus.  If there were 20 people waiting then it would only be a matter of waiting for the bus to arrive; we would then depart immediately.  But if we would have to wait another half an hour or more for it to fill, well...problem.  

I had been refusing offers for "service" taxi rides for "only" 10 JD, insisting that we would wait for the bus.  Another foreigner showed up and agreed to split the fare with us--5JD each--but when I asked the girls if we should take the service taxi they both resisted.  Bus!  We want the "school" bus!  I wanted this to be a fun adventure for them, too, so I turned down the offer.  Not long after another foreign couple showed up and immediately paired up with first guy and were off.  Darn it!  I knew I should have taken the offer.  

When I became certain that waiting any longer would be a bad idea, I approached a service taxi driver and bargained him down to 8JD.  With that, we were off to Jerash.

About 30 minutes later we arrived and were deposited at the front gate.  I suppose that was one benefit to taking a taxi.  We entered, paid the "Diplomatic Mission" rate of only 1/2 dinar (well, Nate IS with the embassy and 1/2 dinar is a good deal cheaper than the tourist rate of 8 JD), and located the bathroom.  That accomplished, we forged onward.  Sadly, the girls were exactly 0 percent interested in exploring Jerash.  It WAS hot, with positively no shade, and essentially uphill.  I had forgotten that last bit.  I realized pretty quickly that we were not going to be able to make the loop around all of the ancient city of Jerash.  I reevaluated and decided to 1) have a little "picnic" to improve morale and 2) make it to the ancient souq ringed by columns where we could just "play."

And that sits exactly what we did.  After shaming the Jerash restaurant staff into giving me two bottles of Guava nectar at the REAL price, we parked ourselves in the shade and had the PB&H pita sandwiches I had prepared for the return bus ride (but oh well).  This gave the girls the needed energy to push uphill a bit to the main Roman marketplace.  We stayed nearly an hour while the girls climbed around and over piles of ancient Roman masonry lying about.  I chatted with the many men who were also lying about, waiting for tourists to offer services and trinkets.  I think the girls had a great time.  I, for one, was happy to be in the presence of these ruins even if I could not explore them thoroughly myself.

The trip back was rigorous but without any real mishap.  We visited the WC once again (yay for newly potty trained 2 year olds!) and caught a bus to the load-up spot for the bus to Amman.  The driver of the first bus spotted the second bus and screeched to a halt, knowing our intention to take the bus to Amman.  The first driver shoed us out the door while the second driver waved frantically to us from the other side of the four-line road to "hurry up!" Well, I though.  Here we go, back to Amman!  That was easy.

Ha!  We jumped onto the bus, only to find it empty.  The driver rolled forward about 10 more feet, turned off the engine, and began to loudly advertise the bus destination from his window.  This bus was not going anywhere until it filled up.  Again, ha.

The girls were in a fine enough mood, however, and this delay gave me the time to get them the chips I'd promised for the ride back.  We disembarked and headed across the road to small shop for water, chips, and dried apricots.  We were in there for only five minutes or so when I heard the bus horn sounding insistently.  I grabbed the girls and the goods and hauled back across the street, galvanized by the driver's waving arm.  Again, I thought "That was easy!"

Ha ha!  The bus was only a quarter full but the driver was getting anxious to find passengers.  Honking his horn and revving his engine made him feel better, I guess.  All in all, we waited about a half an hour for that bus to fill.  Thank goodness for the chips!  That kept everyone happy.  And Yumi/Emi's good behavior earned them some "Emperor's New Groove" (in Arabic!) on my iPod.  That left me to wrestle with a tired and grumpy Ayame Little Pants for the remaining 45 minutes of the ride back.  We managed, however, the Chub and I.  We are good pals.  There is no better 15 month old on the planet, I am certain.

Same as our trip to Ajloun, I realized that our route back was taking us near the major intersection by our hotel.  I had been zoning out a bit and realized where we were with a start.  I called out to the driver and had the girls off the bus within 30 seconds.  Unlike the other day, however, I immediately found a cab to take us the 1 mile back to our hotel.  None of us wanted to get back into another vehicle but everyone cooperated.  I am impressed, actually, with how travel savvy the girls have become.  In and out of busses and cabs without batting their eyelashes. 

Lunch, naps!  Well, quiet time, anyway.  Emi is not sleeping, which is highly unusual for her, but staying inside our bedroom where she is supposed to be.  I have a lesson in a half an hour.  I thought in would get in the workout that I missed this morning due to our early departure but alas--it is not going to happen.

This afternoon: Nisreen and I spent our lesson talking about religion.  It started with a question from her: do I think that the West's societal problems have a lot to do with the fact that young people leave their homes and the watchful eyes of their parents at a "young" (unmarried) age?  She actually cited a scene from MTVs "The Real World" as a basis for her question.  Dubious as this program is, she has a point, in my opinion.  Of course Western young people are free to do just about anything they want and, in many cases, do a lot of damage to themselves and others in the process.  Or, at a minimum, make poor choices that reduce their happiness.  I don't think I am alone in connecting the decrease in "traditional values" and the increase in all manner of societal problems.  My response to her:  Sure, Western young people should adopt the morals more commonly found amount Arab young people, but our culture (and government) believes that people should be left to make these choices on their own.  The factor that needs adjusting is parental responsibility.  Western culture, government, and in many cases religion will (should?) promote the right to free agency on moral issues; people who choose to produce children, however, need to step up their efforts in teaching their kids to choose right from wrong.  Young adults will continue to choose for themselves and will probably still often choose the wrong, but increased positive parental influence should improve Western society.  That is my view, anyway, and I shared it with Nisreen.  This got her thinking about Christianity and she started firing off all kinds of questions about nuns and The Reformation and paid clergy.  I found myself talking about Martin Luther and the Gutenberg Bible in Arabic.  Gotta love it.  I hope I did not overstep any bounds as Christians are strictly forbidden from proselyting in Jordan.  The latter part of our conversation was rooted in historical fact but I did throw in a few of my beliefs in there.  She was cute: she wrote down the names of the some of the people I mentioned (Martin Luther, for example) and said she intended to research them further.

Enlightening.  A much-needed boost to my intellectually poor job as a mother.  Not that (my) children do not cause me to use my brain; the emotional and physical strain they put on me, however, frequently leaves little room for intellectual stimulating conversations.  The effort I put into speaking and reading to them in Arabic counts, I suppose, as an intellectual effort.  But anyway, you know what I mean.  My lessons with Nisreen are a pleasure.

Back upstairs Erapie was doing a marvelous time with all three girls.  Talk about another pleasure!  Erapie is wonderful!  She headed off to a birthday party and I began to labor to get the girls ready to leave.  We ha to take out the laundry and pick up fruit.  An hour and much frustration later we were out the door.  We bumped into Nate on his way home and had the pleasure of is company on our errands.  These went well enough but the girls were difficult once we returned.  Is that just their nature?  Or can we blame it on the our schedule/living arrangement?  Are there other families that must/want to go on outings each evening at from 5-6:30pm (swimming lessons, dance, etc) and their kids are cranky and poorly behaved upon returning?  Who knows.  Who knows.  After much crying, time out, and two baths (Aya and Emi), we settled down for a family book read.  This was a positive experience and we ended the evening on a high note.  

Nate is working on a talk he is scheduled to give in church this Friday so until he is done I am on my own.  I believe I will set to mending the one dress I brought, which I continue to wear in spite of an obvious hole, and one of the two blouses I purchased here to complement the four I brought from America.  This blouse, although cute, is chintzy and ripped the first time I wore it.  I finally got my hands on a travel mending kit and should get to it.