Monday, December 6, 2010

Old Sana'a

Today was a super great day. Training went well. Akram, my permanent translator arrived and he took Hani and me for a tour of the old city. During our walk in old Sana'a, we encountered this camel. Yes, he is real but resting. He had been walking around that big press right behind his head and grinding palm seeds to make oil all day. He makes about 5 liters of oil per day and this guy was so tired and so skinny, I just wanted to hug him. Green stuff on the steps is Qat and the two young men who were running this store and minding the camel were chewing away.
Notice the bulge in the left cheek of the man with the white head dress on. He is chewing Qat and everyone does it here, men and women. We had been asked to finish our sessions early so people could pray and chew but I learned that it is "normal" to chew from around 7 years of age til death, and at least three times per day! Supposedly this is an upper but I am not seeing the resultant energy. What is amazing is not that they chew...this legally goes on in African countries also. What is unique for me is actually seeing it chewed and the size of the ball bulging out their cheeks is incredible.
Because Hani and I have been sick the last couple of days, we have been hanging out in the hotel in close proximity to toilets. So, getting out, walking and seeing some of the city was a welcome gift from Akram, who lives in the old city. Hani and I could not have navigated the market and found our way out. Apparently, the old city was built so that families could move between the buildings without exiting and so it is a maze of alley like passages that are filled with walkers, motor bikes and cars. Traffic jams in a passage that barely accomodates one person and a small vehicle.
The market place was organized...kinda. There was a food area, spice area, metal and wood working areas, donkey purchasing area (not far from the food being sold), clothing, daggar row, shoes and jewelry. Today was not a shopping day but I saw a couple of items that are on next year's Christmas "gotta have" list.

We tried some Yemeni homemade sweets that were swarming with bees..very yummy. And we tried some seeds that we could not find a name for, but which reminded me of pumpkin seeds. Akram bought us a sesame seed treat of some sort, followed by a Yemeni bread. All good but one or two nibbles was enough for me.
We saw so many things today and with walking and gawking, I couldn't also write as I went along. Lots of little children tried their English out on me...couldn't go past hello and how are you but so charming.
I finished my training a bit early today, around 11:15 so that Hani could catch up from yesterday. I came up to the room and found two men cleaning my room. Women don't do that type of work here, and in general, don't work outside of the home. And while I understood this hotel is owned by Indians, that is inaccurate. It is owned by a Yemeni who has contracted with a bunch of Indians for four years. One of the guys who makes sure everything is going well, Rajeesh, told me that the Indians live in a colony somewhere here in the city and they all know each other. He said all a cab driver has to do is see him and he knows where to take him.
Some training humor...I saw street vendors on the sidewalks and saw that vendors were selling at stop lights but there aren't any anywhere else. So, I said, " a suggestion might be to put vendors in the highly populated areas to increase sales." Nabiya, one of the women indicated that isn't how they do it. "Ok, if it isn't illegal and if we could sell more and make more money, shouldn't we give it a try?" She said, "That's not easy." Mean Teresa suggested that I really wasn't here to tell them easy tricks, but how to grow their revenue. They laughed.
And then, Hani wanted to have some group work and he had them count off one, two, three, and repeat to make groups. The conversation that occured from that was amazing...we had a chat about how the groups were being formed, why they had to be done that way etc.
More later....this is getting way too long.

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