Living in Amman

Ma`a as-salama (Goodbye in Arabic) Amman, Jordan


One of our last sunsets at the Dead Sea

So the time as come to bid goodbye to Amman. Although I’ve already left the country for good and have been living in what I now consider home, I feel the need to come full circle and say goodbye. It was an interesting fourteen months to say the least; I’m happy that I had the opportunity to live in another country, amongst a culture that was different from my own, but nothing feels as good as coming home to familiar things, places, and people who you’ve missed so much.

I didn’t warm up to Amman quickly. Rather, our relationship was on shaky ground for the first few months. Here’s a list of the things that drove me crazy from the get-go and then the things that made my time in Amman something that I’ll cherish and look back upon fondly:

The Bad:

  1. Cats, cats, and more cats. I am an animal lover, not necessarily of cats, but I hate seeing starving and sad, pitiful cats (some with wounds and worse still, a one-eyed cat I saw in my neighborhood) climbing into dumpsters looking for food. There’s obviously an overpopulation problem that hasn’t been addressed.

    Sorry, no shots of cats in dumpsters.
  2. Driving and traffic circles: Everyone can agree that driving in Amman and throughout all of Jordan (perhaps all of the middle east) is a nightmare. Lanes are merely suggestions; the light barely turns green and hordes of angry drivers slam on their horns. It’s stressful and dangerous and I’m so happy to never have to drive there again.
  3. No love for dogs. Poor Shanti. He moved from a dog-friendly community where people treated dogs equally as well as children to a place where dogs are considered harem (forbidden). He is currently in hiding until his hair grows out enough to take him to the groomers. I may just drop him off on the curb in front of the groomers in a basket with money attached so that I don’t have to face the groomer’s horror when she sees the situation–good thing the place is called Hairy Situation.Additionally, he had a bump removed last year in Amman, leaving the poor pup disfigured. His show days are gone.

    Isn’t this the SADDEST dog you’ve ever seen?
  4. Lack of shopping options. As I mentioned throughout my stay, I suffered severely from retail withdrawal. Sure high-end boutiques were aplenty, but there was nothing I could afford. I couldn’t even sneak purchases in the mail because the ‘boss man’ picked up the mail at the embassy, thereby eliminating my stellar ability to sneak items into the house. I have since made up for lost time and am feeling quite content at the moment.
  5. Continuous stomach virus: I won’t get TMI on you here, but it seemed that between the two of us, one of us was sick every week regardless of what we ate, where we ate it, or how careful I was in the food preparation. Enough said.
  6. AFN and Tiger Box television: I will never, ever watch Armed Forces Network (AFN) again. Luckily for me, Raj is not in the military, so the chances of me staying true to my word are good. AFN has no commercials, though they have just as many public service announcements to make up for the lack of commercials. Reminders like “what right looks like” or “never to drive when your medication says may cause drowsiness” will not be missed. Tiger Box, a satellite of sorts, is equally as abysmal. I have never seen so many B movies that I didn’t know existed and yet because I was so starved for entertainment, I was captivated with them solely because there was nothing else on TV.

The Good: 

  1. My tennis coach Basel: I played tennis collegiately and then gave it up for close to twenty years due to burnout and lack of a (good) partner to play with. I rediscovered my love for the game by taking tennis lessons with a fabulous coach whom I wish I had met when I was playing competitively. The only bargain in Jordan was tennis lessons. By the time I left, I was taking lessons three times a week for an hour and a half each time. According to Basel, had he been my coach when I was young, I would have played professional. Oh how I miss my lessons.
  2. My self-indulgent “me time” schedule: Now that I’m back to work, I no longer have the luxury of waking up when I want, playing tennis or running at the gym, going to Barre classes, teaching or doing my own personal practice of yoga, meeting Raj at the embassy for lunch, laying out by the pool, reading, blogging…O my God the list could go on and on…. Gone are my days as a “lady of luxury.” You will be missed!
  3. Grace, our friend and cleaning lady: Grace was recommended to us by a co-worker of Raj. She was such a loving companion to Shanti when we left him in her care on multiple, long-term occasions. She took such great care of our house too. I wish she could come to live with us here! I know Shanti would sing to that.
  4. Traveling: We have been on so many amazing long and short trips while we were in Jordan. The Egyptian cruise at Christmas still remains my all time favorite, though there were so many fabulous others. As much as I love traveling, I’m looking forward to staying put for a while and traveling locally, revisiting our favorite haunts and checking out other new places.
  5. Parties and Events: We had to opportunity to attend parties at a number of embassies in Amman. The highlight, getting up-dos and sanctioned shopping for appropriate ‘party’ clothing.

    Love the up-do, but I’m paying the price in damage.
At the French Embassy, Bastille Day

So I’m left with a blog entitled Jen Maan in Amman and even though I’m no longer living in Amman, I’ll be redirecting my focus to the things that I still love to do regardless of where I’m living, like cooking, baking, crafting…just no longer in the middle east.

Ma`a as-salama…

Jen

Travels

Paris and Purchases


 

As I mentioned in the previous post, France was freezing (not really, but it was cold after our jaunt to Portugal) and I only packed for warm, sunny weather (sun dresses and sandals) so I had to wear the same thing over and over again (this was very difficult for me). As a result, you will not see ANY pictures of me (picture me with my dad’s red sweater, jeans, and running shoes, walking though the streets of Paris. I would have been shown the exit had I walked into Hermes dressed like this). In fact, ALL pictures of me from this part of the trip have been burned…SO, we’re skipping past the photos of Paris and ending the European vacation on the few items that I purchased.

One of my favorite fountains by Niki de Saint Phalle. (Remember the Howard Jones video (What Is Love?) from a million years ago filmed here?)

 

 

 

 

First up, a bottle of wine we purchased on our way home in Paris, which was quickly consumed…and the wine bottle holder from Chambord (it’s some kind of a wild boar, though it’s difficult to tell from the pictures).
Kusmi Tea: I’ve never tried it, but it smelled divine and I like the packaging. I’ll keep you posted when I sample it.
Some bowls from Portugal, in the southern style that were oh so cheap. I can’t wait to use these!
A trio of condiment bowls atop a small platter that I purchase in Lisbon.
…and a close up of one of the bowls taken off of the serving platter…

I also purchased a couple of scarves in Paris, but I’m not sure where they’ve walked off to. It’s hard to believe that I didn’t buy anything else. All of these pieces, like everything else that I’ve bought will go into storage in Amman until we’re reunited in the States in a few months. At this point, it will be like Christmas when I get to unwrap all of the treasures that I’ve been collecting over the course of 15 months–all of the items from Egypt (which I never got around to posting), the icons and bowls from Israel, the pottery from Jordan, the mosaics, the Syrian furniture…

Travels

The Pirates (and Dolls) of Petra


 

I’ll never tire of visiting Petra. It’s such an amazing place chock full of history, scenery, handicrafts, and Johnny Depp look-a-like pirates. I wish I could post pictures to back up the pirate claim, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Petra’s swash-buckling pirates wield neither swords nor ill will, but they swagger about in skinny jeans, line their eyes in black kohl, and sport dreadlocks and Lawrence of Arabia style head scarves, all adding to the allure these rakish young men. They proffer rides on horses, camels, and donkeys to tourists with sales pitches that include, “Your wife will love you more” or “Free air conditioning.” Raj never seems too interested in getting me to love him any more than I already do and on this day it was just too cold to justify air conditioning. We walked.

One of the many 'shops' in Petra

Since I’ve already posted not one, but TWO detailed accounts of Petra, I’ll spare you the details and cut to the chase. This post is not about the beauty of Petra or the pirates that inhabit it; it’s about the purchases. Similar to a swap meet, once you make it to the second row of vendors, you’ve pretty much seen everything for sale. Petra is no different. You’ll find knives, jewelry (from silver to camel bone to plastic), ‘antiques,’ (reproduction Roman coins, etc) and more. It’s ALL the same. However, this time I saw something truly unique, handmade AND adorable–a first in Petra. The object of my affection was a handmade doll made by an older Bedouin woman selling her wares on the side of the road laid out on a cloth. She had the usual plastic necklaces along with four of the cutest, handmade dolls dressed in velvet and silk and with faces that had been drawn on by hand. I thought of my sister immediately and knew I had to buy one for her. (Notice that my first inclination was to be generous towards Nicole, my sister). I asked Raj to intervene (bargain) on my behalf (keep in mind that he’s still reeling about getting ripped off in Egypt over saffron). The woman told him the doll cost $5 JDs. I thought, “What a bargain! I’ll take ALL four of them!” Raj thought, “Too much.” He got her down to $2 JDs for one–all the change we had left (other than a ten dinar bill) and felt vindicated. I felt sad.

We walked away triumphantly until my selfish side got the better of me. While we walked, I admired the workmanship of the doll and decided I’d keep it. I couldn’t part with it and it was much too cute to give away. I mentioned this to Raj and he said, “That’s bad karma!” Whatever. Luckily for me (karmically speaking and for my sister) on the walk back, the three remaining dolls remained untouched. (Am I the only tourist to admire a real, hand-made handicraft? Apparently.) I picked up the doll and Raj handed the woman our ten dinar bill and asked for change ($8 in change for the $2 doll). Obviously she didn’t have change. No big deal I thought, “We’ll just buy the remaining three for $10 and walk away.” Nope! Raj wanted change and we only needed ONE doll. She left her make-shift shop and took off down the path for change. While we were waiting, Raj joked, “I bet she comes back with two fives.” That’s exactly what she did! She gave him the two fives. He handed her back one of the fives and asked for change again. Who cares, “She can keep the change,” I said. Nope. Raj wanted his three dinars back. She pulled out an old and worn chip bag (the kind you eat) that held her change and handed him his $3. I felt sad and cheap, but what could I do? I was happy that I had TWO dolls–one to keep and one to give to Nicole. Raj felt no such guilt, just pride in his bargaining skills.

Which is the cuter of the two? That's the one I'll keep!
A 'shop' similar to the one where I bought the dolls.
Jen and the Bargain Hunter