Alright, I'm way behind on blogging about actual Jordan things. I'm such a procrastinator when it comes to blogging about events. Ideas and other random things are so much more fun to write about! Speaking of which, I think it'd be cool to do a weekly post centering on a certain political issue. See that little poll off to the right there? Vote on it, and then next week I'll write a post that analyzes all four options (and argues for one in particular). AREN'T YOU EXCITED?!?!!?

Also, I still gotta get crackin' on those posts about feminism. If my life wasn't a black hole of Arabic right now, this blog would be a lot more exciting, lemme tell ya.

Moving on. I got a call two Thursdays ago asking me to give a talk in church . . . which started in twelve hours. A little crazy, but I managed to pull something together! I spoke about how developing Christ-like attributes is the key to helping us develop our talents, focusing on five specific traits that I thought were important--patience, humility, courage, faith, and charity. The general outline went a little something like this (I know you guys don't care, but I want to jot this down so I remember):
  • Patience
    • Doctrine and Covenants 67:13
    • Luke 21:19
    • Example from the life of Christ: His amazing patience with Peter.
      • Matthew 14: 29-31
      • Matthew 26: 26-46
      • John 18:10
      • Matthew 26: 69-75
  • Humility
    • 1 Peter 5: 6-7
    • Example from the life of Christ: John 5:30
  • Courage
    • Deuteronomy 31:6
    • Example from the life of Christ: Matthew 27: 11-24
  • Faith 
    • Articles of Faith 1:4
    • Example from the life of Christ:Matthew 27:54
  • Charity
    • Ether 12:35
    • Example from the life of Christ: Mark 10: 46-52
After church on Friday (where our friends' 10-month old baby son took his first steps!) I went to work making my first batch of homemade cinnamon rolls. This was a big thing for me, because I hate using yeast (using yeast...say that five times fast usingyeastusingyeastusingyeastusingyeastusingyeast). Despite my best efforts, I always manage to kill it. There's nothing quite like the feeling of waiting anxiously for dough to rise, only to check on it hours later and see that you've failed. The puny lump of mush just sits there in the bottom of the bowl, cocking its little gelatinous eyebrows at the audacity you had to think that baking like grandma was within your realm of capability.

That's exactly what happened on my first attempt with these cinnamon rolls. I have no idea how the yeast died--the water was tepid and the recipe didn't call for any salt, so my best guess is that the flour and sugar staged a coups d'etat.

Me likey frosting.
Intrepid woman that I am, I gave the recipe another go and whaddaya know! The dough rose. I could've sworn I heard it cheering for me--Yeah, Kristi! You did it! You're a superstar!! You raise me uuuuuup, so I can stand on mooooountains--but I can't say for certain. Even if it had been, the cheers wouldn't have lasted long seeing as how I promptly drowned the entire mixture in two cups of melted butter.

Lemme tell ya, those babies turned out amazing (I got the recipe here, but used the frosting from here). I remember spending hours trying to make homemade cinnamon rolls for Brock during the first Christmas season of our marriage, only to fail miserably. Four years later, and look at me now, son. Look. at. me. now. I am very accomplished homemaking-wise. (Catch that tamyiiz, Arabic grammarians??? What whaaaaaaat, or, for all you Jordanians out there: شو شووووووووووووو)

Brock and a guy from my Arabic program,
Clayton, play volleyball with the University of Jordan team team (see pictures here). One of the guys on the team, Mostafa, invited us all over for dinner on Friday. He lives in a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Amman called Baqa'a. For context, here's a snippet from the Wikipedia article on Baqa'a:

The Baqa'a refugee camp (Arabic: البقعة‎), first created in 1968, lies 20 km north of the Jordanian capital Amman, and is home to around 80,100 Palestinians who are registered as such with the United Nations, making it the largest camp in Jordan.

Baqa'a was one of six camps set up in Jordan in 1968 to house the Palestinians who left the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Between June 1967 and 1968, residents were housed in temporary camps in the Jordan Valley. When Baqa'a was set up it had 5,000 tents for 26,000 refugees on an area of about 1.4 sqaure kilometers. UNRWA replaced the tents with 8,048 prefabricated shelters between 1969-1971 with contributions from Germany. Most of the residents have since then replaced the original tents and prefabs with concrete shelters.

I love living in Amman because it is so multi-faceted. Amman is arguably the most Westernized city in the Middle East, and by far the most cosmopolitan seeing as how the vast majority of Jordan's population are refugees from somewhere (Palestine, Iraq, etc). A twenty-minute taxi ride can take you from Abdoun circle--buzzing with Mercedes Benz SUVs, posh restaurants, and swanky cafes--to this:

Main street in Baqa'a. (Photo Credit)
On the cab ride over, our driver put in a CD and cranked up the stereo. The bass started bumpin'. Mostafa, sitting in the passenger seat, turned back to look at us and smiled.

"You like this song?"

"Yeah!" we replied, our voices barely audible over the rattling car. "Who sings it?"


That's when I noticed the hook:

As soon as I recognized the song, we crested over a huge hill down into the Jordan Valley--with the huge settlement of Baqa'a sprawled out before us. It was one of those moments when I asked myself How. did. I. get. here?

I specifically remember shaking my moneymaker to this song at RMHS's back-to-school dance my senior year. Standing on "The Rocks" with hundreds of my sweaty, horny [drunk] teenagers having the time of my life because I was single, with my girlfriends, and--lemme just come out and say it--a damn good dancer. Seriously. Somebody get me on the next Beyonce tour.

Usher's "Yeah!" always brings me back to that moment. And there I was, six years later: Same song, same nostalgia, heading into a Palestinian refugee camp for a dinner-date with a guy that my husband plays with on the University of Jordan volleyball team? Jolting, much? 

For whatever reason, this experience was bittersweet. It was sweet because it grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me saying "LOOK AT YOU! YOU ARE LISTENING TO USHER....IN JORDAN! YOU ARE IN JORDAN! YOU ARE FULFILLING A DREAM!"

At the same time, it reminded me of homehome--highlighting that fact that homehome is not Jordan, no matter how comfortable I feel here. Even though I love the States and miss my family, I will be so sad to leave the Middle East because life without Arabs will truly be dimmer.

Bar none, Arabs are the kindest, most welcoming, most generous people I've ever met. They make the Middle East for me. It may sound weird to describe a Muslim-majority group of people as Christ-like, but that's exactly what they are.

Mostafa and his family were no exception. There were so kind to us. Mostafa paid for the cabfare there and back (refusing to take no for an answer!) and his mother prepared so much food! Delicious tabbouleh salad, kubbeh, stuffed grape leaves, roasted chicken, fresh fruit. We brought some cinnamon rolls for dessert, but ended up making somewhat of a cultural faux pas. We knew it was customary to bring a small housewarming gift or dessert, but what we didn't know is that you should never expect to actually eat it there. You need to think of it as a gift that they will enjoy later once you've left--not something that actually adds to the meal itself.

The thing is, there is no such thing as an Arab potluck because by bringing food to share, you are implying that they will not be able to provide enough food for you--either they are too poor, or not generous enough (a greater offense, in their eyes).

Unfortunately, we did not catch this nuance. After dinner was over, we kept asking "Do you want to eat those cinnamon rolls now?" and they refused time and time again. We'd brought plenty for everyone, so we thought the explanation was that they just didn't want to try this foreign American food. Rude! Thinking they didn't want the cinnamon rolls at all, I took them home with me.


Live and learn, right? :) It was still a really fun evening. Mostafa isn't very talkative at all, but his older brother, Malik, came up and joined us after a while--and he helped get the conversation rolling. We saw they had a deck of cards in the room, so we taught them how to play slapjack. They loved it! Brock also busted out his one-and-only card trick (which, to his credit, is actually pretty impressive) and just about blew Mostafa's mind with it. He kept yelling out the only exclamatory English phrase he knew: "OH MY, GOD!!!!!!!! OH MY, GOD!!!!!!!!!!"

Speaking of exclamatory phrases, HOW DID THIS POST GET SO FREAKING LONG?!?!?!?!


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