Friday, June 3, 2011


During the rainy season, Yogi the Giant Schnauzer got a bit, shall we say, overenthusiastic about splashing in the puddles in our back yard. As a result, we had a few holes in the lawn by winter's end.

We - and here you'll think we're completely spoiled, and you'll probably be right - we gave Reda the boab some money, and he went wherever it is you go in Jordan when you need to buy grass seeds and soil. He then returned with said items and proceeded to re-seed the lawn.

(Lest you think we're completely living the life of ease over here, remember this: I had to somehow communicate to Reda, in Arabic, what we needed him to do and when. So I have my own personal gardener, sure, but at the expense of my dignity. You should have seen me out there pantomining digging dogs and growing grass and sunshine. You should've seen me. But I'm glad you didn't.)

So where was I? Oh, yes, snakes. Anyway...

Reda planted the seeds and indicated that it would be at least 10 days before Yogi could go back in the yard. He definitely said 10. But in reality, it was more like 20. Or 1000. It was a loooong time before we could let him back there again.

Finally, though, the big day arrived. Yogi sniffed the new tender blades of grass, testing them with his paws while I stood sternly by. He tried to sneak in a little dig, and was quite disappointed that I wouldn't permit it. Still, glorious day! Yogi was once again free to roll around in the grass, right there on the sunniest patch of lawn.

Twenty-four hours passed. I left Bart in charge of the kids and escaped to the grocery store. (Moms out there: is there anything more wonderful than a grocery store run without your kids in tow? Bart always asks why I take so long, and the truth is, I like to stand in the produce section and revel in the silence.)

So where was I again? Oh, right, the snake.

Now here is where my narrative gets somewhat fuzzy. You see, I wasn't there when Reda the boab showed up at the door with some guys from Amman Municipality, telling Bart that Yogi the Giant Schnauzer was once again banned from the back yard. So I only have Bart's word for what happened. But the government seems to think he's a trustworthy guy, so we're going to go with his version of events.

It seems that Reda the boab found a snake in the back yard. A big snake? Perhaps. A poisonous snake? Perhaps. But who knows? Bart doesn't have time to study Arabic, and these guys don't have a reason to study English. It was only through some phone translation help from a colleague that it was even determined that the guys were hunting a snake. "And where there are snakes, there will be scorpions," is a line that was apparently bandied about.

So the city was putting poison in our yard to kill the snake. And Yogi the dog was not allowed to go back there for a week.

Poor Yogi. And poor Snakie! Seriously, did they have to kill it? It probably wasn't even capable of hurting a person.

At least this is what I told my wonderfully patient language teacher, Ghadeer, when I asked her the word for snake the very next day (it's haiya, or حية, which you can remember because it's sort of like the sound you might make if you were to chop a snake in two. You're welcome.). And I said, "What a shame, poor snakie." Ghadeer assured me that there are some obscenely poisonous snakes in Jordan, black snakes, so if this is what they found, they were right to kill it.

But what are the chances it was a poisonous black snake? Well, I know the word for black in Arabic - it was one of the first words I memorized because it sounds just like a swear word if you pronounce it the way I do: asswad. How great is that word? I use it all the time in traffic.

But I digress.

I saw Reda that afternoon, so I asked "Shou lawn haiya?" What color is the snake?

His response: "asswad." Which either means the snake is black, or he was insulting me. Assuming the former, gulp.

It appears our beautiful new un-dug-up lawn is a festering pit of poisonous asswad snakes. And you know what they say: where there are snakes, there will be scorpions.

Unfortunately, this is where our story ends. Did our heroine chop the snake in two with her own bare hands (haiya!)? Was Yogi the Giant Schnauzer ever allowed to resume his second-favorite activity, digging up the lawn? Is the snake even now lurking in the bushes, waiting to sink his fangs into our unsuspecting toes? Or was he caught and disposed of while our heroine was stuck at work, entering passport numbers into a vast government database?

Dear readers, I just don't know. I suppose it would have been smart to find out whether the snake was ever caught before I started this blog post. But, you know, I wasn't eager to go pantomine poisonous-snake-death-throes for the entertainment of the boab, who potentially already thinks I'm an asswad. So for now, let's just leave the poor grandparents hanging. And if I should happen to see Reda wander past the kitchen window with a giant snake carcass dangling from his shoulders, I'll let you know.


Kristen said... [Reply]

OK, this one has me cracking up. I actually just saw a very LARGE snake at the embassy track the other day while I was walking, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't an asswad :) But after the way I jumped and ran (stroller and dog in tow) I'm pretty sure I looked like one!

Walking to China said... [Reply]

I guess that's one reason why you get the danger pay.

Connie said... [Reply]

We had a post with cobras, and while it wasn't funny to think of them romping about happily where we lived and played, it was always entertaining when the cobra alert was issued and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE!, scrambled like mad to deal with the threat. Hope your backyard becomes safe for Yogi and kids again soon!

Kate said... [Reply]

Asswad is my new favorite word.

Daniela Swider said... [Reply]

Feeling bad for you and Yogi but laughing because I guess I am an asswad too...

Jersey Beth said... [Reply]

4 Globetrotters has NOTHING on you! This was hysterical!

Speaking of.. have you read this blog yet? She's a trip!

Jill said... [Reply]

We had snakes in India - though we were always forewarned with the Mongoose (or is it mongeese?) running around.

That is ... until they were getting caught in the hood of Matt's car - remember that?

Snakes ... meh. Scorpions? Holy heck - that would just about do it for me. YUK!

Val's Adventures said... [Reply]

This was hilarious. I'm sure the people I'm working with think I'm a nutcase for laughing out loud at my computer screen.

Kirby said... [Reply]

Donna, this post was hilarious! I am a student studying Arabic in Amman for the summer and would love the chance to meet up with you and talk about FSO life. Please email me at I look forward to speaking with you in the future!

Andrew said... [Reply]

Your post kind of inspired me to write some similar language-induced humor over on my blog. Thanks!

C said... [Reply]


I will take scorpions over snakes, says the girl from Scottsdale (who has been stung by a scorpion).

Brooke said... [Reply]

!!! I have to tell you, I just put my feet up on the couch after reading that. Oye. Good luck - and I say go ahead and chop any snakes you see in half. They deserve it.

Adrian Pratt said... [Reply]

Haha, you said asswad. Funny post. Not funny situation.

Please. Write your own stuff.