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, 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.