I’ve come to the conclusion that wherever I live after Amman, it has to have fall. Even in Izmir, with its sweltering, humid summers and rainy winters, last year at this time I was at least seeing some trees change colors, stepping on crunchy leaves, and was wearing sweaters.

Amman, by mid October, is still unfailingly sunny, with temperatures holding at about 82 F during the day. This also means mosquito season is still going on. Today I will probably sit on my balcony in my bathing suit and keep working on my tan while I read a book.

Even though I grew up in southern California, Texas, and Nevada – not places known for seasons – I guess enough time living on the east coast has made me look forward to and miss fall. Fall is my new year, the time for self-reflection, for figuring out my goals for life and work in the new year. Spring is supposed to symbolize rebirth, but for me, Fall is when I refocus and recharge my batteries.

And with traveling, I managed to miss the three weeks that felt like spring in Jordan – I went to Sri Lanka for two weeks, came home and it was summer. Now, it will just be getting cool by the time we head to the US, where I’ll be back in the warmer climates of Louisiana and Puerto Rico, then briefly in Rochester, NY to catch the very last of fall, and then back to Amman, where depressing, rainy, freezing winter will be in full swing. 

Well if I can’t live somewhere with fall, maybe next year I’ll just have to come up with an excuse to be in Germany or someplace around this time.

In the meantime I’ll keep waiting for the day I can wear my boots and not sweat through a cardigan.

Life, Middle East

I never used Uber when I was living in Washington DC. Between the metro, buses, and a zipcar account, Uber and taxis were something I used maybe twice in three years.

But in Jordan, I depend on Uber to get around. Usually I’ll try to flag a regular taxi before calling Uber, but there are times I’ve waited 40 minutes to find an empty taxi. And then if you do manage to find an empty taxi, the driver doesn’t want to go where you need to go, or wants to charge you 5-10x the normal price because of “traffic.” There is always traffic in Amman. Always.

And if you do get a taxi, the driver almost always treats you to an onslaught of extremely personal questions. I think every woman I know here has been sexually harassed or assaulted by taxi drivers. One Jordanian girl friend told me about how she was once in a taxi that got stuck in traffic next to a sidewalk cafe where people were smoking argileh. The driver launched into a diatribe about seeing women smoking in public, blaming my friend for getting him stuck in traffic at such an offensive place. Recently, after news broke that a Jordanian writer had been assassinated in front of a court, a taxi driver praised the killer’s actions to my colleague who was in the car. Continue Reading


We’ve been on an epic Eid al-Adha staycation for about the last nine days, and it has been so perfect. At first, part of me couldn’t help but think of all the places we could have run away to in Asia for nine days, but ticket prices put me off traveling anywhere (the equivalent of trying to travel the day before Thanksgiving in the US). Plus I hadn’t had a day off in about two months, so staying in was just what I needed. Layth and I marathon watched Narcos and munched on sweet potato fries and sambousak. I actually cleaned our house. And I am very nearly done with redecorating the upstairs flat, after reupholstering a couch and two armchairs, plus many trips to Ikea and many hours cleaning, carrying out old furniture, and hemming curtains. Continue Reading

Middle East

This weekend I was on the road with the European Union Election Observation Mission, traveling around southern Jordan on a field visit. We met with political and tribal leaders in Tafilah, Aqaba, Maan, South Badia, and Karak, and I tagged along to take pictures. While most of the time was spent driving or in offices for meetings, these are some of my favorite images, including a huge tent for campaign rallies outside of Karak, training election workers, Bedouin guys sitting at a coffee stop, and a Roma family.

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So, in addition to my job as a journalist that takes me to hospitals on the Syrian border and southern Jordan to meet with tribal leaders, I also apparently moonlight as a chair reupholsterer.

I’ve just finished my third and biggest project so far, a sofa, removing the sad, old floral fabric and finding its inner glam with teal velvet.

I took inspiration from this midcentury couch from West Elm, but being priced at $1300 originally, and the fact that there’s no West Elm in Jordan, I decided to emulate it.

For this couch, I bought 16 meters of fabric at 4JD/m, total 64 JD ($90 US)
Paying the tailor to sew new cushion covers: 50 JD ($70 US)
So a total cost of about $160 plus some elbow grease and tools I already had to transform an old couch.

Obviously this one is a two-cushion couch and the arms are styled a bit differently, but the color is pretty dead on and I think it looks great. Plus I even picked up some nesting coffee tables from Ikea that are pretty similar to the one in the West Elm photo.

This is all going in the flat above ours, which we’ll hopefully be renting out soon. So, tragically, I will not be enjoying this couch personally, but I am jealous of whoever gets to curl up on it in the winter in Amman.

I also reupholstered this beast of a wingback chair, which originally had red and gold fabric on it that just made me think of Gryffindor house from Harry Potter, and now I have to do the same to its mate so there will be a pair of them.

More pictures TK once the apartment is all set up and looking pretty.

Food, Life, Middle East

Ever since I started planning in earnest for our stateside reception, I’ve been trying to think of little gifts/thank yous to leave at each seat, and also to think of ways to bring both of our cultures into this. The restaurant serves hummus, baba ganoush, and tabbouleh, so we’ll be having that alongside crawfish etouffee and muffuletta orzo. And I’ve been picking out a few favorite Arabic songs to play.

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Some things in Jordan are frustrating, expensive, and confusing. Like dealing with bureaucracy in any way. But some things that I expect to be difficult or expensive or take a long time (because they do in the States) are actually really easy. Like tailoring a wedding dress.

I’ve been putting off/dreading getting my dress sized for months. I didn’t know if it would take months, if it would be some really awkward process, I didn’t want to go alone and didn’t really have a friend to go with me, didn’t know how much it would cost, etc. So much so that I didn’t get it done until after our reception date in Amman, if we were still having one here. But I figured I should do it while my mom was here, so I found one tailor listed online on Gardens St., hoped there would be others in the same area if that one didn’t work out, so last Sunday we went.

Predictably, I found the shop and saw it had been converted into a hair salon. So I went into a formal dress shop next door, told the lady I was looking for a tailor, and she directed me across the street into a shopping plaza, downstairs, to the left, and there I found Said’s little hole-in-the-wall shop. I realized later he was located next to several other tailoring shops, but his was the first one I saw.

I was sort of expecting a girly bridal shop – or at least a woman working there – and those places probably exist, but Said directed me to a little dressing room, where I changed into my too-big dress, and then he pinned up the sides. As he did so, two very conservative women walked in and took the opportunity to gawk at me letting a guy touch me to pin up my dress, which was mildly mortifying. But rather than crawling back to my home on whore island, I changed back into my regular clothes and went to ask when it would be ready and how much.

“Today’s Sunday?” Said asked. “Uhhhh…. Wednesday. I can have it for you by Wednesday.”

And the cost? 25 JD, about $35 USD.

I did have a bad dream that Said decided to alter my dress using bright blue yarn, but I went back today and he did a good job. And I left him a couple of skirts to hem up too, for 5 JD more.

Said is angling for an invite to our wedding party in the US, but he also told me that his application at the embassy had been rejected a few times, so I’m not sure there’s much I could do to bring him to the party. Sorry Said.

I don’t know how this works in the US, but anyone I know who’s gotten married, it seems like dress altering is a months-long process that costs at least a few hundred dollars. I’m not sure if that’s because people are trying to lose weight before the wedding and they do multiple fittings, or if it’s because tailors get booked up months in advance, but this was really easy. And assuming my metabolism stays the same for a few more months (I’ve only ever been five pounds heavier once, and that was in a Rochester winter when I was drinking a lot more beer and eating like a college student) I think I should be good.

The only bad thing about this was then trying to catch a cab to go to work, but that’s a rant for another day.

Middle East, Travel

A four-day Eid weekend took us south to Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba and the Red Sea, with a fair amount of off-roading along the way.

Layth took us on the scenic route to Petra, via a turn-off south of the Dead Sea – and luckily we we were in the trusty Feroza, and luckily Layth knows these roads really well. We passed quite a few “road closed” signs, but pressed on as it wasn’t physically blocked, and it was actually paved for the first part – I guess this road was pretty much unpaved until quite recently. But we came to the unpaved part, and going up the steep switchbacks made for some stunning views of the valley as we made our way to Petra. Continue Reading

Life, Middle East

Amman house tour, part 2: somewhat less in-progress! Goodbye green wall, hello artwork and more decor.

Sharing because 1) I want to persuade more friends to come visit me, 2) my mom arrives on Sunday and I’m a little excited to play hostess/tour guide in Jordan, and 3) I’ve never had a house that looks even remotely put-together, so this still freaks me out a little.

Since last time, we got a new balcony table (seen in the first picture through the window, although it’s covered with a table cloth), hung a whole lot of pictures, painted some walls, added some shelves/storage, rearranged some things (especially the office – rotated the desk, moved the chair and ditched the old cabinets), replaced our shower heads (the guest bath just didn’t have one), and got the guest bathroom ready to use – shower curtain, rugs, storage, all that.

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Goodbye Luna… feeling sad today because Luna has gone to a new home. Luna was my snuggle buddy, personal alarm clock, and housemate in DC, and my mom’s been looking after her since I moved overseas. My mom’s coming in a week and we were trying to figure out how to bring her to Jordan, but it’s such a long flight and airline policies for rabbits are so complicated. I wish I could’ve snuggled her one more time, but hope she’ll have a happy life with this new family.