Friday, April 28, 2006

The Correlation Between Traffic Cops and Traffic Jams

There is an interesting phenomenon in Amman that I've been noticing since I've been driving here (oh, yes in case I hadn't mentioned it, I'm driving!). It seems that anytime you encounter a traffic jam, gummed up cars, annoyed people, blaring horns, you will find at the head of the line a traffic cop. I'm certain that the idea is to improve traffic, but I haven't seen that they do so. In fact, quite the opposite seems to occur. Any day, you can drive through a stretch of road that is busy, but passable. However, the moment the traffic cop intercedes, the traffic snarls up and comes to a complete halt. Given the number the of times I've seen this, I've determined it's not a fluke. There must be a causal relationship between these two.

Our youngest, JoojooBean has definitely figured out the difference between driving in the US and driving in Jordan. One day as we were sitting in a particularly congested area (the road to Shmeisani), she observed the folks around us and said, Honk!Honk!. It was truly too funny. In the US, horns are used only in exceptional circumstances. They are used to note Watch out you're about to crash! In jordan, they're more of a general accessory. You know, Honk!Honk! you're too close, Honk!Honk! let me go first, Honk!Honk! I don;t like the way you look. In the US, I could go an entire week of hour long commutes without ever hearing anyone use their horn. Here, I'm lucky if I go 5 minutes! It's funny the world in definitely louder and more colorful. Smellier too. Probably all of the diesel cars with no obvious emissions standards. At any rate, it seems like everything here is bigger, bolder, louder, and more odiferous. It's a new experience every day, I wonder what tomorrow will bring!


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On Letting Go...

So, if you've lived in the US for any period of time, you know that things run a bit differently. You know, simple things like standing in lines at banks, government offices, airports. People actually wait their turn, grumbling and annoyed by delays in their hyper-busy schedules, but wait they do. You get used to knowing the government has put rules and regulations into place to protect you. And, this is omnipresent. Today El 3atal and I went to look at a Pre-K and a pre-school for the beans. When we got done, El 3atal asked me if I thought that Junior Bean and Joojoo Bean would be safe. Weren't there some toys there that weren't age-appropriate. I had to smile. How very American he sounded. Now, don't get me wrong, while touring the facility, I had the same thought. I've had the same thought MANY, MANY times. {Warning tangent approaching.} Like this morning when I realized anew it would be impossible for me to child-proof our temporary apartment. JoojooBean came to me crying with some foul smelling gunk on her foot. I couldn't figure out what it was until she took me to the kitchen. Apparently she had pulled off the cover to the drain (wait, a drain in the kitchen floor?), the drain top itself, and stepped into the hole of icky, gross water... I don't think this thing has been flushed in the last 10 years (do you flush these or something?). So, again, I understand El 3atal's issue. {End of tangent} But, as I told him. This is one of the many things I've realized I will simply have to let go. There aren't governmental standards checking daycares, pre-schools, and schools for compliance with child safety regulations, food preparation regulations, etc. The health department doesn't go in, review the kitchen and shut you down if you aren't meeting appropriate specifications. That's just not where things are. Where I can control safety, I will (where does one get outlet covers for these round outlet plates anyway?). All three of my beans are, unfashionably, in car seats and will so remain until the 65 pound limit of the seat we currently have. Our temporary apartment has as little within reach as possible. The beans' bedroom has nothing in it except the travel mattresses they are currently using. I mean that literally, nothing. We try to keep their surroundings as safe as we can. But, when out in public, I just have to let these things go.

I also have to let go of my expectations about customer service and customer focus. In the US, banks (one of the least customer friendly establishments) open late on Fridays to allow to customers who work to actually transact business. Shops intentionally open later so that people can leave work and make purchases. On any holiday from work, every business that can will be open to make as much money as possible. In Jordan, the banks open from 10-2 every other day except the holiday each week, as far as I've been able to tell :). Okay, so I could be exaggerating just the tiniest bit, but... At any rate, car dealerships were all closed on the recent holiday. Car dealerships, can you believe it? In the US, car dealerships are typically open until 9 every night to allow people to buy a car anytime, every day. They also have special sales on holidays to try and lure people in to buy a car. It is almost impossible to find a more customer-friendly business than car dealerships. So, it takes some adjusting, but mostly I think it just takes letting go. I've realized that the fewer expectations I start with, the more likely they will be met. And, if you can simply go with the different flow, it makes things much easier. I have to admit, it helps that I'm not working and I don't have the pressures of a business day to worry about. At any rate, until next time...



Monday, April 24, 2006

Welcome to my new blog

Greetings all. Welcome to my new blog. Some of you may be familiar with my Life on the Ant Farm blog, dedicated to life with three adorable children 4 and under. This blog is intended to chronicle more my experiences as an American living in Jordan. You can see from my picture that I look as American as American can be. And, I mean this literally. Prior to 9-11, twice I went across the border to Mexico with people from other countries and twice I came back with no passport or even driver's license review. In fact, I flew home from the Virgin Islands and rather than checking my passport, the immigration officer helped me carry my bag. So, there's never a question. So far, we've been in Jordan for a couple of weeks. It is an interesting experience. To set the stage a bit, I've traveled to Jordan about 1/2 dozen times (including being married here) and stayed for about 3 weeks each time. I was certainly not moving here blind. It has been a different experience in that we're not on vacation, but we don't have our things with us yet. So, I'm spending my days trying to entertain my 4 year old daughter and 2 year old boy/girl twins with about 10 toys. My creativity is stretched to its limits... I would like to start this blog on the right note, so I'm going to put my very favorite things so far.

1. You can buy beautiful flowers on the street for 1 dinar. I don't mean carnations and other cheap flowers like I paid $5 for a bunch in the US every week. In Jordan, you can buy roses in all colors, lilies, and other lovelies for the equivalent of $1.50. I love this so much. I've already told El 3atal that no man has an excuse for not bringing home flowers. He took the hint (good call).

2. Driving is an experience. It's quite interesting to know rules, regulations, and customs and then simply ignore them. People turn left from the right lane, right from the left lane, triple park. All of these things are not only normal, but seemingly acceptable. I saw someone getting a ticket and had to ask, what can you POSSIBLY do that is so bad that they ticket you? Where do they draw the lines?

3. Warm weather with lovely breezes. Coming from hot, humid Louisiana, the dry, dusty heat of Amman is challenging. But, the breezes that blow through cooling the skin and bringing a hint of something else (ocean air? the winds of change?). I hear this is the best time of year, and boy am I glad we're here for it.

Those are my top three for now, but I'm sure that I'll be adding more before too long. I expect that this blog with be sporadic until we get our own internet connection, but I hope to be a regular poster with my thoughts, experience, and general feelings on life.