Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!! (at work)

I remember New Years 2 years ago when I worked for my old company in Manhattan.. to celebrate the day together, during lunch, we ordered pizza and drank beer while hanging out and playing poker.

In Jordan it is the same basic idea, arab style.. today is New Years eve and I got my company a half day off work. Instead of just leaving at 1:30 though I fit in a little bit of team building. At 1:30 everyone is required to meet in the kitchen and we each brought in food/cake/drinks and we are all gonna have lunch together one last time this year..

Instead of pizza we have hummus, salads, grape leaves, and mashawi (bbq-ed meat and kebabs).. along with a lot of other things like twix cake :)

I really miss New York pizza but today im craving the mashawi :)

update: it was an amazing way to end the new year at work!!
some pictures:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Americans are amazing at going with the flow. It is something we take for granted living there but it is so clear and obvious once you leave.. I am not sure whether it is because they work too much and don’t have time to stress things, if it’s because they don’t see the same people enough 2 stress anything, if it’s just in their nature, or if they have this understanding about life that others don’t seem to understand.

Here in Jordan they seem to do the opposite, if they are not stressing something they are bored. I feel like the silliest things get blown out of proportion and stressed to the point where it is funny, and it sometimes seems like they are TRYING to make their lives more difficult than it has to be. Something as simple as who you consider a friend and who you don’t becomes a huge deal and has rules and restrictions.. grudges are held and negativity is spread to the point where it is hard to even believe sometimes..

Maybe I don’t remember, but I don’t think that things were ever stressed to that degree in America. People were more relaxed and friendships weren’t so serious.. I mean of course people had problems, there was drama, we didn’t consider every1 a friend but here I feel like there is a set list of rules and regulations when it comes to these things..

The person you show people is covered with lies and rules and fakeness due to all of these regulations, God 4bid u easily get to b friendly with some1.. guy or girl.. (as just friends.. forget relationships) .. the whole country is ready to jump down your throat for trusting people or considering some1 a friend too easily.. sometimes I just wanna scream RELAX at the top of my lungs..

I genuinely feel that this happens because the country is so small.. sometimes it is hard to grasp that there is a whole HUGE world out there that has a lot bigger problems than our little social issues.. it feels like sometimes we all live in a bubble here in Jordan and we think we know it all and have life figured out.. and it is out to get us.. it is harder for people to be happy here than it is for people to b upset sometimes.. that should not b how the culture is run.. we need to learn 2 appreciate the beauty of it all and genuinely get over ourselves caus nothing is THAT serious

I am in no way saying life is simple but it is a lot simpler than they sometimes make it out 2 b here…

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!! (iranian/arab style)

It was always a challenge trying to live the normal American lifestyle while mixing it in with our culture and religion. I think my parents did a really good job at letting us know where we came from but at the same time not letting us feel out of place in a country where we were the minority.

Because of this necessity to mold, Christmas was always a weird/amazing time in our house. Each year we would have a Christmas tree, have the traditional meal, and exchange gifts.. but with a Middle Eastern twist.

When we were young my uncle used to dress up as Santa and come to our house, we always felt soo special because we were allowed to stay up and meet him while the other kids had to sleep in order for him to come. Instead of waving a bell our Santa/uncle brought belly dancing noise makers (the things belly dancers hold and shake while dancing).. as we got older we noticed that Santa’s noise makers were the same that my uncle kept in his house, Santa never came again….

Later on as we got old enough to understand, my mom tried to tell us that Christmas was not for us since we are Muslim.. we didn’t take to the idea very well so we compromised, instead of just having a star on top of our tree my mom taped a cardboard cutout of a crescent moon to go next to it (the Islamic symbol: Star and crescent) .. it worked.. we were all satisfied..

There was one Christmas where my mom actually ALMOST won and tried to convince us not to have a tree.. a few days before Christmas my dad and I cracked and we went to a local store and bought all the ornaments we could find and decorated our house plant. I think that was our best Christmas tree ever!

I remember my last Christmas when I was living in America. I had my own apartment with my own Christmas tree.. standing right in front of my Allah signs on the wall.. a beautiful contradiction..

(Notice the tree and Islamic sign behind me)

There is no Christmas for me in Jordan this year.. this is the first time in my life that I will not celebrate it.. I would give anything to b with my family right now and I would let my mom win this year.. I wouldn’t put up the tree.. as long as there were still presents and the traditional meal involved..

Thursday, December 24, 2009

All I want for Christmas...

Even though I am not Christian I have always celebrated Christmas, I guess you can't grow up in America and not... regardless of my religion it was always my favorite time of the year which I guess is the same for most people there.

Its funny to think that at this time 2 years ago I walked with people I worked with to Bryant park during lunch, got hot chocolate or apple cider, watched the ice skaters and shopped in all the Christmas boutiques. Weekends consisted of going to see the Rockefeller tree or watching the Grinch on Broadway. It was a time of year that made you broke because of the presents but it was almost impossible not to be happy..

Sometimes I think Jordan would benefit a lot from some Christmas spirit but instead we have sunny weather and no Christmas trees :(

It is the time of year when I am most homesick...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Onion!

I have come to realize that Jordan is like one big onion, full of layers and full of things that will make you cry :). No I am just kidding about the cry part, but it is full of layers, and the deeper you go the more layers you discover. It is interesting, enticing, yet vast.

From the outside one can easily see Jordan as a historical place; one of the world wonders is here, a body of water with no living creatures and salt that will make you feel cuts you never knew you had, many biblical sites, deserts where you can go offroading or camp out for a true bedouin experience; those make up the outer layers of Jordan. You can dig deeper and explore the amazing popular areas of Jordan, Abdoun circle and Rainbow street are 2 of many. These places are full of restaurants which serve Arabic food like shawerma or international food like an all you can eat sushi restaurant, and argillah cafes, each with their own theme and personality, no searching necessary. You can dig deeper still and learn about the entertainment life in Jordan, the random club in Abdoun that gets so crowded on a Thursday that you can barely walk inside, the bar on Rainbow street where everyone knows the bartender on a first name basis and you can see all of downtown from a balcony, a restaurant/lounge in Jabel al Webdeh that has a live Jazz band on Tuesdays, the argillah place in the Balad where you can get cheap argillah, live, old fashioned Arabic music, and an old fashioned Arab looking atmosphere, or a café/bar in Jabal Amman built into an old house, first floor is a bookstore and second floor is full of food, drinks, and argillah on balconies, terraces, and in rooms with views that are more than breathtaking. These places can be discovered by tourists but they are not as obvious.

Another layer deep and you begin to learn about the local spots, an Irish bar under a hotel that feels like an underground club, a club that, on Wednesdays, gets PACKED with people because of the reminiscent 80s music they play through the speakers, restaurants on airport road that give you the best tasting meat to the point where it is worth the 40 minute drive, the coffee shops where only men go but it is like their second home, or outside a DVD store in Abdoun, certain parking lots, or certain views, where if you go during the right time at night you will see the area FULL of cars, people just parked and hanging out with coffee or drinks in hand. Then there is the popular restaurant on Mecca street that is known to tourists as a place for good breakfast or lunch but to the locals it is a place to meet after your night is done, it is like a club on its own, a place to unwind and regroup, the place only starts to come alive at 3 in the morning. There are also the street vendors for coffee that we all know, 30 cents and you can get an amazing cup of coffee brought straight to your car window; they put chocolate on top of your coffee in the one on Gardens street but if you go around the corner there is one with a line 2 -5 blocks long, one of the best tasting ones is right around 7th circle, drive up and 2 minutes later your all set for your cruise around Amman. I am still amazed by the fast food place in Dahyeh where everyone knows the waiters by name, and the waiters know everyone, each person has their own special way of ordering their meal, it is a hangout on its own and its rare to go in there and not bump into many others that you know.

These are just a few of the layers I have discovered in West Amman; when in the outskirts of West Amman it can sometimes feel like a completely different country. They have their own spots, their own undergrounds, their own entertainment, their own layers.

I have recently learned there are many more layers that I have not even begun to explore and hopefully one day I will get the chance. I hope I never reach the center of my onion because each layer that is discovered is more fun than the last!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sounds of Jordan

During all hours of the day men go around the streets selling things. It is so primitive yet so interesting. You can find everything being sold; used furniture, cooked corn, fruit, etc. But there are 2 things in particular that I find the most interesting, and they come with their own sounds.

For some reason, I have no idea why because it is not really a big part of the Jordanian cuisine, but cotton candy is sold on the streets EVERYWHERE! It is funny because you can always find a man walking around with bags of pink cotton candy yelling out SHAAR EL BANAT (which is translated into hair of girls) with a special whistle. At first it was really annoying being woken up at 6 in the morning by a man screaming and blowing into a whistle, but when you stop to think about it.. why cotton candy?? Y at 6 in the morning?? Do people really eat cotton candy that much?? it makes the whole thing amusing..

In America a common noise we come to recognize is the music of an ice cream truck. We have something similar in Jordan but it is not for ice cream but instead for gas. Gas is sold in tanks, exactly like the ones we use for barbeque grills in America but in Jordan we use these tanks for everything. They run our stoves, our heaters, they even run the hot water tanks sometimes. . Because they are so commonly used, a truck drives around all the streets (again similar to an ice cream truck in America) and plays this catchy tune (which all started because people complained about the sound of the horn) so that you know you can bring out your empty tank and replace it with a full one. Instead of kids running out for a sweet treat, mothers are running out excited about cooking dinner for the night? It really is a sound that I will forever appreciate… (attempting to make it my next ringtone)


In Islam it is required that a person prays 5 times a day, this is something commonly practiced in Jordan. To call Muslims to prayer the country is overtaken by one of the most amazing, hypnotizing, mesmerizing sounds; the Adhan. Mosques can be found on almost every corner in Jordan and during the times of prayer they project a call so that people know that it is time. This sound is of a man speaking of the main beliefs in Islam to remind the believers and the non-believers. It is an enchanting sound that, even though I am not religious at all, always gets to me. It is a sound that brings me back to when I was a kid, first in Jordan, spending my summers in my Grandfather’s house and listening to this sound take over the country like a blanket. For those few minutes, no matter what my faith, I am connected to something…

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My America in Jordan

No matter how much I love this country I can’t help but get homesick. New York is my home and I obviously have spent almost all of my life there so it is natural that I miss it. It’s funny, the things you miss when you leave. I find myself missing small things like taco bell, the greenery, malls, or supermarkets.

I try to hold on to America as much as I can while I am here, it keeps me sane in a lot of ways. Sometimes my sister and I go food shopping and just buy American brands, we get excited to see pop tarts even though we rarely ate them back in the states! Having her here really helps because she is my America, we can talk for hours about what we used to do and different things we miss.

This weekend I had my America in Jordan and it was PERFECT. It started last night; I was invited to a going away party at the American Embassy for a guy who is probably one of the coolest guys I’ve met. He has been in Jordan for over a year and now he is heading back which really sucks and he will definitely be missed. So 2 girls and I went to the party and it was amazing. One of the negative things about Jordan is you constantly have to be aware of the impression your making, especially as a girl. At the embassy I felt like I was back home, none of that stuff mattered. People danced with their whole hearts, not caring about how bad it made them look, people were laughing and enjoying their time. We had a great time watching Americans in Jordan. It really is a beautiful thing to see them mold with the culture, the party was mainly American’s but there were Arabs there as well. As you look around you could see the Americans kissing hello on the cheek, smoking argillah, and dancing to Arabic music that played, the culture had rubbed off on them. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could have pure fun without being judged or watched and it was freeing. It was also special because even though I only knew a handful or 2 of people, we all shared a bond at that party, we were all Americans living in Jordan. We were all out of our normal element and living somewhere completely different, and we were all enjoying it, at least for that night..

After an amazing time of talking, dancing, and hanging out we called it a night.

This morning 2 friends and I decided to go out for breakfast. We went to a place called Bake house. This place is an Arab version of an American diner. Breakfasts consist of sausage (Beef of course) and hash browns and omelets and pancakes and AMERICAN COFFEE!!

As small and simple as these things sound it really affects me in big ways. It reminds me of home and where I came from. Even though I am Arab in an Arab country, I do not really belong here, I am different. I love it and I do not mind but this weekend I did not feel like the strange one, I felt a piece of home here with me in Jordan..

Thursday, December 17, 2009

my love/hate relationship with a country

I hate you because you attach labels to me since I am American; I love you because being American makes life easier

I hate you because your men drool at any woman that walks by; I love you because even on my worst days I feel beautiful

I hate you because your passion leads to fights and drama; I love you because your passion is beautiful and strong

I hate you because hot water and gas are limited; I love you because I now have a new appreciation for hot water and gas

I hate you because I attempt to understand your broken English but you refuse to understand my broken Arabic; I love you for attempting English, even if it is broken, so that I do not have to struggle with my broken Arabic

I hate you for not stressing the future because you feel it is “hopeless”; I love you for teaching me how to live in the moment

I hate you for judging me when I wear something that “shows too much skin”; I love you for showing me how to respect my body

I hate you for getting me addicted to argillah; I love you for argillah and the hours people spend doing nothing but talking and smoking

I hate you for making things hard for girls to do; I love you for your people who are always willing to help as if I was a sister

I hate you for considering Applebees, Fridays and Bennigans fancy restaurants; I love you for Hashim and Reem which allow you to experience amazing food and culture

I hate you for your duwars, lack of lanes in the streets, and people driving with their eyes closed; I love you for your simplicity, even though I have a crappy sense of direction, I can never get lost (I just look for the towers)

I hate you for starting to build towers and then stopping more than halfway through because it was not practical; I love you for the attempt at building 2 towers and for making a landmark so that I can never get lost

I hate you for only having around 5 places to go on a weekend; I love you for the lack of options because I am horrible at making decisions

I hate you because you need wastaa for everything; I love you because once you have wastaa you can get anything

I hate you for thinking my name is a boys name; I love you for having heard my name before and me not being the first and only Naseem you know

I hate you because your sand and dirt make my car a mess; I love you because your sand and dirt are where the camels live

I hate you for making me not want to go back; I love you because you gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it (an amazing, life changing experience)

* My list of loves/hates can go on forever, but at the end of the day inta beladii… and ana mabsoota!

Argillah- hookah
Duwar- circle/roundabout
Inta beladii- ur my land
Ana mabsoota- I am happy/content/satisfied

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

never a dull moment..

Today at work, during lunch, a discussion started on the difference between entertainment in Jordan as opposed to entertainment outside of Jordan (America for example). I find myself getting into this discussion a lot because I claim that Jordan, a tiny country with enough places to count on a few hands, is more entertaining than New York, which is basically the capital of entertainment.

I am not going to sit here and say New York is not fun or amazing, I would obviously be delusional but I am more entertained in Jordan… and this is not a statement that I only make, I have met MANY Americans who have lived in Jordan for a period of time who have agreed.

I think this is mainly because entertainment in Jordan is simple, it does not take a weeks worth of planning to gather 20 people together and go out to a club or café, it is something normally done within minutes and daily.. and if u didnt plan it you just have to show up at a place and there will be alot of people there that you know, ready 2 have a good time..

I find myself going out everyday in Jordan and there really is never a dull moment. And yes I went out daily in America but it was different, it was mainly a friend’s house or something low key, in Jordan I feel like every night is a party.

We all know where and when to go to places to have a good time, Wednesday at Cube is 80s night, Thursdays at flow or 51, Happy Hour at la calle and profilo is always amazing.. Argillah(hookah) cafes anytime of the week.. its simple and pretty much guaranteed..

Life is fun here, and I too find it shocking that I think Amman Jordan is more entertaining than New York, USA

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Facebook: America vs Jordan

Facebook in America is COMPLETELY different than Facebook in Jordan; same website but 2 completely different ways of using it. In America Facebook is used 2 add people u know, keep in touch with people, share your news. Ok this is something that is also done in Jordan but Facebook goes way beyond that here.

In Jordan Facebook is used as a way to meet people, you make new friends normally through the website and it is not considered weird or creepy. Because the country is so small it is extremely rare to be added by someone who doesn’t share many mutual friends and that is usually the start of all conversations “wow u know this, this, and that person? ME TOO” and the rest is all history.

Facebook is also a way to learn about people, there are many different groups in Jordan, sort of like one big high school. There are the druggies, the popular crowd, the nerds, the gamers, etc. Little by little we all learn ways of telling who belongs to what group by either what car they drive, what area they live in or even as simple as what phone number they have (which is a whole different subject on its own.) Facebook has helped in this categorization of people. Through mutual friends and groups you can basically pinpoint exactly what kind of a person this friend request is asking you to be a friend with.

Your personal Facebook is how you represent yourself in Jordan, you can tell the sluts from the religious, the classy from the low class, the popular from the losers. Before posting a picture there are many things you must think about like; is what you’re wearing appropriate? are there a lot of guys in the picture? Was there alcohol in the picture? There is a lot of stress that goes into my page, something that I never thought twice about in America… (because of this, what Americans see and what Arabs see are 2 completely different Facebooks thanks to the privacy settings )

Monday, December 14, 2009

The other box..

Where r u from?
An Arab Iranian American..
Mixed up in a world.. no real belonging.. no real fit..
The paper says nationality?.. which box do I check.. will "other" work?
Will it explain the culture.. the experience.. the history I contain..
Will "other" be enough to distinguish me from the rest? To show the group to which I belong?
To which group do I belong??
I was never Arab enough for the Arabs..
Lack of Arabic bes bifham kol ishi.. I read and write but I don't speak..
I know Tale Spin.. not Adnan Wa Lina..
Handala around my neck but could I ever really understand?..
I'm the American in Jordan.. I'm the girl from New York.. the girl who's not like "other Arabs".. ghareeb…
In America I'm the Arab.. the chic with the weird name whose culture sets her apart from the rest..
Koran on our walls.. humus on our tables.. Um Kalthoum through our speakers..
I'm not American enough for the U.S of A...
A mystery of religion and rules and regulations..
"the girl who believes in Allah.. not God".. laa elaha ella Allah.. it's the same thing…..
In Iran I was asked not to speak.. "down with America" were signs painted on the walls.. It was dangerous…
Walking with my head up.. cloths too tight.. head scarf on wrong.. hair showing.. haram..
Raised by an Iranian father who lost his roots.. an "American"..
I was ignorant to the beauty of it all.. no knowledge of Ferdowsi or Isfahan..
Farsi harf namizanam...
I wasn't Iranian enough for the Iranians..
I am an "other"..
no real place.. no real group.. a mix of bits and pieces..
A combination of the freedom and opportunities of "the Western World".. the vastness.. the passport..
yet I contain the richness and culture of the Middle East.. the religion and the passion.. my malja'ee..
I am a mut in this world… a melting pot of my own kind..
Im proud to be an "other"!…


*bes bifham kol ishi- but i understand everything
*Tales spin- famous american cartoon
*Adnan wa Lina- famous arabic cartoon
*Handala- Palestinian political cartoon character
*ghareeb- strange/weird
*Um Kalthoum- famous Arabic singer
*laa elaha ella Allah- there is no god but God
*haram- sinner
*Ferdowsi or Isfahan- historical things from Iran
*Farsi harf namizanam- I do not speak Farsi
*malja'ee- sanctuary or shelter

to stay or to go

After a night of shopping with my sister and going from mall to mall we decide we’re thirsty. We stop at a coffee place similar to starbucks or any other coffee shop, couches to sit on and any kind of coffee you can imagine. We ask if they have soda, the guy behind the register says ya but only cans. “We’ll take 2 diet pepsis please.” The guy then asks “To stay or to go?” We were both confused, if we stayed would they put it in a cup? We decide to see what will happen so we say “to stay” and he tells us to have a seat. We are waiting for a good 10 minutes and see him fussing around with stuff, how long does it take to put pepsi in a cup? Is that even what he is doing? Did he hear us right when we ordered a can of soda? Finally he comes out with a tray and 2 cans of diet pepsi, 2 straws! We both burst out into laughter. What would have happened if we asked for it to go? Would he have bagged it?


Whenever I tell people my story the first thing they ask is WHY JORDAN? How could I go from NEW YORK to JORDAN. I do not know why this has shocked so many people and I do not know the exact way to answer that question. My initial plan was to stay here for a year and now I can’t see myself ever leaving. Other than the rich culture, the beauty, the food, the entertainment, I would have to say my favorite thing about Jordan is the smallness. I came from a place where if you bump into someone you know it is all you talk about for the next month and it is something that rarely happens. In Jordan it is rare to go somewhere and not bump into someone you know.

Because of this everything becomes more accessible, people are known. In New York things seem so vast, so out of reach, but in Jordan I feel like everything is at your fingertips and you just have to reach out and grab it. Knowing the right people and the right way to go about something can get you anything you can possibly desire in this country whether it be a great job, to be on the radio, or a special invitation into a new Club.

I am the manager of Human Resources for a computer company. Today I spoke to a representative from a website where companies post available jobs and candidates apply to them (similar to careerbuilder.) He asked about my last name and I explained that I was Iranian, he asked if I had known Maz Jabrani (I had seen him the week prior and Maz Jabrani actually shouted me out on stage because of my weird mix.) I told the representative that story and he knew me, he was also at the show and remembered me because of that situation. I am still shocked at how small this country really is.

Home sweet home

It is now around a year and a half later, I have gone through many jobs, cars, apartments, friends and life changing events. I finally think I am starting to get the hang of the country, get a feel for how things go around here and it is starting to feel like home.

After all this time and the millions of things I have experienced I am still culturally shocked daily, sometimes by big life changing things, and sometimes by the silliest things that you can’t help but chuckle about…

My sister also moved here but she got married, we are living in 2 different worlds and between the both of us I think we have seen it all!! 2 New Yorkers living in Jordan…

yasmin lawsuit