Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hilltop Hustle at the Dead Sea

I imagine sheeptalk goes something like this:

"So ... you going first?


Hey, we're not as daft as those lemmings you know!

And no, sheep can't walk on water!

So let's do the hustle!

Hey donk, care to join in the fun before

our good shepherd wakes up and decides it's dinner time?" ... J
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Aqaba by night

Sunset, Aqaba -

photos by J taken at the Royal Yatch Club.
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A day in Aqaba

Just spent a few days in Aqaba, recouping, resting and relaxing ... so I went and sat on the jetty and as it was too cold for a swim decided to take the camera instead ....

Local boys fishing sardines for lunch on the shores of the Red Sea

Dilemma of 'Al Shorcuk' - Solution found!

Yet another five star hotel under construction with a relic of a ship grounded on the shore, the 'Al Shorcuk'. The saga of this ship has been going on for quite a while, but as I sat and watched the boys having fun fishing I suddenly thought what a great idea it would be if 'they' turned this ship into a floating learning facility for kids such as a library/hands-on museum/even video centre with documentaries about saving the shoreline and the coral reef, or learning about life under the Red Sea (even an extension to the Aquarium) so that the local kids can be integrated into all this development in a rather novel learning environment .... well, at least that's one way to recycle this mound of metal that defies a solution.

Seagulls in flight ..... J

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Monday, February 25, 2008

'Rainbow Street revamped' and 'completed'. Hah!!!

The Jordan Times today quotes GAM that it 'has completed renovation work on Rainbow Street'. Well, I drove down there today and it is a complete mess with piles of unfinished work and holes in the road. The parking has gone mad with cars parked on each side of the street (plus the usual double parking) so hardly any space to squeeze through. And why put up those new lamps and still have the old ones there? So, GAM, Rainbow Street is not finished! T

Sunday, February 24, 2008

In Memory

My mother was born on February 24, 1908 – one hundred years ago today. She died June 30, 1986 at the age of 78, and a life well lived.

Her being in the kitchen was where I remember her most as a child, but I’m sure that was not the place she favored. Her cello stood behind the door like a lonely wooden statue, a reminder of her love of music. I know she didn’t pine to play it because her greater love, the piano, was just a few steps away in the living room. She would have preferred to be sitting at the piano anytime to working in the kitchen, but like most women everywhere, she did what was required. She did it with love and as much enthusiasm as she could muster.

The kitchen window above the sink framed our large backyard. She could see the fruit trees, the bird bath, and us, when we were playing there. She could see her laundry hanging on the clothesline strung precariously from the garage to the corner of the house. I know, however, that the view was slightly magical because of her joy in seeing the creatures that lived and visited there. When snow covered the yard, she would clear it from the bird bath and generously spread bread crumbs for the birds. In summer she would call them by imitating their song or whistle and then stand silently waiting for their answer. And answer they did. She watched the squirrels foraging for nuts they had buried; probably the very nuts that she had given them, for she often enticed them to take some from her outstretched hand. I loved to watch her smile with pleasure at their quivering courage to come close to her.

And you ask, what does this have to do with Jordan? It was there, in our kitchen, that she and I had many conversations about my marrying and coming to Jordan. She saw the potential in my young Jordanian suitor and the promise of the fine man he would become. She encouraged me to follow him. Her positive attitude and support were consistent with who she was. Later, I discovered that few mothers the world over would encourage their children to make such a cross-cultural marriage, but my mother was different. The things in life that were important to her were simple and beautiful. I am proud to be her daughter.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Good Road Signs

I drove to Jerash yesterday to celebrate the sunshine and warmer weather. My son told me that parts of the road near Bekka are closed so I took the Abu Nusayr highway. This road is a pleasure to drive although the posted speed limit of 80 is violated by all. The usual road to south Jerash was closed and the detour road wound up, down, and around, but I was guided by well placed, clearly legible signs. Although the detour was in unfamiliar territory for me, I had no problems getting to Jerash or returning to Amman. What might have been a frustrating drive was not - thanks to well placed and clear road signs.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

traffic problems in Jordan and how to solve them

I have been lucky over the years to have good friends who are police officers. Just recently two of these friends have been appointed as head of the Driver and Car Licensing Dept and head of the Traffic Dept. They are wonderful officers and deserve all the help and support we can give them.

So if anyone has some constuctive ideas and/or suggestions I will make sure that they see them. Do not forget that the police do not make the laws (Parliament) nor do they design the roads and signs (the Municipality). So get going folks! T

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ducks in the Desert - a poem for my children

I woke up this morning and what did I hear?
But ducks quacking in the distance.
Ducks? In Amman?
In this semi desolate landscape where dwindling pine
And olives grow?
The snow was gone,
the sky was blue
And poor old Azraq and its oasis have
Obviously gone too.

The world has changed
Thinks me …
Ya fatheeyeh, mumbles hubby from a distance
Don't look so depressed.
The world has not changed
It remains the same
Despite the Budhha's edict
'Everything changes
And nothing remains'
…except people and their manias
Their intervention economics,
Their neoclassical monopolies
And one economies
Their lip service to development
While the key turns merrily the
Bank vault door on the majority poor.

And now the desert has succumbed to their policies in aid
Of the Washington Concensus;
No more sacred ground
Where the wild wind and shabbabeh tunes once blew;
But concrete walls and barbed wire fences
And this bit for you and this bit for them
And over there on yonder mountain base
A place where tourists can roam …
like cattle to the market
of development's case.

And I remember a land I once knew
A proud culture all embracing
Roaming, evolving
Heading forwarding,
Until the doors swung round
And in they poured with aid galore.
And before my eyes I saw a culture
Changing in an ancient land
As edicts caste from far and wide ….
From north and south descended
And the people stood and watched
With outcaste hands all flailing
Befuddled and bemused
And a crisis of identity impending.

So what now my children, I ponder
The one of my existence;
For you will never know, nor see
Nor feel the true one of my
Intrinsic reality … a love
Forlorn and forsaken
For a place, a distant memory
In the name of progress
Veiled in hype and heresy
For the sake of the one of the other
All business;

And hopefully
on the horizon


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Captain Abu Raed

Art imitates life – although some say that life imitates art. One person trying to prove the latter referred to an episode of CSI (the American TV series Crime Scene Investigation) which showed the use of bleach to remove DNA. Apparently criminals are now increasing their use of bleach! This is an unusual sort of example but it makes a point. I think we all are aware that words and pictures have a powerful influence on people.

If you want to see art imitating life, the Jordanian feature film ‘Captain Abu Raed’ is a must see. I recommend it highly from my expertise as someone who loves a good movie and has a lifetime of movie going to back it up. Last night we left the theater thrilled by what we saw, and proud that it was a purely Jordanian production. The story takes place in Amman throughout, but a number of scenes were shot in Salt. Our daughter in law grew up there, and she was excited to see the stairs in Abu Raed’s neighborhood were the ones that she ran up and down as a child. Of course, the scenes at Queen Alia airport and many other places in Amman were familiar and made the movie quite personal. The acting and cinematography were professional. Although the theme of the story was universal, it was a difficult one to depict. I thought they did a marvelous job and dealt with it simply, realistically, and well. The movie Captain Abu Raed is an eye opener. Bravo to all involved in the production.


is this legal?

I was in City Mall this morning and went to the delicatessen/cafe to have a look. Seemed very nice with tasty looking pastries so decided to buy a slice of apple pie which was priced JD1.500, quite expensive but thought I would try it out at home. The slice was wrapped and I gave my JD1.500 to then be told but that was not the price it was JD1.740 or something as the tax had not been added on. I was so annoyed - how can something be advertised at one price yet when you buy it, it suddenly is another price. Is this legal? T

Once upon a Wednesday

Hubby was doing his exercises

at four o'clock in the morning .... as the snow descended outside.

And as I looked through the window at the little church roof and the black and white mosque covered in pristine sheets of white on a distant hill, along with the Jebal al Qala'a, the Citadel, that looks eerily beautiful, I thought of the people of Gaza without electricity and little heat, not to mention food ... and hoped it was snowing in Palestine too. For snow tends to bring out the best in people in the harshest of environments.

Hubby was not in a talkative mood that day as he listened to the radio lying flat in his bed.

There were no flying olives across a breakfast table, no animated debate. Just a smile and a touch of a hand as we contemplated the next move and watched eastwards, mesmerized by the unusual sight outside.

So I ventured out in the snow, driving at 20kmh; I was touched by the waving policemen, the jolly shopkeepers with smiles on their faces and the kids playing with snowballs. And then the car got stuck, a few hundred metres from the house and along came three good shepherds who pushed the car to safety, and a complete stranger in a 4x4 who took me home.

Funny how a little change in the weather can bring out the best in people.

Long may it continue, I think it will .... more snow is expected this week. J

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Of Documentaries ... and the reason why

The recent seminar organized by the RFC with renowned Swiss filmmaker, Christian Frei, was a real treat. Not only is he a great filmmaker, but an inspired and impassioned speaker too with a refreshing dose of modesty - all reflected in his films. Of particular note was his 2001 award winning film 'War Photographer' that left me speechless … no wonder he sent us all home after the film without the chance to ask questions … no-one could talk … as we drifted out of the new multi media centre of the RFC and went home rather shell shocked. The rain that began to fall was a light reprieve. But please don't misunderstand. It was a unique and fascinating film about the life of war photographer – Peter Nachtwey , the most respected war photographer of our times, if one can use the term 'respect' in conjunction with the word 'war' - "an engaging personality; the diametrical opposite of the hardened and cynical war correspondent" (Norbert Creutz). Christian captured the spirit of the man, professional, committed, and modest who has been humbled by man's inhumanity to man. Every step of the journey from Kosovo, to Indonesia, Palestine to Africa, Christian always followed never imposed, and you were taken with him into the horrors of conflict, the danger, the pain of it all and the touching moments of fleeting compassion that rose up from the madness of it all.

We debated how effective a tool the documentary film or indeed a photographer's photo can be in effecting change in this world, hell-bent on destruction. Was it not a narcissistic view of the world, a voyeuristic journey? But you soon realize that’s not what this art form is about. It's about finding the truth within; a powerful and essential means of communication … a very human need. It is a need we all have, particularly in today's media manipulated world, when the documentary film works as an impassioned plea to change attitudes and find the truth that may set us free. But it's also about a deep unrelenting, mysterious love – as in Christian's case – that reflects reverence for his subject; an unmistakable vein that pumps through the heart of all his documentary films. He does not judge, take sides, nor manipulate – evidenced by his sublime film 'The Giant Buddhas' that was reviewed by Mittelbayerische Zeitung as "an urgent appeal for tolerance". A film that for Christian is a "hymn to diversity of expression, religions and cultures, a call for tolerance conveyed through the figure of the Chinese monk who set out westwards in the seventh century AD." "Look" says Frei, "they had their Marco Polos as well! We should stop seeing our civilization as the center of the world. Just because it was an act of ignorance for the Taliban to destroy the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan Valley, the reaction to that ignorance should not be equally ignorant".

A Christian Frei film is all about team work and the stunning cinematography by Peter Indergand, his longtime camerman, is a testament to their friendship founded on a deep understanding of their work. Although the two are completely different in character, the films come about through a process of "respectful disputation" as Christian puts it. But the underpinning element of a Christian Frei film that can take up to three years to make, is that "Switzerland has an excellent system of film funding" which is why Frei can afford the luxury of investing the necessary time. Something that through the ambitious and dedicated aims of the Royal Film Commission, may yet be available to Jordanian filmmakers, so that they too will one day find themselves celebrating at the Oscars!

It was an inspiring three days .... so a big thank you to the Royal Film Commision for their unrelenting commitment to the nascent Jordanian Film Industry that is off to a great start with Amin Matalka's work of art in the beautiful and highly acclaimed film "Captain Abu Raed"
and Mahmud Al Massoud's documentary 'Recycle' that won the Sundance World Cinema Cinematography Award. This documentary was centered on the life of a Jordanian family man, who lived in the same town of Zarqa as Abu Musa Al Zarqawi of Al Qaeda Iraq, and who struggles to support his family and define his identity in a tense political climate.

RFC website or contact Mohannad Bakri for further information on options available to Jordanian film makers.

And finally, I thought it appropriate to quote the words of Peter Nachtwey that he wrote in 1985 shortly before becoming a member of the world famous photo agency Magnum, about the relevance of his work as a war photographer – something as relevant today as it was then:

"There has always been war. War is raging throughout the world at the present
moment. And there is little reason to believe that war will cease to exist
in the future. As man has become increasingly civilized, his means of
destroying his fellow man have become ever more efficient, cruel and devastating."

"Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behaviour which has existed throughout history by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance. Yet, that very idea has motivated me."

"For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war, and it if is used well it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war. If everyone could be there just once to see for themselves what white
phosphorous does to the face of a child or what unspeakable pain is caused by
the impact of a single bullet or how a jagged piece of shrapnel can rip someone's leg off – it everyone could be there to see for themselves the fear and the grief, just one time, then they would understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that happens to even one person, let alone thousands. But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there – to show them, to negotiate for peace and to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are doing – to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference – to protest and by the strength of that protest to make others protest." …

"The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else's tragedy. This idea haunts me. It is something I have to reckon with every day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition I will have sold my soul. The stakes are simply too high for me to believe otherwise. I attempt to become as totally responsible to the subject as I possibly can.
"The act of being an outsider aiming a camera can be a violation of humanity. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person's predicament. The extent to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other, and to that extent I can accept myself."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

are you an expert in washing bottoms????

A garment factory in Jordan is looking for 'washing in charge' and one of the areas of expertise required is 'washing bottoms'! This advertisement in the Jordan Times appeared today and my mind went into a whirl wondering who could apply. I suppose all mothers are good at washing their babies bottoms and maybe nurses too. Any suggestions? And what do you suppose they really mean? Buttons? T

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Opportunity Not To Be Missed

In today’s Jordan Times I read that now there will be ‘Tougher regulations to phase out bus conductors.’ New buses will have fare boxes so the conductor is no longer needed. This affects 3,500 people, most of whom are under the age of 20! That is a shocking number of young men who are working in a job with no future. If the majority of these young men have no other skills, then they should be taught some. Instead of complaining that they will swell the ranks of the unemployed, I should think that this is an opportunity to fill the openings in the training schools that the government has established. The expense needed to train these young men will benefit them and increase the number of skilled laborers in the country. This looks like an opportunity rather than a problem with no solution.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

a future without much water

I see that King Abdullah has directed a Royal Water Committee to be set up. It is something that is urgently needed with the large amount of hotels, offices and residential buildings being built. Our water system must be straining at the seams and it is difficult to imagine how the country will manage without severe restrictions and innovative ideas put in place. Recently I was in Melbourne and was amazed at the problems they are having and how they are are coping and the restrictions put on the citizens - their web site is very informative T

Here are a few examples of the restrictions -

Watering Days*
Even numbered properties can water on Saturday and Tuesday.
Odd numbered properties can water on Sunday and Wednesday.
Watering is not permitted on Monday, Thursday and Friday.
Where there is no number, the property is considered an even numbered address.
Watering Times
Manual dripper systems, a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle, watering cans and
buckets can be used to water gardens as required on specified watering days between
6am – 8am. Households with at least one resident aged 70 years or over may water their
gardens manually on specified watering days between 6am – 8am or 8am – 10am.
Automatic dripper systems can be used to water gardens as required on specified
watering days between midnight – 2am.
An efficient car wash that uses 70 litres of water or less per vehicle can be used.
A bucket filled from a tap can be used to clean windows, mirrors and lights; and spotremove
corrosive substances.
Generally, 1 on 4 sportsgrounds as nominated by council and be watered. Exempt playing
surface may be watered: turf cricket wickets, golf tees and greens (not fairways), tennis
courts, bowling greens, hockey pitches, running tracks, croquet greens.
These will be permanent watering saving rules to come into affect after 1 April 2007.
It will be mandatory for the top 1500 industrial, commercial and institutional water
users to develop and implement water saving plans.
Greywater, rainwater and recycled water can be used at anytime. For guidelines on safe
use, visit Restrictions do not apply to rainwater collected in a
storage tank, provided it is not supplemented with drinking water supply.
A new pool or spa of any size capacity cannot be filled with drinking water.
However, a new or existing swimming pool or spa may be filled with an alternative
water source such as groundwater.
An existing pool or spa of less than 2,000 litres may be filled by means of a watering
can or bucket filled directly from a tap.
An existing pool or spa of greater than 2,000 litres must not be filled except in
accordance with a water conservation plan (contact your local water business for more
An existing pool or spa must not be topped up except by means of a watering can or
bucket, filled directly from a tap (not by means of a hose).
Stage 3a water restrictions must be followed and water patrols are out in force across Melbourne. If you are issued with a warning notice and still
breach the restrictions, you may have your water supply restricted and face fines.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

bigger trousers

Singapore has a marvellous public transport system - metro, bus and taxi, but the country is suffering with too many cars on their roads and is trying to remedy this with various solutions. One of which is raising the cost of entering the centre of the city. I know this would not work in Amman but we could certainly learn some other lessons from Singapore.

Their Minister of Transport wrote an excellent article on what they are trying to do but I especially like the following comment -

'It's like telling a person who's suffering from obesity that the solution is to buy bigger trousers.' - Transport Minister Raymond Lim on why Singapore will not be building more roads to ease traffic congestion. T

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What's good for the goose ...

Walid Saidi got it absolutely right when he talks about enforcement as the only way to control and reduce the abuses of drivers on Jordanian highways of death: but we have been talking about the lack of 'enforcement' for years. We build bridges and flyovers, towers, and gated compounds, yet no-one stops to think about the basics of management, the basics of cultural assimilation, and the basics of living easy, free and safe in our homes, schools and roads within all this development gone bonkers.

Or is it simply just this: What's good for the goose is good for the gander.


- Meaning of goose (female bird)/gander (male bird):
"a large waterfowl proverbially noted, I know not why, for foolishness" [Johnson], O.E. gos, from P.Gmc.
- Alternate colloquial meaning: to be unserious and frivolous.
- American Cliché meaning: You got what you deserved

Ok People, time to start taking a proper gander at all of this, stop goosing around and realize its time to release the eagle within! J