Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The wait is over

The ladies served up large dishes of each item and gave them to all the Americans.  Everyone else had a platter between two of them, except for the ladies.  They sat at one end and just ate out of the cooking dishes with their forks.

It turned out the men grabbed the naan bread, loaded it with rice and meat and they ate over the plastic.  They also ate any salad or okra soup that was near to them.

 We found some empty dishes and we took off the dolma, rice, etc we wanted, and we slowly slid our large portions to the middle for everyone to share.  I even passed some dishes back to the ladies.  They had served so much of some items that they didn't have any left.

I'm telling you.  You cannot out-do this culture in giving and hosting!

Here's a dish (above, brown) that I've had a couple of times, but I've never told you about.  I like it.  It's made with a kind of vermicelli noodle and yellow raisins.  It sounds gross, but it has a sweet sauce of sugar and something syruppy stirred in, and it makes it like a dessert.  Today's wasn't particularly flavorable, but I'm not picky (except for those bean things). 

In fact, if you look two pictures up, you can see my bowl with Keira's left-over lemon and one bean.  I accidentally got a bean off the dolma plate, so there it sat...untouched.

Oooh.  I forgot to tell you about the contents of the orange jug.  It's fresh, squeezed pomegranate juice.  It takes about 4 pomegranates (and a lot of time)  for 1 cup of juice.  I really enjoyed it!  I'd never had it hand-squeezed before.  I wouldn't let any of my kids start a cup unless they knew they could finish it.  It's like liquid gold.  I let them sip mine to make sure they liked it first :)

I forgot to mention this cute boy on the right (although the one on the left is pretty cute, too).  While Doug and another friend of ours were engaged in conversation for the 4-5 hours we were there, Caleb just sat.

Just sat.

He was asked a few questions (like whether he had facebook or not), but for the most part, he just sat.

The girls got to cook, move around, talk about hair, look at facebook, talk about the artists they like to listen to, look at pictures, watch the women take turns using their prayer rugs to pray, take pictures, etc., but I'm pretty sure Caleb just sat patiently.

Proud Momma moment.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Learning to cook "Womans' Food"

It seems that a main entree for many meals is a food called "dolma."  However, if you ask most men, they will say, "I don't like it.  It's woman's food."

I've seen men eating it, even gorging on it, but we know better than to call it anything except "woman's food."

We've had it several times.

It's been brought to our house by the neighbors, and we've had it at a couple of picnics.

It's the dish in the upper center, to the left of the meat and rice.  It is a seasoned rice (and sometimes meat) stuffed into various vegetables.

There is also white dolma and red dolma.  (You can see the difference below).  I prefer white, but that's just me.  I also prefer it stuffed in an onion skin or grape leaf.   The one thing I do not like about dolma is the large bean-type things they put in the pot with the dolma to cook.  You can see them on the tray below.

Ok, so back to this house where we stayed for 5 hours.

About 11, the ladies headed into the kitchen, and we asked if we could watch and learn to make dolma (at least I think that's what we said).

It started out simple enough.

Did I mention we cook on the floor?

The daughter in the background is making salad with white pomegranates and other wonderful things.  Later she poured a pomegranate syrup over it.  It was my favorite dish on the table!

Also, notice on the tray in front of me the insides of cucumbers.  One of the ladies let me try to scrape out the insides of a zucchini.  Let me just say it's harder than it sounds, and she had to "fix" mine after I tried.  The skin has to be pretty thin to stuff and cook properly.

The raw rice is mixed with tomato paste, parsley, a LOT of salt, a bitter/lemon salt which I don't have a translation for yet, some other spices, and oil.  Yes, that liquid you see is oil, not water!

She is scraping out the last tomatoes, and the tray is now full of all the things she will stuff with rice: grape leaves, onion skins, tomatoes, bell peppers, egg plants, and zucchini.

These are the bean-type things at the bottom that I don't like.  Of course, I may have discovered on this day that I was eating them wrong.

I was just "eating" them before, but on this day, I saw the ladies put one bean in their mouth and eat the inside of the bean and take the skin of the bean out of their mouth (kind of like you would eat a sunflower seed).

Maybe I'll try it one more time when given the chance.

This is the beginning of the grape leaf wraps.

Stuffed tomatoes are sitting upright in the pot, and she is stuffing one end of a zucchini and then closing the other end with another part of the vegetable like a puzzle.

I had never seen these long onions before in America.  The long shape definitely makes them easier to roll than a round onion.  You can also see the zucchini "puzzle" here.

The pot is getting full!

Finishing off all the grape leaves.

There is no more rice, so to help keep the heat in, she covered the top with the remaining grape leaves.

I didn't realize they had a couple of dishes already cooking, so I thought dolma and salad might be it.  But then the mom also brought in this very crispy, thin naan bread she had made.  It is so thin and fragile, that it breaks easily.

Not all women know how to make this, but it has a special quality.  It will last almost forever.

 When you are ready to eat it, you wet it by sprinkling a lot of water on it.  All of a sudden it is like a flour tortilla, bendable, and lunch-ready.

This lady took it outside to use the water on the porch.

Then, so it wouldn't be so damp, she covered it and put it in the sun for a bit.

I actually have some in my cabinet that I've had a while.

I don't ever wet it.

When I want something that kind of reminds me of a tortilla chip, I reach for a broken piece.

This particular naan has trouble holding salsa in big chunks, so I have to spoon a little on a little piece a little at a time.

But any way you can get salsa in your mouth is a good thing, right?

Chips and salsa are one of "this woman's" favorite foods.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Little Too Early

So Doug was outside with his chocolates around 8am.

The last time he did this, he was outside at 7:00.

The big difference is that last time it was the end of Ramazan/Ramadan, and the people had been fasting during each day.  I think the anticipation of eating during day time hours had them up and moving.

On this particular day, the streets felt a little sluggish.

After all the chocolate-filled men went home, the streets were empty.

We walked to our neighbors, and they weren't home.  They had gone to visit the husband's family.

So we walked to our landlord's brother's house, next to the chicken dukan. 

To our surprise, our landlord was there, not his brother.

He invited us in, but we soon realized he was alone.

We stared at the TV, watching pilgrims in Mecca throw the rocks and spit, like I mentioned before.

It was awkward.

It was even more awkward when he started serving us!

Men usually don't do this.

Apparently, the owner of the house and his family had gone to sacrifice, so we quickly excused ourselves.

We were unsure whether we should go to another house, but we headed down our street, and some friends from last time invited us in.

This is the house where THIS took place.

Guess what?  This wasn't her house either!  But she served us anyway. 

Her sister-in-law lives here, but they were out visiting.  I really like this lady and her sister-in-law.

Doug visited with her husband, but conversation dwindled after our language ran out.

Another family came to visit, and we visited with them a little, but when they left, we excused ourselves as well.

We headed back to our house, but the family that had JUST left the previous house saw us, and they invited us into their home!

That was it, folks. 

We settled in for a long stay.

This family was our "appointment" for the day, and we were there almost five hours!!

When we first arrived, all of these beautiful ladies were there visiting, too!

We were in the "woman's room," and they all wanted their individual picture taken with Kylie, and it was getting crazy, so I suggested we all take a picture together, and they loved that!

There were numerous phones, so they asked all the younger girls in the room to take pictures.

And it continued...

After the group picture, ladies still kept trying to take selfies with me and the girls.

Their chatter and excitement really had me smiling!

But they eventually all left, and we sat with the mom and her three daughters, while Doug, our guest, and Caleb sat with all the men in the other room.

We only stayed in this room about 45 minutes, and then we went out where the men were, and it was decided that we would stay for lunch...which hadn't been cooked yet.

That's for another story.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Every Good Party Starts with Chocolate

You can tell when something big is about to happen because people usually start to prepare for it.

Think about the "preparation" for Christmas that starts in November.

Think of all the charcoal, fireworks, burgers, and chips that get purchased before the 4th of July.

The same thing happens here.

Kylie gets out her shiny shoes.

The mall hangs hundreds of balloons.

This is a bad picture, but I was trying to show you the truck in front of us is full of sheep headed to slaughter.  (see the wool in the sun?)

People all over town, washed their carpets and hung them out to dry.

This was the second day of carpets hung over our wall.  Our neighbors used our wall, knowing we wouldn't be doing any "preparations."

And don't pay any attention to our broken air conditioner on the porch, please.

My neighbor also told me that she and her husband were fasting nine days before the holiday.

So, what was my family doing to prepare?

Buying chocolate (and praying).

Just like the last holiday, Doug got outside early with his bowl of chocolate and greeted all the men on the street who were walking around getting...chocolate.

This is the neighbor boy.  Check out his outfit!!

See what this gentleman is doing?  He has his hand to his head, and he is saying "Head Eyes" in his language.  That is how you say "thank you" and show respect.

This is our landlord's brother.  If I had to pick a favorite on the street, it would be him.

And Doug is still handing out chocolate.

One time, a huge group of men came by and emptied his bowl so he had to come in for a refill.

This time of the day, women are not outside, so I was sneaking pictures from the second floor window.

Shhh!  Don't tell anyone.

This man is also saying "Head Eyes," but he's putting his hand to his heart, which is acceptable as well.

The boys are all in their new clothes

But let's not leave the girls out.

Here they are.  New clothes.  Purses.  Hair down.  Ready to go.

But, where are they going?

Probably to find more chocolate!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Feast of Sacrifice

As I mentioned last week, Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice.  It is one of their holiest celebrations all year.  The holiday lasted all week.

Nothing was open.

Men took off work.

There was no school.

People spent time with family.

And families made trips together to have an animal sacrificed.

I took some pictures from a news website so I could show you different ways people celebrate Eid.

I think I told you that I read somewhere that over 100 million animals were slaughtered during the holiday.  Cows, sheep, goat, rams, even camels.

It's customary here to give some of your meat to neighbors if you sacrifice a bigger animal.

I don't know why these guys are laying all of this meat out, because I thought it went to the family, but since it is so much, they probably sell a ton, too.

So much blood.

 Thank you, Lord, for being the FINAL sacrifice, so that we don't have to come to You with an animal.  All you require is clean hands and a pure heart.

Pictures like this remind me of how tiresome blood and killing would have gotten day after day at the temple, and before that, the tabernacle.

The free gift of grace is truly an amazing thing!

The two pictures below are from Saudi Arabia.  You can see all the pilgrims on Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

One of the things they do while they are there is go to a certain area to throw stones at a certain rock, to represent throwing stones at Satan.  After the men throw the stones, they get their heads shaved, as you can see below.

I had never heard of this, but that's what this article said.

When our family went to our first visitation for the holiday, we were in a home with a live, streaming telecast at the stone-throwing rock in Mecca.

Thousands were surrounding it, throwing rocks and spitting at Satan. 

That's about all the knowledge I have for you, but I will share what we did with neighbors in an upcoming post.

I'm going to go spend a moment thanking Him for His Amazing Grace!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

First Day of School

The kids started their first day at their new school at the beginning of September. 

They went 5 days, and then they had 9 days off for the sacrifice holiday. 

They went back Sunday.

I took this picture standing at the office, looking out into the courtyard.  The street is just beyond the three tiny figures (guards) you see in the far back, if you look through the red tents.

It's a very small school.

That is the entire playground!!

All the rooms on the left are high school
(5 classes total: 1 Freshman, 1 Sophomore, 1 Junior, 2 Seniors)

All the rooms on the right are elementary.

Below are Karis and Caleb's schedule.  They are in the 5th and 7th grades.  The only thing I blurred out was the national language, and they both have that on "B" days.

Quite the shocker for Karis was to walk in class on the first day of school and have Arabic.

The teacher knows no English, but Karis said she understood one Arabic word : notebook (it's the same word in the language we are learning)

She knew she was supposed to take out her notebook, but beyond that, she just sat in a complete daze.

I don't blame her!

I don't know if you noticed, but there is no P.E. for these grades; however, for the high school, "Sports" is required.

I would think if there was any grade I would want to have mandatory "energy release," it would be Middle School, but what do I know.

 Below, is Kyile's "A" day schedule.  No electives!  And she has no choice as to what she takes...all freshmen take the same classes.

She had Algebra I last year, and she is having to repeat it this year instead of going on to Geometry :(

Again, I've blurred out the local language.  Kylie will start taking Arabic next term.

Yes, we were THOSE parents who went to school the second day to talk to the principal.

Poor Caleb almost missed his entire lunch period the first day of school because it was taking him so long to copy the Arabic alphabet and write everything off the board.  We just wanted to ask the principal what the expectations were for our kids in these language classes.

She was very kind and understanding.  She knows it's a shock, but unfortunately, those two languages are mandated by the government, and they HAVE to be taught.

Thankfully, our language helper has been able to help the kids a little when he comes over in the evenings. 

It will all work out in the end.

So proud of these three and the adventures they are taking on.

Not to leave anybody out.

Keira started pre-school (and potty training) with her momma on the very same day.

What's better than doing math naked outside in the warm sun?

Don't answer that!!! :)

Monday, September 19, 2016

My baby's growing up

There is a new baby in the neighborhood.  I showed you this picture back in August on the first day that I saw her.

She's not much bigger now.

The ladies and small children who pass her around don't protect her neck, so it's getting pretty strong, pretty fast.  They also hit her over and over again on her bottom (gingerly) saying, "Hit, hit, hit."

They start them young, and it continues on into the teenage years (and maybe further).

Children are always hitting each other and parents are always hitting children.

Just last night, we went to a house for tea and cookies, and one of the boys there hauled off and slapped his brother hard in the head, and everything went on as if nothing happened, while my children all looked at me wide-eyed and then started giggling under their breath.

When it comes to the neighbors, I think Keira likes some of the attention being off of her for a little while.

And then there's Kylie.

My baby, recently-turned 14 year old.

Time's flying.

In Africa, the kids started a tradition of sleeping all together the night before someone's birthday.

The tradition continued (sans Keira).

 Keira helped Dad and I wake up Kylie and the other two.  We played the Imperial music from "Star Wars," poked everyone with light sabers, and eventually got around to singing, "Happy Birthday" to Kylie.

Don't we look lovely?

We all made her cards, and even though the inside of Keira's card was cute, too, I thought I'd show you the back.  Karis translated it for her:

"Happy birthday to you!  You are the biggest person."

It made us all smile.

In the afternoon, some girls got together to play games and make desserts.  They had a good time.

For dinner, we went out to eat.  Kylie and I split a Hawaiian hamburger.  It was delicious!

Someone else (Kylie's mini-me) enjoyed her chicken and soda.

When we came back home, we invited a few families over for our traditional birthday dessert that Kylie made. 

There was hardly anything left when all was said and done.

Happy birthday, Kylie!

I hope you always know how much you are loved by your family and your Father.

Yes, Caleb, we can see you :)