I’m an Army spouse and therefore I am used to moving around. In eight years of marriage, my husband and I have moved seven times, the most recent being our transplant from Amman, Jordan, to Falls Church, Virginia. None of the moves are easy. Right now we are hanging around our rental house, sitting on folding chairs, waiting for the furniture we brought to Jordan to wend its way back to comfort our backsides sometime next month. We have researched new schools, dentists, doctors, gyms, grocery stores, local dives. I have had to buy all those things you take for granted in the back of your pantry: salt, flour, sugar, cinnamon, parsley, multi-vitamins. The cats, Jordanian refugees who have never seen a squirrel, let alone a deer, sit on the window sills all day in mute amazement.
We are as settled as we can be. After nearly a month of hotels, movers, and airplanes, I am happy to have a home again, even though we have been complaining about our house ceaselessly, like, who the heck did this so-called paint job? And what professional cleaner left gunk in our freezer, goop that my husband adamantly claims is mucus dripping down the closet walls, and blood on the floor boards? Hmmm, perhaps our eight moves have set our expectations too low?
Lest you think I have forgotten my last year abroad, here is my list of all the…
Things I will miss about Jordan
Stray cats (of course).
People riding donkeys at rush hour. Or camels.
Seeing Beduoin camps in the middle of the strangest places, like on a rocky hill, along a stretch of lonely desert highway, or just glimpsed behind a row of nice houses. There would be the tattered tarp, perhaps a Toyota Hi-Lux parked outside, a few goats, a camel. Very Spartan except for the satellite TVs.
Fruit sellers on the corner, offering fresh figs and pomegranates and peaches for next to nothing.
Hijab dolls, cereal, candy, etc.
Random strangers telling me my four year old daughter is beautiful. Arabs genuinely LOVE children.
Being able to hop in our car, drive 30 minutes, and see something literally biblical (Bethany-on-the-Jordan, Lot’s Cave, the Dead Sea).
Feeding a family for four dollars (though you might have some intestinal problems for a few days afterwards. However, if we are talking about the incredible shwarma from the small town just outside of Petra, then the two days of diarrhea was worth it).
Climbing all over thousand year old scupltures, ruins, mosaics (just about whatever you damn well please, even if it is all roped off, and you are usually urged to do so by the official tour guide/guard)
The weather: six months of cloudless blue sky and temps in the 80s.
Pictures of King Abdullah (sometimes with his father and son) EVERYWHERE.
The friendly customer service, from MacDonalds to gas stations, felt like four start treatment.
All the interesting people, American and various other expats, who also found themselves in Jordan during the Arab Spring.
Things I will NOT miss about Jordan
Stray cats (especially when they wound up in my house for some kind of surgery).
Seeing the food before it looked like food (and suddenly understanding why it might give you intestinal problems).
The driving. Each day I took my daughter to preschool could have been my last.
Feeling like a total floozy because I was wearing a short sleeved shirt in the summertime.
Getting honked at by every single taxi that passed by, whether I was dressed like a floozy or covered head to toe.
Random strangers telling me my four year old daughter is beautiful, then grabbing her, kissing her, throwing her up in the air a few times, even if she looked terrified. Then handing her a piece of bubble gum, which she would inevitably put in her mouth and swallow before I could stop her. Maybe Arabs love children too much.
The Israeli border crossing, which was so prohibitively slow, confusing, and frustrating, even with our diplomatic passports, that we only dared to cross the border into Israel/Palestine twice. (I actually took a photo of the border crossing but am afraid that if I post it, the Mossad will hunt me down and seize my computer.)
Absence of sidewalks. If there is a sidewalk, you can be assured that it was put there so someone could plant a tree on it or park their car. Sidewalks are mostly decorative and not meant to be a walked on. Just ask all the people that like to walk in the street during rush hour even when there is a treeless sidewalk directly parallel to them.
A barrage of gunfire in the middle of the night, indistinguishable from either a wedding/funeral celebration or the US Embassy under siege.
Public toilets, especially at the above mentioned biblical sites.