Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hello everyone! I hope everyone has had a wonderful year and continue to have more wonderful years to come!!

I am saddened to see all the negative comments about 2010 and positive thoughts towards the upcoming year, as I read the comments written by my Facebook friends. I ask myself, why all the negative thoughts about the last year?! And then I ask myself, why do they think the next year will bring better for them?! Today is 2010 and tomorrow is 2011. It is just another day, another year. It isn't a new year that will make our lives better, rather it is the thoughts inside us. It is the way we react to our surroundings. The way we respond to the events in our lives. The way we thank God for the blessings in our lives. And the way we learn from the struggles that will make our lives better. I hope to encourage everyone and myself to thank God for our blessings and to learn from the struggles he tests us with. To learn to react and respond better to our surroundings and our circumstances, so that we can be more positive about our lives -because positive thinking does make a difference.

My positive thoughts and events from 2010:

-My husband, this year he began working with the Prime Minister of Jordan as a Senior Analyst! Also he is teaching at the German-Jordanian University.

-My son, is in his first year of life and he brings joy and laughter to our life every day!

-My daughter, is in her third year of life and she brings sweetness and love to our life everyday!

-My Dad, has been promoted to Publisher of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch and deserves the very best in everything because he is dedicated to do his best in everything he does!

-My Mom, is so wonderful in every way and takes care of her family whether we live with her or live across the world from her!

My sister, and her husband, have brought home the most wonderful gift of a daughter, Grace!

My sister, is a strong young women who offers so much to the world around her!

Our family, have so many things to be happy for -Alhumdillah - and we wish you all a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It is Christmas around the world and in Jordan too. About 5% of the Jordanian population are Christians, but you can see the festivities all around town. I was at the grocery store the other day and Christmas music played continuously as we shopped. The radio is also playing the occassional Christmas song and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. The malls are decorated from top to bottom with lights, Christmas trees, poinsettas, and a place for the kiddies to sit on Santas lap (and yes, Santa is there taking requests and pictures). The neighborhood stores are celebrating as well, with signs of Merry Christmas, sales, and decorations in the store windows. Depending on the neighborhood, some street turn arounds are decorates with decorated and lighted trees. The Christian homes have lighted trees and Santa with his reigndeer displayed out front. If today was a normal working day, we would all have the day off because it is a National Holiday. Last night (Christmas Eve) we drove around the streets of Amman and the people were out celebrating. The street vendors were selling Santa hats...and there was the occassional cars with people dressed in Santa hat, beard, and red coat ringing bells as they drove down the streets of Amman. Here are a few pictures we took over the last week:

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Niece is born!

My Sister!

6 pounds, 13 ounces
19.5 inches
December 19, 2010
7:10 a.m.

Congratulations to my Sister and her Husband!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Middle East has Moody Weather?!

Living and growing up in the Midwest of the United States, we always joked that the weather was moody. One day it would be warm, the next it would be cold. It would be a beautiful summer day and a huge thunderstorm came through mid-afternoon. It would seem as though Spring was here to stay and summer was on its way, then we would get hit by a snowstorm. The weather was something you needed to pay close attention to and prepare for as you couldn't predict what the day would bring.

Living in Jordan, I have not needed to pay attention to the weather. In fact, most people don't seem to care about the weather forcast. There aren't signs at every bank announcing the date, time and weather. Honestly, I rarely know what the temperature is...other than when I talk with my family who are living in the Midwest and they often ask me what the weather is doing over here. It is an interesting topic, never the less; however, the weather over the past 24 hours is an interesting topic being discussed all over Amman today!

Before two weeks, it felt as though summer would last all year in Amman. The temperature was still in the high 70's, beautiful summer blue skies, and hot sunshine. Peopleeverywhere were praying for rain, as this is normally their rain season. Then two weeks ago, the temperature dropped...dramatically. It became cool 50's with a cold wind. Inside the homes, this is a whole other story, one that Midwesterners don't believe until we live here. 50F outside means it is near freezing inside your home...and it is nearly impossible to warm the inside of your home as it built to keep the heat out. All the heat you put into your home is gone, due to the radiating cold coming from all four corners of your tile and cemented home.

In the last 24 hours, we had very interesting weather. It started with rain...lots of much rain it looked like rivers flowing down the mountain side. This lasted a few hours and was followed by about 12 hours of piercing cold wind. All of this wind started drying out the land. The wind continued at 40km/hour, the hillsides dried, and the sandstorm started! Wind and sand beating against the homes and windows. In some places they could taste the sand in their homes (even with their windows down and shutters closed) and the sand even managed to get in many of the homes. (Side note: This always rocks when you just cleaned and dusted your home!...ugh) Late last night the wind howlled, the doors and windows shook, and the thunderstorm started! Thunder and lightening through out the night. Sometime in the middle of the night, the wind stopped and the snow started! Depending on which part of Amman you live, depends on if you had standing snow this morning. We live on the highest point in Amman, so we woke up to 4-6 inches of snow this morning!

Recap: Intense rain, intense wind, sandstorm, thunderstorm, snow storm!...For my Midwestern friends who just experiences 14 inches during a huge blizzard, I know you are laughing at my choice of words, but for Jordan 4-6 inches of snow is considered a snow storm!

The kids and I got up this morning, got dressed quickly and played outside while I waited to hear if my work was cancelled for wasn't...but many of the schools were closed. I giggled to myself knowing that many of the Minnesota schools were open today despite the huge blizzard that just hit them. And I laughed with my girlfriend from work as she told me that she doesn't think there will be work today because she can't even walk outside due to all the snow. It's a matter of perspective.

Hope everyone survived the blizzard back home and I hope everyone here is keeping warm inside as we all brace ourselves for winter!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Makes Them Who They Are...

What Makes Little Miss Who She Is...

Carrying around her beloved Bear everywhere we go - "Momma, Bear misses me if I leave him"

Still sucking her thumb and denying that she does - "I don't suck my thumb, BooBoo sucks his thumb, BooBoo is a baby!"

Being a wonderful big sister - "BooBoo you have to hold my hand, be careful, stay on the sidewalk because there might be cars!"

Enjoying the song and dance - A mix of Arabic and English music, she can sing and dance in both languages!

Constantly checking if everyone is happy - "Momma, are you happy?"

Always wanting to play in her room - "Momma, play with me in my room!"

Needing to say I love you hundreds of times a week - "I love you Momma" and "Momma, I love BooBoo so much!" and "I love my Baba (Dad) really a lot!"

Loving the beautiful things - "Ohhh, her shoes are pink!", "She has pretties in her hair!", "Wow, that's fancy!"

Favorite 'toons - Minnie Mouse, Tom & Jerry

Favorite things - Playing "Scary" (pretending I am an alligator while she hides under the covers). Hide and Seek. Making a fort with the couch. Drawing. Painting. Playdough. Children's Museum. Reading Books. Dresses. Fancy shoes.

What I love most about her - Her soft, tender, enormous heart!

What Makes BooBoo Who He is...

Taking his blanket with him everywhere he goes - "B"

Always checking for Little Miss- "AiJa, where you?!"

Kissing the one who is crying - "Momma, AiJa crying" followed by "Muuuah"

Incredible temper when he doesn't get what he wants - "AIIIIIIIJAAAAAA, NOOOOOO!"

Incredbile personality - Amazing personality!

Athletic ability - Mark my words, he WILL be playing soccer and/or sports and he will be great!

Favorite 'toons - Barney, Tom & Jerry

Favorite things - Hide and Seek. Cooking with Momma. Reading Books. Kicking balls. Walking/running outside. Jumping.

His adorable blond curles and long dark eyelashes.

What I love most about him - He is full of interest and energy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving in the Middle East??

Living in the US, our family always got together on Thanksgiving. We enjoy eating the traditional Turkey dinner and playing fun games surrounding the theme of Thankfulness. This year the annual get together took place at the same place, same time. We of course are in Amman and were absent from the actual party, yet we were there via Skype.....btw, have I told you how much I LOVE Skype?!...Well, this lady LOVES Skype and so does the rest of the family!!....anyways, back to the story, I Skyped with the annual gathering of family in Eden Prairie/Minneapolis. We shared Hellos with my parents, sisters, brother-in-law, Grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And...we were fortuntate to even get in on the What are you Thankful for Game that we have played every year since as long as I can remember. It was fun, no doubt...but, we were still jealous for a taste of the Turkey dinner.....and Grandpa's (yes, Grandpa's) perfect pumpkin pie!!

So.....we decided to cook up our own Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner on Friday. We invited my Hubby's parents, brother, brother's wife, their 6 year old son, and my friend M., her husband and their 11 month old daughter.

Yanal was incharge of the Turkey and I would take the rest. The night before I prepared my Mother's home made cheesecake and my Grandfather's pumpkin pie with Mom's homemade pie crust. I also cut and dried the breadcrumbs, in preparation for my first attempt at Betty Crocker's homemade turkey stuffing. The next morning, Yanal preped the Turkey with salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and rosemary. As the Turkey roasted in the oven for the next 3 hours, I was busy cooking up Grandma's Corn Casserole that everyone loves. I also diced and fried the onions, celery, and mushrooms and sprinkled them with sage before mixing with the dried breadcrumbs, adding a little water, and placing in the oven. I steamed the green beans and grated the ginger as described in the oriental green beans recipe. I boiled yellow potatoes and prepared the garlic for my favorite garlic mashpotatoes. I made the turkey gravey with of course the delicious drippings from the turkey. Lastly, I made Asparagas soup with Asparagas tips. My friend Maria brought over her Angelic Eggs as they call them in Texas (deviled eggs as we call them up north).

For me, I had so much fun preparing the food in the kitchen as I could hear the people enjoying themselves in the other room - kids playing, ggigling and laughing together, adults talking and laughing loudly over the noise of the (must have been soccor) game was on the tv. My sister-in-law in the kitchen next to me, keeping me company and talking about Thanksgiving tradition back home. And of course the maid helping to keep the apartment clean - gotta LOVE the access to maids in Jordan!

The company was perfect. The food (thankfully) turned out great, the Turkey was so tender, juicy and flavorful -it was amazing (Great job to Yanal!) and the desserts were delicious.

With a touch of my Grandmother, Grandfather, Mother, my own and Hubby's felt as I was close to my family and continued the tradition in the absence of home.

I so much enjoyed the day! It was a new experience for Hubby's family, an old tradition in my family, and now a new tradition as our family. Thanks everyone for coming and hope next year to have everyone over again...and note for next year - do not forget to take pictures!

Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving as well!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How I've Changed

It is bound to happen to any person who moves and begins living in a new surrounding. It doesn't matter if the move is to a new neighborhood in the same city, to the neighboring state, to the opposite region of the United States, or when one moves to another part of the world. Change is going to occur. They say change is difficult and people generally resist change. However, in certain situations change is necessary and will occur because of the new experiences. Those who experience change, will resist. Those who eventually embrace change usually state that it was positive.

A person adapts to their new surroundings and begins to change as a result of this adaptation. Or as my father always says, "You are a product of your environment". Of course there is the nature/nurture theories...but here we are strictly looking at the nurture part of this argument.

First, change can be a result of assimilation - an unwritten, unspoken expectation of the majority onto the minority person/family who immigrates to the culture of the majority - and a non purposeful absorption of the cultural norms of the new society - assimilation. It is a well known concept of those who study Sociology. Assimilation at some level is necessary and happens with or without purposeful intent.

Second, change occurs because of what is witnessed, experienced, and that which is newly understood about their surroundings. These will ultimately change, at some level, the persons description of me - of what is important to me and of that which is no longer as important to me.

How have I changed?
-Complete awareness of the precious non-renewable resource of water. Jordan is a country thirsty for water. Each person residing in Jordan is allowed a pre-determined amount of water each week. Water runs out if you are not consciously aware of the amount you use. I have learned to pay close attention to the amount of water is wasted and have stopped the waste before the waters runs out.

-Realization of how much I love my family. I have a new appreciation for my family. I have always (except for my teenage years) felt blessed with a healthy and happy family. A family who enjoys our time together, who take vacations together, make an appoint to celebrate special occasions together, laugh together, support each other, love each other. However, not until I have move here, away from that family I love, when I realize exactly how blessed we are and how much I really love my family.

-Deeply understand the meaning of Alhumdillah (Thanks be to God). So many people here (and around the world, including the US) do not have the things that I have and have not the option to experience the things I have experienced in my short life. Previously, I knew of this only on an intellectual level. I had read about it and heard about it; however, I am now living and seeing the reality. I so appreciate and feel blessed for the things that I once found normal, things that I nearly expected...I have been on a vacation at least once in my life (actually I have been on many vacations, rather than only to dream of one vacation). I have been on a boat. Gone fishing. Know how to golf. I have rode a bike. I know how to swim. I have a automatic washing machine...and a dryer. I have a dishwasher. I have a college degree. I finished high school. I went to elementary school. I have healthy kids and family. I have clothing. I have shelter and I have a heater in my shelter. I have clean water. I have food. I am not a beggar. I do not have physical limitations. I do not have mental limitations. Everywhere you turn in Amman, you will see someone living in poverty. Someone is asking for change or trying to make a couple of coins but selling things like tissues and gum on every street in Amman. Alhumdillah, Alhumdillah, Alhumdillah. Thank you God for everything that I have, as I am truly blessed.

-Embarrassment. I have learned to be embarrassed to ask for more. I live nearly the life I had in the USA, and I still want more. Don't we all want more or something? Money, new clothes, bigger home, friendship, health, time, etc. I have learned how to define my wants of more into those as needs and those as extras. Alhumdillah, I have been so blessed and when you truly and deeply understand those blessing, it is embarrassing to ask for more. There are so many around me that have nearly nothing and they also say Alhumdillah. Shame on me to ask for more.

-Hospitality. Jordanians and known for and pride themselves on hospitality. One does not eat nor drink anything without asking everyone around if they would like some. I get up at work to grab a glass of water and I ask everyone in the office if I can make them some tea or coffee. Before I go to the cafeteria, I ask if anyone wants everything and I buy an extra so when I return I can offer something for them as well. Greeting someone is not just "Hey" and keep on walking or continue back to that which I am working on. It is a genuine Asalamualaikum (Peace be on you), Good morning, How are you doing, How was your weekend, How are your kids, family, etc. It is rude not to, and it is interpreted as those you are not interested in the well being of others. It is good practice and it is a positive assimilation.

Something I want to change.
-Feeling comfortable with being forward. The society here is not bashful to ask for things. There are no lines - it is who speaks the loudest who gets his/her turn first...I need to learn how to do that!

I was hoping to ask Hubby about the changes he has noticed in himself...he is now sleeping...Inshallah I will ask him this week and see how his list is the same or different. It will be an interesting discussion :-)

What times in your life did you under go change? What were the circumstances surrounding the change? Was it a positive experience - why or why not?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hajj and Eid Al-Adha


The largest pilgrimage in the world.
Two and a half Million - Three Million Muslims.
Muslims from all over the world attend.
Required of all able Muslims to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime.
Men and Women.
The 5th pillar of Islam.
Located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Abraham was instructed by God to leave his wife (Hagar) and infant son (Ishmeal) alone in the dessert.
The infant became thirsty.
Hagar ran back and forth seven times looking for water.
Infant cried and hit his foot to the ground/Angel Gabriel's wing scratched the ground.
Water miraculously appeared (well of ZamZam).
Years later Abraham was instructed by God to return to this place and build a place of worship next to the Well Zamzam.
Abraham and his son built the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Abraham was instructed by God to sacrifice his son.
Satan tried to persuade Abraham not to sacrifice his son.
Abraham and his son drove Satan away by throwing stones at him.
Abraham and his son proved their williness to sacrifice for God.
God replaced his son with an animal to sacrifice instead.

The pilgrimage commerartes this historical and religious history.

Day 1:
Pilgrims reach Mecca, shower and change clothes
Shedding all signs of wealth and societial distinction
Muslim men wear two white cloths, Muslims women wear simple white dress and headscarf.
Travel from Mecca to Mina
Pray, read Quran, rest for coming days

Day 2:
Leave Mina and go to the Plain of Arafat.
Muslims spend the entire day near the Mount of Mercy
Asking for forgiveness and making supplications.
(Muslims not in Hajj often fast this day)
Travel to open plain call Muzdalifah
Collect small pebbles for the following day
Spend the night praying

Day 3:
Travel back to Mina
Throw small stones that repressent the temptation of Satan (rememberance of Satan tempting Abraham not to sacrifice his son).
Sacrifice an animal
Return to Mecca
Circle the Kaaba seven times
Walk seven times between two small hills (in remeberance of Hagar search for water)
Drink from the Well of ZamZam

SEE HAJJ LIVE and learn more! :

Eid Al-Adha
The Festival of Sacrifice.
Animal sacrifice
Sacrificed animal, which must meet specific criteria
Symbolize God's mercy on Abraham when God replaced Abraham's son with a ram.
Sacrificed meat: 1/3 kept for family, 1/3 given to relatives, 1/3 given as charity to the poor.
Largest Holiday in Islam.
Follows the Pilgrimage of Hajj.

Morning of Eid rituals:
Wake up before sunrise, wash and pray Fajr Prayer.
Dress in best clothing.
Attend early morning Eid Prayer offered in congregation.
Sacrifice animal.
Visit family and friends.

Hajj is currently going on.
Eid is on Wednesday, November 16th this year.
Eid Al-Adha lasts for 4 days.
We are off work for the week.
Proper greeting: Eid Mubarak, Happy Eid.

Eid Mubarak!