Zulma and the Weatherman: Some of My Favorite Interactions During COVID-19 Social Distancing

In my very walkable neighborhood in the Virginia Square and Ballston areas, I have the opportunity to see “regulars” — people who, in the course of going about their own routines, cross my path (or I cross theirs). I also get to interact with other unique individuals and am given a glimpse into their personalities and lives.

Here are some of my favorites from the past few weeks.

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At What Point Should “Girl” Become “Woman”?

Do a cursory search for the keyword “girl” in Goodreads, and the top for selections listed are books about women dealing with extremely grown-up situations and circumstances. Why, then, this popularity of referring to the females in these stories as girls in the titles?

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The Day I Was an Inadvertent Participant in the March for Life (and what it taught me)

Feeling the frustration of cabin fever, I woke that morning resolved to spend the day doing whatever made me happy and got me out of the house. I am currently jobless after a relocation to Washington, D.C., so one could argue that I already have too much time to myself. However, being stuck in the house all day has never suited me, and I need a certain amount of activity in a day to be able to sleep well at night. So, my plan was to take myself to the National Museum of Natural History, then to walk to the Lincoln Memorial to say hey to mah boi, and then to walk to Dupont Circle to visit my favorite second-hand book store Second Story Books. Not in the plan was my becoming the unwitting participant of a national movement.

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Shadows and Dust: The End of Jordanian Summer

In August in northern Jordan, the rare sight of water in the valley below; and he only greenery is found on olive trees (left) and cyprus trees (right).

It has been about four months since it last rained.

During the day, the air is hot and dry. In Amman, we are lucky to have a frequent and almost constant breeze that ruffles the waxy, spidery fronds of the royal palm trees and at least reminds us of the calming sounds of a steady rain shower.

During the night, the air is cool, the skies clear, dark, and calm.

I sit on our balcony as frequently as possible. The shadow of our north-facing lounge area provides enough shade that the heat of the sun is absent, but the warmth of the air and breeze is pleasant. In the shade, I can appreciate the serenity of life in Amman: the Aspen trees two streets away that bend and sway in the breeze; the sleepy neighborhood with only the occasional pedestrian; and the happy bunches of red geraniums we’ve planted in window boxes that hang on our balcony banister and have seemingly never ending buds and blooms.

One does long for adventure before long, though. And the heat of summertime is not enough of an excuse to stay holed up. Especially over the past few weeks, we have had extra time to explore because of Jordanian and American holidays.

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Springtime in Jordan: A Radiant Display

This is not the image of the Middle East that has been painted for me by the media as I was growing up in the U.S.

Jordanian citrus is the sweetest I’ve ever tasted! The navel oranges are my favorite.

Buds and Blossoms

Lemons and oranges still hang from the trees in residential compounds throughout Amman and in the citrus orchards along the highway to Jerash. A wintertime crop, these fruits are still comfortable on their branches in the cool-ish temperatures of a chillier-than-normal springtime in Jordan (so I am told).

This afternoon, for instance, almost a week after the first official day of spring, it is 8℃/47℉ and drizzly.

Fortunately, however, the weather has been sunny enough to bring out the buds and blossoms of the season.

Almond blossoms outside of our apartment building.

Before arriving in Jordan in September, I could have never anticipated how colorful the plant life is.  This is not the image of the Middle East that has been painted for me by the media as I was growing up in the U.S.  It isn’t even the image of Jordan that is presented if I type “Jordan country” as an online search.  What appears is what is consistent of what I was always taught about the Middle East and what limited knowledge of Jordan I may have gleaned from movies: desert expanse, Bedouins and camels, Roman ruins, the Treasury at Petra (you know, that temple carved into a cliff from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?), and wadis (“wadees”: little canyons that are dry except in rainy season).  And everything is the color of sand.

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Staying in the Lines: A Winter of Adventure and Culture in Jordan

Cycling in a Line

A Friday morning bike ride along the Dead Sea

My husband Andrew and I have started cycling along the Dead Sea on Friday mornings. There are a couple of groups that meet there, and the cycling community in the Amman area is a fantastic collection of warm and friendly people. The view along the ride is spectacular: rock formations; red cliffs; jade, azure, and teal greens and blues of the Dead Sea; and the coastline of Israel visible on a clear day about 16 kilometers (10 miles) away (see it in the background in the above photo).

Andrew riding into the hills that line the Dead Sea

During these rides, Andrew has taught me about the techniques of cycling. Drafting, for instance, is something that I’ve slowly become more comfortable with. This is when two or more cyclists ride in single-file so the individuals in the rear can take advantage of the fact that the lead cyclist is taking the brunt of the air/wind resistance (which is especially useful on these rides!).

Following that closely behind someone else requires a certain level of anticipation and awareness, though. When I mentioned to Andrew that I was having difficulty putting that much trust into the person in front of me, — that he wouldn’t slam on his breaks or that he would warn me about obstructions or potholes in the road — he said: “No, never trust. People make mistakes all the time. Learn to look through the person in front of you.”

That’s some truly existential life advice right there.

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