Weekly photo 40 – Happy Festivus!

Dear all of you, I have the best family in the whole, wide world. The end.

Here are the FOURTEEN letters I got in one day, twelve of them complete with pictures inside. And yes, Auntie Torture, I did open them all at once, and it was fantastic.


Weekly photo 39

I know you’re all anxiously awaiting the final part of the Jordanian Wedding Trilogy, but unfortunately you’ll have to wait. In the meantime, I have another story for you. The story of the renegade spinach leaf.

See, once upon a time, a young lady had her four front teeth replaced with caps. Her teeth were, well, funky, and highly sensitive, so caps made life a lot easier. She was careful not to tear hard foods with them so as to baby them a bit, but they were sturdy. They survived carrots, corn on the cob, even an apple once.

But there was one thing they just couldn’t best.

And that thing was a soft spinach pie.

Yes, my friends, one of my four front caps snapped in half while I was chewing on a soft, fluffy bread-and-cooked-spinach delight.

Do you want to know what it looked like?

Brace yourselves. For here is the glory, and the shame (PS I look terrible because I had been sick for a month, but I look like a real person again now, don’t worry):

What happens when you try to eat healthfully - Mafraq, Jordan, 12/2011

Yes, my friends, it’s tragic. But don’t worry. Three trips to a dentist in Amman later, I have a tooth again. Mom, you can stop hiding your eyes in shame and you can start telling boys I’m a catch. Thumbs up.

Jordanian wedding, part two: the arrival

It’s lunchtime, and you’re eating stuffed grape leaves and stuffed zucchini. You and two women spent hours making this yesterday; you thought it was for the wedding, but apparently it’s just for your family. Ok, whatever. Now you had better get dressed, because we have to go to the wedding! Put on your best. No, not what you wore yesterday. That’s boring. Here, wear your thin, flat-chested, 16-year-old host sister’s shirt. No matter that you’re a busty, bodacious babe. It’ll fit. Oh, look, it’s loose on her. All is well. Now, pants. No, not your work slacks. Here, wear your host mom’s jeans. No matter that she’s 4 sizes bigger than you are. We can find a belt. Yeah, it’s cheap and keeps loosening up until the pants fall back off, but you only have to wear it for a few hours. Don’t forget to roll the cuffs up, too; your host mom is taller than you are. Did you do you hair? No, do the other hairstyle. What, you don’t want white powder all over your face? It’s ok, you’re white enough naturally to pass as beautiful. You try to tell them that white does not equal beautiful and that you love the caramel tones of their skin, but they just laugh. “Black,” they say, “we’re so black.” They’re not, but you don’t have the words to explain.

There is a makeup brush in your face now, and your eyelids are suddenly fuschia. Ok, in the car, let’s go. “All of us?” “Of course!” Nine people clamber into the five-seater, and the real adventure begins.

You join the long line of wedding-goers on their drive into the city. Everyone is honking and has their flashers on; how do you know that that car on the side of the road, with its flashers on, isn’t part of your group? “Oh, they’re not, don’t worry.” Ok, sure. Little brother is standing on the seat of the car. He is rolling down the window. Now he has swung all of himself out the window, just one leg precariously hugging the door to keep him sitting on the edge. Now other brother is doing the same. The baby is passed to the front seat. You can feel a seatbelt under your leg, but nobody’s bothered to use one so you don’t, either. In your head you hear Dad singing, “buckle up for safety, buckle up!” But you’re powerless to heed the advice. You suddenly come to the chilling realization that all 10 or so cars in your party are on the wrong side of the divider, and there’s a truck heading straight towards you. But it’s veering off into the dirt, so it’s fine, no worries. Your host dad speeds up and comes up next to another car to yell jokes at one another. You have no idea what they’re saying, so you look out the window. There’s a sign, and you read it: “Syria, 14 kilometers.” Oh, ok, so that’s where you are. But you’re heading southeast, not north to Syria. You’re heading into town. Another sign points towards Amman and the Iraqi border.

The car speeds up past the other again as you cut off multiple drivers on the correct side of the road. You realize two of the kids are missing from the car. Had they been there before? “Where?” Your family stares blankly before saying, “bus, bus.” Ok, they’re taking the bus, sure, why not? A couple more kids could’ve fit in here, but whatever.

Another truck is barreling towards you, but as they veer off into the dirt, your car swerves to the right and into the mayhem of the parking lot. You get out of the car and your host aunt grabs your hand, pulling you through the mass of men and upstairs to the women’s room.

Jordanian wedding, part one: the night before

You are told, “the wedding is tomorrow.” That means there is a party tonight, and you should wear your best. Your best is work slacks and a nice tunic, so there you go. Your sisters and mom spend what seems like days trying on different outfits, and then covering their faces in thick, white powder with dark black eye makeup. Little sister gets especially dressed up. She’s almost nine, but she gets white powder plus reddish-brown eyeshadow after her unruly hair is straightened within an inch of its life. Personally, you don’t think ghostly white powder and red shadow make you look pretty; they make you look post-mortem. But if dead is the look she’s going for, hey, who are you to judge?

Suddenly, the girls grab you by the hand and pull you out the door. You run down the street, past an open-sided tent filled with men and boys smoking hookah, until you reach the small, cramped room where two dozen women are dancing debka, the national dance. You’re coordinated, sure, so it’s easy to pick up, but it’s also not a hard dance. It’s a six-step loop. Repeat it over and over, like the electric slide simplified. But everyone is amazed at your ability to master their source of pride so quickly. Whatever. Not hard. Anyway, you’re pulled into the swirling group of women to debka to your heart’s content. But don’t get too into it, like the older women do. You’re young. You haven’t earned the privilege of letting loose. Your host mom is scolding you now. “Stop,” she says, and pulls you to a chair. Then she grabs your hand and pulls you right back in. Suddenly you notice the bride sitting gloomily off to the side. Was she there before? You’re kissing grandma on the cheek now, apparently, and now you’re dancing debka again. When you finish the circle, the bride is gone. Illusion?

Three men enter the room. One you recognize as your cousin, one is pointed out as the groom (later explained to be first cousin to the bride), and one is unknown to you. The few women with uncovered hair toss their shawls on, and the men grab hands to enter the dance. Your host mom is next to you. “Stop,” she says, and pulls you to a chair. Then she grabs your hand and pulls you right back in. Deja vu?

The men leave. You realize your purse has disappeared, find it, and tell your host sister you’re going to go put it in the house. Ten children follow you out the door. “Where? Where? What’s wrong?” “Nothing, purse in house, only that, purse in house, don’t want here.” Oh, ok. More children pour out of the corners and run after you. “Where? Where? What’s wrong?” “Nothing, purse in house, only that, purse in house, don’t want here.” “Huh?” “Fine, fine, no problem, wait wait! I come back, wait!” “Oh.” Your older host sister is running down the street after you as you push open the unlocked window of the living room and toss your purse onto the cushion below. “What’s wrong, what’s wrong?” “Nothing? Purse, don’t want. Only that. No problem! Ok! Let’s go! Dance debka!” She smiles and grabs your hand, and you race back to finish the dance before the women suddenly scatter and head home.

Weekly photo 38

What happens at a birthday party stays at a birthday party - Mafraq, Jordan 10/2011

Weekly photo 37

Quite the view - Mafraq, Jordan 11/2011