Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bully-free Schooling

One night in April, lying in bed for stories, Keira let me know she no longer wanted to go to school.  She was very upset, and for the first time, told me how she had been bullied at school by three girls.  She also wanted to let her dad know.  So we called him to her room, and she told her "Protector," too.

The next day, I drove Keira to the school (Doug was out of town), ready to talk to the principal about what Keira had told me, and the gates were locked.

Gotta love a school that communicates in a different language OR doesn't communicate at all.

I had never received a note or anything.

I texted one lady who knows a little English, and she said, "I'm sorry.  My mother is sick, and I forgot to tell you." 

It gave Doug and I another day to pray about what we were going to say.

The next day, I asked my friend to come with Doug and me in the morning to Keira's school.  It was good timing to wait another day so Doug could go with me.  We also decided it would be better to have a translator to make sure we were being understood and we were understanding.

It turned out to be a good, healthy experience.  They thought we were coming in to complain about not knowing school was closed, and the principal was immediately very apologetic, but after understanding why we were there, they were also very serious.

They ended up calling the three girls in individually throughout the day and talking to them, and even though I feared backlash for Keira, the opposite happened.  Those girls ended up going out of their way to love on Keira and treat her with kindness.

Now that school is over, I can say happily that Keira finished the school year bully-free. 

Funny enough, the first week we talked to the school, Keira would get in the car in the afternoons and say, "Day one.  No bullies."  Then, "Day two.  No bullies," etc.

I am SO glad Keira told us, and I'm so glad we could step in and help, and I'm thankful for an administration that took measures to watch out for the well-being of my child.

There are a lot of things about this school I don't understand and I never will (wait until I tell you about graduation), but I am thankful for this experience.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Spring Cleaning

Spring break also meant spring cleaning for us.  

Not that the dust storms are done blowing in, but we decided to be hopeful.

Doug bought a pressure washer, and it has turned out to be very useful.

We took advantage of a free, sunny day to clean the roof.

Pressure sprayer art.

Later that evening, we had my friend and her daughter over for hamburgers, and then we had coffee and hot chocolate around a fire pit on the roof.  It was so nice, and my friend really liked it.  Being relaxed like that, leads to interesting and unguarded conversations.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Holiday: Empty streets; Lost in the Park

During a recent Spring holiday that lasted one week, many people took the opportunity to leave the city and go to the mountains to participate in their national past time:  picnicking.

It was a city-dwellers dream.

If you got to go to the mountains and enjoy the cool area and greenery.  Awesome.

If you had to stay in the city for certain activities still going on but not endure traffic.  Awesome.

No car in sight meant Kylie got a lot of driving practice in.  She's going to start driving more and more, and starting with the benefit of no other drivers was a huge plus.

One day during the break, Keira and I decided to go to the park and ride the train.  We walked for at least 3/4 mile, and we could never catch the train (it's hard to know where it stops and where you can get on).  Apparently, we'd gotten there right after they started their last run for the day.

However, in the meantime, we discovered a new playground which we had never seen before.  Of course, this is not hard to do.  This park is huge.

Used with permission from Google Earth

Honestly, there are so many hidden nooks and crannies in this place, you could discover something every day if you spent a lot of time there.

At the new playground, we ran into a girl from Keira's school.  Her mom and dad were there, so while Keira played with her friend, I spoke as best I could with her parents.  They were very nice, and they talked slow enough so that I could understand most of what they were saying.

When we realized we were never going to catch the train, we decided to find our way back to our car.  

All I knew to do was head for skyscrapers in the distance near the place where I remembered parking.

The good news:  We found ANOTHER fun playground on the way back to the car.

The bad news:  It took us an hour to find our way out of the park.  

I didn't tell Keira how nervous I was getting, but I was completely lost on all of the paths, and I was having trouble finding our parking area.  I don't know if people have ever felt like that in Central Park in NYC, but I also wondered how many people had to spend the night in this park because they couldn't find their way out in the dark.

Maybe it's just my over-active imagination.

Keira was very excited when we made it to the front of the park, and we took celebratory pictures in front of the fountains.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

And At Last I See the Lights

The day after the "lice incident," we went an hour north with our language helper, his family, and some of his friends to see the "lighting" for the "New Day" celebration.

This lighting takes place every year.

The one we attended this year is the most well-known, and unlike the post from last year.  This year I know the background story (as told by our language helper).

Before I regale you with that tale, let me tell you about this celebration in the recent past.

A former dictator of this country prohibited this celebration for many years in this part of the country, so the people secretly lit fires or burned tires to celebrate.

What I saw on the drive north was that many people still make their own fires and burn tires.  In each of the pictures below, you can see smoke off in the distance.

the entire way there...

these roadsides remind me of Africa...

Traffic was crazy once we got into the city.

This was looking out our back window.

The day was beautiful though.

Can you see the people on the top and in a line weaving down the side of the mountain?

We were on a mountain across from the one above.  I couldn't get a good picture to show you how many thousands were there.

Ok, the story that I heard says there was an evil man who ruled many people, and he would kill individuals with a hammer.  He walked around with two snakes on his shoulders.

One day, a blacksmith decided to challenge the evil man.  I thought I had heard that he tricked him by taking his son there to be "killed," and the blacksmith killed the bad man instead.  However, other stories say he didn't take a child with him as bait.  He just challenged him and killed him.

Nevertheless, the man lit a large fire after the evil man was dead to let others know he was successful.  Today, four countries celebrate this legend as their own.  

Who knows which country the legend it belongs to?  Personally, I'm hoping that it's only a legend and that it never really happened.

At dusk, the parade of torches begins to snake it's way up the mountain, along with a lot of fireworks going off (hence the smoke).

Once the fire reaches the top, it appeared there was a small celebration up there, and then the "snake" of fire came back down.

After the "snake" came down, a fire parade started up our side of the mountain.  A man led the way on a donkey, and many others followed.  

Several of the men had kerosene or something in their mouth, and they would spit at their torch and make the fire explode all toward us.

I must stop at this point to point out the obvious. 

Fire is dangerous and not something to be played with.

Our language helper told us the following day that 5 people had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance that night, and one or two of them were because they inhaled the gas substance they had been carrying in their mouth.

Basically, a few acorns short of a nut pile.

As we walked down the mountain to our car, I looked over to the right and I saw lights on another mountain.

It was a fun night, but knowing the crowds and traffic, I'm not sure I'd ever venture north to see the lights again.

Unless of course, you came to visit during March, and then I would gladly do it, just for you.

Keira (and the other little boy with us) both passed out on the way home.  

Keira just happened to fall asleep face down.

We came.
We saw the lights.
And I believe, they conquered us.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Special Spring Break Gift

This country has a week off in the spring called "New Day."  It's sort of equivalent of our Spring Break, but unlike Texas, where they break up the weeks when each school takes off, here, the whole country breaks at one time to celebrate this holiday.

This results in a traffic nightmare, especially outside the city.

Everyone is trying to enjoy their national pasttime...picnicking.

To do that, everyone travels outside the city to the mountains, the streams, and the fields.

I took Keira swimming at an all-female pool on the first day of "New Day."  When we finished, I washed her hair in the shower there, and she started scratching her head.  She'd been scratching it for three or four days, but at this moment, I happened to be with a mother of three little girls who had all had many bouts of lice between them. 

For the first time, instead of thinking, "dry skin," I thought, "Maybe???"

I didn't look then, but before she went to bed, I looked, and there were bugs crawling everywhere.

I was horrified, but I knew it was too late to do anything.

I had the HARDEST time getting to sleep knowing what was in her hair!!

What a gift to bring home for Spring Break!!!

These are a couple of the bites that I saw the next day. 

Poor thing!

I set up an ipad to play videos on a table outside.  

We set up chairs, had towels, combs, an oil agent from a neighbor, and went after those little buggers.  

At the same time, I had all bedding and stuffed animals and clothes, etc. bagged up air-tight waiting for their turn in the washing machine.  Ugh!

Three hours later we were finished and all the girls and I headed for a 12:30 lunch appointment with a friend who owns a salon.  

Keira had to let the solution set in her hair for at least 8 hours.  It had already been in there for two.

When we arrived, my friend had just finished getting a massage and needed to wash her hair, so my friend's daughter offered to do Keira's nails for her.

All hands given a manicure at this salon get their hands photographed and put on instagram.  

Keira was very willing!

It was close to three before my friend was ready.  We had tea and took a tour of the salon while she got things done (including getting her hair dried and curled).

She also asked me if I would like to get my hair curled, so I accepted.  However, when she walked over where a man was working on me, she said, "Did you know you have a lot of grey in your hair?  Why don't you color it?  It would help you looking younger."

If I haven't told you before, in this culture people always tell you if you are fat, old-looking, ask you your age, how much you make, etc.  

They hold nothing back.

It's great for a person's self-esteem :)

We finally made it to lunch around 3pm!

We were starving, but the food was really good.  We had tabouli, hummus, saj (kind of like a panini in a tortilla), fried eggplant, falafel, and fries.

Afterward, I drove my friend to the bank to do some business, and then we all went back to the salon where Kylie got her hair curled.

When we finally left, we had been with them for about 5 1/2 hours.  It was such a fun day.

However, when I got home, I realized, that we were only 30 minutes away from reaching Keira's time-limit for how long the solution had to stay in her hair.  I began to think I should have had them wash and cut her hair at the salon.

I called my friend, and asked her if that is something they would do, and she said, "Certainly."  They had throw-away towels, and they wouldn't mind at all.

So...we drove back and stayed there another hour.  

Keira got her hair washed and cut, and her head massaged.  She felt like she was at a spa (and told my friend so).

After Keira, Karis also got about 6 inches cut off.

I've been back to visit my friend at her house and her salon since this day.  She is a lot of fun, but the salon keeps her busy.  

I waited two hours for her to go to lunch last week, but I was offered tea and coffee and another free hair fixing.  I declined it all, but it's still a fun place to go and practice my language with someone who is a joy to talk to.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Award Time in March

 Thankfully, with Kylie homeschooling, we only had two science experiments to worry about this term.

And it didn't rain this year, so it was much nicer having all the displays outside.  

Doug and I didn't spend as much time at the fair this year, because we had a meeting with our teammates, but I got a few pictures before I left.

As I walked up to Karis' table, her teacher (not pictured) came over to me and said, "Congratulations!  Karis won second place!"  

I turned to Karis, and I said, "Wow!  Congratulations!"
And she said, "What?"

She hadn't heard her teacher, and she hadn't heard the news.

Apparently, one of the men from the US Consulate really liked her project because it was something he himself had done study a on.

We found the experiment on-line, and I'm proud of the work she put into it.  We started one month before, and the plants died within two weeks because of over-watering, but after a re-plant, I'm pleased to say that "Harold" (Karis' name for "him") is still doing well in my window sill in the kitchen.

 The Jr.  High Math Quiz Bee was also in March.  Karis shocked herself (but not her parents) when she won first place.  She didn't even qualify last year, but this year, she is rocking math and science.

**the picture is fuzzy because I took it off the school's facebook page.

I also borrowed the picture below off of Twitter.  Parents here don't have as much involvement at the school, so when I run across pictures online from their life at school, I try to download them.

This term, for the Honor Roll ceremony, the school took the kids to the US Consulate during the school day rather than have a parents' award night.

Karis said it took over 30 minutes to get everyone through security with their passports going two-by-two.  She was in the last group left in the cold outside, so she was ready to get inside.

Here's a zoomed picture of Karis and Caleb in the back.

It's kind of like looking in a "Where's Waldo?" book :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Family Style Honeymoon Suite?

We recently had to re-apply for visas, and because of some changes, we had to travel to a different city to get new ones.  The kids and I had never stayed in a hotel in this country besides the apartment-type resort on the mountain. 

Doug has spent the night in two hotels, but when he booked this one, it was an "unknown."

None of us knew what to expect.

But check out the room decor...

These fancy-framed portraits were all over our entry room.

The kids' room was surprisingly large, and we were thankful that only Keira had to sleep on the couch in the entry room.

And our room...

I was kind of speechless.

Neither of us had slept in a circular bed before, and I must say, it's not the ideal situation for a man that is 6' 2".

I kept thinking, "It must be very difficult to make this bed."

Besides the air conditioner not working, it was a spacious area for the 6 of us, and the buffet breakfast was pretty good.  I don't think we'll ever stay there again, but it was definitely fun for a one-time family-style honeymoon-suite experience.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Three Parties in One

At the end of February, Doug and our teammate were gone for a week, attending a training.  While they were gone, I went up to the school where Doug was teaching at the time, and I ran into the office manager.

He said, "I really want you to come to my wedding this Thursday. I know Doug is out of town, but I really want you to come."

Since Caleb had soccer, I left Karis at home with Keira, and Kylie and I went to the wedding.

We didn't know what to expect, but as the popular saying here says, "What can you do?"

This event was the engagement, gold-giving ceremony, and wedding all rolled up in one.  It was also held at the girl's home, which was a smart move.  She wanted to save money so she could go on a honeymoon later.

Smart girl.

Kylie and I went with some other people from the English school, and we arrived pretty early and were led upstairs where the bride was sitting on a couch with some family members.  I had never met her before, but she enjoyed telling everyone about the preparations she had made that week for the big day.

The space upstairs quickly became full of people, so all of the Americans went down to a room downstairs.  The men had gone in a different entrance that led to the second floor, and we knew we wouldn't see them until later.

Kylie and I ended up in a corner, so we didn't get to do much visiting.  I said hello across the room to some women I knew, but besides that, we were kind of trapped.

After some time, some ladies brought out snacks.

They were so different from the packaged cakes that were put on the table in front of us at the last wedding. 

We each got a soda and an individual case with four different kinds of baklava (one of them was chocolate - first time I'd had that), a sesame cookie, and a piece of chocolate.


 I wasn't sure if we were expected to eat it all there, but after watching the rest of the room, I quickly realized we were.

You don't have to tell me twice.

After consumption, we were told it was time to go upstairs to the second floor to see the gold presentation.

There were people filling the entire room and lining the stairs up to the third floor.  The men were watching from above on the third floor.

Apparently, the bride had asked for a necklace, a bracelet, a belt, and a tiara, and they were exquisite.  I never knew the bride could request things, so that was new for me.

It was time to go, but I wanted to say "hello" and "goodbye" to our friend before we left.

I found an opportunity when the bride disappeared.  

Someone suggested she had gone to change dresses, so I knew I had time.

 Right as I was saying "goodbye," the groom's sister brought out the cake.  I took a quick snapshot.

You can see how different the bride looks in her daily life.

I have heard that trends are slowly changing.

Not too long ago, brides would use a white-ish foundation and powder on their faces and put so much make-up on that you really couldn't identify that they were the same girl you know and love in the neighborhood.

My friend who owns a salon says slowly it's changing where the girls want to be more natural (except not so natural they don't wear false lashes).

I mean, where would we be without false lashes?