Tonight I am hosting a film event at Young Eyes Gallery. It’s actually a thank you celebration for the people who contributed to my projects in Jordan and to honor Palestine. Amira and I picked up the “Seven Women’s House Keys” canvas from Gallery 14 yesterday. The canvas will be the focal point of the event tonight.
One shop I failed to mention is the Smoke Shop just off of Paris Circle. The smoke shops are worth seeing, even for those who don’t smoke. I went by there today and took some photos.On my walk back to my apartment I thought about how accustomed I’ve become to saying hello to familiar and unfamiliar passerby’s while walking to and from Paris Circle. The people I’ve come to know here remind me of a young man from Russia I met years ago in the Sinai Desert. He owned literally nothing and his job as a garbage collector paid three dollars a day. He invited me to his apartment for dinner. After entering his apartment he presented me with a gift of a scarf his mother made, asked me to sit down and served me a plate filled with chicken and a fork. I asked if he was going to eat and he replied, “I’m not hungry. Please eat.” Before leaving his apartment I glanced into his kitchen. There was nothing in the kitchen except a pot with a partially cooked chicken boiling on a hotplate . I was using the one plate and fork that he owned. When I said goodbye I told him how exceptionally kind he was. He replied, “No, I am not exceptionally kind. I am a human being. This is how human beings treat other human beings. Anything less is not being a human being.”In two days I’ll be on a plane flying to the United States. My experience in Jordan can be compared to a little spot on this earth brimming over with real human beings.
There are a couple of shops in Paris Circle that are definitely worth knowing about. Oregano is a cosmetics and “nifty stuff” shop owned by Aiman All Jallad. Aiman can be contacted on Facebook.Anjulee works in the shop. I’m not sure how to spell or pronounce her name so I call her Jenny.His shop has numerous colors and brands of lipsticks and cosmetics. I have been searching for a purple lipstick on line and off line for ten years. I told Aiman about my purple lipstick dilemma and he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you.” Within in a few days I returned to his shop and purchased five tubes of purple lipstick for one JD each. Amazing!The shop a couple of doorways from Aiman’s shop is Namliyeh Jam Shop. The owners are two young women, Manal Abushmais and Aya Shaban.Manal and Aya make the jam from fresh Jordanian produce, the best fruit I’ve ever tasted. Their jam and marmalade is, by far, the best I have ever eaten.Before walking back to my apartment from Paris Circle I noticed Ibriheem decorating a shiny new automobile with flowers in front of his shop.I went over to talk to the men surrounding the car to find out why the car was being decorated. One of the men explained that his nineteen year old cousin was getting married that evening. It’s a custom to decorate the groom’s car with floral arrangements a few hours prior to the wedding. When a man asks the father of a female for permission to marry her he is required to sign a contract. The contract stipulates that the future son-in-law must own a car, is employed, owns a house, pays a substantial dowry, and pays for the wedding expenses. A low-end amount for a wedding is fifteen thousand JD’s. If he can’t provide the aforementioned then he is not given permission to marry the man’s daughter. Sounds like good planning to me!
Walking down the hill to my apartment I stopped at the little corner market, Al Nahas, owned by Saleem.I’ve been here almost six months. It wasn’t until about ten days ago that I first went into the little market. I had been purposely avoiding it because I thought the prices would be higher than in the large market in Paris Circle. My false assumption about little markets selling things at higher prices was totally wrong. I could have saved lots and lots of money by shopping at Saleem’s market instead of trekking up the hill to Stop and Shop.Live and learn!
Wa’el, the owner of Potato and Salad Restaurant in Webdeh, invited Julie De Soto and I to a farewell dinner for me the other night.Ya’arob Rousan, a fantastic chef, prepared and roasted “the best cut” of lamb and stuffed it with his special rice mixed with herbs and other ingedients. It was incredibly delicious. I could eat it every night for the rest of my life, but considering Ya’arob lives in Jordan and I live in Arizona I’ll be eating it in my dreams.While I was taking photos white orbs kept appearing in the lens frame. Regardless of where I stood in the room round orbs and orbs with tails kept zooming around in the room.Ya’arob’s mother and some of Wa’el’s friends joined us for dinner.A huge THANK YOU to the beautiful men, who all know how to cook, for my farewell dinner! Their warmth, friendship and hospitality is enough to compensate for any unrequited “hospitality” in the past and for the rest of my life!
My friends Taj Sabet and Holly Harris and her son Zane went to the Night Gallery in Tempe Market Place where I am currently having and exhibition with James White and Brian Painter. The title of the exhibition is “Three Friends-Four Dimensions.” I’ve known Jim and Brian for years and have always been impressed with their work. I’m honored to be sharing an exhibit with them. Jim and Brian are both Professors in Sculpture Departments, Jim at Arizona State University and Brian at Northern Arizona University. My contributions to the exhibit are some of my tapestry canvases. The large canvases are painted, embroidered and beaded. Each takes about a year to create. I return from Jordan February 1, the day the exhibition ends. I’m so sorry I will miss seeing their newest work in person because it ‘charges’ my life.
I’m always surprised by the uniqueness of their concepts and exceptional technical abilities. Each of their works causes me to verbally react when I first see them by uttering a loud “ha” followed by a smile and my inner voice saying “You have got to be kidding me.” My reaction to their work is the greatest compliment I could give any artist. Their work visually encapsulates years of my thoughts and questions and creates answers and endings for them. Jim is the king of formulating his ideas in neon. His sculptures in the exhibit say more about Arizona and life in the desert than any words could adequately express. Brian’s metal and bronze sculptures are uniquely Brian. To me, they are structures that ‘solidify” the fleeting impressions in dreams with the concrete reality of daily living. I know I would have walked away from the exhibit feeling uplifted and more complete. In lieu of attending the exhibit, Taj Sabet emailed me the following photos so I could enjoy the exhibit from afar: To view Jim White’s sculpture go to http://jameswhitesculptor.com/
After being in a foreign land for awhile it is easy to forget that my surroundings are “unusual” when compared to my life in Arizona. This afternoon I looked out my living room window at my neighbor’s yard and noticed some lumps moving in my peripheral vision on a sparse piece of land that divides the street in front of my apartment from the main street. Both streets are prime parking areas for the building permit government office, a short distance from my apartment. Looking closely at the lumps I realized the lumps were goats and a man with a staff herding the goats.The last time I saw a similar scene was in Bethlehem years ago. A sheep herder was herding his sheep on a hillside outside my hotel window. I wish I’d taken a photograph. The comparison photos would represent the fate of many Palestinian goat and sheep herders; relegated to grazing their goats and sheep in the medians of roadways in a foreign land.
Jordan is known for having the friendliest people in the Middle East. I attest to the fact that not only are they the friendliest, but also the most thoughtful.
A day hasn’t passed since arriving in Jordan that I haven’t been blessed with the generous hospitality of Jordan’s people. Yesterday Amira, Zorheh and her two grand daughters and I were invited to eat dinner in Majedah’s home in Hussein Camp. Majedah makes the best stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had. The leaves are from the grape vines that grow outside her kitchen window.
Years ago, when I was a passenger in a car on a country road in Switzerland, I saw a man sitting on a fence near the roadway. The “scene,” a solitary man surrounded by vast pastures and snow capped mountains, lasted for a split second. I remember thinking, “This moment says everything about my life up to this point and Switzerland, and I’m sure I won’t remember it.” Here it is, years later, and the man on the fence is the first thing I think of when I hear the word Switzerland, as well as “the person I was up to that point.” I’ve had numerous forgettable fleeting “scenarios” during my time in Jordan. These mental snapshots encapsulate my experience here more than any travel log, documentary film or photographs I’ve posted.
One of these peripheral’s is my neighbor’s yard. For the first two weeks in my apartment, I drank my morning coffee while gazing out my living room window at the Old Citadel perched on the adjacent mountain. One morning I glanced down at the patch of dirt beneath my window, my neighbor’s yard. My morning routine slowly switched from gazing at the citadel to studying the barren patch beneath my window. I started noticing miniscule changes in the patch from one morning to the next. The dirt had been scooted from one area to another, miraculously overnight, and the rocks were gathered together in small mounds. Last week a rivulet appeared in the dirt forming a small trench from one ratty small tree to a larger ratty tree.
One morning I noticed a plastic bag filled with rocks sitting on the mound of trash in the trash bin across from my apartment.
One evening I glanced out my living room window and saw the source of these miraculous changes. My neighbor, the king of landscaping, was slowly and meticulously turning dust into gold.
After the recent snow, the matron of the apartment next to me was sunning herself and her olives on our front porch. After being offered a chair we discussed the process of making olives, without using words. After sampling olives from each tray, I ultimately chose the highly salted ones as my favorites. They were delicious. I thanked her and said goodbye before heading up to Paris Circle. Upon returning home that evening I found a cup of highly salted olives sitting in front of my front door.
my olive neighbor
An example of the personalized thoughtfulness of the people in Jordan is the baked potato I ordered at Potato and Salad in Paris Circle.
While waiting for my carry-out potato I sat with the owner of the business, Wael Mehyar, and another man seated at the table. After being offered a cup of coffee we commenced talking about the exceptional friendliness of the people in Jordan. At some point during our conversation I expressed my concern about the trash pick up in Jordan. I was visualizing my trash bin overflowing with plastic bags full of rocks. Unbeknownst to me, trash and the disposal of trash is a very hot topic here. I was informed that the other man at the table was Munqeth Meyar, President of Friends of the Earth Middle East. Last year he spent three days with President Obama in Washington D.C. discussing water and environmental issues in the Middle East. http://www.foeme.org. Munqeth is a storehouse of information. I came to find out that Japan has fifty-seven types of recyclables, including separate bins for brown and blue glass containers, among many other pertinent bits of recyclable information, before being handed my carry out box.
Upon opening the box, lo and behold, what did I see? My name written in sour cream on top of the melted cheese. If that isn’t personalized thoughtful service, I don’t know what is!
Last night Eda hosted a party to bring in 2014. Christina’s parents, David and Debbie Gordon, generously supplied the champagne. Christina, Julie and Eda prepared much of the feast. After Stephen arrived a huge plate of shish kebabs appeared on the dining table. Claire and Mia warmed up an assortment of luscious puffed pastries that must have taken days to prepare. We all contributed various nibbles, resulting in a virtual feast.
On her seventy second birthday Fulbright Scholar Zohreh Sullivan was unofficially designated as “Fulbright Proxy Mom!” Who designated her as Proxy Mom? I did. Why? Zohreh’s passion for cooking, and her generous spirit, insures that all of the Fulbright chicks (male and female) don’t starve during their stints in Jordan. She also disperses her magic herbal healing potions to those of us who need it. I came down with a nasty cold and happened to mention it to Zohreh. Before I knew it our trusty cab driver Nahid was at my door holding a bottle of Zohreh’s magic potion and a huge container filled with cabbage rice.
Within a half hour of drinking the potion my sinus headache disappeared and my throat felt normal again. I finished off the container of cabbage rice in three days and was once again ready to brave the world on the other side of my front door. Thank you, Zohreh!
Zohreh invited Fulbright peeps to be her guests at her 72nd birthday party at Rakwet Cafe. After we were all seated, an incredible spread of Arabic dishes was placed on the table and a Tupperware container filled with a quinoa dish was placed in front me. True to her thoughtfulness, Zohreh created a glutton free dish for glutton allergic me.
The most inspirational part of knowing Zohreh is her pride in her age and association of it with her love for her life. Every cab driver and person she talks to is proudly informed that she is seventy-two years old, followed by the many privileges and advantages age has over youth. She honors her age like a victory crown, and wears each year magnificently. Happy birthday, Zohreh!
About a week prior to Zohreh’s birthday party Amira, Zohreh and I went to Majedah’s embroidery shop, Grand Mother’s Dress. While we were there Majedah’s mother made a surprise visit . It was wonderful seeing her again. We immediately began talking non-stop. Remember, I know six words in Arabic, and Majedah’s mother knows exactly zero words in English. We discussed the benefits of marriage, she was encouraging me to marry anyone, and I was pointing out the benefits of being single and the horrors of divorce.As we carried on, rallying back and forth, the two men in the shop intently listened..After our lengthy, adamant conversation we laughed, performed the normal (for the two of us) left cheek-right cheek kisses five times, and I accepted her invitation to eat her delicious stuffed grape leaves at her house at a later date.
Khalid created a unique Christmas tree constructed of lights, suspended from the ceiling in the exhibition gallery.
Khalid, the twelve year old boy I met shortly after arriving in Jordan, was my impetus for doing the workshop and exhibit. He moved to Jordan, temporarily, from Syria with his father. Khalid and I were both on the same footing when we met, strangers in a strange land. It’s important for a child to have the opportunity to be a star and to shine. An art show is the perfect opportunity for this.
The following are photographs snapped at the opening exhibition:
under the tree
tree and exhibit
Issra and Khalid
kids and flowers
Amira and Sarah
group photo, Ibraheem on left
I am continually amazed by the generosity of the people I’ve met in Jordan. Ibraheem donated a basket full of prettily wrapped flowers for the blooming artists and attendees, Automat Pastries donated a scrumptious assortment of pastries and Oregano (Aiman’s shop) donated the children’s gifts.
Recently, I made a return trip to Zarca with Zohreh, escorted by Amira and her friend Shaima. My mission was to photograph the mannequins I didn’t get a chance to photograph during my first visit.
Zarca is the second most populated city in Jordan, Amman being the first. Many Christians live in Zarca which means the size of the souk during the Christmas season increases.
Before getting down to business and photographing the most unique mannequins I’ve ever encountered, we started our tour with cappuccinos and cups of corn
Zorheh shopped for wine glasses in the bottom floor of an antique shop that was filled with kitchen ware.
Antique shop, glassware
We walked from one end of the souk to the other, which means walking through a maze of crowded streets with an endless assortment of items for sale.
All that walking required partaking in a mid-day meal at a family restaurant.
During all this walking and partaking I did manage to accomplish my real mission for the day: photographing mannequins.
The comfy chairs look awfully appealing when you’re tired, but instead of relaxing and gathering up energy for more “souking,” we took a cab back to Paris Circle and I walked back to my apartment, happy to be living here in my temporarily-adopted hometown.