Sunday, August 31, 2008

Exceeding Expectations, Record-Setting in Jordan

So, ButterBean started school last week. The experience has been worlds better than our KG experience (which is also improving). Although I was actually expecting really awesome things, I have been pleasantly surprised all around. Kinzi assured me that it was bloggable, so here I am - blogging it. The things that have pleasantly surprised me about this year.

  1. Interactive Whiteboards! Okay, if you're like me, you may not have seen an interactive whiteboard before. Most of the organizations I've worked for haven't valued such technology highly enough to pay for it :). So, here I was in a First Grade classroom seeing awesome new technology. In case you are wondering what an interactive whiteboard is, here's the Wikipedia description: "An interactive whiteboard is a large interactive display that connects to a computer and projector. A projector projects the computer’s desktop onto the board’s surface, where users control the computer using a pen, finger or other device. The board is typically mounted to a wall or on a floor stand." The beauty of this is that the teachers and students can actually use their fingers to press virtual buttons and select line style, color, etc. and then draw on the board. How awesome is that? So, in case you haven't seen one, here's a picture of one type, it's not the exact model ButterBean has, but it's close enough. And I thought they were only doing this state-of-the-art stuff at King's Academy!
  2. Annual Calendar: Yes really. The school issued each student's parents an Agenda that contained all school activities and holidays. For the YEAR. Yes, ladies and gents, we know when parent teacher conferences are, when breaks are, everything. Now if only it were all in English, I'd be even happier (and THAT is really a personal problem).
  3. French: This may be common in Jordan, I have no idea. But, I do know that in the US languages are typically "saved" for Junior High School (about age 13). By that time the language receptors are in slow-down mode. So, when I saw (much to my surprise) that in addition to the bilingual English/Arabic program, they add French in the first grade I was thrilled. Yes, FIRST GRADE!
  4. Code of Ethics: Yep, they sent home a booklet of their code of ethics asking that the First Grade parents go over them with their kids and help instilling these values in the very beginning. Oh, and they also outline what they strive for their graduates to become. It's exactly what I'm hoping for my ButterBean. How nice to see we're all on the same page.
  5. Technology Curriculum: Indeed, their first grade students have two separate technology/computer studies books. Mind you, for me we started computers in 12th grade (yes that's right, I'm THAT old). And the state of the art document creation package we used was called FredWrite. Now, they start computers in KG1 and have a formal curriculum in first grade. How wired and ahead of the game are these kids going to be?

All in all, we could not have selected a better environment for ButterBean. She's happy, her teacher is excellent, and she gets the kind of education I literally could only have dreamed of for her. Although, I do worry about how much farther ahead of me she's going to be! How do I handle that. Any thoughts?

Happy expecting!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The importance of being Unreasonable?

I was reading the Agenda given to us by ButterBean's school and came across the following very interesting and appropriate quote:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

-- George Bernard Shaw

How true is that? I find this particularly fitting as I am constantly adapting the world in Jordan to myself :). Well, not exactly, but I do refuse to make myself over in the image of a Jordanian wife and mom, much to the dismay of many, I am certain. And, I have known for years that I am unreasonable. So, I'll just consider myself progressive from now on, shall I?

Seriously though, I think this quote expresses exactly the quandary many people returning to Jordan after years abroad face. They are thought of as (and criticized for being) unreasonable. They are told in quite dismissive terms that the reason you do this or that and think this or that is because you just came back. As if that's a valid reason for ignoring things that need improvement and refusing to engage in self-criticism.

As an example, both El 3atal and I are pretty unreasonable about refusing to yield right of way to people driving the wrong way on one-way streets. Coming into our neighborhood is a one-way street down which many people seem ultimately comfortable driving illegally. Well, that's fine (I wish, however, they'd choose an activity likely only to kill themselves, rather than law-abiding people as well). However, when I come into the street, I drive right down the middle. And my car is not small. Not at all. Since cars are always parked on at least one side of the street, someone will have to go around. Now, personally, I don't care if the open space is on my side of the road or theirs, I don't move. If they want to drive illegally, they will simply have to make all of the effort. If cars are parked on both sides, they'll simply have to back up... I can assure you, especially the women drivers who do this get really pissed at me. Now, I see that the reasonable thing to do would be to simply be "nice" and move out of their way and such. But, then we'd see no progress, now would we. I figure every time I make it take longer for them to get out than it would have if they simply drove legally, one person will start to "get" it. In fact, I there are some folks in the area that see me coming and just give up and make the turn :). I guess they've gone up against me before.

And, I guess, as a people Americans may tend to be unreasonable. Maybe that's a national failing (or is it a virtue?). In fact, I'm quite certain it's a bit of both. We also tend to believe in the power of one little person. I really CAN change the world. I was raised believing it and still do, to this day. A reasonable person would have had this beat out of them MANY years ago. Yet, I go on believing. It reminds of that story about the starfish. You know that one? Here it is:

A man is walking along the beach and finds a girl tossing a starfish into the sea. Now, the beach is covered with, literally thousands of starfish. The man says to the girl, "Why are you doing that? With all of these starfish, you can't possibly make a difference." She replies, "Oh, but I did - to that one." Ah, and what an unreasonable viewpoint. Progress is painful, but necessary I think.

Happy unreasonableness!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Post of Hope: Kinzi-Inspired

So, while I might whine and moan about many things (you know like driving and inconsiderate people), I am at heart an optimistic person. I tend to try and see the good in life and definitely enjoy the ride. My own personal philosophy is One Way Or Another, It'll All Work Out. However, Kinzi takes this rose-colored glasses approach to all new levels these days and inspired me to write a post about things that give me hope. Hope is an awesome topic (why didn't I think of it all by myself?), so thanks Kinz for the inspiration. Here are things that give MommaBean HOPE:
  1. Happy chirruping and woohoo-ing of small Beans in the other room. A reminder that as long as children experience a childhood, there is HOPE for tomorrow.
  2. Making new friends, finding new people to connect with, being part of a community. A reminder that as long as people listen to one another, we have HOPE for changing lives.
  3. Comfort of old friends, knowing their love is true and their trials make you stronger. A reminder that old friends ground us and give us HOPE every day.
  4. Bloggers uniting, taking action, and providing for those less fortunate. A reminder that as long as we think about those who have less than we do, we can HOPE to improve the world.
  5. Flowers blooming and spreading their cheer. A reminder that God gives us beauty to inspire HOPE for peace.
  6. A smile on a strangers face, especially one that I've put there. A reminder that we are all connected and can HOPE for all men to realize this.
  7. Kindness of strangers, who see you in need and help, no questions asked. A reminder that what we do to other we can HOPE will return to us.
  8. Passion of youth, and the willingness to speak out no matter the cost to make their world a better place. A reminder that we were once young and the HOPE that we made a difference - and still can.
  9. Ability to think and reason, knowing God has given us this gift to use it. A reminder to HOPE that all men will use their gift to improve their lives and those of others.
  10. Blessed seasons of the year reminding each of us, in our own religion, of the gift that God has given us. A reminder that we have the HOPE of an afterlife.

MommaBean is blessed with overflowing HOPEFULNESS today. Grasp that HOPE with both hands and know that tomorrow is another day and with the right attitude and action, you CAN change the world.

Happy hoping!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The "Mystical" Approach to Spelling? The Beans first visit to Petra

So, El 3atal and I took the Beans to Petra last week and had a blast. I'm ashamed of all of the people that I meet who are FROM Jordan and have never been. For those of you who aren't aware, this isn't a rare thing. I've met more natives of Jordan who have NOT been than who have. It seems as if the 3ish hours from Amman to Petra is too much somehow. I was absolutely sure that the Beans would not be included in their number. So, I finally harangued El 3atal into a last-minute trip while 3ammoBean and 3amtiBean are here from the UAE. While here, we took the Beans first horse-drawn cart ride and first camel ride. We all enjoyed it spectacularly. Basically our visit consisted of the Beans riding down on the cart and waiting for us to walk down through the Siq. Then we walked around to the Roma Amphitheater. At that point, we grabbed camels and took them around to the rest house, back up past the two churches, and all the way to the Treasury. Then, the Beans took the carts back up while the rest of us walked. 3ammoBean and El 3atal took off leaving 3amtiBean and I to make our way at our own pace (you may read that much slower). Once we reached the entrance to the Siq, we negotiated a 50+% discount and took horses up the toughest part of the walk. I'd say it was the best 4 JDs (2JDs each for 3amtiBean and I) we've ever spent :). All in all, it was a great time. I know the Beans likely won't remember much about it, but it broke the ice. JujuBean wanted to know "Mommy, can we live here forever?" Well, no. But we can visit often (apparently JujuBean like the 5-star lifestyle)...

While there, we visited a restaurant just outside of the gates, which has excellent food. I mean, truly it looks a little hmmm (don't they all?)... but the food was awesome. So, MommaBean recommends the Pasta Napolitan at Mystic Pizza (anyone else having 1980s flashbacks at the name? Julia Roberts anyone...). But, as always, I found the menu startlingly funny. One of the Arab American comedians featured on the Friday Night Minorities Rule comedy show on ShowComedy tells a joke about eating at Arabic restaurants in the US (which is applicable everywhere). He talked about trying to read the terribly funny Arablish spelling and having to just say it out loud over and over until the meaning becomes clear. Like when he read Broasted Schecken. Broasted Schecken, Broasted Scheken, roasted chicken (yes! that's what I want). Well, the mystical spelling on this menu is of the same vein (yes I'm sure they wondered why I was photographing the menu, that happens to me often).

As you may be able to see, they have a variety of interesting items like Flafel (felafel of course), Fahetta (maybe fajita?), and two different sandwiches (French variation I presume for sandwich), and Kbab (once again, no vowels necessary). However, absolutely my favorite was the Negts. Yes, that's right, the Negts. After much conversation, we finally decided it must be nuggets (confirmed when we ordered them for ButterBean).

Here's the front of the menu (it's the first food place just past the Movenpick).

I hope you enjoyed the artistic license taken with spelling on this menu as much as I have...

Happy Mysticism!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Down at the Biggly Wiggly...

For those of you who haven't ever seen one, there's this rather run down old grocery store chain in the US called Piggly Wiggly. Their logo strongly resembles porky pig, as seen below...

Now, the grocery story has nothing to do with pigs, pork, or any other pig related product. I expect the name was because it rhymed and sounded cute, and they could do a logo that looked like a familiar product without actually infringing on the brand. And, this concept is a happy one in Jordan as well. Many of us have noticed and commented on the fun store on the way to the airport, seen below...

El 3atal says that in the past they had a problem with companies using an American brand name (Burger King anyone) but unaffiliated with the actual American brand. So, I tease him that we should open an IHOB (you know, International House of Bancakes), which is nice as it gets away from the issues of trademark infringement. I see that the store owners of the biggly wiggly took the same approach. But here's what actually funny to me about it:

  1. Piggly Wiggly is not found across the US, it used to be throughout Southern States, but has spent the last 20 years dying out.
  2. The stores that are left are run down, sad little places.
  3. The logo for the store is a pig, so those who do know it will be confused about what the biggly wiggly above sells.
  4. Neither the pig, nor the American grocery store have anything to do with fried chicken, which is what the store here in Jordan does.

It kind of makes me wonder, do they think about these brands at all? Like TrueValue (a hardware store in the US) that has some home products, but mostly toys and kids play things... Why pay for the brand (or "borrow" it) if it isn't actually affiliated with your product? I guess just to sound Western. At any rate, I finally snapped a picture of this shop and wanted to introduce those who haven't seen it to Jordan's own biggly wiggly.

Happy Oink!

Monday, August 18, 2008

If a sale is 0% is it really a sale?

No, this isn't like if a tree falls in the woods. Check out this big old window display from Mecca Mall...

Okay, so things may be 0% off? Then (okay I know this is a challenging concept, but) IT'S NOT ON SALE! Teehee. I thought this one was tooooo funny. I'd tell on the store, but didn't even notice the name. The 0% sale was just too eye-catching.
And, on the review side of the house, we passed this on the way to (and from) bowling for the first time at Mecca Mall. Smoky atmosphere notwithstanding, the lanes at Mecca Mall are MUCH better than the Kempinski (and the parking's better too). If they served pizza and beer, it could have been in the US with all the cigarettes burning. Although, we were short a few pot-bellied players as well :). It was a good time and maybe we'll actually go again sometime (not counting THOSE chickens).
Happy Strike-outs!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Greeat Minds Think Alike (Even When Mine Isn't One of Them)

So, a lovely MommyBlogger friend of mine has been organizing a school supply donation drive for the last week or so among a group of American on-line pals (mostly Muslim but one or two of us others slip through and are made most welcome, teehee). I thought, what an awesome idea, so today during my weekly shopping, I picked up a number of items to drop off with her. Then, today, I see Nas' blog post about the Action Committee's drive for the same purpose. How awesome. I think I'll be sure to point this out for my friend so she doesn't spend lots of time trying to make connections to drop off stuff if Action Committee already has them... At any rate, I re-posting Nas' information on the Action Committee drive and hope you will all do something to help out those less fortunate than you are. If you're reading this, I know you can find a tiny bit extra to help...

The Action Committee is accepting collections of school supplies to distribute amongst under-privileged students in the Kingdom. The last day to receive any donations is next Tuesday the 19th. The committee is looking for the following items:
  • Backpacks & pencil cases
  • Sweatpants, sweatshirts, socks (for P.E.)
  • Pencils, pens, erasers, rulers
  • Notebooks, both English and Arabic
  • Geometry sets (for grades 5 & up)
  • Glue sticks, colored pencils & markers.

You can volunteer for this campaign in a couple of ways:

  1. Donations: either financially or any of the above mentioned items.
  2. Packing the items.
  3. Help us distribute the bags.

Also, if you’re a blogger, feel free to re-blog this post on your own blog (see I take direction well). Spread the word!

For more details, contact Sara at 079-5154498

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Absurdity of Preparing for School

So, we had a new experience recently. And, when I saw new, for me it was all brand new. For ButterBean's school this year, we had to go and buy school uniforms. I am a proud product of public schools in the US and never had a uniform. So, this is uncharted ground for me. It was so cute watching ButterBean try on little jumpers and shirts and such. Soooo cute. But, also a bit silly. Here we are trying on the shorts and ButterBean has a similar problem to El 3atal. In Jordan, when buying shirts, it's sort of a one size fits all approach. For men, you pick the right size around the chest and the neck gapes if you aren't shaped like a straight board. So, when El 3atal tried on shirts, it looked like he borrowed his Dad's shirts.

I had flashbacks to this when trying clothes on ButterBean. She's generally petite and quite thin. However, the shirt that fit at the shoulder, bust, and length had sleeves that were 2 inches too short. The next size up had shoulder seams around mid bicep. Basically, it looked like she was wearing hand-me-downs from her older sister. How junky is that? So, I'm annoyed at the people who do sizes here in Jordan. At least for the start of school, she'll be in short sleeves which we bought in the smaller size. But really, what are they thinking? If you're thin, you're also tiny (and I mean really tiny as ButterBean is somewhere around the 10th or 15th percentile for her age). So, at any rate, I hate that she'll swim in most of her clothes, but am getting used to that.

The other thing that has struck me as a bit on the absurd side is the instructions they gave us with her books. I think you need a Master's in Physics to figure them out. Write this, this, this and that on the cover, then cover the book with this and place it in the that. The kids need five (exactly five apparently, don't ask me why) pencils labeled with their names (what?!). So I ordered them from a company in the US imprinted with ButterBean's name. And, went ahead and did the twins in advance so I won't have to be worrying about this again in 2 years. And they need colored pencils, and erasers, and, and, and... I don't remember it being this complicated when I was a kid (of course we just used brown paper bags that were self-decorated as book covers, so... maybe it wasn't.

All the instructions leave me going, Hunh? And then (and here is the true crux of the problem) why? See, this gets me into trouble each and every time. I want to understand the why before I'll put myself to significant effort. Like the new for this year requirement for a hearing test. Why? We've done them, but getting the records of them is a PITA. In fact, in the US, it's done at birth for all babies. And then, we had them done again for all of the kids (part of the speech therapy evaluation process). So, I'm not really inclined to go to any trouble at all to get them done. We'll just try and get their records from the US. Who knew what a hassle that was going to be :).

Finally, par for the course from last year, the KG still hasn't decided what the first day of school will be, but has indicated that it will be September 1 or later. Yikes, then I guess we should expect an end date of June 15 or later. There goes that summer vacation... At least we know when ButterBean starts and can enjoy preparing for that and starting her without worrying about the TwinBeans. They won't start until later, so she'll get lots of focus. I'll look at that particular silver lining and ignore others where the silver seems to be tarnished :). At any rate...

Happy school supplies!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Every Jordanian is a Jordanian Or Are They?

So, Nas posted an article he wrote for 7iber about National Identity. I found the article spurred my mind into the direction of a conversation El 3atal and I had recently on this same topic. It centered around the push that we've observed in the government (and candidates for Parliament) to downplay the differences between Jordanian-Jordanians and Palestinian-Jordanians. Case in point, the much-poked-fun-at election slogan "Every Jordanian is a Jordanian." It sounds both self-evident and stupid. However, the reality is that it isn't even true.

As we were driving by the Passport Agency (as it were) between the first and second circles and cursing the traffic (as usual), El 3atal and I started talking about the inane separation of Passport Issuing Agencies. What do I mean, you may be wondering. Well, here goes.

There are two different buildings that one may go to in order to get a passport issued in Amman. However, it's not your choice which one you patronize (you know based on friendlier, faster service or better facilities or some other criteria). The government chooses for you. You will either be assigned to the Amman passport agency or the Jerusalem passport agency. And, how do we know this. Let me tell you a funny story...

El 3atal is Palestinian. He was born in Beirut, where his parents met and married after both their families fled. When he was but a toddler, they moved to Amman. 3ammoBean was born after the move here to Amman. Sure, no problem, everything's fine with that - at first. And then the irony begins.

When the family goes to get a passport for young 3ammoBean, they are told that they can't obtain the passport at the Jerusalem branch (where ALL of the other family members must go) they have to go to the Amman branch. How bizarre is this? This state of affairs continued until maybe 3 years ago when 3ammoBean was reassigned with the rest of the family to the Jerusalem branch.

But wait a minute! Isn't every Jordanian a Jordanian (you know, other than women who are only HALF a Jordanian (and not the good half it would seem))? Apparently there are Amman Jordanians and Jerusalem Jordanians. How interesting is that? So, while every one is created equal, some are more equal than others. Where have I heard that before?

I get that the government might need to divide up the population across two locations, but why not allow all Jordanians (who are Jordanians after all) to go to whichever location they'd prefer? Better yet, why not build a "government city" out near the airport move all government buildings there and provide adequate parking? (Oh, stop. what AM I thinking?!) Then you could build ONE building where all Jordanians (who are Jordanians, after all) can go to apply for passports. Imagine that, treating everyone the same... Removing false divisions... Changing lives... Shifting the paradigm...

For now, we'll just go on being Jerusalem Jordanians and know that the Beans will continue to have a bizarre relationship with their Jordanian identity. After all, in response to Nas' question, the Bean family's Jordanian identity looks something like this:

Jerusalem Jordanian, Christian, Palestinian, American, English, Irish, middle class

And so I wonder, why doesn't the government put their money where their mouth is (in that old American expression)? If you want everyone to simply be Jordanian, get rid of false divisions, make your governmental operations match your beliefs. You know, follow your core values. Then, one day, new generations will believe that - Every Jordanian is a Jordanian.

Happy identity crises!

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Dumb and Dumber approach to naming your business...

Okay, I'm going to preface this post with a disclaimer that I am not discussing the quality or service in the below "poked-fun-at" establishments. I'm simply poking fun at their silliness in naming.

Back when we visited Jordan when ButterBean was 6 months old, we were trying to find some play toys and a baby monitor (not available in Jordan at that time). A friend suggested what I think is one of the best toy stores in Amman. It's a bit pricey, but you truly can't beat their selection. But, I thought at the time that their naming skills were rudimentary at best. Did they think that saying one word twice separated by an "and" made it more forceful? The name is Toys & Toys. Oh, well, it's relief to know that they have toys and toys. I was afraid it was the local outlet for toys and GUNS! Toys & Toys, come on... What's with the second one? Jordanian powers that be wouldn't let you name it just Toys, but if you added the & Toys it'd be accepted? You were afraid people would get confused about what you sell without both? Why the name?

But, as if that weren't bad enough, the trend seems to be catching on. There's now a store called Food & Food. Okay, now with that one, is it supposed to imply that they don't have household supplies? Do they truly ONLY have food? At least Toys & Toys is truth in advertising. They have toys. Period. What's with Food and Food?

I saw another one a few weeks ago, but like a goofy-girl, I didn't write it down and have forgotten what it was. So, the trend really seems to be catching on. I think this naming inadequacy is worse than the one I blogged about some time ago Shawerma and More? As if they don't know if all they have is shawerma. At least that one isn't just saying Shawerma and Shawerma. Of course, now that I've suggested it, I will expected to see S&S opening next week :).

If anyone knows who first came up with this gem of a naming system, please let me know. In the meantime...

Happy Repetition & Repetition!