Promo Guy

For an American kid, living abroad has its pros and cons.  Some of the cons include:  never going to a high school football game, not having typical American dating prospects, having to represent “America” when a kid doesn’t necessarily feel like a typical “American.”   Ex-pat kids have these challenges, and many more.

However, there are also a number of pros to living abroad as an American kid.  One of these pros is that occasionally interesting opportunities present themselves; unique opportunities that only an American kid living abroad could have.  Our son Ben recently had one of these interesting opportunities present itself–and he jumped at it.

I won’t go into the long boring story, but Ben is now the Jordan promo guy for a large American children’s television cable network.  The network was looking for a young, male voice with an American accent.  A number of kids were auditioned, but ultimately Ben got the job.  So now, once or twice a week, Ben goes to the studio, records a number of short promo for kids’ shows and then walks out with a wad of cash.  An example of one of these promos might be, “Next time on Sponge Bob Square Pants.”  or “Tune in Wednesday at 4:30 for Penguins of Madagascar.”  He gets paid $10 for each one he does and he has done as many as 22 in one hour.

It’s a sweet gig for a 16 year-old!

As parents, our only fear is that Promo Guy is going to start thinking that it’s normal to get paid this much money for so little work.  One night, the studio called and said that they needed him to come in to do one promo.  They picked him up, took him to the studio, he did the one promo and they brought him back home–all within one hour.  And he made $10 for that.  Afterward, he complained a little that he had made $220 before for one hour’s work.  But we had to remind him that there are very few 16 year-old American boys that are making even $10 per hour, and he should appreciate that money.

Unfortunately, Promo Guy’s career is going to be short lived.  We leave Jordan in June and then the network will have to hire a new Promo Guy.  But for now, he’s milking it for all it’s worth.  Thursday evening he went in and did 21 spots and tonight he’s doing 6.

Do the math!  This 16 year-old American kid is raking it in as the Promo Guy!

Feeling of Accomplishment

The worst part of living abroad, without question, is applying to international schools.  I hate it!  Hate it!  Hate it!  Hate it!

Here are three things I would rather do than international school applications:

1.  Brush my teeth in hot water for a month.

2.  Sleep with kittens licking my face all night.

3.  Trip and fall, face first, into my own bowl of lentil soup in the embassy restaurant during the lunch-hour rush.

Nevertheless, I just sent in: 3 student information forms, 6 report cards from the school in Amman, 3 report cards from the school in Taipei, 3 teacher reports, 3 parent input forms, copies of 3 passports, 3 immunization records (from birth), 1 parent information form and 1 contract for enrollment. That totals 26 documents–some with as many as 5 pages.  My writing hand is cramped, my eyes are bleary and there is smoke coming from my scanner.  But I did it!  The documents are, at this very moment, recovering from jet-lag from their long 3 second journey from my iMac in Amman to some school administrator’s inbox in Johannesburg.

After hitting the send button, I raised my arms in the air, threw my head back and yelled, “Yes!  I did it!”  One more international school application process is in the history books!



We have been snowed-in for the past 5 days.

The view from our balcony this morning.

The view from our balcony this morning.

It’s not that it has actually snowed all that much.  But Amman is a city of hills.  And when it snows, those hills turn to black ice, making it nearly impossible to get anywhere.  Things got bad enough over the weekend, that the government actually went so far as to ban driving.

So, because I’m a list-maker, here are 10 things I have been grateful for during these days stuck in our apartment.

1.  In-floor heating.  I love in-floor heating!  I prefer it to central heating, radiators or wall heaters.  Warm floors mean warm feet.  And warm feet bring pure joy.

2.  Our small, cozy apartment.  Since we moved abroad, we have lived in much smaller spaces than we did in the US.  And I have come to love these smaller homes.  At about 2300 square feet, our apartment is the perfect size for our family.  When I’m back in the US for the summer, I feel that our house is way too big.  I have come to love living in a smaller space and having my family closer together.  And in the winter, it is just so cozy.  Of course, the in-floor heating contributes to the coziness.

3.  Our downstairs neighbors who continually send up homemake cookies and sourdough bread.  They’re the best neighbors ever!  All we ever send down to them is our 10 year-old.

4. Our treadmill.  This way we can work off the calories bequeathed by our benevolent neighbors.

5. Netflix, Hulu, AFN, a VPN and YouTube; all of which can just be lumped into two words: the Internet.  Besides catching up on entertainment, I’ve also used the free-time and the Internet to put all of my recipes on Evernote–something I should have done ages ago.  The Internet has also provided home-bound schooling for the kids–something our international school is requiring so that they don’t have to do make-up days.

6.  Good books.  Right now I’m reading The Pickup by Nobel Prize-winning writer Nadine Gordimer.  It’s the story of a woman’s transition from South Africa to the Middle East–the same transition I will be making this year, but in reverse.  Maybe I should write a novel … and win a Nobel Prize.

7.  My favorite produce stand.  It just happens to be close enough that on Saturday, Jason and I were able to walk along the ice-covered roads and sidewalks and pick up some fresh goods–which has saved us from scurvy and other diseases caused by eating nothing but canned soup and cereal.

8.  Yoga pants.  I’ve worn them for 5 days straight.  My husband tells me they look good on me. I know he’s lying, but I appreciate the effort.

9.  Makeup.  Which I have not worn for 5 days!   My 10 year-old keeps telling me how scary I look, but I DON’T CARE!  She’s a lot more honest than my husband.

10.  My hilarious teenage boys who keep me laughing with their irreverent humor.  I get after them for their inappropriateness, but inside I’m laughing my head off.  (Please don’t tell them this.)

Tomorrow we go back to work and school.  We will still get to sleep-in because they aren’t starting until 10:30 and 11:00, respectively.  Though I know that all good things come to an end, I wonder if the ambassador would mind if I wore my yoga pants for a few more days.

How to Do the Dead Sea On the Cheap

Cecily, our college daughter, came home to Jordan for Christmas.  She returns to the US this weekend and since she won’t return to Jordan before we leave here in June, she had a few things on her Bucket List to do before heading back to the Mother Land.  One of those things was to float in the Dead Sea.  Somehow, she lived here for a whole year and never got in the Dead Sea.  Not sure how that happened.  And so, because we are super amazing parents who would never deny our offspring a cultural experience, we obliged.

There are a handful of ways to do the Dead Sea in Jordan.  One is to pay $60 or so and go to one of the high end resorts like the Marriott, Movenpick or Hilton.  Your $60 will buy you access to the resort’s lovely swimming pools, showers and private beach.

A cheaper way to do the Dead Sea is Amman Beach.  Amman Beach is a small resort that is just swimming pools, showers and private beach.  The pools are average, the showers–below average and the beach is not great.  However, Amman Beach is about $15; much cheaper than the pricey resorts.  We could have taken Cecily to Amman Beach, but we’re not that high-brow.

Instead, we took Cecily to what we like to call The Ghetto Beach.  The beauty of The Ghetto Beach is that it is free–and free is truly beautiful.  Unfortunately, nothing else about The Ghetto Beach is beautiful.  Everything else is, well … pretty ghetto.  Have a look:


This didn’t stop Cecily and her brother Ben from getting into the water.

unnamed-5 And floating around in the obligatory Dead Sea fashion.


Jason and I stayed on the beach with the riffraff and their smelly riffraff camels.


The camel guy continually paraded his animal past us in an attempt to entice us into paying for a ride.  It was tough, but somehow we managed to withstand the temptation.

Not to be outdone by the camel guy, these characters were hoping that we would pay for a ride on their horses.  Luckily for us, Jason grew up on a cattle ranch and thus refuses to pay money to ride a horse.


And so, our feet remained firmly planted on the litter-strewn ground:


After the kids emerged from the water, we noticed this shepherd and his sheep — which I’m assuming had just done their business in the same water the kids were floating in.


This morning, Cecily started complaining of an earache and swollen glands.  Not sure if it’s related to any of this.  There is no way to tell.

But rest assured, we definitely did not overpay for this memorable cultural experience!

Three Things I Did This Week

1.  Cooked and cooked and cooked some more; followed by gorging and giving thanks with these fine people:


And these slightly smaller, yet equally fine people:


2.  Spent a couple of days pretending to be the Queen of Sheba at the Marriott Dead Sea Spa and Resort:

I know, wrong body of water.

I know, wrong body of water.

With this hottie footing the bill:


3.  Spent an evening singing Christmas carols with these adorable orphans at the St. Vincent DePaul orphanage.  Got to speak Italian with the sweet nuns who run the place.


I’m convinced that this little beauty is going to grow up to be the next Cindy Crawford:


Some weeks are just really, really good!

Where in the World?

It’s official!  This morning, Jason received a handshake for our next post.  When we started the bidding process months ago, our possibilities looked like this:


But slowly the possibilities shrunk down, and now we have a winner!  So, to review:

We started here.

Taipei Taiwan 2010-2013

Taipei, Taiwan 2010-2013

Now we’re here.

Amman, Jordan 2013-2015

Amman, Jordan 2013-2015

And next we’re headed here.

Pretoria, South Africe 2015-2018

Pretoria, South Africa 2015-2018

Pretoria, South Africa.  The home land of Nelson Mandela, Oscar Pistorius and Charlize Theron (aka, The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful).

We couldn’t be more excited!


The ABC’s of Our Lives in Jordan

A few years ago, I wrote a post entitled The ABC’s of Our Lives in Taiwan.  So to continue that tradition, I call this edition, The ABC’s of our lives in Jordan.

A is for Amman and Arabs.  We have come to love them both. P1030065


I think the guy on the right likes Cecily.

B is for Brown and Blue.  In Jordan, the sky is always blue and pretty much everything else is brown. IMG_0874 C is for Camels.  We love them, even though they smell really bad. IMG_0783 D is for the Dead Sea.  It’s good for floating in, skin softening mud, exfoliating salt, and beautiful sunsets. IMG_0109 E is for Embassy.  It’s a lovely facility and I wish I could show a better picture, but this is as close a shot I can get without being … well … shot. IMG_0063 F is for Food.  Specifically Flatbread, Figs, and Falafel.  Seriously, you gotta try them! IMG_1574IMG_1052 IMG_0902









G is for Garbage Can Cats.  Another name for street cats.  They live in all the dumpsters.  We’ve been known to give them somewhat condescending names like Botulism, Salmonella, and Bubonic Plague.

Our friend Typhus.

Our friend Typhus.

And sometimes we play with them–which kinda grosses out the locals.

Noah playing with Hepatitis A and B.

Noah playing with Hepatitis A and B.

H is for Hijab.  Worn by most Muslim women and a few Barbies. IMG_0416 I is for Israel.  Our next-door neighbor which has our other favorite I thing:  Really good Internet.  We enjoy visiting, but we’re really glad we live in Jordan. IMG_0422 J is for Jerash (the ancient Roman city famous for its amazing ruins) and Jordan River (the site of Christ’s baptism).  Both are important historical sites, but one is prettier than the other. IMG_0133 photo 3 K is for Keffiyeh.  The traditional headdress of Arab men.  It normally comes in black or red.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA L is for Livid Husband whose wife took a picture of him with Garbage Can Cats.

Jason hangin' with his BFF's Malaria and Cholera.

Jason hangin’ with his BFF’s Malaria and Cholera.

M is for Mosques.  I love the Call to Prayer that sound from them five times a day. IMG_0650N is for Neatly Lined Rows.  I love the grocery stores in Jordan.  They are the nicest I’ve ever seen overseas.  They carry lots of American products, though at exorbitant prices. (Example: cereal runs $8-$12 per box–and not Costco size boxes).  It’s a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of thing.  They provide our American products, and we pay their inflated prices.  Everyone’s happy!  (Except Jason, he’s not that happy about it.) IMG_1175 O is for Overseas School Trips.  Cecily has done school trips to Qatar and Ethiopia.  Ben went to Dubai and later this year he’s going to Vietnam.  Later this week, Noah heads to Kuwait. (The only photos Ben took in Dubai were of fancy cars.)

Ferrari 458

Ferrari 458


McLaren MP40

Lamborghini Aventador

Lamborghini Aventador

Rolls Royce Phantom

Rolls Royce Phantom























P is for Petra.  We’re proud to have one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Jordan.

Petra's Treasury

Petra’s Treasury

Petra's Monastery

Petra’s Monastery

Q is for Queen Rania.  In 2011, Harper’s and Queen magazine named her the most beautiful queen or first lady in the world. (No, I have never met her.) rania R is for Refugees and Ruins.  We have lots of both.

Ben's Eagle Scout project was to provide backpacks and school supplies to Syrian refugee children.

Ben’s Eagle Scout project was to provide backpacks and school supplies to Syrian refugee children.

Settlement began at the Amman Citadel over 7,000 years ago.

Settlement began at the Amman Citadel over 7,000 years ago.















S is for Sheep and their Bedouin Shepherds.

IMG_0077T is for Theater–as in the Roman Theater in downtown Amman. P1030098 U is for Unbelievably Delicious Hummus.  I’m completely ruined on hummus. IMG_1578 V is for Vegetable Stand.  My favorite place to buy produce is from this Egyptian family-owned produce stand.  They even take my produce to my car.  I love them! IMG_1172IMG_1173












W is for Water.  Recently, Jordan fell from 4th most water-poor country in the world to 2nd most water-poor.  Water is a big deal here.  Conservation is vital.  Also, like most of the world, tap water in Jordan is not safe for consumption.  Consequently, we only drink and brush our teeth with bottled water.  Most Americans don’t realize how rare it is to have safe tap water.

Our source of drinking water--out kitchen water cooler.

Our source of drinking water–our kitchen water cooler.

X is for Xtremely Cute Husband.  (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again!) IMG_0170 Y is for Yes, We Got My Mom on a Camel.  See the video here. 2014-01-19 16-13-51 Z is for Zero Regrets. P1040302