Tip # 418: A Trip to Pella

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” Saint Augustine

Where do I begin?

Yesterday, Cassie and later Mona took me to purchase clothing. How many strangers have you helped to shop for underwear? Amazing! I now have a new pair of pants, a shirt, socks and underwear. I feel so classy!

Today, we went to Mona and Richard’s home for a traditional Arab breakfast: fruit salad, breads, humus, pita, some type of cheese and fennel. I had fruit salad and a triangular pastry with spinach inside.

Mona’s husband, Richard, has spent the past three years researching and writing a book on religions. He has a gloriously large fish tank, pristine and filled with fish from the Amazon River that were just beautiful. He and Mona have been married for 40 years (he is American, Mona is half Lebanese and half some other Arab nationality) and they have been working for different aid assistance programs around the world.

Lisa, who is their downstairs neighbor and has twin boy Kai and twin girl Neve (three years old and adorable, but not particularly well behaved or responsive to their mother’s instructions- we actually lost the little girl for a while, very scary!) has also devoted her life to service to other countries. They move to a country for a project that may last 6 months to 5 years, then they uproot and move to another country for another project.

This is a career choice and a lifestyle that I knew absolutely nothing about.

Mona and Richard have a panoramic view that includes Palestine and Israel!!! I took photos from one of their many balconies (they have a very large gracious apartment!).

I met Jasmine, who was born in Palestine and has lived in several Arab countries, moving when there was unrest. She is 33 and later drove Cassie and me to Pella. I was able to ask her all sorts of questions about the way Muslim women dress. Some wear one flowery scarf on their hair. Some wear a black band on their forehead that extends to a tight scarf on their hair. Some wear what appears to be an all-in-one that frames their faces. These women are often wearing western dress: tight jeans, very high heels, etc. Some are entirely covered in a shapeless black burka (sp?) with a long black scarf- and some wear a veil that covers everything but their eyes.

Jasmine is Muslim and explained that the most devout can only show their hands and their eyes. She was very unhappy about those women who only wear the scarf, because Muslim women are not supposed to show their curves. She herself wears loose clothing and no headscarf. She said that she was thinking about wearing the traditional clothing when she was ready to commit to it, even before marriage. (Apparently young girls don this clothing once they have their first menses). Jasmine says that the only sport she loves is swimming- and she would have to give that up. It sounds as if she will. She currently lives with her entire family and everyone supports the household. Her salary with US AID is much more than the others earn.

I asked her where she would like to live. I don’t remember what the pros were for living in the US, but there were a lot more pros for living in Jordan: near family, with nannies and housekeepers, people to wash the car, etc.

She asked me if there was anything I expected to see in Amman and I told her that I didn’t have any expectations. However, upon reflection, I expected to see lots and lots of mosques- and I’ve only seen a very few! What predominate are boxy apartment buildings that have shaved limestone (plentiful in Jordan) on top of concrete (produced in masse by Jordan).

Everywhere you go, you see pictures of King Hussein (who was dearly loved) and his son, the current king Abdullah!!. During our 1.5-hour drive to Pella, we went below sea level where there are lots and lots of greenhouses and saw fruits and vegetables being sold in profusion. It must be an incredibly fertile area. The produce trucks are very ornate and colorful with geometric designs. This was consistent, not just a one time occurrence. As we traveled, we saw herds of goats, of sheep, a few burros or horses, and a few cows.

Pella is a Roman ruin that is very picturesque, particularly in the spring with wildflowers everywhere. We were on a hill overlooking the ruins. We had a very leisurely lunch: first, various salads and dishes in which eggplant was prominently featured. Then chicken- or tilapia (the entire fish, head, tail, fins and all!. Then oranges. I also had fresh squeezed orange juice. Just wonderful!


By the way, US AID paid to build the restaurant at Pella!

Since I sat in the front on the way there, I sat in the back so Cassie could chat with Jasmine. The sun was very warm and I dozed all the way back to the hotel.

Jasmine and Cassie talked about excursions I should take on the weekends- to Petra, to the Dead Sea (where Cassie told me she swam last week and learned that you don’t get the water in your eyes because the salt content is so very high!), and to five other places. This is quite an adventure and I’m enjoying it immensely.

The workweek starts tomorrow (Sunday) and the plan is for me to review curriculum they have developed and help with and/or make the necessary revisions. I’m still waiting for my luggage, but since I don’t start the train the trainer until next Sunday- and since I have clean underwear! I’m all right. Hopefully, it will be delivered to my hotel room tonight.

May your learning be sweet.


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