Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All talk and no action?

I saw this quote in a book and had to go out and get it, I liked it so
much. Teddy Roosevelt (of walk softly but carry a big stick fame), dropped
this gem as well.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong
man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The
credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred
by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes
short again and again, because there is no effort without error and
shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great
enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who
at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the
worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place
shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor

So many of us get caught up in the daily protection of what we have that we fail to live. Somehow we substitute comfort for challenge and sameness for doing great things. Reminders like this one speak to our human nature. Stop gossiping and talking about someone who actually goes and does the thing you keep talking about wanting to do. Know that doing and failing is better than sitting around talking about doing. Such great reminders. Because, in fact, if we risk nothing we gain nothing. But if, we risk it all, we may get back ten times as much.

Happy Action!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review of my first AND LAST trip to Cups & Kilos...

So, the other day, 3ammoBean and I went out to get some awesome materials for new J2Bean. (I have recommendations for those of you looking for Arabic language materials, by the way, maybe I'll review them sometime). He had a hankering for some coffee and wanted to stop by the new Cups & Kilos on Rainbow Street. What a mistake!

Now, I'm a fan of supporting local chains when possible, but when the quality is lower, the service abysmal and the whole experience lackluster... local chain loses every time. In Louisiana before we moved, they had an awesome local chain of coffee shops called CC's owned by Community Coffee. These guys out paced every coffee vendor in Baton Rouge. They beat out Folger's and Maxwell house with their canned offerings, Starbucks and all other coffee shops, and they held contracts with pretty much every single business to supply their break room coffee. They were a local chain that exceeded quality and service found at national chains. Sadly, Cups & Kilos falls far, far short of that mark.

Our experience began on entering the shop. There were two employees wandering about doing nothing discernible other than ignoring us. Honestly, I would have walked out, but 3ammoBean wanted coffee, so I stayed. We waited for at least an entire minute before they could give us any attention. And then it was unclear that when we started to order they were actually listening. The hallmark of lackluster service is inattentiveness to the customer. They finally moved into action making the drinks. They placed the first drink on the counter without any indication of which one it was. We asked and got a reply. They made my hot chocolate (yes MommaBean is all about chocolate in its many forms). Now, for those who don't routinely drink hot chocolate, every place I've had it super-heats the milk to around 150 degrees. So, needless to say the cup is hot.

When they handed over the drink, I asked for a sleeve (or Java jacket or coffee cozy depending on where you're from). They indicated that they were out. So then I asked for a second cup (standard Starbucks procedure for customers who ask when they've run out of sleeves). Apparently, the cups are counted, so that's also not possible. 3ammoBean asked if the customer is simply supposed to burn their hand and the so-helpful barista said, no of course not, but had no solution to offer. When 3ammoBean commented that Starbucks provides second cups on request, the Barista helpfully responded "this isn't Starbucks." No kidding. 3ammoBean responded that that was clearly apparent to us. 3ammoBean asked that the barista complain to management about their ludicrous policy. He assured us that he has, many times. They just don't care. Ahh, I see. Well, from his customer service skills, I'd imagine the management is a bit disinterested.

We finished the conversation with 3ammoBean saying that this would our last visit to any Cups & Kilos location. The barista replied with "But why? I haven't done anything to make you mad." Duh. So, my like of supporting local chains aside, I'll continue going to Starbucks where I can anticipate consistent quality (even if it isn't the greatest hot chocolate in the world (at least it comes with whipped cream)), consistently reasonable service, and a smoke-free environment. Cups & Kilos is definitely a local chain, with all of the issues that implies. Here's hoping their management cares more than their employees think, otherwise, I can't imagine how they'll continue to thrive. Then again, maybe it's only someone with expectations of decent service that will refuse to tolerate such inept treatment. Perhaps they'll continue to do just fine. But, they won't be filling the void of my first circle beverage needs. I'll wait until Starbucks comes down here and drives them out of business, teehee.

Happy First and Last Encounters!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Girl With Sneaky Teeth

So, JujuBean is ahead of her age in many, many ways. She's barely an inch shorter than ButterBean (who is 2 years older), wears the same size and... she began to lose her teeth about 1.5 years earlier than ButterBean. That's right, at 5.5, she's now lost 2 teeth. Tonight marks her second tooth outage. It was certainly more satisfactory than the first. You may wonder, how can a tooth falling out be unsatisfactory. Well, let me tell you a funny story.

JujuBean is a very brave Bean. When her first tooth started getting wiggly, she pushed it with her fingers, her tongue, her food. Anything she could get TO her mouth was used to push her wiggly tooth. ButterBean had a wiggly tooth that started wiggling 2 weeks before and fell out a week after. JujuBean just wiggled and wiggled that tooth. So, we went down to the Dead Sea one day and, as we were getting ready to leave, I noticed that her tooth was missing. I asked when it fell out and no one knew. That's right. At some point during the merriment of the day, JujuBean must have swallowed her tooth. And, knowing where swallowed teeth go, I counted it as a loss. However, I also know that JujuBean would be devastated if the Tooth Fairy didn't visit, so I assured her that tooth fairy would understand. Sadly, I forgot to take the tooth (darn Dead Sea tiredness). So, the next morning, she was quite upset. I recovered quickly, by explaining that since the tooth fairy didn't feel anything under her pillow, she didn't realize. We wrote her a note explaining about the Dead Sea floating tooth. And, she visited on schedule the next night.

So, tonight after brushing her teeth, JujuBean came to me excited that her second tooth had come out (and she got to SEE this one!). She apparently put it on top of a tissue and put it under her pillow. A half hour after lights out, she came to me crying and very apologetic because her tooth had disappeared. We went and searched. Finally, the missing tooth turned up down around the foot of the bed (don't ask me how?!). So, we wrapped it more solidly in the tissue and now the tooth fairy is waiting until she's asleep to go make the expected exchange. But I just have to say, how does one little girl end up with such SNEAKY teeth?!

Happy Fairy Tales!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Is there something going on I don't know about?

So, during the Eid holiday, El 3atal and I went out to Hammamat Ma'in as I posted earlier. But, we observed something a bit unusual for us. Three times in two days we were pulled over at the checkpoints to show IDs. Nothing amazing in that... except the profile of folks being pulled over. Usually we've observed the Dead Sea check points to pull over two types for further screening, the shebab in ones or twos in the car or random folks of every description ala every-third-or-fourth-car. During the Eid, however, every single car pulled over had families with kids. Literally. The shebab were waved on through and the families were stopped. And the guys showed unusal interest in the Beans in the back. One even wanted their ID! El 3atal explained (admittedly not too patiently) that Jordan doesn't issue national ID cards to 5 year olds. The fellow commented that they look foreign so obviously we would have their passports with us.

The particular interest in the Beans and their foreign look made me wonder if something has happened that the rumor mill hasn't caught wind of yet (unlikely, I know, but...). Maybe it's just as El 3atal says and the poor fellows working the checkpoints were bored... I admit I do feel sorry for them, but found the interest in wee ones unusual.

Happy Profiling (teehee)!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Unvitation

Yesterday JuniorBean issued El 3atal an unvitation. For those who are unfamiliar with the Seinfeld terminology, this is where someone disinvties you somewhere. In the episode that the unvitation was issued, a bride was getting married in India. She invited them and then said, but you really don't want to come, it's awful there.

JuniorBean's unvitation was even more pointed and direct. After we arrived home from Ma'in, JuniorBean refused to get out of the car. After a warning, El 3atal gave him a time-out. He spent the whole time-out crying and screeching. Once he came out and calmed down enough to talk to El 3atal, he told him "When I grow up, you can't come to my house." Some minutes later, he came in, apologized, and told El 3atal that he loves him. El 3atal asked if that means he can come visit when JuniorBean has his own place. In a typical kids response, JuniorBean grudging replied, "Only if you don't give me a time-out."

Happy Unvitations!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jordan's On-going Tourism Challenge: Poor Customer Service...

So, the Bean family spent last night at the Evason Ma'in Hot Springs and Spa. The place has come light years since El 3atal's childhood when it was a collection of rather run-down and none too clean waterfalls and baths. Although, having said that, we skipped the public falls and baths opting for the hotel pool and hot spring. I had hoped to be able to write a glowing review. And, check-in aside, the first day looked promising. The facility is lovely. It's designed to look rustic and with its branch-designed doorknobs and swings in the lobby, it achieves the look in a way that is pleasing and fun. Throughout the facility is lovely and first-class.

Sadly, the resort has the same flaw that plagues every hotel we've experienced in Jordan... customer service. From the 1.5 hours for extra linens to the 3 phone calls (and an accidental spotting of the housekeeping staff on the floor to make it actually happen) for towels, to the mistakes in booking at the spa, customer service was lackluster a best. The waiters are apparently not paid enough to smile at guests, and definitely don't go out of their way (or even in their way) to get the job done to a customer's satisfaction. On the other hand, all of the staff from abroad that we encountered (mostly Philippines, Thai, etc.) smiled, were friendly, and helpful. It saddens me to say that they need to bring in more expats for the service to live up to international standards.

Adding to the lackluster service, the "environmentally friendly" practice of turning off the air conditioning left us sweltering until it finally killed off the heat of the day... at about 2 am. The front desk clerk (okay there's not actually a front desk, and waits to speak to the "front desk-ish" staff would be another complaint) told us that they changed the chillers and they aren't cooling well. Ahhh, I see. Interesting excuse and not enough given the cost of a room. A bit dear for roughing it without adequate AC.

On the plus sides, the Beans LOVED the pool. At the hotel, they have two choices, the hot spring (and it IS hot) and the cold pool. The hot spring is not for kids, but the pool is lovely. It has a shelf along one side where the Beans began their playing. Eventually we got them out into the water using only their water wings for support. They spent hours and hours yesterday and today in the pool. We even ate lunch at the pool restaurant to save time. The food was OK, the prices quite steep. But the Beans loved the hotel and want to go back again (actually they just wanted to stay even longer).

The spa services were very nice and I had to laugh at the poor Filipina who was trying to go against culture and all that is held dear in Jordan to get one of the front desk staff to smile. The poor Jordanian shebab wasn't quite sure what she was talking about. Having said that, the spa staff quickly resolved the issue created by the front desk staff at the hotel and provided the services we requested as we requested them. They were very apologetic and as friendly and helpful as could be.

All in all, I'd give the place a 3 out of 5 owing to its mediocre service. It'll be a hard sell to get El 3atal and I to go back. While the facilities are outstanding, that's probably not enough to make up for the poor service at that price point.

It did make me wonder about these "hotel schools" in Jordan. Are they missing the boat? Are the instructors Jordanian? Or is the battle against ingrained culture just too much to handle? Any thoughts?

Happy Roughing-It!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Adoption on the mind...

So, many of you may not be aware that I have a brother. Khalo Bean lives near MemeBean in the US. MemeBean adopted him when he was 6 months old and I have rarely thought much about the fact that he is adopted. He is just my brother.

Recently, adoption's been coming up a bit and I've been thinking about it quite alot. The first thing I saw was this article in the Jordan Times. Apparently two couples came from the US and adopted babies from an orphanage. They were arrested and convicted on charges of human trafficking and forgery. At least one of the couples was clearly Christian and the orphanage was also Christian. While reading the articles, I was very saddened by it. Clearly, I don't know enough of the circumstances to know anything about the couples. But, when I see a story like this, it makes me sad for the small Christian populations in countries with these sorts of laws. While I understand that there are laws in place to enforce Islamic law, it seems to me that there ought to be some process for non-Muslims to do the things that are right for them.

Again, I come from a family with an adopted child. His parents were both living, but chose to give him up for adoption. My parents, who were having trouble giving birth to a healthy child, pursued adoption and were selected as his parents. I shudder to think what life could have been like for my brother in an orphanage. I know that most are run by wonderful people, but few have the ability to give the love and individual attention to these most needy of children. And, I give thanks that the Christian organization decided to give him to a Christian family who wanted him and loved him. And I feel sad for those Christian children here who have no resources, no family, and are left in orphanages. They are impacted by the rules and regulations side of of the law but I'm not sure they're covered under the aid and assistance side. Are Christians eligible for zakat? Is there a safety net in place for them? If not, would it not be better off to find, screen, and allow appropriate Christian couples from abroad to adopt them and provide a better life?

Since living here in Jordan, I've met a lovely American couple who pursued and were successful with international adoption. I see the love that they give to a child who would not be getting this in his home country. And, it makes me sad for the children in Middle Eastern orphanages who are prohibited from this lifeline. It also makes me wonder about this legal system that defines laws for the majority as laws for everyone. Perhaps herein lies the challenge of moving from the US, where laws are created to protect the minority (and the sadness I feel at the subversion of those laws is greater even)... The shift in perspective required can be difficult to come by. Once again, as with inheritance, I think perhaps two legal systems would be more appropriate. But then again, I don't write the laws... in either place.

Happy Loving Families!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Note to Bloggers: Upgrade Your Skills

Apparently, we're not doing well enough, teehee. US AID and the Centre Defending Freedom for Journalists have created a manual to help us blog better. I read about it today in the Jordan Times. I have to admit that while I'm not trying for the hard-hitting events-and-news type blog, I welcome all the tips I can get. Unfortunately, the article failed to mention where the guidelines can be acquired or who to contact for more information. And if you've ever tried to get information from US AID or one of its programs, you'll know that it's a black hole bigger than I'm willing to surf, teehee. Great programs but Jordan makes it hard to find information. Like having an article on a manual written to help bloggers and then not telling people where to find it. Alas, maybe that's one of the things in the manual. They made mention of the manual discussing balance and I find myself hoping some of the more traditional papers and magazines take a gander at them as well. Recent controversies remind us that balance is important and sometimes hardest for us to see when we fall short.

The actual premise of the manual is helping Jordanian bloggers move beyond opinion/event writers into actual news writers. I guess that means they don't consider playground antics and dog poop news. Who knew? Hahaha! Kinzi, they've got our number for sure.

Happy Improvements!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A New Addition to the Extended Bean Family

Please join me in welcoming Junior2Bean. 3ammo and 3amti were blessed enough to have a healthy (and big) baby boy). Congrats to TetaBean and Jiddo Bean as well. Alf Mabruk!

Happy Births!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering Ramzi: Another Year Gone

Some of you may remember that I posted on September 11 last year in honor of Ramzi Doany, one of the victims of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center bombings. Sadly another year has passed. We've been to weddings, engagements, baptisms, school plays, and sadly a few funerals. In short, life has gone on.

Unfortunately for Ramzi, life didn't go on. In one day, one moment, his life was cut short. His families lives were changed forever. So, again today, I honor my brother Ramzi. Although I never met him, he has touched my life. I hope he will touch yours. I'm reposting the information about him to remind us all of the aftereffects of 9/11. Truly it was a day that will live in infamy. Send out a prayer tonight for Ramzi's soul and his family's peace. I know that all prayers would be appreciated.

And, parents, give your kids an extra hug and kiss after the reminder that any day, any moment something life changing can happen. If it's your last chance, don't you want it to be memories of hugs and kisses that sustain you?

Sad Anniversaries!
Begin Post 2008

I didn't know Ramzi personally. But, as I'm sure you all know, Amman is a VERY small town. It's so small that when the World Trade Center was destroyed on September 11, 2001, one of our own was lost. Ramzi was not only from Jordan, he was not only Palestinian, he was not only Christian, he was a member of our family. Although we weren't related (even by marriage), we were related by faith, by worship, by practice. Ramzi was one of those American myths, the forgotten, the glossed over: the Palestinian Christian...

And when those planes went down, I listened to little-thinking colleagues talk about "those Palestinians" who were rejoicing. I explained that "those Palestinians" were mourning one of their sons. You would be foolish to think that out of nearly 3000 people, a Palestinian wasn't killed. We heard from Teta and Jiddo Bean that Ramzi was in the building. We mourned from afar for Ramzi and his family, who we were sure must miss him terribly.

So, this year, a timely reminder from Tim (I never even know the date anymore) made me want to do more than just remember my horror watching the towers fall. It made me want to do more than remember my relief that El 3atal's project in the WTC had ended in May and he wasn't there. So I stumbled upon Project 2,996 and felt that a tribute to Ramzi would be the right thing to do. He gave me the opportunity to gently rebuke Americans caught up in the post 9/11 emotionalism. He gave me the chance to humanize Palestinians at a time when so many I knew needed that. He has given me so much.

Ramzi had a great sense of humor. He was known within his family for it and even used it to cover his own academic shortcomings. His sister reflected on a time when “As a child, Ramzi once dug a hole in our backyard for a terrible report card he had received and placed a headstone on top,” “When our parents asked for the report card, Ramzi explained to them that, “it was dead and buried!”

He loved family, he loved to read, he loved to cook. But mostly, it seems to me, he loved his family. He took his sister's children to play sports, he cooked Thanksgiving turkeys, he treated friends like family. Ramzi was expecting delivery of a Harley Davidson in April or May 2002. Unfortunately, Ramzi would never receive his motorcycle. His life was cut short.
And, so this year, I ask each of you to observe a moment of silence for Ramzi today. At 9:11pm, turn off the TV, suspend your conversation, and reflect on our fallen brother. In this fish bowl that is Amman, let's give Ramzi a tribute on this anniversary of his death. Let's say we remember you. We won't forget you. We miss you. And it's equally true, whether we knew you or not.

And, for Ramzi's family who is still here, know that our hearts are with you today. I pray that God will give you peace knowing that Ramzi is with him and you will see him again...

Happy Remembrances!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Why Do They Veil? From feminism to my own little corner of the world...

I read with interest on Kinzi's blog about the bruhaha over veiling that is brewing in the virtual world. Seems a couple of feminists with differing viewpoints are duking it out over whether the hijab is oppressive or not... The conversation is an interesting one, although it features typical lines drawn and positions defended with seemingly little conversing going on. Somehow, as Western society advances, we become more entrenched in taking positions than listening, which is sad.

The conversation, however, got me thinking about some of my dear friends (Yes, Umm F and Umm O, I'm talking about you). When I first moved to Jordan I was a bit surprised to find this vibrant community of Muslim American-Jordanian muhajibaat. These ladies look a bit different from what I'm used to. At first, I wondered if they veil because their husbands force them to (a common idea in the non-veiling community). But, as got to know these ladies, I began to realize that they veil because it is one way that they hold true to their beliefs. It is, perhaps, the most visible and marked way. But, it is only one way. These ladies veil because of their beliefs, not oppression from their husbands. Their daughters veil because of their beliefs, or maybe even some because of expectations. But then again, don't we teach our kids to believe those things that we know to be true? Is it oppressing them to make them say please and thank you because I believe that is polite and proper? Maybe so, after all, I'm not beyond a bit of parental oppression if that's how we define it.

But, here's what I have a bit of a harder time understanding. Why do the teenage girls veil who wear tight jeans and tight shirts? How, exactly, do those go together. It seems to me that this is when the hijab makes the transition from religious obedience to fashion statement. It almost appears to be a reaction against the West. Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for their right to wear this combination, I just don't get it.

The thing I find so very interesting about the feminist responses to this conversation is the idea that freedom should only be allowed if you want to be free to do what we want (that is, not veil). How, exactly, is that freedom? Freedom is the ability to do what YOU want. If my lovely friends want to veil, why shouldn't they? No one is being harmed by it, least of all them. I think that the original article that spurred this discussion was a bit rose-colored in its view. Somehow, Naomi Wolf sees the veil as liberating because men didn't harass her, but I know that harassment still happens. Some men see the veil as a challenge rather than protection. But the bottom line is, rose colored view of the veil or not, as long as the wearing of it is voluntary it's none of my business. If I argue for freedom, it seems to me that should include freedom whether you want to be free to do what I do or not.

Phyllis Chesler, in her response, takes the opposite extreme. She describes how "Most Muslim girls and women are impoverished and wear rags, not expensive Western clothing beneath their coverings." I wonder what statistics she has to support that statement. Her next is even more inflammatory. She goes on to say "Only the pampered, super-controlled, often isolated, and uber-materialistic daughters of wealth, mainly in the Gulf states, but also among the ruling classes in the Islamic world, match Wolf’s portrait of well kept courtesan-wives." I didn't hear Wolf talking about courtesan wives, but rather saw her talking about a woman who wants to please her husband. I guess maybe caring that your husband is pleased is anti-feminist (good to know what label to stick on myself, anti-feminist here I come). But I am certain that my friends aren't impoverished and don't wear rags. In fact, some of them dress much better under their jilbab that I do in my fully exposed clothing. I've never seen any of them in rags. And, as far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong here ladies), but they aren't part of the "pampered, super-controlled, uber-materialistic daughters of wealth". I've been to their homes. No gold-gilt dripping from the furniture. No Porsche in the driveway. Just simple, normal lifestyles with simple, normal lives. Pretty much, they live like me, only veiled.

As often seems to happen when we take a position to be defended at all costs, both sides miss objectivism and wind up on a soap box. Neither is accurate. And, sadly, both probably are aiming to prove whatever point they began the article with. I have to admit lately I'm noticing something of a trend in journalism where writers have an argument to make and use their article to make it. I find myself longing for journalists with curiosity and an interest in seeing a whole picture rather than supporting their own bias. It's one thing when I blog. My bias is out there for all to see, no question. But, if I write for an actual publication, maybe I should try to set aside my bias to get the whole story?

At any rate, it is an interesting conversation. Is it freeing women to ban the hijab? Or is that simply more oppression?

Happy Freedom!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Is there something different this Ramadan making people pettier and angrier?

So, today, while parked next to the Beans' school, our car got keyed. It's the second such incident I've heard of in the couple of weeks since Ramadan started. So, is it just misplaced anger at the Ajnabeeyeen, general annoyance, or is there something I missed this year that's made people do petty damage? Of course, two incidents do not make an epidemic, but it is unusual to see them so close together in time... Anyone have thoughts?

Happy misdirected rage!