Food/Drink, General, Jordan, Travel

Marhaba! Hello!

This Thursday was my 4 week “anniversary” living in Jordan and it is going by quickly. I’ve been filling my time with volunteering, sightseeing, learning and meeting new people. I think I just outlined the topics for this blog post, nice… so let’s begin!

What I’ve been doing: I was a guest speaker for my cousin’s third grade class on Long Island – they are learning about world geography and religions. She had a great idea to FaceTime with me using our iPads and displaying me over the Smartboard in her classroom! I went up the roof of my building so they could see and hear Amman and talked with the students about what is different and the same (as the US) about living in Jordan. It was nice to be able to show them the landscape, architecture, the sky and listen to the sounds – they could very faintly hear the evening call to prayer. They asked the best questions and what I didn’t know the answer to, I did a little research! If any other teachers are interested, just let me know!

Volunteering
I went to the Collateral Repair Project for the new volunteer orientation and met 12 like minded people from all over the world. Some were students themselves – studying Arabic abroad in Amman, some were previous recipients of the services that CRP provides, others were living in Amman like me and wanted to use their time towards a good cause; teaching English to refugees that are living here, too. I wasn’t sure that I was going to be doing any teaching because I am not certified but the very next day I got a message that the Pre-Intermediate class needed a co-teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-12. I’d already met Lareena (from Australia) during the orientation and was excited to begin this chapter in Amman with her. We decided that we would meet for coffee to plan our first class and then Uber together to the community center, we decided it is a nice ritual that sets a collaborative mood for the lesson. Read here about what it is like for a refugee and how the structure of taking classes and learning a language that they want to speak in a country where they hope to be resettled, is so important to them.
As of this writing, Lareena and I have taught two classes and… so far so good. We are very focused on bridging the basic lessons they have previously learned with the more advanced practices of speaking/reading/writing English. CRP has a wonderful volunteer opportunity for native English speakers who don’t live in Jordan to help over the internet. If you have an hour a week and want to help the advanced english students to practice, read here on how you can contribute by volunteering with the eLearning Language Exchange. If you are interested in TEFL, this could be a great first step. You can also donate to CRP so that they can provide food vouchers to refugee families living in Jordan. I will be sharing more about the Hope Workshop next month, they empower women by teaching them how to create beautiful crafts – and I heard that they sell out fast!

Sightseeing
Even though Jordan is a small country, there is so much to see. Mike had planned for the whole family to visit Jerash while the girls were here but the weather didn’t cooperate – we will surely be returning.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian – Hadrian’s Arch
Corinthian Columned Street
Looking through the Oval Forum towards the Temple of Zeus and Southern Theater.
Temple of Artemis
In just a few hours at the site, we’d walked 10,512 steps and up 23 floors! (according to my iPhone “health” app!)

Our next stop was to Ya Hala restaurant in town for lunch. We had the WHOLE place to ourselves and this is a big place! I’d love to see it bustling sometime so hopefully when we go back, I will.

HEART EYES

I knew that being a vegetarian in Jordan would be easy but this Halloumi cheese is SOOOOO GOOD. It is high in protein and low in carbs and can be grilled like a meat or tofu. It *is* a high sodium cheese but since my blood pressure is on the low side, I think I’m safe (if I don’t over do it!). We had other dishes and I had a freshly squeezed Pomegranate juice (YUM) and Mike had Limonana.

This last weekend we were invited to visit the only craft brewery in Jordan; Carakale Brewing Company. It is about 20 minutes from where we live and a really lovely drive with a stunning location overlooking the hills of the Jordan Valley. During our earlier stay at the Red Sea, we ordered Carakale since we thought it was cool that Jordan even had “a beer” – and it was so good! I had no idea the source was right around the corner from where we live, I already can’t wait to go back. Great article on the trials and tribulations of establishing a brewery in Jordan it was particularly interesting to me since I am well aware of the hard work it took to stand up a brewery in Fredericksburg, VA thanks to my best friends’ place: Red Dragon Brewery.

Driving to the Brewery.
Flights are always in order when trying out a new brewery! My favorite was the Pineapple IPA!
The operation!
The banner above in English and the t-shirt I bought, in Arabic. I love their mascot – the Caracal, indigenous to Jordan.

Learning
I have enrolled in a free Arabic language class that is being offered at the Embassy. Today was my first day and we went over common greetings and phrases, I think I will have plenty of opportunity to use them since I frequently chat with the guards at the embassy when I go over for class or to see Mike or to get mail or to get lunch… it is so close! About 20 minutes after I got home from class 6 facilities guys were here to check on something in my bathroom! I was able to practice a bunch and they were so helpful and fun. Shukran, guys!

My class “notes”! I needed to know how to say THANK YOU SOOO MUCH! LOL

Meeting New People
Everyone I have met here has been friendly; at CRP, the people I’ve met in my building, at the Embassy, at coffeeshops, the brewery and restaurants. I went to a ladies Bunco Night and had a blast, Finn has been invited to a doggie play date and he can’t wait, we had cake and “bubbles” with our building neighbors to celebrate a birthday.
The last thing on my agenda is to attend painting classes at the Creative Art Center – Amman. I did send a message and got a quick response that there’s an Oil Painting class on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30-8:30. With my busy “retiree” schedule I think I can squeeze in a Monday night class! 🙂

What I’m waiting on: I mentioned in my last post that our air freight was delivered so next up is the household goods shipment with all of our artwork and kitchen (plates, glasses, COFFEE MUGS, glass water bottles and more silverware!) stuff, last word was it was set to leave on 1/26! Our Pathfinder is going to be shipped here as well and that was set to leave the US on 1/24.
Still looking for a nice family of renters to live in and take care of our house while we are gone. We’ve had a few showings but the weather in Virginia has been snowy, rainy and/or freezing cold! If you know anyone looking to rent for two years in Spotsylvania VA let me know and I can share the info!

Hope your January was everything you wished it would be (LOL I’m a January birthday girl and cannot take the hate on my month!!) My grandmother is a January birthday girl too, and turned 90 a few days ago. I hope she gets the notification that I did a new blog post – Happy birthday Grandma, you are such a funny and interesting person, with such a great sense of humor and a beautiful singing voice LOLOL – I hope you have a spectacular 90th year. Amazing.
Thanks for reading everyone, bye for now.

Art, Jordan, Travel

Settling in.

This last week has had a lot of ups and one down for me. It feels good to have some time in Amman under my belt, getting used to the different work week schedule (Sun-Thur), and settled into the timezone. In a couple of days is my three week anniversary here, crazy!

What I’ve been experiencing:

  • Sunday – First Uber trip without Mike – the girls and I met up with another pair of (awesome) sisters who were in Amman visiting their parents. We went to Rainbow Street which is a shopping area in the city with cobblestone streets! We went to Trinitae soap shop on the recommendation of a friend and absolutely fell in love. I needed to find a local source of handmade soaps which had to be approved by Amelia (she approved!). The shop is in an old home and is decorated with gorgeous artwork done by the grandmother of the family.
  • Next we went to Books@cafe as the result of some travel research that our new sisters did before coming to Jordan. We had a lovely lunch and did some much enjoyed book browsing.
  • Our final destination was Wild Jordan where we perused the Nature shop to check out the local artisan selections of crafts and picked up a couple of things. I hope they post some Adventures coming up, I’d love to be able to go on one of the eco-tour hikes.
Street cats outside Trinitae had the attention of my animal lovers.
One of many beautiful paintings, I can’t wait for my art supplies to arrive so I can paint!
Another scrumptious lunch in Amman. Mine is Feta ZA’ATAR; like a Lebanese calzone!
  • Monday – Second Uber trip, this time all by myself! You might recall from an earlier post that I lined up a stylist in Jordan so that I could get my hair done once I got here. Well, first solo Uber trip in another country was to see JeniD and I’m happy to report that I found her place and that my hair is just perfect! I texted Mike and the girls once I was done and since it was a little earlier than expected and they were still about a half hour away from meeting me I got out my phone and mapped myself a short walk to the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts and slipped into the smaller of the two buildings to view the work on the first floor before I got the message to catch an Uber to meet my family at the Citadel.
  • It was a sunny, clear day but cold and SUPER windy, it made for an exciting trip to the highest of the seven hills of Amman to the Citadel. The Jordan Archaeological Museum is also here, it is a smaller museum with artifacts arranged in chronological order.
Here we are with the Temple of Hercules behind us! Our Smith Selfie.
Hercules, Hercules!
Walking toward the Umayyad Palace and Mosque, and Byzantine Church.
  • Tuesday – I went on a job interview (I was offered the job!!) While I’m here in Jordan my plans are to volunteer at CRP, practice yoga so that I can undo 25 years of sitting at my desk at GEICO :), practice my painting and do some work.
  • After my interview, the girls and I ventured back out into the city and took an Uber to the Jordan Museum – this experience solidified for us just how friendly (to foreigners!) the Jordanians are. The Uber dropped us off and we finished up our coffee in the courtyard before going through security and then up to the ticket booth. I was excited to be able to use my Jordan Residency card that I’d gotten the day before which allowed me to get the locals only price. We successfully communicated that the girls were over 18 and when I started to hand my credit card I could tell by the look on his face that it was cash only and sadly, I had none! There was a bank with an ATM somewhere outside of the museum and I turned to the girls to say “lets go see if we can find this bank” and when I turned back the ticket man was on the phone and gave me the universal gesture for ‘wait one minute’. He spoke for a few minutes, hung up and started typing on his computer and handed us our tickets for 0.00JD. We all smiled and thanked in English and Arabic (“shukran”) and enjoyed the beautiful and interactive Jordan Museum. I can’t wait to go back. One of the common characteristics of the Jordanians I’ve met is how welcoming and proud they are. Each person has made some sort of recommendation; about a local artist I should research, about a food I should try, an Arabic phrase I could use (to ask “how are you?” it is “kayf halakum”) – it really is a pleasantly surprising human experience.
We had fun hanging out with Al-Jahiz in the animal room!
Gorgeous!
‘Ain Ghazal Statues – nearly 10,000 years old, they are the world’s oldest full figure human statues!
  • Wednesday – Finally, the one thing about this entire move that made my heart sink every time I thought about it – getting Finn (aka Baby Face Finster) my Boston Terrier, to Amman from Virginia. He is a pretty resilient little guy but he hasn’t travelled much except for some car trips to Duck, NC. I researched, asked questions, made a decision and put my faith in Capital Pet Movers to make it happen. Which they did. Amazingly so.
  • He arrived at our apartment after Judith of Welcome Home Kennels in Amman handled all of the receiving tasks for bringing an animal into Jordan.
Everyone got to spend one whole day together, my heart was so happy!

Thursday – No bullet point needed for this one, the one down – sending the girls back to the US, it was my second most dreaded thought of this move because they’ve never flown on their own (or been this far away from me!). Of course they handled it like professionals, especially when they missed their connecting flight from JFK to National. True to their characters, Amelia was frustrated at the idiocy of the reason they missed their flight and Jillian was annoyed but motivated to make sure they got on the next flight to DC. I did have an Up moment they day they left – my air freight was delivered so I have some books, pillows, blankets, my clothes, and a few small rugs just enough to make the apartment a little more like our home. The timing was just right to distract me.
Back to the girls, I’m happy to report that they are in their apartments ready to start work and school and Finn is sitting next to me on the couch.
Exercise wise – We have been on a couple of almost a mile walks with Finn around our neighborhood, worked out at the Embassy gym and last night I attended my first of many Sunday evening Vinyasa Yoga classes at the Embassy.

What I’m watching: Mike has already watched but with the next season coming up he is watching again and I’m joining in – Peaky Blinders – already started season two! It’s pretty great.

I hope everyone has a nice week, thank you for reading! bye for now!

Jordan, Travel

Welcome to Jordan

I’ve made it, on December 20th when I wrote my last blog post I couldn’t imagine being where I am now. It was too stressful to think that far into the future – because it was a future that I couldn’t really fathom, I didn’t have anything to grasp onto in my mind to imagine where I’d be today. I followed my tried and true advice and I lived in the moment as best I could. Thinking of all the things I had to do stressed me out but I asked for and accepted help where I could. My new “team” – friends, neighbors and businesses – allowed me to get so many things done in just one week! December 27th – the girls and I headed off from DC to NYC to Amman with all of our tasks behind us!

What I’ve been doing: Landing in Amman, getting off the plane and walking right into a new country was pretty cool. After buying a tourist visa for our older daughter we went down to the luggage carousel to find our driver and wait for our luggage believe it or not, this was a first for the girls and I since we always carry on! – and then out into the airport where Mike was waiting to greet us! Driving to our apartment felt like being in any other place – on a highway from the airport and into the city, but once in Amman the driving got a little more ‘exciting’. Our neighborhood is Abdoun and has a lot of huge houses with lovely gardens. We back up to the US Embassy which means there are guards on either end of our street and farther up the road are the Gendarmerie, who are Jordanian security officers. Many places in Jordan have security, on our first outing we went to a grocery store and walked through a metal detector and had our bags scanned on an x-ray machine like at the airport, same process at the mall and at the hotels.

Falafel, hummus and tabouleh! Amman is perfect for this vegetarian.
Falafel, hummus tahini and tabouleh! Amman is perfect for this vegetarian.

What I’ve been eating: The food so far has been phenomenal, especially for a vegetarian. My older daughter is vegan and this trip has been the easiest for her to find satisfying meals. We walked to Zain Circle from our apartment and got an inexpensive meal that the whole family enjoyed. There is a Tandoori Oven right up the street and we picked up dinner there last night and it was AH-MAZE-ING. Also in our neighborhood is a coffee shop called Seven Pennies – with indoor and outdoor seating and a mission; for every JD (jordanian dollar) you spend you get to donate to your choice of 6 local causes.

Camel crossing

After getting settled into our apartment (I’ll share a few pictures once I get some of our things here – first batch should be arriving within the next couple of weeks and the second batch within the next couple of months!) and trying to get used to the 7 hour difference, we rented a car and took a 4 hour road trip to the Red Sea. The (bumpy) Desert Highway was just that, lots of stretches of desert and then we would slow down to go through small towns to quickly observe. There were people walking along the road or sitting out with their cars selling fruits and vegetables. We saw herds of sheep, herds of goats and the occasional camel.

Even though we saw the sign, I really didn’t think we would see a camel this close to the road!

After about 2 and a half hours on the road we drove through an area of Jordan called Wadi Rum which took our breath away. Check out the link – as you can see from the list of films that have been on location here, it is otherworldly. We will definitely be planning excursions to investigate further!

Mountains http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/geo_env1.html

Our stay at the Intercontinental in Aqaba was exactly what this over stressed, over tired, over travelled lady needed and a great time to spend together as a family. We relaxed at the pool, at the sea and walked into the town where we had lunch, picked up some souvenirs and met the Imam of the local mosque; his nephew was the very nice souvenir salesman! 😊 We also saw some cool street art.

We were close to other counties, the sun is setting over the mountains in Israel.

What I’m reading: it has been so nice to be able to read again without the nagging worry of the things I needed to do for the big move. On Jillian’s recommendation I’m reading Just Kids – a memoir by Patti Smith. If you are a fan of music, art – really of any “scene” – you will find that Patti is a captivating writer about her experiences in NYC in the late 60s/early 70s. I hope I’m developing a writing style just like I hoped to have a painting style – I guess it does emerge over time if you are patient and stick with something. I also need to work on my blog photo process since I’m literally taking a picture with my iPhone and just uploading it to the blog without any edits. I’m not a fan of how they look once they are uploaded so I’ll work on that. Thank you for reading, bye for now.