Thursday, July 19, 2007

City Planning? I think NOT!

So I read an article in Jordan Business this month about how the head of GAM has a long term vision and plan for the city. While that may be so, I think he has forgotten the medium term, and even the short term. Let me give you what I consider to be the crowning glory example...

Zahran Street is a seriously significant thoroughfare through town. Recently Jordan decided that (to save them money I suppose) Egyptian guards do not have to have a sponsor, the embassy can act as their sponsor. Well, I have no issue with that on the face of it. But somehow, they forgot to think through what that would mean. The Egyptian embassy sits just off Zahran Street between the fourth and fifth circles. The first day after this new regulation went into affect, as I was driving down Zahran Street, I saw an empty lot (about 1 dunum) full of what looked like Egyptian guards kneeling down in long lines. How odd, I thought to myself. This was before we found out what had changed.

Fast forward to a couple of months later. At every time of day that the embassy is open, traffic is slowed or stopped because the Egyptian workers are crossing the street. When they made this (frankly boneheaded) decision, they forgot to take into account the workers who would need to get across the street and catch the bus. So, traffic is snarled and these guards are taking their lives into their hands dashing across a major thoroughfare while cars are speeding at them. They need a walking bridge (or tunnel or SOMETHING). Sadly, I've lost my patience these days. I have no sympathy left for the guards after my third near miss when the car in front of me decided to slam on its brakes to miss a guard. And, when I see them perched on the curb readying themselves to make the dash, I honk and signal to them not to try it, because I'm not stopping.

It's sad when the city's lack of planning negatively impacts my patience and humanity. Well, I'll try and renew my sense of fellowship with all people but I'm not sure it will work...

Happy guard slalom!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama?

So, El 3atal called me today to share in an absolutely surreal moment. He held the phone out so I could hear the tune playing on the radio station and it was... Sweet Home Alabama. I have to say that it is, perhaps, one of the best songs of all time. Now, admittedly, I am from Alabama and therefore naturally biased. But, come on. It's an awesome song.

However, being from Alabama, I can appreciate the oddities of the song as well. As the best known song about Alabama, it is ironic to me that it was written and sung by a bunch of Jacksonville (FL) boys. The culture in Jacksonville being much like Alabama, I can forgive them that. They recorded the song partly as a tribute to their first time in a recording studio (in the hopping metropo-not of Muscle Shoals, AL) and partly in response to Neil Young's indiscriminate implication that all Southerners are racist in his song Southern Man. Being an Alabama girl who doesn't like Southern Rock, it's funny that I still accord the song a place on my best of all time list.

So, hearing it on the radio in a Arab country is just too funny. And, it's not the first time I've had a like experience. In college, I spent December and January in Sweden. I was on a train between Malmo and Lund when a bunch of girls in the back started singing John Denver's Take Me Home Country Roads. Okay, I LOVE John Denver. And this song absolutely speaks to me and always has. "I hear her voice In the mornin' hour she calls me The radio reminds me of my home far away And drivin down the road I get a feelin That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday." At that moment in time, I no longer felt like I was far from home in a strange place where I don't speak the language. It's amazing the way that music transports you to another place. It can, in a split second, bring you home again....

I leave you with a link to You Tube where you can watch the boys of Lynyrd Skynyrd rocking out about MY home. And, I hope that each of you has someone to sing a song that is truly great about your home as well.

Happy Homecoming!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kids are SO creative... Thomas is sleeping

The other night as I was getting the beans ready for bed, JuniorBean did something super-cute. We had finished brushing our teeth, reading a book each, and spraying on the mosquito repellent (poor JuniorBean, he's just too sweet so the mosquitos love him especially) and were ready to go sing our bedtime songs. Our day had featured copious amount of playtime with Thomas (the Tank Engine). Mommy was teasing by narrating much in the same way that the narrator does on Thomas' show (And on the Island of Sodor, the day has come to an end...). I asked JuniorBean to turn off Thomas so we could go to bed. So, he did so. Then he proceeded to flip Thomas upside down (on his back) and say, "Okay, now Thomas is going to bed, night, night Thomas." I thought you would all enjoy this little glimpse into the cleverness and cuteness of little ones.

Happy Bedtime!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Not Real Churches? What Makes a Church True, I Wonder...

So, Pope Benedict has reconfirmed the position of the Catholic Church (apparently first stated in 2000) that all other churches aren't "true" churches. How interesting. I wonder, what is the arbitration body that determines whether a church is true or not? Clearly, the Catholic Church is trying to set itself up in that role. But, it seems to me it's a backwards move for them. In the article, it stated that as the other churches did not have apostolic succession, they aren't true churches and, as such, don't have the "means of salvation." Now, I'm no theologian, but isn't CHRIST the means of salvation for Christians? You know, I'm pretty sure on this point. In fact, I'm certain. The whole point of Christianity is that Christ established himself as the offering, the sacrifice that made man whole with God. So, He is the Way. But, that doesn't lend itself to the business of proclaiming yourself as the intermediary for your parishioners. I also seem to recall that this attitude in the past led to such abuses that the Catholic Church underwent a schism and reformation (creating more un-true churches, I suppose). One step forward, three steps back. And, one final thought, I know that there are a number of churches that claim apostolic succession just as the Catholic church does. So, the argument here, on Benedict's behalf, seems forced and grasping. I do find the idea that the Catholics want to be the only "true" church rather funny.

Not being Catholic, what the Pope says really doesn't affect me. But after his unconscionable words about the Islam and now this, I do wonder if his aim is to alienate everyone on earth. Maybe next he'll start in on Judaism, Buddhism, and the other faith beliefs out there. So much for spreading the Good News, let's just all start claiming that the other's churches aren't "true" churches. That'll improve Christ's cause amongst those who are seeking. Because, after all, Christ created a church on earth so that they could worry about HOW people are coming to know him rather than WHETHER they are, right? In my very humble opinion, I'd recommend that all Christians everywhere spend less time worrying about other Christians and more time spreading the Good News to those who have yet to hear it. So, enough for my first ever truly religious post.

Happy Name Calling!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Confessions of a Bad Mother (or why I'm not in the US right now)

Okay, so Emily reminded me that I've been remiss in telling a sad but true story... Some of you know that I was supposed to be in the US just now. Well, in fact, I had gotten everything all packed, had my suitcases in the hall and was ready to go check in my bags at the 7th circle RJ terminal. But, something our household helper said about a friend having trouble and having to wait on the consulate got me thinking about our passports. The twins and I got ours last year, so clearly there would be no SNAFU with the American passports for us. Then, I got to thinking that Butterbean's passport was supposed to expire, next year I thought. But, I'd just check to be sure. Well, it wasn't next year, it was last month. What a bummer. I called a friend of my Sister-in-Law and she went to ask the American Citizen Services about the situation. Nope, they told her, we wouldn't be let into the country. Or at least Butterbean wouldn't. It takes 10 days to renew the passport and there is no expediting it. I tried finding a number on-line for the US Passport Agency to ask the same question, but all I got was VRU purgatory. I couldn't get an option that was right for me and couldn't get to talk to a live person. Now, had El 3atal been coming, we would have gone on. The worst that could have happened is that we would have been turned back and one of us could have brought Butterbean here and gotten a passport for her. But, since he wasn't going with us, I couldn't go knowing that if we had issues, my poor helper would have been stuck trying to navigate Chicago's airport with two small children and imperfect English when she's never even had to deal with customs or immigration.

I had hoped to change my tickets by 2 weeks, but then the price would have gone up by about $2K. That was far too much for us to handle. So, we moved the rip back to the fall. While we're all disappointed, it seemed like the best option available to us. So, we find ourselves unexpectedly in Amman for the summer, living it up and loving life as always. I hope your summer is going well.

Happy summer days!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ahhh Jordan... The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I was just feeling like putting out another completely biased list with no objective criteria, so here it is. Again, as always I welcome additions.

The Good:

- Refreshing winds that blow dissipate the summer heat with gentle kisses on overheated skin.
- Cloudless summer days and beautiful blue skies
- Friendly, welcoming people that make up most of the population
- The unique and lovely feel of Amman
- Petra, its current wonders and those waiting to be found
- Fabulous bloggers
- The new Children's museum

The Bad:

- Traffic challenges and road construction
- Visions of sky scrapers (yes, that's right, I'm talking about Abdali)
- People who try to take advantage of Ajnabiya (foreigners)
- Trying to find a parking space anywhere in town

The Ugly:

- Trash overflowing the bins and being tossed about by the garbage dwellers
- Gossip and rumors which fuel the town
- Employers who treat their employees like slaves, with no consideration and dignity
- The plight of the poor

Happy listing!

The Worst Drivers in Amman

Okay, so this is a wholly subjective post. There is not a single objective criteria or qualification applied. It's simply my personal observations on people who drive poorly. I'm also admitting up front that this is a shameless set of generalizations. So, here are my votes, feel free to add your own.

10. Women drivers (and BOY do I hate to put this one...)
9. Drivers of rental cars (and I think most of them are from here by the way)
8. Drivers of VERY small cars ( I once saw a quote that said the smaller a person the more space they will occupy. Drivers of small cars here prove the rule.)
7. Taxi drivers
6. Service drivers
5. Drivers with Iraqi plates (the white ones in particular)
3. & 4. Government cars (red tags) and Diplomatic tags (CD tags)
2. Drivers with Saudi plates

and the number one worst drivers in Jordan are:

1. BMW Drivers

I hope you've enjoyed my random thoughts. Stay tuned for the worst parking groups in Jordan in a later post.

Happy Reckless Driving!

Monday, July 09, 2007

11 Years and Counting... The Blessings of Marriage

Okay, so blogger seems to be unwilling to let me title my post... Oh well, I'll just use this work around.

This last week, El 3atal and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary. I've been meaning to respond to Kinzi's challenge for awhile, but things have been a bit crazy lately (in a good way). So, today I'm going to reflect on some of the lessons I've learned during the last 11 years.

Lesson Number One:
Only fight the battles you care about winning. You may wonder what I mean by this. Let me explain. At the beginning of my marriage, I sed to always want my way. I'd fight and fight until we did the thing I had decided was the right thing to do. Then I realized that I was winning battles when I didn't care about the outcome to the detriment of El 3atal. I started to think about it and said to myself, why should I argue for this if I really don't care. With this understanding, I gave up battling over issues that I don't really care about. I defer those decisions to El 3atal (even when he doesn't want to make them, teehee). It's kind of funny because as humans, I think we're mostly programmed to always want to win. My very best friend in the world (we'll call her MannaBean) and I had a conversation about this once. It had been observed to her that I allow El 3atal to control me (very funny if you know me AT ALL). So, I explained to her this new understanding of life that I had gained. Once I had finished explaining to her that I only argue for things I care about, it was as if I had provided a revelation. "Wow", she said. "I'd never thought of that." Ah, the inherent patterns of being human. Honestly, I strongly recommend to young couples that you develop enough self-awareness to understand what you really care about. If the issues at hand falls outside of those, express your opinion and move on. Don't fight for it if you don't really care about it.

Lesson Number Two:
Communicate. Now, depending on your chosen spouse, how you do this (and how active you have to be) will vary. For me, El 3atal, while a lovely person, is not good at all at expressing appreciation. For folks who need constant affirmation, this would be a killer. For me, it was hard to get used to. But, what I learned was that he was willing to say the words, he just didn't really think of them naturally. So, now, when I need praise for doing something extraordinary, I simply tell him. And, if I know that someone else in our lives needs to hear a thank you from him, I guide him into providing it as well. It just took understanding my needs, his limitations, and finding the path to bridge the two.

Lesson Number Three:
Know when to say you're sorry. And, here's the secret to this seemingly obvious lesson: you may not be wrong. That's right, sometimes you will need to say you are sorry when you weren't wrong. Even if you are right, your approach may have been wrong. Even if you were right and your approach was fine, your significant other may simply be in an emotionally fragile enough state that they need to hear you say you're sorry. So, say it. How does it hurt you? Be confident and comfortable enough to say, I'm sorry.

Lesson Number Four:
It's the little things that make or break every relationship. This is true of friendships and marriages. We've all had friends from whom we never hear unless they need something. They only call when we can help them. Everytime you get together with them it's because you initiate it. You send birthday cards, gifts, and hugs and they never acknowledge your special days. How long do we keep going in the relationship? It takes more out of us than we get back into us on a consistent basis. As a result, we're likely to move on to greener pastures, right? If you imagine that you start off your marriage with 10,000 points (call it the bloom of new love), each time you take from your spouse, you deduct a point. When your spouse has to comfort you, or you have a fight and they are right (regardles of who wins), these are withdrawals you are making on this account. When you comfort your your spouse after a hard day, give them a break from the kids, etc., these are deposits. You should always be striving to find ways to keep the balance in the positive. Not because you want things from them, but because it means that you are a team. You are mutually supporting each other and making each other's lives easier. That's what this thing called maariage is all about. It's about choosing someone to share your life with and sharing theirs with them.

Lesson Number Five:
Keep a sense of humor about life. I assure you, the first time you have to change your clothes for the third (or fourth or fifth) time in one day because the leaky diaper put unmentionable substances on you, you'll need to laugh over it. The day that you are packing for your trip to the US and find that your child's passport expired 5 days before, you'll need to laugh. Even the day that you find that instead of the single baby you were expecting, you've got twins growing inside you, you'll REALLY need to laugh. And, there's so much beauty and joy to be found, that you really ought to laugh anyway. Oh, and when your child develops a little routine to turn your frown upside down, I promise you really will laugh. So, get ready for it. Prepare yourself for the laughs and joys of being alive. If you see the joy, the laughs will come and the marriage will be well positioned for longevity.

I hope these thoughts lessons may help those young couples who are preparing to embark on this journey we call marriage. If even one of them helps you strengthen your relationship, then I'll feel successful. Marriage for me has been the second greatest adventure in my life (being a mommy is the greatest). And, honestly, it's been the most fulfilling relationship I could ever have imagined. I wish each of you the same joy I've had...

Happy Marriage!