Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No More Victims

I just met Cole Miller – a humanist from America. They call him a peace activist, and he could no longer stay silent in the face of so much suffering in Iraq as a result of American foreign policy delivered down the barrel of a gun, or more appropriately a cruise missile. And it all started with a poster. Now Cole has founded www.nomorevictims.org – a small organization with a powerful message that 'advocates and educates for peace' by helping victims of war - specifically injured Iraqi children - to receive medical treatment in the USA. NoMoreVictims.org is non-profit, non-sectarian, and all humanitarian. Cole believes that one of the most effective means of resisting militarism is to focus on direct relief to its victims. For all the skeptics out there, here is living proof that one person can make a difference.

It is also about galvanizing the community spirit to cross cultural barriers and to communicate; but above all it is about refusing a foreign policy that pays no heed to our collective humanity. In his own small way Cole Miller is just doing what decent human beings everywhere want to do, help their fellow man. Governments need to pay heed, because this movement of individuals working for the greater good is spreading worldwide - sending a very strong message to our political leaders that we no longer support their insane, fascist policies – we are indeed entering a new world order, one in which finally the people are standing up to say, collectively, "not in our name this insanity".

And in England, a similar movement 'War Child' - an organization that sends medical aid to children in Iraq – is working along similar, small lines with big impact. Through Cole's visit to Amman we have been able to link these two organizations, so that step by step the communities around us can work together and spread the word that we all refuse this 'war on terror' and accompanying militarism that claims 'collateral damage' is necessary in the fight for freedom and democracy.

Well, not in my name it isn't either; collateral damage has a name, be it Ahmad, Alaa' or Yusra – and what if it were your child? J

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sticks and Stones

When I was a child, I was taught to shout “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me” at any kid who called me a name or taunted me. This gave me a defense and some comfort to the hurt that name-calling inflicts. Children will shout nasty things – face to face – but adults have more insidious ways. Whispers, implications, innuendoes, and gossip are adult tools that can hurt and sometimes seriously harm others. Loose and idle talk is part of the human condition, but the reaction to it varies from culture to culture.

Since I came to Jordan I have repeatedly heard the phrases, “What will others think and what will others say?” It seems to be a common tool that parents use to control their children’s behavior. I don’t agree with this tactic nor do I take this advice seriously. I cannot control what ‘the anonymous others’ will think or say. Also, why should I give to ‘these nameless people’ power over my life, when in fact they have little or none?

However, last week when a friend commented that many Jordanians are afraid of words, I thought what a simple yet remarkable way of describing this cultural practice. Actual fear of what others will say must be a terrible and stifling thing to live with. It could affect a person’s decision about almost everything - taking a job, going on a trip, purchasing an item, taking responsibility for action for fear of being blamed, or killing a young woman suspected of ‘wrong’ behavior!

Is there dialogue about this fear of words within Jordanian society? If there is, I praise it – if there isn’t, there ought to be.


Mission Accomplished!

Just thought that I should report that I found the DVD Animals Around Us (Al-Haywanat min Hawlina) as hoped at the Mecca Mall Prime Mega Store for the magic JD 13! So much for shopping anymore at Music Box! Of course the men in my house think that I am totally nuts because I probably spent more than 10 JDs running around trying to save 2 JDs, for the benzine it cost me to run my car! I tell them that it is the principle that is involved. I just don't think that I should have to pay 2 dinars more for the same product in another store...and as long as I can afford the benzine, I won't!

Shopping in Amman

I set out on a quest this morning to buy 2 children’s DVDs to send to my daughter in America. According to her these DVDs, in Arabic are wonderful and she wants them for her children. Presently three of them have been produced….check out www.littlethinking minds.com and she wanted me to get Shapes Around Us (Al-Ashkal min Hawlina) and Animals Around Us (Al-Haywanat min Hawlina). I went to the great children’s book shop Hakawati and found the Shapes Around Us which I paid JD13 for, but unfortunately they didn’t have the other one about animals. I then went to Music Box where they had all of the selections, but they wanted JD 15, 2 JDs more that I had just paid. Of course I am used to finding different prices in different shops and occasionally I will pay the difference, but 2 JD”S??? No way!

From there I decided to check out the newly opened Carrefour, which thankfully was nearly empty, quite a contrast to the last time I was there and had to push my way through mobs of gawking people. Unfortunately I had no luck, so went on to the “airport” Safeway. I had forgotten that their music/DVD department was also run by Music Box, but no worry, the guy who was supposed to be manning their desk was off on his break for ONE hour, so there was no help for me there anyway. After phoning my savvy son who knows where everything is, I tried one last shop, maybe they would have this elusive DVD. Guess….do you think that I found it??? It was straight up 12 o’clock; the notice on the door said “we are Open” but unless I broke the glass, there was no way that I was going to get inside. Upon an inquiry to the next door neighbor, I found out that he would be there at 1:00, if I could wait just an hour, maybe I could stop my quest. Needless to say, I drove back home, frustrated with my running around, but armed with “one more place” to try this afternoon. If the Mecca Mall Prime Mega Store doesn’t have the Animal DVD, guess that Malia will only get the one….unless I send someone else out to buy to the more expensive one at Music Box that I refused to buy!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

You Can’t Tell a Book by its Cover

The concept that if the outer trimmings suggest culture, money, refinement, intelligence, beauty etc. then it is so! It certainly isn’t so, but there are many who would delude themselves and others into thinking that it is so. An opera house in Jordan that seats 1,500 will not give Jordan more ‘culture’ and is an amazingly strange priority for a poor country. Not that culture isn’t important, it is. In fact, the arts give pleasure and are an important venue for expressing reality that conventional avenues do not do. But an opera house? Probably the correct term in this instance would be a Theater for the Performing Arts. Even this definition I find premature and weighted down in wishful thinking. The Royal Cultural Center has been open for over 20 years which seats about 300 people, I think. This building has had an interesting history and at one point I assumed it was the National Theater of Jordan. Then there are three available and useful outdoor theaters, that each seat upwards of 1,000 people, for musical and theatrical events of every description – even ice follies. There is the theatre at the Municipality and another one at the University as well as the one at the Sports City called the Palace of Culture. Is there a study that shows how popular and packed our several theaters are? Do we have such talent and established companies of performing artists to keep any kind of schedule of programs that would fill seats - thus justifying a huge opera house? Simple questions maybe, but fair. Surely the technical equipment and maintenance of a proper theater are too expensive to allow it to drift into just another conference hall. I hope that upon reflection and some serious study, the money will be allocated for other necessary projects that will benefit Jordan more.


mobile phone use whilst driving

The problems of the Middle East are so overwhelming at the moment that it is difficult to know where to turn. So I thought to get down to basics again and write about the use of mobile phones whilst driving!! Doesn't help with peace in our region but might help to save a few lives in our country which has a horrendous record of road accidents. The following is what is happening in UK and I think we should follow in their footsteps. It is very scary to see people driving with one hand and listening to a conversation on their phone when it is obvious that they cannot concentrate on their driving. Even using hands-free conversations is dangerous. So please pull over to the side of the road or wait until you have finished your journey. T

Motorists using hands-free phones could receive three points on their licences and a £60 fine from next month if they are considered by police not to be in control of their vehicle.
The tougher penalties, coming in on Feb 27 under the 2006 Road Safety Act, will also apply to drivers using hand-held mobiles at any time.
The crackdown on drivers using hands-free phones and considered not to be in control of their vehicle – for example when involved in an accident – reflects the belief among safety experts that it is the act of having a conversation which distracts a motorist rather than holding a phone.
Using a mobile phone – whether hand-held or hands-free – while at the wheel makes you four times more likely to crash.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

handbag snatching

Ladies beware!

Handbag snatching is still happening. A woman was recently pushed over in Um Utheinah and a second man grabbed her bag. A horrible experience to go through and even though there might not be much money in the wallet it is the credit cards and ids that are the biggest pain to deal with. Make sure that all of you have copies of your ids and phone numbers to cancel cards. I always carry my mobile separately as I cannot imagine what I would do if it were taken!!!!

The statistics for robberies are less in 2006 than 2005 which is comforting I suppose. T

Thursday, January 18, 2007


You have probably all noticed the outrageous onslaught on to the person of President Jimmy Carter over his newly published book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" – that has come from Zionist quarters. And now Amazon.com has succumbed to the pressure and is no longer impartial.

So here's an interesting link, if you feel like expressing yourselves otherwise:



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Discriminatory Laws

An article in yesterday’s Jordan Times about discriminatory laws against women got me to thinking. With due respect and credit to all concerned, there are several major areas that must be addressed or whatever progress is made to correct legislation will be too little.

First is polygamy. The fact that it is lawful for men to take more than one wife is certainly discriminatory against women. It is a sword over a woman’s neck forcing her to submit to male control. If she is under threat that her husband is able to take another wife, she has little, if any, reasonable emotional or financial security.

Second is inheritance. The fact that a wife will inherit only one eighth of her husband’s assets is completely antiquated and unfair.

Third is honor crimes. The fact that a woman can be murdered for disobedience, suspicion of ‘sexual’ activity, or any other misdemeanor that would never stand up as a criminal charge in a court of law, is disgusting. Any one using ‘honor crime’ as a reason for murder should be prepared to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In Jordan, the fact that the family of the victim can forgive the killer, thus reducing his prison term to about three months, is incredible. No one can ‘forgive’ a crime or the perpetrator of a crime except the victim, and in this case, she is dead! To do otherwise is to say that the woman was the property of another, a thing.

Unless Jordan addresses these laws and traditions as discriminating against women and abolishes them, all other changes will be hollow.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Our bags are packed and we're ready to go

Our bags are packed and we're ready to go…

My niece was due to be married in England on 6th January and as there was an extended holiday for New Year and Eid Al Adha it was possible for all my family to attend. Making the arrangements had been like organizing a military manoeuvre, such was the complexity of flights, hotels, car hire etc but finally, on 1st January, the remaining 4 of my five-member family, our daughter having traveled earlier to enjoy the New Year celebrations and the winter sales, arrived at the airport. My husband, 2 sons and I checked in our luggage, relieved to be rid of suitcases loaded down with clothes, wedding paraphernalia and 9 kilos of Arabic baqlaweh that my niece had requested for her reception. Armed with boarding cards and the excitement of the impending celebrations, we paid our exit duty and proceeded to Immigration where we were informed that my youngest son could not travel because he was born in 1989 and was therefore, subject to Conscription. He should have had a special permission document. You're right, I was speechless!

I had heard two weeks previously that the government was "planning" to bring back conscription but we had not been informed, as parents of a 1989 son, nor had my son been informed. There was certainly no information about what do about traveling, and inquiries made since have shown that those in authority do not even know what form this "conscription" will take.

So, what to do? It's 9.30am on 1st January, a public holiday and the middle of Eid. All offices are closed. Very dejectedly, my elder son and I passed through immigration hoping somehow, that my husband would be able to procure the "magical permission" from somewhere, and join our family reunion. If he couldn't do it for the following day, then no trip, as the flights for the rest of the week leading up to the wedding were fully booked.

Now, I love Jordan and I have made it my home, but this type of idiocy just about drives me crazy. By all means, bring in conscription, in fact, if the activities for the young men are constructive, I'll back it and will gladly send both my boys, but please do it properly.
There should have been a way of getting the permission at the airport. My son is still at school and so therefore was not "fleeing the country". Fortunately for us, we were able to get the permission that day at the cost of JD1, and my son and husband traveled to England the following day at an extra cost of JD180 on each ticket!!!

We are fortunate to have been able to cover those costs, but what of the many who cannot?
I've heard that this conscription may take place in July, August and September, but how will this affect young men starting university?

Does anyone know what's going on?!!! McM

Speaking Truth to Power

If you do nothing else today – then listen to a speech by the late Martin Luther King, a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy. For today is the anniversary of his birth.

He speaks to America from the grave - one of a handful of courageous people who dared to break the silence. J

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
By Rev. Martin Luther King


Saturday, January 13, 2007

road design

According to Thursday's Jordan Times 'There are no traffic jams in Abdoun or the Fourth Circle any more' says Director of Information for the GAM Taha Abu Riden. Well, he should have been there on Thursday when there was a huge traffic jam with 3 traffic police officers trying to control the circle. The traffic that is going from 4th to 5th gets backed up and blocks the circle and, of course, everyone is pushing along and would not even think of leaving a space for other cars to get through.

After praising the design and engineering of the new road from the Dead Sea to the Zara cliffs I feel extremely disappointed at the design of all the new roads round the 4th circle, Abdoun circle and beyond. The markings are appalling and so is the design of all the intersections. I just find it shocking that the GAM cannot get their act together when designing new roads. If you are going towards the 4th circle from the 5th and turn right to go over the bridge the markings on the right hand side of the road should be on the left hand side - are they such complete idiots that they cannot mark roads properly? And as for the circle beyond the Abdoun circle, it has been built where the old traffic lights were but so designed that it is extremely dangerous to get on because of the speed of the vehicles coming up the hill.

I could go on and on about road design, it is so depressing to see all the obvious mistakes being made and maddening as well. Can't the GAM buy some proper road paint and get some experts in to show them how it should be done if they are not up to the job themselves? T

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wow, I am impressed

I AM SO IMPRESSED! Today I went to the Dead Sea panoramic museum. What an FANTASTIC place with STUNNING views, AMAZING architecture and a wonderful museum. Everyone should go to find out about our Dead Sea and how it is disappearing at the rate of 1 metre a year, though the unofficial statistics for 2006 is 1.5 metres. There is a restaurant, lovely terrace to sit on and everything so well arranged and looked after (so far!!).
From Amman drive to the Dead Sea hotel complex (Marriott/Movenpick etc) then drive a further 7 kilometres, take the left turn sign posted to Madaba, Mt Nebo and drive 10 kilometres and it is on the right hand side. The road is an incredible feat of engineering, well constructed and marked and with many safety features. But do drive carefully! T

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dibbeen Revisited

My concern about the JD 100 million tourism project proposed for Dibbeen continues. (Reference: ‘There Goes Our National Forest’ posted May 9, 2006.) I am happy that the project is not a ‘fait accompli’ and is still pending. According to the Jordan Times article of January 5-6, 2007, it is “theoretically” illegal to build on any of the Kingdom’s natural reserves. However, the article continues, “the Ministry of Agriculture has the last say on whether construction on any patch of land goes through.” What a convenient loophole that could be used to resolve this debate. Either it is illegal to build on a natural reserve or it isn’t. The Minister of Agriculture often changes in a government re-shuffle, and his signature conceivably could alter, threaten, or destroy a national heritage!

The Social Security Corporation (SSC) owns the land for the proposed venture, and its mandate is to “bring investment to the land to benefit the corporation’s shareholders.” Obviously that is the plan. Although the project isn’t on the land of the reserve itself, it is so close there are grave concerns that the reserve will be irreparably damaged by this tourism investment. That is what the fuss is all about, and that possibility alone should be enough to stop the project from going through.

Why can’t the SSC and the foreign investors do a project that will make the desert bloom? The Israelis have bragged for decades that they have done exactly that. I’m sure that JD 100 million would convert a little piece of Jordanian desert into a very pleasant place indeed and would leave our precious Dibbeen forest untouched.

The long trip of 2006

I'm back. It's been a long trip since July of 2006. Five and a half months of mental self inflicted misery at the state of the world, then two weeks of total carefree wanderings around Paris with the family for the festive season; a perfect panache to retune the mind and boost the batteries for the next round of whatever will come in 2007 in our beloved homeland deep in the heart of Arabia.

But above all, it was about family … not shopping, boozing or binging on this delicacy or that …but bonding with loved ones. We walked the streets and took in the sights, arm in arm with offspring. We sang in restaurants with kafeeyas wrapped around our necks and had a merry time as we threw caution to the howling wind and toasted the odd raised eye brow and quizzical look. But we also marveled at the sad image of people sleeping in the open on the air vents of the Paris metro – in zero degrees temperature, and felt unnervingly detached. Perhaps it was because I remembered the streets of Sweifieh and Mohammad, a young underprivileged 10 year old with learning difficulties who tried to earn some money hawking on the streets while looking after his 14 year old brother with even worse learning difficulties and fear in his eyes. Life is not fair my mind getting saying, as I wrapped my coat closer around me and held on to my husband's arm even tighter as we took in the beauty and the cold of night of the Champs Elysee.

2006 was over and I was very glad to see the end of that most violent of years; but what would 2007 usher in? More of the same, I couldn’t help thinking as our flight passed Cyprus and flew over Israel. And then, thunderstorm alert … and as we were looking out of the window a thunderbolt hit the wing of the plane and dense fog descended. A sudden jolt as if the Gods were saying 'we may be angry but you need to awake from your slumber' ! I blocked out that thought with images of our approaching home and the book I am about to write; determined as I was to rise above what my husband believes is man doing what he has always done since time immemorial: waged wars, delved into dirty politics, invaded and murdered all in the name of power and self-interest. No heed is paid to the ancient wisdom of the prophets … will we ever, I pondered as I contemplated my new year's resolution: to finish my book, if only to keep me sane and rational in this most unnerving of times. J

Photos along the Champs Elysee at night:

fake snow!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Of Suspenders, Herrings, Customs, and Good Wishes

I spent most of today taking down the Christmas tree and trimmings, listening to new CDs, and musing about last week. Weeks before Christmas everyone was asking the other, “What do you think so-and-so would like? This is information difficult to give out when you are in need of it. I did provide a hint when I told my children that some of Dad’s suspenders don’t grip well anymore. He found eight pairs under the tree. The most unique one was the two inch wide, red elastic, walking boss suspenders that will grip and hold up trousers into the next millennium! The holiday is more than gifts – it’s also food. I love pickled herrings and bought four varieties of the delicacy. Since no one in the family really likes them, I will now need to finish them alone. An indulgence that’s good once in a while and I will savor the memory until next Christmas. The grandchildren told their mother that this was the best Christmas ever, and when she told me of their comment, she added one of her own, “They always say that.” First-rate news nonetheless.

My husband is faithful to the Jordanian tradition of going to Madaba on the morning of Christmas. This age old custom is to condole with the families in the tribe who have suffered a death during the year. The idea of remembering people who are grieving on their first Christmas or Easter without their loved one is compassionate and civilized, and a custom that I admire greatly. Our daughter was here after a two year absence, and we paid some private visits so she could pay her condolences. I think the hardest thing I learned about these visits is that there is nothing one can say. The real meaning is to visit and lend whatever support your presence may give.

Life in Jordan is finally getting back to normal after Christmas, the Feast of El Adha, and the New Year holiday. The city is opening up after what seems an eternity. Newspapers are available finally, and the children are hitting their books preparing to return to school and their inevitable exams. International and regional news remain much the same - just different hues of the same color. Regardless, 2007 is here with the hopes and wishes for a better life and a better year still fresh in our minds. Before this first week passes I add my good wishes to all for a great 2007!


Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Does anyone know the rules for males born after 1989 who want to travel outside Jordan???? Have heard lots of stories about conscription being brought back and that any boy born after 1989 will have to do 3 months army service. Has it all been brought together in a law? When will they have to serve and what are the exemptions? And why do they have to get permission to travel out of the country? T