Written 12 November 2012
This one is a bit out of order as most of the action in it took place before I went to visit Diane. The effects, however, are lasting as they make my time in Madaba much more pleasant and livable.
My landlord, Ramzi, has been invaluable in helping me to get to know the local facilities in the neighborhood. On the first day I was in the apartment, he mentioned that the local grocery story, Target One, was a good one and stocked many things. I have to agree; I have bought milk, labeneh (a Middle Eastern cross between sour cream and yougurt), fruit juice, canned goods, rice etc from there. It's also the place where I have lately been picking up the English language version of The Jordan Times so that I can have at least a passing understanding of current events here in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
I had asked Ramzi about places to buy meat, fruits and vegetables as those are things that are not generally stocked at Target One (they do have meat, but it generally processed in some way. Think hot dogs, sausages, salami, etc). I was hoping for two things; one, that he would introduce me to a reputable and honest shop owner, and two, that he would let them know I should get the 'local' price instead of an inflated 'foreigner' rate. One evening after work we got in the Aveo and took a drive downtown. We actually didn't go all that far, but Ramzi wanted to avoid carrying heavy bags with us.
We stopped first at the meat market where I met Ibrahim, the owner. His shop is just a few doors down from Haret Jdoudnah, one of the best restaurants in Madaba, and if you can believe the writer of The Rough Guide to Jordan, one of the better restaurants in all of Jordan. It's on the same street I walk every Sunday to go to church. When we got there Ramzi spent a while talking to Ibrahim in Arabic and once they were done, the conversation switched to English and I chimed in. I made some initial purchases, some chicken breasts and a whole chicken and then we went to the greengrocer.
Same routine as the meatmarket, a long conversation in Arabic but this time there was no English to follow as the shop owner doesn't speak any. I bought a bunch of fruits and vegetables; apples, oranges, potatoes, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, lemons, limes, and pomegranates.
I have been back to both places several times now and know that I am recognized as a regular now.
I had sent Ramzi another email asking about laundry facilities as there is no washer and dryer in the apartment, so another evening we took a walk to a local laundry. They speak no English there either, so Ramzi came up with an ingenious system that allows me to get what I need. He printed out squares of paper that said Laundry in English and Arabic, another one for Press, and a third one for Laundry and Press. He copied and pasted that to fill a whole sheet and then gave me all the little squares clipped together. Very convenient and quite effective.
All of these places are within walking distance of the apartment, so I feel like a real inhabitant of the town, being able to walk places and get what I need to keep life moving along.
Ramzi also showed me a good shop for nuts and helped me buy a local cell phone. One of the only liquor stores in town is right next to the cell phone shop. I haven't been in yet, but it's good to know where it is.
On my own, I have found a coffee shop, a bakery, an electrical supply store. The coffee store sells quantities of beans and cups of coffee (just like Starbucks!). The quality there looks to be significantly better than the stuff I bought at Target One, so once I run low on the coffee I brought back from Rachel's I will give them a try. Also, the electrical supply place I found is where I bought a conversion plug so that the three pronged extension cord/ bar of outlets could plug into the two pronged outlets here in the apartment. Cost me a whole dinar and I sure felt accomplished when I brought it home and it worked. Simple things, but the effect on my mental health is just great. I end up feeling less like a stranger in a strange land and more like a part of the everyday fabric of Madaba. I know that the locals still look at me as an alien, but I feel more connected and that's worth it.
On my way home from church yesterday I stopped at the greengrocer's and stocked up on tomatoes, lemons, pomellos, apples, onions and cucumbers, then stopped at the bakery I like for some fresh pita bread. Today on my way home from work I dropped off a whole bunch of laundry (Laundry AND Laundry and Press!) that I'll pick up on Wednesday.
It used to be Mr. Ramzi's neighborhood. Now it's mine, too.