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!