Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Yesterday, Mugheera's mother and I cleaned the backyard that was replete with garbage of every kind. When I first saw it, I thought that it was such a pity that there was underutilized space that the children could have played in, had it been cleaned. I knew it wasn't my place to offer to clean it, as that may be an insulting proposition, so I just observed the situation and didn't bring it up. Surprisingly, yesterday, my friend and I were standing in the doorway as the kids ran in circles around us playing tag and we decided that it was high time to clean the yard for the kids!

With limited to no tools to use to clean up old wires, glass, dressers, clothes, wood, weeds and squished apricots, Aseel and I tackled the backyard with fury. When the little boys saw that we were cleaning, they immediately wanted to assist, but it really was a dirty job and we were worried that they would get hurt. After about an hour of cleaning, the backyard looked substantially better. I couldn't believe how great it looked and the kids were thrilled. I promised Mugheera that in the coming days, he and I would harvest some of the apricots. He seemed excited to do so, but didn't realize that his chance would come so soon!

Aseel grinned when I told her it was time to get apricots because I have been known for my covert operations with fruit trees in close proximity to our grumpy neighbors and successfully retrieved a few kilograms of pomegranates last year. Teta and I turned the pomegranates into juice and it was delicious! I guess victory is sweet. :)

Mugheera and I grabbed a large pot and the house squeegee and headed to the backyard. The apricot tree branches were quite high and just out of my reach, so we had to get innovative and adventurous. The day before, Mugheera had climbed up the side of the wall and perched on the wall between us and a vacant lot and was unseen by any of the neighbors. Naturally, anything Mugheera can do, I can do too, so I climbed the wall and made my way into the branches of the apricot tree. I was so worried that the neighbors upstairs would see me through the window, since I was situated RIGHT next to the window. Mugheera handed me the squeegee and I jostled the branches just enough to free the apricots. Mugheera screamed in delight which startled me and provoked a warning call from his dad to be quiet because of the neighbors. As the apricots hit the ground, the ripe ones split open and bruised on the rock hard ground, but many were salvageable. Since they were falling so quickly when I jostled a branch, Mugheera stood up and held the pot over his head trying to catch the apricots. I'm not sure why, but I think he only managed to catch one. After a while of poking and prodding around in the treetop, Mugheera told me that we had enough apricots and that I needed to come down and help him gather.

As we gathered, I would put five in the pot and he would take three of them back out. It was funny to watch how particular he was with the apricots. Since his mom had asked me to save the seeds for the apricots, at first he thought he was supposed to tear open the apricots and JUST retrieve the pits. Aseel told me that after cracking the outer shell of the pits, they have a sweet and soft nut that many people like to eat. I had never heard of this before, but I followed her instructions and told Mugheera that we in fact did want to eat the fruits in addition to the seeds.
We filled the entire pot in addition to a black grocery bag and carried them inside to process. Aseel and I washed the fruit and I took a small portion home with me.

At the end of the day, we made crepes and whipped cream After completing the crepes around 12AM, we sat on the rooftop in the dark and ate the delicious crepes. She and the little boys loved them. While I was gone, she had made apricot jelly for the first time and gave me a small container of it. I would definitely say that the day was a success.


On Friday evening, I purchased some food and beverages for the program's Dead Sea trip and unexpectedly had a slight mishap. My roommates and I shop at a little convenience store near our home and have grown to endear our grocer and his brothers. Let me take a moment to describe him, Abu Majdi and his brothers. Abu Majdi has voluminousness white hair that is considerably longer than any older Arab man that I have seen. He has a sharp long nose, a kind countenance and always wears a name tag that says "Abu Majdi" and is punctuated with a Word document smiley face.

Since I had procrastinated much of my afternoon away by catching up with good friends, I was hard pressed for time when my roommate awoke from her nap and was ready to go out on the town. I scrambled to Abu Majdi's store and whisked through the isles finding all of the fixings for a great trip picnic. Of course, this included fresh fruit such as apples, grapes, and a watermelon. I also purchased a large pack of six liters of water which was surprisingly heavier than I anticipated. The store attendant who I can only assume is one of Abu Majdi's nephews or sons, asked me if I had a car. To that I responded that I would get stronger by carrying all of the items down the hill by myself. Little did I know that I had WAY too much confidence in my strength and abilities.

As I was carrying everything down the steep hill to my home, the water became to heavy for me and I absentmindedly set it down along with all of my groceries. Immediately, six of my eight apples rolled out of their bag and hurtled down the hill bumping and bruising along the way. I tried to stop them with my hands and feet and utterly failed. I'm sure it was quite the sight for those that observed me.

Generally, the neighbor kids are little hellions. I often seen them as pests, especially the little boys with their mischievous grins, but this night, I was quite grateful for them. As they were racing up and down the street with one roller blade per child, they chased and snatched up all of the apples and brought them back to me. They each took turns dropping them into another big black sack that I had and asked me if I needed any more help. I thanked them sheepishly and told them that I would be fine. Another young teen asked me if I needed any help and I thanked him for his offer and kept going. I am grateful for the simple gestures of kindness and concern that the rowdy little boys in my neighborhood demonstrated and will be a little less critical of them when I pass them wreaking havoc on the street.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Glance Into First Class

Detroit, Michigan Airport
With the shadows, the cranes almost look like abstract flowers.
Paper cranes
DIA's best kept security secret
The Denver International Airport stockyards

When Thomas Friedman stated that “‘First Class’ is more than just a better seat, it’s a better life,” he was quite right. I have always been curious about his claim, because I have never had the chance to ride first class... Today broke that mold for me. When I was about to sit in my seat at the back of the aircraft, my flight attendant approached me and asked me to switch seats with a woman who had a young child in the seat next to mine. I was reluctant to give up my window seat and take the seat juxtapose to mine in the isle, but I agreed. The flight attendant thanked me for making the switch and told one of her colleagues to be sure to give me an extra drink or two for my trouble. I was seated beside a large man whose arms kept brushing against mine. Thoughts about how I wished this wasn’t appropriate in our culture kept rushing through my head, but I was patient and squeezed myself further toward the isle to escape his clumsy reach.

When the window passenger arrived, I was preparing to let her pass when she asked me if I would move to first class so that her boyfriend could sit with her in the dingy corner at the back of the plane. I looked at her puzzled for a moment and asked the large gentleman next to me if he would prefer to take the seat since he was in the middle seat, but he assured me that I could have the seat in first class if I wanted it. After being reassured that it was in fact alright for me to take the boyfriend’s seat, I took down my luggage and walked past almost every passenger on the plane in order to get to my seat at the front of the plane. I got some interesting glances from others as I passed by them while the plane was almost ready to start the orientation video. The boyfriend thanked me for my sacrifice and I thanked him and we switched spots. I sat at a window and looked scanned the new landscape. I was seated next to a dumpy little man in his late 40s or 50s. He was fast asleep with half a glass of bloody Mary. The seat was very comfortable and I fell asleep very quickly and my neck didn’t ache at all because it leaned back just enough and had supporting cushions for my neck.

The flight attendants were vigilant and doted over each person in first class, especially my dear Irish travel companion who ordered drink after drink. I am not sure if he slept so well because he was drunk or because he was tired, but nonetheless, he slept and awoke long enough to call a flight attendant, consume another drink and ask for a small meal.

For the meal, we were given a roast beef sandwich, an organic caramel brownie with walnuts, fresh fruit and a full drink. Instead of using the cheap plastic silverware and plates, each passenger was given a tray with unpackaged food neatly displayed on glass plates and bowls along with real silverware. Most of the others in first class peeled their sandwiches apart and poked around with their forks trying to make sense of the beef touching the bread. I found it delicious and satisfying. I was reluctant to leave the first class with the beautiful legroom and reclining capabilities, because I knew that my 10-hour flight would not be nearly as comfortable or welcoming.

A Fortunate Misfortune in Germany

The night lights at Kempinski Airport Hotel

The noise, lights, clothes, and me. I love the collage of objects, shadows, and reflections.

The lovely shopping plaza that protects its occupants from the spontaneous rainfall.

Terminal 1 Munich Airport

Some of the rambunctious children in our caravan of Royal Jordanian passengers stranded in Munich, Germany

I couldn't believe how beautiful Munich looked from the sky and hoped that someday I would be able to go and visit. Little did I know that this was my lucky day!

I couldn't take my eyes off of the clocks!

Can you sense a trend?

Due to unforeseen delays, I was sentenced to pacing the Frankfurt walkway instead of going for a stroll downtown.

Colorado Rockies Aerial

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Badia Blast

Eyelashes with Volume

Malt Fields just South of Syria in the Northern Badia of Jordan

Quite possibly the most uncomfortable form of breastfeeding that I have ever observed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Closer Look at Airport Bathrooms

Paris Airport Bathroom

Right now I am in transit once again from Jordan to Colorado. Each time that I travel, I inadvertently examine the bathroom facilities of each airport. As a frequent occupant, I scan the tile walls, the sinks and countertops, and trace the door of the bathroom stall. I am a firm believer that the condition of an airport bathroom portrays a glimpse into the importance of and pride in workmanship, resource awareness and environmentalism, as well as the strength of the country’s economy.

While in the Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, I noticed that the doors were made out of compressed wood that were neatly painted with grey, giving the boards a finished look, however, pieces of unfinished wood were wedged between the latchets on the bathroom stall doors and used to stabilize weak sections within the board. The bathroom was clean for a Jordanian toilet and was equipped with a toilet paper roll that was placed discretely on the ground next to the toilet. An empty dispenser was fastened to the wall, but employees probably did not feel that it was necessary to actually install the toilet paper in the dispenser.

To flush the toilet, there are two options, a light flush that conserves more water and a strong flush that thoroughly cleans the toilet. Due to the water shortage in Jordan, a two flush option is a fantastic way to conserve a prized and limited resource: water. Out of the stall, occupants have access to wash their hands and Kleenex tissues are placed in the paper towel dispenser to dry one’s hands. Using Kleenexes reveals that Queen Alia Airport and its facilities are on a tight budget and cannot splurge on cheap paper towels, much less the firm, almost fabric-like paper towels found at Detroit's airport.

Seated overtly in the bathroom is a cleaning lady that supervises the bathroom and ensures that the bathroom is kept clean. She also assists occupants by directing them, providing them with toilet paper or hand tissues in some cases. By monitoring the amount of toilet paper or hand towels that occupants receive, the airports are able to conserve more tissues and prevent wasteful use. These bathroom assistants almost always expect a tip for providing occupants with tissues or toilet paper and keeping the area clean. By expecting a tip and having an individual posted specifically in the bathroom, it is obvious that the national economy offers low wages and that the economy is weak with limited job opportunities.

In countries such as the United States, Germany, or France, staffing bathrooms would be exorbitantly expensive for airports because employees are offered much higher wages for more specialized jobs. Furthermore, technology has replaced many simple jobs that also restrict the overconsumption of goods such as water, tissues and toilet paper. Water, soap dispensers, toilet paper and hand towels are all monitored by machines that distribute ample amounts of their respective products.

While in Frankfurt, Germany, I noticed that the toilet paper was a light grey color, which leads me to believe that it is recycled paper. In Paris, France, instead of paper towels, one could air-dry her hands or use a dispenser that reused a white clothe. It looked as though there was a large roll of clothe within the machine that provided me with a place to wash my hands and then tucked the used clothe in a separate container to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. I assume that this clothe is removed once the roll runs out and is washed before reuse. This is a very environmentally innovative method that reduces the amount of garbage that is produced from the airport. Almost every dispenser within these two facilities was electronically based with sensors. The colors within the bathrooms are bold, like bright orange. The color screams “we are trendy and value fashion, even in our restrooms.” Upon exiting the bathroom in Paris, one is overwhelmed with high-end perfume, liquor, fashion, technology, and all-natural foods.

While being swept away by the opulence of the Paris airport, I perused the prices while looking for a small beverage. The prices astonished me with waters ranging from 2.40 to 4.50 Euro. My friend and I gawked at the prices for about 5 minutes when an Englishman stumbled upon us and reminded us that although water is a normal good in Jordan that is necessary for basic health, bottled water is definitely a luxury good in Paris. As he said it, “water for your waist-line” or “bottled water because it’s sexy.” Neatly placed next to the water were small containers of all natural juices with no preservatives, a smart label, and another ominous price tag – 4.90 Euro. My friend and I decided to stick with the cheapest water and the second to cheapest croissant with chocolate drops inside. We enjoyed our little snack and watched a Palestinian youth folklore group from Ramallah order the rest of the shop. One tiny girl ordered about 20 Euros worth of snacks and a drink. The two of us were absolutely intrigued.

After our snack, a very interesting and shady gentleman kept meeting up with us and tried to spark yet another conversation with us. We were not intrigued at all and left to look at high end chocolates, perfumes and handbags. We found four small pieces of chocolate for 5.50 Euros – Why?! I recognize that chocolate in Europe is delectable and worth a bounty, but 30 Euros for four bars of chocolate was too much for my taste. We found a small minimart within the airport that had more manageable prices and I was quite content purchasing a “low-end,” yet quite large Milka chocolate bar for 4.80 Euro. I couldn’t help by try a piece while on my plane ride from Paris to Salt Lake City. The chocolate was absolutely incredible. I put a single square in my mouth and crumbled as the chocolate melted and serenaded my tongue. It was definitely love!

Thursday, June 16, 2011