Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Land of Entrepreneurs

I have noticed an interesting thing about Jordan. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. They teach classes about it to students at University. When I heard this I was, frankly, appalled. Don't get me wrong, entrepreneurship is a fine thing. It makes the world go around. But, in the US, people typically go work for someone for a number of years, gain a knowledge of business, then go out and start their own company. In short, they know something about being an employee before they become an employer. In fact, most people work at some point for a big company before hanging out their shingle. In Jordan, not so.

Everyone wants to own their own business. Kids out of college talk about starting their company. And, let me tell you they haven't the first clue about being an employee. They definitely don't have any idea how to manage or treat others as an employer. You see companies that put up video cameras to make sure their employees are working enough (do they have them in the bathrooms?). They disable all access to the internet, legitimate or not. They treat people like slaves rather than valued workers who voluntarily get up every morning and come in to work. Somehow, this professional immaturity manifests itself in poor management, poor leadership, and poor "humanship". So, I'm making a new call. Let's stop teaching entrepreneurship in Jordan and start teaching professionalism courses. Let's teach people first how to work FOR others and then we can worry about teaching others to work for them!

Happy Employment!

White People?

So I was reading back posts of El 3atal's blog when I noticed a commenter saying to El 3atal in a derogatory manner that he must get along well with "white people." Hunh? What exactly is that supposed to mean? It also referred to the fact that we must live in apart of Amman where they have guards to protect "white people" and government people. How interesting... Does that mean that the commentor was defining him/herself as something other than white? And, how does the implication come that white = bad? How curious.

Now, I grew up in the American South. And, I know that racism is rampant there (although perhaps not as bad there as Philly, where I lived as well). I'm also aware that there is a form of reverse racism (all whites are bad) that has become somewhat prevalent. And, yet, I find that everyone is degraded by such sentiment. While the intention is to show that the "other" guy is bad, in reality the person who has and expresses these thoughts is just as bad. In reality, I suspect it is part of human nature to fear what is different than us. It is equally as ordinary and valid for someone who grew up in a small town in Jordan to fear a big, liberal American as it is for the American to fear someone who wears a long beard and hatta w/egal. But, embracing that fear and hatred rather than trying to understand the people behind it leads only to a degrading of yourself.

The most embarrassed I have ever been of being an American (and that includes current times with an administration that causes me GREAT embarrassment) is when, in college, some stupid boys called El 3atal's phone and left a message calling him a "sand nigger". Now, do you know the most ironic thing about this? The guy doing it was an Arab-American. How sad is it when you listen to people who cause you to truly degrade yourself? Perhaps as people we can learn to set aside our fear, hatred, and misunderstanding. Once we have done so, we will realize that everyone in this world is concerned with the same things. In every country around the world mothers worry over the safety and happiness of their children. Parents worry about how to provide the best possible life for their families. Underneath the trappings of difference, colors of skin, hair, and eyes, we're just people.

Happy shades of grey!

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Whirlwind Marathon of Shopping

So, yesterday I actually managed to hit all three of my grocery stores. That's right, in one marathon day, I not only worked the whole day but shopped at C-Town, Cozmo, and Safeway. I've mentioned before that I can't ever find everything in one place. So, yesterday I gave up the effort. Instead of eating lunch, I went to C-Town and bought all of the non-perishables I could find. (I also bought myself some chips and a snickers vis a vis lunch.) After work, I dashed to Cozmo for all of the other things on my list. Well, except for chocolate chips and Kan Doo Wipes. And crackers. And.. the list could go on, but I'll stop here. Of course, when I went into Safeway it was just for the chocolate chips and the ATM machine. So, I didn't get a cart. The I remembered a few other things (you know, I spotted the strawberries, though about the Kandoo Wipes, noticed the crackers). By the time I got to the chips, I was rather heavily loaded down. I think everyone though I was just a bit crazy as I waddled to the check-out line. But, I managed to totally clear out my lists (except for club crackers which no one had). So, that was a little bit of joy. I don't think Thess agreed when she was up until 9 pm washing fruits and veggies, but at least she didn't have to be quite as creative in packing snacks for the kids :).

Happy eating!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A little slice of Germany in Amman

One of the things I think is awesome about this amazing world we live in is the different customs each of us has. Our beans are fortunate in that they have two very different and distinct cultures by virtue of Mommy being American and Baba being Arab. I've always had an interest in places outside my own, which perhaps led me where I am today. So, I try to expose my kids to every culture I can. Fortunately, Jordan makes that easier in some ways. Yesterday there was a St. Martin's walk down by the first circle.

Okay, so what is St. Martin's walk? St. Martin's day is celebrated in Germany. Children go about the streets of their town carrying lanterns they have bought or made and singing special songs. Afterward, they are given special treats of candies and goodies. The turn out yesterday was awesome. There must have been 30 kids and 30+ adults to accompany them. The bright lanterns and the kids' enjoyment made this such a special event. Dare I hope for a St. Lucia festival too? The children made their lanterns and the candles inside gave them a special glow. I apologize for the quality of the photo... my cell phone isn't great in the dusk light.

The funny, Jordan thing of it was that several times on the small narrow streets, cars came along and simply HAD to get past. I mean, they saw the gaggle of kids and parents and turned down the street anyway. C'mon, can't you take a different route for once? At any rate, it was a lovely experience and I will look forward to next year's walk even more.

Happy lighting!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Odd Man Out: On Unrequited Love Pre-school Style

Today as we were dropping Butterbean off at school, we encountered an interesting situation. We walked in and one of the girls in the class shouted, see girl #1 (we'll call her LinaBean), Butterbean's here! We were a bit confused until she went on to tell us that Butterbean's best friend has been crying because she wasn't there yet. That's right, Butterbean has a best friend. She's a sweet little girl and they hug pretty much every morning. She hangs about the class waiting on Butterbean to come so they can play together. And this morning, we were apparently too late for her liking, poor thing. As we were leaving El 3atal asked me which little girl is NatBean. You see, NatBean is the third member of their tribe of two.

The school recently had grandparents day for Butterbean's class. Apparently parents were also welcome (no they didn't tell us in advance) so we came back when Teta and Jiddo called. While there we met NatBean's Mom and found out that she talks all the time about Butterbean. It's Butterbean this and Butterbean that when they get home. NatBean is a lovely sweet little girl, but it seems ButterBean and LinaBean have eyes only for each other. So, even at this young age, there's an odd man (or girl) out. And, as much as my heart aches for NatBean, it thrills that my sweet Butterbean has found such a good friend at such a young age. It's made all the difference in the world to her outlook on school, life, etc. So, we'll try and get the girls to include NatBean, but I'm happy in the knowledge that they have each other...

Happy friendships!

Monday, November 20, 2006

What is Love?

So, there is a jewelry store here in Amman that claims to be the #1 sponsor of love in Jordan. I find myself asking, what do they mean? At an altheltic event, a sponsor pays money (usually giving the team freebies). So are they going to give me free jewelry? I highly doubt it. And, do they really mean to imply that diamonds equal love? Forgive me for thinking that their ads are presumptuous. Personally, I really hope that my love goes deeper than diamonds. I hope it means that I will be sticking with El 3atal during hard times, loving him when we grow old, and being together to watch our kids grow. But, maybe I don't understand love... It could be that they're right, but at what cost? I ask you, what is love?

Happy Loving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Gleaming Spot in the Stained World of Jordan's Public Restrooms

After my previous post on the topic of toilets, I had an experience yesterday that was truly noteworthy. We went to pick up some friends at airport and parked and went down to meet them. Their plane was delayed (they were on ALIA (aka Always Late In Arrival), so I guess this shouldn't be a surprise) and El 3atal and I decided to get a drink. Since I had to use the restroom, with a bit of trepidation I headed for the public restroom in the Arrivals terminal. I've only used the airport's restrooms once before and it was as bad as any terrible gas station in the US. In fact, I remember hovering over the toilet seat trying to ensure nothing I had on touched the ground. As I walked into the restroom, I could tell this experience would be different. The floors were clean, the toilets were gleaming, literally. There was toilet paper, soap, and water. And the lady who cleans the restroom even handed me some toilet paper to dry my hands (they only have those annoying blowy hand dryers). While I hate Royal Jordanian based on my sole experience with them (see early, early posts), I've got to give them the gleaming toilet award. So, I just wanted to share with you that if you're in the RJ terminal arrivals area, the bathroom is safe.

Happy Flushing!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Let's Talk Toilets... aka What a Potty Mouth!

Admittedly, this is an odd topic of conversation. But, I feel that I know you well enough by now to bring it up and it's been on my mind. I hate toilets here. There, I've said it. Let's talk about why I hate toilets, shall we? There are numerous reasons, perhaps I should bullet them (my boss says all Arabs love bullets, do you?)...
  • The seats and covers are held on by flimsy little pins and rods that don't stay together. THis leaves them flapping around and constantly falling off.
  • They barely have any water leaving little "presents" along the side of the tank (ewwww).
  • There is no standardization on flushing mechanisms, so it can take some time to figure out how to make to flush.
  • Some have two buttons and some have one with no explanation of what the difference is.
  • Toilet paper is typically not flushed (again I say, ewwwww).
  • Some people cheap out and, rather than having a bidet have a hose to spray yourself. Unfortunately, the ladies at my office spray themselves and leave water all over the seat. Allow to say once again ewwwwwwww!

Okay, so these are the primary issues I have with toilets in Jordan. If El 3atal and I decide to build a place at some point, I assure you, I'll take a very active part in the toilet selection process. Oh, and I probably won't waste space on the bidets. One for the guest bathroom and none in in the rest...

Happy flushing!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Reqiuem? Certainly not for the talents involved...

So tonight, my most wonderful mother-in-law took me for a girls night out to Mozart's Requiem performed by the Dozan wa Awtar Choir and the National Music Conservancy Orchestra. It was one of the most beautiful and moving concerts which I've attended, and I have attended many. The balance of voices was exquisite and the use of dynamics was truly astounding. I wantd to drop a quick post to give kudos to the fine ladies and gentlemen who were part of this event. And, a special congratulations to Shireen Abu Khader. Her direction was flawless and produced such a lovely sound.

~~ Tangent begins~~
In the world of strange coincidences, Shireen looks a great deal like a friend of mine who I recently found out has cancer. So, in a strange way tonight it was as if this Requiem was being sung directly to her. However, I am taking the positive view that the Requiem that was sung marked an end to the hold the cancer has over her life. My prayers for her are that she experiences healing, peace, and grace. And I hope to hear that tonight, the cancer was beat back.

~~ End of tangent~~

To my original point, I understand that Lina's sister sang alto, so please pass along my kind thoughts on the beauty of the piece that they performed. If you have the chance to hear this choir, take it! I'm hoping that, even with my ridiculous schedule, I'll find a way to join. Being associated with such an awesome group of talent can only help to push my sad little meandering to a higher level... Oh, and the soloists (Caroline Widegren, Laura Harvey, Tarek Younis, and Jonathan Acker) were also amazing. So, my hats off to this fine group of people who both sang and played with enough beauty and grace to move the audience.

Happy listening!

Reading... It's Good for the Mind

The other day I was having a very interesting conversation with two people at a business workshop. It was the first time I had met them both and we got into a conversation about reading. One of the others has children (5 of them, wow!) and we were discussing the challenge in finding good reading material. Those who know me know I am a very avid reader. I have been for many, many, many years. For as long as I can remember, I've read books nearly constantly. I got my first library card when I was about 6, I think. Before we moved, I went to the library every week or two and checked out 10 or so books. Books are amazing, they open up other worlds to you. Often they show you places you have not only never been but will never go. So, I've always thought it was sad when people don't read.

When El 3atal and I were dating he, like most Arabs, didn't read - ever. I just finished reading a really good book that was steeped in a fine Mediterranean culture and thought he'd enjoy it. I pushed and pushed and convinced him to read the Godfather. He hasn't stopped reading since. He always has a book to read. And, as a consequence, his spoken English and vocabulary are much better than most Americans.

The lack of public libraries in every neighborhood where I can go check out romance novels (no investment, easy to read, happy ending guaranteed) has been a huge adjustment. Luckily, however, we have lots and lots of books for the kids. We keep the sturdier books in the playroom and I counted about 150 of those. There are an additional 100 or so with soft easy to rip pages that live in ButterBean's room. So, we're fairly well set there and ButterBean's school also checks one out to her per day. In fact, one of the early ones she brought home was one we already have :). Good to know she likes it that much.

In order to improve my Arabic, I've begun reading the kids' Arabic books to them at night. Depending on the level of the book they choose, I may read the whole thing or may read one or two pages. And, it's working. My reading is getting faster. It's encouraging, but soon I'll need to read for content as well as just words. And, it opens my eyes to how hard it is to learn to read at an advanced age. I feel so silly sounding out words. But, I know it's the only way to learn. I'm trying to teach my brain to recognize the patterns of the words. And, I didn't have the head start of doing it a little at a time over a number of years. So, I see reading as a good way to expand my knowledge, vocabulary, and abilities in Arabic just as it did for El 3atal many years ago in English.

One of my goals, here in Jordan, is to help improve the reading habits of those I meet. I'm trying to excite people at work about it. I hope it will catch on and give them an outlet for their mental energies. I also hope it may help expand their horizons and improve their reading habits in Arabic. My honest bottom line hope is that they will learn to love to read and pass it on to their kids. And, I hope that by reading, they can stay in touch with the very rich literary heritage in the lovely part of the world. So, as Lina said on her blog... Get Caught Reading!

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Gotta Love Those Prices!

So, my brother-in-law had this interesting argument a few months back. He was complaining to me that things are much more expensive here than in the US. I conceded that American products are ridiculous, but most things are actually cheaper (just for comparison, in the US we spent about $150/week on food, now it's more like 210JD per week (north of $350)). So, then he said, no I mean things like fresh vegetables and fruits. I have to admit I was floored.

I resolved to get to the bottom of this once and for all. So, when we moved from Louisiana, cucumbers were typically about $1 for 2. That's right by the piece. The snapshot above (using my handy camera phone) is of the cucumbers I bought last week. They cost me just over $1.50. As you may notice, there are far more than two cucumbers...

Butterbean loves peppers, green, yellow, orange, red, etc. In fact, since we moved here, she also likes purple and white (I never even knew there WAS such a thing). So, in the US, I used to buy the colored peppers in bulk. They cost me $6 for 6 peppers. Last week, I spent about $10 on peppers. I got 6 red, 6 orange, 4 yellow, and 4 green. Clearly a better deal. Tomatoes are about the same. So, I wonder, where is he figuring the greater expense. The only thing I can figure is that, as a single guy he was used to buying only one or two of anything. And, here he was with his Dad buying enough for an army. That being the case, it would likely seem more expensive. For us, if we could just wean ourselves off of 3 things we'd cut our costs considerably. 1. Diet 7UP (I hate the water here, a sad fact), 2. Bisquick, and 3. Milk. The milk here comes in tiny packaging and is very costly.

Speaking of milk, I gather we drink a lot of milk in our house. A friend who moved shortly after us was telling me that for his family (2 adults, 2 kids about the same ages as ours), they go through 3 liters a week. I wish... For my brood (2 adults, 3 kids, 4.5 and 2.5), we go through 12-15 liters a week. Yep, that's right, 12-15 liters. Can you imagine? So, my fridge is full of milk all the time. I even buy boxes to sit outside the fridge so that we have enough... At any rate, just thought the price comparison was interesting. Any thoughts?

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cultural Fear of Commitment?

After living in Jordan for nearly 7 months now, I've discovered a cultural trait of which I was previously unaware. People hear have an internal fear of commitment. And, I'm not even talking about the really big commitments (like marriage). I'm talking about small commitments. Like what, you may be wondering. Well, let me give you some real life examples...

"What time are you coming?" "Oh, around 4 entshalla." So, what you really mean is that you can't commit to a specific time, hunh?

And driving (you knew I was going there didn't you?), people can't choose just one lane. They either drive in the middle of both or they compulsively jump from lane to lane in hopes that one will move more quickly. Yep, they can't even commit to a single lane on the road.

All in all, it seems like commitment to something isn't a strong suit. Since I've been working, I've noted that companies seem to have a really high turnover rate. Again, I think it goes back to committing to one thing for a long, or even average, period of time. It's just a thought, but I think people truly fear that by committing to one thing, they're giving up too many other options.

Happy decisions!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My wish for today's election

While wondering what to blog about today, I thought about today's election. I began to think to myself, it's election day, what do I want from this election? Those of you who have been following my blog know that I rarely talk about politics of any sort. However, this being the first election to occur with me living outside the US, it seems somehow appropriate to talk about it. So, what do I wish for this election?

...I wish that whomever is elected would begin to return America to a place that embraces differences, uniqueness, and the beauty of multi-culturalism

...I wish for the country our founding fathers envisioned with the freedom of speech granted by our Constitution

...I wish for a country where people who offer honest and well-intentioned criticism of the path we are taking are not branded as "traitors", "liberals", or any other term intended to be derogatory

... I wish for a place where the leader of the country is willing to listen to people attempting to change his mind rather than creating "Free Speech Zones" so that he does not have to hear them

...I wish for an electorate that views the actual issues and ignores the stones being cast by each candidate at the other

...I wish for a trouncing for BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats so that both parties may take a serious look at themselves and the direction in which they are moving

... I wish that the changes wrought in this election and the next one would bring back an America that makes me proud - proud of its firm adherence to the liberties promised in our Constitution; proud of its treating of everyone the same, rather than singling one group to be discriminated against; proud of leaders who are not constantly engaged in activities that, when discovered, will cause scandals.

So, maybe my wishes are over-ambitious. But, they are what they are.

Happy wishing!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Does Jordan have a national flower?

Okay, if you're expecting a horticultural discussion, you haven't read my blog before. I have a nomination to make for Jordan's national flower... Dum, dum, dum... Impatiens. If you know what they look like, you're ahead of me (dropped a picture above), but their name sounds enough like Jordan's national pastime (impatience), that it seems an appropriate flower. As you can see, they're rather lovely.

Okay, so why am I calling impatience Jordan's national pastime, you may be wondering. Well, okay most of my blogs seem to come back to driving one way or another, so I might as well get there early so I can move on, teehee. Today as I was coming home from my Arabic class, I had a guy who couldn't even wait on me to back out of the parking space and pull into the road. So, he leaned on the horn and zoomed around me (nearly colliding head-on with a truck coming in the opposite direction). It got me to thinking about how when I drop the kids off down at their school, I see drivers constantly leaning on the horn, inching past people and barely making it, edging up to force them to continue rather than simply waiting on them to parallel park. Now, I'm not particularly good at parallel parking (okay I'm really, really bad at it) so I tend to avoid it whenever possible. And, when not, I try to park when no one's trying to get past me. Let's just call it a sense of uncommon courtesy. But this impatience thing goes beyond driving.

Let's consider together, shall we, lines at banks, government offices, anywhere people gather really. Wait, first we'll have to find a line. I've yet to see one since moving here. I've seen mobs, crowds, mosh pits - but no lines. Again, the impatience of people to get ahead, be first, push their way forward cause delays for everyone. So, on the road and off people seem to lack fundamental patience to allow others to complete what they need to. Somehow the fact that the mobbing forward takes EVERYONE longer doesn't seem to get through. It makes me feel sorry for the government workers, bank employees, etc. - well almost anyway. Having to deal with the mobs of people must get tiring day in and day out.

So, that's my argument for my nomination as national flower. Anyone else care to counter my suggestion?

Happy gardening :)!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I'm in! I'm in! (Patience Rewarded)

Well, first I'd like to thank the kind, hardworking folks at Jordan Planet. It is such an honor to be counted among the ranks of those bloggers I read and enjoy. They challenge my mind and my perceptions. I'd also like to thank all of you who have encouraged me during my journey to this point. For those of you who are joining me for the first time, welcome! I'm going to do introductions since I'm newly on JP and I'd hate for anyone to have to go back and find my first blog ;). Of course, after reading my blog, I'm sure you'll want to run back and see all of my previous posts, but...

Hi, I'm MommaBean. I moved to Jordan in April of this year with my dear husband El 3atal. We have three little beans, whom he talks about a great deal and who are the joy of my life. This blog serves several purposes. The first is that it helps me establish my thoughts by putting them on paper and thinking them through. Second, it helps my family abroad keep up with what's going on and what life in Jordan is like. I make no apologies at any point that my observations are those of someone raised in the US. I recognize that I see the world as an American, for all of the good and bad that may imply. However, I love Jordan and especially the people here. The society and culture of my new home are beautiful. Oh, and the breathtaking scenery here is also something. So, thank you for the chance to be a citizen of Jordan Planet and I hope each of you will visit often and make yourselves at home. Come, be my guest!

Happy reading!