Weekly photo 36

When you discover that your new set of Uno cards is in fact a defective, two-color set, pull out the sharpies - Mafraq, Jordan, 10/2011


Where the streets have no name

Ah, the infamous US government bureaucracy. Peace Corps is no exception. Fill out forms. Evaluations. Forms to evaluate the evaluation forms. Evaluations about the number of forms. It never ends.

Current assignment: describe how to get to your house from the nearest city to someone who is driving in the dark, can’t read (insert the language on most street signs), and has never been to the area. There probably aren’t street signs anyway. Ready, go.

Oh, PS, you’ve never driven here and you’re not allowed outside at night, so you don’t know what’s visible and what isn’t after dark.


Weekly photo 35

Freshly picked olives - Mafraq, Jordan 11/2011


Have you ever wanted to know what Bea Arthur would have looked like as a short redhead? Well, find one and put her in mom’s fancy dress, and you’ll find out.

Some days it don’t come easy

Adapting to a new culture is hard. Exciting, but hard. I love it. Clearly, or I wouldn’t keep doing it. Part of adapting is learning to say, “this isn’t wrong, it’s just different.” That can be hard to do sometimes. Wrong is cultural imperialism, trying to say your culture is better and should be accepted by everyone else as the correct way. It’s judging people from other cultures by the standards of your own. Different is just that: different. It’s acceptance.

But there are moments when it’s hard not to say something is wrong, and shouldn’t be done. Like when you’re halfway through a bucket bath in the bathroom, which shares a holey wall with the kitchen, and you suddenly hear screaming from mother and eldest daughter, banging of pots and utensils, hitting, shouting, slapping, crying, throwing of heavy objects, cries of pain and fear. And then as you try to finish and get out of the bathroom as fast as possible, the 11-year-old brother joins the fray, crying screaming, begging, falling on the floor over and over. And when you run out of the house with your wet hair dripping (a sign of being a woman of seriously questionable morals here), your little sister tries to stop you. “Aadi,” she says, ‘normal.’ Don’t worry about it.

Other things are easier to deal with. Turkish toilets, as they’re politely called here, are no big deal to this veteran of dirty squatty potties on fast-moving Indian trains. Bread at every meal is doable, even if my digestive track isn’t entirely appreciative.

Not making eye contact with men? Harder. Or not really even talking to them, not being out after the sun starts to consider setting, not walking around the village alone. Difficult, but you can adjust. Blatant abuse? Beating? It breaks your heart to hear it, but then later, when the daughter is laughing with mom like normal, you have to wonder: did you exaggerate it? Was it really so bad? Is it wrong if their culture says it isn’t?

How to know you’ve been accepted

How do you know when your host family has accepted you? The baby plays with you of his own accord, instead of being forced to by dad. And here’s what you get in return:

Weekly photo – update

The weekly photo is on hiatus until I can make uploading photos easier. I’m having some trouble with them. I’ve got a few prepped but I can’t get the photos working properly, so you’ll get them eventually.