General, Jordan, Knowledge Management, Travel

Nine months!!!

I am not going to make any lame excuses about why I haven’t written, I’m just going to dive in – promise you lots of photos and hopefully some meaningful commentary about what has been keeping me busy for the last few months!

What I’ve been up to: Once Jillian left in July, I started my new job at USAID (United States Agency for International Development) in the Education and Youth Office as a Project Management Assistant. What does that entail? Well, I am definitely getting to put my Knowledge Management skills to work and I am loving it – not a Microsoft shop so I am figuring out the G-Suite of productivity tools and it hasn’t been too bad. I do miss my SharePoint but I’ve tinkered around and found a pretty slick way of organizing my new teams’ knowledge into a useful knowledge base, at least the start of one. I have gotten to travel around Jordan with my co-workers to a USAID school where I met some pre-1st graders who had not attended kindergarten and were getting a crash course so that they could transition into 1st grade smoothly. They were so cute, as soon as we entered the classroom they jumped up to show us the artwork they had done, the letters they had learned to write and a cute little ‘fishing’ activity that I am sure was building up that hand-eye coordination. Their enthusiasm and smiles were heart-melting! Next trip, a youth center that was about 2 hours away from Amman in Tafilah for a visit to a YouthPower Facilitator event, where groups of youth (aged 15-30 in Jordan, I think “youth” is 15-24 in the US) met to learn how to be agents of change in their communities from YouthPower trained facilitators. We were able to talk to a few of the participants and see them working in groups to solve problems and present their proposed solutions. I attended an International Youth Day event, and participated in the Jordan Economic Forum – by participated I mean I was a member of the audience LOL. I really love the work that I am doing to help Jordan.

We attended a cultural event – the Jerash Festival with a group of friends. You might remember Jerash from my post in January, it is to the north of Amman and has well preserved Roman ruins of the ancient city that included a large amphitheater – we sat in that theater with a whole lotta other people to watch the Circassian dance! I didn’t know much about the Circassian’s until I came home afterward and did some research, their costumes were so interesting and I learned so much going down the Wikipedia rabbit hole https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circassians.

Before the show we walked down the streets and bought a sugary rolled up bread from this lovely woman.
Told ya there were a lot of people! I kept thinking “this cannot be safe” LOL

So, I worked at my new job for two weeks and then went on vacation! After 10 months for Mike and 7 months for me, we returned to the US in August to see our girls, our friends and our families, so I’m including a few favorite shots from the visit(s).

Greek Isles as we flew home.
Our haven for our week in Duck, NC!
One of my favorite places on earth – where Patchogue River meets the Great South Bay in my hometown of Patchogue, NY
Great South Bay with Fire Island in the distance.

Shortly after returning from our trip home, we turned around and drove (actually our friend drove!) to Jerusalem with three of our friends. We got picked up at 7am and drove about 40 minutes or so to the border crossing where we got out and stood at a couple of windows to have passports looked at and then on to the next border crossing where we waited around, were whisked through security, waited to buy car insurance (yes, you have to buy days worth of car insurance) and then back in the car and onward to our destination. The crossing was a little north of the Dead Sea so it was hot but as we ascended towards Jerusalem the air cooled a little and we arrived just in time for lunch. We went to the famous market – Mahane Yehuda and enjoyed taking in all of the sights and sounds. We settled on Hatch for lunch and it was absolutely perfect; beer, slushie alcohol drinks, omnivore and vegan fare and lots and lots of people watching (and chatting). Our AirBnB was ready for an early check in so we all hiked over and chilled a bit in the AC before we headed back out to the Old City. We spent two FULL days walking and exploring – day one on our own and day two with our friends’ AirBnb host. I’d never really had a desire to go to Jerusalem, could be because I am not a religious person but I have to say – it was an experience of a lifetime and I would love to go back. We had some wonderful meals, some great laughs and walked about 20 miles (with a killer set of stairs up to where we rested in my last photo) all in all, a fabulous trip with stellar travel buddies!

Now Iris has a suitcase issue!
This way to Jerusalem!
First stop was the Mahane Yehuda Market where we had lunch at Hatch. Lots of people stopped to chat, such as this gentleman talking to Abby and Elly.
I loved our AirBnB, plants everywhere – indoors and out and I was so happy to care for them while we shared space.
He looks sad because of the garbage.
Sheesh, someone else loves plants in the building where we stayed!
One of the many interesting faces of Jerusalem. This man told me he lets bees sting him everyday to stimulate his serotonin or dopamine levels – I can’t recall!
Missy was in ‘Bama heaven in the Heart of the Old Town, Shalom Y’All!
The women’s side of the Western Wall.
Stopped into the Austrian Hospice, sat in the garden and had some delicious fresh beer! It really felt like Vienna, it was bizarre!
Walking through the Souk in the Old City.
Our neighborhood on Saturday morning.
We walked all the way up here from all the way down there.

Back home to Amman; back to the pets, work and friends. One of whom had her 4th baby; a little girl after three sons – so a group of ladies showered her and her daughter with gifts. I just loved this dress my friend Kimberly made out of a traditional Bedouin kaffiyeh to present diapers to mama and baby. One of the ladies from work had her father visit and after they toured all of the sites she invited everyone back to Carakale Brewery to show her ol Irish dad a good time. A couple of our gal pals decided they wanted to throw an Oktoberfest party and with that, had them on the hunt for German food, decorations and best of all – German beer. Our hero Kelly scored us some fresh tasty German brews that we all enjoyed along with homemade pretzels, bakery pretzels, german potato salad and brats.

Red Sea-rious
Prost!

Since Mike and I hadn’t had much chance to get out and explore we decided to head to Jabal al – Weibdeh for breakfast one weekend morning. We wanted to go to a traditional place and stumbled upon Rakwet Arab Cafe just off of Paris Square. It was a stunningly ornate space with delicious Jordanian dishes.

We walked around a bit so I could try to retrace my steps from my evening with Margaret during our Foodie Walk and snapped this photo as we passed by the Petra National Trust. You can see the nighttime version from my post in May. Such a glorious color of stone, I can’t wait to see Petra where this building material was mined from!

جميلة

As we strolled to Bunni Roasters Coffee to get some coffee for our French Press, we walked by this VW Bug that I’ve walked past before and regretted not taking a photo – so in honor of my very first car that I (kinda) bought on my own (with help from my Oma)… cheers and r.i.p. to my 1974 (dark blue) SuperBeetle. I love seeing all of the old cars around Amman.

Mike had an old buddy come into town with his lovely wife in tow so we had to go out to dinner and thanks to the recommendation of some of his co-workers went to this amazing place., Tal Pine. It felt like Jordanian Swiss Family Robinson – up in the pine treetops, dining on delicious food with great company. I had so much fun meeting someone that I’d been hearing stories about for years and he did not disappoint!

This next section of the blog is dedicated to the animals, my first story is about a light colored pup that showed up one day near the embassy. Mike saw the dog one morning, I saw it the next and then we didn’t see it again until our friend said he saw the dog farther away and darting in and out of traffic. The dog was so pretty we couldn’t imagine that it didn’t belong to someone and needed to be returned. Our friend tried to catch it, and got a couple of photos and we shared it on the Facebook page for the embassy. A bunch of people recognized it but no one knew who the dog belonged to.

As close as we could get to this pupper.

After seeing some kids throwing rocks and cornering the dog, our friend was able to catch it and get it to his place. Other friends provided dog accoutrement and SHE slept for hours in a big dog crate in an air conditioned room. She was filthy and scared but she gradually got used to being inside, and being loved by a guy who didn’t really think he had time for a dog but look at her now…

The gorgeous “local street dog” Miss Lainey!!
She is learning how to be a good girl with her trainer!
She is friends with Finn (and Big Gene and Basha!)

Speaking of friends, Finn and Iris are inseparable. She loves being a part of our family and he could not be more thrilled to have a playmate at the ready. They snuggle and snooze, they battle and bite – they are the ultimate entertainment.

Snuggle buddies.
How I’m usually greeted when I come home for lunch.
Finn on his seventh birthday. First time celebrating in Amman!
Napping is their favorite!
Pretty Girl!
Finn living his best life… Puppy play date at Kenicke’s house for his birthday! You lean right in, buddy!

What I’ve been listening to: new Opeth in Swedish, and new Lana Del Rey And watching: Fleabag (OMG).

Next up – heading to Aqaba and Wadi Rum this weekend and I’m looking forward to taking photos and having some more things to share about Jordan with you next month, then a trip to Egypt in November! I was asked at work by a lovely lady, Luma if I wanted to do a Language Exchange with her and I’m excited to share more about that, too. Meeting with her three times a week and taking my Arabic language class two times a week – I’ll be fluent in no time haha. I love being able to help her, too. I joined the recently reinvigorated Green Initiative at the Embassy and started a Recycle and Waste Reduction Workgroup in the hopes that we can raise awareness about recycling and reducing our waste both in the embassy and at our residences – a group of 10 signed up and I think we already have plenty of ideas that are easily implementable!

Let me leave you with this happy group of guys, riding in the back of a pickup truck on a Thursday afternoon (the weekend is Friday and Saturday here in Jordan) sitting in traffic and seemingly enjoying themselves (well, maybe not all of them LOL). Look for the joy in life – in this day and age we really need the optimists. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, bye for now.

Food/Drink, General, Jordan, Knowledge Management, Mindfulness

Six Months!!

Our first summer in Jordan; before arriving here I thought that it was going to be stifling hot and that I was going to be expected to wear long pants and long sleeves, but neither have been the case and we have had a pretty typical summer! No, I don’t run errands in shorts and a tank top but only because that is not the culture here for anyone – not just women. The heat isn’t stifling but it is hot with temperatures that vary between the 80s and 100s, the wind is almost always blowing and there isn’t any humidity like in Virginia. One of the pros of our housing assignment being directly behind the embassy is that the pool is in our backyard. Most weekend mornings Mike and I are the first there; where we can get a breakfast sandwich, sit under the umbrella and read(me)/listen to the Howard Stern Show on the Sirius/XM app(Mike) and take a dip(Mike). One of the cons of our housing assignment is that we don’t have an outdoor space other than a small balcony that fits a Weber charcoal grill and a little ledge where I’ve put some planters of geraniums. We are lucky to have friends with a gorgeous rooftop patio where we’ve been invited for dinners and another friend with an outdoor patio on the ground floor that spans the depth of the building where she experimented with her Big Green Egg and made a brisket that was a big hit with the meat eaters. Since we don’t have a spot for Finn to run around we’ve met up with Big Gene, the retired bomb sniffing dog that our friend adopted here in Jordan. He’s a big ol yellow Labrador that you can see getting his run on in the pup parade photo in this post.

Finn shows that he is both an American and an ally.

We had a week off of work at the beginning of June for Eid al Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast) which marked the end of the month of Ramadan. Lots of celebration – giving gifts of sweets and Eid baskets to friends and colleagues, it has been wonderful to experience these customs and to be a part of the goodwill.

What I’ve been doing: I had a great opportunity to work for 3 weeks with smart, dedicated people who care about building relationships and helping Jordan’s economy and environment. When I had time I continued to help the HR group to redefine their SharePoint site to make the content better suited for their customers to ‘self serve’. I’ve been pretty impressed with the knowledge management at the State Department – when I need to know something (which has been pretty much constantly LOL) I have been able to find my answer in one of many knowledge bases. Hearing snippets of ‘after action reports’, ‘put that document in both places (me:NO, DON’T!)’ and ‘make this email an official record’ find me missing my days in KM at GEICO, but thankfully knowledge management is everywhere and there are lots of opportunities for me to offer my wisdom in the hopes that it makes work-life easier for others.

I rescued a kitty! It wasn’t in the plans because 1. we have Finn 2. we have Gracie (at home) and 3. we’ve never raised a kitten. But, much like Gracie choosing us – this little girl invited herself to a goodbye party at the embassy outdoor eatery next to the pool one evening. Street cats are in abundance here and even with trap-neuter-release programs – kitten season is real. This little girl was very vocal (begging) and very friendly – she hopped onto my lap and made herself at home.

We look good together!

We went home that night and I kept talking about that little kitty we met, I texted the girls to tell them all about her and they both IMPLORED me to go back and catch her. At that point it was dark, I had nothing to feed her and no plan for her immediate care if I even could find her. I told them if she was there the next day I would do what I could. In the meantime I texted my new friend/veterinarian to ask him if I did catch her, could he come see her the next day – to which he replied “of course, my dear”. At lunchtime (I was home having lunch with Finn) Mike texted me to say the little kitty was back begging at the outdoor eatery so I raced over there to find her lounging under a table and drinking water from a bottle cap and I told her “if you are here when I am done at the gym tonight, you are coming home with me”. My friend gave me a kitty carrier, our neighbor loaned us a litter box, litter and food so I went down there after my workout and she wasn’t there because the eatery was closed. I looked around for her and didn’t see her so before I left I asked a man who sits at the back of the ambassador’s residence if he had seen a little black kitten around and he said “you mean that one over there?” and he pointed to a garden and there she was sitting pretty and I said “oh yes that’s the one” and she came running over to me so I scooped her up and held her at about arms length as she yelled and squirmed the whole way back to our place. I put her in one of the bathrooms – set up her litter box (she used it right away) and her food dishes (she chowed down) and hoped for the best.

Her new home for the next two weeks while she took her deworming and ringworm medicine.

The next day at lunch Dr. Ziyad met me at my apartment and gave her shots, cleaned her ears, squirted on some flea/tick treatment, clipped her sharp claws and determined that she was a good social girl and would make a nice addition to our family – especially since he said “Finn loves everything”. In honor of her home country I named her Black “Iris” of Jordan after the national flower. She and Finn have since met and absolutely love to play together.

Finn’s new sister, Iris. Finally a cat that likes to play with him!

Jillian visited! Perfect timing with work as one job ended and the next one scheduled to start on July 3rd. During that break Jillian crossed the world for the first time alone and she did great; a layover in Vienna and arrived in Amman right on time! This was the longest she’d gone without seeing her dad and her dog, she settled right in.

Loved having my little heart 💕 here to pal around with me!
I’ve missed her gorgeous singing, now she’s teaching herself electric guitar – so talented!!

We had a great time together, checking out restaurants, shops and an overnight trip to the Dead Sea. It was a REALLY hot day with temperatures at 114 degrees so we swam and had drinks by the pool. Then headed indoors to treat ourselves to massages and to watch the beautiful sunset over the mountains. The evening view from our room was stunning!

😍

The next morning we got up early so that Jillian could experience floating in the sea. We saw lots of large salt deposits and watched a group of young guys slather on the mud.

Our descent to the lowest point on earth.

We made it back to Amman in time to be able to check out Souk Jara which is a street market held on Friday mornings just off of Rainbow Street. Soooo many awesome vendors showcasing their artwork, jewelry, clothing… As we were leaving we got to experience (what my internet research revealed is Dabke) a Levantine folk dance group performing to the sounds of a bagpipe and drum!

Just so gorgeous and joyful, I’m really looking forward to going back soon.

One of the sights we hadn’t yet visited in Amman was the Roman Amphitheater which can be seen from the Citadel where we visited with the girls in January.

“The theater, which was built during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 CE), is cut into the northern side of a hill that once served as a necropolis—or graveyard. It is very similar in design to the amphitheater at Jerash, and can accommodate 6000 spectators. The theater is still used periodically for sporting and cultural events.” Ref: http://www.just.edu.jo/OptArch2019/Pages/Amman.aspx

We went downtown with a friend who was going to buy a Jordanian dagger at The Dagger man, the visit did not disappoint. We learned that the different shapes of daggers are associated with geographical areas and uses, that daggers and sheaths are made together to match and cannot be used interchangeably even if they are the same size and kind.

Jillian chose a little silver Jordanian/Bedouin dagger and had her name engraved in Arabic جيليان in a beautifully etched sheath. We already know what Amelia wants when she visits next!
We went up a ladder to a little loft area where the fabricating is done! Zaid al-Muhaisin is the Dagger Man.
🖤Black beauty🖤 She’s kookoo! You can see some of her antics on Instagram #blackirisofjordan or on my highlighted story FinnGracieIris.

Jillian’s last night in Amman we went to The Boulevard, an outdoor shopping and dining area, for Free the Fork ‘s gourmet tacos and sliders then watched as our ice cream was created at Four Winters.

There was also this pretty horse greenery statue! 🌺

Jillian travelled home to the US successfully – back to her apartment, social life and work. I missed her the moment she left my sight but we are super proud of her resilience and independence. Both she and her big sister have amazed us with how well they have managed this time apart from us, 6 months down!

The Embassy of the United States of America looked glorious for Independence Day. We enjoyed seeing the fireworks from our little patio!

Continuing to be mindful of my footprint on the planet; I brought my own bowl to one of my favorite places to walk to dinner – Fish Face – where I get a veggie poke bowl served in a 20oz plastic container. I’ve been reusing them for my painting but realized I only need but so many containers for my supplies. Mike and I had gone to IKEA recently for frames and I picked up two 25oz glass bowls with wooden tops. Well, this week I brought one with me to FishFace and the sushi chef was perfectly happy to fill it with poke goodness.

Mmm mm mm!

Even though they did have to take an airplane to get to me which isn’t the best for the environment 😔 I’ve decided to get vegan shoes to replace the shoes I donated before I left the US – they are comfortable and oft complimented so I wanted to share since last year when I checked Zappos for vegan shoes they did not look this good. Search BC Footwear to find retailers near you if you are so inclined.

What I’ve been watching, reading and listening to: we watched season 3 of Stranger Things in about two nights – loved it. Finished Dead to Me – loved it. Started season 2 of Big Little Lies. Re-watching Deadwood in between shows so that we can watch the movie. Jillian brought two books for me to read that I really enjoyed: The Girls by Emma Cline and Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. Listening to Anima by Thom Yorke (over and over) it is perfect to paint to! My painting is coming along nicely, I hope to dedicate more time during the evening to do more painting instead of waiting until the weekends – which can be just as busy as the workweek. Speaking of work – I applied and interviewed for a different job at the embassy and I was selected! On July 21st I will start work in USAID as Program Management Assistant in Education and Youth. Super excited and thankful that I get a chance to learn something totally new and impactful. Next blog I will let you know what my new role is all about!

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer, thank you for reading! bye for now.

Food/Drink, General, Jordan, Travel

Time flies…

…while you are living your life! I can’t believe I didn’t blog at all during April, I experienced so many moments that I’d love to share with you! As per usual I will provide a status update of my pending items:
Our house is rented and the tenants are moved in! Our household effects were delivered shortly after my last post was published and finally, I started my job at the embassy. I am also happy to report that I have been going to the gym and following my tried and true Body For Life plan, I named my calendar on my phone where I’m keeping track of my progress – BodyForDi, LOL. I started it as soon as we returned from Italy because…mama mia…was I eating and drinking with reckless abandon but we can get to that later. In a nutshell, BodyForDi is 6 days a week of 6 meals a day consisting of a portion of protein and a portion of carb with serving of fruit or vegetable for 2 of the meals and 8 glasses of water. 6 workouts following the Upper (45 min)/Cardio (20 min)/Lower (45 min) schedule and for each muscle grouping you do 4 sets with progressively less reps (12, 10, 8, 6) and increasing weight (if you can, sometimes I do the same weight for all the reps). On the 7th day no workout and you can eat as you like. I make bargains with myself though hence the name BodyFor Di, like yesterday – I followed my plan but had two slices of pizza for dinner, didn’t do my cardio either. Today, I added my cardio to my Upper day and was only in the gym for a little over an hour, but I’d skipped breakfast because we were busy and I had a grilled halloumi sandwich and a side salad for lunch. I started on May 6th and am 3 days short of “21 days and you have a habit”. I do feel SO much better, not achy – which has been my biggest reason for getting back at it. OK so blah blah blah about exercise, lets talk a little about Jordan and throw in some Italy!

What I’ve been doing: April was a busy and bittersweet month for me. CRP had it’s Spring Break which gave Lareena and I two free days to do something and since the car was delivered in March I thought “why not drive us somewhere?” My first time behind the wheel in 4 months, let alone in a new country and I decided to drive to the Dead Sea, EASY (as our students like to say). We went to the Amman Beach which was interesting in and of itself – it is the beach where tourists to Amman go (are bussed?) so it is a little worn but we really weren’t going to be pampered – we just wanted to get a float in the sea, catch a few rays, people watch, study arabic and chat. Down at the sea we saw a cute couple documenting their Dead Sea mud experience for (I can only assume) their Instagram followers, a really boisterous group of big and tall men – calling to one another in what sounded like Russian from within and out of the water, and then this one guy – someone helped him to put the Dead Sea mud on his entire body, he waited the requisite amount of time and then found himself back in the water. I watched him from our chairs and in my persuasive way said “that poor dude has a big group of friends sitting up there on the beach and not one of them is going to help him get that mud from between his shoulder blades?” Now Lareena is watching with me as this guy crouches down into the water a few times and splashes and reaches to no avail. “Poor guy” I say “you should go help him, I mean you are a Reflexologist” (which had nothing to do with anything we are involved in at that moment!) and the kind hearted Lareena goes into the water and I can hear her gorgeous Australian accent “sur, SUR? Would you like some help?” His answer is quiet but from my vantage point I can see him crouch back down as Lareena takes some water and rubs off the bit of mud from between his blades.

We titled this photo “Services Rendered” .Her reasoning for helping was – of course you couldn’t help him because you’re a married woman. 😉

We went up to the pool to sit under the umbrellas and study but the people watching up there was just as good; a topless sunbather, a couple of guys in their Calvin’s (underpants party), a group of older, tan, Italian ladies rolling up their pants and sleeves to get maximum sun exposure… we did study but all in all, just had a really nice day out. Drove back to Amman and Lareena told me I drove like I’d been living there my whole life. Let’s hold off on that determination until I’ve gone through some of these traffic circles at rush hour, but I do love to drive and it felt good to be back in the saddle.

I talked a little in my last post about being happy to have found an indoor hall for the dogs to play, we did a couple more dog play dates so I am going to share a joyful picture because the pups had so much fun. Our playgroup ended up having a big scare with one of the dogs, she was being boarded at the facility and got loose in the wilds of Jordan for two days!! Thankfully, she was found and returned but I have to say that was the scariest thing I have experienced since I’ve been here. Here’s a fun pictures of Finn and his friends and a few of Finn in Repose for his fans who have put in special requests for “more Finn”

Pup parade!
That can’t be comfy.
That does look comfy!
Tight little ball of comfy!
zzzzzzzzzz

Finally went to the amazing, vegetarian Shams El Balad restaurant and while exploring the gorgeous building I captured some poppies that sprang up. Is the sky bluer in Amman?

Heart eyes!

April also brought my volunteering as an English teacher at CRP to a close; the semester ended with a final exam and that was that. The teachers went out to another dinner so we could celebrate the successful semester and to say goodbye to our intern Hannah.

Our empty classroom one last time 😦

With our volunteer commitment behind us, each of us made plans – mine to visit Italy with Mike and our friend Abby and Lareena to Greece to volunteer in a refugee camp. Here is her fundraising page if you’d like to help.

Our last Seven Pennies breakfast together – fresh orange juice, vanilla almond milk latte and a cinnamon bun to share!

Once our household goods were delivered I had to figure out where I wanted to hang our stuff! Mike put in a request for help hanging the artwork and they showed up at 8:30 on a Saturday morning (oops) but most of the stuff is up on the walls save for about 10 pieces – I still need to figured those out but here is a quick look at our place:

Yes, I know they are crooked! Bottom center is a place holder for the painting that I’m working on now! There is a (l to r) Dianne Smith (photograph), Caroline Murphy, Stanley Donwood print, Bobbi Baker and Dianne Smith
My painting supplies were delivered!! This is the work in progress that will go in the bottom center frame spot above.
Mike’s guitars and amp came too! Last time he played was when he recorded the leads for “Thoughts from a Leaking Brain” for Ghostly White
Bostons and Beer, Klimt, Baby Face Finster.

So enough about Jordan, as much as I have loved living in Amman and learning as much as I can about the city, the country and the people – it was time for Mike and I to take a trip. With a combination of US and Jordanian holidays we could take a weeklong vacation and only use a day or two of annual leave. As we were starting to taxi for our flight to Italy, the pilot came on the speaker to tell us that we had to stop because there was a warning light on for one of the engines – we needed a part – it was in Dublin, Ireland – and wouldn’t be in Jordan until around 1pm the next day. I gotta hand it to our fellow passengers – almost all Italians – because they carried on and got their things and boarded the busses and went back to the airport without batting an eyelash. Mike, Abby and I grumpily went home only to turn right around the next morning to find all of our Italian friends back in check in, security, at the gate, waiting…waiting…waiting… we could see our plane from where we were waiting, the crew were working on something for sure, there was a commotion around the belly of our plane… time ticked away as we all watched the plane and the departure screens and listened for the airport announcement telling us that it was finally time to board around 3pm. Bologna Italy is a 4 hour flight from Amman once we landed we hopped onto a train to Rimini which is a little beach town on the Adriatic Sea so we could spend a few quiet days away from the big city life.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

We went into the charming old town of Rimini and learned that it was the 2nd most destroyed city in Italy during the second World War and has the oldest Roman Arch…

At the Arch of Augustus in Rimini Italy.

We loved the heck out of Rimini for a couple of days and then headed to the Republic of San Marino, which is a country that is surrounded by Italy and let me tell you, it was pretty cool – I felt like we were in Minas Tirith.

This Rick Steve’s video says and shows it all.
The view from San Marino to Rimini and the Adriatic Sea!
On top of the world with my head in the clouds!

After some Limoncello we headed back to Rimini to visit our favorite new local spot to have some more pizza and beer with Leone, the proprietor of Angolo Blu – we went there twice during our three days in town! Next day found us on the train to Bologna where we fell in love; the architecture, the food, the drink, the gelato! Bologna is a foodie city and we absolutely dove in with both feet, clocking in around 7 miles per day!

The color of the city is in the pinks and oranges. We walked up and down alleyways and under arched walkways while we ate and drank to our hearts content!
We spent a lot of time in the City Center, this is the Piazza Maggiore where we learned about the history of Bologna. I took this photo from in front of The University of Bologna which is the oldest university in the world with an estimated founding date of 1088.

The basilica above is dedicated to Saint Peter and remains unfinished outside; it was beautiful inside as were the other cathedrals in the city center. I think we went into 3 or 4 of them!

Oh my gosh, I wish I could have this right now. I love pasta.

We had amazing meals in Italy, of course. Mike and Abby had the dish that is famous in Bologna, Tagliatelle alla Bolognese. This was my dish, tortellini with sage and butter sauce,mmmmmm. The next day we went on a food tour of Bologna and Mike rolled a perfect tortellini after we watched the women at Le Sfogline working their magic!

We got to watch the magic happen here!

I’m getting ahead of myself, first we went to a coffee shop where I had a coffee/almond milk drink that tasted like marzipan (which I love).

She’s gorge!

…and had a cute repurposed way of offering up sugar!

Sooo cute!

Our guide for the 4 hour tour walked us through shops and alleys all the while teaching us about the food of the region. We went in and out of markets and stalls and gathered ingredients for our lunch as we went to each place. We finally stopped at the oldest pub in Bologna – Osteria del Sole – which was marked with a sign above the door that just said “WINE”. Click here for a look and to read about the place, it’s been around since 1465!

My favorite; THE CHEESE!
Heading down another alleyway for cheese and finally to the wine… Bologna was AMAZING!

~ INTERMISSION ~

May: Back to Amman and to our Finny boy, I had a week before it was time for me to report to work! Ramadan started on May 6th and being in Jordan during Ramadan has been so interesting! Most stores and restaurants are closed during the day and people who observe Ramadan fast from sunrise to sunset, but once the sun sets – it is a time of celebration! To break the fast the meal is called Iftar – we have attended two Iftar meals and they have been just beautiful. We are attending another tonight with the teachers and students in the Arabic classes!
A lil excerpt about Ramadan from Encyclopedia Brittanica “God forgives the past sins of those who observe the holy month with fasting, prayer, and faithful intention.” Since I am a student of the arabic language and maybe some people reading my blog don’t know arabic; Allah is the arabic word for God. Many greetings and exclamations in Jordan are faith based so you hear a lot of “God willing/Inshallah” “Praise be to God-Thank God/Alhamdulillah” so that is my religion lesson.

My friend Margaret asked me if I wanted to attend an evening walk/fundraiser in one of the cool neighborhoods of Amman. Of course I said yes – on the evening of my first day of work from 9-11pm… SURE! I am so glad I did, we paid our money towards scholarships for bright students without a means for a college education and went on a walking tour that consisted of art and food! In Amman if you are in the street, cars just have to wait until you move out of the way – regardless of how long you take. Well, Margaret and I were Jordanian on this night, taking our time walking in front of cars, talking with our new friends and just enjoying the sights and smells of the neighborhood. The leaders of the event were woman local to that neighborhood who talked nostalgically about the buildings, meeting a boyfriend (who turned into a husband) at one house, going to dinner after a dance at this restaurant – it really was a wonderful way to experience the neighborhood. They were classy and cool and well, we fit right in!

Petra National Trust HQ is a former (gorgeous) home.

We went inside to see the art gallery and learn about the Petra National Trust, click on the Iink above to learn more about what they do!

Lots of great sculpture was on display.
Many cool shops, places to grab a bite to eat or a coffee, art galleries and Magic Puff for the shisha lover!
Loved seeing the moon over Bunni Roasters Coffee

I was excited that we were going to Bunni Roasters Coffee because I had been there before and the coffee was delicious and I had met the owners and their baby daughter on an EcoHike (see the link above for a picture of this cute family) – so I was pleasantly surprised when I walked up to the counter and Shireen recognized me and gave me a big hug, I felt so local! I had an even bigger surprise as Margaret and I were walking to the car and someone else I’d met on an EcoHike called out to me. Amman is not a small town, so it was pretty surreal to hear my name and it was another pleasant surprise to get a big hug from someone I’ve met here.

Best part of the night was getting to hang out with Margaret; eating, drinking, smelling jasmine, walking in traffic and talking.
The church looked very dramatic at night!

Parenting from the other side of the world has it’s interesting moments – Amelia’s car wouldn’t start, Jillian needed to sew a button onto her shirt – but technology is great and we send pictures, videos and messages in our group chat. We get to enjoy the occasional FaceTime when everyone is available or so I can give Jillian a sewing lesson…

She did it! I wish I’d taught her to sew back in the Girl Scout patch days!

My awesome neighbors have been taking care of Gracie, and by neighbors I mean everyone on my court! I got the reminder from the vet that Gracie needed her shots so off she went with her Guardian Judy and like a good girl told her when it was time to go by getting back into her crate (before getting her shots!) Again, technology for the win – I could send the money right away and have pictures of my good girl whenever Judy can snap one of her being still.

Final picture for the epic-ly long blog post is my cute “Moroccan Lady” painting that I did with a fun group of ladies this week led by Lucy Roman – we had a great time at Patricia’s house, eating, drinking and painting. I think I will do another one at home and give her brown eyes so I can have one for each of my girls!

I gave her golden green eyes like my Amelia’s beautiful hazely green eyes. I was really reminded of Amelia and her belly dance performances. So much of the music I hear in Jordan I think “Amelia could bellydance to this”

What I’ve been watching: finished up Game of Thrones (I liked it!) then watched and finished True Detective, getting ready to watch Big Little Lies in a couple of weeks. Started watching Dead to Me on Netflix and I need to finish Riverdale.
What I’ve been reading: what I read on the trip to and from Italy was Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis.
What I’ve been listening to: FKA twigs new song Cellophane is just beautiful. The video is stunning (and maybe a little NSFW). Love the new Interpol song Fine Mess, too.

Happy June, happy Pride and I will be making sure I stay on a better schedule for my blogging… thank you for reading. bye for now.

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.

General, Music

Packin’ out.

Wow, yes, this is a crazy time… Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week – even Sunday – have been an emotional roller coaster for me. Trouble sleeping, mind racing, stomach churning and then each day as the teams arrive to pack out the various shipments, I get to spend some time with funny, interesting, hard working people and I am recharged. Spending time alone has never been an issue for me, I don’t get bored or lonely but I do miss people. I’ve been missing my Fredericksburg work team – funny, interesting and hardworking people that they are 🙂 – since they were the people I’d see the most. A week ago today they joined me at the Service Awards breakfast and it really did feel like my family was there with me. Since my husband has been in Jordan since September we already have friends and coworkers to spend time with so I will ease right into that new group, I’m sure! I applied for a job at the Embassy too, so we shall see… who will be my new people?

Mummy man.

The mummies have caused quite a stir during this move, I was asked by the moving company if they were antiques during the pre pack-out survey a few weeks ago. LOL what the heck would I be doing with actual mummies in my house. I liked what one of my friends at work said “you should have told them there was a secret word that they cannot say in front of the mummies after midnight”. I was mindful to ask anyone who encountered the mummies this week if they were OK with them and everyone was.
One other stir that even I was freaked out by was on Tuesday when the team was here packing and wrapping everything and one of them said “is that a spider up there?” I stood on my tippietoes to look into a high cabinet and I did see partial legs as if a spider had maybe died up there? Once I showed my confusion the rest of the people in the house became concerned. I am the spider capturer (and sometimes killer if they are the big ones we get here in the woods, sorry big spiders I don’t like to kill anything) in my family I got on a chair and looked and reached in and picked up…

Her.

This spider LOL it still looked real after I got it down, I think Bobbi must have gotten it for my family one year for Halloween because she knows how much they are scared of spiders. It got me too and the three ladies packing up the house. It was funny, I wonder what insects I’ll see in Jordan. Of course my sisters have already asked what kinds of bugs are there; why am I the only one not afraid?

What I’m listening to: TV on The Radio – Happy Idiot. They are such an interesting band! But anyway, I’m feeling like that right now – the big big things are done, just have the little things to do. One week from today the girls and I will be on our way, and as anxious as I have been this week in particular – I am equally so excited. Not a big post this week, just wanted to get my feelings down since I was really feeling the stress but I’ve made it through and onto my next tasks. This is a great song too, (Trouble by TVOTR) the “everythings gonna be okay” line goes through my head every once in a while. Really, give TV on the Radio a listen they are just cool. Thank you for reading and keeping me company. bye for now.

General

Thank you for the snowstorm

I am definitely on my goodbye tour – since I last posted I have been to Long Island to see my family and was treated to a delicious dinner and the cutest cake! Don’t let the cuteness fool you, it was huge, SOLID to it’s core and delicious. I got to spend some nice time with my very first friend; my uncle who is 2 years older than me. 

My cake

My next stop was to NYC to visit with my friend from college who lives in CT and likes any reason to come back into the city, we went to the Howard Greenberg Gallery and checked out the Vivian Maier exhibit (as well as the stunning Anthropocene.) If you are a fan of street photographers you should check out Vivian, the story of the discovery of her work is so interesting – I highly recommend the documentary. Next visit was with my friend – my sis in law and her friend, we had a yummy lunch in Warrenton with pretty drinks. 

Pretty drink

Next stop and city – DC to see MY DC (3)TEAM and friends, it was funny to see people stop in their tracks and say “wait, didn’t you retire?” Great to catch up and to get to say goodbye to some of my favorites who weren’t in town for my ‘goodbye’ party, shake the hand of our Executive President who has been at the company for 57 years (to my 25) and pick up one last slug in the carpool. This post is dedicated to friends, ones that are in your family, those people that you meet and have an instant connection, those that build into friendships over time; it really doesn’t matter how it happens but the people in your life are what make your life what it is. I went to see a show (Soccer Mommy and they do a beautiful cover of Springsteen’s I’m on Fire btw) with my daughter, her friends, my friend and her daughter – we had so much fun with each other. Friends. 

Snowy

What I’m doing: Tickets to Jordan = arranged! The girls and I will leave on December 27th and arrive on the 28th! The girls will come back to the states on January 10th! In between we’ve been told that the presence of our company is requested at the Red Sea! I can’t wait to see it and share it with you! Finn’s transport to Jordan = arranged! He will be staying behind because I misunderstood a requirement – thinking he only needed to have a current rabies vaccine, which he does have but it was administered 2 years ago and for Jordan he has to have one that was administered within the last year. So I got him a new shot, his microcip and he is going to stay at a ‘resort’ too and then join us on January 7th. House photographed for the rental listing = completed! Now to send it all to the company and get this house listed!

creek

The snowstorm yesterday was a beautiful one with big fluffy flakes, a perfect snow to see me off to the Middle East where I don’t plan to see snow.  That is until we travel to a European city this time next year to hopefully celebrate Christmas. I am thankful that I didn’t have anywhere to be and that I could get a lot of keep/donate/recycle of my daughters things completed. Most of the photos on my phone right now are of random things with texts to the girls asking “do you want this anymore?” Next up is to arrange to have our SUV shipped over and then plan for the pack-out of my house which is scheduled for the 17, 18 and 19th… NEXT WEEK! Ahhhh….  

What I’m listening to: XMU on Sirius XM. My fave DJ is Josiah Lambert (@josiahOnAir on Twitter) so I’m just waiting for his shift! So much music I’m loving lately, it keeps my mind distracted when I start to get overwhelmed, writing this blog post helped too – so thank you for being here to read it. I won’t wait so long next time…  bye for now.

General, Jordan

The road to Jordan begins today. Focus.

Kinda…I picked a good week for my first day of retirement, current weather in my part of Virginia is 60 and sunny!

What I’m doing:  After a few chores inside the house this morning I took advantage of the sun and headed outside to ready my yard for the family that will hopefully rent my house soon! My first order of business before I make the trip to Jordan is to get our house rented. I have a realty and property management company picked out, just need to get the house ready to show and rent.

Leaves everywhere you look!

We live in the middle of the woods – which we love, lots of trees, wildlife and privacy but tons of leaves in the fall. I hadn’t had a chance to get out and do pre-emptive leaf blowing or raking so I decided to break it into sections today, the section above is next. 

This blog post is dedicated to the moss in my yard, I think moss is the coolest groundcover and if I could, I would have my entire yard covered in it. My front yard has some moss but the small cleared area in the back between the house and woods is a glorious green carpet right now and for the next few weeks I will admire it and hope that it is still here when I get back from Amman in a few years. I got as far as the extension cord on the leaf blower would let me, so I came inside for lunch and to get a blog post under my belt. I’m trying to figure out my style since the last blog I contributed to was my team blog at work. 

Moss in my yard.
Cleared the leaves to let the moss photosynthesize! 

What I’m listening to: currently listening to Deceased Ghostly White for the 20th time. If you like metal (heavy, speed, thrash, death) you’ll love it; my husband writes the music and plays guitar. Our younger daughter speaks and sings on it, too.

Now it’s time for me to make some phone calls to arrange for my ‘pack out’ of household items to ship to Amman and things that we will store here in the US while we are gone. Then off to tackle the leaves in picture number one above and sit and admire the moss from picture two. I did get a work “page” so fingers crossed that my G peers are able to quickly resolve the issues.

Hope everyone is having a great day, bye for now. 


Update: at 2:17 I got a page that the issue resolved. Coincidence? My finger crossing is magical!