Ammani Notebook

Musings of an emigrated writer

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.

Since I moved to Jordan four years ago, I learned that many people in Germany hardly have an idea where it is or how Jordanians live. They might now that a majority here is muslim and from that get a lot of wrong ideas about how uncomfortable it would be to live here. I have stayed in more remote corners of the world, so, for me, Amman is rather modern – sometimes more than I like – and easygoing.

A visitor’s first sight would be the all-new airport-terminal. The old one was not that bad, I quite liked it for the short ways. The new one, opened only this year in march, is spacious, lots of glass instead of walls to give you a good view of the aircraft around – but arriving, I had to walk for what seemed miles, and I always carry too much luggage. My good luck that more often than not someone has a hand free to help an elderly lady.

People are polite, in general. Changing money, paying 20 JD for the entry visa, going to the immigration counter can be done without being pushed around. The employees are thorough, but not slow, and I usually get a friendly “welcome back” when I arrive and they check my residency card. Last time was 2 am – and the young man still managed a smile.

The airport is south of the city. The highway is wide, but in daytime still hardly can hold the traffic. In the night, though, it is an eerie feeling of driving on the yellow lighted road, blocks of housing and other buildings rising right and left of the way. Some say the city looks boring because most of the walls of the houses are covered with local sandstone, so the general colour is a creamy white. But among the greens provided by palms, olive trees, oleander and others I like it quite well and together with the sun that shines most days and the intensive blue sky it is a place where you can forget your depression.

The closer you come to the city, the more different lights appear. Amman, if you don’t consider the arabic script on signs and advertisements, does not look so much oriental in the night. But still, there are the green lights on the minarets of all the mosques in the city, and there are many, some  – mostly – elder men on their way wearing traditional dishdasha and headgear and here and there the smell of cardamom-scented coffee, sold from small booths close to the street. You find them easily, not only because of the wonderful aroma, but also because often as not a young boy or man stands up at the border of the lane, holding a metal tray and giving blinking signs with it to advertise their coffee.

It is what first greets me after a short absence and I enjoy it. Then home – and good night.