Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blogging Therapy

I decided that affiliating my real name to this blog might have not been the best idea ever.  I wish I could be more anonymous in order to have real blogging therapy.  Yet, this was the route I chose so I must deal with the outcome.

Am I inadequate? Probs. Or maybe not at all... we were all made with the ability to do literally anything and everything we need to do.  The universe is folded up inside my soul right? Yep... why abase myself? Because sometimes on cloudy rainy days when your stomach makes weird noises, a person tends to be a Debby Downer.

Can't love just leave me alone for a minute? I'm young, impressionable, and lonely.  I feel like Jordanian culture pushed me into a trap of longing for a relationship, which makes for innocent victims and broken hearts.  When there are people in your life you can see yourself building a family with, a life, happiness you don't want to just pass by, but at the same time you don't want to try and build that when you aren't ready for it.  I don't know where I will be in on January 1st, 2012.  How can I plan that with someone?  I don't even know where I'll be next summer - I hope it's home.  I hope it's also filled with a sense of purpose and accomplishment, but I can't say that I feel very accomplished now.

I'm supposed to be here and active in service and instead I'm inactive in everything accept trying to learn how to be a 50 five and six year olds' teacher. Which really, I'm so blessed to even have the chance to do!  I want to be a teacher and a path has opened that has enabled me to do it... what more could I ask for?  The stress and everything else is difficult, yeah, but just the chance to educate little ones makes me so full of joy.  It makes all the other stupid mistakes seem meaningless.

I have decided that determination means a lot and steadfastness means even more.  These tests and challenges are such blessings and provoke so much learning.  Alhamdulillah! I am so blessed.  I just now ask for a little more guidance and support so I can turn these tests into a path of service and prayerful action.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Understanding My Realization

I wish I had something interesting to post about but I feel like I am finally settling down and nothing is happening in my life.  Yet, I know that is somewhat completely untrue.  There are things happening everyday, all the time.  Even as I sit here in my apartment living room, I can hear the mis-happenings of the boys school next door - see there are things happening, even if we don't see them.

So, what am I doing in Jordan? So far it feels like I am only complaining about missing home and the crazy stressed out life of being a KG2 and Grade 1 teacher to the "privileged" children of Jordan.  What happened to my service? Well, I don't know how to be of service here. My Arabic knowledge is sub-par and continues to get worse - why haven't I become active getting a tutor?  (Goal this week: post want ads for an 3amiya tutor with regular meetings and forced conversation.) I am going to start Ruhi Book 3 soon, which will make me feel like I am doing something - hopefully I can put together an English children's class. Yes! Combining spiritual education with English language education is right up my alley.

In the end, I am beginning to look at service differently here in Amman. Of course there is a need to build study circles, Jr. Youth groups, children's classes and the like, but there is also a need to just be a good example - to meet your neighbors, socialize with them, deepen the conversations you have with them and be well... different.  This culture is beautiful but it is sometimes stained with materialism, flattery, and dishonesty.  I want to be a person that is teaching kids and engaging them in their education within a system that shovels information in their head like it's an overstuffed suitcase makes this quite challenging.  It took takes a toll on one's spirit and I learned that reflecting that light more clearly everyday can be service.  I want to work on that type of service also, it's just as important.  It's just as needed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Five

So, what can I blog about this week? With a ridiculous amount of free time on my hands, I honestly don't know what to do with myself in Amman.  My Christmas was decent, but uneventful. (Well, I take that back. Being surprised with a gift of a real live cat was an event, but one I didn't know how to handle. Let's just say the cat isn't in my apartment and I can't commit to take of one for the next 15-20 years.)  My American BFF returned home to Winona, Minnesota in hopes of a white Christmas surrounded by friends and family - yeah you can color me green.  We became pretty close over the last three, almost four months and I am going to miss her like all heck.  She was the one I went to with anything and was always willing to listen. Besides that, sometimes she made me look not-so-bad when she would pour her heart out to me about living in the Middle East and how blondes just don't integrate well.  Now, here I sit in my bed in my two bedroom apartment in Amman while my roommate is in Irbid visiting her family without much to do but a new knitting project.  Oh, don't let me forget to tell you about the paint set, canvas, brushes and paper I got as my make-up gift - AMAZING. I'll probs just paint the empty lot across the street from my window, it depicts Jordan so well.

In reflection of all this pouting, I complied a top five list of things (in no particular order) I miss the most from home while chatting with a friend this morning:

That's right I took a senior high school portrait (2004) with my bimmer.
1. My car
Oh you little 1984 or 1991 (depending on the day) Bimmer with your adorable double headlights and kidney bean grill, how I miss you! You toted me around town with so much pride and dependability. Not to mention convenience, and if I was back in 1994 I'm sure I would look baller also.  I now realize and completely understand the awesomeness of having a car and a good one at that. Amman is not kind to pedestrians, bikers, or the public transit commuter.

2. Hometown friends
Oh gosh the hilarities of American friends are just so special in their own right. The humor that is mutually understood is probably what really makes me homesick.  Why can't It's Always Sunny make sense to everyone here?  Or why can't I just have a morning hang out session? Hey, American friends! I just wanted to say I miss you!

What more could a girl ask for but the best superstore ever?
3. Target
How can one NOT love Target, especially Super Target? It's far superior to Safeway, Carrefour or Cozmo!  Screw WalMart - Target is where it's at! With it's fashionable, yet affordable clothing, fresh produce, the best brands of make-up and not to mention all the home stuff  (I always ends up spending $50 on just clearance items), one can not deny the genius of this store. I swear that if anyone of you Jordanian residents to visit Target just one time, you'd fall in love.

4. My Dad's ridiculous made up words
Koot Waddler, grundles, grindage, elroy, la-zag-nah, Mac and D's, Wendle's, Bemkins - just to name a few. I love my Dad and his adoration for cars, B movies, Davanni's pizza, Coca-Cola, and vocabulary.  I miss all of this even more because there is no American even remotely understanding of his humor, never mind a Jordanian.  I love him and think he's one of the most hilarious people ever.  This is just one of the thousands of reasons I am attempting to convince him to visit Amman this spring - any other suggestions on how to persuade him?


5. Salt water taffy
This just doesn't exist in Jordan. MA FEE. There is none. It's not here.  It's not even in Safeway or Cozmo grocery stores.  I love it - especially the blue ones... and Ick! I am not a fan of the yellow banana flavor.  One of the best candies EVER (and I really like candy).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shaping Perspective

I have been lacking inspiration for a blog post for quite some time. It's been incredibly too long since my last update and a lot has made my life busy.  A new apartment, new job, and the beginning of bummin' out because my closest friend in Amman leaving to return to Minnesota in less than a week. So, I put it out there on Facebook for suggestions of topics to write about.  The best reply out of two was from my high school English teacher, who was probably the only teacher I admired and always was disappointed I didn't meet her until my senior year.  She suggested I write about three people who vastly changed my perspective. I thought to make a few categories: friend, spiritual, and other. Here I go:

1) Afsaneh Zaeri.  I met her in early 2009 on a study abroad program to Amman, Jordan. She was in my Arabic classes, which I found to be an instant clan of American students that suffered the long process of learning a language so complete, precise, and encapsulating that a mind raised in American English finds it near impossible to learn.  She would arrive late about 50% of the time, but always with a smile on her face. And not because she thought she could get away with being late, but because she was just genuinely happy.  Our friendship continued after we returned to the states and become a spiritual sisterhood.  I have learned so much from her brilliant soul: humility, love, service are just a few to name.  We have had conversations that have changed my attitude towards the world and how I live in it. She introduced me to one of the greatest gifts I know: the passion I have to seek truth.  I still remember that day during my first fast and we sat together with another great friend in a church in Minneapolis after visiting a very special spot.  It was that day that inspired a change in my perspective that could have never be created in another way.  I learned so much about life and what my role is to be.  I discovered so much about what it means to have true spiritual friends that are rooted deeper than any other relationship I have ever had.

2) Abdul Baha'.  He was the first central figure of the Baha'i Faith that I read.  I read his talks in America and then in Paris.  I feel completely in love with every word.  I was enlightened to know that a faith could grasp these concepts of oneness of humanity, oneness of religion, and oneness of God.  All the concepts he spoke about I already agreed with, I was hooked.  I wanted to learn more and more, read more and more, be more and more.  My journey to find the truth was already ignited in Amman and now after reading Abdul Baha's writings, I was surely on my path to find it.  It took ego out of the picture and put me in a place where I was a part of something larger than myself.  My life isn't about my success or failure, it's about how I can contribute to the progression of the unity of mankind.  I am a servant to a cause greater than the human race has ever known before.

3) Palestine. Now, I know Palestine is not a person, but it isn't just a place either.  It's a feeling, an understanding, an experience, a soul rejuvenating aroma.  The days I spent in Bethlehem made my heart fill with a joy that I have never thought I could know before.  I describe it simply like this, "With each step my soul rejoiced.  Each time my foot hit the ground in Palestine, my soul overflowed with happiness, love, compassion, mercy, and understanding."  Living two and a half short months there made me long for a chance to return and drown in the amazing beauty that is the Holy Land.  Each city allowed my spirit to obtain a different quality.  Haifa, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Yaffa, the Galilee, Jericho... each made my self become re-born into a person with more capacity to learn. I would do just about anything that can expand mine or others' capacity.

There are a few more people that come to mind when I think about this idea.  Who shaped my perspective on life?  I think I could write about least 2 or 3 more entries describing 3 people each time.  I love learning about people and having those conversations that are deeper than the average, "How are you? How is your work?" I love to grow with friends, it's probably my favorite thing to do. EVER.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

Being sick away from home is not easy.  It doesn’t matter if you are a student at your university a few hours away by car or in a foreign country; you want someone to take care of you. Even a sinus or upper repository infection can get really nasty, like the one I had last spring that found its way into both my eyes and made me look like a burnt out cokehead.  Luckily, with that one, the parents I nannied for at the time never said anything about my blazing red eyes for 3 days before I went to the doctor and got drops for them. Anyway, point of the story: I am sick.

So, a dear friend took me to a 24 hour clinic in Marj Al-Hamam, just outside of Amman.  Let me tell you, I was slightly afraid of the quality of health care I was about to get, but it was only 10JD (about $14) without insurance for the visit including an injection.  We walked into the clinic and found the doctor waiting behind the desk in the waiting room that looks like it was from 1983 with fake flowers adorning the corner.  On the wall a tube TV was mounted flashing images of L.A. from the program “The City” on MTV Arabia.  He greeted us without a smile, my friend asked where the doctor was in Arabic and the man behind the desk led us into the exam room, apparently he was the doctor.  It looked like a scene from a really bad horror film.  Light blue, white and stainless steel was the color scheme of choice. The early 30-something year old doctor with slightly red hair and blue eyes asked my friend what was wrong with me and than told me to describe my symptoms in less than perfect English.  As I told him what was wrong with me, I noticed his toes peeping through his sandals and I thought to myself, “Isn’t that breaking some health code?”

First, I told him I had sinus pressure, cough, runny nose, and aches in my legs. So, he checked my blood pressure, but not my temperature, listened to my lungs only from the front of my chest, not the back, and looks in the back of my throat, but didn’t feel my throat glands.  I even know to do step number two of all those things! Then he asked, “Do you prefer shots or pills?” My reply: “Why? What are you giving me?” He looked at me strangely like he didn’t understand and so my friend translated; he said shyly that is was antibiotics.  My friend started to talk to him as he was filling the needle and I mentioned I couldn’t have blood thinners – he had no idea what I was saying.  I explained by saying something about no aspirin and then he questioned me slightly annoyed, “Why not?” I told him why and mentioned, “Ya know, if it makes a difference.” He, still annoyed, said “It makes a big difference.”  Then I watched me crack open a small glass bottle the size a Barbie would use to christen a cruise ship with, and put its contents into the new syringe along with the antibiotic.

He struggled, constantly stopping to flick the syringe to get the air bubbles out and filling it little by little.  I was getting incredibly nervous by this point thinking, “What the hell is he putting in me?  What kind of antibiotic? He didn’t even ask me if I was allergic to penicillin.”  Here comes the kicker: the shot was to go into my ass, not my upper arm. WHAT! Who does that? I thought we stopped that in like 1912? He asks if I want my friend to do it.  Who, at the time to make this social situation just slightly easier, was playing the role of my fiancĂ©.  I looked at my friend, “What? Hmm… I guess the doctor knows best. But have you done this before?” My friend replied, “Yeah, I have given a shot to myself a ton of times for B12.”  So I told the doctor, “I don’t know, I mean I guess he could.” I looked nervously at my friend with the “Save me now” look and he interjected, “No, no, it’s best the doctor does it.”  Whaaaat? He was supposed to save me! Did I get the facial expression wrong? What is happening?  I’m in a sketchy Jordanian clinic with a doctor, I feel doesn’t know anything – which to find out on the ride home he graduated from Damascus, not the prime choice for medical schools in the region – and now I have to get a shot in the ass from this red headed Syrian educated doctor as a young foreign girl in a male dominated culture? What am I doing here?!

That being said, I probably shouldn’t have pushed it yesterday. When I get really tired my patience is at a minimum and 5 and 6 year old kids are probably not the best to be around.  Even 5 year olds that form full sentences with capital letters, commas and full stops, understand missing addends and tens and units.  The last lesson of the day was completely horrendous.  Constant disruptions, talking, moving around – and this is REVISION!  It’s supposed to be easy, if they were taught well in the first place. Unfortunately, that was not the case – they were spoon fed the information, they don’t know it. So each revision exercise has turned into a mini lesson and takes an exuberant amount of time, plus I teach too slowly.

One tends to snap and every single day this week in the last lesson I have snapped.  I feel like that pink tweed wearing crazy teacher from Hogwarts.  Has anyone ever seen me yell at a classroom full of kids tell them they have the worst behavior in the world?  Could you even imagine me doing so?  Well I have and I feel like an awful person exactly about 3 seconds after.  I made two kids cry! What can I do? They don’t want to listen to me, my incentives barely work – I had to take away star row and a special treat on Thursday.  I kept them in from activities and sports day practice AND THEY STILL DON’T CARE! They have literally worn me out down to the point of getting ill. I’m not even getting into my Grade 1 class!

This leaves me sitting in bed at my new home without internet typing this post in MSWord feel much better than yesterday, but still taking a day to recover.  But I’m so thankful for the blessings I have here. I have found a wonderful down to earth roommate, a decent home well within my budget, a good job, and so many tests.  I am learning how brilliant young children can be and how to try and deal with them within a particular school that says they value their capacity but may not treat them like that.  Today is a day for me to refresh Jr. Youth Animator training and find my inspiration again and understanding of what education means.  I don’t want to go back next week freaking out again. I won’t allow it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Relationships

I promised a while back that I would read a posts about romantic relationships in Jordan.  So, here's my stab at it:

First, I don't know what the h-e-double hockey sticks I am doing with even trying to figure out romantic relationships right now in my life.  But as my life rolls on, I have found certain intriguing individuals in my life that grab my attention and hold unto it for some time before I decide that it's not what I want in life.  I have come to realize, more than once, that the Levant changes these conditions into something I am not fully aware of or understand.

What is dating anyway?  Is it good? Is it bad? I don't really have the answer for those questions and I'm not about to pour out my opinions about it here.  That will a) possibly get me into some sort of uproar and b) present myself as if I actually know anything about it.  In fact, although I have had my fair share of relationships, I don't know anything.  I am constantly learning, but also constantly building up walls.  I think that relationships should be kept to a minimal in general. If you find one you love and can make a life with - just do it.  Make a real commitment and be true and honest, justice and equal.

I don't need games of liking me, texting me, and then being secret about it when you are actually talking with 3 other girls. Secrets allow for a lot of dishonesty - its just not necessary.  But lack of understanding the person one is making a life-long decision of commitment with is not a good thing either.  There must be a happy balance between the two, but I don't think most Jordanians have found it yet. Here I am, finding myself in the mess of it all - what do I do next?  I think the way I have approached this entire idea has been wrong from day 1 and I want to change that.

It's time to truly understand what it makes to be in a posture of learning for all things.  Then to actually LEARN and DO. It's easier when you have someone to hold your hand and help guide your heart, when you have that special spiritual partner.  That's exactly what relationships anywhere should be.

The Most Perfect Servant

Today is the Day of the Covenant in the Baha'i Faith.  We celebrate this day as the appointment of 'Abdu'l Baha as the Center of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah.  'Abdu'l Baha has a unique station, the Mystery of God, he is not a Manifestation of God, but he is not an average follower.  He is the exemplar, the most perfect servant, someone all Baha'is strive to be alike.

So, today I went to the Baha'i Center.  First, can I just say it is an incredibly beautiful building? It reminds me so much of the Holy Land.  There is a center path with two or three rows of gardens (which are not complete) on either side and a brand new grand white stone stair case leading to the second floor of the building which opens to the main entrance. There is a beautiful wide veranda in front hovering over the stairs with a stone railing.  I thought, this is what a Baha'i Center should look like and one day when there is a House of Worship here, it will be breathtaking.

The presentation of 'Abdu'l Baha's travels was impressive; so many pictures I never seen.  Where do they find these precious pictures of unique moments from the history of the Faith?  It included the use of Google Earth to hop from one of his destinations to the next. But the music was the best  - prayers chanted in Arabic make your heartstrings vibrate in a very unique way (which really makes me want to get a tutor ASAP).  The children's songs were adorably adorable and I could understand most of the Arabic lyrics.

 From my travels when I was living in Bethlehem in summer of 2009.
I went out for an hour to look at an apartment to return just before the closing devotions.  I was enjoying the Arabic prayers and music, but since I couldn't understand them I decided to open my English prayer book to read some on my own.  I have a sealed prayer request in there from a fellow Baha'i who had brought on her pilgrimage. Most days, I just move it around in the book as a book mark, but today I stopped to look at it and think about what is actually inside.  I remembered that I had I asked for confirmation and guidance... and suddenly I become conscious of where I was and listening to Arabic prayers and I had some tough realizations.  Here I am, sitting quietly with a special prayer request in my hand stamped with the red number 9 and the words "The Mansion Bahji".  How incredibly special! I have visited the gardens, but never the Shrines. Again, how incredible for me to even do that... so early in life, so incredible.  The bitterness set in when I realized that most of those around me couldn't see what I have seen or have the opportunity to be a pilgrim to the Holy Land.

At end of the day, I was given a very special gift by a dear friend.  Last spring when I decided I wanted to come to Jordan, I was advised not to bring or wear any Baha'i jewelry.  So, I didn't even though I really wanted to - I know I was sorta of immature about it, but I just really liked that I could wear it in America.  My choice of jewelry at the time was a silver and green enamel nine pointed star with the Greatest Name in the center which I had bought during my pioneering orientation at the House of Worship in Chicago. I knew I couldn't bring it with me, so I decided to wear it everyday before I left.  I have a dear spiritual friend of mine in Minneapolis and coincidently, I ran into her one day and she commented on the necklace.  Digging up my Arab hospitality, I gave it to her because I knew she would truly appreciate it.  I told my friend in Jordan about this story in context of my transition to Amman.  Today, she handed my a some silver bag and inside was a silver pendant with The Greatest Name on it. She explained to me that she bought it in Haifa, the Holy Land without knowing why she said, "I thought maybe for my future daughter."  She then continued and said after she heard my story she now knew why she bought it.  I was so touched and my heart so full of joy and thankfulness I didn't know what to do.  I had let go of my attachment to a necklace from a special place, only to receive one from the Holy Land, the most special place. I hugged her and explained my gratitude to the best of my verbal ability.  There is a reason for everything and there is some special about this little story, even for me.

I am so thankful to know people with such pure intention and love.  I can not describe my change of spirit today. All I can say is Ya Baha'u'llah Abha! Alhamdulillah! For everything, good or bad, big or small.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-licious!

So, I've been incredibly busy trying to adjust to the meaning of being a kindergarten and 1st grade teacher... so I haven't had the time to post anything. Sorry :( But I thought you all should know about my new chocolately, rice krispity, caramel deliciousness of a vice. It's called Lion made by Nestle... I have never seen it in America.  (Note: the wafer covered in caramel, then drenched in chocolate jammed packed with rice krispies.)





Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Land of Rejuvenation

Recently I got an e-mail from my mom in Chicago reminding me of the spiritual essence of Jordan.  This land, actually in fact this entire region possesses a very unique characteristic that is of something bigger than the physical world we are so used to being a part of.  Just across the trickle that is left of the Jordan River is a relatively small plot of land named "The Holy Land" and from my own personal experiences that is nothing far from the truth. I still recall the bouncing joy in my heart and soul with each step I took in Bethlehem.

Regardless of the land on the west bank of the river, the east bank has it's only qualities as well.  Just for the simple idea that you can see the holy land from Jordan gives it a special vibration that is different from anywhere else in the world.  My mom noted the fact that many prophets sent time in Jordan and most of their visits was to seek refuge, relaxation and reflection in Jordan.  Whether it was John the Baptist or Moses... also many types of people go to Jordan for this reason not just prophets.

This got me to thinking... I can really turn around my mindset and look at Jordan as a place to rejuvenate and reflect. It's so important to understand one's intent and reason for doing something, for being somewhere.  I want to look at my life here in Jordan has a place where I seek to serve and reflect, this will make my experience worth something and it will better the impact of my efforts.  I love Jordan, I love the people and I will not play into this game.  The game of little lies, like telling a friend I will only be 5 minutes late when I haven't even left the house yet.  The game of cheating to undercut the other.  The game of corruption and names because it's only about who you know.  We are all noble beings and I strive to be noble.  I can be responsible for my actions, my thoughts, my intentions - no one else's.

"Be the change you want to see."  That is some of the best advice a friend here gave me. Thank you for that. It changed my outlook on life here in Jordan, it really did.

Full Moon in Amman

Perfection.

Photo by Eyas Shuaibi

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Clear Inspiration

Suheir Hammad "What I Will"

I will not dance to your war drum. 
I will not lend my soul nor my bones to your war drum.
I will not dance to your beating.
I know that beat.
It is lifeless.
I know intimately that skin you are hitting.
It was alive once hunted, stolen, stretched. 
I will not dance to your drummed up war.
I will not pop, spin, break for you.
will not hate for you or even hate you.
I will not kill for you.
Especially I will not die for you.
I will not mourn the dead with murder nor suicide.
I will not side with you nor dance to bombs because everyone else is dancing.
Everyone can be wrong.
Life is a right, not collateral or casual.
will not forget where I come from.
will craft my own drum.
Gather my beloved near and our chanting will be dancing.
Our humming will be drumming.
will not be played.
will not lend my name nor my rhythm to your beat.
I will dance and resist and dance and persist and dance.
This heartbeat is louder than death.
Your war drum ain’t louder than this breath.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friend, Foe, or Family?

Do I dare allow my blog to venture into the realm of relationships and love?  I'm somewhat hesitant to do this, but at the same time I think it's important to explore what friendships, relationships, and family means to me in Jordan.

Let's start with family.
Family is the cornerstone to Jordanian society. Family loyalty is number one, family names define a person (sadly most of the time it is more important than actions or education), and if your mama, cousin, or uncle calls you and asks to go to Madaba to go to that supermarket next to Abu Zaid's dry cleaners to get him the laban he likes, you better damn well do it.

I have no blood relation here in Jordan. That makes me the new kid in the lunchroom, wide-eyed looking for a table to sit at but ends up at the one by the window so she doesn't have to look at anyone. I am a loner.  I don't have a default back-up.  I don't have the person to call to bail me out of jail (Ha! That would never happen because I could just smile and bat my pretty green eyes at the police officer right?).  I don't have a person to go to Madaba to get me the laban I like!

Sometimes this makes me think that marrying into this culture would save me a lot of hassle. And the fact that just about every other 23 year old girl is married in Jordan, makes me think it's an ok idea until... I REALIZE I CAN'T EVEN RENT A CAR IN THE USA AT THIS AGE! But really, that longing for that family is so strong, so apparently missing.

Next, friendships.
Friendships in Jordan are generally sexist.  Girls are friends publicly with girls and guys are publicly friends with guys.  There is some cross over but this usually only happens with foreigners and in university... outside in general society it's less popular, except in some areas of West Amman.  This just straight up, Bums. Me. Out. I always had a large group of both female and male friends, since like forever.

In fact, I treasure my friendships with "the guys" - although watching hours of Halo in the basement of my friend's parent's house when I was 15 sounded really awesome then, it's not so appealing at 23.  Regardless, watching Sunday afternoon American football, heading to the Twins stadium and sitting around a fire in the backyard with my guy friends are fond memories that I could not see my life without.  My heart breaks a little bit each time I think that going to my favorite coffee shop in Riverside neighborhood alone with my spiritual brother would be "haram" in most places in Amman.

I might be stubborn, but I am not willing to give up my guy friendships here in Amman either.  Some of the best advice I have received about living here was from my "brothers".  And without them I wouldn't have water, signed a lease, or got my visa extended - so hamdulillah for the boys in my life!  I try to abide by cultural norms to a reasonable degree and take the sensitivity of the situation into serious consideration, but equality is necessary.  If I can use my foreign identity to try and make friendships in my life equal, then I am going to do that.

Oh the taboo of this one: relationships.
I think I have come realize this will need an entire post for itself and deep consideration on how in the world I am going to word the entire idea. To be continued...

Most Favorite Thing Ever

I wanted to share a few photographs with the world of my most favorite thing in the world just before ICEEs, specifically White Cherry ICEEs.  Although this is not the moon from the view of Bethlehem, it's pretty amazing.


Photos by Eyas Suaibi
I feel like this PostSecret is my fortune teller.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What I Learned from Being a Writer for 7 weeks

I learned something from writing for that family magazine for about a month. This is it.

Your writing means nothing to no one when you are writing about something you don't care about.

Yep, that's it. My words get changed and warped anyway. So what does it really matter?  The quotes are re-worded to sound nicer, even if the individual didn't say what is now printed on the page. What does the word,  "ethical" mean at the end of the day? It doesn't mean fact-checking because I know that means "We just don't want to look stupid."

Those words printed in ink on that glossy paper mean something to someone. In fact it means something different to everyone.  But it also means nothing to everyone if they mean nothing to me.  I can write a great article about some company's corporation responsibility campaign, they just the "good" PR and a nice pat on the back but it doesn't mean 2 cents in the realm of understanding, if I don't care about it.  The true meaning is completely absent - it is no longer endowed in those words.  I can't infuse the words without care with  any latent meaning or something to ponder.  I simply use language like a robot. It's soul draining. 

Yeah, you might say, "Wow, this girl knows nothing. She only wrote professionally for 49 days." And you might be right. But you should know one thing... I love writing.  Writing to me, is one of the most elegant, direct, and concise ways to express one's thoughts, feelings, ideas, and aspirations.  A word holds significant power in unlimited meanings. You may read something once and understand, read it again and comprehend, read it once more and you just might feel it and empathize.

I have discovered that being an adult with ADHD does not help.  I know that I struggle to find elegance in my writing.  It is not something that comes easily for me.  I am in a constant brawl with keeping an idea simple and getting to the point. Let's just say editing is not my forte.  As long as I have an idea, I talk about it.  Circling the idea until I get so sick of seeing the same literary scenery that I just give up, click print, and hand it over.

In the end, if I can read that piece and feel the million meanings that can be understood through a million different eyes, that's all I need to be satisfied.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Overwhelmed. Prayer. Just Pray.

Overwhelmed. Coping by procrastination. Probably the worst idea ever.

I am sitting here in an unnamed food establishment on the 2nd floor just taking in the Minneapolis vibe of it all.  I couldn't feel more at home than in this spot. But at the same time I couldn't feel more far away from home.  It's the constant paradox of my life here in Amman that I just can't seem to shake.  Do I dive in it all and sign away my American life until June 23, 2011? Or do I allow my nerves to take the reins and buy a ticket back home?

Well let me step back for a moment and clarify - Minnesota is my physical home.  It was where I was born.  It is where my dad resides.  It is where most of my friends spend their evenings in various apartments watching baseball, Sex in the City and ET.  But where my heart calls home is a very different place.  It's a place where the olive tree's leaves shimmer in the light breeze and whisper stories of blood spilled on a land so holy that even the soul can be overwhelmed by its potency.  It's the place where the air is so sweet it tickles my nose and pours an unmeasurable amount of love and joy in my heart.  It's a place that no matter how much war, hate, destruction, and sadness is spread across all people, they are never hopeless.  It's the place where only the prophets have the words of God to describe it. I want to be there. I need that retreat.

Here I am, so close, yet so incredibly far away.  Stuck with avoiding my lesson plans because of the sheer fact that I'm too freaked out by my new responsibility of educating children.  Especially children in a culture I don't know yet how to function in.  I want to serve. Like, really serve. I want to stop talking about getting on that bandwagon. I want to find the time to do it - yet I know I must be patient.  I'm so fresh.  I haven't even had my time to settle and cope and understand.  But there is no time to waste right?

Ok, stop creating dichotomies. That is my conclusion for my overwhelmed little body, that's little heart is a little too fast. That's it. That's all I can do right now. Prayer. Just pray.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Little More Optimistic

I woke up this morning a little more optimistic than the night before... and even as I write this I think to myself, "Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday"

So, here I am trying to make today a tad bit brighter than my situation the day before.  Hopefully, it starts working.  I think prayer may have been a better idea this morning than listening to "Like a G6" by Far East Movement.  I'll make it a point to find some place quiet for lunch and say one or two that are on my mine - including a special one for my friend's stained shirt and my last day at the magazine's office.

Sunday I start a new venture - into the realm of teaching young minds.  How blessed can I be to be chosen as the person to enlightening these little souls that will go on to do such amazing things that I can not even comprehend at this point in time.  As I type this a wondrous smile stretches slightly across my face because I know I was just given such a gift that I can't contain the joy just in my finger tips. Aside from what I think is the end of days and creation of all anxiety ever manifested, I have found out that through this journey there are refreshing waters overflowing from my soul.  I just need a cup to catch them. I think I'm missing that cup sometimes and really, I think that cup is service.

I want to get involved - get the courage to call the correct people, find the right information, and do the tasks asked of me.  

"Let deeds, not words, be your adorning"

Here I am coming full circle, sometimes feeling like I'm running in place, but I know that once I let my feet hit the ground I'm gone. So fast, so gone - only until the next test comes my way.  I dare you, bring it on!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Comes in Waves

So, I came home to a joyful greeting of "HEEEEEEEEEEEEY SARA!" to be horrified by the news that there is no water in the apartment. Not because we used too much in the first 3 days of the week, but because the previous tenants didn't pay the bill and the landlord doesn't give a woo-ha about this place.  Wait, let me back up a minute, you need a little background to the story before I unleash all my human emotion all over this poor page, because apparently I don't have the ability to shed tears any longer.

I moved into an apartment that has been constantly occupied by foreigners who only stay for a few months at a time, never establishing relationships with the neighbors.  So, the apartment is already known to be a place where people "come and go" and never stay long.  I have neighbors that live across the hall that share electricity and water with my apartment - they have a history of not contributing their share of the utilities.  So, I was prepared to be straight forward with them... or at least seek the help of the landlord to back us on this. Well, the landlord pushes the issue on us, and claims to not understand our English or immature Arabic.  Where does this leave us? If I want water, I don't ask for the neighbors share and just pay the bloody bill.

...and here comes the kicker: PRINCIPLE!

I don't want to do that. I don't want people to continue to cheat. I don't stand for it. I'm done. I'm so finished with blatant lying.  I just want to scream to the top of my lungs that I'm not going to take it anymore!  I want to prepare for my first day of the best job I could ever have on Sunday - not be gross, smelly and wearing dirty clothes. Can my friends help me? Yeah a few - but the male ones, nope because it's 7aram for me to be in their homes. OK, biting my tongue now... it's culture. Just accept it.

...and here comes the aftershock: I'm a pitty complainer.

Guess what? According to UNICEF 1.2 billion people in the world don't have enough water for proper sanitation facilities.  The UN notes that 894 million people don't have access to the 20-50 liters per day of clean water to sustain basic needs such as cooking, drinking, and cleaning.  Here I am complaining about being without water for 3 or 4 days.  I need to keep my life in check.  I am blessed.  I have a job that pays me decently, but gives me immense opportunity and chance to learn. Alhamdulillah! Allah'u'abha!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Relationship | AlisaTaipei on Xanga

Check out my dear friend's blog, she has some really awesome excerpts from Ruhiyyih Rabbani that illustrate the need of community in today's world: On Relationships | AlisaTaipei on Xanga

Can I Be Enlightening? Probably Not.

I don't even know what to title this. I don't even know if I have anything good to write about it... but here I am putting my fingers to the keys to produce something. Anything that will be of some worth, some interest, some... thing.

I sit here at my desk with my stomach overstuffed with rice, laban soup, and meat - which I will most likely regret later as I think the meat here makes me sick.  It's warming though, and with a cool, semi-cloudy day like today, and it's nice paired with mint tea.  I think about being enlightening, sharing something that might inspire someone to do something good. But now I am lost without anything to write about it and this post becomes more and more less intriguing.

Well, last night I am some sort of overwhelming emotional confusion... if anyone is interested in that?  The "What I am I doing here? And why do I continue to screw up?" questions arose yet again and I just got angry and frustrated about it.  I just want to punch someone in the face. I would have if someone did something particularly awful in my range of sight.  Thank goodness this did not occur and I do not have to hit anyone in the face.  I think that prayer would help this problem of confusion, just to ask for God's conformations to be evident to me, so that I may see my path more clearly.  Clarity. I want clarity.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Work Ethic

Jordanian work ethic can not even be compared to the American idea of what work is.  There is no way, no how, that the Jordanian culture can holistically comprehend of how Americans work.  I try my best to put in a full 8 - I mean 9 hours a day of work here. It's a 6 day work week here, 8 hours a day, but because at my office we get Saturday off, we should work from 9am - 6pm. I literally have no way to fill 9 hours with work in my last week at the office.  I can't take on new clients, the ones I have don't follow up, respond to e-mails, or call back. I have work to do with the designers, but because we are going to print on Sunday, they are too busy to sit with me - so literally I have nothing I can do, so kill me, I'm taking 15 minutes to blog at work this afternoon.

The silly thing is, even with nothing to do, I'm working to Jordanian standards.  As long as I finish my work, I should be ok right? Nope. I can't even take the necessary 1.5 hours per day of unpaid leave to file my visa paperwork as often as I need to.  Why not? You're not paying me for it and I finish my work, so why does it matter? Oh, apparently it matters, but I haven't found out why yet.  I've learned to just stop asking questions and just accept it for what it is.  I'll go with the system  for the next few days until my job changes to something I'm overwhelming passionate about - education and kids!

I'm looking forward to being a Kindgarten 2 and Grade 1 teacher at a renowned school here in Amman.  I can't wait to be apart of community building and knowledge empowerment, instead of lying, cheating, and scheming that most of the marketing and publishing world is about.  The task of being the change I want to see in that realm is way too overwhelming for my spirit right now.  Instead I'll be willing to trade that for blessed little 5 year olds and a smile :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I want to grow.

I think I decided to name a goal and work to achieve it. This is my motivation. A goal to make each morn better than the previous eve. A goal to grow in my faith. A goal to better myself each day and not dwell on my faults. A goal to learn how to talk about faith, life, and unity.  I want to build my spiritual toolbox.  I want to have a full service garage when I get to the next place. I want to teach. Teach children, not fill their cup, but teach them that knowledge is something to be embraced and to empower themselves. To watch them grow, to make each of their morns better than their previous eves.

I want to study more. I want to learn more. I want to be more. I want to detach from my love for a land, not to say that is a bad thing, but to know that my soul and heart can be free to do the will of God's and not my own.  I want to be a useful being, to use all of my capacity. I want to use my talents - although sometimes I don't always know what they are.  I want to give all of myself so I can do the work that is right for me, knowing that he will give me something I will love to do and will be good at. That is what I so eagerly want. I want to return home to visit and see my friends and know they are growing also... maybe alongside me or maybe apart... but to know they are growing too. That is all I want.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anniversary of the Birth of The Bab

So it's my first Anniversary of the Birth of The Bab and I'm Amman, Jordan.  I am not allowed to take the day off from work because I am still in my probationary period but here is a neat article I came across from the Huffington Post.


Celebration of the Birth of the Bab: Dawn of the Age of the Maturity of Humanity

By Brent Poirer



It's the height of autumn's radiant color here in New Hampshire. As I look at the oranges and reds and yellows of the maple trees in the yard, I reflect on one of the divine attributes: uniqueness. Not only every tree, but every leaf on every tree that has ever existed or ever will exist is unique. This difference lends to the beauty and overall harmony of the earth, and it is a sign of the sacred uniqueness that is an aspect of the human soul.
Today, Baha'is in 188 countries worldwide celebrate the Birth of Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, the Herald of our Faith, whom we know as the Bab, a title that means both "Door" and "Gate" in Arabic. The first of the two Manifestations of God -- Prophets -- of our faith, the Bab was born in 1819 in Persia, today's Iran. The Baha'i writings state:
"The appearance of the Bab resembles the dawn, for the dawn holds the promise of the sun. The dawn of the Bab promised the rising of the sun of truth that is to envelop the whole world."


2010-10-20-HouseoftheBabinShirazbeforedestruction.jpg
The House of the Bab, Shiraz, Iran, before its destruction in 1979 Copyright © 2007 Baha'i International Community, Used with permission



To Baha'is, his birth represents the dawn of a divinely promised Day in humanity's life, the age that will witness the maturity of the human race. That maturity will be reflected both in its collective unity and in the uniqueness of its individual elements. This is the dawn of a day during which we Baha'is believe the human race will create "a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units."
In the 1840's, the Bab called humanity to unity:
"We have created you from one tree and have caused you to be as the leaves and fruit of the same tree, that haply ye may become a source of comfort to one another. Regard ye not others save as ye regard your own selves ... It behooveth you all to be one indivisible people."
His advent signaled the termination of the "Prophetic Cycle" and the inception of the "Cycle of Fulfillment." He publicly claimed to fulfill the promises of all faiths:
"I am, I am, I am, the promised One! I am the One whose name you have for a thousand years invoked, at whose mention you have risen, whose advent you have longed to witness, and the hour of whose Revelation you have prayed God to hasten."
When he sent his first disciples into the world to proclaim his Faith, he summoned them to loftiness, to sacrifice for the proclamation of the truth and to a unified view of the world's great faiths:
"O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of God in this Day. You have been chosen as the repositories of His mystery. It behoves each one of you to manifest the attributes of God, and to exemplify by your deeds and words the signs of His righteousness, His power and glory. The very members of your body must bear witness to the loftiness of your purpose, the integrity of your life, the reality of your faith, and the exalted character of your devotion ... The time is come when naught but the purest motive, supported by deeds of stainless purity, can ascend to the throne of the Most High and be acceptable unto Him."
In his farewell address to these disciples he quoted verses and used imagery from the Hebrew Bible, the Gospel of Matthew and the Quran, and he sent one of his disciples to the peoples of India.

He was intolerant of mediocrity, and wrote that "Everything must be brought to its utmost limit of perfection." We Baha'is often emphasize unity, but the call in our Faith to uniqueness is no less important. Each of us is compared to "a mine rich in gems of inestimable value." We are assured that in this day the "potentialities inherent" within us will be attained, and the "innate excellence" of our reality will be demonstrated. Experience tells us that our destiny, our ultimate self-awareness, comes through our common service to humanity.
These two aspects of spiritual maturity -- the expression of our own identity, and the harmonization of our beliefs and goals -- will only be brought about by the utmost effort. Our writings, speaking of the attainment of world civilization, state:
"A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man's utmost efforts. Such is not the case, however. On the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable. Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it. Many a cause which past ages have regarded as purely visionary, yet in this day has become most easy and practicable. Why should this most great and lofty Cause -- the daystar of the firmament of true civilization and the cause of the glory, the advancement, the well-being and the success of all humanity -- be regarded as impossible of achievement? Surely the day will come when its beauteous light shall shed illumination upon the assemblage of man."
This effort is worthy of the wholehearted commitment of our life's energies. Today, we celebrate the birth of One who gave his life for this goal.




My two cents:
I think the fact that I know I can't take off work from this day to observe in makes it that much more real to me.  The Bab suffered immense persecution and his followers the same.  He eventually paid the ultimate price for this Cause, so how can I be so effected by not being allow to not work? I know the American Baha'is are the spiritual descendants of the Dawn Breakers and we will not suffer in the same way as they once did... but recognizing the rights in America and the place where America is at makes me so grateful.  Like I have said before, Americans are so blessed.  Share and spread the unity and love that has been learned. Help it grow. Be thankful.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Indefinite Needs to Become Definite

I have learned in the short amount of time here that my soul is so completely unprepared for the challenge that is picking up one's entire life to place it in a foreign land and at the same time sustaining one's personal growth.  Who was I to think I was at all capable of that? Yeah, I am endowed with the same attributes as all others, but my capacity is not at a level that can sustain this.  I am seriously considering where it is best for me to be.  I have so much opportunity to serve in Minnesota. Although working and career goals were completely absent there, I had so much chance to help my community. Here, I have work and great opportunity for experience in that realm, but my service is absent. What is my problem? I feel truly alone in this effort, I am not connected to my community, simply because I am a foreigner and I know no one and no one wants anything to do with me because I am an American woman. I starting to understand I chose the wrong place to be. Time to go home? I don't want to give up that easily, but I want to see the confirmation.  I think I am ok with leaving if that is what I'm suppose to do, but I don't want to... learning detachment is my biggest challenge.

I know it is not at all the Baha'is here responsibility to tell me when feast is or where it is... but I seemed to have missed it.  I e-mailed the one Baha'i I have an e-mail for to attempt to get in contact with one from my area, no response.  The other Baha'i I know, who also knew I moved to a different area didn't know who I should have contacted either.  Maybe it's time I really get motivated to meet some Baha'is here.  But I feel like I don't know where to start.  Religious freedom is something I think about daily.  Jordan is very tolerant in general, but I'm not allowed to take off work for the Anniversary of the Birth of the Bab because I'm still in my probationary period for work. Yet, I am allowed 1.5 hrs a day unpaid leave if I want it. I don't quite understand, but regardless it really saddens my heart.  It also makes me realize how much potential there is in America. Hey, American Baha'is you are blessed! Please run like the wind with your opportunity! It's so great a gift!

I think in the end, I need to put a time limit on my stay in Jordan.  This way I can establish goals and have the hope of returning home to a place I truly love and feel I can prosper in.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cultural Rejection

It seems as though I have transplanted myself in a place that I thought I understood and have come to find out I know utterly nothing about.  Sitting in my bedroom of my apartment near Durwa Al-Waha in Amman, Jordan... I see the radio tower on the building cross the way, though metal bars on a window with an additional metal shade.  Why are these "security" measures need on the top floor of an apartment building? They aren't.  Why are the middle aged men in my building silent as I walk past? Because I'm a western woman, I'm 7aram.  There are far too many things I thought I understood, that know I realize I know nothing about.  My ignorance hinders me. I don't go out on errands because I have been spoiled with personal transportation in the states and the "luxury" of finding everything at Target in one shopping trip.  I don't want to have to figure out where to go to find a proper lamp, shoes, or band-aids.  I rather stay at home, eat nothing - because I won't go to the produce shop, and do laundry, but I'm wasting water.

Personal challenges are one thing, but this is about spiritual challenges in the end. And not having the right to ask for a religious holiday off from work because one - I'd have to use personal time off and two - I'd still in my probational period. But I can take up to 1.5 hrs off per day unpaid leave? I don't understand. I just don't get it. And these, "I just don't get it" moments are turning into the ultimate frustration and instead of wanting to understand, I push away and reject it.  How can I say, "I love Jordan and want to move my life here," but then end up wanting to push away the entire culture? I'm at a loss for words and patience. I'm so privileged to have been raise in America. So, why is it so hard to sacrifice that priviledged living environment to attempt to teach others? I knew this would be difficult and a great test - but I had no idea that it would be in such a realm I never knew I possessed.