Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mecca Mall versus City Mall

Having just walked round Mecca Mall I am very impressed how clean and well maintained it is after being open for a few years now. They have kept an excellent standard. Spotless (though I did not look at the toilets!). In comparison I find City Mall a bit under the weather. Wilting plants in messy pots, dirty escalators and just a general sense of a careless finish. T

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nature sacrificed

Election fever seems to be gripping the country with images of candidates hanging from lampposts and banners festooning traffic islands. I was pleased to note that in west Amman, traffic signs are not obliterated. On the contrary, speed limits are exposed with a smiling candidate attached on the post, above and below, as if to say, "80 please".

Unfortunately, one candidate has posters attached to every single new tree on the central reservation between Eighth Circle and Fastlink/Zein. Protection of the environment is obviously not part of his platform! These poor little saplings will not survive. The municipality should insist that the posters are removed immediately.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Attitudes Toward Work

When I first came to Jordan, I heard people say how much money they TAKE in reference to their salary. I found this a strange concept because in the states we always refer to a salary as how much we MAKE. I think that the meaning is as different as the words. If you take money, it means deducting from a total. As if there is one large pie which is to be divided. The reference is static, sterile, and limited. If you make money, it means you are creating something, adding to, or expanding the limits. I don’t think this is a just a difference in language but rather a difference in attitudes toward work.

I have also heard from some that the most desirable job would be one where money is paid for doing nothing. What is that - no dirty hands, no responsibility, no accountability, and no strain on brains or body? When young people aspire to this kind of employment, I’m amazed and wonder if they were raised to think that the world owes them a good life.

By contrast I’ve met young Americans who boast about their 24 – 7 schedule. They are proud that their work is so demanding that they work 24 hours seven days a week. I can’t understand how one would willingly deny himself quality of life. This, too, is as much without balance as the uninspired, bored approach of getting paid for doing nothing.

I question the actual state of unemployment in Jordan. I know that both my son and my husband can’t find people to work. The range of openings is vast: simple cleaners, housekeepers, waiters, secretaries, accountants, telephone operators, and the list goes on. There are technical training schools that have places for several thousand students. It would be interesting to know if all of these places actually get filled. I think something is out of kilter here, and maybe a lot of unemployment has to do with attitudes towards work.


The joys of Madrid Airport

Just returned from our trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca … that part was great, admiring the scenery on the few days of pleasant weather and marvelling at the beauty of mother nature in the ancient olive and almond groves while hubby attended a conference on the benefits of laughter; yes that's right you read me … laughter yoga of course ( But we came back with a strong desire never to return, at least through Madrid Airport, a maze of miles of tunnels, trains, walkways, lifts, stairs and exits; and too many little Hitler's around with pimpled faces disguised in security uniforms refusing to speak in a language us humble tourists could understand, ready to pounce on unsuspecting travelers carrying … wait for it … bottles of wine just bought in the airport shops IN TRANSIT with proof of purchase!

Such was my good luck! And as I saw a rather delicious bottle of Spanish plonk get gingerly placed in the security bin for supposed 'destruction' at the end of the day ('down whose gullet?' I couldn't help thinking), I had to bite my tongue really hard to stop myself from yelling out loud 'bomb, bomb!' … while visions of being whisked away on the midnight plane to Guatanamo swirled in my head! Maybe they thought better of it too … couldn't bear the thought of olives being thrown at them 24/7 by a deranged English Arab sympathizer - and female too!

And all this because of new EU instructions; well, someone has to justify his cushy job in Belgium (and Tony Blair's Middle East meanderings) so they come up with harebrained security regulations … paid for by all that extra tax on tickets no doubt!

'Boycott duty-free shopping at airports now!' thinks me and wonders about the merits of it all .... but nowhere did it say a passenger in transit cannot buy liquid in whatever form from the airport … except of course when you transit Madrid Airport; obviously I missed the small print!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Application of the Law

I have just returned from a months long trip to the US. Whenever I am there someone invariably asks me this question: What do you think is the main difference between Jordan and America that affects your way of life? I think they usually expect me to say something about democracy, but we quickly move over that subject when I say that with democracy they got President Bush and I just as soon have King Abdullah ruling my country.

But pondering this question seriously, I think one of the main differences is in the application of the law. Jordan has all the necessary laws, rules and regulations but seems to be far behind in the manner in which they are applied. Jordan also has the added 'rule' of 'wasta' which means there are exceptions to every rule and a way around everything. Unfortunately this 'rule' is used by most people from the top on down and it affects everything in our lives from the traffic around us, to garbage disposal, our food and drugs, the schools we can attend, to the job we can get, to the way we are treated in the hospital or a government office etc., etc. Nothing is definite and everything can change. Worse still, many people seem to take pride in being able to break the law or get around it.

I think this system causes people to lose trust in their government and in their law makers, as well as to have little respect for law enforcers. It makes for a feeling of insecurity which causes frustration, anger and dissatisfaction resulting in the majority of people being less creative and less productive.

PS. As I was driving out of town this morning and thinking about all this I couldn't help but notice the jumble of road signs. I say jumble because there seems to be no law and order to these signs. Many of the road signs are half obscured by ads placed in front of them or alongside them. Now they are even harder to see due to the election campaign signs. Look at these pictures......and these are the responsible citizens we are expected to elect for our parliament. Can you imagine the uproar if say Barack Obama plastered his pictures on road signs along an American highway?!? ....z

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customer service from Orange

Should one blog when the temper is raging?! Trying to get through to Orange is almost impossible, the time one waits is unbelievable. I have just spent 25 minutes getting cut off or just waiting for someone to answer and that does not include all the calls earlier and yesterday and the day before!! They can spend an absolute fortune on advertising their wares but their customer care is absolute crap. We have been from one department to another and even made the trip down to their hq to try and solve the problem of the adsl line cutting off every five minutes. Does anyone know the MD of Orange? I want to give him a piece of my mind! T

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hello from Mallorca

Glad to see that all is well on the Jordanian home front ..... thought I would just send a little greeting over the horizon from Mallorca where we are spending a week of total chill out in the mountains around Valdemossa and Deia .... a walkers paradise if you like steep hills, ancient steps, meandering tiny streets and breathtaking views of the Med and its pine forests .... if you can't walk more than a few metres in a straight flat line, then don't come to Mallorca! Another point to consider is if you can't drive a small car around hair bin bends on roads with a sheer thousand foot drop into the deep blue sea below ... then also, don't come to Mallorca!

But apart from that, it's sheer heaven on earth ... and as we read the international press over breakfast and congratulate the world and his uncle for the wonderful mess humanity has created of this world, we give thanks for our rested sanity.

Am off now down the dirt path through the pine forest to the sea below .... for some peace and quiet and if I am brave enough, a dip into the deep blue, but cold sea!

Until we meet again on home soil .... J

Saturday, October 20, 2007

the plight of maids in Jordan

Can you imagine? 200 Filipina girls are taking shelter at their Embassy, living in pretty desperate conditions. All of them having run away from the homes they work in for various reasons. I wonder how many Sri Lankans, Indonesians etc are in trouble also.

Who is to blame for all of this? Is it the home governments for allowing these girls to be recruited, the host governments for not monitoring conditions or putting down strict laws or the recruitment agencies who seem to be getting away with doing anything they want? Or lastly the treatment these girls get in the houses that they work in? Why is it that most maids do not have their own bedrooms, proper meals or payment on time? They are expected to clean the house, cook the food, look after the children and generally work as slaves. Of course, not everyone treats their maids like this but it seems the vast majority does. T

Friday, October 19, 2007

Drug Laws

This week there was an article about drug use in Jordan. Every time I read about any drug problem here, I realize that I don’t know what laws exist, if any, about drug usage. In the States the government has chosen a strange path regarding drugs. It has made it a criminal act and because of it, the nation deals with two startling results. One is that the price of drugs is exorbitant because drugs are illegal. An entire industry involving billions and billions of dollars exists because dealing in drugs is such a lucrative business. The other is that America has the largest prison population of any nation on earth, the majority of whom are there for drug related ‘crimes.’

What a waste of national and human resources! Drug usage, smoking tobacco, alcohol abuse, are all medical problems and punishing the abuser is not the answer. I would be interested to know what laws Jordan has regarding drugs?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rape in the Valley

Rape is one of the most terrible of crimes and we are all sorry to hear about the case of two British women being attacked in the Jordan Valley. Because they are foreigners this has been highlighted in the media and I would like to say that ALL cases are pursued with the same diligence whatever the nationality of the victim. Recently a fifteen year old Jordanian girl was violently raped and the offender got the death penalty.

This is an appropriate moment to remind everyone how Jordan deals with these kinds of crimes.

Our Family Protection Department, which is a police department but has forensic doctors and social workers attached, deals with crimes of physical abuse (if the offender is a family member) and sexual offences (whoever the offender is). If abuse is reported (unless it is a total emergency) uniformed officers do not go to the house, social workers go or plain clothed police officers. The aim is to protect the family as there is usually just one guilty party and the rest are innocent victims even if they did not themselves have a crime committed against them. It is a very sensitive area which has to be treated with care and caution. As far as sexual crimes are concerned, they are pursued to the utmost in the courts.

Many are talking about crimes within the family and that the offender can get a lesser punishment if they claim family honour. I think it is up to us all to bring these points to prospective members of parliament and to get a change in the laws. The police and the justice system can only do what the law tells them and who are the lawmakers? The Parliament. I would suggest that we all lobby for the law which allows the family to drop charges against the offender (who is usually a family member) and that so called 'honour' crimes should be treated as plain murder (which has certain degrees).

If you need help or a crime has been committed against you which comes under the Family Protection Department, please remember how important physical evidence is which can prove innocence or guilt or, at least, that certain people were involved if they deny it.

Please call the Family Protection Department on the following numbers -
5815826 or 5815846


Monday, October 15, 2007

Trader Vics

I have just been to have a look at the latest restaurant in town - Trader Vics, which is attached to the Regency Hotel. Wow! It is absolutely lovely, the decor is stunning and the whole ambience is great. It was just a look so have not tried the food but the menu looks interesting. They have a Cuban group for entertainment. I look forward to my first experience of dining there. T

Saturday, October 13, 2007

no smoking at QAIA - huh!

I went to collect a friend from the airport last night around midnight. At least 20 people were smoking in the terminal under large no smoking signs and public announcements every once in a while saying this was a non-smoking area. Not one person took any notice. What is the problem? Do these people (all men I have to say) think that it does not apply to them? Why isn't there any enforcement? You throw a piece of rubbish out of a car in Singapore and you are fined over JD 100, so no-one throws any rubbish! Unless there is enforcement of laws with appropriate punishments people will just take no notice. If the traffic police fined everyone a large amount for not wearing seat belts or using a mobile whilst driving people will become more law abiding. If one can get away with flouting regulations and laws, why not smoke in public, throw rubbish indiscriminately, drive insanely etc etc? T

Thursday, October 11, 2007

kowtowing to 'His Excellency'

I have never known a country where there are so many 'Excellencies'. Who gets this title and why? I remember a few years ago when even army officers were being addressed 'His Excellency General.......'. It is such a ridiculous title and conveys such outdated practices in government and elsewhere. What is excellent about these people (mostly men, of course)? I suppose the title is to put a barrier between them and us ordinary people.

Well you won't get me calling anybody 'Your Excellency'!! T

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Making sense out of nonsense

I decided to water the plants on the veranda as they were looking how I was feeling, wilted from the weight of this callous world falling square on my being … when hubby walked in.
"Can you switch the hose off" says me and he bursts out laughing.
"What now!!" says me rather indignantly …
"Ha – you're talking like a true Arab now … would you rather I turn the tap off perhaps?"
And it took me a while for the penny to drop, as the last of the weekly rations of water fizzled away from the end of the hose. And as if that was not enough, both the iron and the dish washer exploded on my watch and the washing machine sprung a leak.

"I'll tell you what" says hubby …"when Turkey invades Israel," pause .... and it's my turn to burst out laughing …"we'll go on holiday to Cyprus".

"What? Why Turkey? That doesn't make sense?"

"Well, what does make sense: America invading Iran, or Gaza an independent Palestinian state?

"I'm not the only one who doesn't make sense in this crazy world," says hubby as we link arms and go inside for coffee. Arabic coffee that is, something that has come to symbolize a moment of realism in our house away from the maddening political crowd of all persuasions. J

Monday, October 08, 2007

One Unruly Child

I stood next to a woman with a little girl in the packed arrival area of the airport yesterday. The child was probably about three years old and she repeatedly darted under the metal barrier and ran across the path of arriving passengers to the other barrier. Anyone pushing a loaded trolley wouldn’t see her and could easily run over her. The woman halfheartedly scolded the child with phrases like: ‘be careful,’ ‘watch out for the trolleys,’ ‘come back.’ All the while the woman smiled and looked around as if she was pleased with the child’s behavior. Of course her smile may have been embarrassment because she wasn’t doing anything to stop it. Finally the child got tired and crawled under the barrier on her hands and knees. The woman bent down, picked her up and said, “Now, look. You’ve gotten your clothes dirty.” Within a minute the little one put her fingers in her mouth. Instead of telling the child to take her fingers out of her mouth because they were dirty, she said, “SHAME!”

This little girl was allowed to run wild in a dangerous area, scolded, and then shamed. She was being treated as if she was responsible for her own safety, cleanliness, and behavior. No wonder the child was so unruly – she doesn’t know what is expected of her and certainly gets little positive encouragement. I am sorry to say that I see a great many children in Jordan who seem to live without rules.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

The farewell kiss lingers on the cheek
As I think of son at uni and the recent callous bombing in Beirut
that took the life of yet another 'good' politican.
He left over a week ago; is that all?
and I wonder how he's coping when the phone rings.
"Hi mum just wanted to say hello" he says
in a very reassuring voice with a happy lilt in the tone ….
"How's uni" says me stupidly as I clear the lump in my throat.
"Great!" comes a word of comfort that sums up the Lebanese sense of 'savoir vivre'
as I pass the phone to hubby and they share a joke and a laugh.
"Just keep learning to duck and dive son and you'll be fine"
… ever the optimist my husband ….
who hands back the phone with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that can move a mountain of humanity and stop a tear from falling.

Note to self: think positive and try and move a mountain! J

The monk who sold his Ferrari

Have just read this book, which is how to achieve personal happiness (most of which went over my head!), there was one passage that I cannot get out of my mind -

"There was once a feeble old woman whose loving husband died. So she went to live with her son and his wife and daughter. Every day the woman's sight grew worse and her hearing grew worse. Some days her hands trembled so badly the peas on her plate rolled onto the floor and the soup ran from her cup. Her son and his wife couldn't help but be annoyed at the mess she made and one day they said enough was enough. So they set up a little table for the old woman in a corner next to the broom closet and made her eat all of her meals there, alone. She would look at them at mealtimes with tear-filled eyes from across the room, but they hardly talked to her while they ate, except to scold her for dropping a spoon or a fork.

One evening, just before dinner, the little girl was sitting on the floor playing with her building blocks. 'What are you making?' her father asked earnestly. 'I'm building a little table for you and mother' she said, 'so you can eat by yourselves in the corner someday when I get big.' The father and mother were moved to silence for what seemed like eternity. Then they started to weep. In that instant they became aware of the nature of their actions and the sadness they had caused. That night they led the old woman back to her rightful place at their big dinner table and from that day on she ate all her meals with them."

It really made me think that compassion is missing in so many people lives. Our time for old age will come. How did we treat our parents as they aged? T

Friday, October 05, 2007

To Deb, an Answer to Your Question

Dear Deb,

I’m pleased that you liked my posting about a Jordanian Wedding. It obviously triggered some questions that you have about marrying a Jordanian and living in Jordan.

Last December Elizabeth asked similar questions of us and I am posting a copy of what we answered her at that time:

Each of us at Jordan Journals has been asked many times what living in Jordan is like, and what being married to a Jordanian is like.

If you look through the blog you will find a variety of postings about life in Amman and the positive and negative aspects of living in the Middle East. There are, however, some things that we can tell you that are very different from life in the USA, England, or most countries in the West when one is married to a Jordanian.

Jordanian life revolves around the family, nuclear and extended. Their traditions regarding family relationships are respected and observed. For the most part these traditions make life here appealing, but they do encroach on one’s privacy and concerns at times.

Moslem laws regarding inheritance are applied to all Jordanians regardless of one’s religion. Women who are not Moslem cannot inherit from a Moslem husband. This law, in particular, is one of the most difficult for all expatriate wives to accept. Women do not have equal rights in other instances as well, so it would be in your interest before marriage to ask about your legal status in the case of divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, as well as inheritance.

On the other hand, marriage is a great leap into the unknown, but hopefully to a person with whom you want to face the uncertainty.
If you're not sure, it's probably better to wait for a while. Ideally a visit to Jordan to meet your future family and situation would answer many of your questions and initiate many more.

We hope that these comments help you with your decision.


When we posted this on the blog, others who read Jordan Journals joined in and made comments for Elizabeth. Possibly, posting this again will stimulate some discussion which you will find helpful as well.

Best of luck,