Thursday, October 23, 2008


It is date season in Amman-no not that kind of date! The season to which I am referring is happily bereft of men and full of succulent fruits that fill all of the markets around my circle. Mmmm...happiness is a good date-two bites of tart goodness with a surprise in the middle :)

Not that I'm opposed to a date that involves fresh sushi, wine, and a ginormous SUV...But we'll get to that. Patience, dear readers, patience. I think I left you last Thursday, and I have not yet expounded on our Friday night escapades...And Escapades they were. Kathy turned 21 on Friday (yay!), and returned from her 4 day sojourn in Wadi Rum with a Bedouin and two Israelis. Well, Fadii and two of her friends studying in Israel....Two of our friends, (Couch) Jess and Jeanique, hosted a pre-party dinner at their pad near the university, where we watched fireworks explode from the window while we consumed the equally electrifying Peach vodka (in small quantities, Mum, don't worry). About half of us trickled out of the apartment to the bar, La Calle, where a much larger group of friends awaited Kathy's presence. Fadii, being of course, perenially late, delayed everyone by an hour, but that's Fadii. Bedouin time is more of an estimation than a precise numeral...

Kathy's friends are my friends, so the bar (very cool place, btw, 3 floors of chic lounges connected by rickety staircases that posed a challenge to Sober Laura) was filled with familiar faces, lots of hugs, and a few introductions. When Kathy arrived, we surprised her with a gourmet cake (that cost a ridiculous 30 dinar-but I didn't have much say in the matter) with luscious-looking frosting and, from the reports, an even more delightful chocolate interior. With most of the party at various stages of inebriation (even I discovered the delights of (1) Red Bull and vodka-at someone else's expense, of course :), we transferred locales to the Irish Pub, where we danced the night away in a decidedly un-Irish manner. I met one of the two other Minnesotans living in Amman-I think I rather startled him. When I asked him where he was from, and he replied, "Minnesota," I fear I yelped in delight. But, he was a pretty good (i.e. cute) dancer, so I must have not frightened him too much...

Anyway, Ahmed, our purported boss at work and self-proclaimed "Tourist Pimp" (more on that later), drove us home, as our previous night's experience at finding a cab at 3 am did not inspire much confidence in Jordan's male population. So, Sunday we awoke to an eerily silent kitchen. Even the refrigerator appeared to be immured in a deep slumber. Hmmmm...alas, the electricity in the kitchen decided to short out on us-happily, it was just the kitchen, but, inhappily, it was then kitchen. Which meant no frig, stove, or washer. Jess had various errands to run, and Kathy showed the Israelis around Amman, and I, I dealt with the shorted circuit. First, I called Mr. I-Can-Try-To-Fix-Anything, Abu Adel, who arrived shortly after the girls left. He went to the breaker box, flicked all of the different switches, made an exclamation of discovery when the kitchen's power flickered on, and asked (remember, this is all in Arabic), "What's the problem?" "Wait," I cautioned, and, sure enough, a minute later, the frig puttered off and the lights dourly dimmed. "Mmmm, maybe there's a problem." "There is a problem." After he attempted several more attempts at flicking the switch, he concluded, "There is a problem." Alhamduliliah. So, he took the case off the circuit breaker, fiddled around with the wires, and decided he could not fix it. "You need an electrician." "Yes we do." Note we had called the landlord and asked for said individual hours ago. "It will cost you money." "No it won't. The landlord should pay." "The landlord's wife is having surgery today" (At least that's what I think he said)....After a call to the son of the landlord, and more of such exchanges, he left, and soon returned with two 'engineers', who at least carried a toolbox. One of them worked on the circuit breaker while the other sat in a chair and chatted with Abu Adel. Soon, I was summoned, and he explained to me that one of the switches was an extra, empty one, and that he had transferred over the power. I was more impressed with my ability to understand what he was saying (in Arabic), rather than his skill at electrician-ness, but I thanked them profusely and ushered them out the door. I love a working apartment. I forgot to mention, a week ago, our water lost pressure in the pipes and was reduced to a mere drip for a day. At least then, Abu Adel did manage to fix it. I feel like some pipe got bumped when the water tank was being refilled. But such is life in the Middle East. Accept it with a yummy date in hand or go home.

After Saturday comes Sunday, and that means the start of the school and work week. And I'm now a working woman...well, sort of. Jess and I took a cab (without having Ahmed talk to the driver) all the way to Jebel Nasir in East Amman by ourselves, where we mulled around the office, met more of the employees, and began to formulate a daily schedule. On Monday, I went alone to the office, where I spent the entire afternoon providing conversation classes to various employees/volunteers in the office. I have not had much experience in English instruction-I now realize how impractical my four years of English study have been. Sure, I can read Shakespeare and Austen, but I have trouble explaining the meaning of 'is' to people, particularly since it does not exist in the present tense of . But, beside the point-I learned, and I hope my students did too :) And I even found a cab back, from East Amman, all by myself! And no runaway donkeys to impede my journey.

Tuesday I went to school (like I do everyday, but I know it would utterly bore you if I mentioned class everyday. It bores me to merely think about it :), met up, had a date, if you will, with my language partner, Yara, who is an adorable 19 year old that the university paired me with to exchange language knowledge. Her English is better than my Arabic, but we still learn from each other-as a conservatively veiled Muslim, I'm always astonished when she and her friends (she usually brings friends) giggle about cute boys and check out the hot Spainard at the language Center. Cliched Middle Eastern stereotypes, I know, but I need reminders that the mind beneath the veil is no different than mine, other than it is rarely exposed to direct sunlight. Of course, Yara has never had a boyfriend (I decided it'd be wise not to expound on the specifics of my previous relationships :), lives with six siblings, and is a total sweetheart-she insisted on buying my snack of chips and a Diet Pepsi. And when I introduced her to Cute Brit, she was instantly charmed by his blue eyes and messy blonde hair, which merely proves, once again, that women are the same whether veiled conservatively or dressed provacatively (and, by provocatively, I mean a short-sleeved shirt and jeans).

That night involved round 2 of sushi with Embassy Man (the 2nd of many, I hope!), at another lovely restaurant, Vinagrette, with panoramic views of the city and scrumptious eats to match. He's so cute!! He's still learning his way around the city, and he jokes that he can get to the Embassy and my apartment, and, since I'm quite a ways from his place of work, I think that's quite a compliment. When I revealed to him that I had squished a spider, with my bare hands, the night before, he didn't even flinch. In fact, he thought it 'added to my charm.' Lol, I think he mistakes charm for aberrant brazenness. Anyway, afterwards, we met up with Jess and a few friends at Books at Cafe on Rainbow Street, a navigational adventure for us both, where we 'chilled' (ask Mom what it means-it's one of those young people terms) and then got to bring Jess home in Ginormous SUV. And no, for those of you who are wondering, haven't figured out age yet, and have no need to...

Jessica finally recieved her care package from home (it actually arrived in Amman over a week ago, but, by the time it was 'processed' understand), which contained, by absolute coincidence, some wheat-less oatmeal cookies, so we sat in my room, bummed around the internet, munched on comfort food, and admired my giraffe carpet. It still is really quite spectacular. Oh, yeah, and I have been doing some studying, you know, reading those articles on Dialogues between the East and West, practicing skits on how to direct a taxi, studying various terms for mental illness in Arabic. Don't worry, mother, by the time I return, I will have an utterly impractical cache of Arabic vocab to show for the year.

Yesterday (Wednesday), we had a mini Bedouin invasion again, but an entirely benign one, at least. Kathy, who was in Wadii Musa (again), came up with Fadii and two of his friends, Mohammed and Falafel (Hamza, actually, but he got his name from the consumption of over 50 pieces of eponymously-labeled food at one sitting). These boys, at least were respectful, and Fadii's always a humorous edition. He now claims he's no longer a guest, so we shouldn't treat him special, and I laughingly agree, if only because he's more like the 4th roommate. The 4th roommate who actually cleans! After Kathy decided to cook a feast and invite some friends over, Fadii dutifully did the dishes afterward and squeegied the floor. Our neighbors Abe and Andrew bopped over, along with Jeanique, Jess, and a few others, making it a quite convivial evening, made even more so when I awoke this morning to find Mohammed and Fadii curled up on two mattresses on the living room floor.

Whew-there's more to tell (isn't there always-this blog is my catharsis, so thanks for muddling through the mire of my thoughts), but I'll post soon! I'm off to cook dinner! Ahhhhh, wish my luck!