Posts in Life as a Virginian

Dining with deer

An uninvited guestMonday was my first 4th of July in the USA and what a day it was. Every second of it was memorable. We started the day early, as the husband, Dad and Mom T, Grandma G and myself packed up a delicious lunch we’d prepared the night before and made our way to Shenandoah National Park for an Independence Day picnic.

The park itself was absolutely stunning. Situated along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the park is a haven for forest creatures including deer and bears! But the best part of our adventure was dining with deer.

While we were driving through the mountain to look for a good location to settle down and have our meal, we crossed the path of a large number of deer. Some were wandering around, others were crossing the road and some others were just chilling by the roadside eating grass. It was quite a scene.

But the most fascinating exchange occurred when one deer approached our lunch table after we’d finally settled down. Apparently the deer was hungry and wanted to grab some of the goodies on our table. We didn’t feed it, as it is against the law to feed wild animals for fear of making pests out of them. This was all new to me.

So, the deer left our table disappointed but continued to circulate and then some minutes later it was accompanied by another one. Both deer entertained themselves by chasing each about the park while we sat eating and enjoying their circular motion. I have to admit that was my first meal with deer.

In the evening we headed to downtown Harrisonburg where a plethora of activities were taking place. The highlight was Eddie from Ohio, an American folk band that enchanted us with their upbeat, whimsical songs. A display of colorful fireworks wrapped up our wonderful day, as we sat on chairs on the grass in the middle of Harrisonburg’s court square and looked up into the dark blue sky as it was lit by a wonderful mélange of sight and sound. Ah, what a day. Happy Fourth of July everyone!

One fine weekend

Gazing across the Field of Lost ShoesWe had a wonderful weekend. It was so wonderful that I had to blog about it. It began early Saturday when we made our way to the city of Charlottesville, VA primarily to wander around its very lively pedestrian plaza downtown. The weather was nice, although a bit on the hot side, but overall the atmosphere was very enjoyable. We examined what downtown had to offer, which consisted primarily of restaurants, art galleries, quaint little shops and several movie theaters.

After some walking and window-shopping, we had a great lunch at the Hardware Store, an extremely unique restaurant built inside what was once just that and now is filled with its memorabilia. Right after lunch we walked down to the Regal movie theater and watched the Land of the Dead, which I thought was too disgusting for such a nice day, as it is a movie about the dead rising up and eating the living; not really my cup of tea.

After the flick, we wandered around looking for any sign that the city is indeed the home of Dave Matthews. We visited Miller’s Bar, where Dave worked as a bartender some time ago. It was nothing spectacular but was something related to this great artist. Before leaving, we had a drink at an outdoor Italian café and watched the patrons of downtown enjoy their time as the area began to fill up for the evening.Onlookers

Around five o’clock, we made our way back over the mountain to downtown Harrisonburg to watch the Great American Race, where antique cars race across the USA, from Washington DC to Washington state.

Under the hoodDowntown Harrisonburg was buzzing with excitement. While many people were cheering the incoming flow of antique autos, others were admiring and taking pictures of those already arrived and parked. Some were just enjoying the live music and good food. It was exhilarating! We really got to see a plethora of cars — none made later than the 1960s — in every shape and color. It really was a memorable scene.Grillwork

Sunday had an historic flavor as well, as we, along with Dad and Mom T, made our way to the town of New Market, VA to visit the civil war museum there. The visit was very informative for me personally, as my prior knowledge of the American Civil War was pretty limited.

When we got there, we wandered around the field where a famous Civil War battle took place, wandering around the famous Field of Lost Shoes, and took a look inside the house where soldiers were tended during and after the battle. We also watched a documentary about the battle and looked at Civil War artifacts displayed in the museum. It was very educational and an extremely enjoyable manner to get acquainted with an event that shaped American history.

All in all, our weekend was a fine and memorable one. Virginia has a lot to offer and I’m very grateful to have this fantastic chance to explore these fascinating locales.

Sucked into consumerism

I never liked shopping. For me, shopping had always been this tedious process of hopping between shops, trying on clothes, negotiating with vendors (in some cases) and in many instances being hit on by some low-life sleazeballs in the process (especially when wandering the streets of Sweifieh). I always dreaded upcoming shopping trips. And, almost always, I had to have a companion with me to console me, giving me words of encouragement to help me through this challenging process. In many cases that companion was my sister, Tania, the fashion expert. Then, after I got married, my shopping escort became my husband, who naturally has more tolerance than me for this tiring procedure.

But now, as we are living in the center of capitalism, things have changed drastically. To my utter and complete surprise I’m loving the whole idea of the shopping spree. I mean how can you not love it with all the great deals that are put in front of you? I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I first went shopping here. I could actually afford buying brands like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren among others.

How could you not love shopping here when you get up to a 70% discount on some of the most beautiful items you ever laid eyes on? Words like capitalism and consumerism really did not mean much to me before coming here. Now I understand. It is all about satisfying the consumer so the country’s economic gears keep churning. But really, give me a break. How can you not be an ardent consumer here with all the mind-boggling deals? Yes, I’m being sucked into it. But can I really help it? I’m a new immigrant after all.

On the other hand, seeing all of these great deals is making me somehow angry … angry at all the time and loads of money I spent back in Jordan on mediocre products simply because I had no other alternative. Why is it in Jordan, where the minimum salary is 85 JD (about $119 US dollars) a month, people have to pay double — even triple — the price for the same products you find here. It is just so unfair. Think of it: Besides all of the political instability, social pressure and economic stagnation, the Jordanian consumer is always screwed. Okay, I’m very angry now. Gotta go do some shopping.

A Jordanian in the 1850’s

Me in a 'Dowtown Daze'

Probably one of the coolest things that we have done here so far was our trip last weekend back into the 1850’s, when the whole of downtown Harrisonburg, VA was made to look much as it did in the 19th century during the "Court Days Festival." The whole place went back in time, from the old costumes worn by locals that volunteered to become a character from the era, to the carriages and local crafts of that period. The event was one of a kind, to me at least.

We also got to watch a play that took place in the city’s old courthouse. The play was based upon two real court cases that took place during the era. I enjoyed it tremendously.

We wrapped up the evening by attending, as spectators, a period grand ball where men dressed in tuxedos and women in beautiful period gowns while they danced skillfully to music of the 19th century.

I had a truly memorable time. The picture here speaks for itself.

All things Virginian

On our way down the Skyline DriveFor the past four days or so we have been touring around Virginia with Dad and Mom T and I must say I have laid eyes on some of the most beautiful sights in nature that I have ever seen. The Shenandoah Valley surrounded by the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains are just stunning. Everything looks like a postcard. I really couldn’t believe I was actually walking around amongst these extremely beautiful sights.

And yes I’m still seeing and experiencing new things on a daily basis and I love it. Here is my list of observations for this post:

For those residing in the US, can anyone answer this little dilemma of mine? Why are public bathroom doors so short? I mean, why does everyone have to see my legs when I’m doing whatever I choose to do behind those closed doors? I feel it is an invasion of my bathroom privacy somehow. Am I the only one bothered by this? I wonder.

Glen Burnie gardenAs I understand it, any trip to the US is not complete without a visit to the one and only Wal-Mart. On my first visit I saw some things with which I was unfamiliar. First was an almost blatant display of obesity. Oh my God! I have never seen people that obese in my whole life. I kept looking at one woman while trying to decipher what I witnessing. Then I decided to stop before I made a fool of myself. I saw people packing extra weight in places I never knew people could carry fat, like on their back for example. Somehow, this made me feel good about my weight.

Another interesting sight was the Mennonites. When I first saw a woman with a small cap on her head I thought it was some form of fashion statement. But when I saw a second woman with the same white hat, I knew something was going on. Luckily, the husband was there to provide me with the answer.

I’m now in the process of Americanizing my accent. While in London I spent some effort Anglicizing it but it didn’t really work out. Let’s see if my efforts pay off this time. The first thing I’m working on is pronouncing the word "water." Instead of saying "wa-ter," which I guess is the British pronunciation, I’m trying to say it the American way: "wa-der." I guess I still sound weird but I will keep trying none-the-less.

That’s all for now. More to come as time allows.