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 27, 2007

Grandpa Goes East

In the middle of February, we had a special guest in our house. Grandpa (Jason’s dad—Blimp) came to see his grandson Sawyer. And the rest of us got to visit with him, too. This was Sawyer’s first time to meet Grandpa, and as you can see, they were both really happy to see each other.
Grandpa got to do lots of things for the first time on this, his first trip to Africa. Here he is riding a camel in the desert. He also got to drink Arabian coffee in a 250 year old coffee shop that’s part of a 600 year old market. And he got to ride three different boats in the river. Unfortunately, he was almost always holding the camera, so we don’t have much visual proof that he did all those things. Mohammed drove us to and from the airport, and around to some of the tourist sites. He took us on one of the boat rides, and even had his wife fry us some local fish. We were a little nervous about the fish, but it was surprisingly good!
For a special treat while Grandpa was here, the local authorities managed to have the water shut off for 54 hours. (That’s over two days for those of you who didn’t do so well in math.) We heard rumors that a huge water main got cut in some construction project. We knew of people without water in a three or four mile area. Until the water is off, you don’t realize just how often you “go to the well” so to speak. Even after it had been off for two days, we still caught ourselves reaching for the faucet to rinse something off. So we used our 5-gallon (20 Liter) backup container for the “necessary” and bought a case of bottled water for kitchen stuff. We took showers at a friend’s house the first night. The second night, we really needed to bathe the kids, so we warmed up some water on the stove and poured it over them in the washtub in the kitchen. Lee Anna loved taking a bath in the kitchen. Sawyer just wanted to walk away.
It was a little bit more slippery than the tub she's used to!
Sawyer wasn't any more interested in sitting still in a tub in the kitchen than he is in his regular bathtub. He spent most of his bath trying to climb out of the tub.
All in all, we had a great time showing Grandpa our home and our life in North Africa. Come back and see us soon, Grandpa!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How to Set Your Tour Group At Ease

As you have seen in previous posts, we traveled to Jordan with Beth’s family over Christmas. We were a bit apprehensive about traveling to the land that borders Iraq to the east and the West Bank to the west. The people of Jordan, however, lived up to their peaceful reputation. Mostly. We found the traffic there to be terribly civilized—people stopped at red lights and stayed in their lanes and things like that. Can you say “boring”? The ground on the roadside was largely free from the litter we’ve become accustomed to in our new home. But we did experience one pretty funny story that reminded us why these people have been in wars with each other for all of recorded history.

When we arrived at the airport, a man met us just as we got off the plane and helped us get through customs and out to the bus. Our travel agent had reserved a small bus for the nine of us to tour in. In that bus, a tour guide waited and greeted us warmly. He told us how fortunate we were that our originally scheduled guide was unable to be with us, because that meant we got him as the substitute, and he was the expert in the areas to which we were traveling and absolutely knew more than any other tour guide in the history of earth.

When he got around to asking who we were, he was thrilled to learn that Beth’s brother Gary is a singer (check him out—and buy a CD—at
www.garyfieldsmusic.com). So the tour guide immediately started listing off all the American singers he knows and loves, and then he told us this story.

Now keep in mind, we had probably been in the country for an hour and a half at this point. So you see, this guy has a huge CD collection of all sorts of music. Classic rock and jazz, primarily, but lots of other music, too. Just thousands of CDs, the way he described it. Some time in the past (he didn’t say when) someone broke into his house and took some of these precious discs—his very pride and joy. If this happened to you in the USA, you might file a police report. If you thought you knew who did it, you might have the police find them and arrange to return your property. Or you might decide to see them yourself. Not over here. Since our guy was sure he knew who it was who had bothered his collection, he didn’t involve the police—he just arranged to have the guy’s car burned. HE HAD HIS CAR BURNED!! And he said it was really painful for the guy, since his passport and some other important stuff was in the car.

So we’d been in the country not long at all, and we’re facing a week of riding in a bus with a tour guide who has made some Arab enemies. Beth turned to her dad and told him that we should try hard not to make him mad. I was more concerned that the enemies he already had might try to seek revenge by terrorizing his latest tour group. Luckily, we had a very peaceful trip.

And here, as a special bonus, is Gary Fields, demonstrating the difference between his serious singer face and his goofy little brother face.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fun With Aunts & Uncles

Lee Anna and Sawyer had a good time with their aunt and uncles over Christmas!

Yes, there were two uncles. Uncle Gary doesn't seem to have made it into the photographs, however.

The Day After Christmas

Our Dec. 26 2006 was spent a little differently than yours, I'd bet. Also differently from any Boxing Day we had previously spent. You see, while you were standing in line at WalMart or the mall, trying to exchange the stuff you got for the stuff you really wanted to get, we were on a three-hour hike in through a canyon in Jordan, looking at rock walls that had been carved and decorated some 2000 years ago. Petra is the name of this particular canyon, and you may have seen the famous Treasury carved there in the Indiana Jones movies. Here's the first view you get of that after several hours of studying the other carvings in the rocks.

This shot depicts one of the first views Sawyer got of anything that day. He spent most of the descent nestled in his Papaw's jacket, staying out of the cold. When he fell asleep, Papaw would zip his jacket up so that Sawyer was completely covered. He was snug as a bug inside there, and a good bit warmer than any of the rest of us!Here are the sisters posing for the camera. I think there are some 500 caves and things carved into the walls around Petra. You could probably read more about that at National Geographic.com or somewhere like that. When we got down to the bottom, we ate in a restaurant with a big Jordanian buffet. I think we ate in 6 or 8 restaurants like that on this four-day trip. Remarkably, all of the restaurants we visited just happened to serve the tour guide for free. Coincidence?

Here's the whole gang together. It was a lot cooler up there in the mountains than it ever gets down here in the desert. The day after we visited, it snowed so much that we almost couldn't get out of the hotel. Some groups got snowed in.