We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Let the Festivities Begin!

This summer, G.G. (Jason's mom) sent a package to us and it took 4 months to get here. Because of that, when she got our Christmas package together, she gave herself plenty of extra lead time. So since the first week of November we've had a big box of Christmas presents hiding behind a curtain in our bedroom.

This weekend, G.G. decided it was close enough to the big day, so we did a video conference with her and Grandpa so they could watch us open our gifts. The box was a little taller than Lee Anna, but she had a blast seeing what was coming out.

G. G. sewed a new cover for Lee Anna's playhouse, and she even found a material that looks like little bricks. Lee Anna is loving it.

I think she sent the boys footballs so they wouldn't be misled into thinking that the black and white round ball we see so much here is a "football!" Now we've just got to convince Sawyer that it's not a chocolate football. I started teaching him to play defense already. He can't really catch the ball yet, but he can knock it down. I think he might be the next great FSU cornerback, like Deion Sanders, Leroy Butler or Terrell Buckley. Thanks G.G.!! We had fun opening all our presents!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is He Engaged Now?

Last night, our friends came to eat American food with us. We bought a beef roast and I called Mom as soon as she was awake to ask for any advice in cooking it. The meat came out great, and they seemed to enjoy it a lot, even though they might not have been so comfortable with everyone having his own plate. After dinner, our friend Shymet helped clear the table. We had served rice in four bowls which we ate out of. When she got finished cleaning the table, she put the leftover rice from each of those bowls back into the big pot. Beth couldn't bring herself to tell her that wasn't really all that sanitary. After dinner, we were drinking tea in the living room when Ranna took a shine to baby Sawyer. She's about six months older than he, and she started chasing him around and kissing him. I'm not sure what that means in this culture, but I think they might be engaged now.

Monday, December 04, 2006

'Tis the Season

It's beginning to look like Christmas at the Davis House. Lee Anna has enjoyed playing with our nativity scenes, although she does sometimes take some liberty with the story (see the post below).Sawyer also enjoys playing with the nativity characters when Lee Anna's not looking. Apparently he thinks the story is that all of the characters got eaten. We were able to buy a tree this week and get it decorated. Don't be fooled. The kids were not as much help as these pictures might lead you to believe! They took the role of quality control, making sure we had everything hung securely. If not, they removed it so we could re-attach it more securely! Don't worry--the ornaments are not as breakable as they look. In fact, they are extremely durable, as Lee Anna and Sawyer have both taken pains to prove.

Here's Lee Anna helping untangle the strand of beads--or maybe she's just trying to make a fashion statement.
Stay tuned for more Christmas adventures!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Gospel According to Lee Anna

Quick! Which of these characters did all four gospel writers leave out of the Christmas story? For those of you who are a little rusty, see the multiple choice option below.
A) Joseph
B) Shepherds
C) Elmo in a boat
D) Mary and the baby

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Made in China?

Not long ago, we went to eat dinner at our friend Mohamed's house again. This time, though, instead of watching another Tommy Lee Jones movie with Arabic subtitles after we ate, Beth asked if we could go visit a rug store that she had been eyeing near their flat. They agreed, so after Shymat donned her "going out clothes" and put on her makeup (and shared some with Lee Anna), we all headed down the stairs and toward the store.

Side Note:
While Beth and their 6-year-old daughter were waiting for everyone else outside the front door, Beth noticed another door across from theirs. When she asked if anyone lived there, the little girl matter-of-factly replied, "No, that's where the sheep stay." Now you should know that this flat is on the top floor of their building--5 floors off the ground! We're guessing that the door didn't lead to a flat, but to the roof, and that apparently someone has some sheep that he keeps up there sometimes. We know they're not there all the time because we've never heard or seen them, but Mohamed told us when he heard our conversation that sometimes they're very noisy. We're also really hoping that the sheep have some other way of getting up there than walking up the same uneven, stony staircases that we walk up to get to their flat.

Back to the Main Story:
When we arrived at the rug store, Beth started looking through big stacks of rugs to find cute ones for Sawyer's and Lee Anna's bedrooms. The rugs are basically just all stacked on top of each other, so you just have to fold a corner of the top one back to see what's underneath it. Some of the stacks were almost as tall as Beth! Hung on the walls all around the store were samples of rugs, so that passersby could see what was being offered in the stacks. Jason noticed that there were small doormat rugs with Iowa Hawkeyes, Virginia Caveliers and Tennessee Titans logos on them, and he started wondering what else he might find.

So, while Beth was sorting through the big pretty rugs, Jason made his way to the back wall, where he found several tall stacks of these small doormat sized rugs. A collection of garnet-colored doormats caught his attention. (Not crimson, burgandy, or maroon, mind you--they were garnet.) So here, 7500 miles from Tallahassee, he came across a bunch of Seminole logo doormats. He brought it up front to show off, of course, and pulled out his gold chain Seminole head (which he's been wearing since 1991) to show Mohamed that it's the same head. We're not sure that they ever really quite understood what all the fuss was about. There were just too many foreign concepts--Your university has a ball team? What does that Indian head have to do with anything, anyway? And why are you wearing it around your neck? Nevertheless, they could tell we were pretty excited.

And we got even more excited when we saw the price. Ordering something like this from the Garnet and Gold Catalog would probably set you back at least $25, but we paid a whopping $2.95 for ours. Let us know if you want us to go back and check for your school. We'll be happy to take orders!

(Please no comments about FSU being the ACC doormat this year.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Almost English

When you learn a new language—any language—it’s natural to start by learning words and substituting them into the sentence structures you already know. We do this frequently, and our friends laugh at us when we say something in a way they would never say it.

What we have found, however, is that when they try to speak English, they do it, too. So the multitudes of people here who have learned just a little English come up with some pretty creative ways of communicating. Often, when they learn a common English phrase, they don’t understand what each individual word means, or even how the sounds are broken down into words. They just know that when they make those sounds, they get a certain response.

For example, I often get the question “What is your name?” Of course when they ask, I tell them my name. After that, they will frequently point to Lee Anna or Sawyer and ask me “What is your name?” again (translation: What is his/her name?). Sometimes they don’t even ask my name, but just point to Sawyer and ask me “What is your name?” Sometimes I have to repeat the question in Arabic to figure out whose name they’re really asking for.

When calling a friend on the telephone here, it is customary to ask about the well-being of each family member before getting around to the real purpose of the call. So when my friend calls me, he likes to use the little bit of English he knows to ask, “How are you Jason?” Then he asks me, “How are you Lee Anna?” and “How are you Sawyer?” and “How are you Elizabeth?”

The converse sentence also works. A little girl introduced herself to us, in English, saying, “I am Rana,” then put her hands on her friend’s shoulder and introduced her: “I am Hind.”

All of these were amusing, but we heard the very best one yet from a taxi driver Sunday night. He was trying to get Lee Anna to tell him his name, so he asked her, “What’s your name?” When she didn’t answer, he told her “I am what’s your name Fayouz.” That’s close to “My name is Fayouz”, right?

To be fair, I am sure that every night for the past 11 months, at least one taxi driver has gone home and told his family the funny way I expressed something in Arabic. I use feminine verbs with masculine pronouns and plural adjectives all the time!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rub-a-dub-dub, two kids in the tub

This week, we decided that Sawyer was finally tough enough to be in the same bathtub with Lee Anna. She was very excited to have a little human toy to play with along with her baby dolls and rubber duckies. We only had to tell her a few times to stop pouring cups of water on his head.

Sawyer spent the time doing pretty much the same thing he does all the rest of his waking hours: climbing on whatever obstacle he encounters (even if she's twice your size and pours water on your head) . . .

and putting whatever he can reach in his mouth!Of course no bathtime would be complete without a hooded towel . . .
and fuzzy pajamas!
Night-night everybody.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What do you see here?

Answer Time:

First, let me say that we didn't intend to create an international game of suspense. I had originally planned to simply write a cute little story about what Lee Anna saw here. Right after I uploaded the picture, however, Sawyer needed his Daddy. So I left the blog the way you saw it yesterday. Before I could get back to it, we started getting emails and comments about it, so we decided to leave folks guessing for a day or two.

The answer is... well, it all depends on your perspective.

Your American eyes probably saw a house with a yard and a family. Most of you from Texas guessed correctly that this is our house in Cleburne. Beth's mom got our friend Rick to paint it for us last Christmas. In Lee Anna's world, however, a house has five or six floors (or 10 or 20) and lots of steps leading to lots of apartments--and no pointy rooftops. (Who needs a slanted roof when it never rains?) She looked at this picture last week and exclaimed: "Pyramids!" We're a lot more likely to come across pyramids here than single-family dwellings with grass in the yard.

Thanks for playing, and tune in next time for "What Do You Smell?"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat?

Well, since they don't really do Halloween the way we might in the States, Sawyer got all dressed up with no place to go. We found this costume in a big collection of clothes that belong to some friends of ours, and he just begged to try it on. We thought about going to the neighbors' houses to see if they would give him any candy. But since he only has one tooth, the candy wouldn't do him much good anyway.
Just for the record, he's a Cleburne Yellow Jacket,
not a Georgia Tech one.

Fun Kid Pictures

Here are some fun pictures from the last month or so. One morning Lee Anna decided she wanted to help us get breakfast ready by pouring Mommy's cereal. She found out those Cheerios come out pretty fast! Here she is sporting pigtails for the first time. When I finished
fixing them, she went to the mirror and said, "Boosi, ana gameela!"
(Look, I'm beautiful!)

Here's Sawyer sitting in the high chair for the first time. He didn't actually eat anything in there, but he was much happier sitting at the table with us than he was being banished to the playpen while we ate. It makes us pretty happy to see those grins while we eat, too.

And here he is having some fun in the playpen. He scooted all
around the inside of the playpen,
and then he ran out of real estate.
Stop, Sawyer! Stop!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

American Pizza?

Almost. When you have two little ones in your family, it's a lot easier to order in than to go out to a restaurant or to cook, so we have a steady line of delivery guys coming to our door at meal time. Sometimes, when the doorbell rings Lee Anna yells, "PIZZA!!!". But Pizza delivery here isn't exactly the same as it is there. First, pork products aren't allowed, so we get "beef pepperoni" or "beef bacon." Our friend says the pepperonis make it like a "summer sausage pizza." Second, if you order a "pepperoni" pizza, you get pepperoni, plus mushrooms and olives. And the olives here are a lot stronger than any pizza topping in America, so we usually nix those.

Yes, those are ketchup packets in the box with the pizza. It's not bad, but I can live without ketchup on my pizza.

Speaking of delivery guys--I called Quizno's recently to order a sandwich for lunch. The guy answered and I said "Good afternoon, how are you?" in Arabic and the guy responded, "Oh 54b!" he's been here enough to know our address just from my bad American accent. Maybe we should cook more?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ramadan Kareem!

About a month ago, right before Ramadan started, we had our local friends over for dinner. We thought it might be beneficial to ask them some questions about this month-long holiday we were about to get into. After they told us about the eating all night and fasting all day, he asked if we'd like to "see it."

We weren't exactly sure what he meant, because it was still a week before the holiday started, but we all piled into his taxi anyway and headed for a different part of town. Where they took us was apparently "Ramadan Central." We were only able to get a few pictures before our camera battery died, and the pictures aren't really able to do the scene justice. Basically, you can get the idea by looking at the picture below and imagining 20 of those lined up right beside each other. And that's just on one street. Then we would turn the corner and see 20 more stands just like it on the next street. We were amazed.

What are they selling, you ask? It's a special Ramadan lantern called a "fanoose." They--along with Christmas-style colored lights--are the main form of Ramadan decoration. People hang them from their apartment balconies, in front of their buildings, some even from their rear view mirrors. There's no real religious significance, and no one knows for sure where the tradition came from, but it definitely adds to the festiveness of the holiday. Even the Coke cans have pictures of a fanoose this time of year.

The typical fanoose might be 18 inches tall, made of tin and colored glass. But they come in all sizes, from small plastic key-chain models to 6-foot-tall ones that are too heavy to hang up. And they're made of really cheap materials like recycled tin cans so everybody needs a new one every year. (Job security rules here).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We're still alive!

Yes, we're still here! We've got lots of cool things to write about, but can't seem to stay well long enough to write them. We've run the gamut the last few weeks--stomach bugs, colds, eye infections, new teeth, you name it! On top of that, Lee Anna took a dive headfirst from Sawyer's crib to the ceramic tile floor last week, so she's got a huge goose egg on her forehead.

Assuming we live through this, we'll get back to posting soon.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

It Looks Blue to Me

This past week, we took a little vacation to the Red Sea. The hotel was great and the sea was gorgeous, but it didn't look all that red where we were. We were surprised to see the hills to our north and south. There were hundreds of these big wooden umbrellas with lounge chairs under them. And since school and Ramadan had both recently started, it wasn't very crowded this week. The first three days, Lee Anna didn't want to get sand on her feet, so we spent lots of time in the swimming pool. But when we bought a set of sand toys and told her that we needed to go play in the sand with them, she went right along. Here we are building a set of sand pyramids. Actually, I built them, and Lee Anna chopped at them with her little shovel.
Most of the guests at our hotel were European, so my pasty-white self didn't stand out so bad.
When we lived in Texas, Lee Anna's friends Ty and Caiden introduced her to the "tickle spiders", and we often employ the "tickle spiders" when we need help waking her up from a nap. In the pool, however, we discovered "tickle fish." What you see here is Lee Anna "getting" Beth with the tickle fish. In the background you can see the swimming pool and the waterfall splashing into it.
Even Sawyer had a big time on this trip. He mostly stayed in the shade and grinned at us. Two mornings, Sawyer and I walked on the beach at sunrise (5:30 a.m.) while he went back to sleep. Then we all went back to bed for a three hour nap.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shout out to Mr. Avery

If any of you are reading this in Crestview, and happen to run in to Bill Avery, tell him I said thanks. You see, 20 years ago this fall I sat in his 10th grade chemistry class at CHS and had to learn some formulas for converting metric to English units. (Did I really just type “20 Years Ago” about my high school days?!?!?) I didn’t see it as all that important at the time, but boy was I wrong. Almost every day it helps to know that an inch is 2.54 cm, (and therefore 30 cm is about a foot) and that a kilo is 2.2 pounds (so Sawyer’s 6.4 kilograms is 14 pounds). We learned from Mr. A that to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius you subtract 32, multiply by 5 and divide by 9. And reverse all that to convert C to F. (So when it’s 40 outside, it’s real hot)

When Beth wants to make brownies, we have to figure out how hot 350 F is in our Celsius oven, then turn it down a little, since it runs a little hot. So while I’m doing the math, she gets out a match and lights the oven. It’s gas, and the pilot doesn’t work, so baking anything involves lighting the oven with a match. We have a great oven, though. Some of our friends have to remove the whole bottom panel from their oven in order to light it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Addendum to a Lemon a Day

We forgot one of our very favorite medical tidbits. An American friend of ours has been working out at a gym. He met a friend there who was helping him get into shape. (No, he didn’t ask him to help him, this guy just took it upon himself.) This friend saw our friend’s pale skin and noticed some wrinkly areas around his neck and arms. His suggestion was that he needed to get out in the sun more, so that the sun would tighten up his skin. Now this particular friend has 15 or 20 years on me, and it has taken the sun 50 years or so to loosen up his skin into the condition it is in now. I can’t imagine a couple of afternoons at the beach are going to straighten it all back out.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lee Anna! Maya! Self!

Yesterday we had a fun family day. A friend had told us that some of the hotels here will let you use their swimming pools for free if you eat at their poolside restaurants, and since Lee Anna loves nothing more than putting on her “baby suit” (bathing suit) and playing in the "maya" (Arabic for water), we decided to give it a try.

Jason talked to our friend that morning, and he gave us the name of the “best” hotel to use. He told us not to go in the main entrance of the hotel, but to go in the side entrance next to the pool. He assured us this hotel pool would be the least crowded.

We had the taxi driver let us off near the hotel entrance and started looking for the side entrance—no luck. We checked both sides and found no entrance and no pool. Out of other options, we walked in the front entrance and told the man at the desk we were looking for the swimming pool. He said, “Oh, sure, no problem. It’s on the 16th floor.” That’s when we realized our friend must have been mistaken.

The man happily directed us to the elevator and sent us to the 16th floor. When we got off the elevator, we followed the signs outside and then walked up a staircase leading to the roof. A quick glance around told us that we were going to have a quiet swim. There was no one in sight! There were lots of lounge chairs and umbrellas, and even a big covered area, but no people—and no restaurant. Luckily, we had eaten a big breakfast, so we decided to just enjoy the pool for a little while and then head home.

From the 16th floor, the view was pretty impressive. It was fun to see our part of the city from a new perspective.

By the pool, there was a big sign that said, in English, “This pool is for hotel visitors only,” but we figured if the guy behind the front desk was okay with it, we were probably safe. There’s a good chance the people who put that sign there didn’t know what it said, anyway.

Sawyer’s still a little too young to be out in this fierce sun, so he and Mom mostly just played under the covered area.
Lee Anna and Dad, however, had a blast in the pool and stayed until they were quite wrinkled. After much coaxing and cajoling, Lee Anna even let go of his hands briefly and spent a few minutes floating and kicking by herself. That night, she summed it up to a friend of ours with this bilingual sentence: “Lee Anna! Maya! Self!” (Hey, it counts as a sentence to us!)

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Lemon a Day . . .

Since we’ve been here, we’ve gotten lots of medical advice from a friend who is an American nurse. Her advice has been fairly traditional and sound. She is happy to help us whenever we need it, but we get advice from her only when we call her and ask for it.

In addition to her trusted counsel, we have also received LOTS and LOTS of unsolicited medical advice from local friends and acquaintances (and scads of taxi drivers). Much of this advice has been...umm, shall we say...questionable? Just to be fair, we must admit that there are a fair amount of old wives tales being perpetuated in our home land as well. Who among us hasn't been warned, "Don't swim for 30 minutes after you eat or you'll get a cramp," or “Reading in dim light will ruin your eyes”?

Here are some of our favorite gems from the "Crazy Things Our Friends Believe About Health" category:

~A recent blister on Lee Anna’s foot was caused by the cold ceramic floor in our flat. Because we let her run around barefoot, somehow the cold floor pushed something up from the bottom of her foot and out the side. Nevermind that the blister was right at the spot where her almost-too-small sandal rubbed her skin all day.

~Sawyer drools a lot because we kiss him on the mouth, and his baby mouth can’t handle our grown-up germs. We should rub lemons and a spice called Tahina in his mouth to make him quit. (He can have brownies and ice cream, but please don' t kiss him on the mouth!)

~Any time we’re sick, it’s because we have an A/C in our house. Basically, the A/C is the root of all evil.

~And any time we're sick, we should drink warm liquids with lemon to get better. Lemon is the cure-all for any type of cold.

~Little babies should not be held upright until they are at least 4 months old because their backs are too weak. (He can eat whatever he wants as long as he does it lying down!)

~After you have a baby, you will recover quicker if you eat lots of soup.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Train Up a Child?

This has been a pretty hard weekend for our family. Since Beth and I got married, our Saturdays in the fall have been singularly focused (and our Thursday nights, too, usually). We spent more than one Saturday planted on the couch from the 9:30 GameDay preview show to the midnight conclusion of the late SEC game. Sadly, our new friends here will never understand our passion for the roar of the crowd on third and inches, kids (in their twenties) with their faces (and other assorted body parts) painted, 80,000 people doing the "Chop", big piles of Buffalo wings, large bands playing loudly, Hail Mary passes, shotgun formation on first down, Chief Osceola planting the flaming spear at midfield, and thousands of other sights and sounds that make college football the greatest sport anywhere.

We hope to eventually get connected to an international version of ESPN that will have some games each week, but we don't have it yet. For the Miami game tonight (tomorrow morning here), I'll have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to listen to the radio broadcast online. Our usual game-day nachos and Rotel dip might be replaced by coffee and Pop Tarts.

If we're not careful, Lee Anna and Sawyer are going to grow up thinking a "football" is round and black and white.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

A post from Sawyer
Hi Everyone! Today I finally mastered my newest trick—rolling over! I’ve been doing it from time to time for at least a month now, but mostly by accident when I would straighten my arms out just right. But today I really figured out what I’m doing, and I’ve been rolling over all day long. I was so excited about it that I started early, at 4:00 a.m! I rolled over once and Daddy came and put me back on my tummy, but then I did it again so Mommy could see, too! Then every time I woke up from a nap, I did it again. I like to be on my back so I can look at the animals on the mobile above my bed. While my Mom has been typing this, I’ve rolled over twice!

I’m a little camera shy, so I haven’t actually let Mom catch me in the act of rolling over—just before and after. If she keeps the camera close by, though, she can probably get a shot of me mid-roll before too long.

Here I am when I woke up from my nap this afternoon. Mom found me talking happily on my back.

So then she put me back on my tummy . . .

And I rolled over before she could get her camera ready!

I was pretty proud of myself, as you can see!

Mommy says I’m getting to be a big boy. Keep watching to see what tricks I’ll do next!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Out-of-Town Adventure, Part The Last

What It's All About

We promise this is the last post from the retreat, but we wanted to let you see that it was more than just fun and games. Even though we don't understand most of the words they say and sing during their meetings, we can see in their faces that their love is real. We were so thankful to be able to spend a week with our Arab brothers and sisters--and we're so glad that our Father hears us in whatever language we speak!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Out-of-Town Adventure, Part VI

Ain't Goin' Down Til' the Sun Comes Up

Now it’s 12:35 a.m., and Lee Anna is just getting ready for bed. How did we get into this absurd position?

At 10:15 each night, they have organized rec time. [Dad, Drew, and anyone else planning a camp for next summer, try writing that into your schedule.] Of course, that is immediately after dinner, so it doesn’t seem so late. When we head to our room at around midnight, they’re still going strong. Meanwhile, there are also kids sacked out everywhere. They just don’t see the need to bother with putting them in a bed. One night, our friend Amal pushed 2 plastic chairs together so each of her boys (ages 6 and 2) could sleep while she and her husband kept playing games. We’ve seen several kids at lunch just lean their heads against the table and go to sleep. On Thursday at lunch, little 10-month-old Julie fell asleep with a bite of food in her mouth. One minute she was eating happily, the next minute she was out cold, right there in her Mama’s lap. That's Julie in the middle picture.

On Friday before we left, they had a “Closing Ceremony” kind of time. At one point during it, we heard several announcements of numbers and lists of people that sounded to us like scores and teams from an ongoing competition. As they called out those names and numbers, our friend turned to us and asked us which team we were on. Clueless, Beth asked, “You mean which study group were we in?” She replied, “No, the teams from all the games every night.” That’s when we first realized we had missed some things by going to our room at midnight. We had no idea what she was talking about.

Also during that last session, they gave out CDs with copies of all the digital pictures people had taken at this event (there were only 4 people with cameras). On Friday evening, after we got home, Beth was looking through them and yelled for me, “Hey! Come look at this!!” So I came running, expecting to see a cute shot that somebody else had taken of Lee Anna in the pool. What she had found was lots of pictures of things we had no idea had taken place. Organized games involving water balloons, blindfolds, and yogurt. We missed all that because we had gone to bed so early with our little kids. AT MIDNIGHT! The games depicted here all took place between 12 and 2:30 a.m.
What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. We should be pretty strong after all this.