Wednesday, August 08, 2012

7 Aug: Caves of the Prince

7 Aug

I pegged this week for throwing caution to the wind and going on all kinds of non kid-friendly trips.  Considering Yumi will be in camp next week and I will be packing/preparing for my parents' arrival onThursday, this week really is our last "regular" week.  And I've been trying to make it anything but regular.  Hence, the trips to Hammamaat Ma'in and Ajloun earlier this week.  Today I decided to visit Wadi Seer, a village close to and, in fact, subsumed by Amman. I'd heard particular mention of it by the group of summer BYU interns I'd met at church; these students were working with a non-profit group named Zaytuna and had some project with a women's handicraft initiative in Wadi Seer.  Lonely Planet also mentions Wadi Seer as the home of the mysterious-sounding "Caves of the Prince."  I expected the girls to get a kick out of exploring caves and, considering how close Wadi Seer appeared to be, I figured this would be a nice little outing.

Things started to go south about 15 minutes before leaving.  The girls scuffled over the scissors during craft time and Yumi bit Emi in retaliation.  The consequence--time out for scissors!--threw Yumi into a tailspin. Her fit was a zillion times calmer than some I have seen her throw (no hateful words, no manic screaming, but she would not let up.  Moaning, whining, crying, all out the door.  When she started her routine of refusing to come along, forcing me to come back and get her, I hauled her back upstairs and into the second bedroom.  When I say "haul," I was actually perfectly calm and gentle with her.  In fact, I believe I deserve a medal for how calm I was.  Over the next hour she continued to play this game.  I would let her out, she would begin to wail, I'd put her back in.  Over and over.  We eventually made it downstairs and to the road.  I'd told them we would be going by bus but then warned Yumi that if she did not calm down we'd have to go by taxi.  When I finally decided to hail a taxi she started to cry harder, begging to be aloud to ride the bus.  Within seconds she calmed herself and promised to be good.  We got out of the taxi and began to walk to the bus.  The behavior started again.  I hailed another cab.  Why I did not give up is the same answer as always: 1) just what would we do back in the hotel room listening to a crying Yumi in time out and 2) I do not want to be controlled by Yumi.  

So off we set in another cab.  I talked Yumi off her ledge and she eventually had an attitude change.  Meanwhile, we were driving through some beautiful countryside and getting further and further away from civilization.  Wasn't Wadi Seer supposed to be a suburb of Amman?  It turns out the caves are about 15 kms away from the village center along a narrow and winding road.  It also turns out that the women's handicraft village was right across the road from the caves!  Excellent.  What was not excellent is that I had not observed any form of public transportation along this road.  I know busses serve it but they are obviously few and far and between.  No busses, bus shelters, or people waiting for busses. And it was hot.  While I could have easily found myself a ride back with some passing vehicle I did not relish the idea of hitchhiking with the girls.  Well, to be honest, I totally would have done it but the thought of waiting for any amount of time with them for a ride on the side of a road in the hot sun was very unappealing.  The driver had been complaining about the distance he had driven and the difficulty/impossibility of finding a fare back into Amman.  He offered to wait with and drive us back for only 20 JD.   Considering the fare out there was only 5 JD I could not possibly agree.  I told him that if he wanted to wait he could, and we would ride back with him and pay another 5 JD.  He was not happy with this suggestion and got out of the car when we did,  harassing us.  I was actually a bit nervous, considering there was not another person in sight.  He tried to get me to take the 5 JD back, a classic Arab gesture that says "if you are going to cheat me than go ahead and make it worth it." I shamed him, telling him that he should not be speaking to a woman with children in this way.  And with that I clutched all three girls and marched off up the hill to the caves.  He did not follow.

Now, after one glance at the caves I'd changed my mind; I realized a visit to the woman's village would be the far better choice for an outing.  The woman's craft village appeared to nestled within an orchard.  The shade of the green trees beckoned; the barren rocky hill with its probably trash-filled caves did not.  Yet when I asked the girls if they'd rather go to the "farm" or up to the caves they unanimously choose the caves.  Knowing we probably had time for only one destination, I sighed and began to trudge up the mountain.

The girls did have fun up there, although the caves were filled with trash and bats, as it happens.  Considering the rabies scare I was nervous about even letting them go into the caves at all.  Not that the bats were just laying about within reach or even within sight.  But our voices and movement disturbed them and some began to fly in and out, a few rather close to us.  I'd read that rabies can be contracted by inhaling bat feces so I was very unenthusiastic about romping around in there.  But the girls were determined to find the "Prince" of the "Caves of the Prince."  Someone had told them that the prince was Aladdin and they were very keen to see him.  Alas, he was out, due to Ramadan, the usual excuse.  

About this time I'd noticed that the cab driver was not only waiting but had come up the mountain to check on us.  He really was a decent guy and had been so from the beginning of the ride.  He apologized later for being a bit menacing and did take us back to Amman for only the 5 JD the ride was worth.  But since I realized he was waiting and knowing he probably WAS our only way back, I realized we would definitely have to forget about visiting the women's craft village.  This is my chief regret about this outing.  The whole thing could have been worth it if we'd only just gone there.  As it was, we sustained a net gain of 10 bats seen and a loss of 10 JD and a hoped-for prince.

Oh well.  I am trying not to be bummed that one our precious days left was wasted on this trip.  Normally, I can chalk any failed attempt as an "adventure" but that is hard to do when the failure causes tired, grumpy children and an exasperated mommy.   The countryside was beautiful, though, and the girls seemed equally terrified and trilled by the bats.  So that's something, at least.

This afternoon: A great one!  Something different.  First of all, my lesson with Nisreen was, as always, a delight.  Our conversation veered all over the place and I learned words like "to benefit" (the girls have truly benefited linguistically from their experiences here) and "to fall asleep" (her niece fell asleep in her car seat on the drive home last night at 1am).  Which reminds me, I asked Nisreen why she thinks people do not wear seatbelts here and she guesses that people  1) do not care about the law and 2) figure their time will come when it comes and no point delaying it by use of a seatbelt.  I don't know... Nisreen said she wears a belt whenever one is available and does so out of fear of an accident.  I asked her who got her into the habit.  The answer: driving school.  Interesting. Not her parents.  I asked her if all the members of her family--upper class, to be sure--wear seatbelts.  Answer: no, definitely not all of them.  Her sister has two kids and she does put them into cars seats.  I confessed to her that when I see someone get out of their car with a small child in front of me on the street I always peer into the window as I pass their car to see if there is a carseat.  There almost never is one.

Erapie came to watch the girls who were ALL sleeping when she arrived, including Yumi!  All wrapped up in her blanket on the floor of the bathroom.  Dead to the world; I had kiss her face twenty times to wake her up.  Once my lesson was over we all met up in the hotel courtyard and ate a meal Erapie had cooked for us at her house.  Yay!  She did this out of the kindness of her heart, by the way, and not because I asked her.  She offered and I accepted.  I bought the chicken yesterday from Safeway and she prepared a vegetable noodle chicken dish from The Philippines.  Yummy!  We were all licking our bowls.  It was great to sit down to a meal with her and get a chance to chat.  While I did not have my usual opportunity for Jordanian/Arabic interaction with the local  neighborhood vendors, this was a much welcomed change.  Our friendship with Erapie deepened and we enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal.  And for the first time all summer we had a guest!  She cooked the meal, it is true, but it felt like we had a guest for dinner.  I've missed that.  

Erapie left for institute by 6:30pm so for the first time all summer we were done with dinner and back at the hotel by a reasonable hour.  Aya, Yumi and I lingered in the lobby with all the hotel employees who were lounging about waiting for sundown.  We have come to love these guys and I know they adore our girls.  Each employee seems to have his favorite among my girls, although they are kind to all of them.  The Egyptian Yasir loves Yumi (and the feeling is definitely mutual).  The Syrian cook Mohaned loves Aya (also mutual--she runs for him, arms outstretched, whenever she sees him).  The afternoon doorman Abu Wisam and Emi have a special bond.  Neither can understand the other (he has old man Jordania Arabic and I cannot understand a word he says) but they gravitate to one another.  This is the kindly man who "spanked" the gate the closed on Yumi's arm earlier this summer.

Every was in bed by 8pm after a leisurely and complete bedtime routine.  Nice.  Nate is reading up on the Mars "Curiosity" landing and can't wait to tell me about it so I had best finish up. 

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