02 February 2007

beauty is pain.

Women in the Arab world: always an engaging topic (please, resist the urge to laugh and comment on the shortness of such discussions since "women have no rights here." We've already exhausted every joke in the book, and I'll be commenting on the rights or lack thereof of Jordanian women soon). Women at the gym however, are an endless source of amusement (yes, I'm going to the gym. Everyday, in fact. The showers are quite possibly the most amazing ones I've ever encountered and we got in trouble during our first week for using up all the water in our apartment on laundry, so we don't shower at home anymore. Apparently there's a water shortage out here in the desert?). Arab women are also big on going to the gym, but not so much on the working out. They walk on treadmills at a snail's pace, spend ten minutes on a bike a low resistance, then "lift weights" on the lowest possible machine settings, all the while chatting with friends or on cell phones. It seems to be more of a social activity than anything else. Us American girls get the strangest looks when we spend enough time on an elliptical trainer to break a sweat or lift more than twenty pounds. I wish I could take video and post it, but some how I think that'd be culturally inappropriate.

Disclaimer: For all my male readers, you may want to skip this paragraph if you're still under the (faulty) impression that women roll out of bed each morning hairless and perfectly coiffed. Ladies, while everything else in this country is disappointingly expensive, you can get a wax for mere peanuts. Apparently, women in the Arab world don't shave, that's for men, so they wax. Everything. You can get a leg and bikini wax for less than ten bucks if you can endure the pain and the suggestions that they could also take off your nonexistant moustache, beard, and perhaps even your arm hair, if you wanted. The things we do for beauty. On the bright side, manicures, pedicures, and salon blowouts are also cheap.

Welcome back boys. Turning to the topic of my neighborhood, it turns out we're living in a virtual Iraqi refugee camp. Most of our building and the one next door are inhabited by Iraqi refugees/expats. Our neighborhood is rather pricey, so these are the wealthier Iraqis who fled on their own accord and can afford nice apartments, so the term "refugee" doesn't necessarily apply. We met our downstairs neighbor at the salon next door, and after she brought us dinner one night, she filled us in on the neighborhood. She left just over three years ago, but has two brothers still there going to school in the northern part of the country. Her father is a cardiologist and she works as a dental assistant, so they're quite well off.

This illustrates perfectly how this country works - as it turns out, the dental xrays I submitted to Peace Corps were incomplete and I now have to get a full set here. (Thankfully, PC included a prepaid Fedex envelope!). I have a neighbor will take me to her office to ensure I'm not ripped off. Everyone has a cousin, friend, or friends of a friend's dog's babysitter with the connections you need. It's actually rather ridiculous, but it helps get the job done.

In other news, I and most of my belongings reek of smoke because non-smoking laws haven't quite reached this far across the pond and every taxi driver in the city chain smokes. We're going on a tour of the major city sights tomorrow, so I should have some pictures posted soon, in sha allah.

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