Sunday, August 30, 2009

Alot Can Happen in Four Years... Reflections on a Hurricane

Sometimes four years seems like a lifetime. Four years ago this week, El 3atal, the Beans, and I huddled in an interior area waiting to hear what was happening with Hurricane Katrina. Would it hit New Orleans? Wouldn't it? When it passed East of us, we all breathed a sigh of relief. The refugees would be able to return home. Once again disaster was narrowly averted. And then the other shoe dropped. The hurricane may have missed New Orleans, but the storm surge overtopped the levees, wiped out lake view homes, and flood wide swathes of land. In the coming days, the tragedy would become much worse...

In the four years since then, the Bean family sold a house, moved to Jordan, started school (all 3 Beans and MommaBean), started a company, whew. It's been a busy and exhausting four years. Time has moved on. No longer do I rush home in fear at the sound of airplanes and helicopters thinking something big must be going on... No more do I think about how well New Orleans is doing at rebuilding. And yet, for many of those who evacuated, life just can't go on. The debacle that was the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina saddens me even to this day. The incompetence of the FEMA response is a federal embarrassment. When we left Louisiana bound for Alabama and eventually Jordan, we passed a field FULL of FEMA trailers. In Mississippi. Empty and rotting out in the elements. Now, keep in mind this is SEVEN MONTHS after the disaster struck. I read an article today about these little "cottages" that were intended as substitutes for the trailers. They are on track (finally) to be delivered later this year. Wait, did you get that? Emergency housing post-storm will be delivered FOUR YEARS too late. How anyone can get on with their lives, I don't really know...

For the Bean family, I doubt El 3atal and I will ever forget the experience but the Beans already have. The beauty of the Palestinian culture has never been more apparent to me than when a lovely couple that Teta and JiddoBean met at the vegetable market and we saw once or twice a year invited us to bring the Beans and stay in one of their bedrooms (kicking out one of their kids) when they heard we didn't have power. We were grateful and agreed, staying for 3 nights in one of their rooms, with another family in each of their other three bedrooms.

So, four years on, add the folks still unable to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to your prayers. El 3atal was astonished that the American news didn't give it a mention, but he heard about the anniversary on Al Jazeera... Ironic that those unaffected directly still remember while those in the middle of it seem to want to forget. I, for one, won't forget New Orleans. Big Easy, you're in my prayers...

Happy Jazz!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Could YOU wear the same clothes for 30 days straight? Talk about recycling...

We've all seen in the magazines where the personal shoppers and fashion magnates tell us to simply accessorize differently and mix and match items in our closet to save money and create new outfits. Well, I suspect many of you, like me, figured it as a bunch of hooey. I'm not a fashionista (as anyone who has ever met me knows) and I don't really mix and match well. So, I really think the folks who give this advice are full of something (often themselves). And then, one goes and does something like this!

Valerie Elizabeth, a true glamour gal (she's a glambassador for Glamour magazine), vowed to spend one month in her Little Black Dress. She's on day 19 of wearing the same LBD accessorized and paired with different things to make it look new. She calls it The Little Black Dress Experiment. In recognition of the challenges of the economic meltdown and minimized disposable income, she put her money where her mouth is. I have to say, while I I don't love all of her looks, I respect the effort and the commitment. I think I'd go nuts in the same clothes every day, and yet I seem to pick the same shirt and jeans every chance I get, so... At any rate, kudos to Valerie.

Happy Recycling!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ramadan is Coming: Watch Out!

So, in case you aren't a long-time reader of my blog (all 3 of you, who may have dropped to 1 this summer while I have been remiss in blogging), every Ramadan it seems I get hit by someone. Yep, my car has received various dents, bangs, and smooshes during Ramadan. Worse, the people that hit me aren't the least bit contrite about hitting me, causing me trouble, or anything. One said she forgave me (for her hitting me. Apparently I needed to be forgiven for getting in her way...). The other threatened to kill El 3atal for asking him to pay for the damage he caused. In Ramadan!

So for those who haven't experienced Ramadan, be extra vigilant when driving. Know that many of the people on the roads with you will not be paying any attention to what they are doing. They may hit you and are likely to not feel the least bit bad. If you are Christian (or foreign-looking) expect this to be doubly true. After all, as the guy last year said, "You don't know what it's like to fast." Clearly he's never heard of Lent...

So, here's me happy that at least most of Ramadan falls during the summer, so I can avoid going out much. And, sad that this time comes again and I'm unable to leave for its entirety. Maybe next year. Or the one after. Because for me, Ramadan is a time of inconvenience and annoyance marked by car accidents :(.

However, I hope all of my Muslim friends have a blessed and beautiful Ramadan season which reminds them of the meaning and beauty of the original message of Ramadan...

Sad Car Accident Season...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Inspiration in the News...

Okay, so my blogging has been sporadic of late (meaning like 3 months at least). But today, I was reading the Jordan Times and saw blog post waiting to happen. Or two... But, here, we'll combine them into one "In the News" piece.

Good News?: Amman Is Even MORE Expensive

Amman has the doubtful honor of moving up 35 places since last year's Most Expensive Cities survey. Thirty-five spots! In one year! Yikes, yikes and yikes! The survey takes into account living costs for expatriates and compares the "cost of over 200 items in each location including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment."

The thing is, it isn't just about expats is it? Every time I hear how much rent has gone up. I curse the foreigners overpaying for their apartments. It seems like it used to be 10 of them in town. Now with the advent of the various UN offices and all of the embassies, it's more like 1000. As a result, everyone with a half-decent apartment in West Amman thinks they should be getting 25,000 JDs a year for it. So, I guess we'll just have to keep working and working and working to pay for rent and good and clothes and... Don't get me started on clothes! So, those of us who aren't expatriates have to find ways to pay to live in Amman on local salaries. Is it any wonder that kids are still at home at age 30, 40, 50? Of course, by now you're wondering how in the world this could be good news. Well, if you are an American claiming the foreign housing exemption the high cost of living in Amman just may help you deduct more of your income. For the Beans, we don't make that much, but for those who do... Good news?

Majority of students in Jordanian schools are in government schools

Okay, so for those of you who don't live in Jordan (or the Jordan I live in, anyway) this may seem like a no-brainer. This article in the Jordan Times states that the Ministry of Education is preparing for the start of school. It notes that of the 1.6 million school children in Jordan only 400,000 go to private and UNRWA schools. Now, in the US, that division would seem not only believable, but absolutely normal. However, in Jordan, I know a fairly large number of people. I don't know a single one that sends their children to government schools. Literally, not a single one. I know of one. Somehow that seems to point out to me how different one's experience of the same place can be. I expect that to some extent this may be and East/West divide, but I also think that anyone who can afford to send their kids to private school in West Amman does so.

I'd also like to say that given the number of people the Jordanian school system has to get through each year, their quality is rather high. While people may feel shy about their English, most government school graduates have a functional understanding of English (if a mismatched inability to speak it). So, kudos to the government for managing such a large number of students every year, but could those numbers possibly be accurate? Anyone with any knowledge?

Hamas Battles Al Qaeda Making It a US Ally?

In a bizarre turn of events, Hamas engaged in a gunfight with a "rival splinter group aligned with Al Qaeda". The end (so far) of the military action has been the death of the rival party's leader. The Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman indicated that Hamas would try and bring the rivals back in the fold of "moderate Islam". So what is it that the US is so worried about? After all, those who aren't against us and for us, right? And as practitioners of moderate Islam, we have no need to worry about them. Honestly, I have no idea about Hamas' religious beliefs. The only issue the US seems to have with them is their political beliefs, ones I think are absolutely understandable. While I may not like their methods, I have no understanding of their religious viewpoints. Perhaps one of you has something to add...

Israel Cuts Off Its Nose to Spite Its Face

Apparently, Israel has begun issuing a visa that only covers Israel proper and limits foreigners from traveling the the West Bank. It seems that travelers are being forced to choose which of the two they want. Somehow, if I'm on a pilgrimage, it's more important to me to be able to see the church in Bethlehem than the old city. But then, again, that's where the resurrection took place. So, bottom line Israel is acting in a manner that makes them look petty and obnoxious. But, is there anything new about that?

That's all that caught my eye today (noting that today stretched across two newspaper days since the last items appears in the paper that magically came about at 12:00 am... Hope you enjoyed my brief of things that made me say hmmm... Anything to add?

Happy inspiration!

Monday, August 10, 2009

When the Well Runs Dry...

literally. Yep, the Beans experienced their first dry day due to a dry well yesterday. We couldn't figure out what was happening. For some folks, running out of water is probably old hat. For us, though, we have a large well under our garden that keeps us floating and happy. But not on Sunday. Sunday morning we ran out of water. The pump was working (culprit last time we experienced challenges). The upper tanks didn't have any problems. We had no idea what was wrong. And, in the tradition of every single thing that goes wrong around the house, it happened moments before El 3atal left town...

So, we called our friendly haaris (building guard) and he called a company to come and deliver some water. That was enough to hold us (without doing any washing that is) until the water came in today. And today, we had a trickle not a flood. So, my oh my, still a problem. The handy haaris checked it out and discovered that the floater (just like the ones in the toilet tanks only bigger was stuck. He removed it and in came our flood...

Ahhh, the joys of having water once again in this parched region... Makes you appreciate anew the beauty of conservation...

Happy drought!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Confessions of a Proud Wearer of Mom Jeans...

So, they had an article (more of a series of searches) focusing on how awful "mom jeans" are. I saw a very funny Saturday Night Live segment on this many years ago as well. But now, I'm coming to their defense (with the notable exception of the hideous contraptions Jessica Simpson is wearing in some of the photos...). Because the thing that I think many opponents of mom jeans miss is that these jeans aren't designed for twenty-something year old starlets. They're designed for moms. Real moms. People like me. Who've earned every stretch mark, who've earned twin skin (this would be the double or triple amounts of skin that twins leaves you with), who've earned extra baby weight.

For those of us real people out there who have bodies that aren't perfect and know that low-riders simply push the fat up higher for all to see, someone designed mom jeans. The denim helps pull in that extra unsightly layer of skin and stuff. It makes it so that we can go out feeling like a normal (and comfortable) human instead of feeling that everyone will be staring at our midsections. In short, mom jeans should be worn by moms. Not cute as a button little starlets (or even cute as a button tiny moms), but those of us who are not tiny and cute as a button. Those of us who may be small, but have big personalities and big lives that need mom jeans to hold them. Instead of reviling this wonderful invention, I applaud it.

Happy Mom Jeans!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

In Honor of Kinzi: The Job of the Stay-At-Home Christian Mom

Okay, so since I got my new ipod, I mentioned I've been listening to sermons by Tony Campolo. This guy has a such a simple way of explaining exactly how I'm feeling. He relates to his faith the way that I hope to relate to mine, although he's so much better at expressing it. I guess, then, that it's no accident that his wife is also extremely well-spoken. Tony tells of the answer that his wife, a stay-at-home mom, gives when asked the following question in the patronizing tone often used by those who think staying at home is something to be ashamed of. When I heard this, I couldn't help but think of Kinzi. I'm absolutely positive that this is an extremely apt description of what Kinzi does as well.

"What is it I do? I am socializing two Homosapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be the instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation. And what is it YOU do?"

Somehow her response leaves her conversational partners properly chastised. Teehee. So, Kinzi, here's my offering of an excellent answer to that most annoying question, what is it that YOU do?

Happy Job Descriptions!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rumored Sarah Palin Divorce: Can't They Just Leave Her Alone?!

So, I read today in this article that several Alaskan blogs "broke" the news that Sarah and Todd Palin are currently in the process of divorcing. You know, to me this chasing after Sarah Palin for any gossip or a chance to poke fun has moved into the realm of cruelty. When she accepted the candidacy for VP, she opened herself to the media frenzy and certainly should have accepted it. I found her to be terribly unsuitable for national office on so many levels. But, enough is enough. Her bid was unsuccessful. Get over it. She resigned from her tem the other day, which was news. But now, let her fade into the obscurity which she deserves. Please. Leave the woman alone already. After all, if not for the continuing media coverage of every bizarre twist in her family's personal life, talk of her potentially running again on the national stage would be bound to quiet. Please, join me in wishing farewell to Palin. She's no longer a public figure. Until she again makes herself one, leave her be!

Happy Obscurity!