Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This needs to be shared

Living here is kind of interesting because there are a lot of things I can't do because I am a woman. I can't run or exercise outside for others to see (not that a would mind you). I can't wear shorts or short sleeves as that would draw attention to the too much attention I already get. I am not supposed to raise my voice in public or respond to any negative comments shebab (young men) may yell at me. The shebab where i live are not bad (I listen to my ipod as i walk so even if they are i am unaware of it) but some of my fellow volunteers get harassed on a daily basis. They get called donkey or bitch or just anything to get their attention and we are advised not to do anything about it. If we yell back it may become a safety issue. If we are grabbed we are advised to ignore it and then report it or ask around as to who the young boy is so we can tell his dad what he did.

As an American girl it is hard to let these things go. In America i would throw a punch or yell a long chain of swears. So as you can imagine when these things happen to me I get mad and it isn't entirely from what they are saying, it is mostly because I can't do or shouldn't do a damn thing about it. What makes me more mad is that Jordanian girls deal with it their entire lives and just ignore it. I don't know which is worse the fact that boys think that this is appropriate behavior or that girls don't do anything about it.

Not only do I think a good slap across the face would do a lot of the boys here good but I hope that the girl who finally does feels empowered or even a little better. More importantly I want the girl who has finally had enough harassment for ten life times to walk away and never feel scared or embarrassed or hurt by heckles again.

I know being harassed by men isn't just a Jordan thing and that it happens in America as well but doesn't that make it even more of a problem? What the heck is wrong with men who think that this behavior is acceptable or even funny? It is rude and sophomoric and you should know better than to treat another human being like this, woman or not. The more that "women's issues" are brought up in the press the more people need to realize that more often than not it isn't a "woman's issue" it is the man that has the issue, in that he needs a good kick in the balls.

Now to the point of my post i just got done reading this letter and I hope that it is a start to something. Men need to know that there a women who will not stand for this kind of behavior and we are going to let you know it! Calling things out to girls is not funny, rude, immature, and at times scary. Here is the letter. I hope you read and like it...


A Letter to My Harasser

By: Noorjahan Akbar - Afghanistan Correspondent for Safe World for Women
Hello sir,
I do not know your name, but you passed by me a week after Eid-ul-Fetr in the Bazaar in Kabul. You might remember me. I was the young woman wearing a white scarf and a long red embroidered tunic with dark pants. I was standing by a vegetable stand and bargaining the price of fresh mint when you passed me and nonchalantly pinched my bottom. I turned red. The old man who was selling vegetables noticed but didn’t say anything. He probably sees this every day. This had happened to me more than once, but this time I felt more embarrassed because the old man noticed.
I ran after you and grasped your wrist. Scared and sweating I started yelling. “Why did you do that? How dare you? Do you do this at home to your family members too?” and you started yelling back louder, “you crazy woman! I haven’t done anything. You are not worth doing anything to.”
 I was still ashamed to tell people what you had done. You probably remember how everyone was watching us. Other women advised me to keep calm that this would only ruin my reputation, but I wasn’t going to give up now. I started yelling. Soon the police arrived and took us both to the station.
A tall man in uniform asked me what had happened. I told him. You opened your mouth and the police officer yelled, “You, shut up!” Next thing I knew he was beating you. You were on the floor and he was kicking you with his gigantic shoes. Sweat was dripping off his thick eyebrows. He must have been as angry as I was.
I didn’t see you again, but the friend who was walking with you followed me all the way home. He told me, “what is the big deal?! It is not like he f***ked you.” But I was too tired for a second fight that day.
You and your friend probably both claim to be Muslims. You probably even pray at the mosque every Friday or more often. You probably tell your wives that they should not get out of the house because the world out there is filled with horrible men who will disgrace them. You probably even believe that you had a right to touching my bottom because you think a “good” woman would never be out on the streets without a man. Your sisters are “good.” They stay at home when you pressure them to. If I were a “good woman” I would do the same. These streets belong to men.
I am writing this letter to tell you that I never intended for you to get beaten and humiliated, but I am not sorry for speaking out. I am writing to tell you that I know what you are up to. You want to threaten me, scare me, and keep me shut at home where I will learn to tend to many children and cook food for your kind and be submissive to a man that might someday marry me. You want me to be terrified of the world outside and not find my way and my place in it. You want me to believe that the only safe and “decent” place for me is in the kitchen and the bedroom. But I am writing you to tell you that I am not buying that ever again. Not you, not the Taliban, not this government, not my brother or mother, nor anybody else can convince me that I am less than a man, that I cannot protect myself, that I cannot be what I want to, and that the best life for me is in a “safe” kitchen where a man or a mother-in-law has control over my every move. I am not buying that. Not ever again.
I will come out of the home every day and walk bravely down the streets of my city, not because I need to, but because I can and neither your harassment or sexual assault nor an oppressive government will ever be able to take that ability from me again.
With Defiance,
A Woman You Harassed

Friday, April 5, 2013

I Can Hold a Wet Bar of Soap Better Than a Conversation

Let's start with the important things... my pant situation is not looking good you guys. They are really super big. I look like I am dressed for a hillbilly picnic (what is even going on?).

In unrelated (or related?) news here are the people in my life...

This is Malek and me in Aqaba

Her sister Rand

This is easily the best picture of the trip because what is even going on? The woman in the purple hijab is my mudeera and the woman in the plack hijab is my landlords oldest daughter!

We visited a museum that only had female mannequins, which they so creatively turned into male mannequins with the help of a black marker. I thought this was hilarious so I jumped at the chance to take pictures with these guys! I imagine in my head that they got the shipment of mannequins and when they opened the boxes they realized they only got female ones and they didn't know what to do! So they sat there thinking for a minute and then one of the workers was like wait I got it! Then drew a mustache, beard, and thicker eyebrows on one of the them and the manager was like, eh good enough. (Probably not how it went but i like to imagine it went like this)

Some dudes playing some old instruments.

This is my 15 year old best friend Dana who is teaching how to crochet. She is pretty kick ass and she shares my love for Beyonce and sleep.

This is Aneghneem she also very awesome.

So those are the majority of people in my life right now.

My english classes are going strong (i think). Except we went over animals the other day in my beginner class and i spelled dolphin with and e (dolphine)... I am so done. I crossed it out and was like uh... don't spell it like that, awkward.

Arabic update: who knew Arabic was hard? slapped me right in the face! But seriously it is just going down hill from here, luckily it wasn't a very large hill but still! In arabic "Ana" is how you say I (this is the prep for the story). So I was walking down the street minding my own business when this young girl came up and was like LAURA LAURA! I was like hi! how are you? what is your name? to which she replies "Ana?" (I would just like to say that this is a deceitful question and she set me up for a let down. Who else would i be asking? We are the only two people here?) To which I said, "Oh Anna that is a cute name" (que me hitting my forehead with the palm of my head). She gave me a confusing look and said her name was Rania... I think we are going to be good friends. (she is 7)

The weather is getting hotter here and I am a little scared for summer because everyone here says "Oh yeah you are going to want to leave here during the summer, it is really hot". Guys, I am a sweaty person! It isn't cute I know this, and for the most part it can be kept at bay with extra strength mens deodorant  (although I have heard good things about secret as it is strong enough for a man, but made for a woman) and air conditioning... there is no air conditioning here. I will be very gross as I need to be covered when i go out, as in no t shirts or shorts. I won't blame people who don't talk to me during the summer months. There will be no hard feelings and I will see you again in the fall.

Then there was that time I got proposed to through a 20 year old girl... I was just sitting in my office minding my own business and this girl who speaks very good english comes and says "There is a man here in the village who would like to marry you. What do you think about this? Do you want to get married." To which I responded "No thank you." It was hard to turn down but me and this guy who i don't know and haven't seen had to go our separate ways. It wasn't me it was him. It was very romeo and juliet (although i think Romeo and Juliet could have handled there whole deal a little better) very romantic to say the least. 

Until next time!

p.s. what is going on with Amanda Bynes? Maybe she can blame her twin from "She's the man" for this weird behavior... Surprise it is my twin Sebastian! We switched again!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Moon Pennies: you can buy funny but not a life

Today a girl told me my face looked good today... I thought hey cool I am looking good so I said oh thank you. Which she then replied "yea it doesn't have any acne, it is clear." Bring me up just to knock me back down why dontcha. I stopped talking to her. What i should have done was said "HEY! you try moving to a new country and not being able to speak the language and are fed things you are not so sure what are and keep your skin clear! I don't think so lady now take a hike!" Probably best i didn't.

However I had a pleasant english class where I read a paragraph and then they answered questions about it. The paragraph was about an old man who wakes up in the middle of the night and goes down to the basement and opens a trunk with the key around his neck. He then finds an envelope in the trunk and burns it. I asked what do you think was in an envelope. One girl said it was from his girlfriend! I was like he old as dirt, what you mean girlfriend? No didn't actually say that but i wish i had, damn! I asked why they thought he kept the key around his neck and if they thought his wife was suspicious of this key. This man really did not look good by the end, he has a secret girlfriend (at one point a boyfriend, a little lost in translation there) he lies to his wife about the key and is possibly not employed! However, they got a little mad when they asked for the answers and I didn't have any. At the end they were like "so what was in the envelope?" and i was like "um what?". We then played moon pennys. It was a pretty good class, not everyone talked but some did. I will take this as a win!

Laura 1
Jordan somewhere around 37ish

Another funny thing happened today, I was told in an email from a 16 year old girl to not be shy. She told me to come over whenever I wanted. How awesome is that?! Too funny. God love her. Only in Jordan does a 16 year old email you to tell you something your 80 year old neighbor would say. The only difference is the 16 year old will teach me bad words in arabic while the old lady would probably give me butterscotches (blech) and tell me about the good ole days. Although, the old lady might make pie so she has that going for her. I digress, this is the same girl who offered to do my grocery shopping because i got ripped off by the guy who sold me cheese. I almost said yes, but i have a conscience and i would never make a little girl do my grocery shopping for me.

But also that cheese guy sucks! Who rips someone off when they are buying cheese! I am silently protesting that dukkan because seriously dude?! Don't come between me and my cheese, i WILL give you nasty looks for 2 years believe you me! If you couldn't tell I am a little bitter.

Okay this post was just a bunch of rambling about my interactions with people. Nothing really new to report; my pants are still too big, my house is still too cold (but i now have a hot water bottle, thank you mom and day. So that is my new best friend), and I think i burned my blanket on the soba...

Soba 3
Laura 0

I also got a strange visit from a woman i didn't know and her daughter who i also didn't know and her son who i had met once. They came at 8 o'clock at night and wanted an english lesson for her son in my house. What kid wants a lesson at 8pm? Shouldn't you be thinking about going to bed, I know that is what i do around 8. I said no not here and when it is light out. I don't know if they understood but they went away. It definitely threw me for a loop.

ok I am done, I should have ended this a long time ago, i am sorry.


OH also, the word for light is dow, the word for medicine is dewa, and the word for period (not the punctuation mark, yea the other period) is dowra... or you can speak like me and all three are period. Good times. Also was informed that there is a Real Housewives of Turkey... it is a crucial part of my stay here that i find season one and watch it immediately.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bait hilu bait (home sweet home)

Here it is people, in all of its glory (or lack there of)... My house.

Here is my "living room" which is actually a large hallway because my actual living room (not pictured) is too big and if i put these things in it, it would just be ridiculous. Straight ahead is my bathroom (notice the dolphin shower curtain, it is all about the little details my friends). The door on the right is to my bedroom. The door on the left is to my kitchen and across from my kitchen is a guest room (also empty and not pictured).

This is my mini fridge with fruit and honey and whatnot on it.

This is my washing machine and dryer... got this as soon as i could. If I don't have to hand wash my clothes for two years, I won't!

This is across from the washing machine. The sink, stove, food, and dishes. Some things I would like to point out, the santa head band that keeps back my unruly hair on bad days, you can't see it but there is a neon orange "fruit" sticker on the last green tile on the right, the "types of pasta" apron, there is also a toy car and a santa snow globe to the left on the counter.

This is the left corner of my room. Laundry, guitar, etc. (messy, get over it)

Bed and books. My bed is the one with all the blankets on it... the other is for stuff. That orange rope is laundry line and that head checked item is the Jordanian Shmog, a traditional fashion accessory most commonly found on men over sixty. I just had to have one! (it brings out my eyes)

And the right corner of my room. Closet and drawers from clothing and some stuff i put on my wall. I don't want to brag but there is a copy of Twilight on that closet. I don't want to treat this like MTV cribs but I feel like I should because do you remember how awesome that show was? And how crazy Mariah Carey was when she got in her tub. I am not going to do that because it is cold in hurr, so I am keeping on all my clothes and then getting under some blankets.

You don't gotta go home but cha gotta get the hell outta here. (They always said that as they shut the gate in the camera's face)

This is the view from outside the gates to my house... how does it feel to be an outsider looking in?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Flag (Couldn't think of a clever title for this)

Here is the Jordanian Flag

I may or may not have messed up the star on four birthday cards... sorry guys. Each color represents an Arab dynasty era. Black - Abbasid, White - Umayyad, Green - Fatimid, Red chevron - Hashemite dynasty. The seven pointed star represents the seven verses of the Islamic belief in the Qur'an.

My host sister's husband filled me in on an interesting fact... The green and white stripes used to be switched. I don't remember why haha (if anyone knows please enlighten all 3 of my readers). Short and sweet... there is the Jordanian flag. 

Where in the world is, Laura?

And now I have just gotten ahead of myself. I should probably tell you where in the world I am! When I started telling people the most common reaction I got was "That is so cool! Where is that exactly?". Although I am sure most of you have looked on a map to see I will let you know where I am anyway. Jordan is in the Middle East (mind blow!) and about the size of Indiana. Isn't is little and cute!

And is a muslim country...

It is surrounded by Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia (you can sort of count Egypt if you want, I mean it is on this map). And then there is the dead sea! The lowest point on earth! Also on this map you will see it's capital Amman.

Jordan is separated into what are called governants (muHaadaDHa). There are 12 and they are as follows; Irbid, Al Mafraq, Ajlun, Jarash, Al Balqa (where I am!), Az Zarqa', Madaba (where I had my pre service training), Amman (different from Amman city, the capital), Al Karak, Al Tafilah, Aqaba, and Ma'an.

They are as culturally and climately (yea, that isn't a word but I think you get what I mean) different as the states back in the U.S. The closer you get to the dead sea the warmer it gets and the higher up in the mountains; Ajlun, Jarash, the colder it gets (makes sense, lower altitude = warmer, high altitude = colder). As for culturally, depending on where you are it can be very conservative (strict separation of boys and girls, what is allowed in public and in homes, what to wear, how to act, etc.). Other places are more liberal and the above is a little more relaxed. Amman the capital, is a whole other story. It is like the U.S. in Jordan. Almost everything in the U.S. is there but it tends to be a lot more expensive than any other place in Jordan.


How a 23 year old learns how to write again, like a 5 year old.

Today is Friday, my day off. Seeing as it is my one day to myself, naturally, I have to go and visit with people. This isn't always the case, sometimes I get the day to myself. With all this time I have to myself I have been thinking about Jordan and that I haven't actually told you anything about this wonderful place that I have been living in for the past four months. I think the only appropriate place to start is the beginning. Let's begin with the alphabet, shall we?

This is it, in all of its glory. 28 letters and they all have three ways of writing them depending on if they come at the beginning, middle, or end of the word. Those dots above and below the words are called nukta (which if said in a slightly different way means "joke"). Arabic is read from right to left and there books open accordingly. I much prefer this picture of the alphabet...

All of these letters are connected into something that looks like this...

Typically people use just the diacritic dots (sometimes they don't). The vocalization marks are called harakat. They help you pronounce the words, the are the short vowels of arabic and they look like this.

How the letter 'ba' is pronounced with each harakat is on the bottom line of the picture. These are used in the Qur'an because the pronunciation needs to be specific and correct as it is the central religious text of Islam. However, in everyday life there are many accents of Arabic. Moroccan arabic is different from Jordan arabic which is different from Egyptian arabic. 'Keifik'(how are you) one places could be 'Keifich' another place. Whatever pronunciation is used you are always welcomed with a soft hand hold and a kiss to the right cheek and umpteen kisses (typically 3 where I live) to the right.