Sunday, December 24, 2006

Roommate Christmas!

Amy is in the states for Christmas, so we had a mini pre-Christmas celebration.
Here are some pictures of my friends!


Our lovely decorations. The tree is about 1ft. tall.


My roommates. Amy, me, Sarah.




Our neighbors. I practically live at their house.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

12 Days of...something

Here's a song written in part by some kids and in part by me (because i couldn't remember most of what they said).

One first day of Christmas (in the Middle East) my true love gave to me:
1 cheesy souvenier gift from the Khan (market)
2 cheesy 90s love songs playing
3 pyramids pointing
4 angry men fighting
5 working cars
6 boabs sleeping (boabs are sort of like door-men in the apartments)
7 taxi drivers proposing
8 cats meowing
9 busses crashing
10 cigarettes smoking
11 mounds of garbage
12 horns honking

Monday, December 18, 2006

Random Thoughts

I have about 15 experiences daily where I wish someone was with me because they're so funny. For example: yesterday, everytime the taxi in front of me applied his breaks, the car (don't ask me how) would start playing the theme song to Titanic. Every time he took his foot off the breaks the song would reset so I heard the first line to Titanic probably 20 times. Another one: "Mr. Cool" is in line in front of me in the supermarket when suddenly his phone begins to ring. It's ringing with the song, "I'm everything I am because you love me" by Celion Dion. Who does this stuff? Honestly...

I think the people living above me are constantly rearranging their furniture. Not 5 minutes go by, day or night, when I don't hear something moving around. On that note, the neighbors next to me don't seem to understand the concept of answering their moblie, so again, day and night, I hear the William Tell overture. On the theme of noises: there are about 10 cats outside our apartment who never learned how to meow correctly so they--usually in the middle of the night--start moaning and crying and I feel a little like I'm in a horror movie. (I heard a story that a foreigner here got arrested for trying to shoot a cat from his balcony because he was so tired of it's crazy noises.) I also wake up almost nightly and think I'm in an earthquake because my windows will randomly start shaking so loud that I feel like I'm also shaking. All in a nights sleep...

I miss Illegal Petes/Chipolte...desperately. And dad's mongolian chicken of course.

I think I have some stored up tension or something becuase I have these laughing melt-downs almost weekly. Something a little funny will set me off and I'll be on the floor laughing for at least 5 minutes while my roommates watch with awkward grins on their faces. The last time it happened was at this Christmas performance where the choir sang a song called, "Glow Worm" in the middle of all these songs in Latin. The chorus was something like, "Shine little glow worm, glitter." I didn't get it either.

I really, really care about the poor. This past week I thought a lot about the people I want to know and invest in. It's poor kids on the streets. There are between 600,000-1,000,000 street kids in my city and they just need to be loved and told they are worth something.

It's a lot colder here than I expected. My main purpose in showering this season is to get warm. Speaking of which, time to go warm up.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Eve Story

Some of you know that I actually have a different name here: Eve. How
exactly did this comeabout? Well, It's kind of hard to explain, but I"ll do
my best. It all began in my first week here. I was reading (for the 3rd time) this amazing book called The Allure of Hope by Jan Meyers. It's all about living in hope of what is to come and not giving up on what my future will be. I can either settle for what this life looks like or dig deeper into what it truly has to offer. This involves abandoning myself to hope and feeling all things stronger than I ever have before. This means experiencing greater joy, but also greater pain and suffering. Is it worth it?

As I was exhorted to abandon myself to hope, I was encouraged to remember Eden, what used to be, and what will eventually be again. This struck me--especially as I was feeling lonely and without direction in a completely new place. I wanted to remember Eden and I wanted to live in hope.

What does someone who lives in hope look like? She is bold, courageous, adventuresome, tender, vulnerable, beautiful, wild, free, exquisite. She is life-giving. This is what I want to be: life-giving. Eve means life.

Thus, in effort to remember Eden, as well as to be someone who offers life, I began to go by Eve.

I know it's not the norm and may sound a bit crazy. This is because it isn't the norm and is definitely a bit crazy. But, has anyone known me otherwise?

I hope this answers your questions!

Question of the day: if you could change your name, what would you change it to and why? Leave your answers as a comment. This will be fun!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Alexandria

Today, some friends and I spent the day in Alex. Here are some of the highlights!

The befores and afters of our lunch. We got to pick out our fish and everything!





My friend the shrimp with the Med Sea in the background.



City pics (I'm trying to be more artistic)




If you don't read Arabic, you won't be able to tell that this is a Starbucks. I got so excited...and then realized that it isn't open yet. Bummer! While I was taking the picture all these workers kept yelling, "No!" at me, trying to get me to understand that the store wasn't open yet. I just ignored them, as usual.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Keep 'em coming

I was inspired more by Calvin and Lesli's blog so I must continue to add to my list. Also, I've included a photo of the fish snakes for you to live the experience with me. How it took me to realize halfway through the meal they were staring at me...I have no idea.

  • feeling incredibly inconvenienced if you have to stand in a line becuase you're used to pushing your way to the front
  • get muddy in the rain because the city is so dusty
  • hoard small bills because everyone always wants exact change
  • confuse my brother's name with watermelon and start calling him watermelon. Later, instead of asking him if he understands, I'll mix up the words and ask him if he's charcoal
  • eat liver. I have a list of food I don't like, but will eat if I must. I despise liver so much it's not even on that list.
  • be colder inside than outside in the winter because of the concrete buildings
  • get all the hair ripped off my arms so I can "fit in" like all the other Arabs, all the while forgetting what my arms actually look like because they're always covered
  • buy your bedsheets as fabric then come back 15 minutes later and the fabric has turned into sheets and pillow cases
  • get in trouble for eating with your left hand and get made fun of becuase you write with your left hand
  • pretend you can't understand when taxi drivers want you to give them more money
  • just agree when people tell you how much they hate Bush...and then tell them you won't marry them so they can become an American citizen
  • lose all the hair on my fingers because I'm not very good at lighting the stove
  • answer iowa or la-ah if I don't understand what someone is asking me
  • take pictures of my flashcards when I'm tired of studying








Monday, December 04, 2006

one more thing

  • realize your flour has bugs crawling in it and instead of pitching it in disgust, you merely sift out the bugs and continue making your granola (don't tell my roommates though, because I think they're more of the pitching rather than sifting persuasion)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ya Salem!

Inspired by a conversation with my roommates and a subsequent blog by Amy, here's a list (though by no means exhaustive) of things I only do on the other side of the world:
  • go all day without talking on the phone
  • get marriage proposals from Taxi drivers
  • order dinner online
  • walk out into the street in front of cars (real life Frogger!)
  • forget that seatbelts exist somewhere in the world
  • answer the door when I hear a bird chirping
  • think it'll be cool to swich my phone into Arabic, and then not be able to do anything on it, including changing it back to english
  • speak Arabic
  • go to church on Friday
  • give trash to friends to throw on the ground (because I still won't do it)
  • get so lost you have to call a friend and have her explain to the driver where you want to go...three times in one week
  • jump on and off the bus while it's moving
  • donkey carts in the street are normal
  • learn that everyone's nickname is either some sort of fruit or animal (I'm "peach" and "spicy")
  • drink Nescafe (sick!)
  • squeeze past a guy on a bus while he shouts "ya salem!" (There's not an exact definition for this, but it means something like, "wowie zowie!")
  • guess the temp of your oven because there's no numbers on the knob
  • order chicken or meat for your dinner--my guess is that meat is actually beef, though I prefer the chicken
  • pay people money who come to your door asking for it, even though you have no idea what it's for
  • not even bat an eye when your taxi driver sideswipes another car or drives down the wrong side of the road
  • walk in the street because the sidewalks are for parking
  • speak in broken english with an Arabic accent becuase you forgot how to speak normally ("You come me now? I wait you here")
  • Think you're eating fish-flavored snacks from your Korean neighbors but after you're about 1/2 way done, you look closer and realize you're eating baby fish that are shaped like snakes. After this, you scream (scaring all of the people in the kitchen with you), spit out the food, and have nightmares about fish-snakes swimming in your stomach
  • confuse the words with and in all the time, so you refer to your friend as living inside a dog.
  • randomly throw out Spanish words in the middle of a sentence because you are in "default foreign language" mode
  • confuse Arabs when you tell them you're from Iowa, because in Arabic, iowa means yes. ("Where are you from ? Iowa. No, where are you from? Iowa. NO, what place are you from?", etc.)
  • eat sausage not made out of pork (no one knows what it actually is made of)
  • have an intermission in the middle of a movie
  • have a cleaning lady (bonus!) from Nigeria
  • call boys girls all the time because you're used to talking with girls and "you" in Arabic changes based on gender
  • not flush your toilet paper
...all in a days work.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

There's gotta be a limit...

on how many times I can get lost here and a cap on the amount of time I'm allowed to be lost for! I mean, honestly, I feel like it's becoming more and more common. Isn't getting lost supposed to happen less and less the longer you're in a place? Here are brief recaps of a couple of my most recent experiences (though they won't be nearly as good as hearing me explain it):

Incident #1: After dropping Kristen off at the airport and I decided I would save 37L.E. by taking the bus. I took a shuttle to the bus stop (i.e. look for all the people standing around and that's the stop). First, I had to ask which bus to take and got a couple of really long answers in Arabic, but all I got out of it was the number 28. I waited and waited and waited and finally lept onto the bus with everyone else. I had my headphones in my ears as we pulled up to a much larger bus station. As I looked out the window at a station filled with men, I thought to myself, "I'm glad I don't have to wait around here." Next thing I know, someone is tapping me on the shoulder telling me the bus isn't actually going to my house. I think he told me why, but I didn't understand...as usual. After I asked a few people and got a few different numbers, I climbed onto a different #28 bus and took another seat. This time an Arab who speaks English sat next to me. He explained to me that the bus was going near my house, but taking a detour along the way to what I thought was a different suburb*. I decided I would stick it out because I wasn't really digging the bus station. I put my headphones back in my ears but unfortunately, he didn't understand that headphones mean I don't want to talk. Here are the questions he asked me in our brief moments together: "Are you here with your husband? No? So...if I were to marry an American, could I get a greencard? How about American citizenship? What's your phone number?" Not even kidding!!! Just then, we were driving along the outskirts of my suburb, so I didn't hesitate to get off and find a taxi home. Needless to say, it was an exhausting 1 1/2 hours.



*I found out just today, that what I thought was a suburb is actually a road that is about a block away from my house.

Incident #2: I decided I could make it on my own to my family's house via microbus--and I really thought I could. I actually got on one microbus and transferred onto the correct one. I was on my way!!! The only problem was that I had never been here in the dark and if you know me, you know I'm not captain observent. Even though I payed very, very close attention, I somehow missed the garden, statue, median, and fruit stand I was keeping an eye out for. I kept holding out hope that I wasn't quite there. Next thing I knew, I was the only one on the microbus in the middle of one of the poorest (and definitely not the safest!) areas in the city. The driver asked me where I was going and my response was, "I'm not really sure," My heart started to beat a little faster as I called my friend to help me and talk to the driver in Arabic. To my great fortune...her battery died the moment she answered the phone. I then tried to call her brother over and over but he didn't answer the phone. Finally (I'm still sitting in the bus as the driver mercifully waits for me) she calls me back and promises to pick me up. Yippee...I get to wait for her to come in the middle of a strange place in the dark. I thanked the driver and climbed out of the microbus and found the most well-lit area I could to wait. A couple of minutes later, he drove back to me and told me to get in and that he would take me to her house. I climbed back in the microbus and my heart began to return to it's normal rate. Anything is better than the situation I was just in. I got out at the statute, but again, found myself lost. I wandered around until she found me. When I got to her house, the family ran out and hugged me and kissed me praising God that I made it. Needless to say, it'll be the story of the year.

Bonus incident: Kristen and I also got lost in a taxi for about 45min as he drove us to a palace along the city wall instead of the metro station. When he finally made it to the metro station we realized it was the wrong station after he had
already driven away. And thus begins the 25 min wait for my dear friend to come rescue us.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More stories

Kristen left today (boo hoo!). Our time was wonderful and I saw more of my country and city than I've seen combined in the last 3 months. Here are some of the high lights!

Our first night together on the Nile River. Isn't she great???

Here we are at sunrise on Mt. Sinai.

We walked down the 3750 steps of repentance a monk built to the top of the mountain as a form of repentance.

Then we spent a few days on the Red Sea coast relaxing, catching up on life, and snorkeling.





You can't come here without visiting the Pyramids of course!

Here we are in Hussein Mosque: where Mohammad's granson is buried.

Last night, we ended up going to a concert of two of the country's most popular musicians. It was wild!!!

As these pictures show, I'm a heck of a tour guide. There's an open invite for anyone who wants to come...though I've made a rule that if you're a girl with blond hair, you have to bring a boy along.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

P.S.

To those of you who sent me fun packages, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! It was better than Christmas!!!!

I feel very loved and missed, which is a great feeling!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Exploring

I've finally made it out of the big city and started to see the rest of the country! My dear friend Kristen got here on Friday and we've been exploring.

Saturday night, we stayed the night in a monestary and then climbed a very famous and revered mountain to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful...and freezing cold! After that, we spent two days on the coast just relaxing. This town is my new favorite place. It was practically empty, very relaxed, and because there are a lot of tourists there, I could actually talk to the men. I spoke Arabic most of the time and became the-foreign-girl-who-speaks-Arabic. We also went snorkeling over a coral reef. I think this will be my place to go every once and awhile when I need to get away from the honking horns and dirty streets.

Last night, we took the overnight bus home and got here at 6am this morning and will spend the rest of the week in my city exploring and hanging out with my family.

AMAZING pictures are on their way as soon as we can figure how to get Kristen's pictures onto my computer.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Typical Friday Night

I got this "footage" while crammed into the front seat of a car with another friend. My roommates and I watched it 3 times because it was so funny to us that this is our life. Unfortunately, I missed the part with the donkey cart. Can you finally undertand why I say it's a miracle I surive the roads every day?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pictures

Here are some pictures of my most recent adventures!



The Suez Canal. This is actually the separation between Africa and Asia.




A famous, old church in the center of my city



The Hanging Church: built on ruins in the 7th century.


The oldest mosque in the city. I think I look like a gnome.

I also got to see the place where Joseph and Mary supposedly hid from Pharaoh in the 1st century and visit one of the two synagogues in the city. Who would have thought? A synagogue, church, and mosque all in one day!

A couple of days later, I went to a pre-wedding celebration for a friend. They had men actually sewing the mattresses and pillows by hand in the middle of the street while everyone celebrated with dancing and cheering. I was clearly the only foreigner there and got more than my share of attention--especially when they tried to make me dance and realized that I've never danced like that in my life and when they caught me eating with my left hand. Oops! I think I can relate to animals in the zoo on a completely different level now.

When in Rome...

Hair removal is all the rage here and I, apparently, have the arms of a gorilla so there was no other option but to remove it. Simple, right? My sister and I went to the store and bought "Sweet" which is a sort of wax made out of sugar I suppose. We melted it in warm water and then she turned it into a taffy-like substance and then proceeded to smush it on my arm and rip it off with all the hair included. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of moaning and screaming. After about an hour of this, she decided it wasn't good enough so she would also use thread. She took some thread , put an end in her mouth, held an end in her hand and twisted it all around in a way so that she moves it across my skin and the thread grabs and rips out all of the hairs in it's way. Finally, after about 1 1/2 hours I was finished with having hair ripped out of my body and the results? The smoothest skin I've ever, ever had in my whole entire life.

Was it worth it? Still not sure because it's been over 12 hours and I'm still in some pain and my arms are still pretty red.

But you know what they say: When in Rome, do as the Romans!

Here is the halfway picture so you can compare the difference.

(This is the "I'm amused but in a lot of pain smile!")

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Goin' to the chapel

For those of you who are worried about me not finding a husband over here, rest assured. There
is no lack of available men here. In the past 8 days I have received 5 marriage proposals: 3 taxi
drivers, 1 waiter, and 1 hair stylist. The hair stylist said he only wanted to marry me if I had
money though, so I think he's out. The taxi drivers were all in their 40s and 50s, so I'm thinking
the waiter is my best bet. He's only a couple of years younger than me and we would get to eat
all the free burgers we want. I'm thinking I'm going to hold out for some more camel-bride trade offers though. Mom and dad, what do you think?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Keep on keepin on

Sorry I haven't updated much recently. I'm pretty much into the routine of language-study-sleep, language-study-sleep, language-play with friends-study, sleep, etc., etc. I really do love it though! I'm progressing a ton and can actually keep a long conversation in Arabic!!!

Last weekend my church had an international night where everyone brought food from their home country and then performed. There were at least 15 countries represented. My favorite were the Sudanese and Nigerian people. They wore these incredibly bright clothes and the women wore starched scarves on their heads and they looked like beautiful, brightly-colored crowns. They sang and danced and played the drums. It was a blast!

I celebrated iftar with some friends again on Friday. The adventure of that outing was getting there. The right side of the road our micro-bus (think broken-down van) travels on was under construction so we just drove down the left side of the road swerving around the
oncoming traffic. As I said before, every day I make it home is a miracle!!!

Tonight my sister is coming over and she's going to help me make dinner for some friends.

Next week is the post-Ramadan celebration where everyone goes out of town. I had a great opportunitiy to visit Luxor with some friends and we were going to stay in this incredible hotel on the Nile and everything, but when the travel agent went to get the train tickets, they were all sold out. Bummer #1. Our next option was to stay in a Chalet on the Med Sea, but apparently it's cold this time of year. Bummer #2. It looks like I'll be staying home, but hopefully we'll get to go sometime soon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fishy, fishy




This one's for Joy (and anyone else who remembers the last time I ate fish in a foreign country)!!!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Letters and Packages

 I've had a bunch of you asking about sending me mail.  Unfortunately, you can't send anything to me here because I don't have a mailing address.  I don't even have a mailbox so, if by some strange circumstance the letter/package you sent actually made it to my address, there would be nowhere to put it.  I'll have to have people bring stuff in to me.

 I have a friend coming to visit mid-November and she has offered to bring stuff to me.  If you would like to send me something, email me and I'll send you her address.  She's living in Switzerland right now, so keep in mind that you'll have to mail it there.  If you don't have my email for some reason, just leave a comment on the blog and I'll get it to you.

Oh, here's a mini wish list:
  • just a letter from you would be wonderful!  pictures are great too!
  • coffee ground for a french press.  They only have instant coffee here and let's be honest--it's not very good!
  • The Interior Castle of the Soul, by St. Theresa of Avila
  • mix CD's with music that reminds me of you
  • York Bites
  • some Colorado snow ;)
  • a neat keychain for my housekeys--the ones that I lost yesterday.  Oops!
Thanks for your help!  Have a happy day!!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Not much going on in these here parts

Not much new here this week. It seems as though I'm actually getting into some sort of routine! Here are some fun experiences to note:

  • I spent Thursday night (11:30pm-4am) downtown with some dear friends drinking fresh mango and pomegranate juice, eating ful and timea (sort of like hummus and falafel), and Arab dancing in a river boat on the very important river in my city. It's been one of my favorite times here so far!
  • I finally learned the Arabic alphabet and am learning how to spell, though it's not as easy as it looks. There are only 3 vowels, you can't begin a sentence with a vowel, many words don't actually have vowels though they have vowel sounds, and there are duplicates of most letter sounds in the alphabet (though some would argue that they're different sounds). My favorite part about it though is that there are no articles (like Russian I hear). They're much more straight and to the point: You come my house, rather than do you think you could come over to my house? It's great!
  • Due to the time I spend with non-native English speakers, my English skills have already degressed to, "You go to the store now?" or "I come to your house tomorrow."
  • Hopped in a taxi to go home the other day. He started taking me a strange way and then stopped and apologized, telling me he couldn't take me anymore. I had to get out of the taxi and wander around until I could find another taxi to take me home or find someone who knew the general direction of my home. To top it off, I was ultra-foreign that day, wearing my Chicago Cubs t-shirt.
  • I've watched more American TV here than I watched in the states. My roommates and I have a nightly viewing of The Office. Being here, it seems we just need some culture we're used to to wind down.
  • Recently, I've been asked where I'm from a lot. My favorite trick to play is to tell them in Arabic that I'm from the country I'm in. They look surprised and then say, "No, no you're not." Then, I tell them I'm American. They usually say, "Oooooh, American! Welcome to our country!" But, on Sat., a taxi driver began to talk faster and faster and louder and louder in Arabic after I said that. The only word I could pick out of his rantings were "Bush! Bush!" Anyone surprised? I just agreed with whatever he said and then he turned around (while driving) and shook my hand welocming me to America. I could write pages and pages about conversations I've had about the U.S. government, but I'll just leave you with that story.
  • Yesterday I got 1/2 kilo of tomatos, 1/2 kilo of cucumbers, 1/2 kilo of yams, and 1/4 kilo of lemons for about $.60.
Well, I'm off to study for a bit and then head to another language lesson!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

FYI

Today, the 28th of September, the high where I live was 40 C, which is 114 F. Presently it's 10:35pm and a mere 87 degrees.

Bring it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Iftar!!!


How blessed I am to live in such a beautiful city!!! Granted, I hardly ever see this view, but wherever I am, the sunsets are always breathtaking.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of celebrating Iftar (breaking the Ramadan fast) with some friends. There was a lot of excitement building up to Ramadan and I really had a blast with them . It was an honor and a really special thing to experience. I did what everyone else did and from sunup to sundown, and fasted from food and water. It was surprisingly easy, except when we broke the fast, there was no water to drink. I was super thirsty! I did get to drink some apricot juice though. (Sidenote: I can finally stomach tap water!)



Here I am crushing nuts for dessert. I had a metal stake and smushed it around in the bowl over and over again. The peanuts crushed super easy, but the almonds were a challenge!


Here I am preparing our "break-fast." They always break their fast with a date, so we had dates and bananas in sweetened milk. It was okay, but not something I would want to drink everyday.



This is just an idea of all the food we ate. I don't remember the names of most of it, but we a lasagna type macaroni, pickeled veggies, a sort of slimy spinach soup, bean soup, duck, chicken, rice, and bread. For dessert we had pancakes fried with nuts (the ones I crushed!) and a stringy sweet dough also with the nuts I crushed. Over and over again, I heard "Sarah, eat! Eat! Eat!" My reply was, "Don't you know that your stomach shrinks after you fast? I can't eat anymore!" Nevertheless, I left stuffed.

You know, a lot of people have said to me, "Wow! You're living so far from home and I could never do what you do. It would be so hard!" After having been here for awhile, I would say to any of those people, "It's worth it!!!. Yes, I miss my friends and family, but I
get to experience life and people and culture in ways the others will never, ever get to. There are hard parts, but I don't regret moving here at all."

This is not how I expected my life to turn out. It's better than I could have ever imagined!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ana btitkum Arabi shuaya shuaya

I've had a busy week--finally! Two hours a day of Arabic lessons doesn't sound like much but I guarantee it is way more than you would think!!! We speak Arabic most of the time and have a big paper to write down all of the new vocab words for the day. At the end of the lesson, my teacher records all the new words I learned. Then I go home and transcribe the words into my Arabic notebook and listen to them over and over until I have them memorized. On top of this, I have homework. It usually involves writing sentences or paragraphs in Arabic (keep in mind, I don't know the alphabet and can't recognize words, but I have all the words I've learned written down). Today, I also have to buy a newspaper and look for the 4 letters of the alphabet I have learned so far.

I really love my tutor and my classes, which is surprising because I've never liked school. It's a really rewarding pursuit because I can immediately practice all the new things I learned. The grammer structure, new sounds that aren't in English, and the major lack of vowels in words confuses me somewhat, but I figure it'll all work out.

I had my first chance to practice my Arabic for an extended amount of time yesterday. I spent the day with my Arab family. I met up with my brothers and sister to see a movie. (Have I mentioned the movies yet? You have assigned seating, everyone talks through the movie, and there is a random intermission at some point during the movie.) After that, my roommate Amy and I took them to Cinnabun for some American food. I personally, am not a huge fan of Cinnabun but they seemed to enjoy it.

We took a microbus (i.e. a decrepit mini-van) to their house and I got to visit my mama and baba. She fed us Fetta which of course is amazing, but I have no idea what it is. She also brought a plate of meat and I asked, "What kind of meat is this?" They replied "Buffalo." "What? We're eaing buffalo? I wouldn't think there would be buffalos in this part of the world. Buffalo like this..." then I used my hands to make horns and acted out a buffalo. They replied, "Yes buffalo, like cow." Ahhhh, there's the problem. We're eating cow--not buffalo. We finished off the meal with peaches, pears, tea, 7-up, and cookies I brought. Everyone kept coming up to me and saying, "Sarah, you must eat more! Eat more!" Fortunately, I am becoming more and more skilled at either giving the impression that I'm packing it in when I'm actually not, or at declining more food.

Then, we just spent the evening together. I love this family dearly! Over and over they tell me, "We are your family Sarah. If you need anything at all, we will help you. We love you Sarah! YOu light up our house." Isn't that wonderful? They invited us to spend the night, but we didn't last night, though I plan to sometime soon.

Amy and I will go back over there on Sunday to celebrate the first day of Ramadan with them. They told us we must fast and break the fast with them. I'm really looking forward to experiencing it. Plus, it's really an honor that they've invited us for the first day of Ramadan, which is one of the most exciting!

Well, I'm off to some exciting adventures today--like asking someone what time it is in Arabic...and then trying to understand their answer!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This Girl Gets Around

There are about five means of transportation here: my legs, bus, metro, tram, and taxis.

1. My legs: the most common means of transportation for me. I have learned my way around the city through walking and have become a pro at crossing streets in a frogger-video-game sort of fashion.

2. Bus: I just tried this out for the first time. There are tons of different kinds of busses and I only went for the nicer ones because they actually have numbers rather than just shouting something out the window. To get on the bus, it slows down and you run up to it and jump on while it's still moving a little. To get off, you walk up to the front and wait for the bus driver to slow down enough for you to jump off.

3. Metro: They're like el-trains in Chicago, but not elevated. My favorite thing about this is that there are two cars for women only. But, it can get quite crowded and stuffy. A friend and I were counting how many bodies were touching us the other day and I was literally smashed up against 6 other people. Good thing I don't have personal space problems!

4. Trams: I'm not really sure how these work. All I know is they are the cheapest, most unpredictable, and slowest form of transportation here. They cost about $.3 and drive on rails through the middle of the roads. They often get slowed down during rush hour (3pm-1am) when cars and busses also drive on their rails.

5. Taxis: These, minus my legs, are my most common form of transportation and have also been the setting for some of my greatest adventures. When you think of taxis here, don't think of NYC taxis that are yellow, clean, air-conditioned, and have a meter. These taxis are black and white and usually reek of smoke and have loud, loud Arab music blasting from their speakers. If you're lucky your window will open and you won't have to reach your hand outside the window to the outer door handle in order to get out of the taxi once you're in. I'm not sure they even know what a seatbelt is. The ride consists of a lot of accellerating, slamming on the brakes, and honking. Because I am a female, I always sit in the back. There is a key to paying your driver: You must get out, crumple your money up in your hand, hand it to him through the window, and walk away behind the car. This is because they don't have meters here and taxi drivers are known for trying to rip off foreigners. This method gives me enough time to get away before he tries to argue me into giving him more money.

Since there don't really seem to be any traffic laws here, it makes for some wild rides. During the day, everyone honks and then drives into the middle of the intersection. (My question is, if everyone does this, who yields?) Eventually someone will slam on his breaks so the other driver can get through. At night, the taxi drivers means of communication is his lights. No one drives with their lights on and only turn them on to alert a pedestrian or car in their way. When asked why he didn't use lights a taxi driver replied, "It drains the battery." Hmmm. Where is he getting his info?

I was in my first taxi accident last week in which my driver squeezed through a spot that he didn't fit through and scraped the entire side of his car on the bumper of another. He didn't stop driving though. He merely accelerated and then opened his door and stuck his head out to assess the damage. Meanwhile, we were coming up on some traffic and he was facing the wrong way. Thankfully, I emerged unscathed.

Two days ago, a 5 minute taxi ride turned into an hour long taxi ride. I directed him to the Sheraton hotel in the area. He began to talk and talk in Arabic and drive and drive. I didn't know my way around enough to tell him how to get there. I wasn't recognizing anything and asked him about it, but he assured me he was going the right way. About 15 min into the ride, I had already exhausted my knowledge of Arabic directions so I went to grab my mobile to call a friend, but unfortunately, I had left it at home. So, I settled back in my seat praying that I wouldn't end up in the middle of nowhere with a crazy man. He continued to talk to me in Arabic and my response was always, "I don't understand." He continued to drive and I began to see road signs that were not at all where I wanted to go. Then, began to say over and over "Mish henna! Mish henna!" (it's not here! it's not here!). Next thing I knew, he pulled up to the Sheraton hotel in the middle of the city. This was NOT where I wanted to be, nor was it where I told him to go. I repeated my directions that I had already told him many times, and this time he responded with an "Oh! Ana aarfa! I know!" and thus turned around and drove me there, giving me a tour of the city (the president's house and everything!) on the way back. A few times he almost stopped the taxi and was trying to get me to give him money, but I refused and just kept telling him to keep driving. Finally, I arrived to where I was meeting my friend...an hour late and exhausted.

Lesson learned: NEVER, EVER, EVER leave the house without your mobile when you don't speak the language and don't know where you're going.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's been a busy week

It's been a busier week than my previous weeks, of which I am very grateful for! I volunteered at an international school this week. On Sunday, I taught gym (yes, I taught gym) to 1st and 2nd graders. We all named our favorite animal and acted like it. Then, we played freeze tag and my personal favorite: blob tag. After that we did handstands and cartwheels and finally played a game of soccer. Tuesday, I had my first ever substitute teacher job. I spent half of the day with 3rd and 4th grade. From 8:30-12:15, we had spelling, handwriting, reading, science, and math. I was of very little help in math when they asked me to assist them in long division. I haven't done long divison since the 4th grade and had to shamefully say, "I'm sorry but I have no idea how to do 4th grade math." By the end of the day, I came to the conclusion that my calling has absolutely nothing to do with teaching elementary school. Kudos to my roommates and all the other teachers out there who do it for hours and hours 5 days a week!




Wednesday, a friend and I went to apply for our year-long VISAs. If there was any sort of organization or system to this VISA application process, I didn't figure it out. We took the metro (i.e. subway that's not below ground) downtown and wandered into a building with about 200 windows. We took the precautionary measures of walking through the metal detectors. No worries, the alarm went off on over 50% of the people who walked through but the guard didn't seem to notice and the guy in front of the TV to watch our bags get x-rayed was too emmersed in conversation and his breakfast to pay much attention. Thus, I felt much safer after doing that.

We then made some photocopies and had our pictures taken for our passport. The girl who took my picture then photoshopped it for me (perhaps thinking I would pass out copies to my friends since we all know how good those sort of pictures look). She gave me sky blue background and then trimmed some of the curls off my hair. In one part she trimmed off to much so it now looks like I have a mullet in the picture.



After all this, we finally made it upstairs and wandered our way through the halls, only after going through another metal detector in which the guards were just as focused as the previous guards. We rounded the corner into a really, really long hallway packed with people. We went to a window and shoved our way to the front. (I discovered a long time ago that they don't do lines here. You just push and shove to the front.) A woman gruffly directed us to window #12. From #12 we went to #43 and back to #12. After this, we were told to return to window #38 in 2 hours. Sounds simple, right? I think not! If only you could see how crowded and confused this place was. Behind all
the windows were hundreds and hundreds of passports and papers scattered across tables and tables.

We left to hit up an english bookstore. We returned 2 hours later. I shoved my way to the front of the line at window #38 and requested my passport. The woman told me to come back later. Hmmm, I thought. Where is my passport? We came back 1/2 hour later and it was still not there, so we went for lunch. We returned an hour later and finally they handed our passports to us. Done, right? Nope! Only halfway! You have to apply for and get a VISA before you can apply for and get permission to leave and re-enter the country. And, the VISA lasts for a year, while the re-entry VISA only lasts for six months. Where's the logic in that?

So, we went back to window #12 and were sent to window #2. She gave us some papers and sent us away. We returned and she sent us back to window #43. We returned and she sent us away because we didn't do something right and when we had corrected it, we went back to her again. This time, she took our passports and said, "Tomorrow, 10am." Our jaws dropped. We have to come all the way down here again tomorrow? "Please, it's hard for us to come down here. Is there anything you can do?" Her response: "Tomorrow, 10am" and then she walked away.

So, what was there left to do but to commute an hour back home and then return this morning. We did take the bus today which was an adventure. So, we went through the metal detectors and walked up the stairs, down the long hallway, to window #2 and she just handed us our passports and we walked out. This morning was a 2 minute visit, and yet a two hour commute there and back.

All that said, I am now an official tourist resident for the next year and am free to come and go from the country as I please through March 12th. I don't plan on going downtown anytime soon though.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I have the dirtiest feet in the world.

Really, I'm being honest. I took a picture, but I decided not to post it because they're really dirty. Seeing as how I live in the desert and it doesn't rain here and people don't use the garbage cans very often, I get super dirty. Then today, I wore my crocs so dirt hopped into every hole in the shoe. Plus, today was really, really hot. It's supposed to cool down a ton next week, and only be in the high 80s. Hmmm, cool in the high 80s. Is that an oxymoron?

I also just found out that the city I live is #2 on the worst air quality in the WORLD, surpassed only by Delhi, India. I don't even want to know what my lungs look like!

Great news! I found a language tutor and will start classes next week! I'll do 2-2 1/2 hours 5 days a week of meetings where I'll learn to speak and write. (Keep in mind, the Arabic you speak and the Arabic you write are practically different languages in themselves.) Here's what the rest of my week will look like:

15 hrs-in class study
10-15 hrs- studying outside of class (going over words I learned, listening to my class on a recorder, going out to speak Arabic with other people, etc.)
5-20hrs-visits with Arabs (this will happen more and more as I meet more people)
2-Arab fellowships a week, where I'm can't listen to the translation

I also hope to find a place to volunteer with refugees, am attending three other meetings a week, fellowship in english, and reading all these huge history books on the culture.

It sounds like life will begin to get busy! I'm excited!!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Tour

So, after hours of trying to use this thing we call technology, I think I finally got these videos to work. Nevermind the fact that I sound a bit confused in all of them when I can't get it to work. You might have wait awhile for the video to load, or maybe that only happens here. Happy touring!





Sunday, September 03, 2006

Petra Pics

I finally have internet at home, so here are the long-awaited Petra pics!


This is the view from immigration in Jordan. I'm looking across the Red Sea (think Ex. 14) at the Promised Land. I also got a picture of Saudi Arabia from the Red Sea!

Can you believe all of these places were actually carved out of the rocks themselves with very ornate designs? The camels belonged to Bedowins who tried to get us to ride them. Five years ago, Petra would see 10,000 visitors a day. Since the Middle East has become "dangerous" the tourism has decreased, so we practically had the place to ourselves. This was great for pictures and atmosphere, but overwhelming because we were constantly bombarded by people trying to sell us things. My favorite line was the man who walked up to us with his camel saying, "Taxi with air conditioning!"


I'm standing in the monestary. It's called the monestary, though it never served this purpose. We rode donkeys over a mountain to get here which made for some laughs! When there, a guy climbed to the very top (probably 500ft) and sat on top and played a flute. After that, we climbed to a place where they would make their sacrifices. From there we also saw Aaron's (Moses' brother) tomb.

Here I am with one of my friends on the donkey ride. I thought Szu-Szu was going to tip over a couple of cliffs. I think the two of us may have been a bit much for him. Because we were in a tourist area I didn't have to wear long sleeves and pants, but I also think it lead to my worst sunburn of the year.

Here I am later that night learning how to dance the Arab way. (Sorry the picture is hard to see!) Again, dancing around (and next to) men is only appropriate because I was in a touristy area. Fortunately, Arab dancing is very similar to country line dancing, except we dance in a circle.

A tour of my flat is on it's way soon!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How many is that again???

I'm settling in and enjoying the city life more and more every day! I spent some time talking with a friend about my language study a couple of days ago. My job for this week is to find a "nurturer." A language nurturer is someone who will spend hours and hours with me every week nurturing me in Arabic. There will be a lot of visual learning and repetition. My nurturer doesn't have to be a language tutor, so I would really like to find someone my age who I will connect with. This means I have to get gutsy and start introducing myself to random people. I met one girl in my apartment today. It was a short conversation because she speaks about as much English as I do Arabic. I was really happy to do it though. My plan is to pursue a friendship with her if I see her again, enshallah (God willing).

Yesterday I went shopping on my own, with the goal of speaking only Arabic. There is a mini supermarket that I can find most things with little difficulty, but there are also fruit carts and bakeries on almost every corner. The fruit carts and bakeries demand more conversation (as well as being cheaper) so I decided to try those out. I found a fruit cart in an Arab market where I had to walk past skinned animals hanging from the celing. The tails were still attached to the animal and everything. Gross! I wound my way through the meat to the fruit in the back and as I began to order, I realized that the smallest number I knew was 1/2. This meant I ordered 1/2 kilo (at least!) of every item. The people helping me where absolutely thrilled to teach Arabic to an American so they pointed out and named every fruit and veggie near them commanding me to repeat. I did, but don't remember a thing they taught me. All said and done, I ended up with 11 tomatos, 13 cucumbers, 8 apples, and 3 mangos. A few too many fruits and veggies for me, but it was fun. If only you lived closer, I would invite you over to eat up some of it!!!

Today, I adventured to the airport to drop friends off and then found my way home as well. My taxi driver didn't know where to go do I directed him...in Arabic!!! Then, I bought a water filter, had a key copied, and bought a pitcher...all in Arabic!!!

What fun this is!!!


Here's the view off the balcony attached to my room. You'll notice the clotheslines. Yep! No dryer here!




Here's the view of the road outside my flat. We're on the 4th floor. It's fun view and I still hear all the horns, car alarms, donkeys, etc.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another stamp on my passport!

I returned a few days ago from an AMAZING time in Jordan! I made some great new friends and connections and saw some amazing history. I travelled across the Red Sea and even saw wild camels wandering the desert.

I spent a day in Petra, an entire city that was actually carved out of rock 2000 years ago. Pictures are on their way!

Yesterday I moved into my new flat. I'm on my own right now, but my two roommates will be moving in later this week. The apartment is furnished and well... very Arab in style. I have AC in my room (thank goodness since the low is in the 90s and the high is around 110). The rest of the house is quite warm, but enjoyable. Pictures of my new dig (as my Aussie friend would say) are on their way as soon as I get internet.

I am LOVING everyone's emails and will do my best to respond! Blessings all!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Travelling

Holla! Just a heads up: I'm out of town until the 24th, so I won't have internet. I'll catch up with you after that. Blessings!!!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Triumph #1

Today was a triumphant day where I set out on my own with an agenda...and I actually accomplished it...in Arabic! Ha!

I slept in until 11am. This partially due to jet lag and partially due to the fact that the city culture doesn't slow down until between 2 and 3am. A co-worker and I hit up "City Stars" shopping mall to find a few things and then had my favorite meal, called Kushari. It consists of macaroni noodles, spaghetti noodles, lentils, and like 15 other random foods. Then, you pour tomato and lemon sauce over the top and mix it up and eat it. The best part is that it only costs $.50. Holla!

We came home and I took a nap. Once refreshed I decided it was time for me to adventure on my own. I braved the insane traffic and crossed the street on my own, flagged a taxi, and said something along the lines of, "Corba, sharia Baghdad." I'm not really sure what that means, but the driver took me to the right place where I then said, "Henna, quais," meaning here is fine. I handed him some money and then wandered my way into the Votophone store. Yes, it was time for me to get a mobile (the word they use for cell phones here. To pronounce it right, you need to speak in a British accent and make sure it has 3 syllables: mo-bi-al, not to be confused with the Spanish mo-bi-le). I picked out my own, got some sort of plan that confused me even though I had it repeated to me four times. I finally pretended I understood and just signed the dotted line. I found my way home in triumph! Here's a picture of me celebrating my new phone!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Safely Arrived

Just a brief note telling y'all that I arrived safely. The plane rides were easy (isn't it strange that plane rides actually take hours and hours but when you get off it feels like no time has passed at all?). I couldn't make sense of the fact that it was Thursday night when I finally got home. They just waved me through customs and hardly spoke a word to me, and I was also able to find a cart to push my stuff around. Though, I did have problems juding the size of my bags and kept getting caught in small places with other people's baggage as well.

Today I went to HCC (my fellowship) and then spent the afternoon with my Arab family. They fed me loads of food and told me over and over that I "lit up their world" with my arrival. It's so wonderful to be here and have a place to fit. My first silly language move: they were trying to tell me how to say watermelon in Arabic ("balikh"), but I thought they were saying "my name is" so I kept calling one of my brothers balikh and they kept laughing at me until someone explained it. Nevertheless, the name has stuck and I now call him balikh. My Arab father has told me he will teach me all of Arabic and I that I should come over every day and he cannot wait to meet my parents in the spring. He will be their official tour guide. Ha! Then, I came home and took a nap (a nine hour time difference can really take a toll on a person!) and now I'm going to dinner with my co-workers.

I have an apartment all set for me to move into, so I will do that when I get back from my trip next week. I'll be living with two other girls in "Medan Triumph," which is kind of like a burrow of the city I live in. Appartently it has a great night life!

Being here feels like home already. I missed the INSANE traffic with incessant honking, the fresh, fresh fruit, the 5 times daily call to prayer, and the silly jokes everyone makes. The heat came as kind of a suprise. I don't think I'll feel any sort of cool until November, but I can't complain considering how much I dislike the winter.

Thanks for all your thoughts everyone! I'll update soon!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Time to Soar!

This is it! Today at 5:50pm, I wave goodbye to beautiful Colorado for the next two years.

I feel ready. I wasn't ready a week ago, or even a day ago, but I am ready with all my heart today.

For those of you who made it to the going away party last night, THANK YOU so much for your love and your thoughts. I really can't walk this road without you. I love you all.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Final Countdown

I leave exactly 13 days from today! I've finished all of my errands, and just have to pack and spend as much time with friends and family as possible.

The past few months have been very bittersweet. There is so much joy in preparing for this new ADVENTURE. I am thrilled and honored to be a part of life in the Arab culture for the coming years. On the other hand, it is sad to say goodbye to so many dear people. Friendships will remain, but be different. I have roots in Boulder that I am sad to let go. But, I know without a doubt, that so many good things are in store for me. I know His plans for me are so much grander and more beautiful for me than I could ever, ever imagine!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Asalamaleykum

Welcome to my new blog! This is devoted to relaying stories, thoughts, experiences, and pictures of my time learning to live in a new culture. Stop by every once in awhile and check out my posts. Also, feel free to leave me comments, but choose your words wisely! Happy reading!