Saturday, August 26, 2006

Anniversary Approaches

So, in just a couple of days, the anniversary of the havoc wrought by hurricane Katrina will be upon us. Now, I don't know exactly what coverage people saw in Jordan (or in fact anywhere other than South Louisiana). I only know what my experience of the events we being an hour down the road and a lifetime away. I also know that whatever pictures you did see were enough to make my inlaws try to call rather frantically. Understandably they were worried, just as my friends and family were when they began to see and hear about the events in Lebanon. It's interesting to see the similarities, in fact, of our experience in both events. As the days loom nearer I begin to think more about it. I've been looking around the blogosphere to find someone to update me on the real perspective on the ground in New Orleans. So far I haven't found much written by the people there, perhaps owing a bit to the slow reconstruction. At any rate, it does have me thinking about how much has changed, and yet how similar the circumstances are in which we find ourselves.

A year ago, we were watching with less enthusiasm and concern what seemed like the 5th potential evacuation of the year. We were hearing about a storm hanging about in the gulf like a lost relative. Three days later, we breathed a huge sigh of relief that the storm, from what we were hearing on the battery-powered radio, had bypassed New Orleans. What we knew at that point was that a) landfall had occurred in Mississippi (we said many prayers for the people there), b) that there were strong winds, and c) that we had no power. That's pretty much it. To give you a mental picture, prior to the storm, strange cars began to line the streets of our small, affluent community. All of the circles and medians had cars parked semi-permanently as people awaited the approach and departure of the water. One of our friends was up to 42 people in their 4 bedroom house. Entire families were living in a small bedroom. So, we breathed our sigh of relief that New Orleans had once again been spared. Then, we began to hear rumors that were confirmed by the media. The levees had broken. The "storm surge" (I had never properly appreciated what is truly meant by this) had shoved into the Greater New Orleans area with waves up to 15 feet high. They seem to have caused the levees to be overtopped and buckle. And then, the nightmare began. Finally, at this point, we found the restaurants across the county line that had power and began to see news coverage of people on their roofs. We began to wonder where the government was. We lived less than a mile from Interstate 10, in the closest intact city and saw no appreciable traffic heading down for rescue.

In the recent war in Lebanon, the situation wasn't unavoidable. However, the devastation it produced was the same. People fled in record numbers, flooding the streets of cities in Syria and even in Amman. Those who were unable to flee holed up in their homes hoping for rescue, often with tragic consequences. Pictures of those killed in the tragedy were heart wrenching. Friend and family abroad began e-mailing to find out our status. It felt achingly familiar. The worst part of it was that again, the US government sat by and did nothing to help. And, so, reflections run rife through me these days and I wonder, will we ever learn anything? What will it take? Does the suffering of people move us so little that we repeat the same scenarios in different countries? I hope that someday we will learn, we'll build global institutions to truly effect change and help in these situations. And, on my little tiny personal level, I'll keep doing what I can.

And, to the victims of Hurricane Katrina who are still (a year later) trying to rebuild their lives and to all of the people in Lebanon who are trying to do triage on people, systems, and infrastructure, my prayers are with you. You are all in my thoughts and I'll continue to pray fro as long as the suffering continues.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Our first family wedding

Well this weekend, my brother-in-law got married in a fabulous ceremony. For those of you who are not aware of the events that surround a typical Arab wedding, let me share them with you. A couple of days before the wedding, the groom has a "bachelor's party" which traditionally has included a hair cut. I'm afraid that the unfortunate pictures of grooms resulting has thrown that tradition a bit out of favor, so for this wedding, there was more of a traditional American style bachelor's party. You know they type, a bunch of guys drinking and having fun. I have to admit having contributed a very nice cake (if I do say so myself). It was in a predictable double-circled shape and much enjoyed from what I understand. The bride also had a party with her friends (to which I was invited) where we danced and generally had a nice time.

After the rehearsal, there was a "family" dinner which included about 70 people. From what I could tell, most of them were friends rather than family, but we danced, ate, and generally had a good time until late in the evening. Finally, on the day of the wedding, an hour or so before tee-time (as it were), my husband's entire family (I would expect there were probably about 50 people) went to the bride's house to formally ask for her hand in marriage and escort her to the church. At her house, her entire family (same number again) waited. After consent was given and congratulations exchanged, a procession left her house for the church with her in the lead. Horns honking and people cheering are typical. This is my most favorite part of the wedding events. I felt like royalty on the day of my wedding. Small children pushed and shoved to get a glimpse of the bride and I felt like a princess decked out in my finery and waving.

As we're Episcopal, the service looked much the same as one in the US would, except for the language. However, prior to the wedding, the groom and groomsmen greet all of the guests as they enter. Immediately after, the entire wedding party stands to greet the guests as they leave. As you can imagine, the service and greetings take about 2 hours to finish. After you finally finish, it's time to run home to change for the reception (yes they actually change clothes!). As the bride and groom enter the reception, they have a group of men in traditional costume who play drums and call out to greet them. A large crowd gathers to escort them into the hall. The reception goes on until 2 or so in the morning and has lots of dancing.

Notable events for this wedding were the roles ButterBean and JoojooBean played. ButterBean was asked to be a flower girl in the wedding. At 4.5, she's just the right age, although given her extreme shyness, I was a bit concerned she wouldn't walk. She chose to and did an excellent job. She dropped the rose petals on the way in and stood like such a sweet big girl. However, JoojooBean decided she ought to join the action at the front of the church and went to be with ButterBean. JoojooBean is not shy... at all. As a result, she thought the stage with all of the nice people watching her was a call to entertain. She called out to her grandmother, "Teta watch me twirl!" Then she began to twirl about like a tiny drunken ballerina. MommaBean told her to Shuuush. Her only response was, "I don't want to shush, I want to twirl." Too funny. Eventually I did have to go and get her and take her away from the action. During the course of JoojooBean's antics, ButterBean managed to dump the remaining rose petals from her basket on to the floor inadvertently. But, never fear, she bent down and picked up each individual petal. I'm glad it kept her busy and focused so she forgot to be scared until the very end. At that point, I picked her up and told her what a great job she had done. It seems that the two years between them and their personality differences made one the perfect backdrop to the wedding and the other a show stealer. It will be a joy to see if these difference remain and if they stay comfortable in their chosen roles. For now, we got great video that will, someday, be excellent leverage. Our girls had a great time at their first wedding and I'm sure they'll enjoy the next one from a less central position.


Friday, August 18, 2006

And so the day arrives...

So the wedding is tonight. El 3atal's brother is getting married at the same church where, ten years ago, El 3atal and I pledged our commitment to each other. We had the rehearsal there on Wednesday night. It was interesting to see how much was the same and how much was different. Although I've been for Sunday services, it's different seeing it with no one inside. The changes are more obvious, as are the similarities. One big change is that the church now has air conditioning. Ten years ago, air conditioning was barely a dream. And El 3atal, who normally sweats in the winter, was dry and comfortable on our wedding day in July. Truly a wedding-day miracle. In preparation for the wedding, El 3atal's family is coming in from all over.

Last night we spent some time with El 3atal's cousins who live in the UAE. The younger of the two was a groomsman in our wedding. It was nice to see them again and catch up. The groomsman is engaged and plans to get married in December, which is very nice. I'm certain he'll be very happy. It's interesting to see the changes that ten years bring in people. The older brother seems so much more content with life these days. It's very nice to see as I like them both a great deal. El 3atal's other cousin is in town from the States. He's a good guy too, even if he is an engineer :). He works in telecommunications and has all of these patents and other stuff that would impress the normal person. Okay, they impress me too. There, I've admitted it. It's nice, though. I used to work in the industry and actually had a small idea what it was exactly that he did. That was nice. Usually technical people work on things that are so out of the bounds of my experience that I have a hard time gauging if they are even speaking English. So, all in all, the wedding and reception promise to be enjoyable and I'm looking forward to them.

There are only two things dampening on my day at this point. First, ButterBean is becoming hesitant about walking in the wedding, which makes me very sad. Second, Teta H (El 3atal's grandmother) isn't here any longer. She left us 2 years ago, I think, and I feel the loss very keenly on this most happy day. I know she's watching and smiling. Kisses to you Teta H. We miss you!

Peace and love.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Omar Inspired Me - Does Anyone Else Feel OLD?

Omar, welcome to my blog. I went to check yours out and realized that you're so young. A baby really. And, it got me thinking... I haven't seen any statistics on this, but I have a sense that average age of bloggers must be about 24. The Cyberjournalist website says that the "Power Creators" who generate the most content on the web have an average age of 25, so I guess I'm pretty close. So, seeing the youth of the blogging community makes me feel old. Mind you, I don't really look old (I typically look about 5 years younger than I am which is fine at 35, but I didn't like it much at 21 when I had a 16 year old kid ask me out). But thinking of where I was and what I was doing at 19 is eye opening. At 19, I was in my second year of college (in fact, I'd probably just met El 3atal). I thought of myself as politically astute and globally aware. Ahhh, how we delude ourselves.

And, so, 16 years later (yes when I was Omar's age, he was 3!), I find myself living in an awesome foreign country with young children who, 16 years from now will be making you feel old! But, how much more aware are these averages bloggers than I was. How many more tools do they have? It's a wonderful thing to see. The Lina's and the Omar's and the Jano's... They rock and they are trying so hard to make a difference. And, you know what, they are. Even if things change slowly, they do change. And, even if the number you touch is small, you are touching people. And, I'm in awe of the intellect and the drive and the awareness of these young people today. I'm so glad to know you all, even if our only acquaintance is virtual. Keep up the good work! Keep making us old fogeys FEEL old. After all, it reminds me that if you can do it, so can I!


The Joy of Chicken

Okay, I admit, this is an odd title line. But, it was what came to mind. We took the kids to Hardee's today and had a blast. ButterBean prefers Hardee's over most forms of entertainment as their play structure is indoors. She also likes the chicken stars. Allow me to say, stroke of genius. The guy who came up with that idea was truly smart. Usually, though, we fight a losing battle trying to get them to eat. On more than one occasion, I've gotten the question as soon as we're getting ready to go if we'll be eating dinner at home. Today, we waited until a little after the kids usually eat lunch to head over there (El 3atal was being lazy). So, both girls asked to eat before they went to play. So, we did. JoojooBean wolfed down 6 or so of the chicken stars all on her own! It's the best she's eaten at Hardee's. JuniorBean was the only one who didn't eat well. He had 4 fries or so and then the siren song of the slide became too much to ignore.

They all went down the slide at least 20 times and spent a very happy 45 minutes just playing. We had a nice time with El 3atal's parents, just sitting and talking and waving. All in all, it's an experience I'd certainly recommend. So, if you guys want to have a playdate with the beans, come on to Hardee's and join us! There's plenty of room and plenty of chicken stars, but come early or JoojooBean will eat them all up!

Happy Stars!

Friday, August 04, 2006

A sound I never expected to hear in Amman

So, today we were sitting playing after a nice visit for lunch at Teta and Jiddo's house. The kids were having a good time with toys in the playroom. El 3atal was playing an annoying computer game and I was surfing the web. All of a sudden, I heard the strangest sound. Am I in Scotland, I thought? I was hearing the sound of bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes! It turns out that one of the girls in the building across the street is getting married today (quite a month for weddings, as El 3atal's brother is also getting married). She had a bagpipe band (is that what you call it?) on hand to serenade her family and his as they arrived at the askage (you know where the groom's family comes to the bride's house to ask for her hand and then escorts her to the church). So, the kids danced to the sound (don't worry I captured it on film to blackmail them with later) and had a great time.

After quite some time, the groom's family finally arrived. Then Mom invited them in and about a hundred people went into the house. As El 3atal noted, this woudl surely violate fire marshal regulations... Half an hour later, they all came out again to take the bride to the church. The girls very much enjoyed waving to the bride, but honestly though the dancing was more fun. It was an interesting time and a nice way to end their day of play. After they get to bed, El 3atal and I have a wedding to go to ourselves, so... signing off for now wishing you...

bagpipe dreams.