Monday, May 31, 2010

Odd things that are somehow...normal

There are still times when I casually notice something that seems out of place. Not necessarily out of place here, but out of place compared to what I have for so long considered the 'norm'. While walking around my neighborhood today I saw a woman in her seventies wearing a bandana on her head. It would have been totally normal if there weren't skulls on it.

I noticed a ten year old boy getting out of the car which normall doesn't turn heads. Except he came out of the drivers side, had keys in his hand and there was nobody else in the car. As Gretchen pointed out, no wonder everyone here drives crazy. When you learn how to drive at ten years old with little instruction. That said, they do have drivers education here. I know this because the drivers ed. cars look like taxi's and I tried to hail one last summer. I'm glad the car didn't stop.

Another odd thing is salon experience which I think I've touched on before. It never ceases to amuse me (or annoy me, depending on my mood) that when getting my hair done, the hairdresser is sumultaneously involved in other activities. Such as disciplining her two sons who are in the salon, talking on her mobile phone, answering the business phone, taking bites of schawarma from one of her sons or going outside to see what the commotion is. There is also the issue of tending to multiple clients at once. Whether it's a cut, style, color or threading eyebrows, she's on it. This is just part of the charm of Jordan, and although sometimes it drives me batty, I know someday I'll miss it.

Why communicating makes me feel three years old

As you can imagine, there are numerous times when I struggle with expressing something in Arabic. It's usually a question I have, directions on where to go, etc. Sometimes it can be downright entertaining thinking of ways to communicate using Arabic, English and making gestures with arms and hands.

The other day I needed to buy baby wipes (hey, it's dusty, they come in handy) but I had no clue how to say this in Arabic. So I just walked confidently into the store and said "fii" which means "is there" and then rubbed my hands together and said baby. They seemed a bit stumped at first, despite my use of Arabic, English and hand movement. I then said 'Fine', which in the ubiquitous brand of tissue. Akin to Kleenex in the US. Then, they got it. When I asked them how to ask for baby wipes, they just said 'Fine baby'. I wonder what would happen if I asked for Kleenex baby in the US?

Today, I went into a store to see if they had a chart with Arabic letters. I don't even remember how to say letter (if I ever learned it) and the words 'word' and 'sentence' were not going to get me far. So I asked if he had 'something like this' while making a square shape, followed by 'for children', followed by reciting the first part of the Arabic alphabet. And the guy immediately knew what I was talking about. He might have some next week, and maybe if I'm lucky, he'll just remember what I wanted to I won't have to go through the same miming/word game. Although I have to admit, this miming/word game is really fun. It's like playing charades with a couple of words thrown in here and there. The rule here is that if you are using words other than your native tongue, it doesn't count against you. The best part is I get to play this game every day!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Organized Seating and Dust, Dust, Dust!

It's dust season here in Amman. It's so dusty, that I could barely make out the skyline this morning. At first, I wondered if it was fog, but after a quick look at my dust covered table and laptop, which is had just cleaned a few days before, I realized it wasn't fog at all. It kind of makes me think twice about opening the window. Fresh air and a dust covered apartment or a a slightly warmer, cleaner apartment? Tough choice.

Another quirk of Amman is the seating in movie theaters. It's so organized it's almost baffling. When you go to the movie theater, you can choose where you want to sit when you buy the tickets, similar to the procedure of buying tickets through Ticketmaster for a concert or play in the US. Some friends and I went to see Robin Hood last night, and while we were searching for our seats, we were greeted by a guy with a flashlight who took us right to our seats. It's nice to have someone help out, especially if the theater is so full that you can't find your spot. It's just surprising when compared to other things in Jordan.

For example, the driving. I know I've mentioned this before, but the driving here is....pandemonium. People honk their horns constantly and lanes don't seem to apply here. Driving around the circles seems like a game of bumper cars except not quite as fun.

It has occured to me that someday I might need to drive here but I keep putting that thought in the back of my head. I just can't seem to muster up the courage quite yet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Too much of a good thing....

Be prepared to read about something quite tragic.

My favorite jeans ripped yesterday.

I guess eating all that ice cream from Gerards and frequenting the new Buffalo Wings and Rings place has caught up to me. I'm sure the knafa and schawarma also had something to do with it.... when I stepped on the scale for the first time in....awhile.....I wasn't too surprised that all of those delicious things added a few pounds. Thankfully, it's not really noticeable. Or at least it wasn't until I tried on my favorite pair of quite snug fitting jeans.

I hadn't worn them in about 2 months so I thought I'd give them a shot. Yeah, they were a little snug but as women around the world know, all you have to do is wiggle and stretch a little. In no time, they will be fitting more comfortably and won't look so...painted on. As I was moving around, I heard a riiiiip sound. Crap! I looked down and sure enough, I put a rip in the crotch of my favorite pair of jeans. Bugger. This was a first. I'd like to partially blame this tragic incident on the fact that they were worn out since I wore them so much.

The moral of the story is that I'll be saving some money and doing my arteries a favor by laying off the Gerards an all that good stuff. I guess I should have taken the hint when one of Gretchen's students, whose father owns Gerards ice cream, told Gretchen that her Dad had seen us on the security camera about four times. In one week.

My next trip will be to the tailor as I'm quite sure that walking around in tight jeans with a rip in the crotch is kind of frowned upon. Especially if you are in the Middle East.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


When you are sick or feeling down, some things are just guaranteed to bring a smile and some comfort to your day. My list always included a get well with from a friend, milkshakes, a good laugh and a hug. Now my list includes adorable get well notes from kids.

Recently, I had a cold that made me blend in well with my students. I was always coughing, using kleenex (Fine for those here in Jordan) and had watery eyes. Upon noticing this, one of my students wrote me this get well note:

Dear Miss Heather

Slamtek, I am really feeling bad for you. don't shout or hurt your throut and take the madisson that named (Stripcells) it will make you feel better.

lots of love

anonymous adorable student (of course, here the student actually wrote her name)

I especially love the spelling of 'salamtik'. Salam means peace in Arabic, but in this case, it appears my student is wishing that I be slammed upon. Honest mistake of course, and it sure did bring a smile to my face!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


As a teacher of English as a second language, I hear quite a few odd things. Some that make no sense whatsoever, some that make you laugh, and some that just leave you with a puzzled look. Here are some examples of definitions and sentences kids have given. Keep in mind they could use a dictionary.
Grumpy: something is nice.
Clumsy: something is not tidy. I hate someone is clumsy.
Vibrant: a thing that move. My mobile vibrat when I was at school.
Trudge: a deep hole. I love to go inside a deep hole.
Shiver: to move the water behind the boat.
Waddle: were we put the boat. I like to waddle the boat.
Toss: plural of toes.
Grumpy: is to made or because something wet. My brother made my room grumpy.
Portrayal: a tall plant that is grown in wet places.
Intimate: in bissness.
Caught: he is warring a nice red and blue caught.
Crept: like a potato that is grown in large quantities.
Float: When the Chinese peopole go to the dead sea they float at the top.
Vacant: a vacant is a person who workes for help. I saw a vacant in the park.
Sting: something so sticky. There is something stingy over there.
Odd: person that is helping people. This odd is not working anymore because it was fired.

Maybe the real reason it takes me so long to grade is because I spend an hour laughing :-)

Not So Far From Home

Living in the Middle East, thousands of miles from home, might make people think that I am missing out on a lot of things back in the US. Fear not, those adventerous enough to visit me here in Jordan....there are many cool things within walking distance of my apartment. I have blogged before about the plethora of American chain restaurants and fast food joints here in Amman but let me tell you about the new additions which are right here in my 'hood.

First and most importantly, a Buffalo Wings and Rings just opened and it's on my street. I didn't eat buffalo wings that often in Ohio but now that there is one on my street, I go all the time. Why? Because it's comfort food. Yep, the place has 2 big screen tv's, gyros, curly fries and buffalo wings made just the way that I'm used to. The kind people who work there change the channel to Al Jazeera International (it's in English, bonus) when I'm there. Guess where the owner is from? Cincinnati!!! Now, all I need is someone to start selling Buckeyes in my neighborhood and I'll be set.

If you walk ten minutes further you'll see a cozy little diner that looks like it took a time machine from the 50's. They even have chili and oreo milkshakes. All the standard fare of a diner plus some more modern additions such as the thai peanut burger. It might be in the Middle East but it's a pretty fantastic old school American style diner with a modern twist. It wasn't opened by an Ohioan but I'll let that slide. Nobody's perfect.

On Fridays from May until September there is a fantastic market called Souq Jara which is also in my neighborhood. It's a farmers market and an art market combined. You can get excellent honey, herbal tea, cookies, watermelon smoothies, crepes, handmade soap, antique jewelry, funky modern jewelry, keffiyeh scarves with embroidered flowers and more. Most recently I bought some handmade soap with lavendar and another with brown sugar. The latter smelled so good I wanted to eat it. And I'm not kidding when I tell you that the woman who makes these wonderful soaps is from ......Ohio! Columbus to be exact.

I also bought as presents or received as gifts the following, from the amazing Souq Jara: herbal tea, sundried tomatoes, jewelry made by some of my students, a comic book, t-shirt and earrings with Turkish coins dating back to the Ottoman Empire.

So you see, sometimes I really don't feel that far from home.