Weekly photo 44

Goofing around - Kanazawa, Japan, 6/2011

Hide yo kids, hide yo wife

For the last three days, I’ve been listening to my third-graders repeating, “Hussein is running down the bitch.”

Now, this means two things:
1. The teachers’ strike is finally over.
2. We really need to work on the difference between “b” and “p.”

Regarding the first: School started on February 6th, but actually school started on February 21st, thanks to the teachers being on strike. They were striking because apparently, they only receive 70% of their yearly salary. I don’t really understand it, but the government was withholding 30% of their salary. The gov’t said they didn’t have the money to stop this year, but eventually compromised and said they’d give 20% more this year and the full 30% next year. Pretty good compromise in my opinion. But the union basically gave them the finger. And yet… when they finally relented, instead of 20/10, they got 15/15. So the teachers are getting 15% more this year than last year, but 5% less than the gov’t initially agreed to give them. Uh, good try.

In addition to that, it was the most disorganized strike I’ve seen. By day three, only half of the schools and teachers were still striking. In some schools, some teachers were striking and some weren’t… The gov’t sent in retired teachers and teachers working in the military to try to keep classes going, but that didn’t go over too well. Oh well, it’s done now.

Regarding point two, Hussein running down the bitch: does that give you an odd image in your head? ‘Cause it does for me. In fact, this is what it makes me think of oddly enough:

See, there’s no “p” in Arabic, so most kids can’t pronounce it. And apparently “pitch” is a British-ism meaning “we’re too classy to just call the grassy area a field so we’re going to noun this verb and confuse the Americans.” Or something to that effect.

With that in mind, here’s how it went down today, on day three:

Me: “Everyone, repeat after me. ‘Hussein is running down the pitch.'”
Students: “Hussein is running down the bitch.”
Me: “Hussein is running down the pitch.”
St: “Hussein is running down the bitch.”
Me: “Pitch.”
St: “Bitch.”
Me: “Puh-puh-puh-pitch.”
St: “Bitch.”
Me: “Puh-puh-puh-pitch.”
St: “Pppppeach.”
Me: “Almost! Pitch!”
St: “Bitch!”
Me: “Very good.”

Welcome to my world. Now just a little PSA for ya, don’t be running down any bitches, now, ’cause that ain’t right.

Weekly photo 43 – the King and I, part 1

King Abdullah is everywhere - Mafraq, Jordan, 12/2011

Baby, it’s cold outside

In Japan, sometimes I felt like this little guy:

And when I thought “Peace Corps,” I thought “warm, sunny place with tropical fruit.” What I got, however, was “flipping desert full of sand that gets snow in the winter and has NO AVOCADOS.” In fact, it’s snowing as I write this, and as I walked home today I felt like this little guy:

Well played, US government, well played.

Yes, friends, it snows in the Middle East. A little nugget of knowledge for ya. On that note, I think it’s about time for a good ol’ true or false test. Get your fresh #2s and crisp scantrons ready, ’cause it’s test time!

1. Everyone owns a camel.
False, but you probably knew that. There are, however, quite a few of them down here in the Dirty South of Jordan. There aren’t any in my village. We’ve got goats, though, and donkeys, and some insane roosters who crow at midnight.

2. All Muslim women cover their hair.
False. I haven’t seen any uncovered in the villages, but there are plenty in the big cities – especially Amman. It’s not necessarily a sign of religious fervor, though – it’s what the good girls do.

3. They sit and drink coffee in tents.
True. Well, at least the ones who still live in Bedouin goat-hair tents – and believe me, they still exist.

4. On the same topic, they drink ridiculous amounts of coffee.
Farue…? Well, not that much of it, I suppose, but more than I would normally drink (that’s not saying much). They do, however drink insane amounts of tea. Or rather, liquid sugar with tea flavoring.

5. They eat their hummus the same way we eat their hummus.
False. It’s pretty much just bread with hummus, and it’s a breakfast food. No carrot or bell pepper sticks to dip in the delicious nectar, just bread.

How did you do? I know, those were pretty dumb, but give me a break, I’ve only been here four months!

Weekly photo 42

The haul, what happens when a volunteer goes into the capitol - 1/2012

Posh Corps?

Before coming here, I heard about a divide in the Peace Corps, one that split us into three groups: Beach Corps, Posh Corps, and the Real Peace Corps. You know, the who-is-tougher-than-who kind of junk. As you may be able to guess, Beach Corps describes volunteers living on tropical islands (Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, etc). Posh Corps describes those of us in fairly developed countries – the ones that have running water and electricity, internet, and regular cell phone coverage. And the Real Peace Corps is those volunteers who carry their water and hike four kilometers once a week, climb some rocks, and lean way out over the precipice to get phone service.

By the fact that I’m typing this and have spoken to some of you on Skype within the past week, can you guess which one describes Jordan?

It feels a little silly, but there have been moments where I wished I’d have the “Real Peace Corps” experience. I was ready for that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about having internet. It’s just that I thought that experience was what Peace Corps was.

I haven’t been here very long, I know. But there’s a part of me that also knows Peace Corps is about a lot more than that. It’s changing, too, because the world is changing at a ridiculously fast pace. Volunteers have cell service in most countries now. Many have regular internet access, even if they still don’t have regular (or any) electricity and have to boil the water they got before they drink it. But Peace Corps isn’t about any of that.

It’s about learning a new way of being, a challenge I love. Yes, I’ve done it before, it’s nothing new, right? I’ve moved to new places and passed the test, twice. So why do I keep doing it? I don’t know. But I love retaking that test – that practical application of skills test that I keep throwing myself into like a crazy amnesiac.

Peace Corps is also about serving, and creating mutual, cross-cultural understanding, whether through weekly letters home that arrive two months late or a quick blog entry here or there between YouTube videos.

Here’s what a friend said shortly before leaving for her service in Uganda:

“Whenever someone asks if I’m nervous, I think to myself that I’m more nervous about what my life would end up like if I stay put. Yes, I have lots of people that I love here, but my life would not be full of passion and adventure here. This experience is going to make my life intensely more rich. Simply put, when I was a baby, my parents did not dream of me growing up and being too scared to try new things.” Liz, iwishiranmore.blogspot.com

I guess I just felt like putting that out there. Thanks again to everyone for being so awesome and supportive. I don’t say it often enough, but I really do appreciate it.

Weekly photo 41

What happens when you're ovenless - 1/2012

I sense this may require a small bit of explanation. See, there are two things going on here, and neither should be involved in baking a cake. But you see, I wasn’t baking a cake.

I was partially steaming a cake on the stove.

And, per some, ahem, sage advice, I mixed the contents of the cake mix with 7up in place of the oil and eggs.

Yes, friends, you got that right. I mixed cake mix and 7up, put a big pot of water on the stove, put the cake pan on top, and then put my largest metal mixing bowl over it as a cover (the pot lid is smaller than the cake pan and wouldn’t fit), and thusly attempted to make a chocolate cake.

I need to find an oven. That would not only afford me the opportunity to make cake, but also to expand my lunch and dinner repertoire beyond sandwiches, pasta, and noodle-bean soup. Yay cooking…?

The outer edges cooked, they really did! They were, well, cake-like. The middle, though… let’s just say it was a little muddy, and we’ll leave it at that.

But don’t think for one second I didn’t eat every bit of it. This, my friends, is called desperation.