Things I love

  • ~Louis
  • ~Family&Friends
  • ~IceCream
  • ~MyKindle
  • ~CoffeeBreaks
  • ~Sparkles
  • ~Knitwear
  • ~Vanilla
  • ~AllThingsLUSH~
  • GossipGirlxoxo~
  • Chips&Ketchup~

26 October 2012

Ahlan Ahlan bil Eid!

Translation: welcome, welcome Eid!

Today is Eid Ul Adh-ha, or the Feast of Sacrifice (according to wiki!). Muslims celebrate this day to remember the great sacrifice that Ibrahim was willing to make when God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Ismael. Ibrahim consulted Ismael on this and Ismael was more than willing to allow his father to do what was asked of him. God instead took a ram for sacrifice, and we have been marking this religious day by sacrificing goats of our own. It also marks the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Over the past couple of days, I've been trying to remember my most recent Eids in particular and my family's Eid traditions in general.The worrying thing is that my mind goes blank. Not just hazy, it's like I have chunks of my memory that have just disappeared. Anyway, that's a topic for another day!

Thankfully some memories of Eid have been coming to me in snippets. I suddenly remembered that, before every Eid, my Dad would go and buy things for the house and he'd always come home with a tin of Quality Street. That was a special treat for us and I'd always sneak into the tin and eat the yellow ones :D all that toffee and chocolate, yum yum! As I grew older I started preferring the purple one and the red one - the strawberry cream filled dark chocolate, which no one seemed to like. More for me!

And like all other households, we would have ka'ak, or biscuits, for the guests that would visit us over the Eid period. Especially ma'amul, which are biscuits filled with dates or nuts, sprinkled with icing sugar. And a Yemeni tradition is to set out raisins and almonds for your visitors. 

So, family tradition. On the first day of Eid, we would wake up and put on our new clothes. Everyone wears new clothes on Eid, even men, who get new dishdashas (the long "gowns" that Arab men wear) tailored, sometimes in shades other than white. My Dad used to have a saying that he would say to his new clothes, as he playful stepped on them with his bare feet. He would say - "ana al jadeed wa ant al bali" - I am the new and you are the worn out. To this day I nostalgically say this to my clothes if it is the first time I am wearing them.

Since a goat or sheep is sacrificed in the morning, we would always have its liver for breakfast (sorry goat). Liver stir fried with potato, parsley and onions. And tea with mint. And fresh bread. I don't remember if the men went to pray before or after breakfast. A detail my memory can't grasp. Then, once we've been fed, the men and children set off to visit their wives' relations. Meaning, my father would visit my maternal grandma, my aunts, my mom's aunts, etc. and my brothers would join him and then also visit their own wives' relations. In each home you'd be showered with frankincense, perfume, sweets and be given money. The ladies of the house give children money and the visiting men give the ladies money. When I was still young enough to join my father and brothers on these rounds, we'd leave my mother and sisters in law to be visited by other male relations and children. From house to house we'd go, in our new outfits and with money in our tiny pockets, until all the relations had been visited.

Looking back, I think it was wonderful that we visited all those homes. Some were hidden in the cobble stoned streets of Sana'a while others had gardens shadowed in vine leaves. Houses that great aunts have now left because they became difficult to keep up and impractical - especially stone stairways, trying on the knees. It now seems like families were larger, there were more people to see, more cousins to play with, more aunts to comment on how much you've grown. But families then started spending Eid in other cities down by the coast, so Eid visitations decreased. Although, these coastal holidays would be taken by several families at once, so maybe they were celebratory in their own right.

On the afternoon of the first day of Eid, all the women from my Mother's side of the family would meet at my grandmother's house. Off we'd go to see our cousins, compare our day's spoils and consume more sugar. There would be more biscuits, milky tea and coffee made from the coffee bean shells. 

On the second day of Eid (if I remember correctly, forgive me), my younger brother and I would be whisked away to the toy shop to spend our Eid money. Sometimes we'd save a bit of it, and sometimes we would pool it and get a bit more money to buy a big item like a bicycle to share. Nowadays children buy Nintendo DSs or fancy electronics. Oh and we'd always buy firecrackers. Tons of firecrackers to set off with our cousins! 

And within a few days the Eid celebrations would die down, no one wanted to finish that last ma'amul, schools would restart and life would go back to normal.

As I started spending my Eids away from Yemen, they became less family orientated and more Oxford Street orientated. I hope that one day I can celebrate another Eid in Sana'a, and that I'd get to wake up and have breakfast with my mother, Louis, brothers, sisters in law, nieces and nephews, that I'd wear my new clothes, welcome the wonderfully dressed children and spend the afternoon drinking tea with my cousins and aunts. 

Happy Eid break to all.


23 October 2012

Teenage Girls are my Kryptonite*

A couple of days ago, my language centre asked me to accompany them on a little trip to a local school, where I'd be assisting with exam invigilation. This was not my idea of a fun way to spend 4 hours of my day, but I had said yes in a moment of weakness and couldn't go back on it. 

So I headed over to the centre in the morning and got ready to leave with my supervisor and a couple of other colleagues. I found out on the way there that the language centre administers these Cambridge Pre-Tests to check high school students' English level. No certificates would be issued and the grades would have no real use. Gesture of goodwill or waste of time? I'd soon find out.

One thing immediately struck me about the school as we entered the building: there was a separate entrance for girls. Whether this was for convenience sake, the girls' department just happened to be on that side of the building, or whether they were segregating the sexes, I'm not sure. I wasn't willing to ask for fear of a) being branded as liberal/feminist/therootofevil and b) finding out that segregation was an issue in Amman.

I digress. So we find our classroom, distribute the exam papers and my supervisor explains the first exam booklet. The first 20 minutes went by easily enough. The girls got on with the paper. Next, listening. Poor stereo sound made for an uncomfortable 45 minutes of girls' sighing and, wait for it, conferring with each other on the answers. Right there in front of me. No amount of "Ladies, this is an exam, please no talking" and its variations could stop what had begun.

They could smell my fear. It's as if they KNEW this was my first time invigilating for this type of exam. They KNEW I wasn't Jordanian. They KNEW I was different. And they latched on to that. The target had been identified and all that was left was to launch a rocket attack. And attack they did. First the innocent questions, "Miss, I don't understand the question". Then, "Miss, what does this word mean?" (if I told you I'd be telling you the answer, love). Soon, "Miss, we don't know how to solve these problems". "Miss, we're tired, we can't think anymore." "Miss, I need to throw up". Give them an inch. 

Yes I know that the world is against you dear Teenager and no one understands your pain and you are a victim and the exam is out to kill you. Oh the drama! I suggested to students to take a nap, not to answer any more questions, anything to get them to shut up. But alas, that was not to be the case. My nerves were in a fragile state. I could easily lose it with them, but what would I gain? With hindsight, I should've torn up a few exam papers, that would've taught them a lesson. Or asked one or two of them to leave the class. But I've been a teenager, the prospect of being kicked out of class with a friend sounded kinda amazing. So I chose to torment myself instead.

Unfortunately, it only got worse when we started the next section of the exam, "the Use of English". Suddenly they couldn't think - they couldn't complete a gap fill exercise. The girls who were quiet just minutes before were joining in the madness and matters just escalated. Girls kept insisting that questions were incorrect, so how could they choose the correct answer? I'm proud to say I didn't plead with them but had my colleague not come in during that section of the exam, who knows what I would have done. You see, there were a few students who were especially disruptive, and I just didn't know how to do deal with it. 

Being a teeneager girl is difficult at the best of times - puberty, friends back-stabbing you, your once lean thighs suddenly looking like Beyonce's, etc. I did feel sorry for them having to sit an exam for over three hours without rest. But not as sorry as I felt for myself. I was moved to a different class, and they were much, much better behaved. So maybe I was just unlucky. Still, I was overjoyed when we packed up and headed back to the language centre.

And by the time I started teaching my normal English class, I felt like the mother who goes over to her friend's house and her friend's children is just so out of control such that by the time the mother gets home she welcomes her own children into her arms and thanks God for her little angels. 


*I'm sure teen boys are too but thankfully I have no proof 

18 October 2012


I feel like I need to write an extensive waiver as a preclude to this post.
  1. This is not a religious post. 
  2. This post generalises some issues and I am aware that there are exceptions to every rule. 
  3. There is no doubt that there are many positive aspects to Arab culture.
  4. I understand that people are trying to change the world we live in, and I admire them.
  5. I understand that actions speak louder than words and if I dislike something I should try to change it, but for the moment I want to speak.
Thank you.

I walk to work everyday. It takes me about 25 minutes and during my walk, I go down my mountain and then eventually up the neighbouring mountain to the language centre. Not many people decide to walk in Amman - taxis are so cheap and available that locals use them all the time. Of the small majority who decide to walk, only a handful are women. And only one of those is carrying a backpack and wears sunglasses. Me.

So everyday, at the same time, I make my way out of my building to head to work. And everyday, I am subjected to leering, whistling, honking of car horns, slowing down of cars and little under-the-breath remarks. Fab. Let me clear this point, I usually wear jeans (in the baking sun, just so I can limit the leering) and a top of some sort. Nothing provocative. No shiny blonde hair bellowing in the wind. No soiree style make up. No.

Here's the part that really tipped me over the age a few days ago. To go up the second mountain and toward the language centre where I work, I have to climb 144 stairs. I counted them. So picture this, I have already walked for approximately 10 minutes and received some form of harassment or another, and then I have to conquer a mountain of stairs (pun intended) and then continue walking. So, I'm already in a bad mood by the time I get to my Everest. Right so I am climbing, climbing these stairs and I'm quite close to the top when I see a man starting to walk down.

I immediately feel on guard, preparing myself for what may be mumbled. But on this particular day I'm just so tired of this nonsense (insert appropriate profanity), because that's what all this intimidation is, nonsense. So as our paths cross I hear a mumble. I don't know what he said, but I am not going to give him the benefit of the doubt. A few steps later, I turn around and wait for him to look back. Because, of course he will. And, of course he does. And I just raise my hands in despair and turn around. But you see, he didn't expect any type of confrontation.

It just riles me up. They harass you, they expect you take it without a fight or struggle and then you are expected to change your ways. Granted, some honks are from taxi drivers who think that I may need their services. But usually, they are just men who act like they've never seen a woman. In Yemen, you could be covered, naked, foreign, Yemeni, girl, teenager, woman, walking or in a car and I guarantee that you will receive attention.

Why does our culture continue to breed men who have no sense of privacy? Ultimately, that's what it's about. I should have the right to a private life, where I dress how I want (within wide perametres) and walk hand in and with my English husband. Why does everyone have to have an opinion on what you do or how you dress? Why does everyone feel that they need to give you advice and you should be grateful for it? Sometimes they're curious, which is why they stare, and I try to see that as flattery. But when I am walking up stairs and a man is muttering under his breath, probably something on the lines of what is this crazy woman doing, then I can't accept it. It angers me that they feel invincible - if they harass a lonely women, she's unlikely to retaliate. So they continue to do it because they have nothing to lose.

Should I feel sorry for these men who live in a society that makes women only attainable by marriage (rather than friendship, respect, etc)? Or should I be furious that they feel women are like pieces of meat to be evaluated? I unfortunately come from a culture where women are conditioned to obey men, where women are taught and told that they have no opinion, no worth (& if you are dubious, some women never see their dowry and never see their inheritance, worthless in the most basic form of the word) and where men tell them that they have their best interests at heart. And when we start to do what we want, to seek a more equal life, we are questioned so much so that many of us will begin to question our conviction. We begin to convince ourselves that our actions were audacious. 

And in this fashion, women in the Arab world are left behind.


14 October 2012

Sun, Sand & S'mores

Last weekend we went on a wonderful camping trip with our friends to Wadi Rum.

First of all, let me tell you that Louis and I made this trip back in May when we came to Jordan for a visit. We had been told that, on Earth, Wadi Rum is the closest thing to what Mars looks like. From the red sand to the terrain. It is a valley in Jordan that, millions of years ago, had been under water, which is why the sand's texture is like what you get on a sandy beach. We had also been told that the view of the stars at night was out of this world, that you could literally see millions of stars. I was sold!

Unfortunately for us on that first trip, the entire day, evening, night and even next day was cloudy. Not white clouds. No, no. Just a mask of dust that covered the sun and restricted us from seeing ANY stars in our night in the desert. It was upsetting but we still enjoyed the unworldly scenes and climbing the sand dune :) 

These are the spectacular mountains that populate Wadi Rum.

View of the desert while walking up the sand dune.

View of the Wadi (valley) from on top of the sand dune.

But, you know, if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again. And thus, we dusted the red sands off our selves (pun intended) and prepared for another trip to Rum. This time, we knew what to expect and so prepared ourselves with more supplies. Here is a list of things you might want to take to Wadi Rum:
  1. A sleeping bag (we found a really good range of sleeping bags and other camping gear from GoSports in Meccamall)
  2. A head torch
  3. Some baby wipes in case you can't wash or shower (extremely likely!)
  4. Tons of water & some snacks
You don't need any special shoes or hiking gear, unless you intend to do some form of extreme sports! In fact, most of the group we were with were wearing flip-flops. And, depending on where you are staying, you may want to take a tent and sleeping mat to put under your sleeping bag.

Right so Louis and I had bought some sleeping bags, travel pillows and a handy towel. Our friends picked us up and away we went. Three and a half hours later, we were in Wadi Rum. The camp we stayed in was located against one of the mountains and had a little area that you could set up your tents.

We enjoyed the afternoon, going on a walk and discussing the various movies that had been filmed in Wadi Rum. A dinner of chicken (cooked underground) and rice was laid out and after dinner we (the group we were with, I know nothing about making fires!) made a camp-fire and we sat around to enjoy the evening. 

My camera was not good enough to take photos of the stars but I can tell you it was incredible. Thousands and thousands of stars, shining in the sky. It was humbling to lay down and get lost in their depth. Because we were out in the desert, we could also see the Milky Way, which looked like a faint cloud cutting through the sky. I didn't manage to see any shooting stars, but it was wonderful looking up throughout the evening into a diamond studded sky. At about 12am the moon rose in our area of the desert and its light outshone the stars', but that in itself was also beautiful.

I'm sure we'll get to go to Wadi Rum again in the near future to show our friends how enchanting the desert it. And who knows, we'll maybe even see a shooting star or two :)


Oh by the way we learned how to make s'mores around the campfire too, yay :)

13 October 2012

New Beginnings

"Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways." -- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce)

Some of you might know that 5 months ago I quit my law job in order to train as an English language teacher, move out of Sunny England and maybe finally find purpose in my daily life. The truth is, I'm one of those people who doesn't know what they want. I still get asked why I left law, especially as I had only worked as a qualified lawyer for only 6 months by the time I decided to give up.

It isn't just one thing that made my decision final. Before I go into it, let me tell you that so far, I haven't missed being a lawyer. The only thing I've missed is some of my friends and our fro-yo breaks. I was at odds with the nature of law firms and some lawyers. Although the core of any law firm is to help people, the obsession with billing, aggressive litigation and elitist aspect of the industry just knawed at me for 5 years, until I dreaded waking up in the morning to go to work. Added to that, the constant urgency of everything just perplexed me, had I started working in the emergency ward unknowingly??

Anyway. I did learn a lot during those 5 years, from dealing with the Home Office to negotiating with the photocopier. Want your documents double sided, hole-punched and in A5? No problemo. And when Louis and I eventually buy our first home, the process won't be a mystery.

I've just finished my first week of teaching English to Jordanian adults. There is a satisfaction in teaching, when your students' faces light up with understanding or they eagerly call you over to check their work. But there is such a burden as well. I am responsible for imparting wisdom on this group of people, who have paid some of their hard earned money in order to progress in their lives. I plan my lessons and do my research, but I'm so scared that they are getting nothing out of it...and ultimately, I'm scared that in another few years I'll be searching for something else. Never satisfied and never settled.

I just wonder how many beginnings do we really get? I heard from someone that nowadays, a person has on average 8 careers. Eight. Careers. For someone as unsure as me, it was like music to my ears. And when I Googled it, article after article said that it's never too late to change your career. But how do people change careers and avoid the negative stigma that goes with that? "Yes sir, I am indeed telling you that I was a lawyer, an English teacher and now would like to sell gold fish in your store."

Many people I speak to say that they are not sure what they too don't know what career they want to follow. 

So I ask you this, if you could do anything in the world, what would it be? And would you start all over again? 


10 October 2012


Soooooo, here's the deal. I'm just a girl trying to figure out the simple things in life and hoping that my basic blog will entertain (and maybe even inspire...?!) people while I attempt to do so. It's not going to focus on any one thing but I'm hoping that some of the things I talk about will relate to some of you. I like a lot of things including reading and shopping as well as travelling when I can afford it. Once I figure out how to upload pictures I will and if there's something I love then I'll be sure to recommend it. I'm no expert writer but I guess I'd like to think I have something worth saying! 

As you can see, things are still under coconstructions my page but it's all a work in progress :) so I hope you will visit when you can and not mind the blog's gradual evolution! 


08 October 2012

A Room with a View

A post about Jordan.

My husband and i live in a little flat, near what is known as the Second Circle of Amman. Circle here for some reason indicates a roundabout...logical but weird. Anyway, what's so great about living in our flat is the view, since we live atop Jabal Amman (jabal means mountain, but it's more of a steep hill in this case really). From the windows of our baby lounge, kitchen and bedrooms, we can see some of Amman's other "mountains", spurting houses and buildings made of beige stones. At dusk, the houses begin to shine their lights and the city becomes outlined with lights of white, yellow and green. You can see the cars driving by, on many levels, literally, since the roads wind up and down these hills. And as the evening deepens, the hills are merely silhouettes of the houses they house and the horizon is akin to waves of shining squares. I love this. Amman is so beautiful by night. It is beautiful in the day too, something about the uniformity of the colours of the buildings connects it with the sand it is built on. And that makes it romantic (until you see the trash, but that's a topic for another day!)

Since arriving, we've been exploring what's around our neighbourhood. This is my list of our three most visited places on Second Circle:

1. A mini market called Haboob, where we get our freshly chopped and marinated chicken and Tropicana Mint Lemonade! (Deee-lish!)
2. B Lebanese pastries, the best place to get cheesy sandwich rolls and manaqeesh (pronounced "mana'eesh" and is basically flat bread topped with a variety of yummy things but usually cheese &/or oregano)
3. Our gym, which is more of a room with two running machines and a couple of other equipment. But it's on the 7th floor and costs 30Jd for 12 visits, so not too shabby!

We also discovered an American diner that has chicken wings during happy hour and if you know Louis at all, you'd know this makes him happy! We live nearby what is known as Rainbow street, where people go out during the weekend to eat, drink and smoke shisha. There has also been a recent opening of a little kiosk selling Egyptian Koshari and a falafel place is under construction. Yum, yum, yum!! 

So that's our little area. We can't wait to start having our friends visit :) 


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