Monday, September 20, 2010

Some things that are different about Jordan…

Toilet paper does not go in the toilet – it goes in the bin (trash can).

Almost every bathroom (even public ones) has either a bidet or a spray nozzle.

Water shouldn’t be drunk from the tap.

A fig tree grows in my neighbour’s garden and hangs over into mine.

Every floor has a drain in it because floors are “mopped” by pouring water directly on the tiles and using a squeegee to push it along.

Our water is heated with diesel fuel so two rooms of my house have a constant diesel smell. Yuck!

Many mosquitoes, but at least our windows have screens!

Pita bread is typical.

Yogurt comes in big containers – great for all the smoothies we make!

Cars don’t have functioning seatbelts in the backseat.

Horns are used rather than turn signals.

Bathtubs are short.

Outside of Amman, a woman without her head covered is a very unusual sight.

The “sidewalks” seem more decorative than anything: they often have big plants or trees growing right in the middle of them.

Said sidewalks also don’t come to a ramp at the corner, and on a hill, this means that they end in about a 2-ft drop!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One Week Anniversary

We’ve been in Amman for one week now. Hard to believe. It all feels kind of surreal. Our new house is really really nice, the biggest place we’ve ever had and more than adequately furnished. We laugh because now that we’re in a large home with plenty of cupboards, closets and bookcases, we hardly have any stuff!! The building we’re in is actually a 5-story building, and we’re on the ground floor, though up a few steps from the actual outdoor ground. We have two entrances: one through a sun-room that’s just ours, and another through the main building entrance. When we first got here, the sun-room was an oven and I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to be in it. But I’m told that it will get quite cold in the winter and we’ll be glad for it then.

My kitchen is large, with an American-sized frig/freezer (again, hardly any food in it!!), a 5-burner stove and large oven, state-of-the-art washing machine, and nice amenities like microwave, blender and electric kettle. It also has plenty of cupboard space, including a floor-to-ceiling pantry.

The entire house is tiled, which again feels nice now, but will be cold come winter. Our neighbours upstairs (from Virginia) said that it feels especially cold in the winter because of the lack of insulation and the steep prices of heat (diesel or electric). They pretty much only heated one of their rooms and kept the door shut. I don’t know what we’ll do, but I’m trying not to worry about it quite yet!

Our building is sandwiched right in-between a very busy big street and a smaller one. Steve’s and my bedroom has windows on the busy street, we hear lots of traffic all night. During Ramadan, we’d also hear a drummer going up and down the street before dawn, waking people up to eat their breakfast. After the first few nights, I began sleeping through the 4:30 call to prayer, but last night it woke me up again.

We have two bathrooms (well, one only has a shower) and they both have a bidet in addition to a toilet! So far all of us have gotten used to the bidet except for Naomi. It’s very nice to have two toilets for our desperate times!

So far my most difficult adjustment has been shopping and cooking here. We have a little shop just next door to our house (and it’s open til 2 AM everyday!!), which has been great, but most things aren’t labelled with prices, so it makes it hard to make the most cost-effective purchases. At least Steve has taught me my Arabic numbers so that if there is a price tag, I can read it!

There are some foods I was really used to using, both in the States and England, like tinned tomatoes and oats, which are expensive here. Breakfasts are baffling me, as cereal and oats are both expensive, and the local shop doesn’t sell bread! I’m sure I’ll get the hang of everything eventually. I’m glad that I’ve been able to buy most of my basic spices, herbs and staples, and that my kitchen came with a few pots, pans, and dishes.

The kids are adjusting pretty well to not having a large garden. We do have some shared outdoor space, but it’s all tiled. My creative Naomi and Josiah have decided to use the porch swing as a jungle gym. They can climb on to it by opening our sun-room windows and getting out that way. It’s strange, though, to not have bikes anymore.

We finally met our upstairs neighbours a few days ago, and had dinner with them on Sunday. Their names are M and A and they have three kids: H (12), E (10), and N (8). They’re in their first of two years of Arabic language school, preparing for long-term work here in Jordan or elsewhere in the Arab world. The kids are going to a Jordanian school, though in an English-language track. I felt a bit sad and lonely at first because it took a few days to actually meet this family. But now that we’ve met up once and broken the ice, I think we’ll enjoy getting to know them better. The kids get along great. On Monday, their 3 came down to play with my 3, and it worked really nicely. I like having an older girl around for Naomi to spend time with, and it’s sweet that their E is happy to play with Josiah, too.

We went to Amman International Church on Saturday night (their normal service time) and it was nice to meet other westerners (strange though that most of them, including the pastor, were American!!) I met one homeschooling mom who’s already invited us over for dinner this Thursday. She’s got 5 kids and one on the way!! The church is a bit far from us, though, and not terribly easy for taxi drivers to find. So I’m not sure how many extra activities we’ll be doing with them. We missed the preaching that we’re used to at Magdalen Road, but on the whole, the service was good.

I’m feeling a bit “out-of-it” since I don’t fit into any of the normal boxes – I’m not here as a missionary or a military wife, and I’m not actively learning Arabic, as it seems many wives have or currently are. I know it doesn’t really matter, but I get a little tired of explaining our situation to new people, and being asked the same questions.

Ethan is feeling the lack of toys and books. I’m kicking myself now that I brought so many of Naomi’s and Josiah’s toys, and fewer of Ethan’s. He’s the one who needs to be occupied while I teach the older two. We’re also all missing the library. I only brought 5 picture books, and Steve and I are both tired of reading them to Ethan every night! I’ve been told that there’s a Christian library attached to JETS (Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary), and I’m hoping to check it out on Saturday when we’re already there for something else. The older two are occupied with some novels I brought to read aloud with them, as well as some Usborne young readers I brought for them.

We’ve done about 2 days of school so far, though our first day was spread out over two. Josiah is annoyed with the switch to less play time. But the curriculum is fun and interesting. I’ve just got to figure out balance with Ethan and housework, as always. Some things are the same, no matter what country I'm living in!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Traveling from Oxford to Amman

Our day of travel on September 7 began at 7:45 AM with two friends taking us and our luggage in two cars to St. Clement’s, where we said our goodbyes and caught the coach straight to Gatwick. Everything went smoothly at the airport and our boxes and suitcases were all exactly at the weight limit or up to two kilos shy. We’d forgotten that we had to pay per piece, even though they were in our basic allowance. We were glad that friends had given us £100 because that just covered the additional costs! Thank you, Lord! There were no seats in the area before security check so we sat right on the floor to eat our lunch.

The flight to Latvia was without incident. Ethan slept the whole way. The rest of us liked looking out the windows and seeing the coasts and countrysides of Denmark, Sweden, and finally Latvia. Riga seemed like such an interesting city – it was heartbreaking to not have enough time to leave the airport and see a true glimpse of Latvian life. But we did go through passport control, to get “Riga” stamped in our passports and to sit outside eating a picnic supper. I think the mosquitoes ate as much as we did!

We’d read that Latvia does not use the Euro, but then discovered that Euros can be used in the airport. We had some left over from our trip to Spain and used them getting a few ice-creams for everyone. I tried to buy a bottle of water for the flight, but by mistake bought carbonated water. None of the kids liked it much!

The second half of our journey was much longer. Not only was the flight an hour longer, but we sat in the airplane for an hour before ever taking off, waiting for a few late passengers. Hardly surprisingly, our kids did not fall asleep. They played on the plane’s floor, playing “spies,” and even used a plane blanket to make a little “tent.”

We finally arrived at the Queen Rania airport at 1:30 AM. The kids and I waited for Steve to get money out of an ATM to pay for our visas, which cost 10 JD (Jordanian Dinars) each. The whole process was painless and quick, and we were so happy to see a man holding a sign that said “Steve Gertz” as we exited the passport control area. Steve’s Arabic school, Qasid Institute, provides airport transportation for all their students. Steve went in one car with Josiah, while I travelled in another with Naomi and Ethan.

I’d forgotten that many countries, including Jordan, tend to not have working seatbelts in the backseat. I found myself praying fervently as we raced down the highway at 70 mph, in “interesting” Jordanian fashion. Qasid Institute also provided a free phone call "home" so I got to talk to Steve's mom and let her know we'd arrived safely.

We arrived at our new house at 2:30 AM and our sweet landlords were still up, cheerfully welcoming us and ready to show us around. Josiah had fallen asleep on the ride home, and wouldn’t stir even to eat a sandwich. The other kids were starving so we all ate something before heading to bed. 20 hours after it had begun, our day of travel was finally over. That is, until we were awakened an hour later by drumming and the call to prayer!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Almost Done

In 48 hours, I'll be sleeping in my new house, Lord willing. We've been living out of suitcases for the past 37 days and are ready to have our own place!! On Tuesday morning, we'll take a coach directly from Oxford to Gatwick airport, catch our first flight which will take us to our layover in Latvia, and then we'll spend the evening flying three more hours to Amman, Jordan, arriving soon after midnight.

We're only allowed a total of 140 kilos for our family of five, and that's including the carry-ons. It's been tricky to make decisions about what's most important to us as individuals and as a group. It's made harder by not knowing exactly what will be available (and for what price) when we get there.

We had a lovely Sunday today. Our pastor prayed for us in church, and afterwards we got to chat with lots of friends over tea and biscuits. At lunchtime we picnicked in the neighboring park with our home-group, and eventually visited with lots of other church friends who came along to say goodbye. It was really ideal -- the kids were busy playing, and we could leisurely chat with those we'll miss the most!

Naomi and I also then went to visit our previous neighbors, a Christian Malaysian family who have a daughter Naomi's age. Again, she had a good play while I had a lovely visit and prayer time. And finally we had a yummy dinner cooked by our friend who is currently hosting us, followed by her taking care of our kids' bedtime routine. What a delightful break for me!!