Monday, March 30, 2009

The Kind of Anniversary You Don't Want... Canadian Woman Still Missing in Syria

So, a year ago, I posted about this woman, Nicole Vienneau who went missing in Syria on a solo trip through the Middle East. As far as I can tell, she has never been found. This is one family that lacks closure. Unlike Rachel Corrie, another young lady from North America who came to the region and never went home, Nicole's whereabouts are unknown. One morning she left her hotel en route to a nearby tourist destination. She never made it there. The hotel worried when she didn't come back for her things. Her parents and brothers made numerous trip to Syria to try and help spur along the investigation. Nothing was found.

Nicole had simply vanished. And today marks two years with no word, two years of worry, two years up-in-the-air. By this time, I'm sure that Nicole's family has begun to move on, put their lives back together, and live again. But, how can you ever really move on? How can you feel closure that she isn't coming back? How can you get past the hope that she's fine and for some reason just hasn't called?

As I mentioned last year, this story brought home to me how difficult it must be to be the family left behind. When Moms send their kids off to college abroad, the worry they must face. This is the worst of the worst to me. The not knowing, the never being able to move on, the sheer lack of information. Here's hoping that Nicole's family will not face another year without knowing what happened to her...

Sad Anniversaries!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Cautionary Tale About Tweeting Out Of Turn...

So, not long ago I wrote about the fact that I was going to avoid Twitter because to me it's just TMI (too much information). None of you wants to know what I'm doing every minute of everyday (except my stalker if I had one). Heck, I don't even want to know what I'm doing that often! So, now racing around the Internet is a cautionary tale about how Twitter can get you fired (or at least "unhired") in 140 words or less. I enjoyed this article very much.

It seems a fellow was offered a job a Cisco (well known monster of a tech company that does the "plumbing" of the Internet in case you're living in the dark ages and haven't heard of them). After getting the job offer, he tweeted his good news adding that he would "Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." A Cisco Channel Partner took exception asking for the name of the hiring manager to notify him of this recruits hatred of the work. If you read the article, you will see that, as often happens on the Internet, this took on a life of its own...

So, while you might think it, it probably sounds more clever in your head than on your broadcast to the world...

Happy Tweeeeeet!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On Having Holidays Out Of Season: A Case Of Mind Over Matter?

Nope, this isn't about Christmas in July. This post is more about trying to find holiday spirit when the holiday is just... well... off. As I'm sure most of you know, yesterday was Mother's Day in Jordan. it was a lovely day. ButterBean had a starring role (along with each of the other 10 kids) in her class' English language play and JuniorBean performed a solo at his class' Mother's Day picnic. It was full of the requisite child-made crafts of adorable if unusable vintage. We went to lunch afterwards with TetaBean and JiddoBean. All in all, it was a very nice day.

But, it just didn't feel like Mother's Day. It felt surreal, much like Christmas in July just isn't Christmas. Because, as every American knows, Mother's Day is in May. (Father's Day is in June by the way.) Somehow celebrating Mother's Day in March just feels... off. Sweet, lovely, affirming, but mistimed somehow.

It got me thinking about how while a holiday should be about having the people you love around you, somehow it ends up being more than that. Trying to celebrate Christmas at an off time so that you can experience it with everyone in the family somehow just isn't Christmas (been there, done that). Somehow for me holidays are state of mind, and it isn't always mind over matter...

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Day That Courage Died... Gaza Revisited

Yesterday it seems I missed an anniversary that I intended to mark, both on this blog and IRL. I intended to light a candle and say a few prayers. I'm doing so today. Yesterday marked the 6th anniversary of the death of Rachael Corrie. I don't know how many of you remember her story, sad as it was. So, I'm going to refresh your memories.

Rachael Corrie was a peace activist. She was 23 years old when she was mowed down by an Israeli bulldozer on the Gaza strip. Rachael was there as part of a non-violent protest against the Israeli's continued destruction of Palestinian homes. She was wearing a bright orange reflective vest on a bright sunny day. Visibility was great, no obstructions were present when the bulldozer like this
ran over Rachael. What chance did she have against this monstrosity?

At 23 years old, Rachael died in Rafah, a place that inhabited her heart, a home away from home. A young American came half way around the world trying to help bring peace. How much it must pain her knowing what Israel did in November and December. And yet, how bittersweet it must be to see her parents visiting Gaza, a place she loved and ultimately gave her life for. Her love for the place has become theirs. This statement chronicles some of their visit and experiences there.

May the world remember the courage of Rachael Corrie. May we remember her courage and borrow on it. Let's never forget her name...

Happy courage!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Kinzi! and My Kinzi Top Ten, Add Yours!

So, most of you know that Kinzi's birthday is today. She's having a Gaza benefit in lieu of a Birthday party and I'm pretty jazzed about it. My dearest friend is having a party with all of her close friends. How awesome these ladies must be! So, in honor of Kinzi's birthday, I'm going to do a top ten... For anyone who'd like to add a note, comment additions.

Top Ten Awesome Things About Kinzi
  1. Her ability to live her faith without self-righteousness
  2. The way she accepts people where they are
  3. The knowledge she shares with us Moms with younger kids
  4. Her welcoming heart and loving spirit
  5. Her sweet Lil Kinz who brings such joy to the Bean family
  6. The way she gives of herself to abuse victims to make sure they have opportunities to overcome
  7. Her strength and determination in facing down cancer and beating it back with a large stick (okay the stick was named God, but still...)
  8. Her ability to encourage me to better things without judging me where I am
  9. Her unique insight and gift for sharing it on life in Jordan (Go Kinzi Blogs!)
  10. Kinzi, each side and every part!

Happy Kinzi!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

MommaBean Stands Against Cyber Censorship

For 143 days in 2007/2008, Fouad Al-Farhan was imprisoned without charges in Saudi Arabia. What was his crime? It was unspecified, nebulous, blogging related. In short he said something that someone didn't want him to. For 143 days, Fouad's wife worried and cried, Fouad's children missed their father and wondered when he would be coming home. For 143 days, we all wondered what had happened, was happening, would happen. For 143 days, we were each reminded of the knife edge that is blogging. Bloggers who shine light on those things we would prefer to keep hidden risk many things. They risk being shunned by family and friends, they risk being ostracized by their community, and in some places they risk being imprisoned.

Today is World Day against Cyber Censorship. Fouad's story is a visceral reminder of why cyber censorship is such a danger. As Nas blogged about today, in Jordan writers rarely risk imprisonment (lawsuits maybe, but...). However, we still self-censor. That knife-edge is still too sharp. I self-censor. There are some topics I leave alone that I would dearly love to blog about. There are some topics that I wait and see what others have to say. But, the reality is that even if I choose to self-censor, I still have the ability to say the things. So, today, I hope you'll join me in condemning cyber censorship, particularly that practiced by repressive regimes world-wide.

My hope is that these regimes will come to realize that it isn't the people who openly criticize that should worry you, it's those who do it in the back alleys and dark passageways with malicious intent whom you should fear. Airing concerns, issues, and criticisms through blogging is much like airing an infected finger. It may not be pretty, but keeping it under wraps breeds an environment ripe for spread and putrefaction of the infection. Perhaps one day everyone will be able to talk without fear of state repercussions. After all, being able to say everything doesn't mean we will...

Happy uncensored speech!

Where's My I Heart Jordan Bumper Sticker?

So, today is blog about Jordan day. I see this as the one day in the year that I specifically celebrate all the beauty and loveliness that is Jordan. Every other day I may complain and try to effect changes in hearts and minds, but today is Jordan's day... Last year, I did a Top Ten Favorite things about Jordan, which was fun. This year, I think I'll take a more narrative approach to what I love about Jordan...

I have to admit that at first, Jordan doesn't look like much. It has mostly small buildings. Lots of them are very dirty from the blowing sand. But when you start to look, you realize that it is just this that gives Jordan its unique beauty. Jordan isn't the blowing sands of Saudi Arabia nor the glass and chrome space-land of Dubai. It is a real, honest place with beauty just around every corner. You think you know all about an area and you turn a corner or go into a small street and realize that captivatingly beautiful houses await, buildings with such tradition and heritage that you can hardly believe them.

The people, though... even from the beginning the people of Jordan are unique and special. Their warm welcoming nature to friends, both new and old is overwhelming. When invited for meals to people's houses, it is advisable to not eat anything in advance. Starve yourself the whole day or you will leave stuffed to the gills and hardly able to move. That's just the hospitality at work. Don't fight it, join it.

It is so nice to be in a place that we can gather up the Beans and just go for a day trip to ancient sites and see unique vistas all around. Certainly everything they've seen of the US is a polar opposite. My home state is lush and green. Water flows everywhere and it rains often. people smile and greet strangers on the street as a matter of course. It makes Jordan just that much more special, it's foreignness, it's differentness.

We are blessed to be in Jordan each day. This year, I am most thankful for the strides that all three Beans have made in conversational Arabic. ButterBean has gained the most given her move into schooling that is primarily Arabic (fusha nonetheless). But, each of the beans has gained the gift that is bilingualism this year and each surprises me with their willingness to jump in and speak with their friends. And, MommaBean too. I've made some strides. Smaller perhaps, but enough that I feel like I'm getting more and even practicing just a wee tad more...

So, today is a day to celebrate Jordan, join me and tell me what you're most blessed by this year in Jordan!

Happy Jordan!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Celebrating Birth...

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the day that my lovely little ButterBean was born. And, as vividly as I remember the day, I am super-excited that she has grown up so exceptionally well. My little girl isn't little anymore. And, nature's way of reminding me is that snaggletoothed-no-front-teeth look... It's the sweetest thing in the world. But, even more exciting than this is something I didn't realize until 2 or so days ago... ButterBean shares her birthday with someone very important...
For those who don't know, toady is also BARBIE'S birthday! She's 50 years old today (and might I say she look awesome for 50!). Now, for you guys, this won't be so meaningful, but for the girls, can you imagine having the same birthday as Barbie?! I'm quite pleased for ButterBean. Her party theme isn't Barbie (owing mostly to the fact that we didn't know until after we'd chosen the theme and Istiklal doesn't have any Barbie pinatas...)

Making this year's culinary creation has been the usual frustration of no supplies available :(. In particular, there are no graham crackers in town (and if you found some in the last two days please don't tell me) and no blue jello. Do they not KNOW I'll need these items for my cakes? Can they not plan in advance? Perhaps I should provide them with a list of birthdays and supplies needed three months in advance, teehee.

So, as always, the queen of substitution found alternates for my Dora house and fish pond... Very sad that I couldn't go with my original intentions, but it turned out well, IMHO. I'm dropping a picture (with minor alterations) for your enjoyment.

Happy Birthday!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

MommaBean Is... Wondering If Facebook Status and Twitter are Made for Stalkers or What!

Okay, so Kinzi blogged about Twitter recently. I just read a cute little article on why people STILL don't really care enough about what you're doing to want a "twitter" about it. And, I could count on one hand (wait I don't even need a single finger) the number of people that I want to know about every minute of the day. So tell me, other than stalkers, who is the audience here?

Because, really, do I need to know exactly what you've done all of the time? And, where do you get the time to post it? I know some of my lovely friends actually do update their Facebook status daily. Me, if I update it every 3 weeks, I'm doing well. And I usually update it to say I'm updating my Facebook status... Talk about pitiful.

However, in case you think it's a good idea, here's one more reason to avoid perching on Twitter, here it is This handy little application spotlights cursing on Twitter. That's right, if your status includes an expletive, far from being private-ish (only for those you think care), they're collected here for anyone and everyone to see. So, keep that potty mouth under control. After all, you never know whether your boss, colleague, or stalker is watching...

Happy Status Updates!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Hilarity of Miscommunication

Alright, so while El 3atal was in Dubai, he was sent on the mission of buying birthday gifts for ButterBean from Jiddo and Teta and us. The reason, for those who aren't aware, is that the quality of toys is much higher and the prices are a good bit cheaper. So, you pay less for something that should last 2 weeks rather than 2 minutes...

Unfortunately, something got lost in translation. El 3atal and 3ammoBean went to the toy store. El 3atal sent me a text message asking if I had any ideas. I texted back maybe, but didn't hit the pesky x key enough times and ended up with maxbe. Well, apparently El 3atal then sent the customer service fellow scrambling looking for Maxbe. When he asked what it is, I asked him to call me. I knew we were in trouble when I talked to him and said I had meant to say maybe (you know, maybe I have an idea) and he promptly said to someone off to the side, no, it's maybe do you have maybe? I caught his attention and told him that no maybe I have an idea. He started shouting rather rudely at me about not having time for my maybes and what not.

It seems that between these two gentlemen they didn't posses a single bit of common sense. They ad the customer service folks running about looking for Maxbe and calling over Managers when they couldn't find it. Hahaha! Talk about miscommunication. In the end, they got two games (one of them pictionary jr., I am SO psyched) and called it a night.

Happy nonsense!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Burying Our Heads in the Sand? Global Financial Crisis Will Somehow Totally Bypass Jordan?

Now, I understand the desire to stay positive. I even understand that publicly airing worries may lead to a disastrous decrease in consumer confidence. But, c'mon... it seems like reporter after reporter sees Jordan as somehow immune to the crisis that is impacting the rest of the world.

The great mirage that is Dubai, which has been some sort of oasis in the shifting sands of Jordan's mindset for years, is a ghost town. The ridiculousness of building skyscrapers for the very population that is building the skyscrapers seems to have caught up to them. We've all heard the tales of abandoned cars in the airport long term parking. When I was there last week, I couldn't believe how little traffic there was. Where is the go-go high-life of Dubai? I'm afraid it has taken a body blow. But somehow Jordan is immune? Doesn't a significant portion of our FDI come from the UAE?

I caught this article in the Jordan Times today. It claims that Jordan will be just fine because of its "dynamism". Really? Is he serious? I mean, even I've been hearing that there are no car and house loans available in town. But, Jordan is going to buck a world-wide trend because of dynamism? Like the ostrich, our heads seem t be firmly planted in the sand on this one. Hopefully, I'm wrong and Jordan's economic dynamism (so expected in such a happy, go-lucky, positivity focused country after all) will indeed keep us all safe from harm. But, yikes, maybe a little less rhetoric and a little more serious thought is appropriate...

Happy Dynamo!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Shut Up and Sit Down or Go Back To America

You know, there's something I'm rather tired of. It seems like whenever people suggest that they'd like to see positive change in Jordan, a certain contingent of those commenting (whether virtual or IRL) have the attitude that everything's fine and you shouldn't talk about anything that isn't. It isn't limited to those blonds of us in society. In happens to those born and bred here as well. And, frankly, it's begun to annoy me.

Somehow, there seems to be a culture of shut up or go back "home." And you know what? This IS home. If I didn't love Jordan and plan to make my home here, I wouldn't care if things improved. Somehow that seems lost on people. A virtual community that I am part of had a tongue-in-cheek conversation going on about the discovery (frightening might I add) that the Disi aquifer may be radioactive. Those who were commenting with displeasure on this were scolded rather soundly. The premise of this scolding was that a woman raised her kids here and they were just fine, so everything must be fine. Somehow that argument falls flat to me.

I harp on the need for child car seat laws because the footnote to a recent report on a 25% reduction in car accidents (GO JORDAN!) was that 90% of fatalities are still in the under 5 age group. 90%! Ladies and gentleman, that's NOT okay. And, I know most people still don't use any restraints for their kids. But, they should. Really. 90% of fatalities are the most vulnerable segment of society least able to speak for themselves. If we don't speak for them, who will?

How about smoking. I guess if it bothers me that others share their dirty second-hand smoke-filled air with me, I should just go back to America (or to Dubai in fact) where smoking in public is not only illegal, but enforced. I should abandon the 6 year olds I see weekly with packs of cigarettes. I just shouldn't care. I make my home a smoke-free zone and go to restaurants that have non-smoking sections. That should be enough. But, again should it? If I love Jordan, shouldn't I want it to improve?

But then I guess by this argument that gets tossed around so glibly, those small-minded (frankly bigoted) Americans who feel like Muslims who want their rights respected should just "go home" if they're so unhappy are right as well, no? After all, Muslims who have been made citizens of the US have no fewer rights there than I have here. Both of us were naturalized after being raised in a widely varying culture. Both of us find things we'd like to change. But apparently, only one of us should be able to ask for that change. Maybe we all need to take a step back and think. Once before I dropped this quote on my blog:

"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

So, before calling for someone to "go home if you don't like it here" hear the message they are sending. And recognize that anyone who lives here by choice and desires change does so out of love. I love Jordan, it's people, and it's heritage. But I want to see changes for the better. I want to see progress. If I didn't, I would be either indifferent or uninterested. Those are two things I hope never to be...

Happy Attitude-Adjustments!