Friday, November 26, 2010


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


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


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.