Monday, March 29, 2010

Strolling Through the Aisles of An American Pharmacy... in Amman?

So, CousinBean has been hit with the inevitable minor case of fluidity. As it was 11:00 at night when she let us know, we headed over to our neighborhood pharmacy. It was, as expected, closed. El 3atal heard, during a meeting today, about Pharmacy 1's newest location. It is on Mecca Street across from Hamley's right at the walking bridge. It was billed as the largest pharmacy in town (not something that impresses me) and the first one to separate the pharmacy from the convenience style store (something that could impress me). We figured we might as well check it out. It was well worth the trip.

The store was brightly lit, well organized, and clean. The staff were polite and helpful. Really, I have only nice things to say about it (well, they could post their hours of operation, but...). They have well marked products, signs to show you what is on each aisle. In fact, given that the aisles are low enough to see over leaving the store looking bright and open, I think it surpasses your average Walgreen's or CVS. They have good product selection and even, gasp, have vitamins for kids that are chewable but not gummy. All in all, I was pleased. Oh, and until the new bank next door opens, there is plentiful parking directly in front. I highly recommend the experience. If you're craving a stroll down the aisles of a store that makes you feel like you're in the US, check it out...

Happy strolling!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is Merit Based Thinking Doomed When Teachers Think Like This?

I was reading in the Jordan Times yesterday and today about the teachers who are striking in the Southern (and now Central and Northern) governorates. I find this topic interesting. I don't actually have any issue with the teachers striking, after all US teachers have unions which end up going on strike upon occasion in various locations. Sadly, it is the children who are harmed, but teachers need a voice. If unions are unconstitutional, then the government needs to find a way to give such a significant segment of society a voice.

But what seriously, seriously troubled me about this strike is the fact that the demands are:

calling for the resignation of Minister of Education Ibrahim Badran, in addition to higher allowances, guaranteed university seats for their children and the right to establish a professional association.

Frankly, these guys need to get over an insensitive comment made by Ibrahim Badran. Yeah, it was not well thought out. So, grow up and get over it. As for higher allowances and the right to establish a professional association, well I see no huge issue here. I presume allowances means compensation (either through salary or some other form). I can't speak to whether they make enough, but generally in most places public school teachers are undercompensated for the difficulty of their work.

It's that one nagging demand that truly troubles me. Yep, ladies and gentlemen, they want guaranteed university seats for their kids. Is it possible that someone with this thought process is assigning grades in their classes based on performance and merit? Or is it that they only see an exception for their children? After all, surely their children have an added leg up on all those who attend schools and don't have a teacher at home, right? So they shouldn't need some sort of special wasta to guarantee their slot at university. They should be able to make it on merit, right? The idea that the people responsible for teaching in public schools are blatantly calling for wasta troubles me greatly. After all, if they're teaching kids that this is appropriate behavior, how are we EVER going to combat it?

Happy learning!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Life in Technicolor? A World of Possibilities

I've been thinking rather alot lately about differing expectations in the context of the TwinBean's kindergarten experience. Obviously, I come from a very different educational experience than the typical Jordanian education. That's not to say it's better, but it definitely values very different things. In the US, we tend to value things like creativity, critical reasoning, and application of knowledge. In Jordan (British system I think), they tend to value memorizing, giving back the right answer, and carrying around lots of facts. Now, I think, in life, one of these tends to make a personal more adaptable, but that's an understandable bias.

Recently we have had a bit of a hoopla at the Bean's kindergarten from some parents who are less than thrilled. In their estimation, the KG is not "academic" enough. The kids are 4 and 5. Of COURSE it isn't focused on academics. It's focused on learning through play, experiencing things through sight, smell, touch, feel, etc. Actually, I wish once they hit elementary they were more focused on experiential learning, but that's a different thing altogether.

In this conversation that has been occurring, one of the Moms expressed how unhappy she was that the materials that they use to teach letters is done in black and white. Apparently, she thinks the kids would respond better if it were in bold colors. Now, me, I tend to think a bit differently. I want my kids to spend time creating a world of their own around them. I want them to take a black and white picture of a bunny rabbit and color it pink or blue or rainbow. After all, very, very quickly here in Jordan they will be faced with only one right answer. There will be only one correct color. Why would I want to start priming them for that at age 4. Can't I give them even 2 years of creativity?

As I've been considering this (because I like to validate my views internally, think them through and argue with myself), I noticed that one of our favorite books holds a cue and a surprise. For her birthday last year, ButterBean got the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. If you haven't read his work, you should. This book and Where The Sidewalk Ends are perhaps his best known books. I actually love the title of the second one super-much.

**Warning tangent ahead**
Imagine with me, if you will, what wondrous things await us where the sidewalk ends. In Jordan, so few people use sidewalks that I'm not sure the allure translates. In the US, particularly in the suburbs, there are miles and miles of sidewalks. Every street is properly lined with a sidewalk. And yet, some of the most exciting adventures happen in places where there are empty lots and no sidewalks.
**End tangent**

While reading The Giving Tree last night at JujuBean's request I realized that in this book of 52 pages of lovely illustrations, engaging characters, and potent words, there is not a single color. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the book is totally done in black and white. In fact, the entire book is made up of only 2 characters as well. Through his ingenious use of minimalism, Silverstein tells a compelling story rife with life-lessons that every child should hear. And, it's all in black in white. It allows you to focus on the words and, at the same time, to imagine the tree in any color from the rainbow, to see its apples as your favorite - red, green, yellow or blue. The more I think about it and the more I see, the more I think that black and white is definitely the right choice. After all, how will we be able to dream up new ideas if our entire lives are filled with the expectation of what is right rather than what is possible?

Happy possibilities!

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Been 10 Days?! Mommy and Daughter Salon Day

Where has the time gone? I mean, really. Ten days!!! Ah well, hi everyone who has yet to give up on me. Today I was planning to blog on my recent trip to the salon with the girl Beans. For a couple of months, we've been talking about the girl Beans needing trims. ButterBean has been sporting Rapunzel hair which, while lovely, had begun to frazzle about the ends. JujuBean's corkscrew curls had grown so long that they were becoming mere waves, making me sad. So, I had TetaBean set an appointment for all three of us to hit the salon together. Yep, a first ever Mommy/Daughter salon day.

Now, for any advice needed on appropriate hair personnel, I turn to Kinzi. The first gal she gave me was very good. She could take a picture and do a very nice job replicating it. Unfortunately, she moved out to Timbuktu (Jubeiha) and insisted that clients come to her. I just don't know Jubeiha well enough to manage such a feat. So, the gals who had been using her found a new fellow. And, he is just that cut above. Kinzi may have posted about him (in fact I'm certain she did). His name is Tal'aat and he is a hair genius. Yeah I know, melodramatic and all, but still...

The first time I went to him, I asked him for a hair cut that I didn't have to do anything with. Mind you, I don't mean the get-up-shower-and-blow-dry-seshwar thing. I mean nothing, nada, zip, zilch. I need an effort-free haircut. I've needed one for years (8 to be exact). And so I told him this. For three days after the haircut, I was terribly unsatisfied. I got out of the shower and grabbed a brush and dried it a tad and it ended up looking all at odds with itself. But the fourth day... ah the fourth day. Since I wasn't going anywhere, I had my bath, towel dried my hair and then did nothing. I didn't comb it, didn't dry it, nothing. And, it looked great. Yep, that's right. As long as I finger parted my hair and let it dry, it looked excellent. All the pieces went where they should. It was a thing to behold. And it was truly effort-free. So, I'm not actually being melodramatic when I say this man is a genius.

So the other day, I took the girl Beans and off we went to Tal'aat. ButterBean wanted a trim (we took off like 4 inches and no one can tell she had the back cut) and bangs (fringe for you Brits out there). JujuBean wanted whatever I did, so I had him take off like 5-6 inches and her hair is curling nicely. We also gave her bangs to help soften the hair-pulled-back looks that she usually sports. And I got my hair cut again. This time, though, I know better. I don't blow dry or even brush my hair these days - at least not until after it's fully dry. And, I couldn't be happier. So, for any of you looking for fine place with a hair genius, give Tal'aat a try. His salon is at the corner of Mecca Street and Mujama Jaber (near Donuts Factory). The number is 582-8907. Oh, and he's a normal local price rather than a super-fancy Abdoun price, teehee. Give him a try. He's got the MommaBean seal of approval!

Happy locks!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blog About Jordan Day: The Jordan of My Heart

The Jordan of My Heart is beautiful and surprising... It is the home of:
  1. Changeable weather that is summer today and winter tomorrow
  2. Traffic that is never ceasing and never predictable
  3. Opportunities to befriend the rich and the poor alike and enjoy both equally
  4. An intoxicating blend of home-comforts and exotic strangeness
  5. A country that takes in those without other places to go... that opens its arms and its heart - often at detriment to itself
  6. An open closedness (or is that a closed openness) with outsiders and strangers
  7. Chances to raise my children firmly in both my own and my adopted cultures
  8. People adept at making it, finding ways to survive and thrive in often hostile environments

That is the Jordan of My Heart, what's the Jordan of yours?

Happy Hearts!

A Thought or Two on Cyber Censorship

In honor of World Day Against Cyber Censorship, I just wanted to say a few words. Moving from the United States to Jordan has been an enlightening experience in many ways. One of those ways is that I have come to understand on more visceral level what censorship is about - particularly self-censorship. This is one of the most insidious forms of censorship. And let me tell you why...

Self-censorship is the process where, even without outside forces, we decide not to blog about certain topics. We fail to talk about societal issues or personal ones. We pick and choose what to say in the same way that, when confronted with a wide stream, we select specific rocks to hop across. We avoid the mossy ones because they my be slippery, even if hey are closer. We avoid the submerged ones because our feet will get wet and a minutes discomfort isn't worth safely crossing a wide divide. This isn't about who tells us not to say something, but rather about what we tell ourselves not to say.

Mind you, I understand self-censorship very well. With three small children and a variety of other concerns, I pick my topics carefully. And, I feel less of a citizen by doing so. I know that some of my words, although painful to hear, could help improve the lives of many. But I remain quiet. I pick and choose carefully, not for the sake of others, but to ensure my rocks aren't too moss or too wet. And, so, I encourage all countries in the world to find ways to change themselves and their societies to ensue that censorship doesn't become so ingrained due to fear of police reprisal or societal shunning. It is by inviting all citizens to participate fully that society will be able to integrate, learn from, and benefit from those who don't fit the boxes and labels, but will continue to urge society to become ever better.

Happy self-confidence!

Monday, March 08, 2010

A Sweet Return to Blogging

Okay, so I've been silent for quite awhile now... It's pitiful, because it's not that I've been busy, more too lazy to come up with anything pithy or interesting to say. So, I figured this is a sweet way to return - with birthday cakes. In a hat tip to my annual cake making, here are this year's offerings. I have one more to make, but maybe it'll get its own post ;).

The Day Of Cake: This cake needed to be appropriate for a boy and a girl, so I went with an automotive theme, but added girl Polly Pockets to make it more girl-friendly.

For the birthday party (done in tandem for all 3 this year), Butterbean asked for Lola, so here she is...

Junior Bean thought pirate themed cake would be fun (and allow him to wear one of his costumes), so here's what he got (a 3D pirate map of sorts)...

And last, but not least, JujuBean wanted a similar cake to Butterbean's Dora cake last year. I managed to shore up some of the things that didn't work as well (like the bridge) and make the lake into more of a river... And, of course, because I can never find the same supplies two years in a row, I had to find new substitutions and items to use for the trees and animals...

I hope these fun little offerings have inspired you to new cake heights and welcome how-to questions for an adventurous souls who want to give them a try ;).

Happy Sweets!