Weekly photo 48

Mikuni Festival - Mikuni, Japan 8/2010


Baking, also known as science experimentation

So, as some of you may remember, I was, until recently, ovenless and yet craving cake. Particularly chocolate cake. My landlady makes a lot of plain white cake, but as we all well know, that’s like kissing your sister. Humdrum. I wanted real cake, not that pansy vanilla stuff.

What a hardknock life I lead.

Well, my landlords, made of Awesome as they are, offered to look for an electric countertop oven for me on their next trip into a nearby city for me, and call if they found one.

But they didn’t do that.

Instead, they showed up at my door at 9pm with a traditional gas oven:

I went to get some money to pay them for it, and they refused – I get to use it for two years free of charge. Umm, win?

So, since my previous attempt at making cake was only semi-successful, I proceeded to make cake. Two cakes, in fact. One for me, and one for the landlords. I still substituted eggs and oil with 7up added to the mix, but that’s neither here nor there.

The landlords’ pineapple cake turned out well, thankfully. My chocolate cake, though, well, see, I was still getting used to having a gas oven. I had trouble figuring out just how much to open the gas line to get the right amount of flame, and also figuring out how much flame = 350 degrees. So it turned out less awesome in form, but equally delicious in flavor.

Have you seen the ball? ‘Cause I dropped it.

Two straight weeks, that’s how long I straight-up forgot to update it.

I could give you the reasons, I’m struggling to work with my counterpart, I was observed by Peace Corps and they said the best lesson my counterpart and I had ever done together was absolutely awful, we’ve just finished week one of an estimated seven-week dust storm (yes, I just said that and yes, I’m serious), I’ve been baking, blah blah blah… wait, did she just say baking?! Yes, yes I did. Prepare yourselves, for the glory will be posted next week.

But for now, I just want to give you guys a little video to make you smile. Hopefully it’ll work…

Weekly photo 47

Sorry for screwing up last week, but here’s a photo for you this week:

1 dollar vs 3 dollars - Wadi Musa, Jordan 3/2012

So, just thought you’d like to see what produce prices are like here. That’s 1 dollar, yes, one dollar, of tomatoes vs 3 dollars of avocados. My foot is there for size comparison. Also, I’ve cut into two of the avocados already because they felt perfectly ripe, and they were brown and spongy inside. Eww. I’m way peeved that I spent 1.50 on bad produce, and nervous that the other two will be that way, too. 😦

Weekly photo 46

Lantern Festival - Ikeda, Japan, 9/2009

Stranger Danger! or, Awkward Situations.

This is for you, Mom.

But seriously, Mom, these situations actually ARE awkward. I don’t just make them that way to annoy you.

One of the most important parts of Jordanian culture is “visiting.” It’s nice, going to people’s houses, getting free food and sweets, hanging out, etc. But it gets a little ridiculous… and awkward… and here’s how:

It’s normal for people you’ve never met to beg and plead with you to come in for tea. And if you’re new in the community, hesitantly accepting those invitations (unless they’re by men) is kind of how you’re supposed to meet people. So, hi, I don’t know you, I’m going to come into your house and eat and drink and hopefully not be poisoned. Thanks!

Unless you ask somebody you trust about every family in the neighborhood, you don’t really know which families are ok to visit until the kids in one family lock you in a room and try to sell you broken junk because they want your money (even though you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer who hasn’t figured out where the nearest bank is), and when you get yourself out of the room they physically stand in front of the door and don’t let you out, and then they show up at your house well past the culturally appropriate curfew for ladies more than once and try to force their way in to “see your stuff and how much money you have.” Then you can safely assume your landlord would have told you not to visit that family. Noted.

Once you do visit someone (and actually like them and aren’t held hostage, prompting an obsessive-compulsive freakout and multiple talks with the Peace Corps safety dude), they want you to come over. Every day. And when you say, “umm, well, like, I have other people to visit, too, and I have a life, and I want to start some secondary projects,” this is interpreted as, “I don’t like you and who cares what you think haha you’re a loser screw you.” Apparently. Because if I don’t want to come over to somebody’s house Every. Single. Day. and teach their kids English and have lunch with them and sleep over most nights, I must be some kind of freak who doesn’t care about other peoples’ feelings. So it would seem.

Saying “no” to a seventh cup of tea-flavored liquid sugar means you don’t like your host, see, and so does explaining after a very large meal (during which you’re accused of under-eating despite needing to unbutton your pants) that you’re too full for 15 cookies, more liquid sugar, coffee, nuts, and fruit. I mean, there is food. It’s there. We’re offering it to you. Why don’t you want it? You must hate us. You hate us! If you don’t eat/drink the 15 cookies, liquid sugar, coffee, nuts, and fruit right this instant, we’ll believe you hate us forever. So get to it, or you’ll never be a successful, integrated community member.

Typical conversations I’ve had when visiting: “You’re a vegetarian? You’re pretty fat for one of those.” Thanks. And you’ve got quite the mustache for a lady, back off. “Why won’t you marry a Jordanian man? I mean, you’re considering it, right?” Sure, except for that I’m a closeted atheist, beer drinker, and general bosser-arounder of other people. Which won’t fly. “Why can’t you come to our house for every meal and teach our kids English every day?” Because I’d rather poke my own eyes out with rusty forks than hear about Hussein running down the bitch outside of work hours. “Your father really let you leave the country instead of getting married and having kids?” No, he didn’t, I’m a fugitive. Watch out, my mafia dad will probably be here soon to rain hellfire on your little town. Be afraid.

So there you have it. I’m a freak who doesn’t care about other peoples’ feelings because I like to sleep in my own house, cook my own meals at least 50% of the time, have down time, and regulate the amount of sugar I consume. And also I don’t like to teach English from 7:30 to 2PM daily and then continue teaching it until sundown. You know, because I have a life. And other interests. And fragile sanity to protect.

Weekly photo 45

No regular post this week; sorry. Tried to post a video I made showing you my apartment, but it just won’t load. So just a photo this week!

Looking at the West Bank - Outside As-Salt, Jordan, 1/2012