An Update About Nothing In Particular

First, photos.
Facebook tells me anyone can see them. I hope that’s true.

Second, we had a blackout yesterday. Rawr.
This is the candle we lit:

And then later we lit more, but they were less interesting and entirely lacking the Arabian Nights theme, so, no pictures of those.

So, how did we pass the 6 hours time?

Well, first we hung out at Burger King, because it was the only place on campus with any power.

The Oasis.

Then we wandered around in the dark until we came upon this streetlamp, which we used to pretend K was getting abducted by aliens:


And then we met some ghost-children on the swings:

K joined them:

And then the power came back on and we all went back to doing whatever is it we were doing before it went out. Like Facebooking and watching British cooking shows on BBCLifestyle. This fellow Ramsay is the Simon Cowell of the culinary world. It’s really quality television.

Now the weekend has arrived and I am off to enjoy it.

The Week in Pictures…ish

There’s not much to say for the week. The most exciting thing that happened was the fried-egg experiment that turned out totally lame. Still, sometimes dull makes for nice photography.

There are so many things I dislike about AUS. But the symmetry is not one of them:

The security guards? Definitely are:

This is The Ugliest House in the Emirates:

I think it looks pretty cool, but I’ve been told the night masks its true and overpowering ugliness.

My favorite part of AUS is the library.
The atrium looks like a wedding cake:

And there’s a gorgeous spiral staircase from basement to top floor. Unfortunately, the power was out and this was the best picture I could get:

Lame. But do you know what’s even lamer? The power being out for three days. In the summer. S-E-W-A spells Incompetent.

Finally, today was Day 1 of the Holy Month of Ramadan, and thus the beginning of the Muslims’ 30-day fast. In the UAE, it’s against the law to eat in public during this month and so all the food courts in the mall close down for the day, as well as all the restaurants on campus. Business hours are cut to six-hour days (and often fewer), and the whole country turns sluggish–and to an even greater degree this year because its the heat of the summer. From sunrise to sunset, there is no eating, drinking or smoking. That makes a lot of people really cranky, and exceptionally inefficient. These are all reasons to loathe Ramadan.

And then, the sun sets. The cannon is fired, and suddenly there is life once again. People are feasting and partying and inviting each other over to feast and party with neighbours and family members, parties where they stuff you so full you can hardly walk out the door. Malls become packed, restaurants make fortunes, and the land echoes with prayers and recitations of the Qu’ran.

It is a very cool time to be in the Middle East.

Happy Ramadan

The Sidewalk-fried Egg

So are you excited for this? Because no one I know has ever successful fried an egg on the sidewalk. Few places are hot enough to accomplish it and even fewer people are up to the task. It’s a good thing we have 8 1/2 year olds in this world.

My brave 8 1/2 year old assistant.

And then we went back inside to wait. Come on, it isn’t *that* hot over here.

About an hour later, we returned, ready with plates and a salt shaker.

This is what we found:

Awesome. This kind of heat and we can’t even cook an egg properly. Just awesome.

PS But it *did* cook. I’m thinking this weekend I’ll try it with a cookie sheet instead of just the brick. That ought to be a lot more exciting.

The Cool Thing About Oppressive Heat

My summer in Jordan left me tired, drained, exhausted! Never wanting to think about moving again! Not even to learn Arabic! Not even for cool—well, okay, maybe for cool pictures.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my days occupied with a little babysitting (the daughter from this post in case you’re curious). Today was day 1, and it went swimmingly. L and I baked a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies, did a sinkload of dishes, and fried an egg on the sidewalk. Sort of. This is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life but never lived in a place hot enough to pull it off–until today. It was a hot afternoon, but, well, just not hot enough. It took forever to cook and in the meantime it oozed along the maze of mortar cracks in the sidewalk. Such a letdown to, after all these years of fantasizing, be met with such an anticlimactic egg-frying event.


It cooked.


Hmm. I’m supposed to put a picture right here but I seem to have misplaced my cord. BLAST!
Well, stay tuned. I’ll post it tomorrow. Get really excited so you can experience the whole buildup and letdown I felt this afternoon. 🙂


Dear Reader,

I’m home. Home! I love home.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table and the only sound I hear is the clock ticking on the wall. Soon, though, it will be joined by the air conditioning.
My dad cooked two great meals today, and even served me a small omelet for breakfast this morning. (How do you spell “omelet” by the way? I thought it was “omelette”. Blogger thinks otherwise.)
I watched 30 Rock and napped on the couch this afternoon.
And this evening, we had some friends over and visited for a few hours, all in the comfort of our living room.
It’s so good to be here.

I stopped posting because my writing was becoming increasingly bitter. Every time I sat down to compose something, all that would come out was a stream of vile obscenities directed mainly at Jordanian men, Jordanian internet, and Jordanian taxi drivers. I imagine I’ll post them someday–perhaps in whole–but for now I want to remember the good things.

Like ice cream. So much good ice cream in Jordan.

The falafel place I went everyday after class.

My roommate, who was so very good to me.

The blue sky.

The breezes.

My amazing teacher.

And all the cool places I went (namely: Petra and Wadi Rum).

Tomorrow, I’m going to the store with my mom to buy a novel. I am so excited.
Pictures to come.

Until then,


The Best Story Since That One about the Creepy Cab Driver

in case you missed that story
My mom is the director of a small and relatively new university library in the Gulf. It opened a few years ago to wide acclaim because not only is it the most gorgeous library since the Library of Congress, but it’s one of few libraries (by US standards) in the region. There isn’t a great demand for books in an oral culture, you know?

Before it opened, there was a promotional DVD made highlighting the building’s beauty and state-of-the-art technology. Well of course this required students to fill the video conferencing rooms, and sit in the fancy new presentation rooms, and to demonstrate how to check out a book—using the self-checkout stations. My mom volunteered me for that particular role and I gladly complied because self-checkout stations are the greatest library innovation since the barcode scanner.

What I didn’t know was that this video would be shown on the local television station. In fact, it wasn’t until several months later that a friend facebooked me with news that she had seen me on Sharjah TV checking out a book. I responded by telling her that I had also been featured in an interview with Campus Journal—a newspaper distributed to colleges and universities in the Emirates—so no doubt, what with all that media attention I’d received, I was well on my way world domination. One obscure media outlet at a time.

Since then (2006), I have been mentioned in half a dozen more obscure publications and was once spotted in Yemen on an Indian television station talking about how America really isn’t a nation of haters because Look! We have a statue of Liberty!

It was about this time that I defined “world domination” as “appearing on al-Jazeera speaking Arabic.”

Well, last week I got pretty close.

I was walking with some friends to grab lunch from the cafeteria on campus. On the way, we stopped in front of a crowd of women holding signs bearing a language we couldn’t read. Wait, does that say Hijab? Oh yeah! And I think that says—Killed?!

And then a woman, wearing clothes that covered all but her eyes, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could talk to me about the hijab. Imagine, for a second, this scene.

Me, in my slightly-tanned-with-freckles skin and red hair, wearing black capris and a purple scoop-neck tee. And her, in black gloves, abaya, and headscarf, nothing of her body visible but the eyes.

As she related to me in broken English the story of Marwa Sharbini, it occurred to me just how expressive one’s eyes can be.

She wanted to assure me that the hijab is not a symbol of oppression or terrorism. I responded to her, in Arabic, by saying that I knew it symbolized neither of these things, that I’ve lived and traveled in the Middle East for years, studied it in school, had lots of Muslim friends, and know quite well that more often than not, women wear it with pride. I understand, I told her. It’s a good thing.

She smiled, thanked me for my time and returned to the demonstration.

I was about to rejoin my own friends when another woman stopped me. She had overheard me speaking Arabic and wanted me to let her record me on video talking about the hijab issue. Because, you see, she is a program producer for a radio station in Jordan as well as a blogger for al-Jazeeratalk. Of course, I had no idea what “al-Jazeeratalk” was, but it had “al-Jazeera” in it so how could I pass it up?

Well obviously I couldn’t.

And it’s not in Arabic, and it’s not quite al-Jazeera. But get on my good side now because damn. I really am going to take over the world.

(I come in about two minutes in to the report whose link has since passed, allahyerhamu.)

Back on the Arabic Wagon, and this time with Big Results

Happy Belated anniversary to my sister who, as of yesterday, has been married to dear old Tim for two years. Woohoo!


Yesterday, a guy stopped me on campus.

Marhaba. He said. Weyn mudarraj (something indeciferable)

Me: Um…Ma barif?

And then I think he caught on that I wasn’t Jordanian. He said thank you and walked on.

First time I’ve ever been mistaken for  an Arab. I am making progress.


UPDATE 5/2015: This link is now defunct 🙁 But had you visited in Juny 2009, you would have see me, in red hari, capris, and sunglasses, in a little interview talking about the hijab. I summarized it here:

And because that last post was so successful…

Including one of me! I have so many of me now, it's….well, it's never happened before. But here's a tip: if you want to be in pictures, don't be the only one with a camera.
This computer is sloooooooooow. Just like the rest of the computers in this country and so I'm going tobounce. Go home, eat lunch, figure out how the heck to cram all these photos onto my maxed-out hard drive. Maybe watch star trek 🙂
Update coming soon, internet-God willing.