The Jordanians are are open and kind, and love to celebrate. There is celebratory fireworks (and the occasional celebratory gunfire) to everything from the Eid celebration to the release of the various school exam scores. The release of exam scores is quite fascinating. Since the schools are private based, all of them are on slightly different schedules and run from August through May/June, with a few that are even all year I think. But it isn’t until late July or early August, that the exam scores are released at a stagger across a week or so. This is when families find out how the children faired academically through the previous year. There are fireworks and gunfire and processionals of cars honking horns and driving in file as they celebrate their success. The teenagers drive with windows down, music blaring, and celebratory shenanigans ensue. H and I laugh- there are few constants throughout time and space, and one of those is that of the teenager.
And of course, as many people know of the ME, the driving is horrendous, without rules or laws or lines in the road, and when there are lines in the road they are most definitely arbitrary guidelines per say.
However, the thing that stands out most given our circumstances, is their absolute love of children. I’ve never been anywhere where my kids were so openly adored in public. Rather than frowns and scoffs when my boys act like boys and get a bit unruly, I’m greeted with smiles and re-assurance.
Seriously, we had a great demonstration of this just the other day as we were touring the Soap House with Little R on my back and Little P running around crazy. The soap house is the location of Trinitae- a company specializing in dead sea mineral products. They hand make everything from bath salts to scrubs and lotions to diffuser oils in a beautiful 100 year old home overlooking downtown. The boys had been wonderful walking companions during a tour sponsored by the CLO, and I think Little P had had all the behaving he could handle. He needed to expend some toddler energy, and so, as toddlers are oft to do, he had a burst, not unlike the ones our Australian Shepherd has in the yard. He ran behind the counter, and into their kitchen, and into the storage room! He explored the bathroom and ripped the beautifully crafted soap on a rope from the decor. H and I chased him around, with Little R strapped to my back, red with heat and embarrassment, apologizing between scolding, wishing our group would buy their stuff so we could move on. But the older gentlemen whose family owns and operates the place just smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said “Ah, it’s safe here, let him run! Let the little one down, let him run!” And later, his young attendant just kept laughing at them both, she kept saying “It’s okay, it’s okay! They are so cute!”
My inner mom, with her apron, oven mitts and firm but gentle smile, who is constantly ridiculing and critiquing my parenting, gauging my aptitude by the behavior of my children, had a hard time wrapping her head around this. It really is an eye-opening thing, to be somewhere that embraces children as they are- full of attitude, energy and other antics- vice fitting them into a mold involving dance recitals, two year old soccer leagues and impeccable manners. For the time being I feel like I’m far away from the ridiculing stares in the aisles of the Leesburg Target whenever one of my kids gets too tired or throws a tantrum because I told them, indeed, they do NOT get a toy every time we go to the store, regardless of whether it’s only a dollar.
The Jordanian love of children can be also very overwhelming. When we are in the shopping malls, we are inevitably bombarded with a gaggle of teenage girls who want to kiss and pet and take photos with the Double Troubles. Little P eats it up, playing shy and blushing at the pretty girls. Little R, introvert like his mommy, immediately feels the intrusion of his bubble and runs to hide between my legs or behind or wherever he can. I can only imagine what he’s thinking: Help! They’ve come over the walls! We’re under attack!The zombie apocalypse is among us! so I smile and hug him, trying to be as encouraging and serene as I can, because I too am all Get out of my bubble! They are on the offensive! It doesn’t help that the Jordanians, and most of the population in the Middle East, are especially fond of blonde haired children, because they are such a rarity. Needless to say, we don’t take the kids to the mall very often.
Also, since they are so keen on letting kids be kids, I often find that there is little discipline amongst the elementary and middle school set. You can tell the kids really rule the roost at home, or at least it seems so. Since it is summer they run around through the night, into the early am, screaming and playing and carrying on, often throwing fits and tantrums from what I can only think is exhaustion, while we are trying to get our kids to sleep through the night! Thank goodness for the shutters and our white noise phone apps!
Still, as Little P announces a proud “Shukran,” or “Thank you,” to a worker in the little family bakery we found, I realize that I’d take this over the ridicule of the American mommy wars any day. We love our little bakery- more on that later I promise- where we are always greeted with big smiles and one of the regular employees there gives the boys free cookies and watches as we pick out a box of treats, diligently picking out the cookies Little P points out. He even gave them cookies during Ramadan, and gave Little R a kiss on the cheek, which I felt was so very kind, given their sacrifices during Ramadan. They lift their hands and laugh it off when Patrick runs around and grabs breadsticks out of baskets, while I follow him and toss them in the bag to purchase. Whenever he says “Shukran,” the locals, even the taxi drivers, light up with joy, and you know that they appreciate our efforts to fit in the best we can, fair hair and all!
We arrived in Amman at 2 in the morning, and were rushed through customs because our dogs were barking and scaring all of the locals. Jordan is a very accommodating country, but they are predominantly Muslim, and in Muslim culture, dogs are dirty and to be avoided, and as such they are very much feared.
That being said, one of the country’s celebrities, a fashion model, stirred up quite a storm with her photo shoot exposing tattoos and cuddling her black lab! Our neighborhood gendarmerie often take cigarette breaks on our front wall, and they are always telling me how beautiful our dogs are. The little girl next door asked me, "How do we get them to like us?" There is a very progressive undercurrent here, carried by the free-loving hipster youth. Walk any day along Rainbow Street, and you’ll be reminded of any main street in any college town in the states, filled with shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. It’s become one of my favorite places!
Anyway I digress, we were whisked to a van where it took 30 minutes to figure out how to get all five of us, the dogs, and our small arsenal of luggage loaded. I was amazed that Kaila sat on leash patiently waiting, she was just so excited to see her mom! Mackie, since he’s a bear, didn’t get such luxury. Finally our driver set out for the city. The airport is about twenty minutes away, but it seemed like forever because there is little light along the highway and we were surrounded by darkness. He made some turns, a gas station here, a traffic circle there, and pulled up to our apartment building where our temporary house was. It was quiet in the middle of the night, and the street lighting gave the neighborhood such a magical feel. And then the Gendarme walked up, equipped with his AR and combat vest, and that’s when it really hit me- we are most definitely not in Kansas any more! I thought the Gendarme would make me uneasy, but they actually make me feel safer than some places back home!
After a few hours of jet-lagged sleep, I awoke and had coffee on our balcony at about 5 am as the sun rose. It was breezy and cool and the air was filled with that excitement for the future and what it beholds. In that moment I knew we were on a grand adventure! We are living abroad! We are ACTUALLY doing this!
It wasn’t until our trip to take Bri to the airport to go home that we saw our previous surroundings during the daylight. There is desert all around, dotted with small irrigated landscapes for farmers. You can even spot several dirt devils twisting around the landscape surrounding the airport. As you get closer to the city though, you get grand views of farms and hillside suburban neighborhoods. You pass an Ikea (Yay!!!), and various gas stations. The architecture is mesmerizing, you feel transported to Arabian Nights, but it also has a distinct Mediterranean feel. The apartments and homes are all built this way, but there are several epicenters in the city where you have high rise building all glass and steel. The Abdoun bridge is an impressive sight to behold.
And then there is the Amphitheater and Citadel downtown. Until we were assigned this post, I had no idea there were any Roman ruins in the city. I like history, but H is the ancient history guru in this family. A 15 minute taxi ride will take you back in time. If you are lucky, like we were, your taxi driver will give you a broken English tour of the neighborhoods, as he’s switchbacking up the hill to the ruins.
But there is more, there is the Dead Sea and Petra, and Wadi Mujib and Wadi Rum (two entirely different things in case you were wondering). And there are the forests to the North, that I hear will make us (almost) feel like we are at home, and Aqaba to the south, with renowned snorkeling and diving. Two years to do so much!
Before I post about Amman and it's people and more of our adventures, I thought I'd share a few fun photos.
Jet lag is a bitch, let me tell you. It's like being drunk and hungover at the same time, and you don't know where the days go. But it is also the perfect excuse to just kind of roll with the punches, especially if you have kids.
Also, shout out to my amazing Sister, Briana, whose photography talent knows no bounds (seriously y'all she's studying at SVA in Manhattan), who vigorously documented our entire move. You should check out her website here. I've noted her photos with **.
So, here I am, not blogging in ages. I think I last left everyone with a harried, I’m-working-again-so-this-whole-blog-thing-is-taking-a-back-burner…. and then days turned into weeks, months, and so on.
I do not want Practical Happyness to become an empty, forgotten spot in the virtual world, something I played with but couldn’t commit too, like a new lip gloss. In the words of H, “do what YOU do, get back on the HORSE!” He means this with regards to both writing and riding. “You’ve been tossed through the air and landed on the ground and broke things off that crazy animal of yours (he’s referring to my retired thoroughbred gelding) and immediately gotten back on, I’m sure you can handle a keyboard.”
Yeah. He’s referring to when I did actually get tossed into a jump standard where my hip met a 4x4 with such force that I couldn’t sit for months, and yet, my lovely friend and trainer at the time, L, helped me get up and get on one legged, with weight in my right stirrup, hitching my body up and forward off my rear, so that devil of a gelding couldn’t think he’d get away with that again. The next morning the left side of my rump was black and blue all the way down to my knee and H made some lovely comparisons to marine boot camp and battle….hmmm, I guess he has a point.
So here I am…there is so much to share and tell you about the last several months.
We are here now, in Amman and the move has made me really collect my thoughts about a lot of things.
Leading up to the move was the most crazy time of my life- and my inner control freak was tested to the max. The entire process of moving overseas for a FS family is harrowing, and if you can make it through without running off to Barbados, accidentally packing a child, or getting a divorce, then I say your marriage is going to be just fine! You can’t pack a thing- you have multiple shipments and have to classify your entire life into “do I need this for the next two weeks, two months, two years” piles. And while most people I know would be thrilled that they didn’t have to pack a thing and didn’t have to lift a finger, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t stand giving up that to anyone! I’m moved countless times in my life, sometimes with less than 48 hours notice, and I learned the hard way that the only way to make sure all of my things remain with me is to do it myself!
When our UAB (the two weeks shipment, which turned into four weeks) arrived, my fears were confirmed when the hand painted wine glasses that were supposed to go into permanent storage were unpacked before my eyes….but some how our pots and pans which were clearly labeled didn’t make it here. Oh well, I thought inwardly, I don’t have my kitchen knives, but at least I have a good glass to drink out of!
A few other FS women had jokingly referred to their love affair with wine during a pre-deployment seminar we took…and they were right! You sort, with a glass in hand, you watch the movers, and then RUN for the bottle as soon as they leave, and then there’s the endless happy hours and group gatherings as your departure gets closer, never without a glass to drink from and then catch your tears. The only thing you need in the Residence Inn where you, your sister (who has lovingly agreed to make this journey to help out for a few weeks), two large dogs, and two rambunctious toddlers bunk up in less than 800 sq feet is, you guessed it, another bottle of wine!! Hey, you can’t take it with you, so drink up!
Then there’s the flight and the layover and the impromptu stay in Germany because of a hold up with your wonderful canines….and more wine, or in this case beer, at an awesome little place in the airport with my sister 🙂
Allegedly our HHE (the two months shipment) will arrive in port tomorrow, but who knows how many more weeks it will take to actually get here! Anyone want a glass of wine?
In all seriousness though, I wouldn’t change any of this for the world. Up until a few months ago I didn’t even have a passport. My kind of upbringing would have never included international travel, and now I’m beginning to collect these little stamps like badges of honor- including the unplanned one in Germany!
What an amazing adventure this will be for us and our children, and I’m hoping we get to do it more, because they are so young they won’t remember much about Amman, and that makes me sad.
So I’ve been thinking a lot on what I want this little corner of the internet to be for me. Initially, Practical Happyness was supposed to be the place where I dumped all my thoughts about love, life and family. Musings on life and happiness and womanhood, complete with cocktails and yoga and a good read. Then it very much took a turn towards a mommy DIY blog with recipes and projects galore. Of course it did, because it’s who I am- I love to DO things! I like those things, I enjoy sharing them and writing about my endless ideas for family and home.
Now we are here and my worldview is already changing so much. I’m still that person from before, but I want to do more and share more here, and I’m not entirely sure how to go about it. I know all of the blog guidelines and gurus say that having so many areas of focus would be disastrous for my stats! Well, oh well I guess. Because Practical Happyness was always about me, and so, as I usually do, I’m breaking the rules, and taking it to wherever I want, or letting it evolve to whatever it’s going to be!
Next post up will be about some adventures in this lovely city of Amman, in the beautiful country of Jordan. It seems many folks back home need a little educating. No we are indeed NOT in some awful place where I have to cover my hair and walk behind my husband…. 🙂