Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mother's Day in the Village!

Just a warning: this one is going to be long! I am still on a high from having such a wonderful day! Today was the first day of Spring, aka Mother's Day in the Arab world. My language teacher, Nevine had invited me and my supervisors to go with her, and her 2 daughters and her mother to her grandparents' village. Their village is about 1.5 hours from our city. (Let me clarify the term village...most of the people in the village all shared the same last name. And all the homes are concrete and they do have indoor plumbing (but can either have a squatty-potty or Western toilet, which I discovered!). And all the homes we were in had either a decent tv or a computer with internet in their sitting room.)

I love Nevine's family! They are so much fun to hang out with. I never feel awkward about making sure I am doing whatever is culturally appropriate with them! They are loud and we exchange kisses in greeting and leaving! We call each other "Habiti" (beloved) and laugh together! I got really good Arabic practice in throughout the day. I enjoy playing with her girls, who are 7 and 4; they say it is the true test of your Arabic if a child can understand you!

This country is so ancient! I mean, did you have ruins of an ancient temple as your backyard playground?! ANJAD! (really?!) And we can climb all over them, cause they are sooo common here, that they are not protected. They have lasted thousands of years, what else could we do to them anyway!

Cultural lesson: as long as it is an observable fact, it is culturally appropriate to comment. For example, I think that Nevine's aunt mentioned at least 7 times, that she thought that one of my supervisors was a guy, because her hair was short! We were both told that if we lived with them, we could lose weight! (Well, duh, they live on the side of a mountain, so are carrying groceries up the mountain daily!) I was offered advice for my the acne which has broken out on my chin, since moving here. But at the same time, I was told countless times, just how beautiful I am! And the same aunt that made most of these comments, wants me to come back and marry her son! So, they don't mean any of these comments in a negative way...they are just mentioning observable facts!

Lunch was wonderful! We sat on the floor around a tablecloth. We had french fries, salad, (another meat-rice-ish dish that was really tasty!) and bread. Of course we were not served anything to drink with the meal. But we had all shared sips of the water-filled pepsi bottle before lunch. And after lunch were served a very small class of tea, so who needs a drink, right? :)

After lunch we went up the mountain a bit to explore and take in a gorgeous view of the whole valley! Creation is amazing!

We gave our hosts, Nevine, and her mom, Mother's Day gifts. We gave them each a small plant and I made them each a picture frame of a picture of each of Nevine's daughters. (Last week, I went to the mountains with Nevine, her daughters and my school and had some gorgeous pics of her beautiful girls!) They loved the pictures! Pictures are a big deal here. They don't have many pictures to display in their homes, but the ones they do hang or set out are of their fathers, grandfathers, or political leaders. This was such a great gift, cause they loved having pictures of the girls. And across each frame I had written Prov.31:28 in Arabic.

It was a little heartbreaking that we did not know that grandma was blind, or had very bad vision (and missing all her teeth) until we got there, so she was not able to enjoy the gift as much. But everyone who comes to her home now, can praise her for her beautiful great-grandchildren! Grandma was so sweet. She recited a poem for us, that I think she might have made up on the spot in our honor. She definitely is loved by her family, who take care of her.

Okay, since it was Mother's Day, Nevine's aunt was given a new sweater set and scarf from her kids. She liked the set and the scarf was beautiful, but she made the comment, "you did not have to buy me this, you should have just given me money for cigarettes." You would never ever hear that in the States! Remember this mom, when next mom's day I just get you money for cigarettes, and say I hear it is what moms really want!

Okay on the smoking note, I do have a confession to make. The people here are chain smokers, who have no reason to make excuses for chain smoking next to you in small rooms! I did take some tylenol while we where there for the headache that I got from it all. Arguile (or you may have heard of it as Hubbly-Bubbly) is also apart of this culture. My language teacher smokes Arguile every night. And it is fruit flavored, the most common flavor is apple. And it really smells good, extremely good when compared to cigarette smoke. I have turned down Arguile and cigarettes countless times here. Today though, as I was sitting next to Nevine who was sharing an Arguile with another girl, she asked me "you can try." Which in her broken English is "Try it." Because when she tells me to what I am supposed to say in Arabic, she says "you can say." And I guess all my D.A.R.E. training failed me at this point, because I did have one puff, I confess. What can one puff really do after all the hours I have spent inhaling secondhand cigarette smoke anyway? And just cause I know you are wondering, I was surprised how good it was. It was apple flavored and nice. But I had pleased my teacher and she did not ask me to do it again.

I promise to post pictures of this glorious day, soon! Thanks for letting me share!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Awe!

This has been a great week! Monday was Teacher's Day here; it is a national holiday and school is cancelled for it. My language school decided to plan a trip then for Monday to go to the Snow! They were a little dissapointed when we got to where they expected to see snow, though and there was only patches. So we played in patches on the side of the highway! It was a fun day!

On the bus on the way there, our teachers danced in the isles to blaring Arab music! And of course, when the traffic was bad and people were staring into the bus, they said it was because they could tell that we were foreigners and not because of the loud music or dancing going on in the bus!

After playing in the snow, we toured some ruins. It is really is incredible how many ruins and evidence of all these famous historical periods are in this country! Def. makes me wish that I had paid even more attention in history class! Then we had lunch, which is the big meal of the day here. So we had our fill of ethnic food, before heading home!

This week the weather has been wonderful! On Thursday, I took advantage of the nice weather to enjoy the Sea. I don't want to forget how special it is to live within walking distance of the glorious Sea!

Then I had my first overnight trip on Friday night, to another city. We also enjoyed the Sea here, although most of the time it was from the car (it was extremely windy, but we got to see some awesome waves!). Once again, we toured ruins there! They are everywhere!

I really love this country! Can you imagine, snow is only an hour away, and the Sea is only a walk away! And history always at your fingertips!

Check out my Snow day pictures, here:

And, check out more Ruin pictures here:

Friday, March 6, 2009

What a Week! Lessons from MOLD

I don't even know where to begin to update you on this week. I will try to spare you some details. Overall, I feel like this is home now. I feel comfortable walking all over, and my neighborhood and area seems normal now. Kinda hard to describe, but several times this week when I walking, I just got a sense, of "yah, this is normal, this is my life, this isn't weird, or unusual anymore." Which is good!

This week has been busy! We have had some issues with mold in our apt. The issues started about a month ago. I have an allegory for our mold problems for you. When the mold first appeared on the couches, we were a little surprised. We thought, that is weird, unusual, kinda comical. Where did that come from? But we thought we did not have time to clean it right then, and were not quite sure the appropriate way to clean it, so it got put off. We had the intention of asking people here how they cleaned their mold, but it seems you never remember to ask someone about mold when you see them. After about a week, I finally emailed my supervisor, to ask her advice. Then by the time she responded and I went and bought what she suggested, I am sure a week had past. Additionally, I noticed that puffy water rings were appearing behind the paint in my room, and several spots were mold had broken through the paint. I took my supervisors advice and cleaned the room and the couches. And then the rain came, and the rains came down and the mold grew more, and the rains came down and the mold more! After about 15 days of rain the mold reappeared, bigger and more colorful (we have black, green, gray, light blue, mint green, and a lovely pussy yellow) than every before. At this point we began to realize what a huge problem mold is. There is no simple fix. It takes time, and work, and dedication to getting it all taken care of. And of course, living overseas adds a different twist to everything. We had to wait for our landlady to return from France to have her come look at the apartment. Then she had have her brother-in-law, come look at it, and the next day bring a professional. So the mold kinda blew up this week in our faces, what was kinda comical at first, is now a huge problem. My roomate has been sick this week (don't know if it is from the mold, but the mold can only hinder our health). And I have been talking to many people through the whole process to get the problem addressed. We have had many people over to see the apartment, so we have to try to keep it looking decent despite the mold. I have learned alot more Arabic through talking with people about this. Nash (mold) is not in our Arabic/english dictionary! So I had to try to explain mold to people and talk around the word. Think about how would you describe mold, in a way that someone who does not speak English could figure it out? (humidity, water, not dripping, on wall, on couches, old bread, many colors, grow....can't even draw a picture!) All that to say that the mold problem is being addressed, but they must first figure out the problem with our neighbor's balcony and correct that before they can work on our place, because their balcony (they think) is the source of the water. This is a common problem here, but ours is definitly a more severe case than others. Our landlady is very upset, because they had just had the place redone, and repainted before we moved in, so it is nice to have her addiment about correcting the problem. I learned a lesson from this mold. How many times do we let a "bad habit" into our lives, thinking it is interesting or different, or maybe even comical at first. And then it continues. You have the intentions of stopping, but never really do. You might stop for a little bit, but then find yourself back in the "bad habit." Eventually, bad habits tend to blow up in your face, as our mold has done this week. You think if we had taken the issue seriously, addressed it, and taken the time to correct it in the beginning, it could have been nipped in the bud, but now all the problems are compounded. In our mold case, now we have to throw away our couches. It takes a couple of days to get things together so someone can get a car, and find a place to take them, cause we don't dare give away moldy couches. We can't have people over to our place, and we were expecting about 20 people for a get-together this weekend, but now we had to ask to have all the people go to someone else's house, with little notice. We even got scared, when my roomate got sick and slept somewhere else.

Sorry, I said I would spare you details, and that really is the spared details version, cause everything is complicated here. So this week has been very busy, but I definitly feel that I am adjusting and belong here, which is a big praise! And don't worry, I am not sick, and my roomate is feeling better. But I wanted to share that, so you would know that life is not always glamourous here, and you can learn many lessons, from things you would not expect.

I would also like to add that the rain has stopped for the last 2 days, and it has been HALU KTEER (VERY NICE) here! We are able to air out our apt, which it desperately needed, and for the first time in weeks, I was able to do laundry, and let it air dry outside, instead of inside! And it dried within hours! I have NEVER been so thankful for clothes that were dried so stiffly!

My roomate has taken pictures, so hopefully I can share those with you soon! We missed alot of good picture opportunities in the process, but I think if you could see it, it might make more sense.