Thursday, March 31, 2016

The First Day of Spring

March 21st was the first day of spring.  It is celebrated here by the name of Nawruz.

To see the way some Persians celebrate, you can watch this short video on BBC.

The kids in local schools were on holiday two weeks leading up to Nawruz and one week following, but on this particular day, there were no kids playing soccer in the streets, no women going to the market for vegetables, and no men sitting on the corner discussing the affairs of the day.  In fact, there was no noise at all.

 The small grocer next to the chicken guy, next to my house, closed for the day.  No need to lock stuff up.  It's pretty safe here.


Many in my neighborhood were heading out of town for picnics, dressed in their finest cultural clothing.

We watched our neighbors pack up their cars for picnics and the ladies came out in their beautiful dresses.

We, on the other hand, decided to take a taxi to the mall, eat out, and see a movie.

We went across the crosswalk, and still...hardly anyone around.

 Going to hail a taxi.

 Doug gets the price for a taxi ride, and everyone else helps Keira cross the water.

Five of us in the backseat.

The mall was celebrating, too.

The power goes out there, just like at our house, and everyone just keeps doing what they're doing.

And then it comes back on, and no one blinks an eye.

This is one of MANY people dressed up for the holiday.

 Caleb, Keira, and I took a ride through the mall in a train.

See if you can find my mutants at the movie theater...

For some reason, I found it funny that they sold Pringles at the theater.

We bought assigned seats, and we were escorted there by an employee.

Ready for "Zootropolis"

Just in case you didn't think we participated in any Nawroz celebrations, wait until my next post.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

"Frizzy" needs Cucumbers & Measurement Skills

On Newroz, most families go picnicking outside of town somewhere.

Since we didn't have any invites, we decided to take the kids to the movie.

But first, I must tell you about my mishaps. 

I don't know if I'm losing my mind or just getting old, but I really blew it a couple of times today.

They both occurred on Newroz Eve.

I was intent on making pickles and had bought all the dill, jars, and garlic I would need, but I still needed the cucumbers.

I ate a quick breakfast, and then I took a jaunt outside to catch the vegetable truck just as it was unloading at my neighbors vegetable stand.  I bought this for $3, and came back home.

Doug looked at me, and said, "Did you just go to the vegetable stand?" 

I answered, "Yes," and he said, "Have you looked in the mirror today?"

I froze.  I HAD looked in the mirror when I woke up, and I looked scary!

But I never thought about it again.

I was mortified.  I had brought shame to my family :)

Needless to say, it would have been a good day to actually cover my head with a scarf!!

So...I washed the jars.

I put dill, garlic, and a hot pepper in each jar.

Tthen I took my jars over to the stove to put the boiling water, vinegar, salt mixture into the jars.

It was only THEN that I realized, I didn't have any cucumbers in the jars!

So, I pulled out my new cheese grater (which I thought was like the one I had in Uganda), looking for the slicer blade on it. 

I was shocked.  It wasn't there!!

For the first time ever, I had to actually slice all the cucumbers to go in the jars (I know.  I'm spoiled, right?), so I figured I might as well use a brand new knife.

Now I have three new cuts on my hands to prove that the knife works really well.

Karis wanted alfredo for dinner, and you would have thought I had never cooked in Uganda using the metric system...

I got confused on the butter measurement.  It said 1/2 cup butter, and I calculated how many grams were in a full cup of butter so I could half it.  When I read 227grams, that's as far as my brain went, and I never halved it!

While I was wondering why my alfredo was so soupy, I went over and over the recipe until it hit me, and I felt so foolish.  I had to end up doubling cream, parmesan cheese, and cream cheese.  It was a huge, fattening mistake!  Whose family needs a double recipe of alfredo on a Sunday night?


We interrupt this semi-regularly scheduled program to show you some marketing I found here in this country.

TORNSFRAMERS anyone?  (thank you, China)
( I also saw a "Panesanic" TV one day in the market - creative spelling)

Read below for words.

"Open the switch press the button"

"Will be crying and coughing sound, facial with light, moving head and hands"

"After 15 seconds, handing up and wanna sneeze.  Repeat 3 times, Finish the process after 30 seconds without injection."

(Picture is of a child giving her baby an injection in the tush.)  "When injection facial light fading, with happy laughter and movement, after 15 seconds automatic static."

I have no idea what any of that means, but enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hog Rider and Heat

Well, Keira decided she would take a trip without me.

She went with her daddy...

on a motorcycle...

to run an errand.



I didn't think she'd do it, but she said she had a good time. 

I'm sure you remember how my other three children had many experiences on motorcycles ("pikis") in Uganda, so we figured this was a way to give her a little taste of what she missed in Uganda ;)

And in other news...later that day, Doug walked down to the main road and found a place to buy heaters.

Have I mentioned how cold I am all the time?

He bought an electric one for when we are fortunate enough to have power.

This thing can put off some heat!!

And somehow, he got that one, and THREE propane ones in a taxi to get home.

Check out the size of these things!

Caleb's hand is creeping around the side of the top box, so if you can spot it, you will see it's much taller than him.

A propane bottle fits in the back of it, and it will run on electricity or propane.

Now, we just have to wait for the "ice cream truck" to come down our street so we can buy propane.

**Do you remember how I told you the propane truck comes down our street twice a day playing the most pleasant ice-cream-truck-kind-of-music ever?

Anyway, unfortunately, we won't be hearing him for two days because tomorrow it's New Year's Day here.  The schools have been out for two weeks on holiday, and most schools have one more week before they have to return.  It's quite a big deal here.


I look forward to filling you in on our Newroz (New Years) experience.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Would you like a spot of tea?

Well, it turns out, delivering food to our family wasn't satisfying enough for my neighbors, nor was the evening visit I accidentally paid them when I returned their dishes full.

So...they told my acquaintances, and my friends said I should host a tea.

Easier said than done.

 I asked one of my friends what I needed to prepare for, and this was her text:
"Right away, during warm months, cold water is served.  Even though it's not warm outside, you still need to serve water.  After that, you can serve tea, Nescafe, American coffee, etc. (Tea in a bag is good) you have chai glasses?  If not, we can bring ours.   After that, a dessert of some sort...cookies, cake (we can bring that if you want us to pick that up today).  Some people may serve another round of chai if the guests want.  Some may also serve mixed nuts after dessert or sunflower seeds.  Lastly, fruit is brought out.  Bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, etc.  Your daughters always do the serving, if they are there.  Don't feel overwhelmed.  S***lr understands.  Essestials are: water, chai, dessert or nuts, and fruit.  Let me know what I can bring.  And remember, my girls said they will help.  That's what we're here for ;)"

Even though she told me not to be overwhelmed, I was.

I asked about what type of glasses I needed to serve water in.  I currently had only purchased 8 plastic glasses for my family to us.  Thankfully, I had purchased 6 chai glasses at a next-door grocery store two days earlier the morning we started language, so I could serve our language helper tea.   I still didn't have the obligatory fruit knives or a blanket/carpet in our room with the doshaks, so I borrowed a blanket from a friend.

I went to the store to buy fruit knives and small water glasses, and when I got to the cash register, he said they didn't have a bar code on them, and I couldn't get them unless I went upstairs to get another one.  We were out of time, so I had to borrow fruit knives from the same friend I borrowed the above blanket from.

I also decided that since this was supposed to be a "short" tea, we wouldn't serve dessert...only nuts.  Executive decision.

My neighbor, with her twin daughters (18), one of her daughter-in-laws, and her 2nd grader came.  One lady from my country came with her four daughters (3 of which were young enough to play with the 2nd grader - and they are good friends); another lady from my country came with her two daughters; there were 3 boys running around, including Caleb; Keira played with the 4 little girls, and Karis and I sat with the ladies while Kylie did most of the serving.  Whew!  I think that makes 20.

I was told my job was to order Kylie around, which of course I didn't have to.  She did beautifully.  I only had to look at her to let her know when to bring the next "course."

And even though the sitting room looked clean, we had to throw everything else that doesn't have a place yet beside the stairs.

AND...guess what?

They brought a dish over :)

It's banana pudding, sprinkled with coconuts and walnuts.

Anyway...Kylie brought out the waters, which you are only supposed to let them sip on for 3 minutes or so, and then she whisked them away on her tray.

Next, she brought out a bowl of nuts for each guest and another empty bowl for every two people for their nut shells.

While we ate nuts and visited, Kylie made tea for everyone, and then came and served on her knees, our guests first, and then the rest of us.

When she came to pick up the tea when it looked like everyone was done, one of the twins from next door and another girl went to the kitchen with her to wash dishes.

It was a good thing they did, because we visited and visited so long, that after a while, we were thirsty again from the nuts, and one of the ladies, which I know, told me that Kylie should bring water again. ;)

Eventually, Kylie picked up the waters and the nuts, and we were still visiting at our "short" tea.

My friend had told the story of Gideon in the Bible (in the national language) to explain why she had given her son that name.  Another friend told jokes.  We discussed how the mother and the daughter-in-law had met their husbands, and they wanted my friends to translate for me that the next time I bring food, I don't have to fill every dish.  (They liked it though). 

My friends told the ladies I had lived in Africa, and they wanted to know how it was different.  I mentioned that the people their didn't have running water in their homes.  They had to go to the well and pump.  I also said their houses were a lot different and smaller.  Then I mentioned that women and men spoke freely and greeted each other there.  They assured me, at that point, that I could indeed talk to the male owners of the stores whenever I am shopping, but maybe I shouldn't ever speak to the oldest man in the community. 

Thankfully, they gave me an open door to ask them anything culturally I wanted to know, now or in the future.  

I decided to ask if it was okay if I didn't cover my hair (the daughter-in-law doesn't cover her hair, and I haven't been covering mine).  They all said, "It is as you wish.  There is no problem."  They went on to explain that our hair is not why we get looked at.  It is everything that is different from the norm...our hair, eyes, clothing, etc.

Many good conversations happened that day, but it had gone on longer than we had anticipated.

In this country, when you are ready for your guests to leave, you bring out the fruit.

Thankfully, I had bought some just in case I needed it.

I told Kylie to go and fix a tray.  Everyone went to town cutting oranges, apples, and bananas.  There was only one small apple left when they were done.

I whispered to my friend and asked if I could say, "Thanks for coming."  It was getting late, and we all needed to feed our families.

She said, "No.  You can't say anything."

So we sat.

Finally, my friend announced she had to go, and that was all it took.  Everyone stood and gave the three-kiss, cheek kiss to every other person in the room; we gathered all the little girls from the living room who had played with Keira's toys; and bid each other adieu.

What a nice visit!

After dinner, Kylie washed dishes in the dark.  She's there on the left.  I promise.

And the next day, this was delivered to my gate :)

I peeked under and found...

 Yummy dolma!  It was my first time to have it.  My neighbor made her rice with dill and lemon and wrapped it in grape leaves and onion skins.  Absolutely delicious!!

And, in case you didn't notice, she sent it in a plastic, throw-away bowl, so I don't have to return this one :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A trip down Market Lane

I went into a crowded street market to look for dishes. 

There was unidentified liquid flowing down the street.

Taxis were squeezed by people into standstill positions, with horns blaring.

All the booths started to look the same, selling the same stuff.

There was a cacophony of noises coming from every direction.

And Keira was with me and my friend...

In the small store where we stopped to shop, dishes were all over the floor, in high stacks.

Glass and ceramic breakables everywhere.  In one store, tea cups were stacked up in flimy boxes over my 5 foot, 5 inch height.

Keira's pretty good, but I was a nervous wreck trying to pick out bowls, plates, and serving dishes.

I found some basic white ones that are easily replaceable if something breaks.

Next, we looked for a container for my cooking utensils that could sit on my counter.

I couldn't find one weighty enough, so...I bought this.

It's a trashcan with the lid off.  Nice, huh?

Next, I needed something for the kids to keep their bathroom stuff in, because while we are waiting for our sink with a counter to be made, this is where all 6 of us are brushing our teeth and using a mirror.

These seem to work fine, and we just keep them on the stairs, which I'm standing on to take this picture.

Ever since we arrived here, I've hardly taken a step without Keira by my side.  This girl has gone on every shopping trip, been to every market, ridden in every taxi, and taken every step down the street that I have.

She is a real trooper,

...and she passes out every night.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Money and People

I went to buy bananas from a local street vendor, and I guess because my bananas didn't weigh the   minimum dollar amount, he added more bananas to my bag.

I went, the same day, to a local dukan (small shop) to buy Keira a lollipop, and the man said I had to buy two.

The reason for this is the money system.  The smallest bill (there are no coins) is 250 units, the next up is 500, then 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 25,000.  If a vendor can't make adequate change, they will either make you buy more or round up to give you change.

Most of the stuff sold on my street is fairly inexpensive.  The higher prices come when I shop in a bigger grocery store for harder-to-find items, and large grocery stores don't ask you to buy more when the amount doesn't work out, they just give you change rounded up.

A couple of examples of prices on my street are:
10 large, round naans for $1
4 bottles of water for $.80
a beef sandwich for $.80

This same day, Keira and I were walking down the street.  We passed a little girl who reached in her bag, did a perfect hand off with Keira, giving her a chip, and both just kept walking in opposite directions, munching on their chips.

Kids are always eating chips or candy in the streets, and they are good about sharing, whether you want them to or not.

One little girl licked her lollipop a few times, and then just gave it to Keira who started licking it right away.  Right as we were about to walk in our gate, the little girl ran up and kissed her.

Keira gets her cheeks pinched or her face kissed multiple times a day.  She's pretty good to let people do it until they get a camera in her face or try to pull her away from me to love on her. 

Everyone wants to take her picture, and even a few want to take our picture.  At the mall yesterday, a lady walked up, found out we were from America, and she asked if she could have her picture made with our family.

Say, "CHEESE!"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The White Menace

Last Saturday, Doug and I went to a flea market of sorts to look for furniture and rugs with two young ladies who know the language pretty well.

We found some beautiful rugs from a country right next door, and it was quite the experience buying the rugs.

Each rug hung on these huge racks that the merchants would flip through and tell us about the number of threads per "something."  I didn't quite understand it all.  And how much each cost.

After we chose one, they folded it up, and flagged down a man outside with a big, rolling wooden cart, to follow us all the way back to our car.

This is the one we chose for the living room.  I love it!  It brings some life into our white, sterile room.

We decided against wall-to-wall carpet, because everyone's advice to us is that we will want as much tile visible as possible in the hot summer months, and we want to be able to roll up our carpet if we want to.

After buying two rugs, we went to eat at a restaurant that makes food from that same neighboring country from where we bought the rugs.

Then, we went couch shopping.

Most people buy seating for 10, and that suited us just fine, since we're already 6.  

We've had a hard time finding couches that weren't white, gaudy, uncomfortable, or ugly :)

We thought we hit the jackpot when we found a store with couches we like (they turn into beds for guests), AND they had this dandy little color swatch and told us we could choose from two colors they had available.  Light brown or blue.  We went with the light brown, and the guys said they could deliver it in 45 minutes.

Wow!!  This is too good to be true!

Yep!  It was too good to be true.

Two to three hours later, they showed up.

We had cleaned everything, and made it nice and ready.


They brought a chair into the living room and started putting it together, and they took a chair and a sofa upstairs, and started putting that chair together.

I was busy cooking dinner, but when I looked up, this is what I saw.


In a desert country!  In a house with four kids!  White!

I stopped the man, and I got Doug's attention.  We pulled out the dictionary to say the words "No white."  We then found the words for "brown" and asked "where?"

It wasn't working.  He was assuring us that this is what we had bought.

I called one of the young ladies who had shopped with us who explained to the man over the phone that we did not want these pieces.

He said he had to leave the two chairs and couch because they had already been un-packaged, and they couldn't ride back in the truck because they'd get dirty.

Yes.  And their white!

 The next day, the merchant and another gentleman arrived, unannounced, during our language time with the color swatch.  I was thankful we had a translator this time.

The man with the swatch said we could pick ANY color material and ANY color pillow, and he would get it to us in 10 days.


While our translator was listening to the swatch man, the merchant was telling me proudly that he was a Christian.  ISIS had taken three homes he owned, his business, two of his three cars, and money, but he and his family fled in his last car to our city.  He is starting over, and I must say, he is very kind.

He asked if he could bring his wife and children to our house to meet me sometime, and of course, I said, "Yes."

We picked out a new color material and new color pillows, and we'll see if this will actually happen.

They eventually came back three days later for the furniture, but that is a story for another time.

And believe me.  It's a story!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Bottomless Bowl

When we were driving over to our house every day to work on it and clean it (but not stay there), apparently, our neighbors came three times trying to bring us food in the evenings.

When we finally did have a night in the home, they were quick to deliver some food the next day.
Chickpeas in the lower dish, and chickpeas with chicken (similar tasting to chicken and dumplings) in the top dish, with naan on the side.

The ladies who are helping me with culture told me that since I'm new, I could just wash and return the tray and dishes to them empty, but normally, I'm supposed to fill the dishes before I send them back.

Well, I didn't have time to think about it, because the next day, this arrived.

Lovely AND tasty.

Now, I had two trays of dishes from one house to return, and I was still at a point where we were buying sandwiches off the street every day for lunch and just "squeaking by" for dinner at night.

So the dishes sat.

And sat.

And I looked at them every day.

I walked to an American lady's house and asked her to tell me all the different kinds of things she had returned in the bowls before, and I would write them down and keep the list for ideas.

The problem is that they don't like a lot of our food, so the list was limited.

However, this last Sunday night, I made a large pot of taco soup (with homemade Ro-tel), and since they like tomato-base food, I thought I'd give it a try.  Bowl #1

I also had some seasoned potatoes that I had cooked in the oven that were delicious, so that was dish #2.

I had also gone to the local grocery store to buy walnuts and hard candy for them because I heard they liked that.  Two more bowls down.  Two more to go.

I decided to put taco soup in one more bowl, and then I filled the last one with two apples.



It had been 5 days.

Kylie, Keira, and I walked over to their gate around 7:00pm.  I was excited. 

I was going to meet the neighbors AND remove the bowls from my counter.

Knock, knock.

I handed them the trays, and they didn't even look at my presentation!  Instead, they invited us in!
(Maybe I should have done this when they brought food, but my American friends hadn't said to???)

We sat and had chai (tea), and I told them the 21 words I had learned that day in language.  Knowing people (man, woman, girl, boy, etc), I figured out she had 3 daughters and 3 sons.  Two sons are married.  One of her daughters-in-law was there with us.  One of her twin daughters, who is 18, knew a little English, and she helped me forge through a conversation, but I was impressed we could communicate at all with so little language.

After 45 minutes, there was a knock on her gate.  I heard Doug's voice.  He was checking on me.

I had left to deliver food and never come home.

I was so glad he had come.  I had been trying to leave, but more stuff kept being brought to us.

Don't get me wrong!  I was THRILLED to be in her home, but I knew Doug didn't know where I was and I didn't have my phone, plus Keira was getting tired.

We left, and guess what?

The next day she brought another whole tray of food!