Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cool, Clear Water

Of all the new things I learned when I came to Jordan, probably the most startling and enduring had to do with water. When we got settled in our small house I learned that water was pumped to the tank on our roof only twice a week. Rationing water was new to me and quite scary since one can hardly live without it! I was as careful as I could be, but one day I turned on a faucet and nothing came out. I couldn’t believe it, and disbelief gave way to panic. My father-in-law came to my rescue. He brought someone to help him dismantle the two inch pipe that went to the tank on the roof. They found gravel inside the pipe which was blocking it. Water flowed again. I mentioned this happening in the next letter to my mother, and she wrote a special thank-you letter to my father-in-law. I think this may have been the only personal letter this stern, hard working, Jordanian man ever received. He didn’t know English so he had my husband read it to him. He smiled broadly as he folded the letter and put it in his pocket. I saw him take that letter out many times and show it to others. In fact, he carried it with him until the paper became limp and the handwriting faded. He was impressed by the thank you letter from America for a simple job that he had considered his duty.

To my knowledge water has always been rationed in Jordan. Doing without occasionally has made me feel helpless just anticipating not having any! In fact, I changed my thinking about water. Open faucets carelessly running while one leisurely washes in the sink make me squirm. Drippy faucets, leaking toilets, and water running down the street because of a broken pipe bother me. I am distracted by the thought of waste while watching the frequent movie scenes of long steamy showers. I am aware of my irritation when someone complains about a rainy day in Jordan! I stopped taking water for granted a long time ago.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lost passport

A friend applied to the US Embassy for a visa recently. They said they would get it delivered by Aramex. So he waited and waited and it did not appear. With the day of travel looming ever nearer he enquired and finally it was admitted that someone had lost it!!! So he had to rush off and get a new passport (luckily we have a great service there) and have the US Embassy put the visa in. All managed to be done in time but with a great deal of stress and the worrying loss of a passport which had other visas in it.

So - be warned if you are applying for a US visa that your passport might be lost!!! T

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tuba and the Three Sisters

Nothing quite like escaping to the desert
to the eastern end of the land;
away from the maddening crowd
of senseless politics and
men and malevolence.

Away to the east, southward bound
on a journey of fastened pace
we found the ruins of Tuba;
forty five minutes from the
toxic waste place.

We ambled among the ruins of the
Ummayad's remarkable quest;
that left us the gift of a castle
and a past of unequaled grace.

From there we descended deeper
to a place of singular beauty;
for the hills of the Three Sisters beckoned
with alluring promise
of a shark tooth fossil find
and a walk along the wild side
of an ancient sea land.

And as we sat in awe
at nature's creativity,
from traces of a lava flow to
a flower in glorious bloom;
I rested my soul in silence
all consuming,


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Smokey Mountain

Smokey Mountain is an enormous trash dumpsite on the outskirts of Manila where thousands of poor people live. They make their home in the dump and dig through the trash hoping to find things to sell, recycle or eat. It is called Smokey Mountain because it is perpetually on fire and smoldering.

Remember the days when we used to brag about how clean Amman was? Not anymore. It seems like wherever there is a vacant piece of land there are piles of trash and/or building materials strewn about. The Jordan Times report (March 21-22,2008) concerning Jordan’s ranking in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report stated that Jordan did not score so well in the enforcement of environmental regulations. I can believe that. Today as I drove in Khilda on the road connecting Wasfi Tal street with Bahjat Talhouni street (near to the Ma’araf School) I said to myself I had to write this blog. The amount of trash lining the road is shocking! And this is right here in the middle of west Amman. I have driven on this road before, noticed the trash and people picking through it, but thought maybe the municipality was delayed in picking it up. But there is no excuse for this!! The roadside ‘dump’ is a real eyesore, a health and fire hazard especially in this hot weather, and also a danger to drivers as the trash is now covering part of the road.

Welcome to Amman’s Smokey Mountain!! ………z

How much does a road cost?

It is many years since I last visited Qasr el Tuba, so when we set out on Saturday I told everyone that when we get down to Qatraneh and turn left into the desert it will just be trails. Imagine our surprise when we found this perfect 17 kilometre stretch of road which must be one of the best ones in Jordan (apart from the road to the Panorama Complex at the Dead Sea). The road through this bleak and desolate landscape ended with an olive farm of about 20 dunums and a huge site for toxic waste disposal. From there to the Jafr - Azraq road it was still well paved but not quite the same standard.

We did not meet another vehicle on this road (it was Friday I suppose!!) but I just wonder how much it costs per kilometre to lay a two lane highway with shoulders across the bare desert? And do I want to eat olives from trees that are grown next to a toxic waste dump?

Qasr el Tuba was just wonderful to visit and my fellow blogger will delight you all with some wonderful photos from the trip. T

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Implement hose pipe ban now!

With regard to the Jordan Times article on emergency measures to counter the country's water deficit .... I feel they are overlooking the obvious. For years, water has been wasted by us the citizen and nothing is done about it. Thousands of people continually hose down the streets and the pavements in front of their homes, hose down our cars practically every day, hose down the pathways and the garage areas inside the garden, and hose down neatly trimmed grass lawns daily, particularly in West Amman, simply because we can. The Munipality continues to sow grass seeds here and there and plants cement and stone everywhere with water runoff wasted.

We also continue to build five star hotels here and there (fabulous water wasters), real estate development that we don't need and our agricultural system is hardly in tune with the country's dire situation.

Shouldn't we be switching to 'permaculture'?

Just when is our illustrious government going to implement a hose pipe ban and enforce it, starting with educational awareness programmes in schools. Not only does this cost nothing, but the government stands to win with the issuing of fines for illegal hose usage! We may even get an unexpected bonus - a more civically conscious and responsibile society. J

PS - and another tip .... ban construction licences for one year and let's see what happens!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Democracy Now the War and Peace Report

Confession: I have something that (usually) keeps me level headed and sane that I want to share. Whether I am able to listen/watch, or whether I download it for a quiet time later in the day….week….or whenever, I try to religiously watch Amy Goodman at with her 5 times a week War and Peace Report. Her show NEVER disappoints and today it had me in tears.

This week she featured the Winter Soldier Hearings where hundreds of veterans and active-duty soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were testifying about the Horrors of War. Her coverage began on Friday March 14, and continued on the 17th, 18th and 19th.

It was the March 17 program
that brought me to tears (as you can see, I am several days behind) and I can’t begin to tell you how powerful it was. What surprised me was my “gut” reaction, while through my tears, I had this profound pride in the young American men and women who sat and related horrific experiences that they had had and that some of them had committed, in order to illustrate the total injustice of this (all wars) war. I was proud of them but I was also proud of the system that allowed them to speak what to “Bush’s ears and his crony’s” must have sounded like treason.

Thank you Amy Goodman for your program and thank you for giving me hope in a system that so many times seems so hopeless!





Thursday, March 20, 2008

Um Qays

Quiet talented ... those ancient stone masons of Gadara ... present day Um Qays in the far north of Jordan.

It was eerily beautiful as the haze of the hamseen winds hovered in the air over this vaste ancient site
that saw the rise and fall of three empires: Greek, Roman and Ottoman

and gave birth to a new literary genre; that of satire that continues in Jordan to this day.
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Melancholy musings

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it

from religious conviction."

Blaise Pascal 1623-1662 French mathematician and philosopher

On learning of the tragic death of the kidnapped Chaldean Archbishop of Iraq Paulos Faraj Rahho's at the hands of Al Qaeda thugs, my thoughts wandered to the plight of Arab Christians in Israel at the hands of IDF thugs, and hubby thinks its time for coffee while we still have the luxury to enjoy it and the stomach to keep it down!

'Coffee? Is that all you can say?", I ask hubby as he sits at his computer, sipping away. That seemed to tickle his fancy as he laughed out loud and said 'Just tell the world to 'eff off and leave us alone' he sighs with caustic glee.

Hubby is not in a very talkative mood this morning as he bashes away at the keyboard while the muethin calls the faithful to prayer. The feeling is mutual when you take stock of this crazy world. For all around, more bombs fall on the innocent in Iraq, in Afghanistan and Palestine, Pakistan and Chad, Sudan and now South America all over again, courtesy of that very developed first world.

Another journalist shot dead on duty in Iraq. Twenty five more innocents slaughtered in Baghdad, a daily routine of evil. And around the great USofA, Senator Clinton continues to live her history of deception as she weasels her way around America claiming to promote welfare programmes for white kids and women, while in our promised lands, more cluster bombs and land mines trundle down the conveyor belt of American paranoia blowing non-white children and their parents to pieces in a 'war on terror worthy of its price', to quote Madeleine Albright.

'Iradicate Islam', cries McCain's spiritual advisor, that charlatan self appointed Christocrat of Ohio named Parsley ….

"A christocrat? What's that"? asks hubby, "a new brand of American hamburger? Are his brains made of genetically maladjusted soyabeans"?

And meanwhile son finishes watching the Hollywood film 'Charlie Wilson's War' about Afghanistan circa 1980s.

"Hey mum, this will make you happy" he shouts from the TV room, and he quotes from the screen at the end of the film: "These things happened and they changed the world, but we fucked up the end game".

'Yes indeed, but they don't pay the price, we do', I muse! J

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What is happening at Royal Jordanian

It seems that pilots in Royal Jordanian are leaving in large numbers - 6 last month! Wonder why that is? They get a good salary but maybe the working conditions are not favourable or is it the lure of a better life with the Gulf airlines? RJ always employed Jordanian pilots but are they now having to look elsewhere? T

Friday, March 14, 2008

Loaded Words

While I walked through the living room this morning, a program on BBC News talking about medical tourism to Israel caught my attention. Without stopping to watch for more than two minutes, I became angry and left the room. This fleeting episode provoked thoughts and feelings that have stayed with me all day. Initially I felt ashamed that my reaction was so negative, and then, I realized that my feelings were triggered by words that were emotionally loaded.

The narrator said that one shouldn’t be afraid of terrorism in Israel because the Israelis face it on a daily basis. He was confident that the audience knew automatically that the Israelis are the victims and the Arabs are the perpetrators. Viewers of western news programs are conditioned to understand this. No one would dream of referring to the attacks on the Palestinian areas by the Israeli armed forces as terrorism. I guess the term State Terrorism doesn’t exist, except academically. When Israel bombs, attacks, kills, destroys homes, and shatters lives, it is referred to as retaliation or defense. People accept that Israel has the right to do this.

As the reporter showed an ambulance meeting a patient arriving for medical treatment, I saw instead another vision in my mind’s eye. I saw frightened, exhausted, frustrated Palestinian people queuing at one of the hundreds of checkpoints that the Israelis have put up to prevent them from reaching medical help, work, school, farms, orchards, or loved ones they long to see. Israel grants citizenship to any Jew who arrives on its shores and denies civil and human rights to the indigenous Arab population under its control. Now Israel plans to make money by attracting people for medical tourism while it denies access to medical care to the Arab inhabitants under occupation.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Love thy Neighbour as thyself!

.... or simply put 'do to others as you would have them do unto you' ... the golden rule of human rights that threads its way through all major religions and ancient philosophy, funny how no-one seems to be paying attention to this noble doctrine.

However it's good to see Sigmund Freud was of that belief:


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Pain of the Pump

From America to Jordan, citizens are struggling to make ends meet, whether it's pain at the pump; making the hard decision to heat or not to heat the home; or even to buy the staple food in Arabian cooking, the humble 'cousa' or corgette now at almost JD 2 a kilo! With a slowing economy and rising cost of oil which surged to $109.72 a barrel (according to the AP), costs are likely to keep on rising, particularly when you consider the other side of the coin – profits - and big oil companies are reaping them in by the barrelful.

Consider this: record profits in the oil industry recorded for 2007. From Exon Mobil's shocker of close to $40 billion, the largest corporate profit in American history and now to Shell, at almost $27bn (£13.6bn), the highest earnings ever made by a British company.

Outrageous wouldn't you think – as outrageous as the cost of a kilo of cousa!

And meanwhile back in Jordan as we continue to be 'hijacked forward' as a friend once put it, the people live on with ominous predictions as the voice of the people remains silent along the corridors of Parliament, stifled by the nonsense of personal honour and broadcasting.

Just when are our elected representatives going to start doing the honourable thing and at least turn up for their meetings?


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

danger of mobile phone use whilst driving

We really need to get a hold of the problems of traffic accidents here in Jordan. Enforcement of laws is so important but we all need to take responsibility for our own actions. How many of you use mobile phones whilst driving? The following shows what has been found in the UK and the new penalties. PLEASE DO NOT USE YOUR MOBILES WHILST DRIVING. T

* It is hard to do two things at once and research has shown that if you are using a mobile phone whilst driving, you are four times more likely to have a crash.

* In fact, if you use any type of mobile be it hands free or hands held, your reaction times are worse than if you were driving under the influence of alcohol, at the legal limit. Tests have shown that reaction times for drivers using a hand-held phone slows reactions by 50% when compared to normal driving and by 30% when compared to being drunk (Direct Line Mobile Phone Report 2002).

* The use of a mobile phone often involves distractions which could be visual, auditory, mental or physical (Direct Line Mobile Phone Report 2002).

* Even if you're a careful driver, it's easy to be distracted by a phone call or text message - and that split second lapse in concentration could result in a crash.

In the UK new legislation to increase the penalty for using a hand-held phone whilst driving came into force on 27 February 2007. The £30 fine was increased to £60 and three penalty points on your licence. Penalty points can mean higher insurance costs. If you get six points within two years of passing your test, your licence will be revoked and you will need to re-sit the test. If the case goes to court, you could risk a maximum fine of £1,000, which rises to £2,500 for the driver of a bus, coach, or heavy goods vehicle.
A driver can also be prosecuted for using a hands-free device if you are not in proper control of your vehicle when using the device. The penalties are the same - £60 fine and three points on your licence.
If you are an employer you can be prosecuted if you require employees to make or receive mobile calls while driving. It is an offence to cause or permit the use of a hand-held mobile phone when driving. It is also an offence to cause or permit a driver not to have proper control of a vehicle.
Callers also play an important role in keeping the roads safe. If the person you are speaking to is driving, please terminate the call and arrange to speak to them later.

Monday, March 10, 2008

tips on filling your car

This is from a South African who has worked in petroleum for 31 years and has some tricks to get more of your money's worth for every litre. Really interesting and I shall certainly be following what he said! T

' Only buy or fill up your car in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the fuel, when it gets warmer petrol expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening....your litre is not exactly a litre. In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the petrol, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role. A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.

When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapours that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapour return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapour. Those vapours are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.

One of the most important tips is to fill up when your tank is HALF FULL. The reason for this is, the more fuel you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. petrol evaporates faster than you can imagine. Petroleum storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the petrol and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation. Unlike service stations, here where I work, every truck that we load is temperature compensated so that every litre is actually the exact amount. Another reminder, if there is a fuel truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy, DO NOT fill up--most likely the petrol/diesel is being stirred up as the fuel is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom. '

Renewing My Driver’s License

I spent this morning in Marka at the Driver and Car Licensing Department. The narrow streets surrounding the entire area were so congested that it took us about 15 minutes – moving only a meter at a time - to get to the department entrance. Regardless, once there I finished in just over an hour and left with my new license.

The last time I was there was at least 10 years ago. I don’t remember many details of that visit because my husband was with me, and as usual, we sat in someone’s office and had coffee which made the entire process seem effortless. This time I went with Riad, a man from my husband’s office. Somehow I thought that with computerization everything would be simpler and more automated. I’m sure it was, but it was a process nonetheless. We had to go to at least three different buildings and wait in line to finish everything. First we needed to fill out the application form, in Arabic (done by Riad), and submit it with my photo. Then there was a routine check for outstanding violations not paid. Next I had to take an unusual eye exam. The examiner projected several letters on a wall about three to four meters away. Each letter was the size of a small watch battery and impossible to make out. I couldn’t identify any with confidence. Maybe that was the test because anyone able to see them clearly would surely need corrective lenses! Lastly we waited about a half hour to have my new license finalized and printed.

I would guess that hundreds of people go through this process daily. Considering that no one likes to wait in line, people were orderly, and the staff was courteous and efficient. I saw one or two people smoking furtively otherwise everyone respected the ‘no smoking’ signs. I wasn’t looking forward to renewing my license this morning, but it wasn’t as time consuming or tedious as I imagined it would be. Of course, I doubt that I would have managed without Riad there to help me. But then who knows –



Here's a follow up to the post 'A Day in Aqaba' 26 February 08,
about the ship on the shore and the final last journey of the Al Shorcuk …

may she rest in peace at the bottom of the Red Sea!


Saturday, March 08, 2008

those pesky road humps

'They damage cars and give drivers a nasty jolt, but now speed bumps have been found guilty of an even worse crime — they are helping to destroy the planet..... Humps are a crude, uncomfortable and noisy way of slowing people down and this research has shown they are also environmentally damaging.... The traffic-calming measures double the carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption by forcing drivers to brake and accelerate repeatedly, according to a study commissioned by the AA' reported a British newspaper.

I could certainly add to that list. Here in Jordan they are mostly invisible, any paint that had been on them has long gone. They are all different shapes and sizes and come upon you without warning in the most strange places. The scars in the road testify to their lack of visibility. And what about the emergency services? Must take ambulances and police cars more time to get to their destinations. T

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Musings on Machine gun diplomacy and Lebanon

... and all that kept whirling round in my head was that stupid song by Slim Shady ..."would the real slim shady please stand up, please stand up, pleeeeease stand up!" because I am confused as to Jordan's position on this issue. As for the wider political dimension of this disgusting situation in our midst, I have found a piece of prose is always a better way to express my mood:

Moab Musings on a Sunday

Son is in Beirut right now, up in the mountains of Faraya,
Where you will find a place of tranquility
on any given Sunday.
A meeting place where the young and beautiful people go
to vanquish the plight of the elders.

Enjoy your time with your friends, son
And ease my anxiety.
For an ill wind is blowing off the sea
that does not bode well for my sanity;
Go bunker down on the snowy slopes
away from this realm of ignominy:
of gunship diplomacy and demented foreign politics
that play out in the yard of the Araby.

And as I mourn for the children of Gaza
the dead babes in the arms of their mothers
I strain to find the reason why;
why this theatre of the absurd;
the macabre act of Israeli terror
committed in the name of the Chosen
as the Zionists rub their hands with glee
at all this division by proxy.

So remain oblivious, Son,
at least for the time being;
enjoy your youth and high spirits;
your innocence and faith
your learning;
your god given rights to life;
to peace;

... a mother's hope and yearning.