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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

All Present and Accounted For

Well, it didn't quite happen as planned, thanks to the crazy weather across the U.S. early this week, but our Christmas guests did finally all arrive!Since Andy was already on this side of the ocean, he didn't have nearly as far to come and wasn't affected by the U.S. airport delays. He got here on schedule Monday night, and since everyone else was delayed, we had an extra day to play with him. We showed him our version of snowball fighting, and he told us what it's like to play with actual snow!

Mimi, Papaw, Claire and Zach arrived early Tuesday morning, about 30 hours after they were scheduled to get here. The trip took 60 hours instead of the usual 20, and not one of their bags was able to keep up with them through the delays and detours. We're still waiting and wondering if we'll ever see any of those bags, but we are glad to have them here, with or without luggage!

They all jumped right in to the kid-spoiling. Needless to say, the kids are eating up all the extra attention.
Uncle Gary was the last to arrive, after he was finally able to dig himself out of the snow in New York. Sarah Claire was glad to have one more person to tell her how cute she is.
We're all enjoying the rare treat of being all together for a few days. What a fun way to end 2010!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Joy

Just a quick post to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
We hope you've had a wonderful day of celebration.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Playing the Part

These little characters came alive at our house tonight!
Complete with swaddling clothes, a bed-sheet stable and a pillowcase-clad manger, Mary and Joseph welcomed their new baby.
Mary tried hard to keep him wrapped up tight, despite the persistent,
noisy efforts of another smaller member of this household, who was
determined to free him!
Our Mary was as precious a mother as I have ever seen.
We even had a visiting shepherd come by to see the baby!
She was precious, too (when she wasn't trying to steal the baby's blanket!).

Welcome, sweet baby.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the Spirit

Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a turkey hat, right? We've had fun this weekend decorating and generally making things festive around here. In the States, there are plenty of decorations in stores and malls and on the streets starting some time in October (September, even?) to remind us that Christmas is coming. But in this part of the world, we have to do a little more inside our house. Lee Anna and Sawyer loved wearing their Santa hats. Sarah Claire wasn't quite so sure.
We get chastised frequently for not having enough clothes on our kids. But it's really really hard to convince Sawyer that he needs jeans and long sleeves when it's 85 degrees outside on Farenheit's thermometer.
Lee Anna is reading the story. She'll be able to read it all to us this year.
Sarah Claire was so very helpful in the decorating process, as evidenced below. First, she helped make sure all the strings of beads were securely in place so no little babies would be able to pull them down.
Then she taste-tested the shepherds and some other nativity characters to make sure they tasted authentic.
And Sawyer helped his puppy Jesse get into the Christmas spirit with the hat and scarf that his Mimi made for him.
Christmas away from home is certainly different, but we're going to enjoy it! It won't be a white Christmas, for sure, but it'll be fun. We're helping our kids develop some traditions of their own.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Don't think We're in Kansas Anymore

Aunt Stacy is coming to see us?! Really!?! Apparently the Eleventh Anniversary of one's 29th birthday is a pretty big deal.

The day before she got here, Stacy called and asked me if I could drive to the airport and pick her up. I had to sit down to take this call.

You see, for 6 weeks or so, Beth and Stacy (and Mimi, too) had been plotting a pretty big surprise for my birthday. I knew there was a surprise coming, but I had absolutely no idea it would be this! I was hoping for an iPhone or an iPad, or maybe even an old VW Beetle, but I was just shocked out of my mind that they had convinced Stacy to make a 20-hour trip and come to the desert!

Here we are on Road 9 at Lucille's. I've been walking Rd. 9 for almost 5 years now, but this was my first chance to take my sister there. This was a pretty cool collision of two worlds for me.

This is our friend Omar. No, Stacy wouldn't ride him, since she's great with child and all.

"You see, they're kinda pointy at the top. "
Yes, there really is a Pizza Hut that close. I'm pretty sure it's not as old as the Great Pyramid behind it.

I chose an ice cream cake for the Big Party. Yummylicious.

Lee Anna spent weeks making me a book of "Forty Things I Love About My Dad." This might be the sweetest thing I ever read.

While she managed to avoid the camera most of the trip, Mimi was seldom very far from the grandkids. Thanks for bringing Aunt Stacy to see us!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Did You Do Yesterday?

So what did you do yesterday? I went to a store and bought a small light switch to replace the broken one inside a ceiling fan. For our American readers, going to the store to buy a light switch sounds like a 30-minute round trip to the Home Depot. Oh, that it were that simple.

Yesterday was actually the fourth trip looking for this rare, prized, pull-cord switch. The switch in question controls the light fixture on the bottom of the kids' ceiling fan. Why is it broken, you ask? Well, that's another story altogether. For now, let's just say it involves 4-year-olds and bunk beds.

My first two trips looking for this switch were here in our part of town. I went first to the electrician's shop where I frequently buy light bulbs and have their guy come fix things. The boy in there told me "Momken bokra." Now literally that would be translated "maybe tomorrow," but the deeper meaning behind his words was something like "I've never seen a switch like that, and I'm more likely to sell monkeys tomorrow than to ever carry that particular switch."

On Monday night, I took two American friends with me to the section of town where everything is for sale. It's a huge neighborhood with thousands of shops. The shops are conveniently grouped by the things they sell, so you might find a whole street of shoe stores, and another street that has accessories for your mobile phone. There are literally hundreds of streets, each with its own specialty. We walked through one area that had obnoxiously gaudy chandeliers and even gaudier wedding decorations. Tons of them. I don't know why.

So we wandered around until we saw the electrician shops. I had the old switch with me, and we went into dozens of little stores--each about the size of your American kitchen--or maybe your bathroom if your kitchen is very big. In each store, the proprietors were quite helpful, suggesting other places where we might find something like this switch. But after 3 hours, we headed back to the house, empty handed.

On Thursday, I did a good old-fashioned Google search for electric supply stores in my city. I discovered then that most of these stores were located on a particular street downtown--or at least the stores that had websites were located there. I knew right where that was, so I got one guy to go with me, for navigational purposes, and got back on the train into the City.

When we got to the area in question, we found most of the stores closed for the evening. Nice. But we did see a couple of electric supply places open, so the game was on. Here's how it went:

Me: Do you have a switch like this?

Him: No, but if you go down three blocks and look on your left, that guy has them.

We walked down three blocks and looked on the left, and asked that guy if he had it.

"No, but if you go down one more block and turn right, the second store on the left probably has one."

So we walked down one more block and turned right. We found another small store with tons of switches and wires and related equipment. I asked the guy at this store and he said, "Momken bokra" and told me to try the store upstairs tomorrow. He meant the same thing that our other friend meant when he said try back tomorrow.

We looked around and found another street with lots of electrical supplies. The first three guys we talked to all named the same store--just around the corner, of course--and all seemed pretty confident he would have one. He didn't. He did recognize the switch, and even knew what it was for. He went so far as to look in a bunch of drawers as if he really thought he might actually have one. We knew we were getting close.

This guy suggested that we cross the street and go to the fifth store on the left. He'll have it for sure. Well, we did, and he didn't. "But the guy right next door, he has stuff like that." Sure he does.

But he did! I showed it to him and he said "That goes to the light fixture on a ceiling fan. How many do you want?" I wanted to get a dozen, just in case we broke one again, but I didn't want to hog them all up and keep other fathers of active four-year-olds from being able to fix their light fixtures. So we took one, gave the man a dollar and headed back home.

And now the kids' bedroom is all lit up again, for the first time in several months. That means we've had several months to remind our active four-year-old that jumping from the top bunk and grabbing the light cord is not a good way to turn off the lights. Think he'll remember?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Don't Play with Matches

Almost every weekend, our neighbor across the street rakes up the leaves from his yard and burns them off. Well, evidently, he let one get away from him a couple of weeks ago. It started for us when we heard some shouting out in the street. I walked out on the balcony to see if there was a fight or someone selling something that was worth buying, or some other excitement.

From my balcony I could feel the heat of the fire. We're five stories up, and the flames were almost at eye level! A friend had left his car parked outside our house while he was traveling, so I ran down to move it away from the action. After I did, the fire truck came and parked right where that car had been and the firemen started unrolling hoses.

The truck is parked behind the trees to the left in this picture.

They unrolled the hose, and one of the firemen held the end of the hose up and got ready to spray. They opened the valve on the truck and… Do you see what’s happening here? The truck is to the left, still, and the water is gushing out on the ground. Seems someone forgot the all-important step of connecting the hose to the truck before opening the valve!

They did eventually get it all hooked together and got the fire under control. The protective layer of water also kept the street from burning up, I guess. The neighbor has erected a bamboo fence to replace the big arbor hedge he burned up. Two weeks later, every time we ride by that fence, Sawyer still says, “Look! That’s where the fire was!!”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Don't Be a Lazy Cow!

(a guest post by Jason)
I am blissfully ignorant of the processes involved in dairy farming and milk production. I know it involves cows and…well, that’s all I really know. I’ve often wondered what the skimming process is like. I’m picturing a big screen-type device that you run across the top of the fresh milk and gather up big chunks of creamy stuff. The problem with this theory is that in our “full cream” or “whole” milk, there aren’t any big chunks of creamy stuff to skim off the top. You can imagine me sitting at breakfast every morning for the past 30 years or so, wondering how that works.

Well, thanks to a local milk producer, I have finally figured it out! Skim milk comes from healthy, skinny cows, and full cream milk comes from fat, lazy cows! Look at the pictures that greet us every morning from the newly-designed milk bottles!
I just wonder if these cows look anything like the fat cows and skinny cows that Pharaoh dreamed about.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Have Scalpel, Will Travel

You know those get-to-know-you games you play in a new group where you have to tell a strange, unknown fact about yourself? Well, I have a new one: I've had surgery in a hotel room!

It all started about three weeks ago. I chipped off part of my big toenail, and within a week it was ingrown and red and really hurt to walk on. So I called our local medical clinic and explained what I needed. The receptionist told me she didn't understand the phrase "ingrown toenail," so I explained in my best Arabic--my toenail is growing into my toe. "Oh, you need a dermatologist." No ma’am, I think I need a podiatrist. “Okay, you can see the dermatologist tomorrow at 5:00.”

Meanwhile, we had heard about a medical group visiting our town to do some volunteer clinics. So we made a phone call and found that there was an experienced, American surgeon in town who would be happy to look at my toe. Just meet him at their hotel at 12:30. They’d be having an early lunch, but needed to leave at 1:00 for their first clinic.

We met Dr. Bill Bailey at about 12:15. He was kind and friendly, and said he’d done a bunch of toes like this. I lay down on a twin bed, and he started taking medical stuff out of a suitcase!

I have a low threshold for pain. A very low threshold, I think. I generally just try to avoid anything that might hurt. But my toe had been hurting enough already that I was willing to lie down and let him stick the needle into my foot.

In the next picture, you might notice a camera phone really close to the action. A good friend of mine volunteered to hold my hand so that Beth could be free to hold Lee Anna, who was in the room but a little shaken up to see Daddy getting hurt. I think he wanted to be there to hold my hand just so he could be close enough to get a good video!

When it was all over, Dr. Bill wrapped it up real good, and we hobbled on home. It’s pretty well healed up now, though I did enjoy a couple of recovery days in the recliner.

So it wasn’t open-heart surgery or even removing my appendix, but I really have had surgery in a hotel room. Thanks Dr. Bill!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Hittin' the Books

School Season has begun for our little Arab Musicians, and we've had a fun first week of learning together! Sawyer is still going to his local preschool every day, but we're also doing some other activities and lots of reading together when he gets home. So far he really loves that he has his own school time with me. We'll see if the novelty wears off!
And Lee Anna is now a first grader! Here we are all ready to go on our first morning.
She's had a great time with her first grade work this week, although she did observe that it's "a little bit harder than kindergarten." I think she's up for the challenge.
One of the fun things she's doing this year is learning to type. I was a little older than six when I took typing, but it's a different world now. She'll be typing better than her Papaw before long!
This last picture has nothing to do with school, but I couldn't resist putting it up. Sarah Claire has got some serious peach fuzz hair these days, and on the day we took this photo it was particularly fuzzy. I am confident that one day it will start laying down like regular hair, but there's no indication it's going to change any time soon.
We've also had some medical adventures this week, which I will try to post sometime soon. Stay tuned!