Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gibraltar

Interestingly, at lunch today I learned that Gibraltar, the large rock island at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea on the western end, comes from an Arabic name. It was called Jebel (Mountain) Tarek (after the Arab commander.)

Apparently in the books about ancient Hercules, Gibraltar was part of the columns of Hercules that dotted the western boundary of the Great Sea, but Gibraltar is the only column partially standing. I'm sure there's much more to the story that I will soon learn.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blessed Cecilia

I attended a concert at the Amman Citadel Festival sponsored by the Friends of Jordan and the British Council. The Choir of London presented Blessed Cecilia featuring the Jordanian soprano Dima Bawab.

The story line is the the virgin Cecilia was captured during a Roman persecution as was imprisoned. For three days she sang continuously and to silence her, the Romans beheaded her on the fourth day. Her feast day is November 22 and she is the universal patron saint of musics.

The dramatic play re-enacts her torment in prison and is updated to include voices of Palestinians who were imprisoned in Israel.

Ironically, there was a portion of the play that called for ten minutes of silence to commemorate those who are unjustly imprisoned. While the soprano kneeled in silence, Amman's city lights appeared as if many eyes were gazing down upon her, and the silence wasn't complete as random gunshots and fire crackers were lit off all over the city. The paradox only heightened the tension as most people turn a blind eye to unjust suffering.

The performers were able to quite adeptly move the audience through their voices and the minimalistic acting that enhanced the drama.

I was so happy to:

1. hear such an important, professional production,
2. to listen to a concert in the Citadel that was built by the Romans over two millennia ago and to be where King David sent Uriah the Hittite to be killed in battle,
3. to see a group of middle class patrons who support the arts, and
4. to be with Dozaners and to see a few parishioners.

I wish more people were there to experience it.


To see photos of the concert, click on the link below:

Photos: Trips to Iraq Al Amir, Ma'in Hot Springs, and Mukawer


To see photos of a recent trip to Iraq Al Amir, Ma'in Hot Springs, and Mukawer, click on the link below:

1. Pics of Iraq al Amir

2. Pics of Ma'in Hot Springs

3. Pics of the the beheading site

Monday, August 26, 2013

A great start to the week

After Mass this morning, a few parishioners gathered to have cake and coffee and to share stories as one woman is going to be away for a couple of months. It was very relaxed and pleasant and we were able to talk about our faith lives in great comfort.

On the way to Mass, I saw a Polish parishioner who has joined the Music Classes. She said once again, "Fr. John, this is important and I like the way the instructor is teaching us. We are having fun and learning at the same time.

The Jesuit Center staff returned to work today. Eid, the receptionist and jack-of-all-trades, reported to me that he stopped smoking for the past twenty days. I was so happy. He says that everything smells fresh and much better now that he is not smoking. I'm very happy for his commitment to good health and that he sees the negative consequences of cigarette smoking.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Little Blue

A grueling weekend has ended and I'm feeling accomplished, but all I did was to say Mass. I have two extra ones this week - the Sri Lankan Mass for young Aldrik and the Filipino run-away shelter. Both were very consoling.

I was very happy to see so many representatives from the British Embassy attend Aldrik's funeral Mass. The church was full. We also dedicated the Mass in his honor on Saturday afternoon with a reception following it. His poor mother is heart-broken.

The run-away shelter Mass was quite good. It was grass-roots authentic and though it was very sad, it was also joyous. Most of the women at the shelter are new faces, which is good to see because that means the old faces returned hope. Some may have run away, but I think most have gone home.

The music class was very good this week. The students are really beginning to understand the concepts and I can tell they are practicing at home. I'm so proud of them. It makes my heart feel very light.

It has been a long week. The entire summer has given us an upset schedule. With so much dust from renovation work on the Jesuit Center's interior and exterior, this week should see some of that dust settling. In three weeks, I'll be able to settle into my room again, but mercifully the banging and sawing sounds have stopped. I'll be able to breathe the normal air pollution once again.

My legs feel rubbery. After Mass tonight, I returned home but before I went back to my computer to do some work, I fixed a healthy salad and a yogurt, cleaned out the refrigerator, and diced up some chicken for chicken salad tomorrow.

It was at this point that the thought of Blue entered into my mind. Amazingly, we discovered this bottle of Blue when we were beginning renovations. It was used as a doorstop of all things. It needed to be put to a different use and tonight a celebration was in order. So, I poured a little bit of Johnny Walker Blue and headed up to our roof deck to watch the sun, which is setting far too early. Ah, what a nice sip. I thanked God for the end of the weekend and we just sat and mellowed together. I thought about playing music, but the silence seems more fitting. Life is quite good.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Extreme Sports

If I were a developer, I would publicize the Ma'in Hot Springs as a venue for extreme sports. It neighbors Mkawer, where John the Baptist was Beheaded.

It is a perfect place to begin hang-gliding tours right down to the Dead Sea. Probably because of the political climate and the saline condition of the waters, there are no pleasure boats in the Dead Sea. I would imagine two nations at peace with one another could charters tours that would hug the Jordanian coasts.

Mountain biking would be awesome in the area, just as it is in Utah, with stops at the Mujib Reserve or the Hot Springs. It could be a recreational haven for tourists. New Zealand has done a lot to promote extreme sports and recreational parks.

I'm pleased to know that there is a hiking club in Jordan. The challenge for me is that they hike on Fridays, which is my day of work.

I still long for the day when an empty lot is cleaned up and smoothed over so children can play soccer or that basketball courts are set up. It will help the people understand something about time and space.


The Parish is Getting Organized

First, I prayed for rain yesterday and every told me I was foolish. I knew that, but when I woke up this morning and saw thick clouds that came from the direction of the Mediterranean, I chuckled. We did not get rain, but I'm sure it rained somewhere along the clouds' route.

I have the parish organized, but I am not a fool. I realize it is largely useless, but it made me feel better to do it this summer. The parish will take on a life of its own.

Wait. I think it is time for me to introduce that word into the Jordanian vocabulary. Middle Easterners don't seem to get that concept. Most of the time I am interrupted because someone wants to do something right now in the space I am occupying. They want me to step aside. I have been taught to wait before interrupting someone until they make eye contact with you and give permission. Most of the times I am interrupted here end us causing more wasted time than if the person were to politely let me finish the task before me. Then, they would have the satisfaction of not getting in people's way and having to apologize for something for which they are not sorry.

Interpersonal relations, like driving a car, are all about getting what you want when you want it, which is now. The space-time continuum is a different reality here and I think it goes back to their childhood education. I do wonder what is taught in schools.

But then again, only sixty percent of those who attend schools pass the mandatory minimum exams. A large part of the education is focused on speaking the Arabic language.

Just this morning, a man did something routine to me. He told me what he wanted in Arabic and I tolh him I don't yet speak Arabic. I told him to wait until someone who speaks Arabic comes near. He then asked me if I spoke Arabic and I said 'La,' which means 'No.' So he went on and on in Arabic about what he wanted. I just raised my eyebrows and continued with my task of peeling onions and slicing carrots. He just doesn't have the concept of waiting. He has to pursue. Interpersonal relations are much like driving: you just press on and on until you get what you want. It is interpersonal bullying.

I was almost creamed in my car last night because a driver in the far left lane, while I was in the middle right lane wanted to turn right. The concept of slowing down and waiting does make sense for him. He jammed on his brakes, but kept moving forward. I could see that he wasn't doing it maliciously or for selfish gain to endanger my life, but waiting safely for traffic to pass safely just isn't in his mind.

I laughed about two things yesterday. I bought some pruning shears to cut down the errant branches that block my walking paths. The shears unfortunately don't work. They are made to have metal press against a hard rubber stopper. Therefore, there is no thorough slice by the shears. They are useless. I did bend back and break some overhanging prickly vines that slice me up when I walk out of the Jesuit apartment. I realized that I do most things conservatively because after I did the trimming, a gardener came by and cut back the vines judiciously. Maybe I should let go a little more and be more confident of it.

The other thing that cause me to chuckle was watching a man in the bed of a large truck. He was frenetically picking up sugar cane, but when he would reach to grab hold of the cane, it would become loose under his footing and he would fall. He kept doing it and he was getting more and more frustrated, and he kept slipping. He just wasn't learning the concept. I have adapted my language from calling the Middle East a developing nation. It simply is undeveloped.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Apple Crisp and Cooking in Jordan

I just popped some Apple Crisp into the oven. I had to take guesses on measurement as I still don't know Arabic, but I trusted my memory. I think I added too much butter, but I think Julia Child would approve.

Anyways, I was using up the last of our fruit before our cook comes in tomorrow and throws them away. We just got them four days ago, but that is his routine. I peeled, sliced, and cored seven apples, but since I needed ten I added a pear, two small peaches, and two white plums. I hope it goes O.K., but then when you think of it, fruit, oatmeal, sugar, and butter makes everything taste just fine.

I searched and searched the house for baking soda, but could find none. I did find something called carbonate, which sounds like soda so I added it. I left out the baking powder too, since we are bereft of it. Our cook does not know how to bake. Let's see how it comes out.

I then made Lasagne Verde with broccoli, onion, and carrots. I didn't have a large enough baking pan so it will be moderate size. I was hoping to use all the lasagne noodles, but could only use a third. Well, if this fails, I still have more noodles to us.

I laughed this weekend when three Jordanian drivers pulled their cars to the side of the door to ask me directions. Surprisingly, I was helpful to each of the three. Go figure.

I felt bad for this one young Jordanian girl who was standing at the front of the church last night crying her eyes out. She must have been seven years old. I asked her name and then why she was crying. Since she mostly spoke Arabic, I had a hard time finding out, but I guessed right. Her mother dropped her outside the church and told her to stay the hour and she would come back and get her. The poor thing. The mother didn't even bring her into the church, but let her on the sidewalk. I guess I should be glad the mother was thoughtful enough to bring her to church, but it sounds like she needed the church to be a babysitter.

After another young girl confirmed her story, I asked her if I could take her to the front of the church where she could see me and I could see her. She said, "yes." So I brought her to a Jordanian woman and an Indian family with two girls around her age and they adopted her for the hour. As Mass ended, I asked the young girl to process out with me so I could call her mother. All ended well. The poor thing felt so foreign in a place of adults.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Parish Responsibilities

I thought I would give an update on the four parishes for which I am responsible.

These six places are distinct and typically do not overlap. I often feel like a first year teacher without a classroom because I have to start anew with each parish. We don't have any physical space resources or any storage capacity. Each parish has a different capacity to figure out what it means for them to be church in Amman. Many times, people will say that I'm pastor of the English-speaking church, which is technically true, but each parish group retains its separate identity and does not interact with any other. For all intents and purpose in practice, I'm the pastor of four different churches, a shelter, and a daily Mass community.

Mary of the Annunciation is on Jebel Weibdeh in what used to be the French Quarter. It is a charming residential village that is crowded but with a lot of artistic and cultural activities. The church is newly renovated and is tastefully furnished. Sunday Mass is held on Fridays because it is the primary day of the weekend for the Kingdom. Many employers will allow their employees to attend church since it is a day of less activity. Perhaps eighty-percent of the congregation is Filipino, but that leaves the other twenty percent to be Arabs, Americans, Europeans, Indonesians, Sri Lankans, and Indians. Most of the congregants are domestic employees and church is a big social outlet for them. A group of Filipino singers will perform their ministry loudly with songs that have been imported into the Philippines many years ago. I would like to offer a more universal liturgy that respects also the other twenty percent who come to worship.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Association shelter is run by the Philippine government and the Jesuits provide Mass for them on Saturday afternoons. Capacity for the shelter is around one hundred, but since the community greatly fluctuates, the population increases and decreases sporadically. This shelter is for those who Filipinas who have run away from their work experience because they have suffered some type of injustice or they did not understand the reasons they came for employment. They cannot be repatriated until court cases are settled. Some of the abuse is financial non-payment of services, physical, sexual, or emotional. Typically, fifty women will attend Mass and most of the residents are from the countryside. They are largely poor, uneducated women with few social skills.

Saint Mary's in Sweifieh is often criticized as the wealthy parish, but that reveals a lack of understanding of the congregation. It is true that it contains American ex-patriots and embassy staff from many countries, but around forty percent of the congregation is Arabs. Fifteen percent are Filipinos and there is a healthy group of Indonesians, Indians, Sri Lankans, and Europeans. It is quite diverse and well-mixed. It is the most active congregation because many want to contribute to a good liturgy. The parish choir has been receiving musical training that makes it easier for them to understand the parts of the Mass. We've been able to moderate and make the music more universal and hospitable.

St. Joseph's, on Jebel Amman near Rainbow Street, is the most Filipino parish of all. About ninety percent of the congregation is Filipino and it is the community that does liturgy the smoothest. It serves a great function of welcoming visitors because it is in the heart of the city and is in an area filled with restaurants and cultural activities. Many visitors are very pleased that there is both a mix of Filipino songs and then the songs that they know. Mass does not feel foreign to them.

Frere's College Church on Jebel Hussein is the largest space and though it has been repainted colorfully, it has a pre-Vatican II architecture. The Filipino population is typically low but the music program is resistant to any efforts to update it. Filipino and Indian nurses for local hospitals are some of the communicants. Also, workers from the Dead Sea will often drive an hour to come to Mass. It does make sense for me to say Mass for the workers and customers once a month at the Dea Sea hotels. American and other foreign students who are learning Arabic for a duration will attend Mass and then many Iraqi, Jordanian, and Arab travelers will attend Mass. Since we are near the houses of several religious, they attend Mass frequently. Also, many European ex-patriots and tours will take in the Sunday evening Mass.

Lastly, the daily Mass community cannot be neglected. We have a regular congregation that are quite active. Many religious come from their nearby communities and other regular Mass-goers will come. The sacrament of reconciliation and the practice of spiritual conversations are very active during this time.

Parish Involvement Opportunities

UPCOMING PARISH OPPORTUNITIES

Music Education – Fridays 4-6 (Taught by B Major)
Parish Choir Rehearsals – Fridays following Class
Skilled Musicians needed (singers, cantors, soloists, instrumentalists)
Choir Conductor and Cantors needed

Bible Group: The Creed II – Mondays 11am
Bible Group: Scripture – Thursdays 6 pm
Spiritual Direction (Ignatian Spirituality practices)

Communion Class Assistant Teacher (to assist Ms. Clara)
In-between Communion and Confirmation Teacher (new class for children)
Confirmation Class Assistant Teacher (to assist Ms. Jacqui)
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (team of sponsors for catechetics)

Youth Activities Coordinator (social, sports, and educational programs)
Young Adult Coordinator (from age 18 – early 40s)

Marriage Preparation Team (assists in marriage prep work)
Marriage Enhancement Team (helps promote healthy communication in marriage)
Baptismal Preparation Team (prepares parents and godparents for the sacrament)

Readers, Announcers, and Petitionary Prayers (organizes trains volunteers)
Greeters and Organizers (organizes greeters to welcome parishioners)
Eucharistic Ministers (serves during liturgies)
Altar Server Coordinator (trains children, and adult men and women)
Offertory Coordinator (organizes the gifts to be brought forward)
Liturgy Planning Committee (plans for high feasts and celebrations)

Decorations Committee (sets up displays at front of church or near altar)
Lecture Education Committee (organizes lectures on Catholicism, spirituality)
Guided Meditations Committee (plans para-liturgical prayers)

Reception Organizer (plans for major parties after feasts)
Social Outreach Team including tours, movies, trips and parish activities
Parish-OWWA Liaison (connects the parishes to sheltered residents)
Ministry to the Homebound (Arranges visits to the sick and elderly)


I continue to learn.

Last night I sat outside with a Jordanian who is visiting his home country. He has given me many detail about what his neighborhood was like when he was growing up and how he perceives it today. He is very sad about the way Amman has grown and has become like the United Nations. He hardly recognizes any native Jordanians any more.

We took on an endeavor while watching the chaos of automobile drivers. He won't even drive in the country because it is too scary and unsafe. We decided to look for those drivers, especially taxi drivers, who wear eye glasses. On our rough estimate, one out of twenty-five drivers wear glasses. He says that they are a symbol of weakness to show that you cannot see well. No wonder why they don't drive well. They can't see and it is not like they are wearing contact lenses. Maybe making eye glasses more universally will be the start of solving the problem.

We also noted that no one seems to have an idea of going into reverse. Cars make sweeping turns onto side streets to reverse directions, but very few will actually put the car into reverse. You might as well remove the rear view mirrors from cars because no one pays attention to anyone who is behind the. All that matters is moving forward. I wonder how this type of thinking factors into processes of reconciliation or peace-making efforts. No wonder Jesus said, "Blessed are the peace makers." They are rare indeed.

The other unusual thing I learned is that families marry their children off. Civil government does not get involved in marriages, but families draw up contracts and the signing ceremony (if one can call it that) is done in the home. Afterwards people will go to a hotel for a party. However, divorces need to proceed through the courts. I can see why divorces are so unacceptable because it means breaking apart two united families.

The Eid is Over

The four-day Eid following Ramadan just finished and the schedule will resume back to normal tomorrow. Mail delivery should be on schedule once more, except that many people are on their vacations. Walking home from evening Mass felt like a homecoming as many people were out enjoying the right and had warm smiles on their faces.

I'm very pleased with the way the music classes are coming out. I'm delighted that the students are having a blast and are doing their homework. I can tell this one Filipina is overjoyed to participate. She hadn't been allowed to attend Church before when she lived on the peninsula so it is a treat for her not just to attend Mass but to learn a valuable skill.

I always feel satisfied at the end of the weekend. It is very difficult to manage four separate parishes, the shelter, and the daily Mass group, but somehow it is coming together.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Al Asraq

I had a very pleasant dinner with bishop and bishop-emeritus and the priests of the greater Amman region to celebrate the two newly ordained priests and the attaining of a canon law doctorate for one young priest. The dinner was held outdoors and it was a great occasion to be with so many young priests and deacons. It seems that my world keeps expanding as I get immersed in various scenes in Jordan.

I was so angry earlier in the day because I did not know what to feel. I feel great anger at the system and for the woman who was showing off her son's arm to collect money. They boy's arm was dead. It was just lingering and dangling midway between the elbow and shoulder. Why didn't she bring him to the doctor's? Why is she exploiting his very serious injury. I know she is poor, but the king will take care of her and her son. She doesn't need to do this. He could go to a school for people with disabilities. Oh, the range of emotions I felt was strong.

I laughed shortly afterwards because traffic was backed up. The police were out managing traffic and the people did not know how to respond to it. They kept protesting and saying they wanted to make a left turn right now instead of going to the traffic light and taking a left. I loved it. People made more of a traffic jam because they didn't want to follow established rules of the road. It made me so happy that I almost forgot about the boy's dangling arm.

I went to art class to do a little more painting. Much to my surprise, I came very close to finishing one painting and I have some finishing touches on the next. I'll conclude on Monday because the studio is closed for four days.

To celebrate the Eid, the Jesuit Community went to Al-Asraq, near the Syrian border on the road to Iraq. It was a planned outing to have a community day. It turned out to be a very lovely day.

Al Asraq is a long-time wetlands that was largely settled by the Chechens and Druze. It is a classic oasis that hosted many types of large animals associated with Asia and Africa, like lions, Elephants, rhinoceroses, foxes, wolves, leopards, and other big game. Unfortunately, in 1979, the kingdom began to pipe the oasis water down to Amman for water and it dried up all the lands.

Last month, water from Disei in Saudi Arabia (a vast underground water supply), began to be pumped to Amman and Zarqa, thus eliminating the dependence upon water from Asraq. The water levels will begin to rise slowly, but it will take 25 years to reclaim itself. In the meantime, Syria is damming the springs that feed the oasis, so water may never be restored again. It is a shame.

The site was nice to visit and was well-kept. The terrible thing was the kids the pestered us the entire time. Both Michael and I complained separately and the rangers came to collect the kids and turn them away. They were Syrian kids from the camps and a few were from Iraq. They almost ruined the experience. The eight of them set off firecrackers and two carried guns that were probably toys.

The place would be beautiful if it could be pastoral and scenic, but those kids destroyed that aspect of it. Water buffalo are brought in each day to fee along the banks, which helps keep predatory plants down.

After the kids were escorted off, the community had lunch at the site and it was a lovely time together. We had a neatly packed lunch with healthy snacks. It was very restful under the goat-hair shelters provided by the site. I will come again, but I know better that I can complain sooner about these children who destroy silence.

On the way back, we took the desert highway. We came upon an old bathhouse that was called a "hunting" lodge. The secular artwork inside pointed to a different sort of hunting inside. The Italians did a fair amount of restoration on it within the past year and the place looks great. The environs were clean and there was even a trash basket to collect waste. The docents were very animated about showing of their places.

We then passed an old Ottoman Inn, which was quite elegant. It was on the World Heritage listing so it had the same designation and cleanliness as the baths. It certainly looked like a well-kept inn where people could relax in luxury.

The desert is quiet active. You would think that since it is dry and devoid of much vegetation that it would be still, but there are sandstorms all over the place. Desert devils rise up in columns and dance across the top of the desert floor providing great entertainment.

To complete the day, we went to see a movie called Pacific Rim. We laughed all the way through it and it would good entertainment. We dined at the Indian fast food kiosk and watched all the people parade through the Taj Mall. We've not see the place as busy with people as tonight. It was like being at Macy's on December 23rd. Much to my pleasure, we bought a piece of gym equipment so we can do sit ups and some toning.

To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of Al Azraq
2. Pics of the Baths

3. Pics of Ottoman Inn
4. Pics of My First Two Paintings

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jerusalem Photos #2


To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of the Artist Walk #6
2. Pics of the Artist Walk #7

3. Pics of Morning Walk #1
4. Pics of Morning Walk #2


5. Pics of Morning Walk #3
6. Pics of Morning Walk #4

7. Pics of A Woodpecker-like Bird
8. Pics of Miscellaneous

Jerusalem Photos #1


To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of On my Way to Ben Yehuda
2. Pics of From the Church of the Ascension

3. Pics of nearby the Garden of Gethsemane
4. Pics of the Artist Walk #1


5. Pics of the Artist Walk #2
6. Pics of the Artist Walk #3

7. Pics of the Artist Walk #4
8. Pics of the Artist Walk #5

Iftar and Exterior of the Jesuit Center


To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of Iftar Meal
2. Pics of Sandblasted Exterior of the Jesuit Center


3. Pics of Sana's Farm
4. Pics of Joshua, Son of Nun's Grave

San Antonio #2


To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of entryway to the Riverwalk
2. Pics of through the Hilton to Mad Dog

3. Pics of flowers along the Riverwalk
4. Pics of Scenes from the Riverboat Cruise

5. Pics of my father

San Antonio #1


To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of Bobbie's backyard
2. Pics of the way to the Alamo

3. Pics of the Alamo's Shrine
4. Pics of the Alamo's Grounds

Catching up with my Updates


To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of Trying out a Fisheye
2. Pics of Nantais Blessing

3. Pics of Detroit Market
4. Pics of Memorial to Audie Murphy

Perils of Walking

Walking along the streets in most of Amman is perilous. To avoid the sidewalks, which is inevitable, many people walk in the roads and the drivers will not slow down if there is a pedestrian on the road. On the contrary, they blow their horn and speed up. Walking is dangerous and one typically treats it like an obstacle course. No wonder no one exercises. You will seldom see a jogger, runner, bicyclist, or someone out for a leisurely stroll.

The photos contained below are the main roads. One day, I'll take photos of the side streets. To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of the Travails of Getting Exercise
2. Pics of Perils of Walking in Jordan

The New Abdali Project

This is new construction occurring near the Jesuit Center in Abdali. Perhaps ten new buildings are being erected on the site of the old army barracks. It is to be an upscale shopping and residential area with a grand mall and several hotels that is set to open in 2015. Here is a preview:


To see photos, click on the link below:

Pics of the new Abdali construction

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Quite a day

A somewhat late rise to the day started it off right. I was so tired from yesterday that I had problems falling asleep, but I was able to get some housekeeping done before I went to the Jesuit Center. Morning Mass was fun and I like how the choir is getting very excited about how Mass is being put together very well. I had a quick lunch with the choir and they were very excited about their contributions to the music. Even those who were skeptical at first have come along nicely.

After attending a meeting, I decided to go to art class as a way to do something different on a Sunday. I enjoyed working on my second pear. The students were very excited to see what I was doing. It is not all that good, but we are taking interest in each other's work. I love that children are getting good lessons on drawing and painting. I would have liked to stay longer, but I had another Mass to celebrate. The Sunday evening Mass is generally leisurely and I am getting to know the neighbors well.

I was all prepared to go out for a walk and I kept getting drawn into my work, but I pulled myself away since Iftar was soon to be called. I'm very glad I did.

The Abdali souk is still going on so I strolled through there again, but this time some men were insistent that I have something to eat with them. I did. It was like Mansaf, but with chicken instead of lamb. I stayed for about 20 minutes. We tried hard to communicate and it was difficult, but we managed. We enjoyed the time together and it was so good for me to see hard-working people doing their best to maintain their faith and keep steady employment. They are good people. I've got to learn some verbs and connecting words. I was grateful that they shared their meal.

A couple other groups offered me  a meal, but I just sat with another group for about ten minutes. They had finished, I had just eaten, and I was only able to take a few nibbles. I tried to tell them I was walking for exercise.

As I arrived at the crest of a hill, I saw a car that was having some engine problems. The man was persistent in getting it to run - shaking it every which way. I believe he had the engine flooded. I pushed and pushed to help him jump start the car, but it wouldn't work. We even tried it in reverse, but no luck.

After a while, my phone rang and someone wanted to talk about marriage preparations, so I eventually left the man in the car because somehow he was going to get it to work. I had a lengthy conversation in broken English and broken Arabic. Who knows if anything was solved, but I think I have an appointment set up for later this week.

I was now in the homestretch and ready to kick my feet up, but for the third day I noticed a man standing outside of a hotel that has furnished apartments. I thought he might be the owner because he was well-dressed and well-groomed. I started chatting with him and he told me an incredible tale of a family moving into his house that he put under the care of an uncle. He came to evict them because he wants to live in his house, but the custodian never told him that he sublet the apartment and increased the rent without his notice. Poor guy. He is a very likable guy who grew up in the area. He talked for close to half an hour because he had such a great history of the area.

For some reason, I feel really good about this Sunday. It is now 9:30 p.m. and I'm going to walk to the apartment where I can shower, change my clothes, and retire. God was customarily good today.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Glad and relaxed

I was very happy at Mass today. I've been praying for some people with illnesses or lingering conditions and for this one couple from western Colorado. The woman has been battling a kidney disease for ten years and she is finally cured. I was very happy to remember them to the Lord.

Mass is coming along nicely. We are finally getting close to singing one Mass setting in its entirety. It makes the Mass much more singable and it is adding some good energy to it. We were almost there today. I could feel the energy building and parishioners were saying so as well. It would have been the frosting on the cupcake if we have an electrical power chord into which we could plug the electric piano. It will make a nice difference when we can add many dimensions to Mass, but it sure is making it feel like a dialogue. I had so many lovely conversations after Mass.

I did something enjoyable afterwards. I was invited to be with the confirmation class as the teacher was handing out booklets of their year together. Dinner was relaxed and casual. I missed confirmation because of illness and I was unable to attend the other gatherings so it was indeed a blessing to attend this event. Sure, I love saying Mass, but it is so much nicer to meet the parishioners and find out a bit about their lives. It is much more interesting when we know their stories. I had a nice day and it was a very pleasant way to cap my day.


Friday, August 2, 2013

A warmed over heart

Yesterday, the results of the school exams were released and parties galore were held all over Jordan. It made for lots of fast cars piled with scores of graduating seniors who were going to college or had a vocational track selected for them. Everyone was very happy.

Tonight as I walked my four-mile route, my heart was repeatedly warmed by the responses I received from many who were breaking the fast at Iftar. As I passed through the souk, many strangers who sat on the ground or gathered together at tables called me over to them to break bread and fast. I politely acknowledged them and exchanged smiles, but I was honored that they would share what little they had with a complete stranger. As I continued walking, many more offers of food came. Friendly faces simply wanted the stranger with no food to have something to eat. My heart fluttered as I experienced their generosity.

As I was nearing my end-point, I saw a security guard who is affable sitting on the curbside in the dark eating alone. He invited me to join him, but I exchanged a few words, shook his hands, looked into his eyes, and continued on my way. I thought that I would have nothing to say to him if I sat with him and as I walked away, I knew I should have sat down with him while he ate. I won't be so reticent next time. I like that I'm starting to know the neighbors.

My one caveat is that I shouldn't walk in clerics. Black clothes during a black night sky. Not that it would make one iota of difference if I wore bright reflectors, but I best not take any chances.

Post-Jet Lag

I am finally over jet lag and the demands of the job are back at its usual height. That is O.K. Though I am displaced from my usual surroundings, I am happy that the exterior walls of the Jesuit Center are being sand blasted. The building does look much better. In the meantime, I, and everything around me, am covered with sand. I do like the concept of taking care of your own property and making it look respectable.

Yesterday was a hot day and during the noon-day period all the poor disabled people were out in the traffic begging for money. I had not seen all those people beggin at the same time. They looked weary as they dragged themselves from car to car. If they are Muslims, they are probably not eating or drinking.

I wanted to buy all of the fluorescent chicks so I could bathe them. Never before have I seen such colors on live animals, but they are painted fluorescent orange, pink, purple, and green. They look like clown wigs. What an odd thing to do.

The other night, for St. Ignatius Day, the Jesuit Center staff took the Jesuits out for an Iftar to celebrate the feast. We ate at Fahroud's in Marj El-Hamman. We ate and ate with restraint. 

I walked through the Abdali souk and saw some interesting shirts on sale. Everything is on sale, actually. It was like walking through a Marshall's store: Brooks Brothers, Arrow, Jasper, all the brands you find at an irregular store. I might chance upon something good once in a while. Of course, I met parishioners there.

I saw this big round beetle on the sidewalk. It startled me because Jordan seems mostly bug-free. I took a picture on my camera.

My good news for the day was attending art class. The instructor said all the students liked my first painting. They were complimentary. I am about 60 percent through my second painting and the instructor likes that one was well. These are training paintings and I am learning techniques and I'm having a blast - and it is good to get encouragement.