Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Gaza With Love: Modern Day Miracles

The heart that the people of Jordan have for those in Gaza is immeasurable, uncountable, and a reason for joy. On a shoestring and a call to quick action, 7iber and the Action Committee decided to have a 48 hour campaign to receive donations of blankets, coats, and food. They expected (and I expected) a couple of trucks filled by the many people who read Nas' blog (and maybe even one or two of my 5 readers, teehee). I talked yesterday about the joy I felt on seeing the turnout, but let me have them tell you as they do it better...

"We envisioned a turnout that we could handle. A few truck loads delivered to a friend who lives nearby. What arrived was roughly 25-30 tons of food and clothing. We filled an entire wing of Aramex’s warehouse. Without the logistical support of Aramex – from the CEO all the way down to the truck drivers who refused to go home until everything was loaded – none of this would have been possible."

25-30 tons! Now, I know that the blogosphere has had some less than stunning things to say about Aramex in the past (typically relating to customer service and cost of services), but I will now say that I forgive every bad service I have ever received. Every less than fabulous driver and each issue with service I might have had in the past is wiped clean. They have shown that they have a heart, if only more businesses would do that. Imagine truck drivers who got rerouted yesterday when they showed up to work to do something that wasn't even bringing in revenue. And when the promised end time came and they still had people coming, they stayed. They refused to go home. Honestly, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

I guess next time we all know to expect God, in His mercy, to do great things. Yesterday he took the 5 loaves and the 2 fishes we expected and he multiplied them to feed thousands. As we sit here in our warmth, our safety, with our satisfied bellies, we should give thanks for our blessings and pray for those in Gaza that they may experience the same blessings soon.

My prayer for today is this:

God, in your mercy, take these offerings we have given, meagre as they are, and multiply them. Far more than the physical comfort these small blessings will mean, let them hearten those in Gaza. Let them know that someone outside is thinking about them, praying for them, loving them. Help both sides of this tragedy put aside their egos, their posturing, their anger (righteous though it may be). Let them think of the children, the elderly, those who can not speak for themselves Lord. Soften the hearts of the Israelis to stop this irresponsible, reprehensible situation. And Bless each person in Gaza, each one in Jordan, and all those living in suffering. Keep Your hand upon them and protect them Lord. In Jesus' I ask all these things, Lord. Amen.

Happy Miracles!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jordanians Vie for Most Giving People Title: What I Found At the Gaza Drop Off

So, after culling through and getting all of our old awesome coats (several are double layer coats with hats and other cold fighting factors), I headed off to the grocery store for my weekly shopping. Given that it was already after 5:30, I expected not to make it to all of my usual stores, but wanted to grab my most necessary items and a host of canned and bagged goods for those poor souls trapped in Gaza. Adding to my usual list canned beans, peas, corn, hummus, fruit, and rice, I braved the cold rainy streets. I'll admit that if it weren't for the 7iber/Action Committee collection, I would have waited until tomorrow for the shopping (I DO hate shopping). As I neared the Safeway Circle, there was an astonishing amount of traffic. I wondered aloud to the empty car if this could POSSIBLY be us... Could we have so many people coming by to drop things off that traffic was blocked up an hour before the start time?

I proceeded to do my shopping. It took an unusually long time today as the poor fellow who was scanning the groceries moved a host of items (let's say 50JDs worth) to the bagging area without having actually scanned them. The efficient bagger bagged it before the checker got around to scanning it. The manager was called over and apologized profusely. Now, I know I may seem rude and impatient to those who know me only through my blog. Actually, I am very impatient with incompetence, laziness, and poor service. What I am NOT impatient with is honest mistakes and the painful process of learning lessons. I insisted to the Manager that it really wasn't an issue and that it is fine for him to void the transaction and re-ring all of the items. They brought over a chair for me and I sat and waited. It actually gave me the chance to have the bagger separate all of the cans and bags for Gaza, so it did me a pretty big favor. The poor bag boy (who did nothing wrong) attempted to not take my 1JD tip. I insisted. After all, the whole situation was not only not his fault, but he had to do his job twice through no fault of his own. So, I insisted. Then I headed over to the 7iber/Action Committee drop off point. The traffic was backed up at the turn next to Safeway so I went up to the little circle. It was backed up there as well.

I saw the Konouz-mobile and thought, hey maybe I'll run into Kinzi. Sure enough after about 5 minutes of sitting, she and two of the fine Konouz boys wandered by and offered to help carry my goods. As I waited, I saw a large Aramex truck pulling off, presumably filled with another one taking its place. The answer to my question was apparent, the entire traffic back-up was people turning out in mass numbers to give. First, let me apologize to the residents of the neighborhood who likely had no idea what was going on. Second, let me thank the organizers.

I don't know them all, but I finally met the infamous Nas and saw Eyad from the Action Committee and saw Miriam from a distance. For each of you who put your heart and soul into this thing, I know that blessings will come your way. And thank you to each of you who proved that, when moved, Jordanians can even compete with the Americans on giving! Those who caused traffic jams in the cold and rain to give of what you have, also are a blessing to each other and to those in Gaza who may be helped by your offerings.

Happy Giving!

I'm Throwing My Shoes Too and Giving for Gaza

So, there is little doubt in my mind that George W. Bush bears great responsibility for the unthinkable, untenable, unacceptable (and inhuman) situation in Gaza. His unbelievable naivety and ostrich-in-the-sand approach to foreign policy has led to more awful things around the globe than are currently counted. Taking some inspiration from Muntazer Al-Zaidi (better known as the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoe, making me wish he'd had rotten tomatoes or eggs on hand), an awesome Arab American journalist has started a "Mail Your Shoes to President Bush" campaign. Ray Hanania, author of such serious comedic offerings as I'm Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing Up Arab in America and The Grape Leaves of Wrath began his campaign through his radio show in Chicago. He went on to begin a Facebook campaign which has spurred like-minded individuals to do the same. Now, many folks in Jordan know about this since the membership roster shows several. But, me I've been buried under out-of-town guests and had missed out on this one. I'm a fan of Ray and think this is a superb idea. So, this week, I'll be heading down to the post office to throw my shoes (in the mail) at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, I don't think I'll be in the same room (with a rotten tomato is what I wish). I think this will be the closest I can get. And never fear I'll find pair of black shoes in honor of Gaza.

And, on the serious side, the Action Committee and are sponsoring a canned food and blanket drive tonight for those poor souls in Gaza. They will be collecting at Cozmo from 6:30-8:30 pm. The donations will be sent through the Hashemite Charity Commission. Everyone do what you can. Personally, for the first time since my move to Jordan, I'm doing the unthinkable. Even though they'll be tough to replace, I'm going into my boxes of too small clothing and finding winter digs for kids. I've been refusing to give them up and honestly considered going out and buying new things (after all, who knows if a new Bean or cousin Bean will come along and then what will we do). But, knowing that local goods are FAR less durable than the ones I brought from the US... I'm biting the bullet. I'm going to send the best that I have to offer. I hope you'll join me. I'll be buying staples and cans as well, but particularly want to make sure some of those children have warm coats against a bitter cold without heat. As I would hope and pray someone would do for my children if we were in need.

Make a statement, take a stand, come by Cozmo and bring your very best offerings. Join us as we all affirm that humanity is alive and well, we really DO care, and we will give what we can to ease their pain...

Happy Protests and Affirmations!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

MommaBean Wears Black For Gaza

What can I say? What can any of us say? There literally are no words... But, you know, I guess there are.

George Bush, please take your morally corrupt, bankrupt soul and leave office. Now. Today.

Barack Obama, look and see what is going on. Understand your own history, our history as a human race, our history as an American people and take a stand on Gaza. "Building on progress" is a lie. Seeing progress is a lie. The only progress that has been made is the construction of more illegal settlements and the genocide of more Palestinians. Please become the man I believe you can be...

In memory of not only those who died today in Gaza, but also those who are living in intolerable, inhuman circumstances, MommaBean is wearing black. For those who are used to my happy pretty blog background, it is gone. While I can't realistically wear black every day out in the real world (and most of you wouldn't see me if I did), I can wear black in my home, in my heart, in my mind. Here, on my blog, the place where I think my thoughts out loud, I'm wearing black for Gaza every day.

I am speechless with horror, speechless with shame, and speechless with embarrassment today.

Sad Speechlessness.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Christmas in the Land of Christ, Another Year of Blessing!

This year, as every year, we have been blessed. I consider it a great blessing that we have spent three years celebrating Christmas a short drive from its original location. I give thanks for the ability to be removed from the over-commercialization of Christmas in the US and return to its original meaning. Contrary to popular belief, Christmas is NOT about presents. It's NOT about trees. It's not about carols and hot chocolate (okay maybe for me it IS about hot chocolate, but...). Christmas IS about...

the birth of Jesus.

2000 years later, this holiday is in memory of the birth of a small child who would change the world. He has changed the world. He is changing the world. He will continue to change the world. Joy to the World! Christ Our Savior Is Born!

For those who share this blessed day with me, Merry Christmas. For those of other faiths, I hope that your blessings this year have been as uncountably great as mine. I hope even more that your blessings in the coming year will give you cause to praise God at every turn. May your year ahead be full of God's Grace and Mercy. And, know that you have our love with you in this blessed season.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Jordan Blogosphere Has Got It Going ON!

Many of you may be aware that several of the awesome blogs in Jordan were nominated for the year's annual Brass Crescent Awards (no, not me, slly. I don't fit the criteria...). Most notably, two of my favorites, Nas at the Black Iris and Umm Farouq's Southern Muslimah were both nominated in the Best of the Mid East Category. Well, both won! Nas was awarded the title of best blog in the MidEast this year and Umm Farouq was honored as the runner-up. It just goes to show what I've known all along, Muslim or Christian, male or female, young or old, Jordan Blogs have got it all! If you haven't seen them, check out:

The Black Iris: Nas always has an interesting viewpoint to offer. He blogs mostly about current events and issues in Jordan. Nas is an awesome writer and deep thinker. I am constantly recommending his blog to folks new to Jordan and those outside just wanting to get a better feel for what's important in Jordan and to Jordanians. He also serves to remind me that someone who is pretty much the total opposite (you know, young, Muslim, male) of me can challenge me to think, evaluate, and understand. Congratulations Nas!

Southern Muslimah: Umm Farouq tends to fall more into the Mommy-blogger category with Kinzi, Salam, and I. She talks about being Southern and Muslim, somehow combining cornbread and Ramadan without seeming contrived or overdone. She's just a great Alabama gal living in Jordan (just like me).

For more information on the awards, visit the Brass Crescent website. And join me in congratulating these colleagues of mine. They are out there every day baring their souls in cyberspace and I enjoy them greatly. Thanks for sharing!

Happy Snaps to Jordan!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Baba, I lost my dream, can you help me find it?

My reflections on the Zarqa Camp got me thinking about dreams. Specifically, what do the young people who live there dream of for their futures? When you are surrounded by so much hopelessness and poverty, what do you dream about? What do you expect to find in life? JuniorBean and JujuBean both recently said some very appropriate things about dreams.

Late one night, Junior Bean woke up crying. When El 3atal went in to see what was wrong, JuniorBean said, "Baba, I lost my dream. Can you help me find it?" Hmmm. How appropriate. The second related thing we heard recently also from the mouths of babes (from whence came the with wisdom of ages). JujuBean is currently going through the overactive-imagination-brings-on-bad-dreams stage. As a result, each night we go over what we're going to dream about (Mommy's attempt to introduce happy thoughts into their subconscious). Recently, JujuBean decided that the initial attempt Mommy had wouldn't stick in her mind and asked, "Mommy, can you give me another dream?"

Both of these cute little Bean-isms highlight something that is a challenge not just at the camp, but I think throughout Jordan as a whole. Part of my role as a Mommy is to help free my kids to dream. One of the reasons that I want them to develop awesome creativity and great imaginations is because that has the potential to open new worlds to them. In short, I want them to be able to dream of soaring through the skies while keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground. In America, as was brought home most forcefully by our most recent Presidential election, kids can really dream the impossible. Every kid dreams of being an astronaut, a movie star, a firefighter, a doctor, a veterinarian, a President, a [fill in the blank with any awesome profession].

Not every kid decides to do that when the time comes, but every kid believes that it is possible. Bu then, as they get older, they begin to find new dreams. They find their areas of talent, they determine what they enjoy, and they create a new dream of where they'd like to go and what they'd like to be. Call it a 5 year plan or a 10 year plan. The bottom line is that it's their new dream. And, while every kid doesn't become a firefighter or a doctor or a President, every kid could and every kid can dream about it with the expectation that it could happen.

I wonder if Jordanian youth suffer from a lack of scope for dreams? In Jordan, what you will be isn't determined by a dream, some luck, and a lot of hard work. It's determined by your score on a single test at the end of your academic career. If you do really, really well, you can be a doctor. Now, you might really hate blood, find medicine totally uninspiring and wish you could be an astronaut, but most likely you'll be a doctor. The there are the Engineers. Again, their place in college is determined not by the dream of designing a new Jordan or the challenge of creating glorious structures. These guys weren't necessarily the geeks with unbelievable erector set skills (yes the nerdy high school I went to had chess competitions and erector set challenges). They were the guys who score second highest (or third highest whatever it is) on the test. They could hate engineering (and I've met a number who do), but that's their major because that was their score.

Somehow the most energizing part of the process has been removed. Parents challenge their kids to be the best in their class for bragging rights or to get a slot in the higher echelons of Jordan University. They don't seem to challenge their kids to find their areas of skill and interest and dream about how they can use them. And while everyone in the US (probably even most people) may never realize their dreams, everyone dreams them as a child. Everyone has the opportunity to work towards them. And, as a parent, everyone I've ever known feels the responsibility to challenge their children to dream. It leaves me wondering, would Jordanians smile more if they learned to dream more?

Happy dreams!

Whatever You Do Unto the Least of Them: Reflections on Mukhayyim Zarqa (Zarqa Refugee Camp)...

So yesterday I was afforded the unbelievably moving experience of going to deliver Christmas food boxes collected by the Bean's KG to the Zarqa Palestinian Refugee Camp. Unlike my previous experience with refugee camps, I was actually able to go inside and visit briefly with the residents of the camp. For all those who doubt that there are people in Jordan living on practically nothing every day, I invite you to spend some time in one of these places.

We began our visit at the Nadi Ittifil operated by a Christian organization. The Club provides after school activities including support learning English, opportunity to play in a safer environment than the streets, computer classes, etc. Basically they find ways to build skills and give the kids new experiences. Sadly, they have found that among the kids up to age 12 typically their English education has not been as well retained as one would hope. On average they know two letters of the English alphabet (A and B).

During the course of one of their special events in the camp, they had children come who started talking and discovered they were Christian. Prior to that, the assumption had been that there really weren't any Christians in the camp. They discovered that there are ten Christian families in the Zarqa camp. Here's a lesson in assumptions, I suppose. And, to all those who erroneously believe that there are no poor Christians in Jordan, I assure you that this is not the case.

After visiting for a few minutes with the ladies who run the club, we began to visit some families and distribute food. These people were kind enough to invite us into their homes and their families to help us understand their situation better. Without exception, their surroundings were meager. Actually, that's an understatement, but I don't have the words to adequately express their living conditions.

In the first house we visited, we sat in the living room with the family. It was basically an outdoor walkway that had been roofed to make it a living room. The roof was incomplete with large gaps from section to section. It had holes everywhere and I fear for their health come the cold rainy days that mark Jordan's winter. Yesterday was quite warm and the room was rather cold. As far as we could see, there was no soba, definitely no central heat, no real way to stay warm. We did not see the bedrooms or kitchen in this house, but it was clear that the entire house would fit quite comfortably in your average West Amman salon. The space was small and family not. From what I understood (knowing that my Arabic is limited), the family is a family of 6. The mother was there to speak with us and explained that she had been working, but the job ended and she was unable to find another. For those who are thinking she's probably picky and doesn't want to work, she's been looking for some sort of work where she can prepare coffee and tea, serve it, be a general office gal, whatever. She isn't asking for much, but nothing is coming. Her son was also home, he looked to be about 12. I worry about the circumstances that have him out of school. I fear that he helps around the house instead of getting an education, which could be his only ticket out of those surroundings.

The next two families we visited (also Christian), consisted of an elderly woman too old to effectively work (and even to see very well in one case) and a man who is too ill to work. Each lived in an apartment that would fit inside a small West Amman bedroom. The apartment consisted of a bedroom (complete with mattresses on the cold floor), a kitchen which was actually simply a hot plate in the entry "hall" (big enough for two people to stand immediately next to each other) and I assume a small bathroom although we didn't see any. The second of these two next door neighbors was an elderly woman who was taking care of her son. He was clearly both ill and mentally challenged. They lack the money to buy the medications he needs every month and his illness appeared to be of the chronic variety.

The family that tugged hardest on my heartstrings was the last one we visited. The young woman is ill and has 6 children. We met the youngest four who range in age from 1 to 4. I understood them to say that 10 people live in the home which consisted of a single room, with a large kitchen bare of everything except a stove and a refrigerator. The only sink was in the walkway from outside. This family lives on the second floor and the stairway up to their house was precarious and terribly dangerous. The stairs are steep, the wood on one of the steps has broken and only half is left barely managing to hold on. Most of the steps wobble as you make your way up them and the handrail is fused into the wall making it difficult to grip. Their all-purpose room (living, sleeping, etc.) was the cosiest of the families we visited, but I can't imagine how they can fit so many people into such a limited space.

The conditions that these families are living in are heart breaking. They remind me how blessed I am. They also help me remember the lessons that my children need to learn. It is far too easy when brought up surrounded by the trappings of wealth (and even middle class is wealthy compared to these brave souls) to not understand that there are many people in this life who don't have what we do. I was brought up in much more modest surroundings than I live in now, with a single mom doing her best to get by. And yet, I never experienced the kind of soul destroying poverty that these people live with every day. This visit was a call to remember to share our blessings, to find ways to make a difference, and to support the work of organizations like this one that put so much of their heart and soul into being with these communities. I challenge each of you to remember as well the blessings you have. However little it may be, it is certainly more than these families whose dreams likely don't even include Internet access. Together we must create opportunities to help these families. We must find ways to better their lives. We must remember that all of us are in this together... And at this blessed time of year, I am so proud that my kids' school spent some time focusing on helping those in need. Providing toys, clothing, and food to these people who know such need. Understanding that it isn't about religion, it's not about nationality, it's about humanity.

For as Christ reminds us:

" For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you cam to visit me. Then the righteous answered him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in
prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Thank you, God, for those who find their calling in clothing the needy, feeding the hungry, and visiting the prisoners. I know that You will reward them and use them as a calling to each of us.

Happy Opportunities!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The new Porsche sedan? I'm thinking it's actually a Pontiac in Porsche clothing...

I stumbled across this today on MSN Arabia. Porsche is working on a new 4 seater sedan. Good idea, I think, especially in the Gulf market where consumerism reaches dizzying heights (quite literally). But, will someone please tell whoever wrote this article that the car looks like a Pontiac.

"The symbiosis of sports car DNA derived from the looks of a coupé, the unique interpretation of the classical saloon body and the benefits of a variable space concept give the new Porsche its truly unmistakable appearance."
Come on. Remove your nose from Porsche's anatomy and take a look...

Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty car, but really. The hyperbole in the article makes me blush FOR the author. And, it does look like a Pontiac for all that it is a Porsche. What do you think?

Happy zooming!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snowman snacking...

So, this is where art project meets delectable delicacies. By now most of you know that every week I do art projects with the Beans. Often we have the joy of Lil Kinz's presence as well. And, that was the case at art project number one where we made Christmas angels. But, art project number two was just for the Beans (mostly because Lil Kinz protested she'd already MADE edible snowmen and was nonplussed by the idea, boy did SHE miss out, teehee).

In my on-going bid to instill creativity (rare but necessary commodity in Jordan), we used locally available items to make edible snowmen. And, discovered new yummy veggie preparation methods in the process. We started with wooden sticks and marshmallows (yes I know sounds like the recipe for a camp out, maybe next time). We added in white chocolate, a variety of decorative items, and cute kids. Here are some pictures of the outcome. Personally I think these creativity boosters are taking effect...

A selection of delectable snow people...

Butterbean's snow girl (note the gold pony tails, not to mention the carrot nose)

All of the snowmen sitting out to harden...

I expect by now your mouth is watering. Sorry, there are only a couple left and they will be gone this afternoon. Maybe one of these days we'll have a blogger's edible art project day... Keep hoping anyway.

Happy snacking!

Corruption is corruption is corruption... or is it? Stingy vs flamboyant corruption a la Americana

Some people believe America can do no wrong. I am not one of them. Never have been. Never will be. You can't grow up in Alabama and think that. Newsweek published an interesting article, A Battle for the Basement?, on Saturday about corruption in some of the US states. In fact, they cited the Corporate Crime Reporter's listing of public corruption as well. The findings were rather what I would expect and the conclusions in the Newsweek article rather apropos. So, first the numbers...

The 2007 study of the CCR found the following Top Ten Most Corrupt States in the US:
  1. Louisiana
  2. Mississippi
  3. Kentucky (now how did that happen?)
  4. Alabama
  5. Ohio
  6. Illinois
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Florida
  9. New Jersey
  10. New York
Three of the top four pretty much always vie for the top of the lists you don't want to be on, you know like worst schools in the nation, poorest health care, etc. And the order here is, in fact, the order I grew up with. (Let me just say here I have no idea how Kentucky made this list. Perhaps they are a new contender for the bottom of the nation...) I'm from Alabama. Now, being from Alabama isn't so bad. Typically we're either number 3 (bad lists) or number 48 (good lists). So, we always had Mississippi to look down on. And Mississippi was always number 2 or number 49. So, they had Louisiana, but poor Louisiana didn't have anyone. I always did feel sorry for people in Louisiana. And then we moved there... And here's what I've found. On the lists that they usually don't compile (nicest people in the US, most pleasant places to live, best weather, etc.), Louisiana and Alabama would likely rank pretty high. El 3atal and I bumped around quite a bit living in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Iowa in addition to Alabama and Louisiana. I would pick the latter two over any of the former. Every day of the week.

And, yes, I know about the corruption in both places. I found the Newsweek article interesting in its perspective. Here's what they had to say about corruption in Illinois vs. corruption in Louisiana, "The corruption culture in Illinois tends to be mingy, pedestrian, shameful. State legislators who sell their votes for $25 cash in an envelope (a scandal of the 1970s) do not tend toward braggadocio. ... Louisiana's culture of corruption, by contrast, is flamboyant and shameless. ... When [former Governor Edwin] Edwards ran for governor again in 1983, he said of the incumbent, "If we don't get Dave Treen out of office, there won't be anything left to steal." "

In states where it is not unusual to see former politicians in federal prison, you get sort inured to it. But, the funny thing is I always felt like Alabama corruption was less harmful and negative. Not, mind you, that corruption will ever be confused with philanthropy, but in Alabama the citizens typically get something for it. It's not really the mingy and pedestrian Illinois-style corruption. But it's also definitely not the flamboyant Louisiana-style. As with most other things, we do it our own way in Alabama. Let me give you an example of the almost benevolent nature of Alabama corruption.

Every four years like clockwork the Interstates running through Alabama are repaved and restriped. You have never seen such beautiful expanses of road. Going across the Mississippi/Alabama border is like going from an unpaved donkey trail to a street paved in freshly minted gold. We don't talk so much about it but everyone knows (at least everyone in the capitol knows) that the road repaving is a very lucrative kick-back for friends and family of the newly elected Governor. It's corruption, cleanly and simply, but at least the citizens of the state benefit in some way. That seems to be the Alabama MO, openly known but never acknowledged secrets. In our own way, we do things big like Louisiana, but quiet like Illinois. And how interesting it is to see Illinois have their "shameful" secret plastered across the front pages of every newspaper in the country. I will take leave, though, to disagree with the author of the Newsweek article, I think Illinois has a LONG way to go to find itself near the Top Ten on this particular list. Kentucky, new contender that it is, is a fluke I think. I don't really see that the neighboring Southern States will be losing their stranglehold on the "worst of" lists anytime soon. But here's hoping!

Happy Baksheesh!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

First Visit to the "Amman Tourist Beach", You MUST Be Kidding!

So, we had some visitors from the US and Canada and got to indulge in our very favorite past-time... showing off Jordan. It's such a beautiful, rich, unique place and we got the chance to share it with friends. One of the experiences I think is a once-in-a-lifetime must-try experience is a dip in the Dead Sea. Those who have been understand that this is something you can't do anywhere else in the world.

This body of water is SOOO salty that it is nigh on impossible to keep your feet under the water. So, we took our friends down (after a trip to Madaba and Mount Nebo). However, not planning to be there for long (literally long enough for a dip), we wanted to save the dinars and chose to go to GAM's Amman Beach. The ticket calls it the Amman Tourist Beach. Only, I expect they don't really want tourists to come.

It's one thing that, for one of the few times in my life in Jordan, we were stared at and ogled because we came in modest one-piece swimming suits. Apparently we should have invested in the burkini to make this visit. Although, given the clientele who was never taught it's impolite to stare (is that an American thing?), I'm afraid that would have produced just as much ogling. That alone would definitely turn off tourists. But that's not what bothered me the most...

This public beach which we paid 7JDs for our tourist guests to visit had no toilets. Don't get me wrong, they had something called a WC. It consisted of six stalls with holes in the floor. Period. Does anyone at GAM actually think that tourists will use such facilities? In bathing suits. Basically for a lady wearing a one piece suit to use this type of facility, she will have to take everything off. Not practical and certainly not tourist friendly. The showers were not great (several were missing shower heads and there were issues turning them on and off), but livable. But, the toilets... well, suffice to say not only would I not go back, I would never recommend that a tourist go there. The Dead Sea Spa at twice the price is absolutely worth the extra cha-ching.

GAM, get a clue. If you're seriously targeting tourists, put in tourist quality facilities. If not, change the name. Kudos for making an affordable place (only 3 JDs for locals) for people to go, but please whatever you do don't try to market this spot to tourists. I'd hate for them to think that this is what Jordan is like - it is SO not.

Happy tinkling!