Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Day in the Life

Just to give you some idea of how I spent my days before shipping off every morning for training at the school, here's a short breakdown of an average day in the first week I was here (I've been here two weeks already; can you believe it?).

If Sine the kitten is staying with me, she abruptly wakes up from her 7 hour nap at about 7 a.m. and attempts to attack every inch of me she can reach. She spends the rest of the morning in the living room, and I, nursing my new scratches, go back to sleep.

A couple hours later, I am woken up by either the call to prayer, the gasoline truck, the fruits and vegetables truck, the cotton candy whistle or the various other weird noises in the city.

Descriptive passage: The call to prayer, which happens at pretty much every mosque as far as I know, sounds like a man chanting/singing very low. It lasts for about a minute, maybe two. The first time I heard the gasoline truck, I got very excited. Yes. Diesel really does it for me. No no. I got excited because it sounds just like it SHOULD be the Arab version of the ice cream truck theme song. Only it's not. Tragic. The fruits and vegetables truck has a similar ringtone but is not quite as ice creamy and therefore not quite as hope inspiring. The cotton candy whistle sounds exactly like one of those whistles you blow in, then push and pull out the slider. It sounds exactly like that because I'm fairly sure that's exactly what the cotton candy seller uses. Why there is a cotton candy seller wandering up my street at 8 a.m., I don't know. The various other weird noises in the city could be 1) our neighbors talking loudly in Arabic 2) our neighbors playing loud music in Arabic 3) our neighbors driving old, loud cars by our apartment 4) any number of weird big-city noises. I'm not sure how I'm going to sleep when I go back to the U.S. It will be way too quiet!

I ignore the noises and go back to sleep. I finally drag myself out of bed and flip the switch to turn on the hot water in the bathroom. An hour later I remember I turned the hot water on and finally decide to take a shower. Then I'm ready to start my day. Maybe. Depends. Maybe I'll just read for a while.

In the afternoon, I might decide I need some things from Carrefour, located in the City Mall. I walk down the street, turn right, walk down to the end of THAT street to a street with a line of shops. I eyeball the cars for a moment, then cross roughly six millimeters in front of two cars going opposite directions. I turn around and hail a taxi by pointing at the road. I tell the taxi in fairly bad Arabic where I want to go. He takes me, I go, I hail another taxi, I come back.

Or I could decide I just need little essential things from the string of shops near my apartment. We might be running low on water. In that case, I would get Heather, who speaks much better Arabic, to come with me to a shop where we order large water jugs delivered to our apartment. The man installs a pump, and we have fresh water for a couple of days. Until we need another one.

If I'm hungry and don't want to cook, I could also go get a shawarma. With Heather, because they don't speak English either. A shawarma is a flat, rolled-up sandwich filled with chicken or meat (contrary to popular belief, in Jordan, chicken is not meat) and vegetables. It is usually grilled.

If I need some pharmaceuticals, I head over to the pharmacy. Heather got a cold last week, so we are on a first name basis with the owners of the pharmacy. If you want to hear more about Heather's pharmacy fun, read her blog post called Haircuts and Vitamin B Shots.

We also have two or three different tiny convenience stores that conveniently offer fruit, veggies, many food options, and beauty and bath supplies, most of which for cheaper than at the Carrefour. We also have a Dinar Zone (dollar store) we are hoping will have kitten toy substitutes for our kitten instead of having her gnaw on my hands some more.

If we just need to get out of the house for a bit, or if the gasoline truck really got me thinking, we wander toward a little dessert shop and cafe, where we can enjoy fantastic ice cream and fairly yummy looking desserts.

But the best place we patronize (or maybe are patronized?) is the bakery. Every few days we get a half kilo of warm, soft pita bread. Melts in your mouth and makes a darn good breakfast. And lunch. And possibly dinner. Especially if you eat it with labneh (thick yogurt) and za'atar, a spice mix.

And I worried I wouldn't find any food I like here!

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