Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Day of Firsts

Despite my weekend trip to the grocery store with a neighbor, I awoke this morning to find the cupboards once again bare. I willed the phone to ring with an offer to go together with someone, but alas - the phone remained stubbornly silent. There was nothing to do except hail a cab.

So we walked down to the end of the street, the girls and I, and waited for a cab to happen by.

Now, just so you understand, I'm not entirely comfortable hailing cabs here. Most of the drivers don't speak any English, and they usually don't know where I want to go, even if I provide them with a street address. So it's a little intimidating to just hop in and hope I get where I want to go - and back again.

Food's food, though, so we had to try. And lo - the first cab that pulled over knew exactly what I meant when I said "Cozmo in Sufiyeh," and he took me straight there. (It's probably only a 5-10 minute drive, but it definitely isn't walkable.)

Once there, we encountered the next problem: I was down to my last 60 JD, and my grocery needs were sizable. There was also the problem of knowing exactly how far I would have to lug the groceries in an effort to flag a cab home. So I pulled out the calculator and started adding up prices, with anything expensive or heavy staying out of my cart. Yeast and flour? Absolutely. Olive oil - heavy and expensive - double no. Cans of drinkable coffee? Yes, of course. That's a staple.

We slowly worked our way around the grocery store, the three of us. (Popcorn? Check. Canned beans, check. Baggies? At $5 a box, definitely uncheck.)

We checked out, and I watched in dismay as it took 10 or more bags to hold everything. Had I really bought that much? How on earth was I going to get all of those bags and the girls up the hill to the main road in order to find a cab?

The bagger guy pushed the cart to the door and asked where my car was. "No car," I replied, "I'm going to take a taxi."

He looked at the cart and the girls, and then he told me to wait a minute. He walked up the hill, disappearing around the bend. Five minutes later, as I was beginning to wonder, he returned in a cab, just for me. So kind! Of course I wondered: should I tip him? Or is this just a basic service of the store? I decided to err on the side of tipping. Better, I reasoned, to be known over the next three years as the crazy lady who gives away money rather than the stingy lady who doesn't warrant extra help. Right?

After settling that issue, I bid the bagger guy goodbye and gave the driver my address, which of course he'd never heard of. I pulled out a map to show him the general area. Still no luck. He asked a store employee for help, and the two of them consulted the map together. Still no luck, so another employee was summoned.

Well, they figured it out - but not before a grand total of 7 guys got involved in the discussion.

Home at last. One splurge purchase that found its way into my cart was "katayef." That is apparently the name for these spongy pancakes, about 6 inches in diameter, that are served only during Ramadan. The girls ate these pancakes, smeared with Nutella, for a morning snack. I might have had a few, too. They're pretty good.

After snack we chatted with the boab for 10 minutes or so. He doesn't speak a word of English, and as you might have guessed, I haven't yet started studying Arabic. So our conversation was a bit, shall we say, limited.

His name is Reda (I think), and he's Egyptian. He lives in the basement of our building and handles all of the chores related to the building: mowing the lawn, checking the water and gas tanks, washing the car...

He comes with the house - the landlord is supposed to pay him, but it is expected that we will supplement that pay. I think, because we have a ground floor apartment that requires lots of gardening, he'll end up costing about $100 per month. He seems like a really nice guy, and I'm eager to start studying Arabic if only so I can understand what he's telling me. Today, for example, he must have seen the taxi drop me at the curb with my groceries, because he was trying to give me directions to a close-by store to which I could walk. Would've been nice to understand those directions, don't you think?

Anyway. We're home again, stuffed full of Ramadan pancakes and nutella, and it's time for me to work on unpacking (still not finished) and cleaning (never ending). I have a pot of soup bubbling away on the stove and some veggies soaking in the sink, so I'm halfway through my dinner prep already.

I'm going to park my daughters in front of that childhood classic, "Barbie: A Mermaid's Tale," and power through my chores.


Z. Marie said... [Reply]

It's up there with Barbie as Rapunzel and all of those other classics, yes.
Don't you hate how quickly the food disappears even when you're constantly shopping?

FSO Hopeful said... [Reply]

I am sure the Embassy has some really good resources, but if you need a recommendation for an Arabic tutor in Amman let me know. I had a private tutor there and I have gone through a few teachers and she is by far the best Arabic teacher I have ever come across.

LeesOnTheGo said... [Reply]

Whew! What a morning. On the one hand those first few excursions are so daunting & on the other hand can feel exhilarating for the sheer reason that you've conquered something. Today the cab/grocery store/tipping quandary~tomorrow the world! (Or at least, asking for the restrooms in Arabic).


Jill said... [Reply]

Love your adventures Donna ... so fun to see the Middle East again through someone else's eyes.

knitty said... [Reply]

Yay for small (and large) victories every day! Can't wait to read more about your adventures. Especially now that I'm basically in my old neighborhood -- so strange, all this familiarity!

Emily said... [Reply]

What an adventure! I am glad that it was a successful shopping trip.
I love the moments when someone takes the time to do something nice, like get a taxi for you.

David L. said... [Reply]

A familiar tale - I'm sure - to many a foreign service spouse. I'm glad that when I go shopping solo, I don't have to worry about children or cabs.

Kami said... [Reply]

Holy hell. I think being alone with my two kids at Stop in Shop is exhausting. I can't imagine what doing it in Jordan must be like! Brave woman.

Brooke said... [Reply]

Cozmo! I lived in Jordan for a summer and Cozmo was a saving thing for us on many occasions :) Good luck exploring Amman!

Connie said... [Reply]

We are also enjoying those pancakes and nutella! If blogger had been functioning this weekend so I could see this post, I would have called! I was trying to leave you in peace to get settled. I'll call later this morning :)

Please. Write your own stuff.