Monday, August 10, 2009

In my neighborhood

In our neighborhood, there were less than 5 houses when I was growing up in the streets of tabarboor. Who am I kidding, there were no streets. Everyone knew everyone. Who am I kidding, there was barely anyone. On four hills, 5 houses resided overlooking the valleys down below. Shepherds driving their sheep roaming the hills of this once beautiful majestic land. Few army jeebs pass by and on occasions, the soldiers would stop to get a drink of fresh milk and chat with the shepherds.

In our neighborhood, there was no traffic lights, nor there were any streets. Few tents here and there parallel to the camps. I remember when one of the residents there lost a son due to natural causes. The whole neighborhood came out to pay tribute. Who am I kidding, the whole neighborhood fitted in one tent.

In my neighborhood, there were no stores to sell anything. When one needed to buy anything, they had to go to to the city. Usually, one person would buy for the whole neighborhood all they needed. Sellers would walk door to door to sell fresh produce, fresh milk, and even live stocks.

In my neighborhood, we used to wait eagerly for the Eid to go to the city and walk in down town. Flashing our new clothes and showing off the new chocolate bars we just bought. Stop by a pastry shop to buy few pieces of baglawah.

In my neighborhood…..who am I kidding…there is no more a neighborhood in my neighborhood anymore.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Two weeks in heaven, Day 15, Sunday/Monday...the end

My vacation is about to end. Today is the last day. It will probably be the ugliest day in the vacation. I did enjoy every moment and every event that occurred to me the last two weeks. I was up too early today for some reason. Maybe because it is all about to end. I admit that I have a very mixed emotions about today. On the one side, I am about to go back to my family..and on the other side, I’m about to leave behind what is considered the dearest to my heart, this desert land of Jordan.

My brothers and sisters started to flood the house early today. My older brother showed up at about 9 am with breakfast. The regular hommus, fool and falafel. My mom was drilling me asking me for what would I like to eat. I felt as I was on death row and being asked for the last meal before I am about to be executed. It’s not that bad if you ask me. Such sad feeling is a very good feeling. It makes attached to something that you hate to leave behind.

The house is again full with family members who came to say goodbye. The weather was beautifull as if this country is teasing me on my departure day. I was sitting down as everyone was talking and laughing. I laughed too on few funny discussions and incidents, including the one where my niece insisted on bringing the hommus to the table and ended up spilling it on the carpet. My father was yelling at the little girl, and everyone was laughing at my father for looking like a grumpy old man.

As usual, my father is a control freak, sort of. He insisted on arranging the luggage to hid the jameed fearing that it get caught. I left the whole thing alone for him. He was pretty much fighting with his own shadow and yelling at the 4 cans of pastries that I took with me. He told me to carry the gold that I bought for the wife in my pocket. The jameed is going in two cases just in case one gets busted, the other one escapes safely into the states. I tried to tell him that customs will allow jameed, but he insisted on doing whatever he wanted to do, so I left him for his hobby.

After he was finished, he told me that every case has exactly 50 lb. I told him that I allowed 70 lb since I’m traveling first class (not because I paid for it but because of my elite status on delta airlines). He then went back to rearrange the two suitcases and that included a trip for him to amman to buy more jameed, mixed nuts, and even knafeh to be frozen all day and out at the time of my departure from the house. I just got myself out of the whole thing. I wanted to spend more time with my family.

My other brother went out and got me two boxes of toot from “soog el7abalah” to munch on before my departure. Lunch was almost ready and my mom acted as if she was saying goodbye for a her little son. She started cooking early in the morning for my favorite dishes. There the fried stuffed kebbeh, the raw kebbeh that she learned from her mother allah yer7amha, and the usual bo3bo3ian tradition of mansaf and fattet jameed with lamb tongues. I just don’t know how am I supposed to eat all that and be ok on the airplane.

After lunch (late lunch) family members started leaving the house and saying goodbye to me. It was a sad day to many of us, if not all. I don’t know when I will see them again. My little sister insisted in staying late with me to the end. She sent her kids with daddy and stayed behind. I was munching on the toot as if there was no tomorrow. The clock moved so fast that it was about time to load the luggage into my brothers car. My flight is at midnight, so I told my father to stay in the house. That didn’t work of course as he insisted on going with me. So we ended up taking two cars. My father, my two brothers got into my father’s car. I went into my third brother’s car along with my two sisters. We headed out at about 9 pm that night. Driving on the airport street that night was a long trip for me as I started thinking about the future and how can I come back to this country for good.

I started watching everything that was happening on that street. Every car passed by, every store we passed, every turn we took, and every word we chatted during the trip were all recorded in my memory not to be removed. We got close to the airport, and I really needed to use the bathroom. As soon as we parked the cars, I rushed inside to the nearest bathroom. It’s the damn toot that is acting up now. I don’t know what it was as I ate too much of everything that day. We unloaded the luggage to inside the airport on one of the carts. It was about 10 pm now and everyone was standing and talking. I asked them to leave, and after I insisted, they agreed as long as I let them know that everything is ok.

I went through searching. I headed straight to the delta counter, and got my boarding pass after arguing with the lady at the counter. She was cute though. She wanted to charge me for extra weight (above 50 lb) and give me a regular seat. After I tried to educate her that elite members get automatic upgrade, and after she asked her manager, I was able to get my seat and the extra weight. Did I mention that she was cute? Ok I did. I went upstairs to the duty free shop, and waived goodbye to the family. A dude approached me trying to get me enter some kind of drawing to win a beautiful Mercedes that was parked right in front of the duty shop. I declined of course.

I got a bottle of perfume for the wife, and some candy for the house. I called my wife to let her know that I was in the airport. I then went to the smoking section in the airport and sat there for few minutes. Now it was time to head to the gate. Again went through another security check and then straight to the gate. As soon as they started boarding, I walked through to my seat. I was very tired so I did manage to catch 30 minutes or so of sleep while they were boarding the plane.

The moment came, and the plane took off. I started to look through the window with no luck of seeing any recognizable area. Then, it was pitch black as I knew we were over the sea. I can’t believe that I am leaving Jordan. I tried to go back to sleep, with no luck. My stomach was not comfortable. So I took out a book that I brought with me to read. It was a book about old Arabia and the evolution of modern day Arabia. I can’t remember the author but he is an arab scholar teaching in the states. Oh well…the book was exciting for the most part, and fabricated for few parts in there.

12 hours later, and at about 6 am local NY time, the plane arrived. There was another El-Al plane that had just arrived from tell aviv. It was a funny scenery when passengers from each plane converged and mixed to the custom booth. I got there, showed the passport, and went to pick up my luggage. Less than 15 minutes later, my luggage showed up. I picked them up and walked to the custom booth. Couple of questions later, the guy said “welcome home” and ushered me to go on. So I did, with two over weight luggage. I took my luggage to the connecting counter and got them checked in. I walked to the outside and started smoking. It’s only 7 am now. My connecting flight is at 2:40 PM. I have more than 7 hours. I wanted to get an earlier flight but with no luck. Monday is a bad day for travel in the states. I wish I knew anyone in NY to maybe go and visit and kill time. I was so tired to leave the airport. They changed the gate twice so far and that meant lots of walking back and forth. The clock is going so slow. I called work to check my messages. I then called my wife to let her know I was in NY. I didn’t wanna call her before 10 am to give her a little sleep.

The last thing I wanted to do is work on during my vacation. But I had lots of time to kill, so I started calling and doing work over the phone. Heck I even scheduled a conference call and got busy. That helped move the clock faster as it was now about 1 pm. I got some lunch in the airport and headed out to my gate. Soon after, I boarded the plane and started snoozing in the hot muggy day. I woke up half way to Indianapolis. Soon after, the plane started it’s descend. I walked outside the plan to the luggage counters. I called my wife to let her that I arrived and that she can come and pick me up. I got my suitcases and waited for her outside the airport on the curb side. I could see her car approaching…aaah…finally.

Leaving Jordan has left a big wound in me. The last two weeks made me a different person. I met lots of people and walked through the streets of my beloved home. The aroma of life in Jordan is something I can never experience in the states. It’s alive. There is always activity in there. You feel bored someday, you simply go visit a brother or a sister…or even a stranger that you met online. I can’t do that here. This trip has transformed into a different person. As funny or silly that may sound but it did. I am working on going back for good. I am seriously doing that. I expect that in 2 years, I will purchase one way tickets for my family to go and rest in peace. I just hate the thought that I may die one day and not find a brother or a sister stand over my grave, somehwre in USA to recite a verse from the Qur2an. What am I doing here? This question was a stranger to me, until I came back from Jordan. So..what am I doing here wasting my knowledge and life? I think I can better utilize what I have. I can see that day happening…..and very soon.

The above posts were not for entertainment, or to kill time posting on the web, but they were my morphine shots that took away the pain of leaving behind such a beautiful life. Enough with the drugs and pain killers for it’s time to perform a transforming surgery once and for all. I hope ya’al enjoyed reading what I have written over the past 2 weeks. I hope that it may have convinced someone out there to saddle his/her horse and take the long ride back home. I know I am. Funny how the song “I wanna go home” for Michael Buble’ is playing in the back of my head at this moment.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Two weeks in Heaven, Day 9, Monday

Not too many things to do today. I actually and deliberately kept today free of any commitments. I wanted to roam on my own. I asked my brother to drop me in the morning on his way to work somewhere on gardens street. He told me to wait when he is off to take me to places. I don't want to go to places. I just wanted to be alone. Not that I had enough with my family, but I wanted to satisfy my desires to be alone. After lots of debate, and after my father insisted to drive me anywhere I wished, I convinced them to leave me alone. I am not a kid for crying out loud. Their worries are that I will get lost somehwre. I mean come on people, I travel a lot to strange places and I can take care of myself. Nevertheless, I felt special for a change.

He dropped me by a bridge next to a big supermarket (safeway or that sort). Actually, it was probably 1/2 km away from jabri ..I think. At any rate, I started walking on this street. Under the bridge, there was a small grocery store. I stopped to pick up a pack of cigarette. If only my wife finds out that I smoke, she would do kill me. I stopped smoking, officially, about 7 months ago. Yet, when I travel, I buy a pack to ease my stress. I know I am not making sense, or giving a justification, but I felt that cigarettes ease up my stress when I'm alone. When I go back home, I stop smoking and it doesn't bother me at all.

I sat on the side of this small store, and took one cigarette out, and started huffing and puffing. I then got up and started walking. This was about 8 am. Lots of cars in the street. I didn't know what to do or where to go. I then passed by alkal7ah restaurant. I wasn't hungry at all. But it brought back some memories. I continued walking not caring about food. Strange...I know. And then it hit me. I stopped a taxi (which was very difficult). I asked him to take me to the bus station where I can take a buss to zarqa. He started asking me if I was not from here; as if he didn't figure it out yet from my question. I said yes, but I do come here every year just to hint to him that he won't be able to trick me with a higher charge.

On the way, and after I told him I was from the states, he started chatting. Same questions that I hear almost every day. Swine flu, politics, and how can anyone immigrate to America. I think there is a big misconception about things in America. I mean why would anyone suggest that the US government deliberately renamed "pig’s flu" to H1N1 or some kind of number just to cover-up the negative effect of eating pork? Seriously, this is the third time I heard that there is a name cove up. His rational was that the government didn't attempt to cover up mad cow disease with some kind of number system, so why this "pigs flu"? Oh this discussion is giving me a big headache. Regardless, he was a nice man.

Got to the station about 20 minutes later. Not too far from the city center. I went then to a buss that goes to zarqa. I do have an uncle that my father doesn't speak to. He is actually my father's immediate cousin. They argued about some stupid family stuff 2 years ago and are still not talking to each others. I do like this uncle of mine. I hope my father wouldn't get angry for me going to visit him. I mean he offered to take me to see him. I just wanted to see him alone, without my father.

I got to zarqa, which changed a lot, and took a taxi to Alsa3adah Street. My uncle has a small shop there as his retirement shop. I was dropped at Alsa3adah Street and started walking. There used to be a movie theater there called Alhamra Theater. It used to show 3 movies for one ticket back 25 years ago when we used to visit home from the UAE. I had a cousin where we used to sneak outside the house and go watch some movies. I couldn't find the theater. I can't remember on what street it was. Anyway, I got to the shop. I walked inside. I could see my uncle sitting behind the counter while a worker was cutting shawarma for some customer. It smelled good, but I wasn't hungry. I said hello, but he didn't recognize me. I love his kashrah. I hope that no tourist ever get in his restaurant because he will get a very bad impression about the good old Jordanian smile. Who am I kidding, everyone has the same kashrah. He asked me what I wanted to eat or drink, and I said "come on uncle, you can't have that bad of a memory. He then recognized that I was a member of the family...but still didn't know who. I told him who I was and he couldn't believe it.

He then started complaining why my father wouldn't let him know that I was in the country, especially that my vacation is so short. I told him to forget about it and let’s chat. His immediate comments were "are you ok in here? No problems with the government? Do u need any assistance?" I laughed and told him to relax; I had no troubles getting in the country. And yes I renewed the passport and I am ok. Still the shawarma smell was bugging me as my stomach was grinding. I told him I could use a sandwich, but he said "are you crazy, I won't feed you here. Let’s go home".

So we went to street number 16 in "new zarqa". His house is there. We got there and greeted his wife. His little daughter is now a teenager. And she is beautiful, yet he is one of the ugliest uncles I have, and most are ugly. His wife is cute. She started preparing lunch. He eats heavy. He is heavy anyway. There was mo3lag and some hummus and other stuff. He sure makes a hell of a hummus. After this heavy lunch, we sat and started talking about the family. His approach was that he has had it with this family of ours and that he is happy away from everyone. "Those who want me, they can find me" was his answer to most of my questions. I didn't wanna press too much on this as I was here in zarqa to see him. My phone started ringing and it was my brother asking me where I was and if I needed any ride. I told him I am fine and don't worry about it. Didn't realize that it was after 3 pm now. Time flies by too fast. I excused myself to go home, and he insisted to drive me to tabarboor. I asked him that I had more things to do before I could go home. Again he insisted to take me to those places. I refused and told him that I may not see him again this trip but I will sure come and see him when I come back to Jordan.

So he drove me to Amman and dropped me in Mecca street...or maybe almadina street by three grocery stores people refer to them as "soog el7awamel" I was told once that if I wanted to find toot or any rare fruit not in it's season, I will find them in one of those three stores. I wish I could remember the street name. Anyway, I walked in the first place, and this young Egyptian man came asking what I was looking for. I hope that I don't look pregnant to this guy. Before I could answer him, I saw toot. Oh God, I can't believe it. I love this fruit. I bought me two small boxes, and a small box of apricots on the spot. I waited for a taxi to take me home. I got home at about 6 pm that afternoon holding my bounty. I rushed into the kitchen and washed the fruit and started digging while everyone was laughing. They asked where did I find this, and I said "soog el7awamel". They didn't know that I know about that mysterious market. My uncle told me about it in zarqa.

I told my father that I visited my uncle, and he quickly changed his face. I quickly apologized for him but told him that even though I recognize the differences, but that’s my uncle, and that God knows if I ever see him again. He overcame that and actually was happy to hear that I cared about the family. I have to care.....I don't get to see them often, unlike my parents. Not too long after that, the same uncle of mine called my father telling him that he was gonna pick up another uncle of mine (the one near jabal alqosoor) and come and spend the evening here. Of course my father couldn't say no.

Both showed up about an hour later with playing cards. Now, I let my uncle beat me twice so far, and that’s it. So I teamed up with my father against the two. My father takes cards way too serious, so I made sure that I do not make any error, and I was clean that night. On the one hand, I got my revenge against that uncle of mine, and on the other hand, my father felt good beating his least in playing cards. I hope that this be a start of the relationships to go back to some kind of normality between the two. I really wish.

It was now 11 pm, and my mom was asking me if I was hungry. I started jumping and saying "mom..please..stop talking about food...please". Actually, a box of toot can do wonders to your stomach. I felt that I was getting sick from it. I think it makes your stomach not holding food for too long as I was rushing back and forth to the bathroom.

Oh is passt midnight now and I am exhausted. I walked a lot today. I had lots of fun. I think I did.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

two weeks in Heaven, Day 14

Day 13, Friday
I woke up with a headache this morning. Maybe because it’s getting very close to fly back to the states. I don’t what is going on, but anyway, I just feel a little tired this morning. As much as I heard about the swine flu, I feel that I am infected. Oh well. I walked outside my room, trying to open my eyes, and saw my mom in the kitchen. “Morning mom”, I said. She greeted me with a freshly brewed coffee from the coffee maker that I sent to them a year ago from the states. As if she was preparing me for the inevitable return to my “normal”, but not so normal, life. I sat across from her in the kitchen as she was preparing homemade mo3ajjanat. What is it with the obsession with food in this family? But my sister assured me days before that the past few days, and since I arrived to amman, life in the house has transformed. What I’m seeing is only happening because of me, and that people, family, brothers, uncles, etc only gather in the house because of me. So I take it that the moment I leave, mom and dad will back to the isolation life that they live? She said “and more”.

That’s sad. I really enjoyed the family gathering. The most important reason that I am truly thinking to go back is because of this family life that I lack. What these people know that they have a treasure. Come and live in my life. You are bored one day, you won’t be able to go visit your sister or brother. You are feeling lonely, you can’t call your mom to come and spend few days with you. You are feeling sick, no sisters around to come and help sooth your life. How can they not see such treasure? Well, I once heard my father say that a kid eating chocolates every day, and you offer him chocolates or a piece of bread, chances are he will chose the bread. I feel that they have a treasure, but you can not value a treasure unless you are deprived of it.

Ma3aleena, today is going to be a family day and I intend to enjoy every moment of it, whatever happens. I just hope that I don’t eat food a lot today. For a change…maybe…I just hope.
I have four brothers. My eldest brother lives in the UAE. I am second. My younger two brothers live upstairs in their apartments that Dad built. One of those two brothers doesn’t pray. I tried, but he is just stubborn. I don’t know why. His wife prays and she is very conservative. Allah yehdeeh. So, he didn’t go to Friday prayer. Instead, he went to pick up the food from “qasr almandi”. You see, the day before we sent a lamb to qasr almandi to make 3 big mandi dishes. I wanted to make sure that the meat was baladi, so we did the slaughter a day before. Anyways, he wanted to go and pick up the food. He was also supposed to go and pick up my older brother from his house. The one who lives in the UAE but has a house in amman. My father, my other brother, and I went to the mosque, We drove there.

Here is another treasure that we don’t have, yet, the locals may not value as it should be valued. It’s the mosque. You get to sit down in a mosque, on a Friday, where no shop is open (almost) and every man, child is in the mosque. You get to hear a Friday lecture in Arabic. You don’t get to worry about looking at your watch to get back to work. You get to feel the comfort of the mosque. What I would do for such life every Friday. Nevertheless, you get to see weird things again in the mosque. Well, not all weird. There were lots of soldiers in this mosque. Why not as there were a couple of camps left in tabarboor. Big change over the past 20 years or so. There was also this old man wearing a mouth cover, like the one we say the Chinese wearing during bird flu epidemic few years ago. Are you kidding me 7ajji? Please tell me that you are not worried from swine flu in tabarboor. Maybe he was being cautions that’s all. I don’t know but I didn’t like seeing such thing in Jordan. Oh well.

We finished the prayer and headed back to the car, and ultimately to the house. My other brother was still in the house. I yelled at him for not going to prayer. So he left to pick up my other brother, and then we were supposed to bring the food at about 3 pm. And that’s what happened. At about 3 pm, I left with him, and my older brother to get the food and the needed stuff. We stopped at habiba and got two big knafeh dishes, one kheshneh and one na3meh. Came back home to find the rest of the family around. We let the women do their thing as men sat outside in the back yard chatting. My father was guarding his trees from the attack of the children. Every time they come here, they destroy. The poor man needed help, so I called on the children, which was many, and took them aside. I challenged them to sit quiet for 30 minutes and I’ll go and get them candy from the store next door. That worked wonders.

There we are. The four brothers, Mom and dad, all alone in the back yard, as my two brothers in law, the one who just came from Canada a day earlier, and the one who owns his little factory stepped aside to chat. I leaned at my two younger brothers and told them to continue this habit. Maybe we need to establish an every Friday family gathering. I told them I am welling to sponsor that financially, if it is the problem. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem is that they couldn’t see through my eyes the value of such gathering. I could see big smiles at my parent’s faces. Tell me that this is not worth it? Both were complaining about life and work. Nevertheless, they promised to at least do a monthly thing. You know what? I’ll take it one step at a time.

Food is ready. Men in guest room, women in the living room, and children in the kitchen being supervised by a woman on a 10 minute shift. This was the attack plan to minimize the destruction and damage to the house. It worked. The food was delicious. My brother in law bragged that he was the one who picked the meat. We sat down and ate, and had lots of fun. Everyone was joking and enjoying the moment. I felt that my mom was full of joy as she was joking with the two brother in laws who were trying to pick on her by saying things about her daughters. By 5 pm, the knafeh was being served. I wish I took so many pictures that day because it was a day to remember. A family gathering where everyone was happy. One of the children came and reminded me about the store next door. So I took about 16 little children, went to the store next door, made them form a line outside, and one by one, they walked in picked one thing and walked outside. The owner was laughing, and so did I. I told him about the reason and he said “you should do this more often” laughing. So the troops went back home, in one line, to the house, and I had to guard them making sure that they threw the wrappers in the garbage and not in the front yard.

It was singing time. The brother in law who just arrived from Canada started singing. Everyone was singing along some traditional songs. Mixed ones. I was leaning back on one of the chairs, with a fake smile to try and hide my sadness and sorrow for not having such a wonderful moments in my life. I should enjoy this moment while it lasts, for such family moments are very rare in my life. To be honest, I was tearing up a part inside and felt rivers of tears flowing, but only inside. I needed to step outside for some fresh air..or maybe some poisonous tobacco. As I light my cigarette, I remembered how I used to argue with my wife that a man shedding a tear to other than God is a sign of weakness, for it’s ok to be weak in front of God only. I wished that could shed one tear..a real outside flowing tear, to express my emotions that night, and tried to force myself to do that, yet, myself was trained to resist and fight such emotions. I just couldn’t…but I wanted to. I started another cigarette as my Canadian brother ion law came to check on me. This was the same one that received me in the airport when I decided to go back and see my family back in the nineties after being away for many years. He is slick and I hate it when he tries to analyze me. I bet he knows how I am feeling right now. I just wish he shuts up and not talk. He said “by the way, the jameed will be here tomorrow morning, straight from madaba”. I laughed, and so did he. He was leaving to Lebanon tomorrow and he is the one that usually arrange for the best jameed on earth to get to my hand.

The night was getting closer to end..or so I thought. Everyone left home. I received a call from a friend of mine whom I didn’t see in 6 years since he left the states back to Jordan. He had just arrived from the airport and his mom told him that I asked about him upon my arrival. He came and picked me up. “Where to” he asked? I said “maaaan, lets go to coffee shop and sit down..I wanna talk to u about good old times”. He refused and we drove to reem albawadi. I told him that I had just finished a mandi and knafeh fest. He refused and insisted on me eating. This obsession in food is very contagious in Jordan. We had little mashawi as we talked about home, country, and the land. He told me to come back home and that he will do everything he can to assure a better life for me. I know he is capable of such thing. I really want to come home.

After 3 hours, he drove me back home and wanted to say hello to my father. He loves my father, as my father was teaching his back in the Jordanian military school. We sat down and chatted. When I asked about how his wife is doing, he said that she has flue and is sick at home. I yelled at the man for leaving his wife and hanging out with me. I kicked him outside and was angry at him. I said goodbye to this man not knowing when I will see him again. He promised to come and visit me in the states when he comes here again.

At about 12 midnight, the house is now suddenly quiet. No one but me, my sister, and my parents. I headed to my room and got ready for sleep. I started to visualize the activities of the day again and again to make sure that my brain memorizes it perfectly. I don’t want to forget any moment from today. The one thing that was missing from today was that my wife called today and I wasn’t around. She calls every day to give me the daily report, and gets mine as well. I’ll call first thing tomorrow. Tomorrow I am invited at my older brother’s home, and so my brothers and sisters and their spouses, exactly like today. Not bad bo3bo3…two memorable days back to back. Good night ya’al/

two weeks in Heaven, Day 13

I'm gonna skip couple of days for now.

I got the call earlier from ala that we’ll have our meeting tonight. Sometime around 8 pm. However, I was supposed to visit my uncle in the morning..closer to lunch time. I am also supposed to go with my brother in law to slaughter a lamb for a dinner fest on Friday in my parents home. I wanted to invite my sisters, brothers, and their families for a dinner. At any rate, today is supposed to be a very busy day.
It started with me and my father visiting my uncle. We got there about 10 am. Again, there seem to be some obsession with food in this family of mine. The visit was just to say hello and spend couple of hours with the guy. Instead, he planned barbeque. At 10 am…barbeque? I couldn’t say no. I really wanted to say no. I honestly did. Regardless, we spent good time in his house. They have a maid from indonisia…or that sort. She wears the veil. Such a lovely face. Another example of the many houses in Jordan that do not need maids, yet, they have. I mean my uncle lives with his wife..and I don’t see the need for a maid. Oh well, this is the norm these days there.
We got back to the house at about 1 pm. I rushed with my sister to go to marj el7amam to catch my brother in law before he leaves the house. He was still sleeping at that time. So we get there as soon as we could. He was ready to leave. The plan was that I go with him to slaughter the lamb, since he knows good places for that, and then come back to his house, and then my sister and I go home before 8 pm. Sounds like a good plan….simple. That’s what I thought initially. We went to his small factory somewhere in amman. I was impressed by his small place, and the fact that he is building himself. We sat in the office. I told him that we need to leave. He agreed. Well, not so fast. Two visitors arrive to the factory. They started talking about business plans. After about an hour, they left. My brother in law and I head out to this place to slaughter. Got my eye on a small lamb, barely 26 kg whole. The dude did his job, and within 5 minutes, we were heading out as the butcher told us to come back in 2 hours after the meat cools down. My brother in law wanted to take me to city center. He spoke highly of a restaurant down there, called shahrazad. I was full, but he wanted me to try something different. We drove down to city center. This was about 5 pm now. We got to the restaurant

There, we ordered some 3arayes. I just wanted to eat 3arayes there as I heard so good things about that place. He ordered an additional 2 kg mixed grilled meat, 1 for him and 1 for me. It tasted so good. I couldn’t finish. He kept on pressing. I was begging for mercy. He ended up winning. I ate the whole damn kg mashawi. We then walked in the center. We took some steps that made me feel like an old man. We arrived to the parking garage, picked up his car, and drove out. On one of the traffic lights, a man crossing the street stopped in front of our car. He was talking to another man that didn’t cross yet. The light turns green. We sound the horn. He doesn’t even look at us. My brother in law drives the car slowly to hit the guy. The dude gets mad and slams his hands against the hood of our car. My brother in law rushes out with a small ganwa on the side. He aims to hit the guy..and the guys backs away apologizing. This is all new to me. This is strange. No one has any patience in this country?

We drove back to the butcher house, and got our lamb. Drove back to marj el7amam. My sister was waiting in the car outside. We rushed home. I wanted to use the bathroom at my sisters house, but we just didn’t have time. I have to be home at 8 pm. We drive fast back to the house. We got there at about 8 pm. I rushed quickly to the bathroom. I could swear that I lost 2 kg in that one trip to the bathroom. So I call ala, and he said that he will be there in couple of minutes.

Standing in front of our home, hiding behind a wall, smoking a cigarette fearing that my father see me. Enigma and ala show up. I got in their car, and all three of us drove away. I didn’t know where we were going. I was hoping to have a very late dinner. I can barely breath. 5 minutes into the drive, I decided to put on the seat belt. These guys drive crazy in this country. Nothing worse than to ride in a car where Enigma drives, and ala gives direction as where to go. We now headed to the airport. We meet up with Sa2ed on the way. We got to this nice park, the park of the king of Bahrain…such a long name.

There, Hector comes to the gate to lead us to the camp area. So we get there. Nice park. So I get to have mashawi for the third time today. I couldn’t tell the guys about my experience today. So I kept quiet. Some of us sat down, some started lighting heeisheh, and some started to grill the meat. Hector had a friend with him. The smell of barbeque is so overwhelming. We talked about everything. A third friend of hector also showed up few minutes later. It was about 10 pm now and the food is flooding the big dish that is in front of us. I sat next to ala, which is not a good idea as the food was disappearing fast there. We then started telling jokes. None of the jokes that were told that night can be told in here. The night was crisp. There was a group sitting not too far from us. They were a little loud…singing and dancing. Luckily, we were not sitting too far from the bathrooms. I needed to be close. The problem, there was a dog between me and the bathroom. I had to carry a long stick, just in case the dog develops a good taste for human meat.Toward the end of the night, most of us were cold and obsessed with the red burning charcoal. We gathered around the two grills, and stayed warm. It was cold that night.

At about 1 am, we decided to call the night off. We headed out, and off we go. I was home about 1:30 am thanks to Enigma’s driving. Tomorrow is also going to be a busy day as we are having lots of people coming over. My brother just arrived from the UAE to see me. Last time I saw him was 13 years ago. My other brother in law also arrived a day earlier from Canada. So it will be a busy day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 7, Saturday

Today was the day that I head to the city center in amman. In the morning, we, my sister and I, headed out to a restaurant I think called alia. I could be wrong. It was on the university street. The plan was to get mo3ajjanat, so we did. Headed home to find that my brother already got falafel and hommus from a tabarboorian restaurant. Can’t remember the name as well. We gathered around the kitchen table for breakfast.

My father was as usual taking care of his trees. He brought me some eski denia, which we don’t have in the states. I even forgot what kind of fruit is that, or if there were any seeds inside. So I took a big bite and felt a bunch of big black seeds. It tasted so sour of course. But it tasted good since it was he himself who picked them up.

Closer towards lunch, my brother , sister, and I got into the car and drove to the city center. It was raining a and on of course. We parked the car on the main street there, few hundred meters before a mosque. We walked down the street. This is the Jordan I left many years ago. The sound of corn horns, the smell of diesel, the traffic, the angry policeman, the tourists…all that and more.

As we were walking, I asked where is hashem restaurant. I wanted to eat in the same restaurant that the king and his family ate at. There it was. A small restaurant with a bout 4 tables or so. So I asked what is the signature dish of Hashem, and they told me it was the hommus. Hommus it was. I always wished to eat in the old style restaurants, where you have to fight away the flies off of your plate. I loved it I swear.

Then we went walking towards this place for souvenirs. I bought few shapes of petra (that’s what they know in Jordan), two small argeeleh, and few more shapes, one of them was der3 kollana al2ordon and another was the picture of jerusalim, a 3D picture. Wow. All that was only for 40 dinars. But my sister was not done yet. So she started to negotiate with the worker there for a better price. I stepped aside since we don’t do that in the states. She managed to get him to give us 5 JD discount. I was counting the money to give the guy. She then asked him for something weird. I never heard of it before. A term called “hadeyyeh 3albee3ah”. I gave my sister a look to please leave the guy alone. She pushed me back and told me let me handle it. The guy looked at me with looks begging to put an end to this. I told him “dude, I’m from the states and have nothing to do with this”. She managed to get couple of shirts displaying the flag,.

We walked outside to this area with lots of cloth shops..traditional cloths. I wanted to buy a gown for zaid, and a small dress for my daughter. We found this beautiful gown and I wanted it. She asked the salesman about the price, and he said 7 JD, but for her, it’s 6. She wanted 5, and I was like “are u kidding me? Let it go”. The guy pulled the gown away and said “sorry” so we walked outside. She was angry at how he treated her. We looked more for a store that has the same gown. We found this guy saying it was 8 JD. I told my sister “see, if we got that one, we would’ve been better off”. We didn’t buy it. My sister said that even if the first salesman gave it free to us, we shouldn’t take it. It’s a matter of principles. What principles?
So I went to this place, and the guy was pulling us inside to look. I said “man, I’m looking for other things”. He insisted on us to enter his shop. Nice dresses..traditional ones. But I didn’t want that. He then pulled this I quickly fell in love with it. He saw that in my eyes. How much is that I asked. He said 25 JD. I wanted it so bad. He then started to pull dresses for my wife, and I again fell in love with another one. I wanted both so bad now. He informed me that if I was not 100% convinced in buying them, then don’t. He was nice in a way. I wanted them. So he said 20 JD for the little one, and 30JD for the larger one. Not bad. But wait a minute, here comes my sister again. She was slick this time. She told the guy that he is the face of Jordan and that people (like me) who come as tourists would need to see the true face of Jordan. The guy smiled and said 45JD for both. My sister again asked him “ween elkaram el2orduni?”. He laughed, and so did I. I ended up getting them for 40 JD.

I still need a gown for my son. We went to this place..small place, next to a ma7ma9eh. The guy pulled us in..asked what we were looking for, and pulled this emarati gown. He said 15 JD. My sister said that she just found one for 6 JD. He said tat he too has a one for 6 JD, a Chinese one. I loved his way of sale. He started going down…13…12..10 JD. I pulled my money and started to count..stopped at 9 JD..he said “haaat ya zalameh zahhagtni 7ayaati, mabrook” while laughing outloud.

We walked back to the car..but before doing so, I wanted to see the original habiba. I always heard stories about it a legend? Is it realty? There it was…a small..very small place. No room to sit..or even stand. U buy the knafeh and u walk away. So I did. Ate it in the car.

It was about 7 pm now. I asked my sister to drop me about 1 km away from home, right next to the po box of tabarboor. I started walking home…thinking about this life of mine. What would it take for me to come back here? Why am I still there? How can I utilize my knowledge and life to serve this land of mine? Silly me, I started thinking about a letter to send to the king to share with him my concerns and my vision for a Jordan that fully utilizes the expertise and the services of it’s people. It’s a duty on me to do so. So I started to build what is going to be the content of my letter. Would the king even bother reading a letter from an unknown Jordanian stuck in foreign land? Maybe I brushed it off. Sometimes, when you are thinking under the influence of emotions, you tend to get into silly ideas.

As I walked past thye small mosque next to arab bank, on the curb, I saw this nice family. A papa, a mama, and one little girl, walking in the opposite direction of mine. I started to wonder why can’t I be sufficient like this guy and come and live here. I mean he may be unhappy at home..or maybe broke…or maybe barely living. But his walk with his family is what I am missing. I want to have the luxury of walking..and then stopping for falafel..or maybe some icecream…and cross the street running fearing a car hitting me…and maybe buy a kg of tomato or zucchini on my way home. That’s the normal life that I miss.

To be fair to myself, I have decided to seriously explore the opportunities for me to come back and settle here. I need it. I just can’t continue living a life that is not meant for me. Oh my…time flies by so fast. I have reached our home. I sat outside next to the eski denia tree and started looking across the house, through the backyard and watch people walking driving by…mountains in the back distance..and there it was, the big Jordanian flag from a distance. So depressing..ain’t it. But there was my uncle inside screaming at me to come in and play cards as he liked how he beat my whachamacallit the other day. So I got beaten again. The taste of loss is so sweet, when the winner is my uncle and my father. Let them be happy about how they beat me in cards, only if they know I was much much happier seeing them that moment. Good night now for the final count down has started as I reached the midpoint of my short but lovely vacation.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Two weeks in heaven, Day Six

At about 10 am, I woke up on the noises of ne of my nieces yelling at the door. The smell of freshly made coffee was allover the place. I can’t open my eyes as I woke slowly toward the bathroom. I needed a shower so bad, and that’s not because I stink. It’s just the power of shower water on the mind set of a man. Water here in Jordan flows little compared with the water in the states. I can easily spend 30 minutes under hard flowing water and never feel a time lost. But here, the water looked like barely flowing from the shower head. I felt bad for the people in Jordan and wished they enjoy the hard flowing water as w do.
The deal was that I go pray with my brother in law in the nearest mosque, and then head to my other sister’s house. So my brother in law and I left to the nearest mosque. My brother in law wasn’t enthusiastic that we were gonna be on time as he called the imam of that specific mosque “abu sree3” for he finishes prayers quickly. We drove to another mosque, a couple of kilometers away. We got there in time. We spent about 15 minutes listening to the lecture and then there was the prayer call. It feels good to be in a mosque that is crowded and no room to sit. Mosques in America have barely few rows filled.
After the prayer was over, we walked outside the mosque into the main street that connects marj el7amam with amman. I could see the signs on the road directing cars to amman, airport, and madaba. There were plenty of cars parked on the street selling vegetables and fresh produce. There were also sellers having their goods on the ground. Toys, plastic products, and even apparel products were amongst the main products sold. Another guy with a station making karabeej 7alab. I couldn’t smell the aroma, it was too much for me visioning deep fried dough. Yet, there was a long line for that.
We continued to his car and drove back to his house. My sister was waiting for me to drive to my other sister’s home. So we said good buy to the family (and the three little angels) and drove to our next destination. It was about ..umm…about 4 km away. On the way, we drove through marj el7amam. I liked the outlay of the city (except that one small round about I think on main street there). As we passed the market place, where they sell fruits and vegetables, I saw a shepherd with his sheep grazing around the market. At last, I saw what I missed the most. I used to see the same in tabarboor in the past, but not any more. It’s a shame, if you ask med.
So we arrived at my third sister’s home. She is older than me by about 4 years. Heck, her oldest daughter has two twin girls that were born 2 years ago. They don’t look like each others that much. Maybe when they grow a little more, they may develop a more look alike faces. Sat down in the front yard and started talking. My niece married this dude from hebron. So I have to not joke about khalayleh at all in his presence. He is nice, but his accent is funny. No offence to my beloved khalayleh friends of course. There, my parents were also waiting. My brother dropped him off and went to his in laws in na3oor.
Here is a thing about my nephews and nieces of this sister. They have adopted their father’s family name (which is normal of course) and they have developed this pride and ego that such name carries. I don’t wanna mention the family name, but they hold higher status (not in my opinion as I see them thieves in the west bank) amongst others. So, they brag about that name. I on the other hand, find that to be always an opportunity to hammer them and point how such name is associated with corruption. Even my brother in law is leas was in the past at a minimum. Still, those are my family…my blood..even if they felt that the other family’s name is bigger, or better.
Food time has come. Here is the thing. I’m not a foodaholic as I may have sounded in these posts. No…but my family is. Somehow, food has become the main reason to get family members around to see each others. So, we go inside to this big dining room table..I mean big…I mean it served 12 chairs on a normal setting. The main dish was “msakhan” as my sister perfected the dish. There is a saying in the family that when we wanna eat msakhan, we go to marj el7amam to visit my sister. There were regular flat taboon msakhan, and there were the rolls msakhan. There was also kaftah (for the khaleeli dude as he doesn’t like msakhan). On the far side on the table, there were the other regular small dishes that my family have consistently put in every food invitation. Grape leaves/zucchini and kebbeh. There was also a lamb magloobah for those who didn’t like chicken in msakhan. I got to try all of course. I don’t wanna go in details about what I did on the table, but I’m sure the picture is already developed clear.
My sister also makes great knafeh and gollaj. Figure…my day can never be easier can it now. I couldn’t eat a lot so she made me take a dish home with me. But I wasn’t going home yet. Of to Na3oor now to the in laws of my brother. We got there few minutes later. I remember visting this family 4 years ago when I last visited. Very nice family, and very basic. The father greeted me wonderfully. He started showing me the two stories he built for his two sons. Beautiful. Very respectful man. We went all the way to the roof, and wow, he prepared a beautiful setting for the family to get together in summer nights. He pointed across the street to this beautiful home/palace, and all the gardens around it. It’s supposed to be for an emir from Qatar, and a TV producer as well. The hills around. the scenery, the wind, the fresh air..all was good. I wish I can go back and live in Jordan…one day.
Couple of hours later, his brother came to visit him. He started introducing me to his brother and family so honorably as if I was his kid. As if this man is taking honor of being related, via nasab, to me. I never felt so special in my life, as I did there. It bothered me as I am not used at such treatment. Again, topics like the swine flue and the aggression of America dominated the discussions. His brother then started talking about the 67 war. My father got incolved as well as both started reflecting on the past. I needed to smoke, so I winked at my brother to call me to the kitchen.
I went there, and there were two beautiful girls. I turned around and excused myself, but my brother told me that it’s ok and not be shy. I lit cigarette and started chatting with the young girls about everything. The two were in the university. Smart and educated girls. My sister was there and so was my brother and his wife. They asked how much I gained over the past 5 days, and I said maybe 2 or 3 kg. One of the girls got me a scale and said here prove it. All laughing, I got on the scale, and bam….4 kg….oh my God…how can that be. Mrs bo3bo3 will kill me. I had lovely 10 minutes and smoked 2 cigarettes, then went back to sit with the guys. They are still talking about the war.
The night was almost over, and we excused ourselves. My sister wanted to drive her car, but my father said “you wouldn’t know your way through these narrow streets, so let me get you to the main road. After trying to convince dad to drive all the way to tabarboor, she gave in. She suggested to him to go and ride with my brother, but he refused as well. I was wondering why wouldn’t she want him sitting next to her. He drove like crazy through the dark small streets. I got scared myself, especially when he says “or those lights of a car, or a house on the side of the road”. That is scary. Is he able to even see the road, if he can’t distinguish the lights?
We got to the main highway, and I was relieved. My sister was not. So as she took the wheels, he started telling her to go to the left lane..then right lane..then avoid a speed trap by the bridge..then take the left lane to avoid the traffic coming into the highway..then take the right lane..then take this side street to avoid traffic..then…then… Now I know the rest of the story. We got to the house and she told my father “please, never ride next to me again” smiling of course.
It’s about 11 pm now. I have no schedule tomorrow. My sister wants to take me to carfour mall and then to visit my uncle in jabal alqosoor. I also wanted to relax a bit. So, we’ll see what tomorrow holds for me. But now, I’m tired knowing that I just gained 4 kg in 5 days.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two weeks in heaven, Day Five

Day 5, Thursday

My youngest sister reserved today for her. Tomorrow is for my older sister. Both live in marj el7amam. So it should play very well. In addition, my brother in laws wanted to invite me to their humble home in na3oor. I like that family. So I figured two nights in marj el7amam should do this. As the traditions dictate, I stopped at “Arafat” pastry shop to pick up a couple of cans of sweets. We left our home in tabarboor at about 12 noon on Thursday. My mom prepared some kebbeh to take with her. Earlier that week, my sister asked if I preferred to go out to eat as her husband wanted to take the whole family to some of those big restaurants outside of amman and on jarash’s way. I prefer to eat in the house.
In Arafat, my single sister, the one that lives with my parents, and I went inside the store. As you all can see, my appetite is overwhelming. I bought two cans of baglawah. It looked good as gifts. But my eyes were set on hareeseh on the far right corner of the store. The guy working there saw me and offered a small sample. But he doesn’t know that I want much more. So I bought ½ kilo to snack on the road to marj el7amam.
My father doesn’t like to drive during the nights, so the deal was that he will drive us there, and my sister will drive back. My brother was supposed to follow us at 3 pm when he gets off work, along with his wife and beautiful two daughters and little son. So my father wanted to drive my sister’s car, a small hundai, like ala’s car. Maybe a newer one. My sister got greedy and pressed on my father to drive the Mercedes that he just bought, thanks to the recent Jordanian law cancelling the tariffs on cars for retired officers in the Jordanian army. My father won of course, and we got in the hundai. But I gotta give it for my sister for she tried hard enough.
We got to my youngest sister at about 1:30 pm. The three little angels greeted us with joy. My sister promised a surprise. It turned out to be “67alat”. I don’t eat that anywhere. That’s the damn filter for the liver. It’s yuckie. But she promised that it will be different. When my wife came and visited last year, she spoke highly of the 67alat that my sister makes. My father never changed. He does the same things he did in our house here in the states when he visited last year. There he is in the kitchen frying the kebbeh. My mom is preparing it for him. My sister is working on the stuffed 67alat, and the liver.
It’s food time (what a surprise). The 67alat look so damn good. There are so many of them. So I tried them, and my God, they tasted so damn good. I couldn’t stop. I tried some of that baked liver, and went back to the 67alat again. One after another, I couldn’t stop. No kebbeh and no more liver. Just 67alat. I may have eaten 4 or 5 whole ones that day. Again, as usual, I laid back on the couch complaining about my stomach.
My brother in law wanted to show me something. We went outside. He actually wanted to take me away from my father so I can smoke a Marlboro or two. He has a beautiful setting outside. We sat down, and then he pointed west towards some hills. He said “that’s Palestine..and you can actually see Jericho from here. I looked closely and yes I could see the promised land. What a beautiful site. The teat then came and wow, what a scenery.
At about 5 or 6 pm, my father wanted to go home. So my brother took my parents with him and they left home. My sister and I stayed behind. Soon after, my brother in law went out to drive in marj el7amam. We got to alqadi pastry shop and had small portion of knafeh. There is no place in my stomach at all. We then got to this coffee shop and sat there. He is 31 years old, but very active. He now owns a small plastic factory that he started from scratch. I admire his persistence to achieve. He only has a high school diploma, but had to quit college to support his mom and brothers. I remember when he proposed to my sister, he didn’t even have the money to buy the gold. But my father had a good vision in men, and he helped him stand up on his feet. Now, he is standing up and providing for many people.
While we were at the coffee shop, his brother showed up. His brother sounded like a loser that lives in the states. No consistent job and always in trouble. I felt that he was like a typical arab American. Oh well, who cares. I was enjoying the chat with my brother in law. He even got to my mind an idea to go back to Jordan and start a small plastic factory. This is how he started, and he offered to provide as much assistant as he could, especially in regulations and connections in Jordan. To tell you the truth, I was convinced for a moment, but who am I kidding…I suck when it comes to business.
We stopped at a small store on the way back to his house, and we picked juicy hot roasted penuts. What is it with people in Jordan and food? I mean easy. I bet I am now 3 kg heavier in the past 4 days. Oh well, we got back and we sat down chatting and munching. The three little girls started arguments as who loves uncle bo3bo3 more. So I played a little with them..hide and seek, and watch out for the bo3bo3..,monster. Actually, this is how I got my nickname, is when I was chasing zaid when he was little and mom would tell him “watch the bo3bo3, he is after you”. Sounds like corrupted family that terrorizes children…but we are not.
There was a movie….about a prisoner who is dumped in an island, and on the island, there were two factions of prisoners..the good and the evil. An old movie if you ask me. So I mentioned that I saw this movie years ago. They watched and were excited. At about 1 am, they all were tired, so all three asked me to tell them the ending so they can go to bed. So…I did. My brother in law and I slept in the guests room, and we locked the door fearing that the kids, who slept at 9 pm, would be up early and bug us.
Tomorrow, I am visiting my older sister. The last time I was in Jordan, she was in dubai during the shopping event. I love her so much….and I hate her husband so much. Thank god he is in abu dhabi for work so I don’t get to see his face. See ya’al tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I don’t eat this much again. Maybe I will.