Saturday, June 26, 2010

Artsy Amman

Now that my time in Jordan is beginning to wind down, I have become more motivated to seek out the hidden treasures of my home city of Amman. Amman is known as "The White City" because of the layers and layers of chalky-colored buildings. But as I walk the bespeckled streets and look out onto the staggered neighborhoods, I cannot help but see all the color and life of the city. Amman is composed of several unique neighborhoods which offer a little something different. Today, I visited one of my favorite areas in the the city, Duwwar Baris in Jabal al-Weibdeh. Like most of Amman, al-Weibdeh is a neighborhood full of contrast. One can see the grittiness of an old fruit stand and then turn the corner and see the grandeur of a lofty villa home. It is this diversity that always keeps me guessing and allows me to experience the joy of Amman's hidden treasures. Dar al-Anda is the gem of al-Weibdeh. It is situated in an unlikely place and possesses one the the most scenic overlooks of the city. The Dar al-Anda gallery welcomes its visitors with a burning burgundy border and then leads them down a potted plant path which then crosses the line where old city transforms into new city. We found the gallery in a somewhat discouraging order. Workmen and employees were in the midst of preparing the venue for its new Australian exhibition. I was able to catch a peak of some pieces from the old show. The artwork of the Arab world has an interesting perspective. I saw a mix between political and religious and even a little humor. There were also wire sheep, totem pole wall hangings, and cryptic messages within the surrounding landscape......oh my.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekend Stomppings

Mount Nebo: Didn't get to see the promised land but I did get to see some ancient mosaics.
The best seats in the house.
The Orthodox church of John the Baptist.
The Jordan River: I could see Israel. Almost thought to swim across but the water had too many tad poles in it.

The Dead Sea ( baher ilmayyit): The saltiest body of water in the world! The water burned the eyes and the mud smoothed the skin.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rooz Kreespee Trait?

Yesterday, I had somewhat of a culinary disaster at my work. Thursdays are designated as our free/baking day and I was trying to introduce the women I work with to a classic dessert, brownies. The plan was flawless on paper. I had the recipe all written out. I converted all the American measurements to miligrams and grams but a surprise hit me when I entered the communal kitchen. I discovered that the women have no measuring utensils, stirring instruments, or proper pans. The girls were up for the challenge though. In the spirit of Tim Gunn, they made it work.

The ingredients blended well and the girls were excited. I thought the brownies would be fully cooked in about 20 minutes but they started burning after ten.
The brownies were ruined.
I experienced true charity as the girls lined up and filled their plates with the brownie-like product.
I just kept saying:
Mish Zaaki( not delicious)

But they all swallowed with smiles and assured me of my success with kisses.

I am now determined to practice all my recipes before showing the girls. Today Joud and I made Rice Krispie Treats together. I am Americanizing this family one day at a time. They really love it and I enjoy sharing my family favorites with my favorite Jordanian family.

My best part about being here in Jordan is living with a host family. Having the opportunity to share experiences, jokes, and hardships with my Jordanian family has kept me grounded during my time here. I learn the most about my Jordanian family when we eat or when Fida is showing me how to cook various secret family dishes. So, today was just another learning and growing time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One Hypoallergenic Cat= Happy Me

Everyone, meet Potchi(pooootcheee). Potchi is a domesticated carnivorous feline from the family felidae.
Potchi is the only Felis catus in the entire world, maybe the universe, that I am not allergic too. Potchi and I have known each other for a little more than a month. Our first meeting was awkward, to say the least. I was afraid that my home life for the next few months would be terribly uncomfortable due to the sensitivity of my hystamine production.

Luckily, things are merry between Potchi and me. She likes to slip into my a moire and cuddle up on my clean neatly folded clothes. Her hair gets all over and I don't sneeze. It is a miracle. Ilhamddu lilaah. I was meant to be in the Alissa home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I remember once a boy in one of my classes asked if Arabs had a sense of humor.
I can testify that they indeed do.
I am not sure if it is the fact that I am a foreigner or if they just pull everyone's legs but believe me when I say get a lot of jokes pulled on me.
A sense of humor, nodding, and a constant dumb smile on my face gets me through many situations.
I had a big laugh with the head guy of my local police station today.
I finally renewed my passport. After enduring official police procedure for an hour, my ability to detect jokes was not at its top condition. The official-looking policeman asked,

"Shu biddik?"(what do YOU want?), in a very staunch unforgiving voice.
me:"I want my visa renewed."
official-looking police man:"la'a (no)."
me:" an jad?"(really?)
he laughs and so do all the other men in the room.
me:" bimzah?( joking?) he nods. Haram aleek!"(Shame on you)

Knowing the word joking in Arabic has a been very useful in my time in Amman.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Mafrag boys are back in Wasat ilBalad

The arrival of the "Mafrag Boys" in Amman always means more fun for me. I am living in a city where I can be a strong, independent, and active women but only on the condition I be all those things during the daylight hours. Unfortunately for me, Amman's most culturally stimulating activities all take place under the cover of night. Cue shabab.

It all began Friday night when I had the opportunity to play Arab host. I invited the shabab(youth) over to my house for some good ol' fashion home hanging. While in some traditional Jordanian homes the idea of a young women inviting a horde of young men with patchy facial hair over to her home for entertaining might be an unfathomable scheme, I find myself in a family that is always receptive to my social plans and allow me to host friends in their home. I think their coolness stems from their fascination in the existence of so many Arabic-studying youth from some state near California (This is how you have to describe where Utah is to most Jordanians). My family loves to talk and to entertain. My time in Amman has given me plenty of chances to experience Jordanian hospitality within the home. So, I reveled in the opportunity to try my hand at authentic Arab hosting practices.

Rule 1:
The host must always have some kind of beverage available for the guest.
Rule 2:
Food should always be offered and can be refused by the guest.
Rule 3:
Overwhelm guests with fantastic presentation of treats and a open invitation for late night conversation.

We munched on creme and fruit filled powdered pastries from Donut factory as we sipped on Seben( Seven-Up).

Later, we drank Zaatar(Thyme) tea. Zataar is often given to Arab children by their parents on days of exams because of it is believed to be good for the mind and body. Fidaa drinks it to get rid of her congestion.

When the glass is empty, that is when the host knows the visitor is ready to leave.
The shabab made their exit and we all planned on seeing each other on Saturday.

Annie and I attended a party at a women's shelter and after we headed to Wasat albalad (city center).
We met james and robert
Ate dirty shwerma
walked to Ud stores( In reality, glorified hookah shops)
did some fruit shopping in the shaded souq
ate some free produce
found cyrus
met aline and lavon
ate ice cream
chilled at a cafe and sipped cocktails
looked for more Ud
met musicians
went to Garden street
ate tawouk sandwhich
went and watched The World Cup in a tent
America tied with England
Came home and slept.

Days are full and good with the Mafrag boys around.

Friday, June 11, 2010

One month down.

Yesterday, was a busy day of run around. My one month marker in Jordan was also my last day of work at MoSD headquarters. Before I started my last day of work, I first had to go and receive my second HIV test at the dirtiest little center I have ever stepped into. Turns out that private medical tests are not accepted by big man government here. I assume that policy might have to do with the fact that individuals can easily get test results fixed by private doctors. I guess I should have known better.

Work has been slow since my main task giver moved to Canada. Oh the joys of inconstancy. Something I have come to accept, is that I can expect my plans to never work out the way I want them to. I can rely more on public transportation than I can the workings of any government institution. My experience with the hoop jumping within Jordan has been enlightening. Since the day was slow, I persuaded my fellow intern to take off work and travel marka with me. I needed to go and figure out my route and meet with my future boss. After, waiting for two hours and consuming two kibeh, one shwerma and one glass of terrible coffee, I was able to meet both of the head women at the shelter and explore the premises. Um tariq and Amal were on there way out so they wrapped things up quickly and concluded with an invitation to their art exhibit/party/food thing tomorrow. I can't wait to go and meet more of the women and see more of dar al wefaq. My time there will be challenging but I think that it will change me and them for the better.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

not microwave friendly: sandwitshy Hamoudeh

The concept of a warm Nutella sandwich seemed like a delicious idea at the time.............
dry khubz
separated hazelnut spread

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mantastic Americana

Some days, when I come home from a long day of office working, I like to sit on my bed with a stack of pillows behind me and escape into the melodic magic of MY American music. Recently, I have found bluesy bliss in the Black Keys new album "Brothers." Of course, complete allusiveness cannot be totally achieved in my energetic Arab home but I enjoy spreading the "westoxication" of my eclectic musical tastes. I have already hooked my host sister, Joud, on The Beatles by introducing her to the song "Hey Jude." She loves that they say her name over and over again throughout the length of the song. The song has sparked some conflict in the home though..........Hamoudeh is now demanding a western song with his name in the lyrics. I have searched diligently but have not succeeded in finding a " Hey Hamoudeh" song. We compromise by just swapping the names out from time to time.

Unfortunately my influence has been only superficial, the kids still think my music is weird and call my favorite artists "magnuun" (crazy). Kids just don't understand.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Taxi Driver Wisdom:

(Conversation in Arabic)
Me: Your car is very sweet(or nice).
Sweet little taxi man: Your eyes are very sweet. When your eyes are sweet, they see only sweetness.
Me: Thank you.
SLTM: Your heart is good. When your heart is good, you see only good. When your heart is black, all you see is black.
Me: Right.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

hair trimmings and a picnic

Mr. Ahmed and I. He spoke zero English but he understands pantomime very well. I was impressed by his ability to balance the ash at the end of his ciggy and cut my hair at the same time.

It isn't summer until you get a haircut and have a picnic. The watermelon was perfect but Hamoudeh liked his ice cream better.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Late night runs for HIV tests and falafel

Some drama arose last week regarding our visa renewals while in Jordan. Apparently, the law changed three months ago and things are a bit more complicated. Now, one is required to get an HIV test and report the results to one's police station in one's area of residence. This news came at a terrible time for Annie because the test took 4 days for results and she needed to get it renewed the next day. Lets just say things got expensive and she wasn't too happy about all the Russian prostitutes that were also getting their blood drawn before her.

Living with Amman locals has payed off in so many ways. My host mother is a fountain of knowledge and she has connections all over the city. Anytime i need something or there is a place I need to go, my host mum tells me where I can find the best stuff for the best prices. I told her last night that I needed to go get tested for HIV and she immediately called up her friend who happens to be a doctor with connections at a near by Hospital. It was about 10:45 at night and she tells me "yalla, hayati."(come on, my life) and we rushed out the door. We loaded up the family car and we were heading towards the hospital when my host mom realized that we hadn't eaten our third meal of the day. She took us all to get the best falafel sandwiches in town. Al Quds on Rainbow Street really has the most delicious food. Their falafel was the late King Hussein's favorite. I must say that it is also my favorite. Their combination of pickles, tomatoes, tahini, and falafel is just heaven. They also grill the pita bread that wraps the whole meal up. Falafel sandwich is a quick meal that always hits the spot.

After Al Quds, we headed to the hospital for the test. Fidaa's friend, Dr. Samer, was really helpful and I was grateful to discover that he had talked the price of the test down for me. I had heard about the other interns' experiences with trying to find a place to get the tests done. Most of the interns out here have limited Arabic ability so everything is a little tough for them because they don't speak Arabic and they are not living with host families. I always find myself getting the best situations because of my host mum's savvy. I don't know what I would do without her.

Cool guy who made my falafel sandwich.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We all scream for TooT!

There is a berry that grows on a tree.
It can sometimes be white.
It can sometimes be a deep purple.
I love this berry.
I like to find the tree that grows this fruit called toot.
I pick the fruit......
with Fidaa
with Joud
and with my friends.
Tonight, I found this tree and picked the toot to for the family party.
No one ate my toot from the tree that belong's to only the people.
I ate the toot.