“What is there more kindly than the feelings between host and guest? “
Hello. This was an amazing and very very long day. I spent 12 hours with Arwa, her husband Jafir, their 8 year old daughter Zain and their 4-year-old son Raed.
This included a special Jordanian breakfast at their flat, lots of playing with the children, showing Jafir how to project from his diaphragm (he also teaches), getting huge flat bread baked in front of us in a wood oven, looking at lots of family photos (including marriage and baby pictures), driving to Salt (their original home), going to an outdoor lamb barbeque at Jafir’s father’s farm, meeting his father’s two wives, walking, taking photos of the children climbing trees or on a horse, taking photos of the amazing landscape and lots of different spring flowers, getting a tour of Salt, and reading in English with Zain.
Once Arwa had picked me up at the hotel and taken me to their flat (in a new building), she proceeded to spend the next several hours cooking and baking while we chatted. Her English had been spotty during the training class but she was able to carry on a continuous stream of conversation once in her own home. She roasted green peppers and tomatoes. She made some yogurt sauce with different vegetables and what looked like black-eyed beans (if there is such a thing).
She put out green olives from Jafir’s father’s farm, some other brownish something, some green leafy vegetable, the bread, and tea with mint. Although she told me the peppers were mild, one small bite had me stuffing bread in my mouth. Yikes! Other than the brownish item and the olives, everything else was delicious
Then she made a wonderful fruit salad with the juice of blood oranges, which was also great.
Next, she got out an enormous round pan (much larger than any large pizza pan) and toasted lots of pieces of bread in the oven. She made some concoction with milk, sesame seed, walnuts, pistachios, coconut and spices, then mixed it onto the bread. Then she swirled strawberry and caramel syrup on top as decoration. This “sweet” was to be taken to the barbeque.
Zain is very beautiful and precocious- and loved speaking English to me, whispering into her mother’s ear to get a word here and there. She proudly showed me her certificates from school, her English workbook and notebook, a guitar (one of two that both children made) created of a large box decorated with beads and things, with large rubber bands as the strings, the photos of her as a baby, her room, etc. etc.
All the while Raed played games on the computer. He barely stopped for breakfast, eating two olives. He is very strong willed and totally ignored anything his parents told him to do. When they finally dragged him off the computer after two hours, he gave an award-winning tantrum, becoming a dead weight, kicking his feet and screaming.
They fondly call him their “naughty boy.” Among his other notorious exploits, Raed snuck into Zain’s birthday party. While the girls were dancing, he poked them in the butt with a sharp two-pronged barbecue fork. He kept throwing a very small very hard ball at me with all his might. His parents essentially ignored this behavior
I played with him, and he had a great giggle. He also sucked his thumb and stroked not only his ear, but his father’s- and later, mine.
The wedding photos showed a much younger and slimmer (and quite beautiful) Arwa in a lovely wedding gown, tiara and veil. I don’t think they have a wedding ceremony like we do, I think these photos were at the celebration afterwards. There were photos of their honeymoon in Turkey, lots of family, and both children.
I asked Arwa how she met her husband. Apparently he had loved her from afar for a year, while she wasn’t even aware of him. He finally told her that he loved her, his parents spoke to her parents, and they were married.
This is definitely not a traditional Jordanian home. Arwa and Jahir are clearly equal partners. He took care of his son, cuddled his daughter, went to do the grocery shopping and was very mild mannered and quiet. They both work very hard and neither of them makes a lot of money, but they have a budget. They don’t go out or take vacations because they are sending their children to a private school and are saving so the children can go to college. They both also take classes and volunteer to teach ecology-related classes in the elementary and high schools, as well as the university.
After breakfast and some conversation while Arwa washed dishes, Jafir went to the mosque to pray. I think he must have been gone about an hour or so. We left for Salt after he got back. Jafir drove, Zain sat next to him, and Arwa and I sat in back, with Raed between us. Between mischief and tantrums, he sucked his thumb and stroked my ear, then climbed into my lap for a little while before getting into mischief again (mostly poking or trying to poke his sister).
The drive to Salt was fascinating, because you go into the mountains and see huge homes surrounded by forests, olive orchards, and then many many tall boxy apartment buildings.
More about our adventures in Salt next week.
May your learning be sweet.