Between Iraq and a Hard Place
8 months in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Weekends here start on Friday which is why we stayed up til 2 am Thursday night. To my surprise we didn't get woken up until 1:00pm when breakfast/lunch was ready. Liz and I share a room with those slotted blinds that you crank down to shut out light- so we had no idea we had slept that late. Apparently that's what Friday's are for around here. Breakfast/Lunch was fuul, hummus, scrambled eggs, tomato, cucumber, lebaneh, olives, and tea (basically what we had eaten the night before) but it was still delicious. Everyone was still in their pajamas and stayed that way until about 3:00pm. When we were done eating Laith (that's the right way to spell my host-nephew's name) brought out some cards and we played Go-Fish with Zena for at least an hour. I lost almost every time. Laith seemed to get tired of Go-Fish so we played another ending card game where you go around laying cards face up and taking the stack when you lay down a face card. I could only play that for about 20 minutes before getting exceedingly bored so I taught them a game I learned from my friend Jelal in California. Basically what you do is stand in a circle, say "Ninja Assassin!" and strike whatever ninja pose you want. Then one person starts out as the attacker and, in one move, tries to successfully hit the hand of another person playing. The prey can make one defensive move, but if they're hit they are out of the game. Each person becomes the attacker depending on their position around the circle. It's a fun game to watch because everyone looks semi-foolish in their various ninja positions and often times sound effects magically incorporate their way into the game. But I digress... It seems that living here is going to give me incredible tolerance towards the under 10 set as well as increase my play skills.
During orientation our Director stressed the importance of spending face time with the family so whether I was reading, updating my blog, or wasting time on the computer, I did it in the living area and got to see everyone coming and going. I got very confused on the protocol when it comes to some of the things my host-mom, Mama Shireen, wanted from us. Some hours she wanted our bedroom doors open, other times closed- and same thing with the window. After a few times of getting various door instructions I finally figured out the source of confusion. Zait (or Zaid, I'm not sure).
Zaid is one year and three months old, can walk, can say three words, and has a great love of grabbing things from off of tables and putting them somewhere else. Since my family smokes a lot there are always at least 3 lighters and a pack of cigarettes laying around and it's really funny to see such a young kid wanting a pack of cigarettes so badly. (Others would probably call that messed up to some degree but its not like he's smoking them so no one gets upset). But anyway- when this adorable little boy runs out of things to touch he goes exploring and, as a result, will enter my room and grab a stack of flash cards or my glasses. So when Zaid is around- doors are closed. When he's not-doors are open. As for the window, you keep it shut when you're changing, or when you leave for the day, and open all other times. Mama Shireen also wants us to hide all of our electronics out of sight in case the Egyptian guard sees something and breaks into the house when no one's there. Egyptian workers are not extremely popular here I've come to find.
The rest of the day was spent getting food if you were hungry, practicing Arabic, hanging out with all of Shireen's children and grandchildren excepting 2/6 children, taking things away from Zaid, smoking argeelah, meeting more family, and watching TV. Speaking of TV, it is just my luck that I get stuck watching awkward nude scenes with my 37 year old host brother two nights in a row. I told him I wanted to watch Sherlock Holmes because I knew it wouldnt make me uncomfortable, but nooo- "want to watch van wilder college movie?" So within five minutes we were watching an orgy on television and then it was, "want to watch different movie?" So then we watched Bad Boys II and went to sleep. Inshallah I won't have to go through that anymore.
I was really interested to see how our Friday would be spent since my family is Muslim, but aside from hearing call to prayer from down the street you wouldn't know it was a holy day at my house. If anything is holy it is the concept that Friday is the day for sleeping and smoking ???(only). Personally I have no problem with this.
Saturday was more or less the same, we just woke up an hour earlier. Amal opened the door and told us to wake up so of course we rolled back over to sleep another five minutes when we heard the door open a little and close. It turned out to be Zaid and per our encouraging smiles, he opened and closed the door 6 more times before Tala shut it for good. We got dressed and went to hang out with the family. Within 20 minutes Maher's brother, Bassal was calling us into the kitchen. My bedroom is right across from the kitchen but somehow I always miss when a meal is prepared. We had rice with vegetables and chicken. It reminded me of the big plated meal we used to get in Morocco except the spices were all different and there was rice instead of couscous. I think they put cinnamon in the rice which is good at first but after awhile stops tasting as good. I don't think I'll need worry about it though since I've only been force fed once since I've been here.
There were only two major changes to the way things were done that Saturday. The first thing, was that Maher, Amal, Tala, Liz and I, went on a walk around "the neighborhood." Shmiesani is pretty big so I thought we'd spend an hour touring it but instead we spent 20 minutes walking soooo slowly around the block. They showed us where to take a taxi from and which direction the Safeway/KFC was in. Fried chicken within a five minute walk=WIN. Shmeisani seems to be a quiet, fairly well to do area of Amman, but then again I don't have much to compare it to
A few things about walking around the block: 1. Sidewalks are usually hella skinny, as in one skinny person can walk on it. Sometimes there is no sidewalk, or if there is, there are trees growing in it so you can't walk on it anyway. 2. What you hear could be fireworks in the distance, or they could be guns which are shot at wedding celebrations. 3. Speaking of weddings, like in Morocco, when someone gets married the wedding party honks all of their car horns to alert the world of the union. Unlike in Morocco, they aren't allowed to make noise after midnight.
The second change in schedule was the announcement from Maher that for one hour every day we would only be allowed to speak in Arabic. This frightened me, but I can't really talk because I've at least taken 4 Arabic classes whereas Liz started learning on Monday when she got here. After our hour of Arabic we hung out on the patio. Around 9 o'clock Laith brought out the Monopoly board and Liz, Maher and I played for an hour or so. Halfway through the game Laith and I teamed up and dominated but we ended the game early because we had school in the morning and Maher didn't want to admit to losing.
So that seems to be how weekend days will go here. Eat, smoke, talk, hangout, study, watch tv, rinse and repeat. Laid back and very family oriented. That being said, I'm going to see how long it takes before I'm out of the house and exploring on my own...
Until next time.