Monday, January 12, 2015

me again

Well hello, here I am again a mere six months after posting last time!

Some things have happened. I've starting work at a proper job here in Amman - my contract goes until March and it looks likely that we will be here longer as Paul is contracted until July.

We went to Beirut and the Qadisha Valley in Lebanon, which was all kinds of beautiful. Beirut is a fantastic, buzzy, lively city, and I would happily return. Very strong military presence though, which was a little unsettling but in this part of the world you do get fairly used to men holding guns. This is the big mosque in downtown Beirut:
And this is the view over the Qadisha Valley (we went hiking, and it was stunning. Lots of monasteries built into caves):
Also, we went to Turkey and visited Istanbul, Antalya and Pamukkale. Istanbul might be one of my favourite cities in the world. Here is the blue mosque (in the rain):
And here are the silica terraces at Pamukkale (you won't believe its not snow, but its like the stuff bones are made of. Paul informed me of this while I was walking along them and I felt a bit queasy after that):
We've also done a lot of hiking around Jordan, though at the moment we are in the middle of winter, under snow and I am trapped in the house. The view from the window this morning!:
However, the big melt has started and I'm just about to walk to dirty old Starbucks and get myself a nice globalised soy coffee. Talk soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

rainbow street & wild jordan

On Saturday we ventured out to Rainbow Street, which is the happening street in central Amman with some cute boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Regrettably, this being Ramandan pretty much everything was shut. However, we still had a wander (in the hot hot sun) and it was still pretty:

Fortunately, there was a cafe open on one of the side streets off Rainbow Street - Wild Jordan is run but the Royal Jordanian Department of Conservation, and acts as information desk, wholefoods/organic cafe, and a beautifully curated shop with local hand made products like soaps, jewellery and bags. We took refuge from the heat and had some smoothies; I had strawberry and banana which came with a kick of lemon and mint:
Paul was so hot and bothered by this stage (he'd run for 80 minutes that morning and was very dehydrated despite drinking lots of water) that he drank two smoothies in record time. They were delicious, and I was excited to see that the menu had some good looking lunch options, including a tofu burger! Never did I think I would see a tofu burger on a menu in Amman!  So we are keen to head back - I've had some good recommendations for other spots around Rainbow Street and I am looking forward to exploring more.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

mexican art & arabic conversations

This is apropos of nothing, but today is apparently Frida Kahlo's day of birth (in 1907, she was not a vegan as far as I am aware) and I am a big fan of her work, and sometimes its nice to take a break from foodie things and just gaze upon the art work of some kind of genius:

This is Self Portrait with Thorns, and its magic.  Man, I want to visit Mexico (with side trips to Chile, Argentina and Peru as well).

In other news - I'm still loving my Arabic classes and today I had a conversation, in Arabic, with the taxi driver who drove me home! It was somewhat halting and slow (on my part) and dealt with fairly mundane topics (where are you from, how many kids do you have) but I was understood, and I understood him, and I was so excited afterwards I fair skipped home. Little things!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

the living room, third circle

On Thursday night we hooked up with the UN crowd and heading out to The Living Room, a rooftop restaurant/bar in the third circle. I don't love going out for dinner in Amman to be honest - the local street food is fantastic for vegans/vegetarians but the 'fancier' restaurants we've tried tend to be very Western meat heavy - think burgers and fries. However, The Living Room is a notable exception and has a couple of veggie options, some good salads and a couple of Japanese dishes (including edamame, sushi and miso soup). Its also one of the few places open early evening at the moment (due to Ramadan, a lot of places are closed all day and open only after iftaa, at 8pm).

I had felafels encrusted with pistachios, which added an interesting flavour and a very pleasing crunchy texture (apologies the photos are rubbish due to the poor light):
 Next to the felafels is a tub of what I thought was tahini sauce so dug straight in - Paul later said he thought it was tartare sauce - so not very vegan. Woops.

We also shared and avocado and sundried tomato salad, which came with heaps of a greens and drenched in vinagrette:
And a bowl of chips (not pictured) which we didn't really need but scoffed anyway. Yum. Dining out in Amman is fairly expensive (with conversion rate and with the heavy taxes slapped on at the end) so following the end of the world cup (which is giving us a very busy social life) I think we might have to hibernate and live on instant noodles for a bit!

The Living Room is somewhere I would go back to as those felafels were excellent - as was the rooftop view:
Ramadam Hareem!

Friday, July 4, 2014

anna ismi Nadine, anna bin New Zealand

Week one of daily Arabic classes - DONE! And I am shattered! Its been exciting and inspiring, and I'm sure I'm using parts of my brain I haven't used since high school. I'm really enjoying it, not only the brain challenge but the real sense of developing practical new skills, and because of the fun group I am studying with. Yes, I now have daily social interaction, and a couple of girls live quite close to me as well! So I'm feeling good and less worried about becoming a crazy recluse. What amazes and humbles me is how proficient some people (particularly continental Europeans) are at languages. Paola from my class is from Milan, and speaks Italian, Spanish, French and English and now is learning Italian. It puts my one language to shame, but hopefully I am beginning to rectify that. I'm inspired to eventually go back to learning French since I have the basics from school, and get better at that too.

Anyway, on that more positive note, have a gigantic felafel. Bought from the local hummus n' felafel shop around the corner from my flat, it was stuffed with chopped onion and sumac (a local spice used liberally in a lot of cooking). The onion gave the felafel a extra little kick, and I suspect would be easy enough to replicate at home if you had your own felafel mix:

Also, because its 38 Celsius and I am a damp pool of sweat, have a fresh lemon and mint drink:
One of the side effects of having a football mad British husband is that I watch a lot more football that I ever would have expected and with the World Cup on we've watched games almost every night, in various pubs and cafes near our house. Because I don't feel like drinking at the moment, and because alcohol is super expensive here anyway, I've been enjoy these fresh blended drinks, great in the heat with the sharp tangy lemon. I drank this during Holland vs Australia I think - it was an exciting match too!

Monday, June 30, 2014

a is for arabic class, alphabet & azan (the call to prayer)

Friends, I have gone back to school. Not university, not even high school, but more what I vaguely remember from primary school:
Yep that's me practicing my letters after my first Arabic class (specifically that is ba and tha, the second and third letters of the alphabet). I'm now going to class daily, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm with a group of seven (nationalities represented include America, Denmark, Germany and Britain) and it feels good to challenge my brain, and have social interaction! People to talk to!  The class is a mix of speaking, reading and writing, and Ibrahim (teacher) says that the sooner we learn the alphabet the easier it will be. Wasim (Paul's colleague, from Syria) told me last night while watching Holland vs Mexico that Arabic is based on rules, so once I learn the alphabet and master the rules the rest will flow easily. I am clinging to that because on day one it seemed really hard!

In other good news, there is tofu in Amman! I was bitching to another workmate, Fumiko (provenance: Japan) about the lack of tofu and she said, but wait there is! Turns out that the fancy expat supermarket I try to avoid, does in fact stock it, so the very next day I practically sprinted there and discovered little firm blocks of tofu in the feta cheese section, weirdly. But it made for a very nice dinner:
Tofu pan-fried with soy sauce, served with brown rice and heaps of stirfried vegetables, including the teeny pale purple aubergine that are super cheap here and I like very much. I used garlic, red onion, lemongrass (from a jar), ginger, tamarind, chilli and more soy sauce.... delicious!

Friday, June 27, 2014

hot curry for hot weather*

*its 39 Celsius today and predicted to hit 40 tomorrow. 

The other night at home I really fancied curry for dinner, especially a big pile of dahl. I've been unable to find proper dahl peas (moong dahl or even just yellow split peas) but River Cottage has a good recipe for a simple red lentil dahl, which I tried for the first time and was excellent:
As you can see from the recipe its literally cooking red lentils with a few (surprisingly few) spices and an onion. Took about 15 minutes, yay. Served with brown rice and some potatoes sauteed in oil with garlic, onion, curry powder, chilli and lots of spinach.

Definitely scratched the curry urge. Yum.