Saturday, December 18, 2010

Random thoughts as 2010 winds down

This has been a crazy year. I finished my tour in Iraq, was reunited with my fiancee, married her a month later, and then we moved overseas two months after that. Somehow, we still managed to squeeze in a good bit of travel in the midst of all this craziness. Here is a snapshot of where we've (either T or B, or both) been this year (because i know you're reallllly interested):

Germany (does a brutal 9 hour layover count as a visit?)
Turks and Caicos
Nellysford (Grandpa's cabin!)
New Jersey

Next year we hope to add a few more destinations to this list ... Oman, London, Paris, Prague, Dubai, somewhere tropical for our first anniversary ... I hope I can get the time off work ....

A visit to the first world

Thera and I visited Vienna, Austria in mid-December. Even though it was a quick trip T and I were really glad that we were able to visit a good friend before he leaves Vienna this summer, and also to see the city during the Christmas season. The Christmas markets were in full swing and we hit a lot of them and had a great time despite the cold and some rain! Typical Viennese weather, apparently.
The Rathaus (City hall) Christmas Market

Amman is a good place to live with great people, plenty to see and do, and some wonderful scenery. That said, it was nice to take a quick break and experience the orderliness, the cleanliness, and the beautiful architecture and history of Vienna. Oh, and the gluwein (mulled wine) wasn't too bad either!
The Stephansdom (St Stephen Cathedral) and Christmas Tree
We love the classic Kathe Wolfhart-style Germanic handmade wooden ornaments and managed to find a few places at the markets that carried them. They were in much shorter supply than I had expected! We found several ornaments, one of the pyramid spinner things, some smokers, and a nutracker or two. These ornaments remind me of home and are what I grew up with, I am so glad T and I got to experience Austria and start our own collection!

We had some great meals, hilarious conversation, and really enjoyed ourselves with the niceties of Europe! We're back in Amman now with the Christmas season in full swing with lots of Christmas parties and even a few Santa sightings. There are more Christmas decorations out here than I would have imagine and the weather is getting cold....we even got snow here last weekend...of course we missed it because we were in Vienna...typical! Regardless, even though T and I are away from our loved ones this year and missing everyone a lot, we will still make the most of our first Christmas together!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas and HHE - wooohooo!

We were so excited to finally get our HHE (Household effects) and to decorate for Christmas! It was kind of like Christmas morning unwrapping all of our things that we haven't seen in months, and the only snafu was that Brian's rugs never made it. Hopefully they are back in the States, safe in storage.
the aftermath of unpacking 98 boxes ...

Our place really feels like home, now that we have more of our belongings and put pictures on the walls. Amazing how much that changes things!! We still have a few more things to do before it's complete though, which mostly includes changing the fluorescent light fixtures....No thanks to those ugly things!!

It was also wonderful to get my kitchen things, like my blender, mixer, more pans, etc. Many of our things were wedding gifts that we are just now using because we never unwrapped them before the wedding! Now we just have some empty wedding frames to fill! We still don't have all of our pics from our photographer...don't even get me started!

Susie is also adjusting that she has her doggie bed and toys. We are bad parents to have forgotten both her bed and toys to include in the earlier least we remembered food!

Decorating for Christmas was fun...although my little Christmas tree fit perfectly in the corner of my little condo in Alexandria, it looks a bit silly here, but we don't care! I have been collecting ornaments from all the places I've been, so those and the beautiful White House ornaments that I've also collected through the years make it beautiful and meaningful to us! And who knows if we'll have a white Christmas or not!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lowest point on Earth

To celebrate Brian's 30th birthday, he and I headed to the Dead Sea last weekend, which is also the lowest point on Earth. We first took Susie to a kennel up in the desert a little north of Amman near Madaba ... which was an experience in itself. Long gone are the days of luxurious Alexandria Doggie Day Care with the couches and webcam.

The route we took from the kennel to the Dead Sea was beautiful...winding roads, valleys, cliffs, and the color of Jordan --- BEIGE. It was a great drive and your ears pop as you descend deeper from elevation into the canyons and valleys.

We stayed at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar. We got a great rate and ended up with a "villa" (AKA room with a view of the Sea). It was really lovely and the hotel is beautiful, albeit a bit confusing and spread out in a way that neither Brian nor I think makes much sense. There are several pools, a "lazy river" and then of course the Dead Sea. We really loved the adult only Infinity Pool - biggest one we'd ever been in, overlooking the Sea. It was also warm enough to almost be a hot tub, even though the weather was perfect - sunny and probably mid to upper 70's!

The Dead Sea was an experience that I think every single person should have. It begins when they give you a pair of crocs to walk around on the rocky shoreline. You then go to a big bucket where someone has just brought up mud from the bottom of the Dead Sea. You throw away your inhibitions and smear this black mud all over your body. Some people just dabble in it and put some on their arms and legs...and others went to town, and coated their faces, scalp, hair and every inch of skin they could reach. The minerals are supposed to have healing and purifying properties on the skin and hair. You let the mud dry in the warm sun, then you can either rinse the mud off in the Sea or use an outdoor shower. It's more fun to rinse off in the Sea, but because it is SO salty, I don't recommend rinsing off your face in it!!

Speaking of the Sea, it's pretty crazy. Due to the salinity of the water, you literally float on top of the water. It's physically difficult to NOT float, or to try to bob around, because your feet just fly up! It is like sitting on a float ... minus the float. People take reading materials out there, basically sit on the water and read. It's a sight to see, that's for sure, and a really cool experience.

We had a great time, and can't wait to go back - we plan on heading to the Dead Sea a lot in the next few years- even just for a day trip - as it's only 45 minutes away or so. We also can't wait for people to visit (hint hint!) to show off this incredible place!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pics, continued

Additional photos from around our neighborhood

This is looking north (towards the high rise on the left) at Jabal Amman and towards east Amman on the right. Jabal Amman is the older downtown type area with lots of shops and restaurants. It's an area we really enjoy. It looks far away here but only takes us about 5 minutes to get to that tower you see.

This is looking across the wadi towards east Amman.

And a pic of us before another diplomatic function. This one was Italian Military Day ... they served great food and great prosecco, of course!

Here are some recent pics from in and around our neighborhood. I've also included a few of our ongoing move-in process ... we arrived at 3am on 7 October with the susiemonster, 6 bags, and one large dog crate. About a month later (a month?!) we got about 450lbs of 'stuff.' mostly kitchen stuff, some clothes that i had pulled out of storage that had gone into storage before i went to Iraq ... I didn't even recognize half of what came out of that box! Either way it was nice to get some stuff of our own and get this place feeling a little more like home ... it's been a process, but it's slowly coming together and getting better daily.


the aftermath ...
susie was a big help
shots from around our neighborhood ...

views from our balcony

down the street

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My garbage disposal... quite possibly the thing I miss the most about home. Besides my family and friends of course. Susie does a good job at getting rid of extra food, but much like Brian, she doesn't always eat her veggies. Other things that I miss already: Chipotle (yes, ALREADY!! I'll never make it 2 years), sour cream, fresh spinach, central a.c., good steaks.....I'm sure there are others but this will do for now. We are creeping up on a month already! Only 23 months left! Just kidding -- things are going fine now. I may start a job at a preschool here in Amman to fill my days. Apparently, a bachelors degree in Intel Studies, minor in Russian Studies and a Masters Degree in Government indicates that I'm qualified to teach 3-4 year olds their colors! In all honesty, I absolutely love children, and seeing all those kids reminded me of Jack, Livvy Bean and Elizabeth, so of course I felt all warm and fuzzy inside!! We'll see how that works for the forseeable future - I won't make much money at all, but it will get me out of the house!
Nothing else too crazy has happened to us yet - we really are still getting our bearings. We hope our last shipment of stuff comes in the next month or so, considering many of my winter clothes are in there! This was obviously my first time moving overseas because there are many things I will do differently next time!
That's it for now folks, sorry this wasn't too interesting! Will have a fun update for you next week I'm sure!
And happy early 30th birthday to my husband, Brian!!!!!!!!! You old man!!!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Amman is an interesting city. It has large areas of town that are very westernized and many things in english. It has areas of town that feel like I'm back in Saudi. It has amazing, multimillion dollar homes and beautiful shops and restaurants, right next door to poor bedouins living, literally, in tents and raising goats and sheep on an empty lot. We are lucky enough to live in Abdoun, a very nice part of town, full of westerners and rich Ammanis, and all the trappings ... fancy cafes, exclusive boutiques, etc. Despite this, there are still a fair number of poor families living in the undeveloped areas in between houses and neighborhoods. Many of them are Iraqi refugees, I'm told.

Our particular neighborhood is no exception. It is a fairly newish neighborhood, with many empty lots, brand new huge homes, and many other homes and apartment buildings under construction. An example of this interesting dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots in Amman .... if you look out our front door, you see one of these expensive, large, beautiful homes ... the owner has a mercedes in the driveway, a land rover parked out front, etc etc ... and today, he had a heard of sheep and goats going by his house feeding in the empty lot next door. the herd is based out of a bedouin camp right around the corner and down in the wadi from where we live. if you look out the window in our master bedroom, we have a nice view of a wadi (canyon) and another bedouin camp across the way ... they live without plumbing, without electricity, without anything really ... in the states it's easy to brush these things aside and not think about it because it's not in your face like it is here. i'm not trying to make some deep social commentary, just pointing out an interesting fact of life here in amman.

here are some pictures i snapped this am during breakfast of the goats coming through our neighborhood. the first pic is taken from our kitchen window (don't be alarmed by the bars on the windows, everyone in Amman has them, even though crime rates are extremely low); the other pics were taken from our balcony, which looks back towards the street in front of our house.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lamb Brains

Good morning, all! Skyped with my family last night and it was won-der-ful to see their beautiful faces!!! Especially my darling nieces and nephew, who I will always refer to as my own!!! ha!

So. lamb brains. When I was talking to Mom, I mentioned seeing this "delicacy" in the grocery store and how disgusting it was, so she suggested I include weird stuff like that in this blog for everyone's viewing pleasure. These are seriously gross. I'm not usually squeamish about food, but there is something about seeing something so...brain-like all wrapped up in plastic ready for anyone to just buy and fry up that I can't quite stomach. Maybe if it didn't look exactly like a brain, I wouldn't mind so much. Anyway, enough about that - but do let me know if you have had brains before and what they tasted like!

Some answers to questions from my first post:
Brenda - we did go to Jara Souk the other day - have you been there? We were surprised there aren't more souks here - in Saudi there was a very large one that I THINK was always open....Jara Souk is now closed down for the winter, so we made it the very last weekend. We bought some beautiful framed photos of Amman that were taken by a very talented teenager with a great Canon. We also bought a miniature wooden door with key hooks to hang by our front door. I'm sure we'll buy some more rugs bc we love them, but there is also a cool ceramic store here that I'm sure I'll drop some money at, as well as furniture. There is a very cool curved wooden bench that friends of ours here have, and we kind of want it!

Uncle J- entertainment here is fine. We have AFN (Armed Forces Network) on tv, which is only ok. It's only about 10 different channels with lots of Oprah, Dr Phil, and military news. I get excited when House or an HGTV show comes on!!! There is a movie theater here, and supposedly it's a very nice one, with reclining seats and tables for food, but we haven't been there yet. I do believe they play current movies that are in the US theaters, probably with Arabic subtitles. There is also a movie store close to our house - very cheap dvd's of the most current things out - movies/tv series/hbo shows, etc. I'm on the hunt for the last couple seasons of the Tudors.

Also, malls. Jordanians LOVE malls. There is a mall on every corner. They are building a huge one near our house now, bc apparently they didn't have any in a 100 yard radius. Things are exceedingly expensive here though. It's kind of shocking really. Cereal is insane - like $6 or $7 per box. I just have to express my appreciation again for all the English here. Sometimes I just feel like I'm just living in a very ethnic neighborhood in DC!!!

Erica- as far as we know, there have never been goats on Wilson, but he just meant that's how weird it looked -- as if we were seeing goats walking down Wilson!! And the weather has been FANTASTIC so far. Sunny every single day, warm days with slightly cool evenings. Much better than dreary fall back in the States!!

Some exciting news - hopefully we will be getting a maid soon. To those who have lived overseas before (Ahem, Denise and Albert), having maids is very common and very cheap. I'm just excited that someone else will vacuum up Susie hair for awhile!!

Oh, the mustard potatoes. They were just ok. I had to make so many and didn't have the right pans here, so I think that hindered my effort, but I think in a smaller batch where you have more control over them, they could be good! I'm now obsessed with roasting potatoes and swear I will master them.

Brian and I went to dinner last night to a very cool "gastro-pub". Online definition: In the United Kingdom, many working-class citizens frequent pubs, short for public houses. These neighborhood watering holes offer patrons a selection of cold beverages and basic comfort foods known as pub grub. In the early 1990s, however, some enterprising British chefs decided to upgrade certain pubs in order to appeal to a more upscale clientele. They called their new style of restaurant a gastropub, a combination of the French word gastronomique and pub.

Anyway, it offered FANTASTIC views of the city and was a cool place all around. Service here in Amman is so crappy though. We ordered an appetizer and 2 entrees, and it took 45 mins or so and then we got all them all at the same time. Did I mention, we were 2 of only 6 patrons on the WHOLE UPPER DECK??? Not sure why service isn't great here, but we have definitely noticed that at a couple other places.

Ok, enough ranting and raving for now. Have a fantastic day!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Welcome to Amman!

Well, this is the first blog entry from the Reams family in Amman! I think this is probably the best way to communicate with everyone instead of sending 9 million individual emails!

We've been here just over a week now and are settling in..somewhat. The first shipment of our household goods should be here in a few days (HOPEFULLY) and the second shipment will still be at least another month or two. We can't wait for this first shipment to come, as it has all of our dishes/utensils/pots and pans, sheets, towels, pictures etc etc. It will really feel more like home once we have all those things. Our house is pretty nice, and a lot larger than the condos that both Brian and I have left behind in Nova. I counted - there are at least 21 different places to sit in in our apartment!!! Certainly feels palatial to us in that sense. It's also nice to have 2.5 bathrooms and a few spare bedrooms! That's for when you all come to visit us!

As I'm sitting here, our house is actually being painted. Anything beats those sterile white walls, so we are so excited to get some color into this home!

Our neighborhood is interesting. It's a very nice neighborhood in the sense that we live near other lovely apartment buildings and beautiful homes, but we still have herds of goats that sweep through the streets, which is a bit surreal. We have also seen the goats walking down the normal streets of Amman, which Brian likened it to seeing goats walk down Wilson Blvd in Clarendon! So weird!!

So far, we've just been trying to figure our way out around the city. Brian has started work and we are currently a one car household, so I stay home a lot with the pup! Thankfully, we have several friends of ours that were already here, and we've made some great new ones, which has helped the transition immensely. Nothing like seeing a friendly face in a strange place, that's for sure!

I am planning on getting a part time job (no clue what that will entail yet), but more importantly, I am planning on doing some volunteer work while here. There are numerous options for me, but I am interested in doing something with children/babies.

Thankfully, many things in our neighborhood are in English -- signs, labels, street names, which helps us so much. We went for cupcakes last night to a place that Brian actually read about in the NY Times and had a nice conversation with the owner who grew up around Americans and had a very American accent! We are also constantly on the lookout for the best shwarma around - which is essentially shaved chicken, beef or lamb in a pita with tahini sauce and pickles... fantastic mid east fare. You can get variations at home (Leb Taverna, anyone??), but everything seems to taste better locally!

That's about it for now. Off to roast 9 lbs of potatoes for a potluck dinner tonight. Have to give some love to one of my favorite websites -- will let you all know how they turned out!

Recipe here:

Much love to all of you - hope you had a wonderful weekend and that fall is in full bloom at home!