Ammani Notebook

Musings of an emigrated writer

is not passing. It’s running. I never went back to writing or blogging after the last entry. I put small sentences on twitter, but mostly even there only retweet or like – after translating for hours no words of my own left in my head, that’s what it feels like. Too little time to think my own thoughts.

Still – I’m not complaining. The work I do gives my family and me the chance for a better life, including some help for others. It also feeds my cats. This year I had less work but due to so many things happening at home I still did not get around doing some of my own stuff. But it was fun, seeing more of the family after two years of deferred travel – although I am wary, I know the pandemic is not over. Untilnow we escaped rather lucky. May it stay like this.

As I had to go back to search for new work I took more time to read about new books, new authors and found more books to read myself – or to put on my endless wishlist. But I also managed to read new books – I hope I’ll get to put some short comments about the best of them here. Knowing how much work every author puts into their books I’ll only write about the ones I loved. I might have read others but will not criticize them.

Paws crossed – as say the twitter cats – that I will manage this time to put some new content here.

The new year found me rather unprepared – time has been running these last months and years. So much to do and so little time is always what I think at the end of a day. Will 2019 be different? I promised myself to try my best – more own texts, more pictures, more time for myself. You may check in here and on my other blogs if I will be able to make it come true …

Have a good time, all of you!

Actually two of my WiPs contain visits to Mekkah and Medinah – one has the title of “Dreaming of Medinah”. The other one – which I wrote about last week on my German language blog as both are unfortunately again in German – is at the point, where the two main characters, very different sisters, have gone to visit Medina and among the last sentences I wrote last Thursday was: Tomorrow, Mekkah.

Not two hours later I got a phone call from the local Saudi Embassy and knew that this year, finally, I would be granted a visa for Hadj. Since then I am trying to concentrage, running in circles in order to remember all the essentials.

Living in Jordan you have the choice to travel by plane or over land by bus. I had been thinking about flying rather, I am not getting any younger, but as the visa came late there are waiting lists for the flight tickets plus there is a considerable price difference … so I will take the long road and be able to really feel Medinah and then Mekkah coming closer and closer, inshaAllah.

The above picture was taken by my husband on his last Umrah; I don’t think I will take many pictures, being too busy with more important things.

Thank you for reading; if you like make dua for my Hadj being accepted and my safe return.

Nothing much has been happening on this blog since too long time. My friends know this is mostly due to the fact that I started translating other authors’ books into German language – a work I love but a work that is also time consuming and often leaves me too tired to write a single sentence of my own. But today I got the opportunity to buy the domaine of this blog and then got the drive to make some changes in theme and header and added a galery – check it out, I put some of my Jordan pictures there.

If I can manage I plan to redo some more here and then I hope slowly start filling better content. For those who love my pictures please go to my Jordan-blog, I try to publish the best fotographs there – also a blog that needs a new look, I think.

My Amman Life

Have you heard of The Good Book Shop? TGBS is part bookstore, outdoor cafe, co-work/study lounge, garden and cultural event venue. With its prime location right off Rainbow Street in downtown Jabal Amman, it is an urban getaway for book and coffee loving locals and expats alike.

the good book shop amman

But, besides the obvious of shopping for books, here are just a few other ways to enjoy TGBS:

Read a book

tgbs amman books

Don’t worry, you won’t get in any trouble for reading a book you haven’t purchased, it’s actually encouraged! So stop by, no matter your budget and just enjoy reading at TGBS.

Grab a coffee

coffee the good book shop amman jordan

Is there anything better than a piping hot cup of coffee and a good book? At TGBS you can have both.

Relax outdoors on the garden terrace

outdoor garden the good book shop amman

Day or night, you can cozy up on the garden terrace. Bring your computer along and use it as a…

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ARABLIT & ARABLIT QUARTERLY

A collection of Jordanian short stories (and two novel excerpts) is reviewed in the New York Daily News and on Arab Hyphen:

snowThe collection — Snow in Amman — brings together nine short stories by a varied collection of writers: Samir al-Sharif, Basma el-Nsour, Ahmed Abu Hleiwa, Magdalene Abu el-Rub, Asmaa al-Mallah, Manal Hamdi, Musa Abu Rayash, Khalid Yousef Abu Tamaa, and Julnar Zain. In addition, there are two chapters from celebrated author Elias Farkouh’s novel Asrar Sa’at Al Raml, or Secrets of the Hourglass.

The collection, brought out by Faraxa Publishing, was translated and edited by Ibtihal Mahmood and Alexander Haddad, and opens with an introduction by short-story writer Samir al-Sharif. As Arab Hyphen notes in her review, Jordan is not generally seen as a center of literary production, and this is one of the few Jordan-focused short-story collections available in English.

The collection has not just an unusual grouping…

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I was very pleased when Diane De Bella chose one of my pieces for her anthology. Now it is available not only as ebook, but also in print.

For me, reason to do some advertisement here, because I always doubted I could get anything published in english language.

Thank you, Diane!

ARABLIT & ARABLIT QUARTERLY

It was last November that Adam Talib gave his talk about “Translating for Bigots,” and this May that Africa is a Country wrote about “The Dangers of a Single Book Cover.” There is a lot more to be said about how Arabic literature (in translation) is jacketed, and how this packaging affects how we experience books:

From a slide in the presentation "Translating for Bigots." From a slide in the presentation “Translating for Bigots.”

It’s not only six-year-old children who prefer the taste of foods that are packaged with licensed cartoon characters; adults also perceive a difference in the taste of potato chips depending on the colors on the bag. Although it seems that similar studies haven’t been done on dust jackets, surely it’s a small leap to believe that the outside of a book affects, at least in some way, how we perceive the contents.

That’s the theme — briefly discussed —…

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Yes, back to school it was in October. I did the second level twice, because in winter, first time since I moved to Amman, I caught one bad cold after the other and dropped out at half term. In February, I restarted and now there is only one week left till the final exams. No matter the outcome, it was worth it, but it took more than I had anticipated. Five days a week, three hours – full hours – every morning and a teaching level that is meant to prepare students for entry in university within four semesters. Heavy on grammar, to a point that my arabic family has given up helping me. I enjoy it, although it was often overwhelming and I am all but sure how I will do next week. This morning, I should be studying, but it felt I also should get ready for what comes after that. Not the summer course with the third level, if ever I dare to try that one, I will need a better chance than I would have in the heat and with the month of Ramadan ahead. Maybe in October, or better February again. InshaAllah.

Due to my sickness I spent time cuddling under a blanket on the seat and managed to finish my 2013 NaNo project on time, rewarding me with a paid version of Scrivener. This will be a help to my next big one.

The NaNo project, actually counting close to 80K words, waits for editing during June and July. I chose a more simple story, crime, some interesting background, again in German. With some luck and a lot of work I hope this to be the first one that I will actually be able to publish – or to offer to a publisher, I am still debating with myself about self publishing or not.

August might see me in Europe – which will mean less time and concentration for new writing. But I might do some research for the new one, and maybe for a historical topic I have been playing with recently.

Enough of this talk, I should go back to my grammar. But I hope after this I will make myself blog more – here and on the German sites. Comments and questions are most welcome, I realized that I thrive on feedback.

Remember that  7th day of September. The dry sentence of the white clad doctor in the morning after the last test results came in. Carcinoma in the liver with metastasis growth in the lungs. Like this. No more.  Doctors seem to be cowards. No information about what will happen, how much time will we have left to love each other. Only – he will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow, no further treatment.

Looking at each other. Tears in both our eyes. Nothing left to do. One thing, only. One last trip. No, not home, not yet. A pilgrimage. Last hope? Maybe. Last comfort, for sure.

I plan, buy tickets,  pack, keep busy, hide my tears. Ten days pass like this.

We travel. No one sees us off. We share a cup of coffee on the airport-train. My love, who never drinks coffee because of his high blood pressure, has cold hands and needs this sip of caffeine today.

Heat receives us at the end of the flight, glaring sun but relative cool in the shade of the big white mosque that houses three graves under a green dome. I have to let him go to the other door and use the women’s entrance. I sit on the red carpet, listen to some ladies‘ soft recitation and smell the distinct scent of rose oil. In the quiet my heart twists and turns. The happiness I should feel in this place is buried under a thick cover of saltwater. I can hardly breathe, I anticipate the pain of a life without him.

Wherever we go, these thoughts linger in my brain. I look at his sleeping face in the evening, trying to imprint it in my memory. I listen to his soft breathing in the night – he used to snore heavily, but no more. The sudden silence sometimes wakes me up, I miss that sound that like a lullaby used to make me sleep.

Back home golden days of autumn see him get weaker too fast. Only the two of us at home, daily, nightly fight overshadowing the time we might use to take leave from each other. Come one morning, raindrops weep over the hospital’s windows like the tears on my face. He went to sleep forever without waking up again. No last word to say. Only a silent kiss on a cooling forehead.

Prayer for the dead in the yard of our small mosque. Rows and rows of friends and strangers. The women right and left give me strength. One hour more, then the flight will leave with his coffin aboard – but without me.

Remember that 7th September. One year later and I stand in a far country under high green trees. White marble in different forms – graves. Thousands of it, all ages, some just a mound of earth fixed with fist-sized stones. No date, no name. Like the one pointed out to me. I know who put the stones, one by one, with love and a heart full of tears and regrets. I can see his hands that look so much like his father’s  weeding out some plants so they will not destroy the mount.

The heat makes drops of sweat run into my eyes, they mix with my tears. I want to sit down here in the shade of the trees and never again leave.

(This text was first published in the fall edition 2013 of “When Women Waken”. According to their policy I can republish it here. )

Remember