Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another Day, Another Jordanian Get Together

This time, it was at Kyra's school. I love the girls' school, truly I do. It is a mix of nationalities: Russian, Japanese, American - but mostly Jordanian. Classes are taught half in Arabic, half in English, with 30 minutes of French thrown in for good measure. Small class sizes, great teachers, and walking distance from home. What could be better?

They tend to have a lot of parent-type days, like sports days, or concerts, or holiday celebrations. One other thing they have, which I'd blocked out after last year, is We Are Jordan day.

I was summoned to the school last week for We Are Jordan. The kids in Kyra's class were split into three groups, each at a separate table. Our group consisted of me, Kyra and 4 Jordanian families. We sat down together at a table covered with cardboard, play dough, bags of sand and other arts and crafty type things.

Now might be a good time to tell you that I SUCK at arts and crafty types things.

The teacher explained, in Arabic, what we were supposed to do, but it was loud and Arabic, so I understood not a thing. I asked her to repeat, for me, in English, while the other moms and kids feverishly set to work. Turns out, we were responsible for making Wadi Rum, the desert wonderland in southern Jordan, not far from Aqaba. The other parents in our group were making camels, or bedouins, or campfires. Kyra and I were assigned to make a tent.

A tent?

Yes, said the teacher, handing me a footlong square of burlap and two wooden meat skewers. A tent.

I tried every way I could think of to make that tent. I stabbed the sticks into the cardboard base and propped the canvas on them, but the whole structure collapsed. I wrapped play dough around the sticks, to no avail. I stuck bits of play dough around the edges of the burlap, hoping it would hold the heavy fabric in place, but - can you guess? - the tent collapsed again.

Next to me a mother son team were busy making paper camels with play dough saddles. Another kid was making an orange play dough campfire while his dad built another tent out of red and white checked fabric. His tent was square and sturdy and almost finished. My tent, shakily propped up with bits of toothpicks and cardboard, threatened to topple over at any moment. The mom to my right leaned across me to prop her kid's camel in front of the burlap tent. It perched there proudly, seeming to mock my tent. The mom to my left leaned over and handed me a piece of play dough, suggesting that I turn it into a saddle for that jaunty little camel. I pushed it onto the camel's back, where a saddle ought to be, and the camel prompted collapsed. The mom to my right glared at me. The mom to my left focused on her own project, even though it had been her suggestion that prompted me to mutilate the poor kid's camel.

I was miserable. All around me parents and kids chatted happily as they cut out tiny camels and people, or made tiny clay furniture that was supposed to go inside my tent. The furniture all stayed outside the tent, as it was clear the tent would blow away in the first desert breeze.

Perhaps sensing my misery, one of the moms smiled sympathetically and said "they gave you the hardest job."

Kyra was oblivious to her mother's complete lack of craftiness. She eyed the bag of sand and decided that our tent would look much better if we added sand. So she happily spread sand under and over the tent, sprinkled it on the campfire and poured it over the camels.

The tent, that poor sad sack of a tent, collapsed again under the weight of all of the sand. All the same, I pronounced our tent "perfect" and Kyra, who apparently has never seen a tent in her short life, happily agreed. We retired to the sand bottle table, where the kids were busily filling bottles with funnels of colored sand. And I rejoiced in the knowledge that We Are Jordan was over for the year.

That is, until I found a note in Ainsley's lunchbox that afternoon, summoning me to her classroom next week for her We Are Jordan event.

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