Ammani Notebook

Musings of an emigrated writer

You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings.-Anais Nin

I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live — Martin Luther King Jr.

Ramadhan came and went, as well as the Eid, the big holidays at the end of the month of fasting. Unfortunately my Arabic summer course was extended in order to finish the first level, so I went to college five days a week until the very last day of fasting.

I loved the classes, learned a lot and enjoyed the company of about twenty other students from a variety of countries – Australia, China, Thailand, Nigeria, Columbia, Indonesia, Mexico, Brasil, Kirgistan, Kasahstan – and most of them half my age. Tell me about feeling old sometimes. But they were all so nice and we had a great time. I was no fan of our teacher, a twenty-something guy with bad english (better for learning arabic, maybe) and not much of an idea about sucessful teaching. His behaviour against some of the students made me insist on finishing the first level on any cost, because the idea of having to repeat it with him and spend four months like this made my study diligently for hours at a time. Maybe he felt the same about me, I passed and will be able to attend the second level in October.

None of this was good for my writing and blogging, as you may well see here. Still, we had the best month of fasting that I had until I moved here: we had iftar (the meal after sunset) at home nearly every day, my husbands nieces and nephews enjoyed our small garden so much that they preferred not to invite us but brought their food to eat with us on the terrace. Weather was great: hot in daytime, but never humid, and after sunset getting so cool that sometimes we retired to the salon.

Now, Ramdhan is only a memory, ten days gone, weather changed to really hot and some humid, but now it does not matter so much. I enjoy my time off, but somehow still feel strange and don’t get started with anything decent. Maybe due to the fact that we will have visitors arriving on Friday, to stay with us until october. I try to prepare the house – I know I will enjoy the company, I only have to adjust the plans I had made for the time until classes start again.

Since the first night of ramadhan Miss Grey is missing. As she made it her habit since the summer nights became so balmy and starfilled she left about midnight – but did not return at dawn as usual. For weeks she would wait outside the door until one of our boys leaves for work about 4.50 am, so he could let her in to wake us up and make us feed her. Though, unlike her mother she is not so avid for food, often it seems it was her main aim to kiss us and be cuddled and loved. Food came later, she would only start eating after running around for a while and then see us busy.

But on Wednesday morning I waited for her in vain. Neither at 3 am, for our morning meal, neither at 4.50, when the boy left, neither when one of us left the house she was anywhere to be seen. Coming home about 2 pm I hoped she would be waiting in the garden and complaining for being left out in the heat – no sound, no movement.

Whenever I am home, the door is left open, unless Miss Grey’s boyfriend, Romeo, hangs around and tries to sneak inside the house. He has been circling the house for months, we hold him responsible for the state Miss Grey is in – but I am not quite sure he had been able to fight off the other contenders. Now, he looks as forlorn as I am feeling. My husband feeds him the leftovers of Miss Grey’s food from the fridge, no use to let it rot. But the three of us look rather sad.

Wherever I walk in the house or garden, I tread carefully, as if there was still a small grey paw or tail I should not step on. I expect to see her on one of her usual places – but only the empty spot looks at me, coldly. I wake up in the night, turn in bed carefully, not to disturb my kitty when I move the blanket with me on which she might be sleeping, then remember, she is not here.

What might have happened? Where could she be? We have no idea. No one saw her, my husband asked around, the boys playing on the street, the shopkeeper across the street, they all know the little grey cat with the funny walk. Our boys pretended she could work as a belly-dancer, just missing the dress, the way she shakes her narrow hips while walking. Rude, because the poor thing fell very sick when she was just for months old, a virus, we believe, and since then her hind legs sometimes seem to give way under her – although she can jump well enough if she wants to reach the cheese on the breakfast table.

Now, a new morning. Our parrot, Aziza, and I sit at the open door until it will be time for me to leave for my school. Aziza has been nagging a lot this last week, as if she also asks us what became of her friend. She has been knowing Miss Grey since she was born and see her grow up, play around, have her first babys, become the joy and amusement of the house.

I see a shadow behind the curtain that shields us from being seen from the street – but it was just a dove flying by low. No cat. No “mau”. No soft furry feeling at my naked ankles. No small scratches on my legs from her idea to climb up my dress.

Will she be back? I do not want to lose hope – yet.

Jordan is a mostly muslim country, as you would know. So, every year, Ramadhan, the month of fasting,  is a major event. This year it will inshaAllah start on 9th July – or maybe one day later, if on that evening the new moon is not visible yet. The muslim year is counted after the moon-calender, so the month starts when the new moon is first visible. As this can differ, it will only be known on the last minute.

But that is not so very important, as the first day of Ramadhan does not need so much preparation. Only one should set the alarm for the right time: fasting starts at dawn, i.e., before the first light is really visible. Easy to know here, because at that time anyway all mosques announce the arrival of dawn, time for the first prayer of the day.

In these days before Ramdhan, most people already do some of their shopping; supermarkets are fully stocked and every year the government tries to prevent sellers from raising their prices due to the expected consumption. Sounds funny, people buying more food because they are fasting, doesn’t it? Fact is, in most families that can afford it, the meal after sunset which breaks the fast every day (iftar), is the opportunity to enjoy it with the family and often with guests. Depending on the financial possibilities this can be very rich food – but in Jordan, I think, this is only for a minority. Plus, many people also make sure that leftovers are either kept for the next day or distributed to poorer families. Ramadhan is also the time for charity – rich donating more than any other time of the year.

A custom that seems to me having been copied more from the west is the inflation of lights and blinking ornaments in windows and on balconies. Sometimes a little too much – but seeing all this stuff in the shops now gives a better understanding that Ramadhan is expected with much more joy than with apprehension – although fasting can be hard, the time itself brings togetherness, love and care, so many love it.

Probably you will find more than this post to the topic here during the next month – the whole lifestyle changes and revolves around the schedule of sahur (last meal in the early morning), fasting and iftar. I hope you will keep on looking in and share our life in this month.

This post is part of the July 2013 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “Dog Days of Summer.”

„Dog days“ of summer are literally translated into „Hundstage“ in German. We do not see them there every year, often as not summer in Germany is more a wish than a reality. But still, sometimes they happen.

Like in that summer when I had turned nine and we had moved into a new bought house. This came with a room for each of us two sisters and enough space to accomodate our cousins during the summer holidays. I loved it – having my two big cousins around who would treat me nicely and include me in everything made my day, no matter, what my elder sister and the youngest of the cousins were up to.

We would play crocket in the garden, although we had to fight the balls tendency to roll downhills, as the house is built into a hillside. Or we would search for the badminton set. Evenings would find us on the terrace with two sets of cards, for interminable rounds of canasta, under the sweet smell of the yasmine bushes and roses at the wall.

The weather grew warmer and warmer and saw us searching for a pool. The five of us would hardly fit into the family car, a beetle, because none was old enough to drive and my mother would not risk being caught with all of us on board. So the heat and lack of alternative forced us to use the local swimming pool. The entry fee was minimal, but so was the pool. Much too small, hardly a decent shower, raw stones on the edges. The lack of heating did not count in those hot days, we were happy enough with the temperature the sun had made raise to incredible 18° C. Then, the use of balls and other playthings were not yet forbidden, the water teemed with children, the heavily chlorinated water permeated the air with its acrid smell that we would take home in our wet bathing suits and towels.

Until one day, when in the morning we saw the sky covered with clouds and a cool wind greeted us as soon as we opened the door. But we had decided the evening before that we would go swimming again and I counted on another swimming lesson from my patient cousin. So, I would not hear of not going and the others also agreed that the clouds should not be a reason to deter us from enjoying another swim.

The water felt actually warmer under the leaden sky, as long as I did not leave a limb out to the wind. After one hour though we tried to dry up, my long hair still dripping with water I followed the others on the way home. I shivered, but tried not to show it for fear they would tell me it was my own mistake as I had been the one to insist on going.

I paid for this next morning when I woke up with a terrible headache, fever and a sore throat. The next week I had to spend confined in bed, while the others now could go everywhere as the four of them would fit into the car. To comfort me at least a little my cousins would buy sweets for me and, better, give me their own new books – that they had brought to read during the holidays – to read. They knew I would enjoy them.

The youngest had brought the „Winnetou“-Triology. Very famous in Germany I doubt my englishspeaking reades will ever had heard of their author, Karl May, who wrote a big number of storys from his fictous travels, a part of them set into the Wild West, another in the Middle East and Africa. Three big volumes kept my interest for a while and I cared less about being left alone after the fever abated sufficiently so I could concentrate on reading.

But it was the elder cousins book that I still remember best and that still helds a special place in my heart for the lasting effect it had on me: a German version of Lousia May Alcott’s „Little Women“. Never before I had thought about people who wrote the books I read, and I had started reading with four years of age and found my way through a number of books already. But Jo March did not only read them, she started writing stories and had them published, for others to enjoy them.

It needed years until I wrote my first story and still my first book waits to get published. But I always think of those dog days of summer that not only taught me to swim but also how to use my storytelling.


Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Ralph Pines
Lady Cat

One of these days I wrote in my German Writer’s forum: You don’t need to invent much actually if you want to write a thriller – just write about what is happening and everybody will say it is unrealistic.

No, I am not talking about Prism or the UK-listeners. In Germany there are at least two not so big issues, but still, they teach a lot. I follow the news  from my safe home in Amman and enjoy being at home here.

One of the issues is directly related to me. Given the fact that due to the difficult language German news often are not widely spread internationally, maybe few people out here followed this scandal: from about 2000 to 2007 a group of Neonazis murdered nine people: one german policewoman, eight turkish men and one greek (which, supposedly, they believed to be turkish). All with the same weapon. The german police never thought about a racist angle, but searched through every aspect of the victims‘ lives, making the lives of the families hell.

In 2004, after the first five or six murders had already happened, a bomb exploded in the street where I lived. By the grace of god nobody was killed – the police considered the bomb well able of killing a multitude .

Most of my neighbours were also turkish, down in the street all the shops and small restaurants, too. Also the killed men all had been owners of small businesses. I saw the relationship – but only me. Never the police. There was a picture from a camera that showed the two men who had placed the bomb – short pants, basecaps, bicyle. Same description also fit men seen at one of the murder scenes.

But the police searched for criminal foreigners, clues in the busines of the neighbours. They did not even bother to compare the pictures with the list of wanted people.

Neither of these cases was solved – until late 2011. Two men, believed to have robbed a bank, killed themselves (as far as it is known). Short time later, a women who had been living with them, turned herself in to the police after having set fire to their appartment. CDs were sent to different people from which the police learned that these three who had gone underground about 1998 and had been wanted for criminal deeds related to hate and right-extremist circles had also commited the nine murdes and placed two bombs. The faces of the two man were easily recognizable as those from the camera close to my street.

Since some weeks the case is in court. During the last 18 months there have been several inquiries in the parlaments of thuringen, where this group had lived and hidden, in Berlin – and the results show that a lot of police and secret service staff had either not wanted to turn their sources in or had just looked the other way. The whole thing is sickening and for those Turkish living in Germany and following the news (good for Germany that not very many do that) it shows the neglect with wich their interest have been treated and the blindness of many officials when it comes to racist crimes.

I, myself, am furious, sick – that day, it was a close miss that my husband would have walked into the bomb. It was exactly on his way to our home, and the time when he would come from work every day. Not that day, thanks to God. He, helpful as always, had gone after work to pick up my new dress from the seamstress what made him half an hour late. But I will never forget the half hour when I saw the glass all over the street, destroyed shops and cars, blood everywhere and could not reach him. The helpless fury when the minister of interiour called this a crime that could not have any relation with racism when the street was still covered in glass and blood and nobody could know anything yet – so he directed the police what not to follow up.

And now, since 2011, all the dirty details of neglect, lies, cover up come out one by one. Had I written a thriller containing all this and tried to publish before 2011 – I doubt any German printing house would have wished to publish it. If I do it now, it will just be telling what the newspapers already wrote. Maybe I will, maybe not.

There is more … but not today.

I did not write any more since my account of Miss Grey’s hunting. Miss Grey, by the way, has been out since 2 am and not returned back today, which is a first – I am worried.

As to my not writing – yes, a bug was the reason. Neither spider nor cockroach, but one of the unhealthy type: gastro-enteritic Virus, that came over the whole family and had me crash  down for four days. Only today I was in the mood to enjoy my morning tea and some more. Awful. Sometimes, just holding my laptop on my knees was too much and I retired to watch TV – always a good method to sleep as I never find anything interesting. Or if, usually it is the last few scenes of a nice film.

Today, getting better. Lots of things to take care of that just were kept in line, like my language lessons, housework … and then some. Hate it.

Still, had time to read, one YA-novel in German, by a collegue, nice read, and then Rutherford’s “New York”. Like with most of Michener’s novels I wonder what amount of research it must take to get this sort of book that good – history of a place running over centuries (although I must say, “Sarum” was more of this).

And now? Weekend for the family starts after noon, so I’d better be going.

Categories: Life


You do not know who I am? I am Miss Grey. I am the owner of the blog writing lady – well, she thinks, she owns me, but believe me, never, ever was a cat owned by a human being. But let her think whatever makes her happy!

And today, now, she wants to write about bugs. BUGS! Why not cats? We are nicer, smarter, more beautiful – okay, my dear, you say bugs, bugs it shall be.

We live in a nice flat on the slope of one of Amman’s many hills. Open the door and you will find a nice terrace and a small garden, where the said lady and her husband planted all kinds of trees and flowers. I am not really interested, the trees are still too small to climb on, but they smell good and give some shadow. The problem is, not only I enjoy the shadow, but a not so small number of other creatures also feel themselves attracted.

Other than my human family I don’t care about the mosquitoes. They are just noisy, too small to be of any interest. Spiders are something else. Earthbound, they cannot just fly away and laugh about me when I jump and miss them (like the pigeons do every day), they can only run and try to hide under a leaf or in a hole in the ground. Too many holes here, for my taste, all to give shelter to whatever small prey I see in the garden. But  the spiders, often as not, are stupid enough to come to the house – and there, on the shiny tiles of the floor, they cannot escape me. I follow them everywhere, push them with my paw so the roll all over the slippery surface. Then I wait a little, let them feel save and, when they start running again, I jump high in the air to drop on them before they see me coming.

But spiders, still, are minor prey. And just chasing them, often to the amusement of my audience, would not make me feel really useful in this house. Of course, my dear lady and her husband would still want me to stay, feed me, love me, cuddle me (if I consent to being touched), but the younger ones do not often feel that I am a necessary member of the house. They do not consider that, without my presence, every mouse or rat of the neighbourhood would like to sample their food in the kitchen or participate in the leftovers in their rooms – which often enough they forget to store away decently. And then, there are the most feared of all bugs, the sight of on of them would make every one of the youngsters scream and run. You know what I am talking of? The black, rustling, flying, running species, up to three inches long, stinking, … – cockroaches. Nothing else brings the place in a state of revolution faster than one of those ugly creatures. And then I have my big day, because I am the one who is not afraid to go after it, follow it wherever it might flee, toy with it, shuffle it right and left until its gleaming wings start to look a little bit frayed, it becomes slower, limps and I give it some time and space to recover. Then, again, I see it move. I hide behind a chair or a curtain, let it advance over the floor, attracted by the smell of my food on the kitchen floor. Close to the threshold it comes, and then I lift my backside, my head is stuck to the floor, my whiskers tremble – one big jump and I land on its back, crushing it to an unsavoury mess. No, I don’t eat it. I push the corpse around for a while, but it gets boring and eventually someone will come and pick it up with a piece of paper and throw it out. I lift my tail, go to the fridge and look at my lady: time for a reward. What’s on today, chicken or kebab?

This text is my contribution to June’s Blog chain on Absolute write:

This month’s prompt at Absolute Write Blog Chain: 

BugsYep. Bugs. Simple and easy. Prose, poetry, play. Fiction, nonfiction. It’s all good, all bugs.

Please read also the other participants’ blogtexts:
Participants and posts:
orion_mk3 – (link to post)
Diem_Allen – (link to post)
Ralph Pines – (link to post)
articshark – (link to post)
Lady Cat – (link to post)
U2Girl – (link to post)
MsLaylaCakes – (link to post)
SuzanneSeese –
robynmackenzie –
milkweed – (link to post)
Sunwords – (link to post)
Angyl78 – (link to post)
susanielson – (link to post)
HistorySleuth – (link to post)

I must be crazy. Starting this new blog now after I decided last month to finally take classes in Arabic. Fact is, I have been here since four years. I can read vocalized texts, with non-vocalized I try a guess, I understand some, mostly single words or everyday conversation. I CANNOT reply in more than one-word-sentences, and this has been annoying me from the first.
Most people seemed to expect that I should learn the language just from living here. Two reasons why that did not work out: I was always quite good at learning languages, but never, never just from hearing it spoken. Without book, grammar and some explanation I just cannot make it. Second reason: the persons to whom I speak most talk English with me, and no one has time or nerve to teach (and I know that this is hard to impossible within the family).
So, now, as I saw the chance to get into a decent school, I had myself admitted for the summer course. Starting at 9th June I will attend classes five days a week from 9 am to 1 pm and then come home to study some more, as I was told. I am rather excited. InshaAllah this will work out.
Still, I am apprehensive: the summer course runs for two months, meaning, nearly all of Ramadan. That will be hard on me this year, I am afraid. On the other hand, I did not want to wait until the next trimester starts in October, especially as the shorter summer course is much cheaper and I just wanted to give the place and their teaching methods a try. If I cannot manage or do not like it, it will not be such a big loss. But I do not know if I will make it ….

Thinking about it, I have some hopes – meeting other people, hearing new things and, if all goes well, have better means for communication. I might write about my schooldays here, too.
Tomorrow starts with an entry test to find out, which level I will have to start at.

Writing. I started when I was about ten or twelve years old, at least, I tried. I had read Alcott’s “Little Women” and Jo gave me the first idea that it was possible to write down the stories I told myself and – maybe, one day – get them printed.
At that time there was no internet, it was Germany in the seventies. A small town, one small bookshop, a half-decent library where I sometimes helped and was allowed to chose whatever and how many books I wanted. So, reading was good, but I never told anybody about writing. I did not know that there were books that might teach you how to write better. Maybe in Germany at that time they might not even have been available. Creative Writing, as it is taught in the USA since longtime, has only recently found a way into German teachings.
So, I came around another book about a girl who wanted to write. A German book, btw. And, when she told her teacher about it, what was the reaction? More or less, first grow up and get some experience in living, then think about writing. It turned me off for quite some time. But still, I did not stop completely. Sometimes, life got in the way, and for too many years I earned my life with writing stuff for others – meaning, only the words were mine, not the content.
Then, one day, I cleaned out my desk never to return. I spent time here and there, and slowly, not only my stories, but also my taste for giving them a voice crawled out of the retreat where they had hidden.
Things changed, scenes changed, company changed …. I learned quite a lot, starting with internet use, then also writing itself. My view turned to the things I wanted to write about, to let people know what often is not seen.
Since, I have done a lot of blogging – in German. Got feedback, critics, nice words, and some hate, too. I don’t mind.
There are some WIP (works in progress, as my friends at the “Absolute Write” call them) I intend to finish before seriously turning to writing in English for good. I hope I will get somewhere with them. They all are contemporary – I don’t like Fantasy etc. too much, and history, what I love, needs more research than I can manage from here if I want to do it as I think it should be done.
Actually, two of my manuscripts are first drafts, one already with some editing, but both need a fair amount of rewriting. A third has about 10K words, but that might be easier to finish and an easy read, rather a serious love story in some interesting setting.
Two or three more ideas, with some planning done, one itching my imagination. That one, though, might be better in English. InshaAllah, as we say here.

The idea of this writing diary is for me also to commit myself of finishing them, one after the other. I will be happy if anyone cares to talk to me about this or that and will try to put some information here.