Saturday, December 11, 2010

Top 10 Lessons Learned in the Last 2 Years in the Middle East

Time sure has flown this last month. We hosted a volunteer group from home and then I have been busy trying to finish end-of-the-year work so I can leave on Dec 17 to spend Christmas in America!! I am excited to be "home" for Christmas! At the same time, I am a little nervous about America. I know I am a very different person than I was just 2 years ago! I was going through some of my monthly updates the last 2 years and wow, I was just a little embarrassed about what I used to write in updates, but I guess that is just part of the growing up process where hind vision is 20-20.

Here are some things I know I have learned in the last two years:
10. How to live alone and with some half-crazy strong personality roomies! You know I love you, but ISTJs and ENFPs are very different and I think we can both admit we learned a lot from each other!

9. How to clean mold off walls and couches! Bleach water is a cure-all, unless it is rain season, and then it is an almost lost cause. It is important even in the cold winter to crack windows so your bed/closet/couches get some airflow and don’t breed mold. Mold comes in many colors too!

8. Politics. Drama. Instability. Yes, Soldiers on the street with m16s and army tanks are normal to me now. As well as the resistance militia. Hmm, this probably sounds really weird. I have learned the major political players and how to follow what they are saying in the news, and am getting better at keeping the 16 different political parties straight and who is on each side-even as they switch alliances!

7. Dancing. I am the first person to admit that I am a WHITE, BAPTIST girl, who has no dancing or rhythmic abilities what-so-ever. But that is not a legit excuse at parties here, so I have learned to dance, or how to entertain friends by letting them teach me to dance each time. I have had many Arab friends teach me Dabke (more of a village line dance) and Arabic Dancing (lots of hip twisting and wrist rolling).

6. Working for a start-up business is not easy! You don’t just go to work and do the same thing everyday. Each day you analyze what you are doing, and how it could be more effective, or successful. Strategy and vision are vision are very important.

5. Don’t spend 10 days in Cairo. If you want to see the pyramids and mummies, spend one day there, not 10! Don’t eat the food unless you are prepared to get a parasite/food poisoning and be sick for the next 3 weeks. For a wonderful vacation though, the Greek isles are everything you have heard that they are—pristine beaches and cute villages, so relaxing and perfect and with much better food!

4. Wasta: “connections” it all comes down to who you know. Especially as a foreigner, once you make the right relationships you are “in” and have someone who can help you get anything done. I have learned to make wasta and to use wasta from people.

3. My vocabulary has changed, and I don’t just mean I have learned Arabic, which has been a huge learning experience the last 2 years, but the Arabic speaking mindset comes out in my English and in my thought processes now. “Inshallah” (Lord-willing) and “lhumdillia” (thanks to God) come out a lot more. Living here I have learned very well, that I can’t make plans cause they can change so quickly, so plans are always “inshallah” and I give God praise for so many more things that he deserves using “lhumdillia” daily.

2. Flexibility. Like #3, plans are ALWAYS going to change, multiple times. Internet, water, and electricity are not givens, but factors that play into most plans. I recognize so much better now that I am not in-control, and when I thought I was in-control of my life when I lived in the States, that was just an illusion. You never know what each day will bring, but lhumidllia, we have a God who is with us always and never surprised by each new day!

1. The Power of God’s Word. The Word of God transforms lives, and even though it is thousands of years old, it has a fresh teaching everyday. It is also a much better witness than I am. Too many times I can be defensive or try to phrase things so as not to offend people, but the Bible doesn’t do that. It is direct and divides marrow. It is the Words of Life and leads people into the way of righteousness, and transcends all cultures! I have seen the Word of God change my life and the lives of others the last two years-Lhumdillia!

Picture time

Thanksgiving Volunteer Group Pictures:

My friend Maya's engagement party:


Friday, November 12, 2010


OH my goodness! How could I have gotten this far behind in posting to my blog.

It has obviously been a busy time. There is so much to update you on! I spent 10 days in Egypt: click here for pictures. That was probably the worst vacation of my life--not that I have had many bad vacations. But I now understand why there are songs like: "Pharoah, Pharoah, wooah, let my people go!" Thankfully, everyone has said that they can't tell my disappointment by my pictures. Cairo and I just didn't get along. It was dirty, busy, chaotic, left me holding my breath trying to avoid inhaling the air pollution, and then I left Egypt with a parasite that took me over 2 weeks to get rid of! Egypt will be forever remembered in my stomach and not in my heart. So if you ever get the chance to go, do go, but only spend 2 days max in Cairo! The pyramids and mummies are a must see---have to be on your bucket list. But then venture out to Alexandria--never been so excited to visit a library as there! And I hear that Sharm El Sheik is wonderful as well, but unfortunately that part of my trip was cancelled, so I can't speak from personal experience.

Hopefully, I will have time to post more later. But my parents and some friends are headed here for Thanksgiving next week, so I will be a little busy, but that will give me something else to post about, inshallah before I head to the States for Christmas! SO excited about being in the States for a bit. And for Christmas too! If you want to see me while I am there, please make arrangements with my social coordinator, aka my mom! :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Farm Day: Meat your Milk!

I have learned that blogs on the day of are much more exciting, so here it goes:

Today was Farm Day with the young professionals club I am apart of! And I loved every minute of it. In Oklahoma, the idea of vising a farm would not be all that exciting to me, but living here, I was thrilled to get out of the city and be around something more natural! Oh, how I have changed living here!

So this was advertised to the club as a once in a lifetime opportunity to milk a cow! (Please hold back your laughing till later, all of you from Oklahoma and Texas!) Even though, I grew up in Oklahoma and have been on farms/ranches before, I had yet to milk a cow, and always thought it would be fun. Plus as said before I was excited for an opportunity to get out of the city (that I do love!), but the valley and fresh air are so nice! Even more than all this was I was excited to see my friends be on a farm. This group of friends are definitely all pretty much city people. Most drive BMWs and wear name brands even more expensive than the ones that people in Tahlequah drive to Tulsa to buy! They like luxury and I have never seen them "rough it." And when things are not up to their standards, they clearly make it known. Thankfully, almost miraculously, God has given me favor in their eyes as the cute American girl who tries to speak Arabic!

So the night before (because why would you tell people where/when to meet until the night before?--it can change many times and you are always waiting to hear from someone else---a lesson I have learned more than once!) I got a text saying to meet at 8am in the parking lot of a local shopping center. So (Finally learning!) I left my house at 8:10 and arrived at the parking lot before 8:20--and was amazed that I was not the first one there, but I was not the last one either! We waited till 8:50 for everyone to arrive. Even the thought of just saying you are left behind if you are not somewhere on time is rude here! So from the parking lot we caravan-ed along with a hired bus for the day. I will spare you the details of the trip to the farm--let's just say we stopped over 6 times for varying reasons (picking up more people-this one alone was at least 3 times, stopping for water, stopping for breakfast--even though the first thing on the agenda when we arrived was snacks, and stopping to wait for the bus to catch up). It was after 11am when we finally arrived at the farm! The schedule had us arriving at 9:30!

Driving into the farm, we passed two fields of hashesh. This country is actually famous for its grass, and this valley is full of it. A large portion of their income is made from the grass. Continuing the drive into the farm everyone was greeted with the smell of.......a farm! This was a first for many of the 40 people of the group! Let's just say that MANY complaints/comments were made. I saw one girl spraying air freshner/body spray outside her car! Even over an hour later, I saw a girl still fighting a gagging reflex! Seriously, people!

Anyways, so we were educated about the process this dairy farm of 55 cows was going through to become the first official organic dairy farm in the country, and about the ethical slaughter of animals. The farm proprietor said for religious reason (according to the Bible and Quran), you are not allowed to kill cows in front of other cows and a few other dont's I have already forgotten--never heard this before. It is also against the law, although there is only one place that slaughters humanely in this country according to this proprietor. And then for the sake of the cows who she said actually cry when they are distressed and see another cow killed!

Next we painted the outside of the (Barn?-best word I can think of.) It was a concrete building where they milk the cows on the bottom floor and a family lives on the 2nd floor. Hay is stored on the open rooftop. This was fun! The group got really creative--or stole picture of cows on the internet the night before of cows they thought were cute to paint! There was a cow drinking chocolate milk that I am sure I have seen before. A cow in overalls and then one of my friends, who had been to the training that Chick-fil-A did last year had the 3-cow logo of Chick-fil-A cows holding up the "Eat Mor Chiken" signs that were going to be changed to "eat more veggies," or "drink organic milk." We ran out of time to get the Chick-fil-A cows on the barn. Someone did ask about copyright issues on that one, but I highly doubt that the American company that has no overseas locations would care about a random barn in the middle of a valley in the middle east having their logo painted on a barn.

After painting, we were brought lunch around 3PM-tawouk sandwiches (chicken kebab sandwiches in pita bread), and then it was milking time! The cows gathered around the barn door desperate to be milked. They led them in and feed them as they waited their turns to be milked by the 2 portable machines they had. Then a few at a time, we each got a turn to go and milk a cow! It was fun and not that hard! (Hopefully this newly acquired life skill will help me on the Amazing Race in 2012! haha)

Then it was group picture time. They love to take pictures here! And they love to pose for pictures and have their pictures taken, and are quick to tell you that you have to delete a picture if it is not flattering. This was annoying at first, but after posing for a few pics myself today, I think it may have rubbed off on me---forgive me if I am a vain picture taker in the States!

We left the farm about 5:20 and I was all the way home by 7:00--a much faster ride without any stops!

It really was a great day!

For pictures, click here:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where am I?

Friday night is the start of Eid of Fitr, a 2 day holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, so the Muslim half of town closes down. This holiday is a very important family holiday, so I had planned on not being able to see many friends, and just staying at home (needed to catch up on work and clean the house anyway.) A colleague who knows I am American and not Muslim still asked me if I was going to spend time with family in my village? Seriously? I must fit in better than I think.

So half the town is closed while families are visiting each other. My Armenian friend who lives here (but whose family has homes in Cyprus, Lebanon, Armenia and the UAE that I know of) calls and invites me out for drinks. She is Armenian Orthodox so not celebrating Eid. A friend of her sister’s from the UAE is visiting and she needs to show him around—he is from Sweden, but has lived and worked in Abu Dhabi with my Armenian friend’s sister for the last 1.5 years. She is planning to take him to my favorite city. I had only been there during the day, and loved the small quaint sea port, ancient Crusader’s Castle and souk market. And this would be a chance to get out during the Eid and hang out with a good friend, so I was in.

The nightlife in this town was great! The cobblestone streets of the souk are filled with bars, couches, and stylish chairs at night! Bar right after bar each blasting their own techno/electronic/pop music dj-ed mix down through the cobblestone alleys where souvenirs are sold during the day. Just to get through you had to weave your way through the couches, chairs, and people, lots of people, while watching your step to not trip on a rock that had fallen out of place.

We had a very nice dinner at an expensive restaurant overlooking the castle. For some reason, the wait staff looked like pirates with black bandanas and shirts for the men and the women in low cut red blouses white bandanas—even my friend who has lived here for many years couldn’t figure out what style of “native” dress this was. But the food was great. The fattouch and hummus were a spin off the traditional but very tasty—and it is hard to improve on 1000+ year old traditional foods like fattouch and hummus. The Armenian and the Swede tried the dark house beer, then a red wine with the meal. So to not offend by toasting with my water, I ordered a Pepsi. And of course my Armenian friend insisted on paying for dinner. Hospitality is not lost by this hostess. We finished dinner around 11.

Then we wandered the streets till we found the first bar they wanted to stop in. We didn’t really go in, there is no “in” because everyone is sitting out on the cobblestone streets under the stars framed by the old buildings with French styled architecture. We were there for an hour when the Swede paid the waiter before we could object. Okay, so I have to pick up the tab at the next place—so far I have gotten a free meal and a free fruit punch, I made a mental note.

About 12, after walking the streets for several minutes trying to decide what place had the best music, of course defined by a standard very different than my own. It had been noted that the American was not such a big fan of techno/electronic music, but preferred country music, which you can’t find here. We found a small place with 4 tables next to the entrance of the souk. It was kind of far from the center of the party that I am sure the Swede was longing for, but I appreciated the nice fresh salt water breeze. As they sat drinking their local beers out of longneck green glass bottles, and I sipped my bottled water with a lime wedge, the Swede commented on the old rock arch over the street with a small statute of the Virgin Mary. Oh, how we have disgraced this place! What would the Saints have thought if they could see what we have turned this place into, he exclaimed sipping his beer. My Armenian friend agreed and added that right next to the Virgin Mary is a tattoo parlor. But of course these thoughts were passing and the next topic was the gay club in the capital city that had been recommended to the Swede as a joke—the Armenian’s eyes widened and she burst out laughing. She had been once just to see what it was all about, and quickly recounted the story as best she can between fits of laughter. Then it happened—Johnny Cash was mixed into the electronic music! “I Walk the Line” for a whole 30 seconds! The Swede and Armenian eyes immediately turned to the American who instantly mouthed the words and slapped her knee! We really did find the place with the best music—and the Swede and Armenian each heard some of their favorite songs too, like “Sex on the Beach” and “When Love Takes Over.” I took the bill from our third and final stop of the night. I gave the bartender a $50 bill and got $40 back in change but in the local currency, not USD.

We left the quaint sea port city, turned nightlife hub around 1:30 and made it home just after 2:00AM.

So where am I? Where do I live? Where could a Christine, Peter, and Laura have such a night? Seriously, where could all of this exist at the same time? Who knew such a place even existed? God where have you brought me?

Monday, September 6, 2010


making up for lost time. Thought I would share with you what I did tonight. Well I actually didn't make them because I was too late, but I wrapped two of them.

I went to my language teachers' mom's restaurant to hang out with her family and see how they make maamoul. Visit to learn about maamoul--it can explain better than I can. These were filled with pistachios.

Here are some pics:


Sunday, September 5, 2010


I went to a sahour event last night. Sahour is the middle of the night meal that Muslims eat during Ramadan. This event was put on as a charity event to raise money for the children's cancer center and several of my friends from the young professionals club and I went. The invitations said the event started at 10:30 in a town 45mins to 1 hour south of our city. I was supposed to meet up with friends at 9 at a local hotel. So I arrived at 9, and waited till our ride got there at 9:20---I should have known better, and then we didn't even leave the city till 9:45. We reached the restaurant at around 10:45. This restaurant is right on the boardwalk next to an old Sea Castle. The boardwalk was crowded with lots and lots of people! Most of the time when people fast here they sleep all day and stay out all night. So the boardwalk was full and there was even a parade complete with marching band at 10:45 PM when we arrived!

The restaurant was very nice. We sat outside on a small manicured lawn next to the Sea! Yes, that is right grass!!!! For an Okie I was never much a fan of grass--I mean there is always dirt, ants and bugs under the grass. But I really miss it living in this city where there is no grass!! The nice cool squishy grass!! Anyways, so I asked my friends if it would be weird if I walked bear foot on the grass, and they said it was fine. So I took off my wedges sandals (and had to then roll up my jeans) to walk on the grass. They thought this was hilarious and then needed a picture of my bare feet in the grass. My friend Natalie though was in very fashionable high heels---very typical of the ladies here. So we took a feet pic together!

Gotta love it---Okie girl meets Middle Eastern Fashion Diva on the grass!!! haha! This pic says so much about our different cultures--had to share it!

Oh and to finish the story...the meal was served at close to midnight. We had saj-sandwiches made on a round raised griddle with thin batter with zaatar and cheese, Arabic beans (2 different kinds), made to order omelets, watermelon, cantaloupe, and Arab sweets. My group left after about half the people had departed at 2AM, but there was still many people there! And lots of traffic on the way out of town. All the restaurants remained full! So I made it home at 3AM after my first sahour! It was a great night with friends!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Greece Pictures

Well, I have gotten a little behind on my blogging. Apologies blog world. I will write more soon. Till then, enjoy pictures from my Greece vacation in August:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Dermatologist

well after that post, I am just in the blogging mood, so I won't make you wait for the Dermatologist visit post. I know my family will be excited about that.

So my boss's wife recommended a dermatologist for me to visit. I called and made an apt, and was able to be seen the next week. I arrive in the building and take the elevator to the 5th floor, just before the doors close a mom and daughter also jump in. Turns out we are going the same place. But, since they got on the elevator first, they were the first ones out, the first ones in the waiting room, the first to talk to the receptionist, and therefore the first to be seen by the doctor. Which could have been annoying, but I had a book with me that I was excited about reading. (What am I reading? I am glad you asked!)

Right now I am reading: "Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times" by Margaret Nydell. I found this on the bookshelf where I am living now. It was been good to read this book and see yes, it is not just me the last year and a half, this is just is how the culture works! And then learn tips for Westerns living among Arabs. For instance, Westerns usually think of a friend as someone whose company they enjoy. A friend can be asked for a favor or for help if necessary, but it is considered poor form to cultivate a friendship primarily for what can be gained from that person, or their position. Among Arabs, a friend is also someone whose company one enjoys. However, equally important to the relationships is the duty of a friend to give help and do favors to the best of his or her ability. The book then goes on to explain then that when an Arab friend asks for a favor, if you say no, that is rude and harmful to the friendship and may even make the friend question whither or not you are friends. The much better response then is to say you will try or see what you can do, or even commit, and then later express that you were not able to complete the favor. This way it appears you tried. And because this is an honor/shame culture, they will not ask you why, because the reason could bring shame to you if the reason was you were incapable. This is great to know, when I have Arab friends, and it explains some of their behavior that I did not understand before. She also has a great chapter explaining Anti-Americanism, and how America misunderstands it. I haven't finished the book, but I would recommend it.

So I am waiting in the waiting room, reading my book, while the receptionist takes care of the mom and daughter ahead of me. Then she asks for my name. I spell it--and she still writes it down wrong. Then she needs my father's name. They have a different filing system here that uses people's father's names, because people don't have middle names here, and if they do 90% of the time it is their father's name. For more info read the Understanding Arabs Book, there is a great section about this. And finally she writes down my year of birth all on a scratch pad. Then she starts clicking away on her laptop. I assume she is putting me into their computer system. A few minutes later she asks me a question, I can't remember what, but I go to her desk, and discover that the whole time....... she has been looking me up on FACEBOOK!! haha. So she asks if the first picture is me, which it is. And her first comment after doing a double take is "You have lost weight!" My profile picture that she is looking at is less than 3 weeks old!

Augh, for some reason, people feel the need here to tell you if you have gained or lost weight in between seeing you! I still don't fully understand it. It's not like we don't have mirrors or scales that tell us these things. And it is not that they are trying to compliment you, because just as often as they tell you have lost weight they say you have gained weight. I need this book to explain this to me. (I left this out in the "eat fish and swim post, but Natalie told me that I looked thinner in my swimsuit. And that I should wear clothes that looked better on me! (ie, tighter) I took this as a compliment. Here I have to wear modest somewhat baggy clothes, so I guess it is good, that she thought I was thinner than I looked.)

So back to the dermatologist waiting room, I told the receptionist to add me as a friend. I started to wonder if I could be missing an opportunity of a new friend if I read my book instead of talking to the receptionist. That could even be the reason why the mom and daughter were before me. So I talked to her about her nieces and how expensive things were in that area of town.

Then it is my turn to see the doctor. In her office, she puts me into her computer system--not real sure what the point of the receptionist is at this point. She asked me how I heard about her, and I told her through my boss's wife (Ann King*), and the doctor gets excited and asks if she moved away. She has a paper that she has meant to give to her for a year, but has not gotten ahold of her by phone. Then looking through a file folder on her desk she retrieves a paper, no this is (Amberly King*). Do you know her? I have never meant Amberly, but I have heard Ann talk about her sister-in-law Amberly who also lives overseas and has visited several times. And it would make since for her to visit doctors here, since they are some of the best in the region, so I say, yes, I know Amberly, and explain the sister-in-law of my boss's wife connection. The doctor was very excited at this and took the page out of the folder, sealed and stamped it in an envelope as confidential and then gave it to me. You tell me: what are the chances of this in the US?! Never, right?! After the visit I called my Ann and yep, Amberly had visited the dermatologist more than a year before! small world, I guess. So I passed on the envelope, never even peeked, I mean it was stamped and all!

The whole Amberly incident didn't make me question the doctor's capabilities though. She seemed very intelligent and had a name tag from the local American University, so I am sure she is well educated and a good dermatologist. So she examined me. What my hair stylist freaked out about was not even a mole, but a collection of blood vessels that I were assured were nothing to be worried about. She froze off a few little bitty warts on my knee. And then prescribed me some meds for acne. I never had acne very bad at all before I moved here, but it has flaired up since I moved. She said it was not the water here, which I had been told could have been a cause. She prescribed an oral med and a creme the same prescription. I corrected her at my name spelling on the prescription, and she said that it really didn't matter---I didn't want to get the the drug store and them refuse to fill it or anything---little did I know about the pharmacy here!

Before I get the prescriptions filled, I do some online research. I have heard bad things about some acne meds so I don't want to take anything with bad side effects. I discovered that this was a light antibiotic, so it was fine.

The next day I went to the pharmacy and they were out of the oral and the creme. She told me that they could get me the creme the next day inshallah (lord-willing) or the day after. I read between the lines and though maybe someday next week they will have it. They were also out of the oral med. So I went to pharmacy #2. Thankfully there are pharmacies everywhere here! They had the oral, but not the creme. The oral was only $7-$8. Prescription drugs are cheap here. And most of the time you don't even need a prescription for them. They did not even take my prescription or mark off that I had it filled! So on the way home I stopped off at pharmacy #3 still looking for the creme, and no luck. Then when I got home I realized that she just gave me a box of the oral med at pharmacy #2 and it only had 10 pills in it, and I was supposed to take 1 a day for 2 months! So later that night when I was out for a friend's birthday, we stopped in a pharmacy to buy gum, and I asked about the prescriptions again. They had the oral at pharmacy #4 although when I wanted to get 5 boxes to last for 2 months they only had 4, but gave them all to me. They didn't have the creme. So now, inshallah, next week I can go back to pharmacy #1 and pick up the creme. I am waiting to start the oral until I can do the creme at the same time. Although, these drugs can make you sunburn easier, so it would probably be wise not to take them when I am in Greece!!! yay, I leave in 10 days. So maybe I will wait till I return to start taking the meds, inshallah, that should be enough time to find the creme somewhere, inshallah!

Hair cut: (The Dermatologist prequel)

okay, so this story actually starts 2 weeks ago when I went to get my hair cut. I have attempted to get my hair cut at least 4-5 times since I have lived here, but it has not really worked out, and at the first sign that it might not work out, I chickened out. Curly hair is very common here, and the people here are very beautifully put together (cough*vain*cough). So I should not be afraid, but I have had some bad haircuts in my life, and really wanted to make sure that I would get someone who would know what she was doing.

So, one of my friends and her mom were getting their hair cut one afternoon, and decided to go with them. This friend has wavy hair, and is a great English speaker, so I knew that 1)they lady should be capable, and 2)my desired cut could be communicated correctly. I just wanted a trim. Living here for 1.5 years without cutting my hair, it has grown long, and I really like it. Some of the ladies here have gorgeous long dark curly hair, and I have turned into a wanna-be, I guess!

The lady trimmed it, but suggested that I cut the front a little shorter so that it would fade to the length in the back. But on the first cut in the front I held my breath as she cut 6 inches (I am NOT exaggerating!!) So then I started praying (also not kidding!). For those of you without curly hair, when my hair is wet it is long. As it dries it springs up--which is why my hair looks shorter latter in the day than the morning. (It has taken me years to learn curly taming skills!) So when you cut my hair it looks longer than it is, and then I lose like 2-3 inches as my hair dries. Oh, and some hairs are curlier than others, so there are always a couple straggling ringlets that I have to trim a second time later, because they hang lower than the rest of my hair. So what she said was a fade is now like a steep incline! Thankfully she cut very little off the length in the back.

Anyways, she straightened my hair after she cut it. Which I love! I only do it a couple times a year, because it is so much work. Here though because of the 90% humidity. My straight hair lasts only 45 minutes to an hour. And then it is wavy (which is still cute!) and that will last 2 days till I wash it. So as she was straightening it, my friend's mom (who I really love. I even gave her a mom's day present in the Spring) starts oohing and ahhing over my straight hair. Afterward, we had a miniphoto session in the salon. The stylist was telling me how to pose while mom took pics on her cell phone. Mom even told me that I had to stop by her office building on the way home and get a picture made with my straight hair for her. She insisted, even after I tried to get out of it with the excuse that I didn't have any make-up on. It had all melted off in the blow-drying straightening process. (the stylist took at least 2 breaks in the process to wipe sweat from her face with a tissue!)

So I loved my hair straight, but now that I have washed it, and it has curled back up the front is a little too short (it comes to my mouth and is just barely long enough to tuck behind an ear), and she cut alot of it short, and didn't leave as much long as I wanted. Self consciously, I feel like it is a grown out mullet look, although friends assure me it is not.

I don't have any good pics yet or I would post them. Those are coming soon. Wow, this is a long post and I have not even gotten to the reason for the dermatologist visit which was supposed to be the subject of this post. Please bear with me a little further. Sorry dad and any guys that you had to read all about boring girls hair.

So in the midst of cutting my hair, the stylist stops, because her fingernail ran across a mole on my scalp. She very animatedly proceeded to tell me that I should have it removed because it could break off and get sucked into my brain and possibly kill me. She said that moles below the chest were fine, around the neck was sorta dangerous, but on my head was very dangerous. Then mom starts telling her story about getting a mole removed once. (this is a typical living overseas/difference in culture, and medical practices example. Ask anyone who has lived overseas and I am sure they can list all the medical advice they were freely given which is not true. Like ac or cold water making you sick, or a personal favorite: in Turkey I was told if I sat on the cold concrete patio I would not be able to have children--in the summer heat I took the risk and sat on the cool concrete!)

Back to this story though: I have known I had this mole since I was little, but I had not thought about it as a problem, it is hidden by a lot of hair. Anyways, so after this incident, I decided to look at it for the first time--which involved several mirrors and then a digital camera. haha. And I realized that it was oddly colored red. I had an RN friend and her visiting mother, who she called sorta a mole expert look at it and they suggested that I have it looked at. So I made an apt with a dermatologist. And that is the set-up for my next blog post which will be the visit to the dermatologist this last week.

(As I write this, I am wondering if moles are a taboo subject? Do we talk about them in America? Is it gross that I am writing about them? I mean everyone has them, so it must be okay, right? Also are warts okay to talk about? I need to know about this for my next post.)

Okay, now after proofing my blog post, I wonder if I write poorly. I rarely finish a thought without interrupting it with another thought in a parenthesis (kinda wonder if this is annoying, or makes the story hard to follow?). This would not fly in English class, but this is a blog not English class, so inshallah (Lord-willing) it is okay. One of my pet-peeves about myself is when I don't finish my sentences. It is a bad habit that I do way too often. Even yesterday I caught myself saying, "maybe up on that hill over there, we can ...." instead of a complete sentence "once we arrive at that hill, we can look around, and I can tell if I have been here before." This could be attributed to being an introvert and lots of times we don't vocalize thoughts, comments, or ideas, because we think others won't care or they are not important. I need to work on this. Wow! so that is a whole other topic for a whole other blog post. I was just wondering if using parenthesis to insert little comments, is like speaking in incomplete sentences. (hmmm....)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

ANTS in my ......

okay, now to the post I indeed to make yesterday before I realized that I had not shared my "eat fish and swim" story.

ANTS have invaded! Last weekend I woke up to ants coming out of my laptop! I had left my laptop on the coffee table in the living room overnight. Not the typical place to find ants. After killing at least 20 mini ants, and using an can of air on the keyboard, the ants still crawled out of the keyboard! I did a little research online and it looks like some ants are actually attracted to warm electronics! weird?! I know! So I bought some ant pesticide powder. But I didn't want to just sprinkle it on the coffee table, so I put it in a bottle cap. Not sure if it is working. I used a brand called Baygon. Is that used in America too? Umm, I don't think it is working, or maybe I did not use it right, cause there are still ants on the coffee table. I was reminded of this the other day, because I woke up and realized that I had forgotten to put my computer on the dining room table (which lhumdillia has remained ant free!), I left it on the coffee table and it was once again infected with ants!! I killed over a dozen again!

Any suggestions?

And to the wonderful people who are letting me stay in their house for these last 6 months, who happen to also read this blog: I am sorry that I have let ants invade your house. I will do my best to get rid of them before your return! sorri :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Come, eat fish and swim!

I have gotten kinda bad at updating the blog. I can't believe it has been almost a month since I updated--and it has been a busy few weeks! This is one story that I intended to post from July 3! So I will do this now and then write what I was going to write about for today.

So one Friday night, I was on facebook, and my friend Natalie started chatting with me and asked me what I was doing on Saturday. I didn't have any real plans, so she invited me to go with her and her friend to "eat fish and swim!" It was going to be fun and we would do it in the cultural traditional way, she explained. Well, how could I resist that?! So we worked out the plan for me to take a bus to a city an hour south of where I live--that is where he parents live and she lives there on the weekends. She would pick me up from the bus station and then we would go "eat fish and swim!" Just for you outsiders-the $1 bus did not have ac or comfy chairs, but it did have open windows carrying a nice salty breeze and a great view of the Sea--and it all its blue hues (some days it has a least 5 different blue hues!)

The bus trip went fine, and Natalie picked me up then we went to go pick up her friend Hussein. By the time he was ready the fresh fish market was about to close, so we settled for the fresh fish flown in from Turkey at the local grocery store. You go and pick out which fish you want (there are 20+ varieties) and they clean the fish for you-which is nice! And of course this area of the store had a very fishy smell. So we got 2 kinds of fish and shrimp!

Then we headed to a second town, even further south. This town has a special area, called camel-although I am not sure why it is called camel. (It has long been joked that here there are only 1.2 camels in this country--at one of the famous tourist places just to keep the stereotype of camels in the middle east alive for tourists.) Anyways, to get to camel, you go through narrow, windy, 1 lane roads that cars drive in both directions on. But when you arrive the area is full of small family restaurants on the Sea, from which you can swim. So we chose one of the less crowed places, so they could cook our fish faster. It was past 2 by this point so we were hungry! While we waited we swam.

Then the food came:
first came the shrimp:

and then the fish!

They also ordered some traditional appetizers. We had hummus, baba gnanoush (pretty much hummus, but made from eggplant), fattoush (salad), french fries, and grilled eggplant with a pomegranate sauce that I loved! when you grill eggplant, it gets this savory texture and then with sweet pomegranate sauce it was sooo good. I didn't get a pic of the last kind of fish but it was also deep fried whole with head and tail still attached!

After lunch, we rented jet skis by the minute. Natalie and I rode ours for 10 minutes and I got to drive for half of it! It was so freeing to go whatever direction I wanted to go and as fast as I wanted and to hit the waves! I don't drive here so it was kinda nice to be in control of a vehicle for a little bit.

Close to sunset, we settled our bill. I think it was about $20 for lunch--which is the same price just to get into some of the beaches around here, and we got a great meal with our beach day!

On the way home, we had to take an alternate route, because fans of Germany were celebrating their 4-0 World Cup game win! Seriously, there were teenage guys on scooters with flags and cars parading with people hanging out with German flags. And we were leaving an hour after the game had finished! We made it back to Natalie's home, where I met her mom. Her brother was there and was going to give me a ride back to my house in my city, because he was going there anyways to watch another World Cup game with his friends. But first we had to all sit and talk and have their Filipina maid serve us juice and a snack first-which is culturally appropriate.

I got home almost 12 hours after I left from a full, but yet relaxing day! I should "eat fish and swim" more often!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Wedding!!

This Saturday night was my language teacher, N's sister's wedding. I have gotten to meet all of their family, so I was so excited to be invited to her wedding. She has been engaged to her fiance the whole time I have been here and the wedding was really a celebration that she was finally able to get married. I would love to share the story behind it, and about all the wedding traditions here---and how much I LOVE them! But that is going to have to wait. I have been packing and moving ever since then, and am exhausted.

If you can't tell by my facebook status: I love dancing here!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Un Noche Mexicano!

So last week, one of the young professional clubs here hosted a Mexican Night! They put alot of work into it. They got authentic costumes from the Mexican Embassy. A local Mexican restaurant (which is decent, but nothing like El Zarape) serve tastes of quesadillas, nachos and tequila. Actually, the quesadillas that I tried were either just motzerella cheese in a tortilla or chicken, peppers, onion, and OLIVES!

They had a mariachi band and everything. Let me tell you that the people are here are so educated! They knew many of the songs already! La Bamba!

Even the local MTV station was there-which I thought was cool. You know how part of you always wants to make it on tv. Yah, I thought that would be cool too, until it hit me that they were broadcasting in Arabic when they were interviewing one of my friends. So then I tried to hide behind my friend, but that didn't work! The reported asked me in Arabic where I bought the flower in my hair. (see the picture link above) I panicked. I can definitely answer that question in Arabic. "starat hayde warde min Marji 500 mahal bihamra." But as I learned when a camera is shoved in your face, and you realize you are about to look like an idiot on tv, all the Arabic somehow just falls out of your brain! So I answered in English. And the reporter looked at me funny, realizing I was not from here. And asked me again in English, and wanted to know if I studied here or not. Thankfully, my friends helped me out, so I didn't look like a complete idiot--at least that is what they kept telling me.

Oh, and let me explain to you where I bought the flower. I got it at the local version of the Dollar Store---not the typical place the MTV watchers shop! That was kinda embarrassing! Many times, covered ladies will put these flowers under their veils, because they give the illusion of more hair--which is supposed to be attractive. Yes, just because you wear a veil, doesn't mean that you don't know how to dress to attract attention! Maybe this is similar to the poof alot of girls wear in the States! But my red flower was a huge hit! I bought extras for friends and they all wore them. And even had a couple people want to buy them from us! And it was my flower that originally attracted MTV to me, they thought I was dressed authentically! With my skirt from Turkey, and top from here! lol! fun times!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Random Pics

some random thoughts and pics from this last week:

I found this at the Dollar Store today. I have not seen one like this in the States with interchangeable cutters. I bought if for $2.

Just in case you buy one, oneday, I thought I would share the instructions and warnings with you (also because the English is horrible!)
“Multi-use Strip-Cutter: The main body mixes theresin metal stainless steel”
1. This product specialized uses for to cut the fruits and melons class vegetables and the fruit, for example: the potato, the apple, the advantage, the cucumber, and so on, cause it to become the strip shape or the laminated shape.
2. This product makes for the high quality material and the staibless steel, environmental protection product, clean health, durable.
3. Easy to clean, disassembles and assembles conveniently.
4. Is the modern family essential good helper.

1. For the health in order to, please first cleans this product before the use.
2. After the use please clean this product, in order to avoid multiplies the bacterium, and lays aside in the suitable position
3. Cannot let the child independent employment
4. When use please note, do not have to use the finger to push the bit directly, in order to avoid cuts the finger

Also it is cherry season! I love cherries!

I just bought some HUGE cherries for $1 a pound! I also bought some plums. But look these cherries are huge (the plums are a little small) but still the cherries are almost as big as the plums!

And since cherries, plums and peaches are in season, I got all these below for $3.60! Yep that is 9 plums, 6 peaches and 2.5 pounds of cherries, 1 pound of plums, and ½ pound of peaches.

OH and while I am sharing pics. I came home late on night this week and found a visitor in my living room. I leave all my windows open, because I live on the 10th floor and can get a nice breeze through the apt with the windows open. Being on the 10th floor, I hardly ever get any bugs or mosquitoes, but this huge cockroach made all the to the 10th floor! 10 cm-really! This is after I stepped on it. Look at the hairs on its legs!


Monday, May 24, 2010

touring the country

Last week, I got to travel around the country to places I have never been before with some other Americans.

Here are some pics from the week:

We had the rare privilege of seeing how clay is made, molded into jars and water pictures, fired, and then painted by a man who has been doing it for over 50 years!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I went shopping with a friend for a baby swimming suit. I was not looking for anything for myself, but you know how sometimes dresses jump out into your hands and say “BUY ME!” So, I ended up buying a dress and a pair of flip flop sandals too. I needed a good pair of shoes for summer. I walk so much here I have worn out the soles of my sandals from last year-except my Chaco’s-but those are not always good when I need to dress up. Anyways, I found a good pair of sandals that will be dressy with nice soles, which are comfortable and all at a reasonable price—which is just about a miracle.

I really did not need the dress, but at this store, which is similar to a Ross, I found this dress that I am pretty sure is from Ann Taylor Loft! (they mark out the brands so you can’t tell) Like I have said before quality clothing is rare here, so I tried it on. It is a simple black dress that is long enough and has sleeves so I won’t have to layer-and it will be cool in the summer time. The dress was actually 1-2 sizes bigger than I am, but I tried it on anyways, and it didn’t look too bad. A national definitely would have worn it tighter, but I am not into tight clothing so much. Haha

My friend talked me into getting it, affirming me that it looked good on me. OH and my dad would be disappointed in me if I do not include that everything was on sale, so I got both my items 25% off! Lol. So when I go to check out, the lady at the counter looks at the dress and then at me and tells me that the dress is too big for me. She sees that the size in the dress is an American size so she converts it to metric sizing and asked me if I realized the dress was a 44-48 or something. I smiled and said yes I know. But still she held out the dress and was not bagging it for me. I explained that I did, in fact, try the dress on and I liked it big. For a moment there, I actually thought that she may not let me actually buy the dress. I would have to either lie and say I was buying it for someone else, or just not buy the dress at all. And then she decided to let me buy the dress. I thought she said that it was okay, because really she likes bigger clothes too. My friend thought she said it was okay, because bigger clothes liked her too. Either way it was funny! We both left the store laughing that only here would the sales clerk tell someone that the clothes they were buying were too big for them!

You have to love living here because you can never predict what will happen or what someone will say.

Oh, and my friend did find her baby swimming suit, so it was a successful venture for everyone. She got the swimsuit for $6 too-can’t beat that!

PS-I have not forgotten about Joha, but like a girl, I wanted to share this shopping story with you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Joha and his sheep

I thought I would share with you some of the stories I have been reading in language class the last few weeks. I think you could classify them as Arabic fables—but I could be wrong. Unlike the ones you and I grew up with, these don’t really have a moral to the story, except to connive and trick people-which makes the stories even more interesting. I was sharing the stories last night with a friend and that is when I realized that they would encourage kids to lie and cheat. They definitely illustrate how this is a shame culture and you never do something wrong unless you get caught doing something wrong.

In class, my teacher reads the short story and then I butcher the story trying to read it as fast I as I can just to get through it. And then we go through and translate sentence by sentence. A lot of times I know the words, but the sentences don’t make any sense until we translate them. It is a good sign for the teacher then that on the third time around, I understand and laugh in all the appropriate places! I am not blonde, I am just an Arabic student! Lol. And then after reading the story, I have to answer questions about the story do excercises using putting new vocabulary words in correct forms in sentences. And conjugate the new verbs in past, present, and command forms for I, we, you (masc.), you (fem.), you (plural), he, she, they.

Here are the stories in my rough English translation. I think they are funnier (and of course less time consuming) if I don’t clean up the stories and translate literally.

Story #1: Joha and his sheep.

Joha cared for a sheep very pretty that he loved. His friends wanted to mock him because they wanted Joha to kill his donkey for them (“him to slaughter for them”=all one word (6 letters) in Arabic---let’s just say verbs are complicated in Arabic) to eat the meat from the sheep. So one of them told Joha: “what are you going to do with your sheep?” Joha answered: “I am going to hide it for my winter supply.” (meaning: care for my sheep and save him to eat in winter). His friend said: “What? Are you crazy? Do you not know that judgment day is coming tomorrow or the day after tomorrow? Bring your sheep here that we may eat of him.”

Joha didn’t care about what his friend said, but his friends came one after another and gave the same speech, until Joha was bored. So Joha promised them he would slaughter the sheep the next day and would invite them with a special invitation to the countryside to slaughter and eat the sheep. So Joha started a fire and began roasting the lamb on the fire. But his friends left him alone with their clothes while they went skinny-dipping in the river while Joha worked on the fire. Joha became angry that they left him and did not help him, so he gathered all their clothes and threw them in the fire, until they burned. And when they returned to him, they looked for their clothes, and saw that they had burned. They wanted to attack Joha, but Joha told them: “What benefit do you have from your clothes if you are sure judgment day is coming today or tomorrow?”

Joha always wins! Here the “phrase tomorrow or the next day” is very common. Nothing is ever for sure, but I have learned that if a repairman says tomorrow or the next day that maybe he will come the next week. The phrase is used to get out of a lot of things. Originally when we read this story his friends went on a stroll leaving their clothes with Joha, and this didn’t make sense to me, so my teacher and I both agreed that skinny dipping made more sense so we changed it!

Okay, this is a long post and it’s dinner time, so I gotta run, but I will post more stories of Joha soon!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sandwich Etiquette

So a friend and I walked downtown to go to H&M at a new outdoor mall yesterday. After H&M we went grocery shopping at a brand new special gourmet “signature” grocery store. It has lots of special imports, sushi, live lobster, and veggies I have never even seen before. My friend and her family don’t like taking taxis though, so as we were leaving, she called her mom to pick us up. She didn’t want to walk up hill with our groceries.

Anyways, so her mom picked us up. My friend asked her mom, what we she wanted to do with her evening and her mom, “have dinner with Laura.” So I accepted the dinner invitation on the first offer, which maybe I should have waited till the second one. I did want to eat with them, but you only know if they are seriously offering if they offer more than 3 times. I feel close enough to this family though, I didn’t think I had to go through all that. Mom said we were going to just have yogurt sandwiches. My heart sank a little. I am not a big dairy person. I don’t even drink milk. On the occasion that I have cereal, I just “wet” it with milk, and drain the milk from my spoon before each bite. I know, I know, I need to drink milk, but moving on…..

So I was discouraged that I would be having yogurt on bread for dinner, but I really wanted to hang out with her family, so I was going to do it. Then my friend spoke up and remembered that I don’t like milk products that much, because she didn’t think I would want the squeaky chewy cheese on my sandwich. Testing the honesty bounds of our relationship, I said that I would rather have the squeaky chewy cheese than the yogurt. And I got my wish! They offered me the turkey that they had left instead!

Okay so that was all in the car ride home. Once we got home, mom started washing up veggies for the sandwiches. We had cucumber, tomatoes, and then fresh mint, and 2 kinds of fresh thyme. She set out the yogurt, cheese, and turkey. And then she set out an assortment of jellies: fig, walnut, pumpkin, and strawberry. Oh and before we could eat our sandwiches, we each had a cup of lentil soup. Then it was sandwich time.

I should interject here, that Mom had her stomach stapled last summer. She was not large, but the people here are VERY conscience of their appearance. My friend and her mom are very health conscious and eat only health food. I had New Years Dinner with them, so I had seen that she eats in a very unique way. So I followed her lead in how she made her sandwich to know how I should eat mine….bet you never considered eating a sandwich this way.

She gave us each a sliced multigrain baguette. She took out the center of the bread and ate it separately, then she would tear a piece of the bottom, piece by piece and make mini sandwiches out of it by putting a spoonful of yogurt and then a piece of cheese and then top it with a tomato and either thyme or mint. When it was my time, they realized that I would need something to wet my sandwich so they offered me some fat free mayonnaise that they had just bought but never tried. So I had mayo, turkey, tomato, iceberg lettuce, cucumber and mint on my sandwich. When I put the top of the bread on my sandwich, I was asked what I was doing. Mom informed me that I was to only make a sandwich out of the bottom of my bread, and was supposed to save the top of the bread for the jellies later! (this is not the national way---this is just her way) According to Mom, it is better to separate your bread out and make 2 sandwiches so that you are not eating so many empty calories. So I took the top of the bread off and ate my half sandwich. Then when she noticed that I had put mint on my sandwich, she told me that was not good, and thyme would be better, so I had to add that to my sandwich. Evidently mint is best with dairy and not with turkey, in case you ever need to know. The thyme was good, but I thought the mint was good too. What little did I know! ;)

When I finished the bottom half of my sandwich, I was then permitted to try out the jellies. Actually, I should say force, I was not too keen on trying fig, pumpkin, or walnut jelly, but they were not bad so I did not mind. The pumpkin was actually chunks of dried pumpkin that were then jellied. So I broke apart the top of the bread and ate it with the 4 different kinds of jelly. They ate their jelly with cheese. Mom says there is nothing better than jelly and cheese; they are just so perfect for each other!

Anyways so that was dinner! That is their common dinner, but they usually did not set it all out on the table this way. So now, you know how to properly eat a sandwich!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Traveling and Noise

I just got back from a packed vacation visiting family in Istanbul. We saw alot and played alot. Check out the pictures at:

Oh, and on a random side note, as I traveled home, the people got louder. Istanbul was much quieter than my city, even though it is at least 4 times bigger than where I live. Traveling back was an interesting experience, because the airport check in counter was louder than the ferry that I took across the city to the airport, and people were speaking Arabic. I was glad that it felt comforting to hear Arabic; I must be doing decent in Arabic then, if I miss it. And then waiting at the gate, everyone was loud and there was no real line, just a mass of people. It is scary how good I have gotten at pushy through and cutting in lines, just like everyone else. Please forgive me if it takes me a little while to readjust to in the US, and I push or cut in line in front of you. ;) No one yelled on the plane, but it was not at all quite like the busses in Turkey. And, like normal for Arabs, when the plane landed everyone on the plane applauded.

Anyways I am still waiting for the noise to fade away again, but it hasn't. I came back to find that they are daily doing construction on the roof of our building and we live on the top 10th floor. So they are drilling at 8AM and it sounds like it is in my room! I can hear the motorbikes on the street from the 10th floor, and I started counting seconds between honks, and the highest I have gotten is "8 mississippi." Right now two cars are holding down their horns, cause we all know this gets the problem solved faster!! anyways, sorry for that rant. I am sure this is just a culture shock thing, but thought I would share.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sweet Talk

God has blessed me with 2 really great roommates here. I have learned so much from them both. Today, J and I went to the university that we attended last semester to try and get our deposits back. Through the 3 different offices we went to today, J used all her Texas girl sweet talk! The process was so much easier, because she was so gregarious with all the people! She even made a friend with Mohammad in the last office. We have to go back and see him tomorrow to Lord-willing get our $200 deposit refunds.

But while we were there, she asked him something that I would have never asked him. She asked him for a Spring Sticker for our ids. I don’t know about your universities, but to get a semester sticker is the same as validating your id that you are current student. The problem is although we have current ids, since we are not taking classes this semester we don’t have Spring Stickers, and therefore cannot work out in the very nice university gym. J worked her God-given magic to see if Mohammad had any wasta (or connections) to get us into the gym. You see, here there are NEVER any hard, fast rules here. There are always exceptions. So J pushed to see if we could be an exception, and finally he told us to go and talk to Joelle in another building about it. You see we thought this meant that he would call Joelle and tell her to give us stickers or something, but of course he didn’t.

So we show up and explain our situation to Joelle, and that Mohammad said that they were good friends and that she could help us. Her boss just happened to be there at the same time. And to make a long story short, we did not get stickers, but they told us that we could work out there, and that they would not be so strict about the stickers!!! So, instead of getting our stickers, it seems that now a lot more people can get into the gym, because they are not going to be checking for stickers!! All because J asked Mohammad, the registrar!!! Gotta love that there are NEVER any hard, fast rules here. I hope I don’t go back to America and expect to get outta rules all the time. That won’t be appreciated in America, but it is very normal here.

So then J and I take a taxi home and the driver knew English, French, and Arabic, which is very common. We talked on and off with him. I was a little disturbed when I first got in, because I felt like he was staring at me through the rearview mirror. So finally he expressed what he was thinking. In Arabic, he told me that I was very pretty, but would be much more pretty if I put my hair in a ponytail!! The taxi driver was giving me advice on how to wear my hair. He was trying to say it is better in the summer to wear a ponytail because of the heat and that it makes your face look better. I asked if he meant like a facelift and he agreed!! He also said J would look nice too in a ponytail! Oh country that I live in! Never would I have thought that a taxi driver would tell me that my face would be much prettier if I wore my hair in a ponytail. And he was not even trying to hit on us, he was just giving us advice. Oh, and J being in a great mood after getting into the gym started singing in the taxi, to which he wanted us to sing the oldies song Twist, so just before we got out of the taxi we sang “Twist again like we did last summer, twist again like we did last year!!” Oh country, how I love your randomness!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

When was the last time?

When was the last time you wanted to cross the busy intersection during rush hour, but you couldn't without the help of the Policeman directing traffic at that corner? Okay, so when was the last time that that you had to wait on that Policeman to finish texting before you could cross the busy intersection? Mine was last week! Oh how I love this place!!

When was the last time your street was decorated with multicolored streamers connecting all the buildings back and forth across the street? That would be Feb. 26th the prophet's birthday here. The ribbons are still up, making our street quite festive!

When was the last time you had dinner by a small quaint little port and watched the Mediterranean waves crash against the rocks? Not to rub it in, but that was Saturday night here!

When was the last time I posted? Sorry!!! I am trying to do better.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Flexible Weather

Skiing Attempt: We got all the way to the ski town, but had to turn around on the way to the resort, because the army said you had to have snow chains to go further. So instead my friends and I played in the snow and had a nice warm lunch. Check out the pics at:

It is a good thing I grew up in Oklahoma and am used to frequent changes in weather! Last week was really cold and I went to the snowy mountains twice, but these last two days have been warm enough to open all my windows and wear shorts in the house. The high today is 82 and the rest of the week is in the high 70s! I know all you snowed-in in Oklahoma must be jealous, but try not to covet.

I have noticed that the nationals are not too good about changing as quickly as the weather changes. Even though it is warm, they still dress in warm coats and jackets. I think this is because they don't check the weather everyday to see what to wear, so they just assume because it is winter it will be cold. How silly is that?! lol, just kidding. Seriously though, in Oklahoma I would check the weather everyday, but the longer I live here the less frequently I check the weather forecast. Most often I just look outside or stick an arm out on the balcony to determine which jacket to grab.

I have begun many posts that I never finished, since this one goes along with the crazy weather and the new picture album (see the link above) I thought I would share it with you:

My ears are cold, because I forgot to turn on the hot water heater.

Okay, are you ready for this logic?
1. In order to have hot water, you must turn on the hot water heater. (they don't run all the time like the US)
2. In order to shower with hot water, you must leave the hot water heater on for several hours (usually overnight for a morning shower...unless you choose to get up in the middle of the night to turn it on--no thank you!)
3. Last night I went to bed and forgot to turn on the hot water heater.
4. This morning there was no hot water.
5. Because there was no hot water, I chose to not shower. Don't worry I used body spray so I was not smelly! :)
6. So I put my hair in a ponytail, no big deal.
7. But the weather finally decided to act like it is winter here and be cold. (this was last week)
8. So on my 20 minute walk to work my ears froze!
9. I had a scarf on and everything, but my big hair is usually always down in the winter to keep my ears toasty, but that was not the case today, because I did not turn the hot water on.

This is not at all to complain, but just to laugh at the logic of living overseas and how one random thing affects so many other things that you don't plan on (even for a known planner like me). Lets just say I have learned how to be really flexible living overseas. You never know what your day holds, because so many random things happen that plans constantly fluctuate. (like my first ski trip above!)

Now I am off to wash the pants that I just got hemmed, but because the tailor smokes in his shop while he works they all smell like cigarette smoke, so I must wash them before I wear them. (but I got 5 pairs of pants altered for $20, so it is still good) But because we will be on generator for another 1.5 hours, I can't really start the washer till 6PM, and by the time the washer goes through its 1.5 hour cleaning cycle process it will be dark outside so these pants and jeans will not dry till tomorrow afternoon, but I am not complaining, just making observations, because the weather is going to be warm this week so they should dry in 24 hours! Which is very nice! :)

okay, now that I have sufficiently bored you with the daily details of my life, I am really off. Now you see why I saw not much was blog worthy this week....this post just really lowered the small worth of all my other blog posts.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mohammad's Birthday!

So, in my young professional’s club meeting, we are trying to plan a one day ski trip. And realizing that it costs more to go for a weekend than a weekday, they get the idea to go on a national holiday day, because then it would be in the week and everyone would have off work. And this country is in the top 10 of countries with the most national holidays. So they are trying to think of what National Holiday is next.

That is when I (THE FOREIGNER) chime in. “ Mohammad’s Birthday! That’s soon right?” To which the guy sitting across from me and the most devote Muslim in the club says “Mohammad who?” I am like “Mohammad.” We go back and forth a couple of times, before someone corrects me with “The Prophet’s Birthday!” Okay, so I got the title of the Holiday wrong, and he was trying to figure out which one of our million friends named Mohammad had a birthday coming up, BUT I think I deserve credit for knowing the next national holiday as a foreigner. In any case, I provided the whole club with a good solid 2 minutes of nonstop laughter over “Mohammad’s Birthday!” And that is what language and cultural learning is all about…being humbled and learning to laugh at yourself while others are laughing at you for messing up.

Just FYI, The Prophet’s Birthday is February 26th. I was the only one who had a planner out and they wanted me to look it up in my calendar, but I had to explain that my calendar was from America and would not list The Prophet’s Birthday! Lol

Monday, January 25, 2010


I just finished my Advanced Arabic final presentation! I was supposed to talk about something authentically Arab. Lots of the students spoke on politics, but I am not into politics, so I chose to speak on hummus! Everyone loved it, they all laughed at the right times and enjoyed snacking on the hummus. (yah, that might have been a bribe for my teacher, but oh well, I think it worked)

I thought I would share my English version of the presentation with you. I was really intrigued by hummus for a week! I was surprised about how interesting it is!

Hummus: God’s gift to the region

“Currently there is a war between Israel and Lebanon. In October 2008, the Association of Lebanese Industrialists petitioned to the Lebanese ministry of Economy to request protected status from the European Commission for hummus as a uniquely Lebanese food, similar to the Protected Geographical Status rights held over regional food items by various European Union countries. Fadi Abboud (president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association), stated that "Israelis have usurped several Lebanese and oriental products Israel has stolen our land, and now our civilization and our food!” As a response, food critic Janna Gur wrote: "The success of certain brands of Israeli hummus abroad may have been what brought about Abboud's anger", leading him to claim that Israel has been "stealing" their country's national dishes, like hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and baba ghanouj. Shooky Galili (an Israeli journalist specialising in food who writes a blog dedicated to hummus), claimed in reply that “Hummus doesn’t belong to the country that invented it, but the people who love it”.

In October 2009, Lebanon made the world’s largest hummus. They made 2 tons (900 kilos) of hummus to prove that hummus was Lebanese. But then this last month, January 2010 Israel took the world record from Lebanon by making 4 tons of hummus (1853 kilos). Lebanon will not let Israel wins, so they already have plans in place to take back the world record title.

This is one of the nicest/tastiest wars in the region. If all the wars in the Middle East were like this, there would be peace everywhere.

There are many different kinds of hummus and several differences between Palestinian, Lebanese, and Israeli hummus. In Lebanon, hummus with Tahini (sesame paste) is the norm, while other traditional kind adds ground beef and pine nuts. Palestinian hummus has mint in it, and paprika, parsley, and cumin. They also substitute yogurt for the Tahini that Lebanese hummus has. Israelis like hummus hot (unlike Lebanese or Palestinians who eat it cold.) Israel also adds olive oil, cumin and Tahini in their humus. Also in Israel, there are places that sell only hummus, called Humsoit.

Hummus is cheap, nutritious, and tasty. It is good for your health. It is high in iron, vitamin C, protein, and fiber. But be careful, because hummus can give you gas! There is only one thing that can unite all Muslims, Jews, Christians, Israelis, Arabs, Phoenicians, and Palestinians, and that is a love of hummus!
Hummus is one of the oldest known prepared foods, eaten in the Middle East for centuries. In 400 BC Plato and Socrates wrote about the benefits of hummus in their diets. The chickpea was used in Palestine before 4000 BC, and was one of the earliest crops cultivated in Mesopotamia (which in Arabic is translated as the land between 2 rivers---that thought was cool!) And according to Wikipedia, Cicero, the Roman orator was named for an ancestor who had a wart on his nose shaped like a chickpea.

So, how do we make hummus? If you are me, I use a can of hummus ready to serve with Tahine and add garlic, a little lemon juice and olive oil. And then I would eat it with Arabic pita bread.

But this hummus (whip out the famous restaurant hummus) is homemade. They even make homemade Tahine. They add garlic, lemon juice, olive oil. And this is the traditional bowl that hummus is served in. When it is finished, spread it in this bowl, and top it off with a few whole chickpeas and a little oil. (The bowl is small and rust colored with large smudged triangles of a tanish/orange on this sides pointing to the center of the bowl.)

Hummus is to be eaten as an appetizer with Arabic flatbread (pita) or you can add it to a schwarma or falafel sandwich, or eat it with grilled chicken or fish.
Finally, I closed my presentation with this video. It is in English but about hummus and Arab life, so my teacher let me show 30 seconds of it, before my time ran out. Enjoy the hummus rap:

If you wanna try:
- Mix/blend 10 oz. chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans in America) with 2 large cloves of garlic, salt, 8-12 tablespoons tahini (pureed sesame) 10 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Serve in a large flat bowl
- Sprinkle paprika over the hummus
- Add more lemon, salt or garlic for taste
- For softer/richer add oil

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

December Pics

Picture Time! December was really great! It was packed full of traveling, my brother visiting and celebrating Christmas. Earlier this week, I celebrated my one year anniversary of living in the middle east! Yay!

There is so much to update you on, I hope you got a email from me about all the great things in December. If not leave a comment below, and I will send an email with more details.

For now, though enjoy some pics: