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.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Beach Trip Timeline

Editor’s note: The verb tenses in this passage seem to change from present to past with no rhyme or reason. I didn’t really do that on purpose, but we’re leaving it that way so you can experience what it’s like to hear us speak in Arabic.

Editor’s note II: Our DSL connection is down, so we’ll post some pictures when it’s working again.

Earlier this week: We made plans with our friend Mohammed to go to the beach with his family this Saturday. He arranged to rent a car and said they would pick us up at 5:00 a.m. I talked him into waiting until 6:00 (I thought).

Midnight Friday night: I set the alarm clock for 5:00 and went to sleep, thinking it would be at least 6:30 or 7:15 before they got over here.

5:00 a.m. The alarm goes off and I hit snooze.
5:09 a.m. The alarm starts again.
5:11 a.m. Beth gets up and takes a shower.
5:19 a.m. Jason gets up and brushes his teeth.
5:26 a.m. Ding Dong!! The doorbell rings repeatedly. They’re here. Jason puts on a t-shirt and shorts and lets them in, but tells them we need 5 or 10 more minutes.
5:45 a.m. Shymet asks Beth if she’s going to wear those pants. Apparently she thinks Beth’s pants look like pajamas. So Beth goes back and puts on her jeans to swim in all day.
5:55 a.m. We leave the house. Nine of us (5 grown-ups and 4 smaller ones) load up into a compact rented car for the two-hour ride to the coast.
6:00 a.m. Mohammed asks if it’s okay to go to the north coast rather than the east coast. We’ve never been to either, so it’s all the same to us.
8:30 a.m. We arrive at the beach and rent chairs, umbrellas and two little tables. We’re not the first ones there by any means, but we’ll learn later that it’s not really crowded yet either.
9:13 a.m. Shymet declares that it’s time to eat. She begins pulling dishes and food items out of the bags they brought and serves our plates. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce, fried beef (sorta like cube steak, only thinner) and French fries—all room temperature having been prepared 5 or 6 hours earlier.

Untimed aside:
On the beach there were guys walking by selling stuff all day. It started with just some kids offering hot tea or canned Pepsi.(In Arabic, they just yelled “Shay-bebs” which means “tea, Pepsi”) That was logical enough. The next ones to show up were selling inflatable water toys and buckets to make sand castles. That made sense, too. As the crowd got thicker, the sellers did, too. I understood the ones selling nuts and other snacks. I could also see why there were guys carrying baskets of fresh fish and shrimp. I could stretch and say it might be logical to sell hairbrushes, shorts, shirts, and handbags. Even the make-up seller might find people who forgot their lipstick. However, I’m not so sure about the guys selling Rubbermaid style canisters and mops and brooms on the beach. And I am sure it made no sense to my American eyes to see a guy hawking big framed pictures and mirrors. BIG mirrors with gold frames. Like 18 inches by 36 inches and bigger! The irony is that the only one of these things I saw anybody actually purchase was the big framed picture.

10:00 a.m. Breakfast being finished, our friends start insisting that we get in the water and swim with them. Beth manages to sit out the first round, using the “I’m-holding-the-baby” excuse. The water is chilly and salty, but we have a good time swimming in it.

Several times, I’d have Lee Anna out in the water and she’d start crying “Mommy! Mommy!!” and insist that we go in and see her. When we’d get to the shore, she’d immediately point to the horizon and beg “Water!! Water!!” (or Maya, Maya, in Arabic). Just in case it wasn’t complicated enough going to the beach with a family who doesn’t speak English, Lee Anna refuses to get sand on her feet. At the BEACH! So somebody has to hold her or leave her in a chair all day long.

11:00 a.m. Shymet orders hot tea for them and “something cold” for Beth after arguing with numerous sellers that (the equivalent of) 40 US cents was too much; she thinks 17 cents (one pound) is enough. She makes Mohammed come in from the water to drink hot tea even though the temperature is supposed to reach 100 later that day.

12:00 noon. I’m in the water with Mohammed. He says he’s hungry, so we head in to start the next round of eating. I’m not real hungry, so I politely decline. Mohammed, though he is admittedly hungry, won’t eat since I’m not eating. I don’t realize this, so I’m surprised to see him go to sleep in the chair instead. I’m not too surprised, however, since he hasn’t been to sleep for about 24 hours. (He worked all night while she stayed up and cooked.)

12:30 p.m. As the beach gets more crowded, I notice a big difference between this and American beaches in the amount of space each family “claims.” In the States, it’s pretty well understood that you don’t want to be right up next to another group, and the space between their blankets and the water is “theirs.” Here, there were boys wrestling in the wet sand right in front of our chairs, and other families within arm’s reach from where I sat.

1:30 p.m. Mohammed wakes up and we start getting ready for another meal. Shymet and her sister “wash” the plates we had used for breakfast with a little bottled water, scraping out the dried tomato sauce with their sandy fingers. They serve our plates for us, so we each get another full plate of spaghetti and fried meat and French fries and roasted chicken.

2:00 p.m. I discover that my whole body is a bright shade of pink. Uh oh. Beth, however, is not getting burned very badly, since she’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt . Shymet is wearing long sleeves, but she told Beth the t-shirt was okay. Mohammed and family would like to stay until sunset or so, but I start hinting that we might need to head back before that. None of them has even considered applying sunscreen, while we’ve each had several applications. That’s what we get for being palefaces. (Shymet did like the fact that it was easy to find me and Mohammed out in the water. Beth heard her tell her sister, “Just look for the white back.”)

2:30 p.m. We have a plan: “You guys go swim one more time, while we hide under the umbrellas, and then we’ll all load up and go home. We are very happy sitting up here. Really.” No, that won’t work, since they refuse to swim without us. So we all start readying up to go back to the city. The girls all go back to a small wooden “changing room” that’s sitting out in the middle of the sand. It’s just a little square room with nails in the walls to hang your clothes on. There are some boys who stand outside while you go in to change. When you come out, they want money for guarding the door.

3:30 p.m. Head out. All nine in one car again—a little saltier and sandier, and much more exhausted. It takes about 2.5 hours to get there, but it seemed like 14 hours coming back.

Next time we take these two kids to the beach, I hope to have Sawyer’s 9th grade class with us!

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