A Wedding and Other Mysteries

August 27, 1999

As you can see, it’s been a while since I had time to write, and I haven’t written in my paper diary at all, so this will have to do for that purpose too! Fortunately I know Dad will archive every word I email, probably also on paper, so it will work nicely. And now I will try to answer your questions about my daily life.

It actually feels really busy, although now that I’m thinking about writing it down, it doesn’t sound really busy. Maybe it’s that everything moves so slowly that time itself seems to go faster. We have class every morning and then go home for lunch, the biggest meal of the day. I take a nap or read every afternoon between 1 and 3. Then we usually Continue reading “A Wedding and Other Mysteries”

Sometimes the cheese works

The Close-of-Service “Letter to Yourself”
(Cross-posted at my other blog, Thoughts Redacted.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2001.

It’s your (my) last day in Bayt Yafa. Surprisingly typical: I had breakfast upstairs. We watched the new miniseries, but it isn’t as good as the old one with Abu Sfooh. I came downstairs to clean and the girls came with me to help and wouldn’t be deterred. Lunch was mensaf upstairs. We made potato pancakes from the mix I had. The whole family sat around the living room, tv on but ignored, and discussed food, politics, and my personal lack of a husband.

Now I’m sitting in my disturbingly bare living room writing this. Outside a child is crying, cars occasionally drive past, men are walking home after the maghreb prayers, and the guy in the house around the corner is practicing his flute-pipe, as he so often does. The sun has set. Somewhere not so far from here Continue reading “Sometimes the cheese works”

Darth Vader Goes Vegetarian

August 18, 1999

Hey guys!

The big highlight of my week is that yesterday I got to help cook something. Normally I’m not allowed in the kitchen, which is really starting to get old — I feel like a guest in a situation where everybody else is overworked, and it makes me unhappy. There is an aunt who lives with us but who never speaks and just seems sort of… simple, in a very Victorian sense, and she seems bound and determined to keep me out of the kitchen, although she’s very polite about it. Eventually we’ll have to see about that. But yesterday she wasn’t home and there were these green things that needed to be hollowed out. I think they were zucchini, but Um Shakur kept saying “okra,” and since I’ve never seen an okra in the wild I just don’t know?

We each had a long sharp tool and the trick is to hollow out the vegetable without piercing the end or making the walls so thin they break. Continue reading “Darth Vader Goes Vegetarian”

Black Thursday

Friday, 8/6

Busy couple of days! Two days ago a small group of us went to visit Mount Nebo, where Moses is supposedly buried. You know because of that thing where he hit the rock instead of speaking to it politely he was banned from ever getting into the Holy Land, but because God is basically a nice guy he decided at the last minute to let Moses see the Holy Land before he died. Well, now I’m not sure if that was a joke or not. You get to Mount Nebo and there’s a plaque thing set up at the edge of the cliff with arrows pointing to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, what have you, all of which are supposedly visible from that point. But you will remember what the horizon of the Judean desert is like. You can see the east coast of the Dead Sea, and that’s about it. Maybe at night? Or maybe if God was in an extra-good mood he made the haze go away. Or maybe it was supposed to be Moses’s last act of faith, believing that there was a lovely land out there in the haze for his people.

Whichever: the last time I saw the Dead Sea I sure didn’t think I’d be looking at it from this side!

So, on to more sober news. Something bad happened yesterday, and it’s kind of complicated to explain. Continue reading “Black Thursday”

Let’s try doing this chronologically.

Monday, August 2

I found an internet cafe! In fact, I opened an account, so I can log on each time I’m in Madaba — which will be about one night a week, after this week.

We got our homestay assignments today. I’ve been assigned to a city called Namus, a couple miles south of Madaba. I like the person who will be our language teacher, and I think I like the three other girls who will be with me for training for the next three months. Wow, three months. It didn’t sound like that long when they send us the pre-arrival materials, but this training is the same as a trimester at college! I’m nervous about living with a family of complete strangers for that long. Really, really nervous.

So it turns out there are actually neat things to do in Madaba. You know that famous mosaic of Jerusalem that’s on all the t-shirts in Israel? That’s here! Moses’s tomb too, and we’re going to see that on Friday. Continue reading “Let’s try doing this chronologically.”

My Mountain, My Obsession

One day, after I’d been living in Dir Edis for several months, I was standing outside my house waiting for my Pickup Truck Escort For Respectable Ladies on the way to school, and I happened to look northward and discovered: a mountain. It hadn’t been there before. It was just suddenly there — in the distance, true, but undeniably mountainous.


I knew there were mountains in that general direction, but I am not great at math and even worse with spatial organization, so it had just never occurred to me that I ought to be able to see them. And I’d gotten so used to the blurring that is the almost-perpetual condition of the desert horizon that it had never really occurred to me that the haze might be hiding something.

Continue reading “My Mountain, My Obsession”

The Delay

It is hot, and I am in the first minutes of what is going to be a long day of travel. They’re expecting me in Namus, and I’ve only just left Dir Edis after a long wait in front of the little post office. I should say: a long sit on the step outside the post office, watching the ants go into and out of their holes. I’ve been here two years now and sometimes I worry about my fascination with the ants.

So I am relieved when the bus finally arrives. It’s a bus I don’t recognize and the driver is identifiably religious, wearing the hat marking him a hajji and a long white dishdash, with his red-and-white kaffiyeh wrapped over his shoulders. He also has a vague bruise in the middle of his forehead. I know it’s completely unfair, but I’m always a little more wary of men dressed like this, I guess because they seem more likely to be offended by anything I do wrong. So I avert my eyes as I hand him my coins and sit down demurely several seats behind him.

view from roof

Continue reading “The Delay”


In searching my hard drive for something else, I found a zip file my father gave me of pictures he’d taken when he visited me in Jordan. I’d completely forgotten about them and it was such a wonderful experience seeing them again. I feel nostalgic and homesick for the place I’ve called Dir Edis!

I don’t want to post pictures of recognizable people, so most of them won’t go online. But here are a few pictures of places I’ve mentioned in these posts.

Continue reading “Pictures!”