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.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bye Bye, Buddy

This has been a sad week. We had to say goodbye to some very dear friends. Lee Anna and Landon have been big buddies from the day we arrived here, and she will miss playing with him, fighting with him, and jumping on his bed!

Here's a little sampling of the adventures these two have had as they've grown from barely-talking toddlers into wild and crazy bilingual kids.

We love you guys.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just Another Rainy Day in the Desert

In addition to all the fun and festivities of Jason's birthday, we also had a very unusual occurence--RAIN! When we went to pick up the kids yesterday afternoon, we could tell it was clouding up, so we asked the taxi driver if he thought it was going to rain. He assured us it was still too hot for rain (average rainfall through the summer months here is NONE). Well, not 30 minutes later, we started hearing the pitter-patter of raindrops outside, and sure enough, it was raining!

It only sprinkled for a few minutes then, so when we went out to eat a few hours later, we decided to sit outside. The weather was beautiful, but the whole meal I (Beth) could see lightning off in the distance over Jason's shoulder. At one point, Lee Anna saw it and said, "Mom, the light came on in the sky over there!"

We came home and went to bed without any more rain, but around 2 a.m. we woke up to the sound of more pitter-pattering and even thunder! Then, we woke up again to the sound of Lee Anna crying. Apparently it's a good thing that it doesn't rain very often here, because the rain falls very loudly on the wall-unit air conditioner outside the kids' room. Lee Anna couldn't sleep because of all the rain noise. Finally, after a few futile attempts to get her back to sleep, we brought her to our room and she spent the rest of the night on a pallet on our floor.

This morning, we woke up to find this on our lovely back porch:
This is all dirt that the rain washed off of the trees. The trees look nice and green and fresh now, but the ground is a big muddy mess.
Rain here is a big inconvenience. There's no drainage system in the roads, so it doesn't take much rain at all to create big mud puddles everywhere. Most taxis don't have working windshield wipers, so the driving can be even more dangerous than usual. A lot of nationals will just choose to stay inside rather than have to deal with the mud and mess. Lee Anna's class was supposed to go on a field trip today, but they cancelled it because of the weather (not because it was currently raining, because it had rained the night before!). I talked to a friend of ours this morning who's only been living here about 10 months. We were talking about the rain and I told him we were thinking about keeping our kids home because of it. I'm sure he was thinking, "What? Because it rained a little?"

We might be in trouble if we ever move back to Florida!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Baba!

Today is Jason's birthday. He says he's still 29, but we all know that's not the case since he was born in 1970! We didn't have a big party, but the kids and I did fix him a special birthday treat and give him his presents. Here are the kids helping to crush the Oreos for his special ice cream dessert. They loved this part.Lee Anna also had fun sprinkling the pecan pieces on top. Sawyer just got to watch this part, although he would have much preferred to be sticking his fingers in the ice cream.
Here they are coloring Daddy's birthday cards.
And here's Lee Anna helping Daddy find his presents. In Beth's family, it's traditional to hide all the presents and then play hot or cold for the Birthday Boy/Girl to find them. Apparently 3-year-olds have not developed the brain capacity to fully understand this game. Lee Anna was very cute, but had no interest in waiting for Daddy to find the presents when she already knew where they were!
And here's Daddy showing off some of his presents. Yes, we gave him 4 pairs of sunglasses. Sunglasses have a way of not surviving for very long in our house, so we thought Daddy should stock up a little bit on his supply. They're not Ray-Bans or Oakleys or anything, but they'll keep the sun out of his eyes. We'll see how long these last. (And no, that's not all we gave him!)
Happy Birthday Daddy! We lit all 37 candles, so we had to scoop the wax out before we could eat!
And here's Lee Anna showing off the big candle that came with the little ones I bought. I can't imagine that there's a very high demand for Spanish birthday candles in North Africa, but hey, maybe I'm wrong.
Happy Birthday, Daddy. We love you.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No, it's not a dress!

Sawyer's modeling the traditional galibeya in these pictures. When we first arrived here, we were a little surprised to see so many men wearing what looks a lot like either a dress or a costume for an Easter program. We've gotten pretty accustomed to seeing them now, although I'm not going to be wearing mine out in public any time soon. We just got Sawyer's this weekend, and he loves it.
Look, G.G.!--they're teaching each other to play the piano. Sawyer has learned which button on our digital piano starts the metronome (click, click, click...) and he loves to play that!
Our little Texas-born cowgirl seems to be having trouble with the native livestock in this part of the world. Maybe we should let her start with steer-wrestling before we turn her loose on the elephants and camels.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fighting Makwagees

No, it’s not the name of a new alternative rock band. Makwagee is the Arabic word for ironer, and we’ve had a small dispute lately that I thought you might find amusing.

For the past several months, we’ve had a guy come by the house every morning to see if we had any clothes that needed ironing. He would carry them to his shop and bring them back that evening, for about 20 cents (American) per shirt. When we got back from America, I called the shop and he said he’d send the guy right out. Well he didn’t show up, so I called back the next day. “Oh, I’m sorry, the makwagee was off yesterday, I’ll send him right out now.” But again he didn’t show up. By this time we had two weeks’ worth of clothes clean and ready to be ironed. We were starting to think we might have to actually try to locate our iron and see if it still works.

Since he never showed up, I walked to another cleaners/ironer’s shop at the end of our block. I gave them two shirts and two pair of pants, just to see that they’d do good work and bring them in a decent amount of time. When I got to this little shop, I saw a boy in there who I knew—he’s the son of the doorman in the building across the street from us. He appeared to be working there, and when he brought our clothes back later that night, I gave him a big sack of clothes that needed ironing.

Then it got fun. Our doorman came to the door and asked something about why I was letting the other guy do his job. He said he could take our clothes to be ironed. I told him I thought that’d be fine next time, I just didn’t know it was so important to him. The next night, two other guys came to deliver all the clothes I had sent the previous night with the young boy. As soon as they left, our doorman came and said that guy was no good, and I should be letting him (the doorman) take our clothes to a different shop.

Well, the next night, the two guys came back to see if we needed anything ironed, but our doorman followed them to the door and asked me if I wanted them to be there or not. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I told the new ironer boys that I was going to have to side with our doorman, since he lives at our building. I think it’s all clear now, but I still don’t know why my doorman doesn’t want me doing business with the guys on the end of our street.

Well, I thought it was all clear. Then tonight about 10:00, I went out to buy some groceries, and the young boy from across the street was out delivering clothes, several buildings down. He stopped me and told me that if I wanted him to, he could come get my clothes while our doorman was downstairs eating so he wouldn’t know about it! I told him no, thanks. This kid is about 10 years old and angling for my money like an old pro.

Any of you have people fighting for the privilege of ironing your clothes??

Funny, related side-story:
Our iron in America had a little button on it so we could spray water on the clothes as we were ironing. I’ve heard, though I haven’t witnessed this first-hand yet, that some of the guys here just keep a cup of water on the ironing board, to sprinkle water on the clothes. But, instead of sprinkling with their hand, they spray the water with their mouths!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Modified Self

A while back, a friend of mine tagged me (Beth) to write about how I’ve changed since I moved overseas. Then, shortly after she did that, we made our trip to the states (see posts below), and I was made painfully aware of how much I’ve changed since we left America on December 30, 2005.

So, here are a few of the ways—some silly, some a bit more meaningful—that I have been modified over the past 21 months:

1. Different attitude toward space. In a city with this many people in an area this small, everything is pretty jam-packed together. The buildings, the stores, the cars, and the people inside them. So when we got to Florida, I couldn’t believe all the space you people think you need on the road, in your shopping aisles, and between your houses! There’s so much wasted space!

2. Being a pushy hostess. Cultural protocol here demands that you offer something 2 or 3 times before a guest will accept it. My mom and grandmother are great at being pushy…err, I mean, persistent…hostesses, but I am not. I’m still not great at it here, either, but I’m working on it.

3. Drinking without ice. When we had it coming out of our refrigerator door, I always drank my water or coke with ice, but here, since we have to make our own and the locals never use it, I hardly ever do, either.

4. Not smiling all the time. This is a big one. Those of you who knew me in my former life know that in many circles I was known as the “one who smiles all the time.” Just last week, a friend from college told me, “I remember how you always smiled while you blow dryed your hair.” She’s right, I did. Now I still smile, but not as much, especially not when I’m out by myself. I would draw all kinds of attention (not the good kind) and just look really weird to people here.

5. Drinking hot drinks. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, or really big on drinking any hot beverages, but that’s another thing that’s just part of life here. Hot tea is the most common, so I drink that when I’m served it, but I prefer “erfa,” which is a drink made from hot water, milk, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s delicious, and I drink it at least once a day in the winter and occasionally during the summer.

6. Talking about bodily functions. Ok, so this is a little gross, but I know my other overseas friends will understand. When you live in a third-world country with all kinds of germs and diseases your body’s not used to, you just find yourself talking about things that you never did before—out of necessity, not for the fun of it. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

7. Sending my kids to daycare. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine sending my kids to any kind of daycare on a regular basis. Now, I do it five days a week and don’t feel bad about it.

8. Dressing up. I am still getting accustomed to the Arab idea that going out of your house is always a reason to dress up. I wear dress pants or skirts most days, never wear tennis shoes and rarely flip-flops (my Arab friends would wonder why I’m wearing my house shoes in public). For someone whose friends teased her in high school for always wearing jeans and a sweatshirt (no, I was not a frontrunner for Best Dressed), this is a big change.

9. I’ve learned to be comfortable in unfamiliar places. There was a time when being by myself in a place I’ve never been before at 12:30 in the morning not sure which way is home and surrounded by people who don’t speak English would have tripped me out. When it happened this week, I honestly handled it just fine—and made it home! (That story will have to wait until another post. This one is already too long.)

Now I tag Angela W, Charity V, and Whitney S. :)