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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Say What???
We just wanted you all to know what incredible progress we are making in our language study. Yesterday, at two different points in our lesson, Jason constructed sentences involving someone "eating the university"! THEN he tried to argue that if someone was very, very hungry, they might indeed eat a university.

If nothing else, at least we're providing some comic relief for our teacher. She says she's going to write a book called "Jason Arabic" when we get through.
Business Hours
We knew things were different here, but we thought they’d be more consistent. We tried to go into a bank to get our ATM card that their machine “retained,” but they’re only open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Talk about Bankers’ Hours! That same day, we bought some fabric for a slipcover for a couch, and called the guy to come measure and cut it to fit. That was at 4:00. He showed up at 8:30 p.m., with two helpers. The landlord had just left at 8:15, after coming with his handyman to check out a leaky pipe. Last week, the cleaners brought our shirts back (they iron them for about 13 cents each—including pickup and delivery) at 10:20 p.m. So I never change from my street clothes to my PJs until it's time to go to bed!

You might notice in a story below that when we needed a plumber at 9:00, that shop was closed.

Today, however, we called our bank in the States at 2:30 their time and their machine said "We're closed on the T days--Tuesday and Thursday--from 2:00 until 3:30 for administrative meetings."

50 Days of This?

These pictures should demonstrate the change in scenery we have from day to day. They're both shots of the view from our front door. The locals call this season "Chemaseen" or 50 Days. It's the time after the "rainy season" when the dust blows in from the desert. Okay, they call it the Rainy Season, but it only rained one day. It's not this dusty every day, but some days you just can't see at all. The Arabic word for dust is "trobe." We walked down a busy street on Sunday, and about half the shops were closed for the dust. They figure they're not going to make much money anyway, since nobody wants to go out shopping, and then they'd spend the whole next day cleaning everything in the shop and not get anything else done that day. Makes it a little inconvenient if you need to buy stuff, but it works for them.

Friday, February 24, 2006

We wanted you to see how Lee Anna has spent most of her time during our water adventures. We got her this Winnie the Pooh chair last week so that she would stop standing 6 inches in front of the tv to watch her movies. We alternate between the ones we brought from home (which are, of course, in English) and the ones we've gotten here (which are not). She loves Baby Einstein, but she is also pretty fond of Alam Simsim, the Arabic version of Sesame Street (literally "Sesame World"). We like watching her Arabic movies with her because we can actually understand a little bit of it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Water Heater Work

When we first arrived here, our water heater wasn't working, so we got a plumber to come fix it. In the picture, the water heater is the white box by the window. It doesn't have a tank, it just heats water as you use it. Keith brought the plumber here and spoke for me since I knew no Arabic at that point. He replaced a part and it has worked fine (pretty much) for six or seven weeks. Well, it quit yesterday, so I went back to the same shop and got another guy to come here and fix it again. He replaced exactly the same parts--which he kept in his tool bag--since they were all rusty and not working. I guess this will work for about 6 weeks, too. In America when a repairman comes, they don't want you looking over their shoulder, but here you have to watch what they do or they'll leave it leaking and not working any better than before. The first plumber smoked while he worked (on the GAS water heater, in our bathroom) but this guy took the parts outside so he could smoke and not smoke up our house. One other difference: when he took the heater apart, water poured onto the floor, but he didn't worry about it much. The bathrooms here have drains built into the floor for just such situations.

In the midst of all that, we got two phone calls and an e-mail saying the water in the river could be contaminated with bird flu so we shouldn't touch our tap water which comes from the river. Within an hour the TV news was saying the water is clean and bird flu can't be carried in water anyway. The price of bottled water went up this afternoon, and all the chicken places are shutting down. I told Beth we should buy lots of chicken now when it's cheap and keep it in the freezer until the bird flu scare is over. :)
The Water Heater Saga Continues

So when the guy left at 4:00 today, everything was working fine. We used hot water to wash some dishes and then went out to eat. At 9:00, I (Jason) got back from the evening grocery run and wanted to take the shower I didn’t get this morning. So I got ready and turned on the hot water. Nothing. Just cold tap water (which the TV says is heavily chlorinated to kill the bird flu that can't be transmitted by water anyway...?). So I got dressed and walked back to the plumber’s shop. Everybody else seems to stay open until 10 or later, but not the plumber.

Well, I’ve seen these guys take this thing apart 3 times now, so I found my pliers and wrenches and got to work. I found the faulty part—it’s a cheap Chinese part—and rigged it with an American penny so it would work. I also cleaned a lot of grease and gunk around a small fitting that wasn’t working right. I got my hot shower (at 10:00), but now I need that gunk back so it won’t leak. Oh well… Maybe tomorrow the plumber can come back.

For a place that only averages one inch of rainfall a year, we sure are having a lot of problems with water!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Last night we went to a friend's house for a little birthday get-together. We walked home and stopped by the corner grocery store for milk and eggs. When we got home, I opened the door and heard water running and saw a little puddle by the front door. At first we figured that the housekeeper-guy who was here when we left must have left something running. Well, that little puddle led to a bigger puddle in the hall. About 75% of our flat was under an inch of water! A hose connected to the potty had burst and was spraying water all over the bathroom.

We called a good friend of ours, and he came and helped us mop it all up. Our flat has tile floors, so we just pushed the water with squeegees toward a drain in the bathroom. After about an hour, the water was mostly gone. As far as we can tell, the only real casualty was the electronic scale in the bathroom (and who really wants one of those, anyway?). Everything else seems to have dried out. Our friend said that in the summer time here, we could probably just open a door and all the water would have evaporated in an hour or two!