Between Iraq and a Hard Place
8 months in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Meeting the Family
First impressions were great, the couple is 37 and 32, fit, attractive and well dressed. They are my host brother and sister. My brother's name is Maher and his wife is Amal. Maher is a computer engineer and Amal is in electrical engineering. They have a 5 year old girl named Tala and an 8 year old boy Layth. They were waiting in the back of the car with their ten year old cousin Zena. We drove to their/our house in Shmeisani where our homestay mom, Shireen (59), and her other two daughters, Suher (38), and Hadeed (younger than 38). We live in the family house, and by we I mean me, Liz, Maher, Amal, Shireen, Talam and Layth. That means that family is always coming over as well as neighbors, step moms, and friends. According to Maher, going down from his Father there are 33 of them total.
The first 30 or so minutes were a little awkward with the kids just staring at us, and Maher being the only one who spoke really good English. After about an hour of facetime Shireen dismissed us to our bedroom and let us unpack and get situated. Due to our previous warnings of Patti Pitts like cleanliness, we folded and organized ourselves very well. When we were done everyone was on the outside patio smoking cigarettes and sheesha. Liz and I brought out our presents and got ready to meet more of the family. Hadeed's one year old son Zayd was awake and Maher's brother Bassal had come with his wife Rana and her daughter ---- from a previous marriage.They were talking in quite a bit of English, for our benefit, but in Arabic as well. I love the way it sounds. After a little while Maher's stepmom came over with his half-brother and their student, Anika. Anika is awesome, she goes to Colombia, has short curly hair and plays the piano. Some point in the night a neighbor whose name escapes me, and Shireen's two nieces stopped by. Rana had us go into the kitchen and learn how to make Turkish coffee. Which is served in tablespoons and is incredibly thick- Maher joked that the patio coffee shop opens at 7 every night and I don't doubt it.
Around 11 o'clock, when the argeelah (sheesha) was done, I assumed it was time for bed. I was wrong. Amal started making dinner, and Zena and Tala started a massage train with me and Liz. Dinner was delicous. We had scrambled eggs, hummus, Jordanian eggplant, sliced cucumbers, leban (hard yogurt), straight oregano, feta cheese with tomato, and two different types of olives. Everything separated by commas was in a different dish and we all made it through with bread and cups of shay (tea). We use the same plastic chairs for the patio as we do in the kitchen, it saves space and makes sense considering the number of people eating at any given time changes day by day. Dinner was fairly silent and the awkwardness came and went.
Liz and I changed into pajamas while the kids went to bed and at this point I thought sleep was next on the agenda. Wrong again. Maher, Amal, Liz and I gathered around the TV to watch, what else, but "Snakes on a Plane" starring Samuel L. Jackson. Let me tell you, a sex scene has never been more awkward... after the movie it was about 2 o clock and we went to sleep. Because Friday is the start of the weekend we didn't get woken up until 1:00pm. WIN.