Thursday, July 26, 2012

Let's See, Where Were We?

I took a little blog break, I guess. Sorry about that. It's been super busy around here, and much of what has occupied my interest in the past month has been 100% unbloggable.

It's Ramadan right now, and as Djibouti Jones pointed out, it feels a little strange to be be in a majority-Muslim country during Ramadan. It's a big, important, month-long celebration here, but it has nothing to do with me. The community is fasting, and struggling, and celebrating. Families are gathering every night at sunset to break their fasts - imagine, no food or water AT ALL from sun-up to sun-down, for an entire month. They are gathering prayerfully, and I am sneaking my water when nobody is looking. I am not celebrating. I am not preparing dinners for extended family. It is not my holiday, and yet I am caught up in it each day.

I have, in fact, been invited to an iftar celebration this Friday - the first since I've been here, somehow. So that should be interesting, and fun. Mostly, though, the celebratory aspect of the holiday is lost on me, a non-Muslim.

We did go to the Embassy one night, as a family, to help deliver iftar meals to the guards and police who ring the Embassy compound. They stand post all day, in the July sun, and surely need to break their fasts the moment the call to prayer rings out. Several nights during Ramadan, Embassy volunteers bring food and water to all of them.

By the way, in case it isn't obvious, pretty much everyone in these photos is Muslim except for my immediate family. So I guess Michele Bachmann would be pretty freaked out if she saw these pictures. I'm registered to vote in the state of Virginia, so I can't vote against her, but I am appalled at her bigotry.

Perhaps now would be a good time to mention, for anyone out there who might be wondering, that there is nothing scary about your average Muslim, and the sooner people in the States stop fighting over mosques and arguing about whose religion is superior, the better. The lifeguard who taught my baby to swim is Muslim. The doctor who saw my daughter in the ER last year is Muslim. Our dentist is Muslim. My language teacher is Muslim. The guy who made my lunch yesterday is Muslim - and yes, he is fasting, and no, he didn't care that I am not fasting. Our boab - the man who plays soccer with my kids, and cuts flowers for the girls, and watches over my house when I'm away - yep, he's Muslim, too. If he tried to board a plane with you, you might get nervous. But I trust him with my house and my car and my kids. He is a deeply religious man, and he lives his life in the manner that his God wants for him.  Kind of like your average devout Catholic, I guess. The outward trappings are different (and I am sooo happy that my religion doesn't require a month-long fast from me!) but really, the best religious folk, in any religion, are just trying to do right. Not trying to bend others to their way of worshipping, mind you. Just bending their own selves.

Too bad Michele Bachmann doesn't know any Muslims. She needs to get out more, I guess.

But enough about venomous politicians. Here it is summer, and the kids are spending long hours at the pool and playground. They are baking cookies and brownies from scratch, and fighting over the remote control, and outgrowing every stitch of clothing that they own. My last day on the job was today - I'll start a new one in late August - and we are preparing to take a little vacation soon, so I'm making list-after-list-after-list of Things To Buy in America (New shoes for the kids! Computer equipment! Seaweed crackers! Eyeliner! Birthday supplies! Long-life udon noodles! Chocolate chips! Kids' underwear! Have you ever in your life seen a more random list???).

All in all, life is good here in Amman, if way too busy.

Ramadan Kareem to my Muslim friends.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sushi in the Desert

A friend called me up and asked me to come along with her when she got a pre-plane mani-pedi today. Well, I'm not the biggest mani-pedi-er in town, but who am I to pass up time hanging out with a friend? Then another friend got in on the action, and the next thing you know, we decided we needed to add lunch in as well.

And that is how I ended up at a table in an air conditioned restaurant this afternoon, ordering sushi for lunch.

I know, I know: sushi in Amman? In the middle of the desert? But trust me - it was oh-so-delicious. And fun, too, to take a mid-day break and hang out with some other fun (and funny) ladies.

It's 100 degrees here in Amman today, and it is supposed to be hotter tomorrow. So I am sitting at home, contemplating turning on the air conditioner and trying to work up some excitement over dinner prep. We have run out of water for the second time in a week, so there is currently a gigantic water truck parked in our driveway, pumping water into the rooftop tank. It is loud and I am sleepy. Not ideal conditions for making dinner.

In other news, the color of polish that I chose for my nails looked summer-y and festive in the bottle, but on my toes, it looks garish and orange and way over-the-top. I might have to track down some nail polish remover if I can't get used to it quickly enough.

The lady who did my nails at the pedicure place was Filipina. She was wearing a shirt that said "Gigi" on the front and "Beauty Saloon" on the back. She looked hot and tired and sad. At one point the woman working at the next station, an Arab, asked her what was wrong. My lady, fighting back tears, answered "I'm just a little bit dizzy." The Arab coworker started teasing her: "Busy? You're too busy? Ah, perhaps you are pregnant? What is wrong with you? Are you pregnant?" My lady mumbled, in English, "I don't even have a husband" - but she was wearing a wedding band. It was sort of sad, in an undefinable way, but the whole exchange made the shiny orange polish she was applying seem even more garish and unnecessary.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Boot Camp

The Embassy is running a summer camp here in Amman, and I enrolled each of the kids for two weeks. (Separate weeks, mind you - I can't afford to keep them all in camp all summer, but I figured if I split them up for a few weeks, that's 185% less fighting. Yay for less fighting!)

This week was the boys' turn for camp. It was also Marine Boot Camp Week. The camp director is married to our detachment commander, and she managed to convince our awesome Marines to take a week of their time and run a mini-boot camp for the older kids.

They did PT, and marching, and shooting (umm, not real guns, I'm told), and flag folding, and running in formation, and the kids loved all of it.

Today was the final day of boot camp, which they marked with a graduation. The detachment commander had the kids line up at attention and he presented each one with a certificate. I took some pictures of the ceremony, during which the detachment commander marched from kid to kid to kid and personally shook each child's hand, but I didn't get a clear shot without skazillions of other peoples' kids in the background, so I won't post those here.

But - they also gave each child a photo of himself dressed in all of their gear. See below.

It was a little unorthodox, I suppose. I mean, how many middle schoolers and elementary schoolers back home are doing this? But it was a terrific opportunity for the kids to interact with some great guys (and one seriously kick-ass female) and to get a glimpse into what the Marines at post are capable of doing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bowl o' Kitties

I often make fun of my cat-lady friend Jenna because she acquires cats the way normal people collect, oh, I don't know, ceramic giraffes, maybe? She came here with a couple of cats, and now she's up to something like ten, because she can't pass up an injured or abandoned kitty.

She feeds them, and fixes them, and tries to find them all homes, and it's God's work, truly, but I am not called to rescue sharp-clawed little creatures myself.

Which is why I was less than thrilled when Reda the boab tapped on our window last week to show us this:

Of course I texted Jenna immediately: There are five kittens in my yard. Help!

To which she responded simply: It's your turn.

(Side note: I clearly need to find better friends. What's the use of having a cat lady for a friend if she won't even take your cats?)

I tried to talk to the boab in Arabic. Where is the mother? Where did you find them? What do you want me to do about it? We had a loooong conversation, in Arabic, after which I understood only: The kittens were born in the next door neighbor's yard. They are still nursing. How many do you want? (And it took about 20 minutes to communicate that little.)

Well, since the kittens are still nursing, and they haven't been abandoned, I went into the neighbor's yard with him to give the kittens back to their mama, who was anxiously awaiting their return. I also brought the mom a bag of cat food, figuring at least she could feed her babies without wandering away - thus saving the babies from well-intentioned boabs.

I told the boab to come back every day and I'd give him more food for the mama. If the cats stick around long enough, I guess I'll have to call the house-call-making vet and ask her to come give them shots and get them all fixed.

Those kittens are adorable. But we already have a souvenir cat from Jordan. And really, I think one cat lady in the neighborhood is enough, don't you?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Second Fourth in Amman

Just got home from the unofficial Fourth of July celebration at the Embassy. There was face painting, just like last year, and games, and bouncy castles, and fireworks, and a dunk tank (starring, among others, our very own RSO). The camera battery was nearly dead, so not a lot of pictures - and nary an action shot of Bart getting dunked.

It was fun but now I am tired, and tomorrow is a work day.

Happy Fourth of July, wherever you may be.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Deanna. Nour. Jennifer. Mike. Terri. Rich. Leigh. Sara. Kate. Dave. Tiffany. Greg. Whitney. Connie. Brad. Tamar. Leslie. Janice. Steve.

This is just a partial list of the friends I've said goodbye to in the last few weeks.

Transfer season is really, really, really hard.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thoughts of Summer

"My wife loves your blog," he told me, and just like that I doubled over with a severe case of writer's block.

I started this blog back in 2007 as a place to record the things that happen to me as I travel this foreign service road with my family, and all these years later, I still find it odd that random strangers read my blog.

Stranger still: the fact that people I know read it. This constrains me rather significantly, as you might imagine, because I'm not writing fiction. And yet, I'm not wanting to "out" the various people who hold my interest in the course of a regular day, and so I hesitate before I sit down to type.

What to say of the Embassy employee who can't seem to get along with anybody? How to describe the sadness when your child's favorite person packs up and moves on? The shaky hands of the woman who spent four weeks in a hospital, post-breakdown? The time I lost my temper and snapped at someone, undeservedly? Our boab, walking down the street alone, returning to his tiny box of a room in the garage and dreaming, no doubt, of family in far-away Egypt? The curious tension that is Syria, Syria, Syria, hanging over conversations with locals?

I'm changing, as one does, by the mere fact that I moved here. When I need to hail a taxi, I make sure I'm as covered as can be, so I stand in the street wearing a sweatshirt on a sweltering June day. No one told me to do that; I'm simply not comfortable showing any skin as I wait on a street corner. I read stories about Israel and Palestine in the paper and I shake my head in dismay at how one-sided these stories are, and how little Americans know about the situation, and how frustratingly unsolvable it is. I look at Syria on the map: Syria, where mothers and their babies are right now being killed by their own government, and I say, that's right next door. It isn't some faraway land: I could drive there in a couple of hours.

Soon we'll take the kids back to the States for a couple of weeks. They haven't been back to the States since we moved here in 2010. It won't really be a homecoming for them, as we're taking them to a part of the States that they've never seen before, but there will be grandparents, and perhaps an uncle or an aunt, and Target if they're lucky, and so they will be home, really home, in a place they've never been before.

Our definition of home has become just that fluid. Right now, we're home in Amman. But as soon as we leave this home, as soon as we touch down in a random city in America, we will look at our kids and say, we're home. How can that be? We set down our suitcases where it pleases us and pronounce the location home. But even as we do that, the kids pine for their home in Amman, and their long-ago home in Beijing. And we type a flurry of emails to the realtor regarding that other home, the one we just bought in Virginia, though only one of us has even seen it.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying summer here, at home in Amman. The weather is mostly blue-sky perfect. Mornings are reserved for work, but the afternoons are full of swim lessons and ice cream and what-to-make-for-dinner? I will start a new job, a full-time job, in August, and so I am enjoying these last days of flexibility before my schedule shifts once again and I am forced to re-work my routine.

Now: Ainsley is awake and she wants to talk about how Cinderella got to the ball. So pardon the abrupt end to this post, but I have work to do.
Please. Write your own stuff.