Sunday, November 30, 2014

Honk If You Love Driving in a Foreign Country

( I will be releasing some old posts that I intended to post while still living in Jordan but didn't get around to completing.)

Driving is an adventure wherever you happen to live. I think every city and town in the States approaches driving a little differently. Europeans tend to drive a little differently and the Middle East also has its unique way to approach the open (or mostly traffic jammed) road.

I've learned that Jordan is currently #24 of the 25 countries with the highest percentage of traffic fatalities according to population. There's rarely a day when I don't see a near accident, either between vehicles or involving a pedestrian.

Roads are for playing in, parking on, partying and arguing. Here's a list of driving suggestions for your next trip to Jordan

  1. Beware of trucks especially in the stretch from Petra to Aqaba.  There were probably five 18-wheeler trucks for every compact car in the Desert Highway.  Some of them are going so fast that our car shook as they whizzed by.  Some of them are so old and rickety and going so slow.  Some are covered in neon lights—neon lightsthat will strain your eyes as you pass them.  Some are carrying such heavy load that the entire truck is running at an angle.  They do not make for a comfortable drive.  From the Desert Highway, we lost the trucks north of Ma-an; most if not all exited towards Highway 5 which leads to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
  2. Read the road signs.  Yes, your GPS may be updated, but with construction work and road closures, you can end up on a road to Saudi Arabia or Iraq.
  3. Watch out for speed bumps and speed control patrols.  The police cars are positioned throughout the highways.  I can imagine that getting pulled over by one would not be such a pleasant experience.  Watch out also for speed bumps; most of them are not sign-posted or painted so a lot of cars make a sudden stop just before them.  That’s a surefire accident if you’re right behind and not paying attention.  The speed bumps almost always come in pairs.  I highly recommend that you keep an eye out for them because if you hit them when you’re going at 100kph, you could cause damage to your car.
  4. Don’t get distracted by the neon signs.  The Desert Highway is peppered with tea shops by the roadside.  You’ll recognize them by their big, flashing, neon lights.  Try not to get distracted by them when driving at night and keep your focus on the road.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Quick Word... my readers. I am so sorry that I have dropped off the planet. We started a new job as dorm parents for international students in August and I have yet to catch my breath as I'm still learning how to do my job well. This new position is very interesting, and busy, and difficult. So, hopefully I can tell you about it soon.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Reintegration Part 2

Those of you who live in big cities may understand my discomfort at the lack of bars on the windows and doors of our home. Homes here are insanely easy to break into and I'm sure most burglars revel in all the big windows and isolation of each home here. I have to resist the urge to buy extra locks and alarms for our windows and doors.

I am enjoying the process of obtaining household furnishings and all the little items needed. I know where to find good prices on items and I speak the language of those selling what I need. Also, we own a large car that can haul all of our stuff to our new home. No negotiating with a furniture mover or piling a compact car full of our bags. We did save some household items but they're in 6 different homes in two states.

We are reveling in driving here. There's so much space between cars parked along the road and those driving. I do think there are too few roundabouts and too many traffic laws here. We lost our instinct for immediately putting on a seatbelt after riding so long in taxis. I also have had a lifelong hatred for cars because they never seem to run like I want them to. I did not miss owning a car!

Instead of falling asleep to the crooning of lusty feral cats (Amman's official vermin), I fall asleep to the quiet of the mountains and wake to the chitter of chipmunks and birds. We've seen elk, moose and deer around our home in the mountains. Being a Montanan and a nature lover the great empty outdoors was something I heartily missed. I'm so happy to be back where I can hike!

The absolute best part of coming home was coming home to our local church body. We had Skyped in some Sundays and I had Skyped into women's group bi-monthly. It's not the same as physically fellowshipping with your body though. My heart ached most often for that group and their friendship. I teared up our first Sunday back in service. The church we attended in Jordan was a fine place, but there was a language barrier and I didn't invest because I knew we'd be leaving.

As you can see there's been a lot of adjustment for us. Summer has flown by and we are gearing up for school next month.

What are we doing next? Jason will be teaching high school history at a private Christian school. The kids will be attending the private school. Our family was also hired to be the dorm family for the international students at the school. We will be living in a large brick dorm building with about ten Asian students. I will be spending my days managing the dorm and cooking meals for fourteen. We're hoping our time spent in Asia and our own understanding of how weird it can be in a foreign culture will be helpful for the girls.

Stay tuned for some last posts on Jordan and future fun of a house of fourteen!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Going To Bed, Alone

It's currently 10:45pm and on your average night I'd be hassling Jason to hurry up with his last snack so we could head to bed. But, instead, I'm reluctantly considering heading to bed because Jason's gone on a hiking trip.

I haven't had to sleep alone for 13 1/2 glorious years.

And it's hard...every time he's gone I struggle to go to bed without my living, breathing security blanket.

Sure, I slept alone for a number of years as a kid, but half of that time was spent scared of what I imagined lived under my bed (let's never speak of wolves again, okay?).  I do empathize and understand when my children are reluctant to head to their lonely beds.

I also recognize that some have spouses that bed hog or snore or cause other disruptions and may welcome an evening off. I'm not in that camp.

I will once again try the measures I always employ to try and fall asleep:

-internet nonsense

And now, since I have nothing else to distract me I will once again head to a lonely bed. Thankful that my lonely bed scenario is only temporary.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Reintegration Part 1

(I have a handful of posts on our time in Jordan that I've meaning to write for a couple of months. Hopefully once school starts I will have time to write them. Until then, here's part 1 of our time back in the States.)
We've been back in the States since early June. Packing up our things in Jordan was more stressful than I had anticipated. The piling and folding, throwing away, giving away and space bagging took hours. Even with all the giving away we had more than anticipated. We bought two cheap bags the day before we left so that we fit all the unanticipated things. We took home 8 bags and had sent home 6 bags with friends. It's amazing how much one acquires in two years!

We wrestled with jet lag and slight altitude sickness for the majority of June. We are still wrestling with our reintegration to US culture. Our first shocks came in the Amsterdam airport on the way home. We were stunned at the amount of flesh that was on display. Short shorts and spaghetti straps were never on display in our adopted country.  I'm sure we looked Amish by comparison in our long sleeves and pants. Being able to fill our water bottles at a water fountain (not a device found in Jordan) was a watery delight. Water related surprises have been a continuing theme as we adjust. Filling my water bottle up with tap water and copious amounts of ice still pleases me. Tap water tastes so sweet compared to the bottled water we had in Amman. We still have to remind ourselves that showers can be longer and that sprinklers and rivers exist. I reflexively shudder at all the water that's being used seemingly so carelessly around me. I catch myself wondering how in the world all this open space in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana can be so covered in vegetation.

The food...let's talk about the food folks! I miss my cheap and healthy fruit, veggies, bread and falafel. We are trying our darndest not to fall back into our processed food and sugary ways. I'm pleased that I still crave an Arab salad and fresh fruit over other snacks. I'm finding it harder and harder to not purchase shortcut foods from the store because our summer has been so busy. The cheap ice cream, cereal and real cow's milk has thrilled our tastebuds.

That leads me to maybe the biggest unexpected shock for me: people. It is overwhelming to move from a culture where you can walk down the street and feel isolated because you cannot follow the majority of the conversations happening around you. It is ├╝ber stimulating to have so many discernible conversations suddenly dumped into your formerly isolated ears. We are well-liked and have many friends in Colorado. That has also been overwhelming. We had relatively few friends in Amman and spent a lot of time alone or with just us four. To suddenly have so much friend variety and so many more lives to invest in as made me want to curl up in a ball. I like all our friends and family, but it was a sudden rapid expansion of our social circle, akin to an explosion. This coupled with my realization that I am an introvert has been stressful.

We have friends who have graciously allowed us to live with them this summer. It has been wonderful to have some ability to cook and clean and have a quasi-normal routine. But the housewife in me craves my own domain again. Living out of suitcases and boxes had not been easy this summer. Our stuff is stored in six different houses and their some items I've given up looking for until we move into an apartment in August. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Final Week

I'm having flashbacks this week of a time in late June of 2012 when I was slowly emptying my house in preparation to move across the world. That time has come again as we ready to leave Saturday to go back to Colorado.

The moving back is much easier than the moving here for a number of reasons.

-We don't have to sell our furniture as a family already bought all of our things and will move in soon after we leave.
-We have less stuff to deal with as we haven't accumulated much over the last 2 years. We are also willing to leave some things here knowing that we can replace them when we get back to the States.
-Instead of checking 8 bags, we only have to check 4 because friends that visited since January have been taking some of our stuff back with them.

The biggest factor in the ease of leaving this time is: I know what I'm getting into! There's no leap into the unknown, there's no language barrier, there's a church home and friends from long ago waiting to greet us upon arrival.

We also have a job, housing, vehicles, the great outdoors, a church family, and a social life waiting for us back in Colorado.

I am thankful for our 5 friends from church visiting for 11 days recently because we showed them the best that Jordan has to offer. Wadi Rum, Petra, Jerash, the Dead Sea, Karak castle, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Citadel, wadi's and the market were all on display for them to enjoy. It also renewed my view of all great places that inhabit this tiny kingdom.

Yes, we will miss people (school friends and our awesome neighbors), but we are all excited for the adventures to come.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

7 Weeks

Sorry for the lack of posts on our cross-cultural adventures. I really thought I'd be posting more often since I'm not in language classes this semester. I've been enjoying taking better care of my family this semester. I have to admit that I hit a wall with being here a couple of weeks ago. I'm starting to dream of being back in the States and that pull gets stronger as the weeks here tick away. Seven weeks from today it will be very hot here in our Jordanian home and we'll all be done with school and ready to fly home. Suitcases are slowly filling with items we're taking home and I'm turning a critical eye toward those things that should disappear.
There are shoes to be bought, dental and eye appointments to attend and friends to spend time with before we board that plane. We've had many friends take advantage of this semester to visit us. We had one visitor in February, Jason's parents came in March, a friend and his mom are here now and five friends will visit in May. This has been a great chance to proudly show off the sites here in Jordan, but seeing them makes me long for the States all the more.
I will try to get a couple more posts about foreign living before we leave.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ancient Relic Appreciation

I have been reminded in the last month how many ancient sites I've been privileged to see in my lifetime. The sermons at our church have been on the churches mentioned in Revelation. Years ago, when Jason and I took college students to Turkey I saw the ruins of Ephesus and Pergamum. I have seen Topkopi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia so many times that I tired of them. I've seen the underground church in Cappadocia and stayed many times in the city of Antakya (the Antioch where Paul started his journeys). Since we've been in Jordan I've seen Mt. Nebo, the Dead Sea, the Dead sea scrolls, the ruins of Jerash, Karak, Pella and Ajloun castle. 
I'm living in a country where you can't throw a rock without hitting an ancient ruin with the ancient ruin you thought was a rock.
Now that we're nearing the end of our time living among a lot of old, dead civilizations I'm starting to appreciate the experience. 
While walking through Jerash with our kids, our son enthusiastically lead the way to each ruin. He was the only one of the four of us to have been to Jerash before. Our daughter was tired and trudged behind us groaning at all the distance between each ruin. 
"Just leave me here and come back for me," she moaned. I told her that she would look back fondly on the chance to see these things someday. I also told her that she lives in a good time in history. Travel is affordable enough for us to see ancient sites, mankind has dug up quite a bit of them and many of them haven't been destroyed since their discovery. She agreed that this was true, but it didn't make her more enthusiastic about the experience. 
I think about places like Syria and Iraq which have lost sites and artifacts in the recent past. Those are sites I, and everyone else will never get to see.
I confess that part of this newfound enthusiasm for ancient things surely is due to my old age. So, Jordan, bring on your ancient architecture!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Run Visa Run

I've been privileged to live in a time period and in a country that has granted me citizenship. This means that I can move and work freely within the bounds of our countries borders. Since we are such a big country with a good economy, few of us consider applying for visas to work in other countries.

Other people groups are unable to find work in their country and move in order to work in a different country. This often requires a visa of some kind.

We are not Jordanians but have been living in Jordan for nearly 2 years now. This has required us to get a visa. Our hope when we first arrived here (with the promise of a teaching job) was that we would be able to get an iqama. An iqama is a 1 year visa that is given to those working in Jordan for a local company. When the job fell through we considered the other visa options available for US citizens:

-a student visa, valid for as long as one is a student at a local university (we attended a language school that couldn't get this visa for its students).

-an investment visa which you acquire by investing a large sum of money in a local market. (we don't have a large sum of money)

-a tourist visa, good for one month with the ability to be extended.

Ultimately, we had to settle on the last option. This requires one to go to your neighborhood police station after your first month here and register for 2 additional months in the country. When those 2 months are up, you can apply at a government office for another 3 month extension which (if approved) gives you the ability to stay in the country for 6 months. After those 6 months, there are no more extensions given and you must leave the country. You can come back into the country the day after you leave and start the 6 month process all over again. The government at any of these points can choose to deny you your visa and you have to pack up and leave. Thankfully, they've given us all the extensions up to this point.

Anyone trying to do a border crossing with a family will understand that it can be costly and time consuming and wearisome. There was a time when it was a cheap and easy and fun to make a visa run into Syria. A mini vacation and you have a new visa. For obvious reasons, Syria is no longer an option...Egypt is iffy at the moment. Saudi Arabia is not option and Israel is an awkward option. Last year we were able to visit our friends in Ukraine for our visa trip. This year we were able to go to the resort area of Taba, Egypt.

There are many people here (predominantly Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, etc) who work as maids in order to make enough to support their family back in their home country. Jason does a fine job providing for us and I hope that we will never have to be separated by so much physical distance in order for him to continue to provide. I have a new appreciation for living in a country where I don't have to wonder if my visa request will be denied. We'll move back to the US in a couple of months and I won't have to worry about the government kicking me out of the country.

I'll look back on our time here in Jordan as a great cross-cultural adventure. We definitely got to spend time in a good country. Thank you Jordan for renewing our visa.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Somebody is a Homebody...

...and that somebody is me!

Incredulity has been expressed many times by our friends when I tell them that I am truly the boring one between Jason and I. While I am the more outgoing of our dynamic duo, he is the one with the ideas. All the travel, fishing, hunting, soccer playing, etc. is by his encouragement.
Whether it be from nature or nuture my ideal day is one where I spend a portion of my day exercising, cooking and reading; never to leave the house. I revel in hours spend chopping veggies, baking breads, reading old dead guys.
My family knows that they're happy this arrangement because they've experienced the me that has too much going on. I get short tempered and unable to enjoy interacting with them. They get less fun interaction, homework help and homemade food when I'm overcommitted.
All this is hard because I do miss being in a classroom learning Arabic this semester. I love interacting in a classroom and learning something new. If there was some way to do it all I would, but for now I enjoy doing what I can.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Moldy Oldies

Winter this year has been somewhat of a disappointment. We had one tremendous snowstorm that shut down the city for a couple of days. Since then, we've had nothing. This is not a good scenario for all of us who need water for our everyday needs. With the influx of refugees there are also many more people in need of the water supply. I also love the rainy season for it's ability to clean the streets and make the air smell slightly less like big city air.

There is an advantage to the lack of cold and moisture this year. It has to with mold. The buildings here are build of cement and stone with paint slapped onto the inside walls. When the walls get cold and damp, the mold begins to show it's ugly face. In our house, the walls lining the shower and any wall with furniture close to it harbor patches of black mold.
This isn't an example from our home, but it's indicative of what we have. This is a widespread problem that everyone here deals with. The expat forums are full of people asking for advice and tips on how to deal with it every winter. There is some mold-resistant paint sold here, but it's pricey. So, most of us use a cleaning mixer and paper towels to wipe down the walls every few weeks. Also, our tile floors leach a mineral that grows white fuzz in the corners of our rooms. Sort've like weird indoors patches of snow.
I continue to wonder why the newer buildings aren't build in a way to combat this problem. One thing I've learned in traveling through other cultures is to not ask why. All cultures have ways that things are done that are illogical.
I do wonder how many of the people here have mold-related illnesses.
So, I say bring on the dry weather, but please fill our reservoirs so there's no water shortage this year!