Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Do You Suffer from Separation Anxiety?

The next two houses were pretty close to each other.  I pass by them daily, but I didn't know who lived there.

I was told that the men in these houses were VERY well-respected in our neighborhood.

These were good introductions for Doug.

However, I never saw what they looked like.

When we arrived at each one, this is what happened.

Women to the left.

Men to the right.

[Sorry for the awkward photos.  I normally always have you on my mind when I'm out and about because I'm always writing a story for you in my head.  The hard part is that I always want pictures to go with the story, and sometimes that is not possible. 

This one was snapped quickly as I stayed behind, trying to be the last one to take off my shoes.]

We walked into a small sitting room in which 15 women were already sitting. 

They all stood, and YES, I kissed each one in greeting several times.

When we finally sat down, we were offered chocolates and sodas.

Conversation started slowly because I didn't know any of them, and my friend Jennifer* had only met a few.

We ended up visiting with 3 or 4 ladies around us, until we started asking how everyone was related, and then it brought everyone into the conversation.

I really need to work on my language words for family members.  It's very confusing to me.

The ladies at this house were much more subdued, but it could also be because we didn't know them well.  The matriarch had 5 of her daughters in the room (all grown), plus nieces and grandchildren, and it was relatively quiet.

At one of the houses when we were told the men were ready to leave, we said we weren't ready, but I don't think it was this house.

Doug, however, said they had some interesting spiritual conversations at this house and the next. 

It's always good when you can hear personal stories about what they believe instead of getting information solely from a book.

Two more houses left...how sad, right?  The day of visiting is almost over :(

Monday, July 25, 2016

This is Not My Favorite Outfit

Onward to house number 4.

We walked to the house next to the chicken dukan, next to our house.  It's where the brother of our landlord lives with his wife and three kids, plus our landlord's sister, and the two boys she has taken in.  The two ladies that live there were the ones that came to greet me at my house at 7:30am (and three blog posts ago).   Our landlord was over there this morning, too, visiting, but his wife and son were not with him.

I really like this family.

They only had a few visitors when we arrived.

But, as you can see, even our shoes help fill up a courtyard :)

We were offered chocolates, sunflower seeds, and orange juice.

(I'm related to a few kids whose pockets were getting pretty full of chocolate.)  I was not in the least bit jealous of them.  Chocolate in your pocket when the temps are climbing over 100 degrees, is not my idea of a "treat."

We had a good visit, did a lot of laughing with the ladies and took pictures. Our four American tween/teenage girls were on the opposite wall, but they got in a few of the pictures too.

I did; however, get this picture, and it offers some detail about the culture.

Men and boys sit on couches, if there are any present.  If there is room, and the women happen to be included in the same room, like House number 3, women are invited to sit on the couch.

However, most of the time, women sit on the floor.

In fact, I have nice callouses on my ankles because of it. 

I think I've told you about this outfit I'm wearing, right?

The sleeves are long and drag the ground; therefore, as part of the style, they are tied behind the back in a low knot.

What this means is that every time I try to get up, my backside gets caught in my sleeves.  I have to re-situate myself, and then I end up stepping on the long dress and pulling it down in the front.  So then I have to re-situate my layers again.

Whenever new people come in the room, we all have to get up.  If it's a woman entering, I have to greet her with a kiss (and play the kiss-guessing game I referred to in my last post), and if it's a man, I just stand until he's seated.

I'm trying to think now (because I can't remember), if the men stand up if it's only a woman entering.

I'm not sure, but I doubt it.

Either way, I got up and down multiple times in most of the houses on this particular day, and I know for a fact...This is NOT my Favorite Outfit!

even though she's pretty stinkin' cute in it...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

He Crosses Barriers

With one house down, we headed out down the street. 

We knew this holiday was a great time to meet people, get in their homes, and begin relationships with them.  We wanted to take advantage of it while we could.
House number 2 invited us in as we passed by. 

The family that I saw at the gate was familiar, because they live directly across the street from me, so I was a little baffled as to their presence here, down the street. 

I just so happened, that the owner of this house was the brother of the man that lives across the street from me, and they live four houses from each other.

We walked into a well-lit courtyard with high walls that had vines growing up everywhere.  It was really pretty.  They had about 15 plastic chairs set in a semi-circle, so most of the adults sat down, while the kids stood.  We were immediately offered individually wrapped chocolates and sodas. 

This family, in particular, is on my heart because I see them around a lot, and their facial features show the signs of inter-family marriage over a long period of time.  It is such a wide-spread problem here, but I understand their desire to want to continue to marry within their tribe and family. 

I declined chocolates and soda, which was a good thing, because within 7-8 minutes of sitting down, we were saying goodbye and kissing the same cheeks we had just greeted minutes ago.  Most of the kids took the chocolates, but thankfully, declined sodas as well.

Did I mention that we were two American families traveling together?  Eleven of us total!!  We really make an entrance and can occupy a space pretty quickly. 

Greetings go something like this:  the men greet each other with a handshake (or a kiss, if they're lucky :), and the women greet each woman with a series of kisses.  I never know whether it's going to be 2, 3, or 4, so it's a constant guessing game in which I'm trying to read signs and signals.

Sometimes I go for more, when they want less, or they go for more than I'm ready for.


The third house we visited had some dear ladies that I had met through Jennifer*.  They are married to brothers, each have children, are so beautiful,  and they live together, along with some other family members in one house.

We walked in (men, women, and children) into a large sitting area.  There was a sectional couch around all the walls, seating for over 30 people. 

Chocolates were served.  Sodas were served.

Then, at the door leading into a smaller sitting room, a crouched figure appeared.

I think someone was going to offer this woman a seat by the door, but when that didn't happen quickly enough, she shuffled across the room to sit on the other side.

She was bent in half, pretty aged, and it obviously hurt for her to move.

Wouldn't you know it, about 5 minutes after she sat down, a large group of mostly men came into the courtyard. 

That means it was time for all the ladies to leave.

All the females (who had been sitting on one wall together, except for the older lady) got up silently, and we moved into another sitting room off the main one.

The crouched lady brought up the rear, and she was offered a small chair in the corner, while the rest of us took our places on rugs around the room.

We continued our visit from the front room.

They older lady was complaining about her foot hurting (as much as I could make out), and she was telling another woman who was not really listening or interested.

When the men decided it was time to go, they sent Jennifer's* 8-year old to tell us.  Before we left, the ladies of the house wanted to take a picture with us. 

NOTE: I have hidden their beautiful faces because some people do shameful things with a face and a photo shop program.  I've heard it can result in the woman (who has done nothing wrong) being kicked out of her family or worse because of the shame a falsified picture can cause.

I was still gathering up Keira's things to leave, when I noticed the older lady's complaints getting louder, with still no one paying attention.

I walked over to her, put my hand on her shoulder, and I prayed for her (in English) in His name.

When I finished, she was silent, smiling, and peaceful.

Isn't it wonderful that He crosses language and cultural barriers? 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Christmas in July

I'll bet you thought the end of Ramazan would never come...on my blog, anyway.

After Ramazan, they had a party!

A three-day party to be exact.

And July 6th was day one.

I'll be honest.  I was a little nervous about that first day.

I asked several people what to expect, and I got different answers from everyone.

We were ready, but we didn't know what for.

On the 5th, Doug cleaned our porch and picked up all the trash from the street in front of our house (which every kid in the neighborhood uses as a trash can).

We bought individually wrapped chocolates and some mixed nuts.  

We vacuumed, dusted, hid messes you don't want people to see, etc.

And then we got ready for bed.

Sleep didn't happen.

There were assorted fireworks in the city, plus bottle rockets and Roman Candles happening right in front of the chicken dukan.

This is the Bottle Rocket crew the following morning, still at it.  I snapped their picture out Kylie's window.

They all belong to the extended family of our landlord.

Actually, the fireworks were being aimed (not on purpose, I think) in the direction of our house and the electrical wires that run in front of it.  Smart, huh?

We set our alarms early.  We were told Doug needed to be at our gate, with doors open, at 7am with "the chocolates," and the girls needed to be in their cultural clothing with hair done ready to go at 8am.

I don't know who makes up these times, but we tried our best.

Sure enough, I looked at the window at 7:20, and Doug had just served chocolates to a bunch of men.

The men and boys walk around after prayers.  I don't know who decides who stays at home with chocolates and who walks around, but we did the chocolates.

If children walk around, they are given chocolates AND money.

At 7:30, Doug came to get me to tell me there were some women there to greet me.

It was two sweet ladies from the other side of the Chicken dukan.  We told each other how beautiful we looked, kissed cheeks four times, did all the holiday greetings, and they said to come by later.

See?  So that's the deal.

Day One is a big visitation day.  From 8am to Noon, you go door-to-door visiting your neighbors.

Whole families visiting whole families.

After that is lunch and family time.

This will be the first time Doug and I go visiting together.  I'm usually in the home with only women.

Question:  If we're all visiting door-to-door, who's at home?  (It's questions like these that were driving me crazy.)

Well, 8 o'clock wasn't working for my neighbor Jasmine*.  She sent her daughter over at 7:30 to get us.

Here's some of us.

We went into her sitting room.  It was the first time I'd ever been in a room with her husband.  I've seen him at the vegetable dukan they own, but he's never spoken to me.

There was a lot of silence because our language is so limited.

I went in the kitchen to help Jasmine* serve...homemade baklava!

 And nuts...and orange juice...and water...and Pepsi.

I felt comfortable helping Jasmine*, which I would only do in the home of a good friend.  Usually, you just sit and wait to be served.  But after our family came, her daughter-in-laws parents and brothers came in to join us, so I served everyone.  I also texted the American friends with language (Jennifer*, her husband, and her three kids) we were going to walk around with, and they came over.

Jasmine* had told our girls and Jennifer's* girls to go upstairs to visit her 17-year old twins who were still getting ready.

The make-up application took forever!  They stayed upstairs with the twins until it was time to leave.  The way we knew it was time to leave was because more people were coming in.

The good news is that we had a good conversation with the other family that had come in (the family of the daughter-in-law).  On the TV was the live stream of what was happening in Mecca.  As we watched several hundred people march in circles around the Kaaba (the black building in Mecca that followers of Islam face when they pray).  We asked why they were marching around it.  Why there weren't a lot of people there on this special day (compared to the hoards of crowds we've seen before), and we had a small amount of time to say small Truths to them before we leave.  

Any seed planted is better than no seed at all.

First house down.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ramazan "Might" be Over

The last few days of Ramazan, things started to look a little different.

There were sermons on the mosque loud-speakers every day (not just on Fridays, like normal).

There were additional calls to prayer throughout the evening, besides the normal five.

During the morning and early afternoon, the streets were still pretty vacant.

And everyone still scrambled to get where they were going by 7:30pm to break fast with their families.

But starting around 4pm until 2 or 3am (excepting dinner), people were out shopping like crazy.

For toys,





and Fruit.

One thing every family needs every day of Ramazan is dates.

Lots and lots of dates (and I'm not talking about the boy/girl kind). 

I'm talking about the fruity kind.

Each person (so I've heard) breaks their daily fast with a date.  I haven't been able to find out why except that one person said for those who only take a date at the break and then go pray, the sugar in the date gives them enough energy to make it through their prayers before they eat.

But I have met several people who eat their date plus a full meal before they go pray.

At the end of Ramazan, there seemed to be a big sale on dates.

Here's something else we saw.  I don't know if it's a Ramazan thing or a summer thing, but trucks come down from the mountain filled with snow and covered with a tarp, and then somebody sells the snow out of the back of the truck.

I'll bet all the drink sellers who fill their big metal tubs with drinks and ice use this snow as a cheaper option to ice.

 Alright, so we were thinking that since Almanacs, the internet, etc tells us what the stages of the moon are, we would be able to tell when Ramazan ends.


On July 4th, "we" were pretty sure that Ramazan would be over the next day.  We even cancelled language with certainty (because of the internet, etc).  But, boy, were we wrong.

We were told that everyone would know at 8pm, when it was announced on the news, if Ramazan was over that night or not.

They were all waiting on a man in Saudi to see "something" in particular about the moon.

He didn't see it.

He said they had one more day of fasting.

And we had one more day of language.

Funny enough, the US, London, Germany, etc. did not take one more day of fasting.  They ended it that night.  So maybe it's just a Middle Eastern thing??

I really don't know.

What I do know, is that now that they knew the 6th of July would be the end, they started getting ready for the three day celebration called Eid al-Fitr.

They bought a lot of baklava and chocolate, which are both important for the celebration.

There's always a story to tell around here, so I'll fill you in on the "after" celebration tomorrow.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

...Let there Be Light

I failed to mention (although you are smart enough to realize) that when we don't have city or generator power, we also don't have lights (or power for our fridge, charger cords, vacuum cleaner, TV, blender, hot water kettle, etc.).

We brought some cool solar lights that my kids use in their rooms, but we also bought this LED lantern  here, and I really like it.

If you leave the switch in the "ON" position all the time, and have it plugged in to charge at the same time, the light will NOT come on unless the power goes out.

Before we figured this out, we would be scrambling around in the dark looking for iphones or flashlights to turn on.

But now, when the power goes off, the lantern comes on automatically without me even having to think about it.  AND...since it's sitting behind our water filter, it illuminates the whole room.

Here it is from the other side.  It can surely put out some light.

I can still cook in the kitchen (if I ever wanted to)...

And, the living room is even lit up nicely.

So, there you have it.

We are illuminated!

Friday, July 8, 2016

You might live in the M.E....

Well, I mentioned we had some problems with our swamp coolers in the heat, but our water tank has also had a hard time keeping up with the heat.

I think it's a combination of evaporation, heavier usage during the hot months, and me not paying attention to when city water is on before I wash clothes or dishes.

Our tank has gone dry twice.  We can re-fill it when town water is on, but town water is not always on.

Cold showers before bed are a treat, but we won't be experiencing them this summer.

With no hot water heater on, the tank still getting really hot during the day, so even the "cold tap" lets out warm water.


* you don't use your stove after 10am.
* food doesn't sound good in summer.
* you only want to eat ice cream and drink cold Coke all day.
* your towel ALWAYS feel like it just came out of a dryer.
* frozen chicken defrosts on your counter in less than 30 minutes.
* dishes in the dish rack dry in 15 minutes.
* your hair dries in 5 minutes by itself.
* the men in your family take off their shirt and cool themselves by lying on the tile floor.
* you always have softened/semi-melted butter on the counter ready for cooking.
* you don't turn your water heater on in the summer.
* even the cold tap sends out warm water.
* you drink more than your allotted share of water as prescribed by doctors.
* your swamp cooler only blows hot air.
* you never want to snuggle with anyone because you're both so sticky.

Water is kind of important!

Our kitchen has two taps.

The single one on the right is city water, and the double one on the left is our tank water.

 Usually, the city water looks like this.

But occasionally, it comes out like this.

Thankfully, we have our Katadyn water filter that we had in Africa.  It works beautifully.

The water goes in the top looking like this.

It filters through the ceramic candles, and comes out nice and clear (and luke warm - because it's in our hot house).

Every now and then, we need to clean it.

That's Doug's job.

Actually, a lot of the tough jobs are his.  He works hard to keep us cool and make sure we have water.

Yes, we live in the Middle East.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Heat, with a side of Heat

Doug said the rest of the transcript process wasn't too difficult.  After Surprise went back to pick up the signed papers, he and Doug went to another government office downtown.  After 30 minutes or so, they had government approval, and so they headed to the school to hand all the paperwork to the Asst. Principal.  Now, we just owe them money, and we'll be ready for the beginning of school.

A couple of Fridays ago, Doug visited another town with a gentleman who has lived here for awhile.  Once Doug was gone, we had some difficulty with the power, and it was 104 degrees before 11am.  I wasn't able to ask all the questions I needed to my landlord's sister about when power might be restored (I'm still missing some key verbs in my vocabulary),  So I decided to try and text my other neighbors (which I told you about before), at which didn't do so hot.

However, all that to say, I received my very first personal text in the local language yesterday!!  I'm not going to lie...I took it to Kylie to read it for me and answer back, but hey, it's a start.

In reality, the heat problem is not really a problem.  I mean, this looks pretty much like any Texas forecast.  Hot at night, hot during the day, etc.

The problem is with the power.

The three air conditioner units work on city power, but city power does not run all the time.

Part of our fees for living here is to pay a man who is responsible for cranking up the neighborhood generator when the city power goes off, but he's not allowed to run the generator all the time either.

When the generator IS on, we can run our fans and our swamp coolers, but they just blow warm air.  But I guess warm air moving is better than no air moving.  Doug has replaced the motors in both swamp coolers since it started getting hot, and this week, he had to replace another one of them (at midnight when the shops were open)!

So here is what life looks like upstairs at my house.  One of the A/C units is in the big room, so Caleb and Kylie have moved some doshaks in there to sleep for the summer.  When the city power is on, this room is nice and cool.

However, each of them also has a fan aimed a their body for when the city power cuts off during the night.

 Karis' room is the hottest, so she has an A/C unit in there for her and Keira.  But they also have to be prepared for when the power goes out, hence the fans.

That's about it for us here.  We're just basically hot.

I have, however, learned to be thankful.  I mean, Abraham (I mistakenly said "Moses" in a letter to some friends recently) wandered around these lands for a long time with no fan, swamp cooler, or A/C.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Once upon a Transcript

How did I forget to tell this story?!!

Well, we needed to get the kids registered for school.

Doug and I went to the school and got a hand-written note from the Asst. Principal.  I have no idea what it said because it was in a different language, but she told us to take it to the Government Education building downtown.

We asked our language helper "Surprise" where it was, and he said he knew.  But when we asked some Americans who had already gone through this process, they said there was another building we had to go to first...across town.

We had also heard it is best for "the man" to go, so Doug and our language helper went with sealed transcripts and a sealed letter from the Asst. Principal across town.

They arrived a little past 9.  Surprise read all the signs and figured out they needed to go upstairs.  On the 2nd floor, he read more signs and realized they needed to go to the 3rd floor.

They asked someone a question who then took the sealed envelope from the Asst. Principal and tore it open.  They were then instructed to go across the hall to Room #1.

It was locked.

They sat and waited.

Surprise said, “This is the problem.  People have no money.  They aren’t being paid, so there is no motivation to work.”

An hour later, TEN people were waiting when the door finally opened.

The line filed in, but since no one follows "line etiquette," Doug and Surprise ended up last.

After waiting for their turn at the counter, they finally get up front, and the lady tells them that she is "over Norway and Sweden.  I’m not over American students; however, the lady who is, is not here.  She stayed home because her daughter is sick."

Surprise tells Doug to, “Hold on.”  He goes to Room #5 telling Doug, "This is a boss.  Not the boss of boss, but the boss of this department."

He's a very large man.

Now, some from the other room were in front of them in new room.  People kept coming in, giving the boss stacks of papers.  

When Doug was at the front, the boss looked at the papers from the principal and asked for the “certificates” (transcripts).  He opened them, and Doug and Surprise stood there for 30 minutes while the boss passed time taking phone calls and stopping to look at different stacks of papers. 

He finally said, "You need to go down to Room #1" (where they were previously).

The lady who was "over Norway and Sweden" printed out pages that Suprise had to copy the transcript onto in the foreign language and translated basic questions for Doug to answer on each kid.  Full name, birthdate, etc.

Then she told them to return to office #5. 

The boss looked at the papers, asked for transcripts (he had only looked at Karis’ before).  He looked meticulously, and asked tons of questions. 

When he opened Caleb's, he asks, "Where is Caleb?  What is he doing?  Sleeping?"

Doug said, "He’s playing soccer with friends."

"What’s his favorite team?"

Doug made up one..."Chelsea." 

"I like Germany National team.  German coach is coaching USA now.  Very good.  Very good."

He then opened Kylie's.  Looked at it and said, "Go to room #1."

When they got to the front of the line again, they were told to fill out more papers...  More translating. 

They gave the completed papers to her, then she filled out more papers and put them in a folder, stapled them all together (4 duplicates of everything), gave them back to Doug, and told them to go to Room # 5.

The boss had to sign all 4 copies on all 3 kids.  Then he went back to stamp all 12 copies.

He had a hard time.  The stamp was running out of ink, so he stamped harder and harder.  Doug said it scared Surprise.

The boss then said, "Go to Room #2."

They did.  Someone else signed the papers. 

Then they went to Room #3 and handed them to another lady because she had to sign all the papers. 

She was mad!  "Why is this stamp so light?"

Surprise said, "It’s not my fault.  It’s your fault.  You people are the ones stamping it."

She marched down to Room #5.  She got onto her boss and complained that the stamps weren't dark enough.  She then tried to use white-out so she could stamp over his stamps with better ink.

The boss in Room #5 said they need to come back on Thursday (it was Tuesday).  The lady over American affairs was out sick that day and the next.


Surprise went back and picked up all of our papers on Thursday before coming to language class.

Government building #1 done.

Sort of.

One more to go...I think.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Testing with a Side of Revenge

It was 109 degrees on the day we went to test Sarah* (a relative of Jasmine,* my neighbor).  Sarah* was at her uncle's house.

Everyone in the family (which seems to be many people in my neighborhood) had been using the uncle's house as a meeting place lately because Jasmine's* mother had been attacked by a stranger, and she was healing there.

We have been told many people visit her at night, and this house certainly had a big enough sitting room to hold a lot of people.

I took a picture from my corner of the room just to show how far it was across and to tell you another story.

We sat in the room with Jasmine*, two of her daughters, her injured mother, her uncle, and a male cousin.  We talked for a long time.  The male cousin (who was older than I) quizzed me on my language.  The injured mother kept saying, "She will learn."  And he kept saying, "She speaks well.  I just want to see what she knows."  (I could actually understand all of this).

He would test me on different objects in the room, and then when he found something I didn't know (like a "cigarette lighter"), he would proceed to teach me, and he seemed to enjoy that.

The family really seemed to like him, even though he seemed big and gruff, and I grew to like him, too.

Jennifer* asked about the framed gun over the fireplace and asked if it had been his grandmother's.  (She meant to say "grandfather," but I know all too well about making mistakes).  They laughed and said, "No, they had bought it."

But then the cousin got up and went to the corner and picked up what looked similar to a Tommy Gun, and said it was his.  Can you see it leaning on the orange pillow?

He said it was for "Daesh." (the Arabic word for ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others.'  They use that name because it delegitimizes "the organization" and because it is an insult or swearword in its own right).

Then a younger man entered the room, and we all stood up for some reason.  He greeted the other men and then sat down.  Then 7 more men entered the room, and no one stood up.  (We asked later and found out that the younger man was considered a guest (even though he's married to a lady in the family) and the others weren't considered guests).  I don't know what determines all of this.

All of the women (there were more there by now) went to the kitchen when the men arrived, and they beckoned me and Jennifer* to come in the kitchen as well, but Jasmine* was sitting by her injured mom, and she wasn't leaving, so we stayed with our friend.

Do as they do, right?

It was the first time I'd been in a room with this many local men.  None of the women spoke at all except the injured mother.  And in this particular case, one loud man took over the conversation.  He was talking about killing someone.  He was angry.  He said someone was crazy.  He talked about a large sum of money.  He was pointing his finger and aiming at people and hitting the ground with it.  I basically had no idea what was going on, but everyone else was kind of snickering.

He had crazy eyes, and my feelings about him were confirmed when the big cousin across the room, mouthed to us that that man was "crazy."  Crazy enough (pun intended), the word for "crazy" in this country is very close to a cuss word in English.  As a matter of fact, many of the cuss words we have in English are used in everyday speech here as normal words.  It really catches me off-guard when they are used or when I have to use them!!

After all of his ranting, he got up, walked over to the fireplace, and picked up a belt with several clips/rounds of bullets attached to it.  He belted it to his waist.  Then he picked up the gun, and walked out.

No one said anything.

Wasn't this the other man's gun?

I thought we might have some Independence Day fireworks or something.

Then another man that had followed him out, came back and belted to his waist another set of clips that I hadn't seen sitting in the fireplace.

Then someone came back in to report that the crazy man had slipped and fallen as he had left the house, and everyone laughed.

I'm pretty sure laughing at a crazy man with a gun is not a good thing, people!

Anyway, after 2 1/2 hours of this "testing visit," I was exhausted.  We had already mentioned to Jasmine* that we needed to leave, and she said she would come with us.

But we waited for her to make the first move.

Because that's what you do.

It wasn't happening.

After 20 minutes, I texted Doug, and wrote, "Call me."

He got the message thankfully, and he did call.

I said, "Did you need me?"

He said, "Of course I need you."

I got off the phone and looked at Jasmine* and said, "My husband needs me."

And there you have it.  She got up.

Jennifer* and I were hosting a local family at her house that night and we both needed to cook our dishes.

Here comes another late night.

Yep!  4am!

*Names changed

Sunday, July 3, 2016

English Testing for Camp

The English center, at which Doug teaches, is hosting an English camp for 50 children ages 8-13 in a couple of weeks.

It is the job of the teachers to sign up the children, test them and collect their money.  Since it's mostly mothers at home with their children, Jennifer* and I have been going to houses of neighbors we want to connect with to inquire whether they would like their children tested so they can attend.

We first asked Jasmine* about testing her 9 year old daughter "Z."  She told us we could come on a Tuesday at 4, so we did.

We visited for a while, and then I watched Jennifer* give the oral test.  It was a very simple way to see whether she knew her colors, could recognize letters, say the ABC's, could answer easy questions in English, like "What is your name?"  "How old are you?"  etc.

"Z" tested at level Zero, but that is normal for the kids in my neighborhood.  They start having English classes in Kindergarten, but having teachers who don't know English very well, it makes it hard for them to progress very far.

"Z" could say most of her colors and sing her ABC's, but when we asked what a shirt, a door, an eye, etc. were, she couldn't say the word in English.

I know from the day she came over and watched me make salsa, that she does know "banana," "orange," and "apple," because those are the things she could identify on my counter, but she can't say much else.

We were offered drinks, but we declined out of respect for them.  Jasmine* then informed us that none of the girls in the house were fasting at that time.  One is pregnant, and the others are dealing with female things, and the laws for fasting don't allow them to take part in fasting during that time.

They started drinking juice, so we had a little as well.

Then Jasmine* made a call for us to another mother (her cousin) who said we could come in two days to test her daughter.  Then after 1 1/2 hours had passed, we left and walked over to the house next to mine.

The brother and sister of my landlord (and part-owners of the chicken butchery) live there.  The rooms that side up to our house are my landlord's sister and the three kids she has taken in.  Then there is a kitchen built onto the front porch, and on the other side of that are a few more rooms where my landlord's brother, his wife "Beautiful," (that's what her name means) and their three kids live.

We sat in the sister's house, thinking we were going to ask about testing the son and daughter of "Beautiful" (because those are the two kids we know), but the sister also wanted us to test two of the kids she has taken in.  However, they needed to talk to the brother for permission to attend the camp, so they asked if we would return the next night at 9pm.


We were offered drinks, which we turned down out of respect, and they were very appreciative and said we were good people.

While we visited, "Beautiful" went to wake up one of her children.

It was 6pm!

We had a very good visit, and returned the next night at 9pm to see if they were committed. 

They were, but they said they had to wait to pay until they got OUR rent money on the first of July.

Testing was funny.  We had to keep reminding moms, aunts, cousins, and siblings to be quiet and not help the person being tested.  When Jennifer* would say, "How old are you?" in English, you could hear a whisper across the room, "Taminet chenda?" (which means the same thing) so the student would understand the question.  I wish I could have taken a picture of all of the huddled around that piece of paper.

All four kids that were tested scored a Zero, but again, that's normal.

While we were there, they got a facetime call from another sister that lives in America.  It was her idea to build the house next to the butchery that I live in and use it for additional income.  They handed the phone to us to visit with her and her children since we speak English.  This happens a lot.

One time in a taxi, the driver found out we spoke English, so he called his brother on the phone, handed the phone to Doug cold turkey, and told Doug to talk.  I guess they think we will be instant friends and have tons to talk about if we both speak English.

The visit with Beautiful and her sister-in-law was good, and I was glad for these relationships.  Doug usually only deals with the landlord, but it is nice to have a relationship with the ladies over there as well.  I actually knocked on their gate two days later because I was having a problem with the electricity and Doug wasn't home.  I was glad we had already established a connection.

*names changed

Saturday, July 2, 2016

First Day of Summer

For Father's Day, back in June, we took Doug out for lunch.  We had to wait until 2pm for the restaurant to open, because...Ramazan.

He ordered a Mongolian steak but was given the Mongolian hamburger by mistake.

No mistake here.

That thing was at least 6 inches high between the buns!!!  It had what looked like three chicken-fried steaks stacked up with fried mozzarella cheese between them, and some kind of sauce oozing out the sides.

In case you were wondering, he did NOT pick it up and eat it.

A knife and fork were involved.

I split a Hawaiian burger with Kylie, and it was just the right thing to lead into a nap.

I hardly ever take naps, but on this day, it was glorious!

At 5pm, my friend and I took our maxi material to a tailor to have her alter the bought ones and make the un-made ones, but she told us we needed to soak our material first.

So, I went back home, and we had a mini-TV marathon.  We were all exhausted and hot.  We didn't want to move too much.  Again, I understand why the locals are sleeping during the day.

The next day was officially the "First Day of Summer."

Although, I feel like we've been experiencing "summer" for a while now.

When the sun was high in the sky, and the temperature was 104 degrees, Doug, the girls and I walked to Stationary Street.  I've mentioned this place before.

Again, it was quiet, and the streets were empty.  I guess the reason the office supply stores remain open during the day is because offices still have to work and need supplies during this crazy time.

And again, I was so excited about being in my favorite kind of store that I forgot to take pictures!!  I did however, buy three new journals for different language uses (lesson plans, language practice, and new language journal).

And I did take one picture on the way there.

This pitiful looking wedding dress just sits outside of its shop 24 hours a day, covered in dust, as an advertisement to come inside and shop.

Does this dirty gown beckon you at all?

Things you don't think about unless you're here, but all the notebooks open from the back (remember, they read back to front, right to left).

I really do need a notebook to practice language.

I sent a text the other day that took me 30 minutes to write.  I wanted to show you a picture of it, but just in case some people could read it, I would be very embarrassed.  I couldn't find the "sh" key, so I just used "s" (my friend showed me later that if I hit the shift key, I get a whole new group of letters), and I'm sure I spelled all the words wrong.

But here's an example of my yahoo page that pulls up on my computer.

And here's our six names that I wrote in my language notebook.

Betcha can't tell which letter makes the "K" sound...
(remember to read right to left)