Yesterday, I came to the realization that my across-the-hall neighbor is not entirely there.

I have suspected this since we arrived in Jordan (she's the elderly lady who locked Jeremy in our apartment, after all). Her situation is a sad one. Her husband died about three years ago, and her only son died suddenly of a heart attack in December. She lives with her sister, Jamilah, who is a nurse in a town near the Dead Sea.

I've been over at their apartment many times now. And on every single visit, she goes through the same routine. She shows me the picture of her granddaughter, the child of her son who died. Then she tells me that her son died in December, and she cries. But then she pulls out a newspaper clipping of her nephew who is starting a PhD program in America, and she reads it through to me, out loud (except for the part that is in English, listing the name of the school). And then comes the photo album with pictures of her husband and a few more tears.

The sad thing is that I don't know all the phrases to properly commiserate with her in Arabic. I can only hope she doesn't think I'm rude or insensitive for not being able to say more than "God rest his soul."

She loves to see Miriam, though. And Miriam has learned that there's chocolate waiting for her in that apartment, and also yansoon. Yes, it's true - Miriam has tried yansoon and developed a taste for it.

I think before I make my next visit, I'll have to learn a lot more eloquent phrases to say to try to comfort this poor lady. Any suggestions?

Cucumber soap and green toilet paper

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