Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bowing to Peer Pressure, A Real Top 50 Things I Love About Jordan Post

Since I've been challenged and shamed about my lack of Top 50 things, I decided to go whole hog. I went back over the first two years the Bean family spent in Jordan and found things I'd blogged about enjoying in Jordan. Please join me for MommaBean's top 50 of 2006 and 2007!
  1. Endless circling: ala Chevy Chase in European Vacation, once you get in you can't get out
  2. Misspellings on menus (to date my favorite is Pier with cohool, which edged out trible blend of cheeses by a nose)
  3. Baka'a refugee camp: the tenacity, love of home, and spirit of the people in their defiant refusal to call another place home
  4. The government' signage calling circles squares, geometry refresher anyone?
  5. The Bean's fun wheeeeing through tunnels (the first few months)
  6. Interpretive driving
  7. Fabulous hair cuts for tiny fees
  8. The Dead Sea, enough said
  9. Zoos that feature house pets, you know dogs and cats
  10. Fabulous breezes, really truly noteworthy breezes
  11. Creative parking
  12. The competitive advantage of the huge handed guy at Osra Hummus
  13. Fabulous furniture built for next to nothing
  14. Anything can be delivered
  15. The Jaaha (askage) before the wedding (especially the bag pipes and the debkeh troupes)
  16. Creative grocery store placement (call it hide and seek with food)
  17. Excellent schooling in Arabic for all ages
  18. Garbage men, the hardest working fellows in Amman
  19. Cheap vegetables (once upon a time at least)
  20. Middle of the road driving (or fear of commitment)
  21. Signage embarrassment (Libby's Ass Juice anyone? Pub and Grill?)
  22. Holiday Greetings by SMSs
  23. Amman's new curved concrete suspension bridge
  24. Petra: a New Wonder of the World
  25. The Beep-Beep Culture
  26. Gratuitous Circles
  27. Creative Spelling (butiey shop anyone? a trip to the saloon for your hair, perhaps?)
  28. Pet Monkeys being taken for a walk
  29. 1 JD DVDs, need I say more?
  30. People who floss during New Year's Eve concerts at a 5 star hotel
  31. Creative car towing, no rope needed, just gimme some twine
  32. Baby cologne for stinky babies
  33. Slim Fast on the candy aisle, give up already...
  34. Casual royalty (or how I've met 4 royals already)
  35. Creative contraptions (cinder block as emergency brake, rag as gas cap)
  36. A single blog can change the world (or at least silly sign, Shawarma and More?)
  37. Amman is a small, small world (aka how I can never go anywhere and not see SOMEONE I know)
  38. Sweet sound of birds singing outside my window
  39. Queen Rania: Beauty Queen and brains too, what a package!
  40. Mosque Tops for sale in the balad
  41. Golden Skies
  42. Assempling Points
  43. A World-Class Children's Museum
  44. Sense of Humor replaces wasta in exchanging the driver's license
  45. Heart shaped potatoes
  46. Strikingly funny mistakes in classified ads (from reputed oil companies to the mirror required reversed image)
  47. New sheep carriers - trunk and backseat of a vintage 1980s Datsun
  48. Time for art projects with the Beans
  49. The rarity of rainbows in Jordan and how special they become
  50. Concrete bound fire hydrants

If you are stumped by any meanings, check out the original posts... April 2006 to December 2007 ;).

Happy Jordan Love!

Why is it SO hard to practice Arabic?!

So, El 3atal's cousin (bint 3ammo) has come to town from Sweden for a semester at the University. As a result, of this trip (and her total lack of Arabic skills (3ammoBean, you should be ashamed!)), I have been having the most excellent opportunity to practice my Arabic. Really, it's been great. She is living with another student from Sweden, whose Arabic is slightly better, but classical. So, between the three of us, my skills are by far the best (isn't that sad? Reflections of translating during the shoe distribution campaign).

As a result, all conversations with the landlady and the Egyptian guard are rather left to me. Which, while I'm sure is painful for the other party is great practice. Add to that the fact that we visited one of ButterBean's best friends (whose brother is one of JuniorBean's best friends) and I got like 3 hours of intensive speaking with their Mom. She understands English, but is too shy to speak it (sounds like me in reverse).

So, the last week and a half have been good, but before that no so much. It seems like the conversations can realistically have are limited to the kinds of things you talk to acquaintances or strangers about. It's nearly impossible to talk to Teta and JiddoBean because I simply don't have an adequate enough vocabulary. Although, I guess it then becomes something of a West Ammani conversation (nus Arabi, nus Englizi). But, it would be nice if there were some in between in my life... Ahh, well, here's me continuing to scope out opportunities to practice (and wishing my accent were wore so that people wouldn't speak so darn fast!!!). Oh, and I failed to mention the other huge challenge. It's contained in one word - blond. Not, mind you as a state of mind, but as a physical reality. People simply naturally speak English to me because I'm so obviously American. Even if I start the conversation in Arabic, they often respond in Arabic, sigh. At any rate...

Happy Practice!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Do you KNOW your name???

Once again I'm counting on my 3 readers to give the low-down. Twice in the last few days I've met Egyptian guards who, when asked their name, reply X, enshalla. What is that exactly? Are they unsure if their name is actually X? Or, are they concerned that since the last time they gave their name God would have decided to change it? I'm confused by this use of enshalla. Anyone got any idea why they respond this way? It struck me as decidedly odd...

Happy Hunh?!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Excuse Me, Mr. Rifai, But I Think You Need To Expand the Dialog

First, excuse any perceived sarcasm read into this message, I assure you it is likely there (It IS my stock in trade, after all). I was SO relieved to read today in the Jordan Times that the Prime Minister met with "the head and memebers of the JPA" about the issue that has so recently electrified the blogosphere, yep censorship. Mr. Rifai reiterated the King's commitent to "improving and developing the entire media sector..." But, somehow it seems to be that the nuances of the issue have totally been lost.

Somehow the government has not figured out that a significant amount of the issue is NOT relating to the established press, those who would appropriately be members of the JPA). It is, instead, related to others who could, under loose and unclear laws, be considered to be electronic media. Like this blog. So, somehow I failed to get my invitation to this meeting. How it could have happened, I'm unsure. Surely not because I'm not a recognized member of the press. Or because the only claim to journalism I have is a blog that occasionally tackles topics relating to society and life in Jordan (like this one).

What's that? You think I'm not a member of the media? Excellent! Could someone please put that down in the Press and Publications Law? Please? Pretty please? Pretty please with sugar on top? Currently, depending on your reading of the laws and the Court's recent ruling I may be subject to the dictates and rules therein. But, I have no voice in the conversation, the dialog that the Prime Minister indicates atmospheric conditions are favorable for. So, if there's a dialog, could I be invited? After all, if those in these positions of power would listen a little more closely they might realize that the whole issue is that the hazy laws bring people into the conversation who simply don't belong. So, I ask you Mr. Prime Minister, don't you think now is the time to expand the dialog? As an unrepresented stakeholder, I'd like a voice. I suspect there are a few others who would as well. So when is that appointment? Just asking...

Happy Expansion!

Countercultural Again?! My Top 50 JO things...

Somehow I missed the whole Top50 thing (well I saw the tweety thing, but not being up on technology...). So, I'm running with it and remaining counter-cultural. However, I will not take Qwaider's approach and talk about 50 things I don't like. Here's what I'm going to do... instead of top 50, I'm... well why should I ruin the surprise? You'll read it soon enough.

First I want to say that I've lived in a bunch of places. El 3atal and I lived in like 6 cities in the South, Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast and here's something I've learned in my moves... every city has awesome things about it and every city has things that suck. Really, every one. We've been in Jordan nearly 4 years and I've had lots to time to observe things. I have so many favorites things, but they seem to be less tangible than most of what I've seen. So, in my bid to be counter-cultural (more because I'm unaware than anything else, teehee), I'm giving you the MommaBean 3 (one for each Bean)!
  1. For ButterBean: Sunny, sunny skies and beautiful (if dry) weather
  2. For JuniorBean: Fabulous history and architecture that connects the past with the present and future
  3. For JujuBean: Opportunities to be part of a vibrant, beautiful community and help those less fortunate

Hope you enjoy my slimmed down version of the Top 50...

Happy Countercultures!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cyber-Schizophrenia: I've got it... Me too!

Just when you think you're creating a new term like cyber-schizophrenia, others are there before you. It's comforting, though, that you aren't the only one suffering from a disease like this one. For those who are confused about what this means, it's a condition where managing your multiple personalities on-line becomes more than you can handle. I talk about it tongue in cheek, but it can be a challenge. Clearly, this blog is anonymous. My on-line friends know me as MommaBean. And, MommaBean is on Facebook. She has a page and friends and groups and such. And then there's me. You know, the real life me. No, I'm not going to put my IRL name here. But, I do have a Facebook account. And I have friends, and groups, and relatives.

It's a bit odd to meet people who are likely to mix in both groups. Do I accept them as MommaBean's friends or Real Me's friends? Where do they fit? In a recent conversation, I mentioned to the guy who did a website for us a few months ago that I am familiar with his boss, but only from his blog and its name. I mentioned my blog name and he was floored. Apparently he occasionally drops by this blog. How weird is that? I even have friends who I originally met blogging and they became IRL friends. Sadly, MommaBean had to unfriend them. After all, MommaBean and Real Me can't be friends with the same people. My philosophy is along the lines of "never the twain shall meet."

It's actually a bit odd, in general, to be an anonymous blogger. I don't blog anonymously to give me more freedom to say what I think and people won't know it's me. All of the family and friends know about my blog. I talk about socially taboo subjects anyway. After all, I'd talk about the topics in front of them IRL as well, so why not on-line? I blog anonymously because I think it's safer for the family. In the US, I would blog anonymously because of the crazy perverts out there. In Jordan, I figure it's simply safer as an American to keep a low IRL profile. I expect anyone who needs to in the powers that be could find me easily enough. But, for those garden variety America-haters, I hope it's a bit more challenging.

But keeping my lives separate is hard. Maybe it would be easier if MommaBean weren't really me, you know? If I talked about specific subjects or if there were some other distinction between me and me, you know. I blog for our company and it's separate from this blog. In that one, I talk about specific topics that simply don't come up over here. So, it's easier (except when I forget to sign out) to keep that life separate.

At any rate, I've been thinking about managing these dual-lives for awhile now and figured it was a good time to think about the topic out loud here. After all, are you my friend? And if so, what kind of friend? You have to choose sides after all, do you want to be friends with MommaBean or Real Me? Or maybe you'll join the ranks of cyber-schizos and create another you to be friends with the other me. Wait, I think I just confused myself... Sigh.

Happy Me... No Me!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Cried Because I Had No Shoes...

So, yesterday I had the distinct honor and privilege of seeing to fruition a wonderful program begun by the School of Amman Ballet. For those who are not familiar with it, the school also put on the Nutcracker for Christmas last year. One of the outreach offerings they had, in addition to free tickets for underprivileged youth to the Nutcracker, was a shoe and sock drive. Area schools with children enrolled in the ballet school collected shoes and socks for needy children in the area around Ma'in. SAB collected 350 pairs of shoes with additional shoes donated through the American Women of Amman.

Yesterday was delivery day. I loaded up the BeanMobile with a group of ladies from the SAB and AWA and we headed off to Ma'in. We had a van with the shoes and a car with additional volunteers in our little caravan. As we drove into the distribution location (the program coordinator's house as I understood it, although the conversation was in Arabic, so don't quote me on that), the cars were surrounded by hundreds of kids. It was perhaps a bit daunting, at least for me driving my behemoth of a van worrying about running over little toes in the crush of kids excited that we were there. The kids were friendly and welcoming.

Each volunteer had an assigned task, some helped coordinate the children outside and admit them into the room, some measured feet, some marked hands, and I gave socks and helped find shoes. It was one of those days that helps remind us to be thankful for our blessings. And, the biggest blessings of the day were the children who shyly said Thank You once they received their shoes and socks. There was even one girl who came running to the location in her socks. The socks were in terrible shape and her poor little toes were cracked. It was heart-wrenching. She had come near the end, but we managed to find an appropriate pair of shoes to send her home in.

The funniest moment of the day was when the director of SAB kept trying to fit shoes and socks for an adorable little boy and the woman who was our rock and the "mother" of the community there kept refusing them. Thinking they weren't the right size or style or SOMETHING, the director tried again. Finally, this lady came to me and asked me to translate for the director (imagine if you will that I was the translator!). It turns out that the child in question was not there for shoes, but was her son. She wasn't being picky, she just wanted the shoes to go to other more needy kids. I have to admit that we all laughed over the language challenges. Of course, the only reason I ended up as translator is that we wanted all of the actual Arabic speakers to be in the crowd-facing situations. It's pretty easy to gesture and point when measuring feet and handing shoes, but not so much when giving direction and managing a mob of kids. It was encouraging that my Arabic skills are good enough to get by (which is what I always say when asked) if limited for all of the nuances needed in such situations.

This is a shout out to Melissa Sweiss, Director of the School of Amman Ballet and Carrie who organized the Twinkle Toe program. Thanks for the opportunity to go with you ladies. Thanks, also for the chance to build awareness with the Beans. JujuBean, in particular felt moved by this drive and was the first to place shoes (four pairs of very gently used shoes of HERS) in the containers at her school. You ladies seriously ROCK. As do the ladies of the AWA who gave so generously of their time and arranged donors for 150 pairs of shoes. Go gals of Amman!

Happy Feet!

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Why Censorship Just Doesn't Work

So, I'm not sure if 1984 is required reading in Jordan the way it is in American high schools, but of it isn't, I think there are some folks who need to pick up a copy and see what the fuss is all about. For those of you who have not read this forward-thinking novel about mind control and government censorship, you should. It's one of the few selections that was required reading that I think really should have been ;). Oh, and it didn't bore me to death. So, here's the thing... just because you can control what people say (through fear or intimidation or grey areas large enough to drive a semi-truck through) doesn't mean you can control their thoughts. Really, it doesn't.

In fact, I would stop and take a really hard look, were I in a position of authority, at what the effects of discouraging free speech in blogs will be. Bloggers carry on the most interesting conversations, whether with themselves, their readers, or even their split personalities. A blog is actually an amazing and unique invitation to find out how people think. What could be more awesome than that? And, as a government, what could be a better tool? Which is better, knowing the hot buttons and mood on the street by "listening in" on conversations or being taken by surprise when the street rises up?

And actually, the irony to me is that most of the bloggers that I read and follow are exactly the sorts of voices that any government would want to have. They are people who love their country, want to improve it, and are willing to take stands that may make things difficult for them socially to do so. So, people of conviction who want the best for their home. I can not imagine a group I would rather hear from, were I in a position of power.

So, rather than trying to shove and fit the square peg that is existing laws into the round hole of the Internet, it seems that governments around the world should be trying to understand what the Internet is, how it functions, and how to best utilize and manage it. Applying print regulations and laws to bloggers is beyond silly. Someone out there needs to think long and hard about what they hope to accomplish and how they can best do that, because the one thing I am certain of is... this is NOT it. No government will be able to wrangle the herd of cats that are bloggers into a registration process. No government will dedicate the manpower to monitor all blogs from their country. And no government should. They should embrace the conversation and learn to read the signs that they provide. And they should seek new technologies to help them communicate more effectively with their citizenry. And, so now you know why MommaBean says that censorship just doesn't work...

Happy silence!

Friday, January 15, 2010

One Step Forward, Six Steps Back, sigh. Blogging becomes an adventure sport.

I was reading the Jordan Times on-line today and found the following news very troubling... Apparently, the courts have now ruled that on-line publication and "electronic media" is subject to the prosecution under the Press Laws. The quote from the press release included below is especially troubling.
"The court’s decision, issued last week but published only today [Wednesday],
empowers authorities to prosecute or impose fines on journalists, bloggers and
editors for publishing online material that may be deemed offensive or imply
criticism of the government, national unity or the economy," ARTICLE 19 said in
a press release issued on its website on Wednesday.

So apparently we bloggers are now electronic media. I shudder to think that a group of people who have no access to these unclear press laws, no responsibility to the public, and none of the defenses available to traditional media will be placed in this same category. It seems blogging has become a contact sport.

I wondered about the new ranking of Jordan as "not free" having been downgraded from "less free". My wonderings are over. It seems that now perhaps I will need to also discontinue my blog. After all, who knows if posting about poor driving skills in Jordan is "offensive or implies criticism"? What about honor killings and the inadequate legal prosecution? And how about discrimination based on religion? All of these topics could be construed as offensive to someone. And, after all, how many days can you blog about sneaky teeth?! I guess I'll have to give this some serious thought.

I would really ask the government and His Majesty, is this the chosen path forward for Jordan? Really? Are we regular, ordinary citizens now denied our voice, lonely as it may have been? After all, without a voice, without a presence, without a dialog, where does that leave this wonderful, vibrant country of ours? Apparently it leaves us sad, silenced, and lacking critical reasoning. Sigh. Jordan I still love you, over and out (for how long who knows...).

Sad (self?) censorship!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sneaky Teeth Strike Again and Celebrations at the Bean house

Well, sneaky tooth girl JujuBean lost another sneaky tooth last night. I tried helping her pull it out before bed and it simply wasn't ready. It was hanging on like nobody's business. Then, during her nightly consideration of the inside of her eyelids, the tooth hopped out. Sadly, it did not hop onto the bed or the floor. It has gone the way of the first sneaky tooth. So, another note to the tooth fairy hoping she will be able to find the hide-and-seek playing tooth where we could not. At any rate, the jingly silver coins are in the special tooth box that was recently acquired. Anyone else think that tooth very well may be coming out the other end?!

And JuniorBean remains sad that none of his teeth are wiggly yet... He knows that ButterBean lost her first when she was 6 (it was more like 6-3/4) and thinks that magically on his birthday, which is half a month away, a tooth will become loose. My efforts to dissuade him have yet to be successful, alas.

On a less frivolous note, we are giving thanks and praising God today that JujuBean's recent and somewhat lingering headaches are not related in any way to the surgery she had as a baby. My Mommy worries have been silent but ever present. Today's confirmation lifted a large load off of my shoulders. So, I will simply try to be thankful when she wakes me at 2 in the morning with a headache and hope these days pass quickly.

Happy Sneaks!

My Heart Goes Out To Haiti

Just a note to say I'm thinking about and praying for all of those left without homes, food, water, and family members in Haiti. Such tragedy to an already impoverished nation is devastating. Regardless of the numbers that are finally posted, this tragedy will harm the people of Haiti for years to come. With 7000 in the ground today, the numbers certainly won't improve. May God bless them and keep their souls with him and give strength to the survivors.

Also, a word on the attempted bombings today of the convoy of Israeli diplomats in Jordan. No one is benefited by this type of activity. Causing (or attempting to cause) loss of life cheapens the struggle and demonstrates that both sides are in the wrong. As the old saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right... And, for Americans, who have to live with our country's unfortunate relationship with Israel, stay safe...

Sad tidings...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

If I tell you my secret, will you think less of me?

We all have our little secrets, don't we. I know I do. In fact, one of my favorite books of all time is called Can You Keep a Secret. It's about a girl who, in the midst of a frighteningly turbulent plane ride and thoughts of death, tells all of her secrets to her seat mate. She then discovers he's the boss. Now, I have fewer secrets, I suspect than most gals in Jordan. I talk openly about the fact that my kids are fertility kids. Imagine. I'm fine with people knowing my real age (38 in case you're interested). There's not a lot I feel like I need to keep secret. And, in fact, the secret of my title line isn't a secret either, unless it's the world's worst kept secret. Ever. So, here it is. Prepare to be shocked and disappointed.

I am a romance novel junkie. Whew. It feels good to say it, teehee. Seriously, I'm not a closet romance novel junkie. Most people who know me well are aware of this. In fact, visit my house and you'll be hard pressed not to find at least one visible romance novel, either one I'm reading or one I've just read or one I haven't managed to get put away... But, there really is a stigma attached to romance novels. People tend to perceive them as something that bored, none-too-intelligent housewives read. Alternately folks think of them as female porn (although my preferred ones never have anything more racy than a kiss, and usually not even that).

Now, I have widely varied reading tastes. I read probably 15 romance novels a month and intersperse with them business books, historical fiction, best sellers that El 3atal brings home, professional development books. You name it, I read it. I also get a few professional magazines out of the US and periodically grab Jordanian ones to peruse. So, clearly I'm a voracious reader. But, when I want a simple easy book with a guaranteed happy ending, I pick up a romance novel.

And my favorites, my real favorites are historical romances set in the Regency period of English history. It's funny, I don't either way about English history. I've never visited and never really wanted to visit England, but I love those novels. Especially when you find the ones written by really great writers. These would be the writers who can write a compelling story about ANYTHING and choose romance novels as their genre. They are by turns funny, sad, and always engaging. So, I came across an article about Romance writers that I thought was fascinating.

It talks about women who left promising educations at top name schools (think Harvard) and tenured professors at well known schools who write romance novels. Imagine, choosing this career over more scholarly, more serious, more... boring? It also talks about a gal who rather has my opinion on this topic... Here's a quote.

When Tan tells people she reads romance novels and blogs about them, "I can see
it in their eyes that their opinion of my intelligence is just being revised downwards."

Today's twist: "I feel embarrassed for them."

So, it was refreshing to see someone take a look at romance writers and discover, as I've known for a while, that there are some excellent ones out there. There are some mediocre ones as well, but of what genre is that not true? Hope you enjoyed this peek into my secrets, teehee.

Happy formula fiction!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Learning to Read, What's Easier... English or Arabic?

So, last night JuniorBean read me a story. Yep, my 5 year old brought home an English book and read me a story. I was so proud. Literally I'm bursting at the seams. And it's got me thinking about the topic of learning to read even more than usual. Notice that I said JuniorBean read an English book. I know what you are thinking... The American mom teaches her kid to read English first. But that's just it... I didn't teach him to read anything. At all. Literally. They have been working on letters at school and putting them together. Clearly it's taking hold. In addition, our Arabic tutor spent some during the summer working on reading with him and his Arabic teacher in school works on putting 2 sounds together (think baaa, booo, beee). But me, I haven't taught him the first thing as regards reading.

So, which is easier to learn to read? Arabic or English? The funny thing is that logic dictates one answer and experience another. Logic says that Arabic is much easier to read. In Arabic, all of the letters are there. The sounds is clear and letters make one and exactly one sound. In children's books, they include the harakaat (little squiggly lines that are actually vowels) so it is not hard to figure out how to pronounce a word. To contrast this, in English we have a collection of ridiculous (and ridiculously hard) exceptions and weirdnesses. Would you like some examples? Good. Here you go...
  • The magic "e". Yep, that's the silent "e" at the end of the word that, while you may not pronounce it USUALLY makes the vowel change the way it sounds. You know like make. Mak would be mack. Add that little bittie silent "e" and you get long "a" make. But as soon as you learn that rule, you read have. It has a silent "e" that is not magic. The "a" stays short. It's not hay-ve. You see what I mean?
  • The gh that alternately sounds like f , like a y, or is silent. You know like in enough (f) or weigh (makes the e and i sound like a y) or through. Say hunh?
  • Words that are spelled exactly the same but pronounced differently. You know like read and read (reed, something I am doing now and red, something I did yesterday).
  • Words that are pronounced the same but have wildly different meanings like shed. This can something the snake does to its skin or a small storage hut outside in your backyard...

There are so many more examples of this. So, English is complicated, confusing, and has an exception to every rule (except that one, teehee). So, clearly Arabic would be easier to read, right? All words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled. The language has easily identifiable patterns. Each word goes back to a three letter verb root that provides an understanding of its meaning (or at least its context). And yet, ButterBean's reading in English is FAR superior to her Arabic reading. I didn't teach her either one. So, what an interesting phenomenon.

I think one answer to this interesting conundrum is the approach to reading in each language. Anyone who has seen kids books in Arabic and really looked at them (as a new reader) will understand this. Let me grab an example. We have a bunch of "early readers" in Arabic. Those who are familiar with Dr. Seuss' early readers will get the contrast immediately. Dr. Seuss' books would included Hop on Pop. It's a book composed almost entirely of three letter words. They're rhyming words to help this kids grasp the concept and not have to rote read each sound... Here's the Arabic "equivalent."

ana bizratun. wa ana bizratun aydan. sawfa usbihu zahrata duwwaarashams.

Does anyone see the difference here besides me? Hop on Pop. ana bizratun. Hello! These are first readers here. How is a child learning Arabic supposed to build sight words? We work on them even though there isn't really that concept in Arabic. But, as a learner of Arabic myself, I assure you that the fundamental process is exactly the same in both languages. You read and read and read until you recognize (memorize) words and sound patterns. Then you sound out unfamiliar words. But, if you never build visual recognition because you are using words that are complex and trying to become great at recognizing the letters at the same time as learn the meanings, how is that going to happen?

With ButterBean, I work on sight words like the huruf jarr (prepositions) fee, inna, ila and words like hatha, hathihi, thaalika as they appear in almost all stories. She shouldn't have to sound these out. Ever. Yet, sometimes when she comes upon them, she still starts to sound it out because that's what Arabic reading is. The words are too complex, they can't simply look at the word and recognize it. Every story has complex words (an example from last night's story istahmaam). They don't repeat the words so that you begin to connect them and build them together.

So, somehow the language that is easier to read is harder to read. Or at least it's harder to learn to read. It's frustrating to me as a parent. It's especially frustrating that the teachers and staff assume that the huge differential for ButterBean is that Arabic isn't our primary language at home. While that gives a significant advantage to those who speak classical Arabic at home (teehee), it doesn't explain the kind of differential we're talking about. Let me illustrate it. In English, ButterBean can read stories that have small print and are 30 pages long fairly easily. Currently we're doing extra reading of a book that was designed for girls 8-10 years old (and I'm guessing that many 9 year olds would find it a challenge). In Arabic, I have trouble getting her to read simple stories with pictures that are 10 pages long. She sounds out most words and finds the process painful (we both do). To me, the lack of a developmentally based process and staged materials in Arabic are criminal. There are many excellent writers but few, it seems, who understand how to create an early reader. It really makes me wish my Arabic were significantly better.

Okay, so this has become a small book and I'll quit while I'm ahead. Any thoughts from the peanut gallery on learning to read?

Happy harakaat!

Full Body Scans, My Vision of This Future

So, I was reading an artice about full body scans, which the PM of Britain has called for pervasive use of. Now, it's clear to me that the Americans who are similarly trying to push through the use of this have not really thought about the future and the American public. Imagine this with me...

An overweight woman goes through one of the full body scanners. She is cleared and continues merrily on her way. In the back, the poorly paid, undertrained, young TSA agents make cracks about her size. Someone, being cute, captures it on videotape and sends it to their 5 closest friends. The video becomes the latest viral craze on the internet. The woman who was being scanned (and 500 who have the same body shape) sue the TSA, the Federal Government, and the TSA workers for mental stress and damage due to the embarassment.

Surely TSA hasn't thought this one through. Me, I see this future quite clearly. I'm already feeling sorry for the woman and for TSA. But, I expect this future to be the future soon. As for me and my so far from 36-26-36 body, I'll be declining. Pat if you want, but my shape is for me, not TSA...

Happy virtual strip searches!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

No Good Can Come of This...

Last Night, El 3atal and I went to eat at one of our favorite restaurants, after we concluded our meal as we were paying, we noticed an unfortunate traffic occurrence outside. A young muhajibeh had, in her zeal to avoid parked cars, run directly onto the small median coming into a very small circle. She had managed to drive her front two tires up onto the curb and was sitting on the median. The entire front end was straddling the median with the tires on either side.

The flustered girl decided to try and put the car in reverse and drive off the median the way she had come on. However, the tires were suspended so that neither could get traction. One was close enough to the curb that she burned rubber in her impotent revving to free the car. She then got out to look at the car. After seeing the predicament, she got back in and... REVVED THE CAR AGAIN! Yikes! I'm not sure what good she thought it would do, but... that was her decision.

Next, a group of young shebab decided to help her. Having been fortunate enough to receive the help of this age group when I needed it (in the US, but still), I appreciate their willingness to pitch in. About 5 guys came to help her. Now, in order to avoid damaging the undercarriage, what was needed was for them to lift the car and move it off the median. Sadly, they rather took more of the push-and-shove approach. I was horrified and imagined all sorts of terrible things happening to the car. They did manage to shove the car off of the median.

After it was level again on the street, the car sat in the middle of the road for an additional 10-15 minutes. Several of the shebab had the young lady open the hood and looked in. What they expected to see, I'm not certain. None of them looked to be particularly skilled in car repair. But, look they did, and then one of the shebab got in the car and drove up the street, passed the circle, and made a U turn after it (yeah, I couldn't figure that one out either). He then brought it back and double-parked it across the street.

We couldn't quite figure out what the young lady was waiting on. I decided maybe she wanted to file a police report. El 3atal said he couldn't imagine as the police would probably want to make her pay for the curb that was damaged. I agreed, but said wouldn't the insurance only cover it with the police report. El 3atal's clever idea was to call the insurance company, say that she had parked the car and, while she was inside the curb had dashed out and run underneath the car! I don't think that would have been believed. What do you think? As we walked out of the restaurant, I could see fluid leaking under the car and expect that she either damaged the radiator, brake fluid lines, or transmission. Won't that be fun to explain to mom and dad?

The moral of the story is... well, I'm not sure there is one. Don't drive over curbs? If your child is foolish enough to drive over a curb take away both her license and the keys? If you have a young, scared daughter save us the danger and keep her off the streets? At any rate...

Happy curb appeal!