Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My New Years Resolution

Smoking here drives us all nuts. It's akin to the US decades ago when smoking was cool. Young and old, women and men... everybody smokes. It's like a $1 a pack.

Frankly, you really don't need to actually smoke in order to smoke... you can get a good nicotine fix through public smoke. In fact, recovering smokers can let down gradually by going out in public every few hours. No patches, no drugs. I wonder if this is the real reason behind global warming. Somebody tell Al.

Some places try to restrict smoking, or contain it to certain areas... if you can understand the signs.

My husband was recently in the main government office that gives out health licenses to businesses and restaurants. You know, the place that regulates certain areas must be designated non-smoking. Most of the employees were smoking beneath signs over each of their cubicles that read... you guessed it 'no smoking'.

Some places like Chilis try to contain it to certain kinds of smoke... just the really dirty kind. (It reads: No pipe or Cigar smoking please)

Other places just get a gas out of not making any effort.


So, for New Years, I'm going to try to kick my second hand nicotine addiction.

I will no longer be leaving the house.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I am slowly emerging from my turkey comma.
I have not left the house since Christmas Eve.
It was a happy Christmas for us.

Hope you had Merry Christmas too!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Get 'em While You Can!

Dear faithful blog readers,

Merry Christmas and thank you. Thank you for enjoying Apricots Today. Thank you for seeing the humor in our lives. To express my sincere gratitude, I would like to purchase special gifts for each of you. Below is a beautiful flier that I recently received in the newspaper (you can click on the image to make it bigger). It showcases the best of what can be bought here. Please select your gifts. I know, the choices are hard. Will it be the silverware hanging on a tree? Will it be one of the fine urns? Will it be the Louis XV juice goblets?

Merry Christmas!
Apricot Lady

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Anything you can do I can do better...

We thought our Gingerbread house was pretty cool...

And then we went to the Movenpick hotel...

Yes, that is actual edible Gingerbread. Can't win them all...

Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Reasons Why I Failed to Blog

I took a blogging vacation. We have had a busy two weeks!
So to pick up where we left off, I present to you the ten activities that prevented me from blogging these last days.

10. It rained. With an average rainfall of about 1 inch, we had to celebrate. I made a big pot of soup.

9. Diving and snorkeling. It is Novemeber after all, we had to!
8. Graduation! My Level 1 English students graduated to Level 2. We had a fun night celebrating.
7. We hosted students from a sister school in New Zealand. Two gals lived with us for a few days on their whirlwind trip through the Middle East. They did a performance at the school...

6. International Day at the kids school. Each class was assigned a country, got to dress up, make food, make a display and have an all day party to celebrate!

5. Swim competition. As part of the international day excitement, the school hosted a swim competition with teams from various parts of the country.
4. Thanksgiving. We ate turkey!

3. Eid al Adha. Our neighbors invited us over for the morning to watch them slaughter sheep as they celebrated their Eid.
2. Wadi Rum. The center that I teach ESL at hosted all the teachers and their families for a camp out in the desert as a thank you for our work. It was our cars first trip off road in the desert...she did good.

1. Life. Work. Housework. Homework. Boring. Bad excuses.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Searching for...

We spent an enjoyable day last weekend at the beach with some friends.

There was:

yummy food


cute kids

sea creatures

and nicely pedicured feet

On the way to the beach, the kid-os were really excited. My little gal was talking about all the things she was looking forward to doing at the beach. The item at the top of her list?

Searching for chicken bones.

Not sea shells.

Not pretty rocks.

Not sea creatures.

Chicken bones.

This tells me two things:

1. My little gal has not been to a clean beach in a long time.

2. My little gal knows how to find the positive side of an icky situation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Married a What?

Some people get married only to discover their spouse...


eats weird food.

smells funny.

doesn't put their dirty cloths in the basket.

That didn't happen to me. I didn't have any real big surprises after I got married. I guess I married a really nice, normal guy.

Then, one day that all changed.

It is tragic really.

I had just loaded my sweet baby girl up in my new (brought from America) four wheel drive (make that three), all terrain stroller. I was so excited to go for a walk with her and our new stroller. The sidewalks in this country are not for sissy strollers.

We had made it quite a few blocks away when I received a phone call from my nice, normal husband.

"Honey, I just got pulled over. The officer took my license and is taking me to the police station."

Oh, and he had our son with him.

It was a long walk home as thoughts rushed through my head about this new twist to our day. Of course, the first thing I thought of was what I would pack in our eight allowed suitcases for our deportation. How much hummus and filafel could I actually fit in a suitcase?

I arrived home and waited and waited.

Finally, I hear from my hubby. This is how the story goes:

He was going down a one-way street backwards in our neighborhood. The same one we go backwards down (along with everyone else in the neighborhood) every day to get to the local filafel stand. A policeman sees him and waves. Hubby waves back and smiles. Nice guy. The policeman does a quick turn around and turns his lights on and follows behind hubby (also backwards down the one-way street). Hubby pulls over.

Now we never really know what to do when we get pulled over (which is a pretty normal occurrence). Do we speak in Arabic and fear saying the entirely wrong thing that incriminates us? OR Do we speak English and get totally misunderstood and therefore 'say' something that incriminates us?

Hubby chose the later that day. Typical questions were asked.

Who are you?

Where are you from?

Why are you here?

Where is your paperwork?

No mention of going the wrong way down a street.

The officer takes hubby's license and drives away. Hubby assumes he must follow. So he does. Remember, little son is still sitting in the car. His eyes as big as half dinars by now.

Hubby has enough wits about him to call the lawyer we work with. Hubby assumes the officer is headed to the police station across town, and thankfully the lawyer is close by and plans to meet them there.

Hubby arrives at the police station and is 'brought' in (along with wide-eyed son) to the station. Still no mention of what violation has occurred. They are seated next to the jail cell. Wide-eyed son says really loud.

"Dad, are we going to have to go IN there? You REALLY should not have driven the wrong way down that street!"

Hubby is thankful not many people understand little boy English.

Police officer starts to write a very large report. Lawyer arrives and reads report. Lawyer argues and explains and laughs and smooths things over. Lawyer escorts hubby and son out of police station and says:

"He was going to deport you for defaming the King."

Hubby stands amazed and wonders what in the world he said that communicated that.

Hubby drives home with wide-eyed son and a grand story.

It is true: I married a criminal.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Public Service Announcement

If your counter top looks like this:

It means the international flu pandemic has visited your house.

If your kitchen counter also looks like this:

It means you have awesome neighbors who have made their version
of comfort and 'get well' food for you.

And if you sent a cute little pirate
(who has a very strong immune system!)
to school today looking like this:

It means you have a happy heart. I love that kid!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

The real problem with trashy cats is that survival of the fittest is the rule of the cement jungle. Truly only the meanest, nastiest, biggest, and fittest survive. Evidently our local trashy cats are not quite up to that caliber.

Last night one died in front of our house.

Sure enough, Hitler’s second kitten (and who was the only remaining of four) was rummaging in the dumpster, when a car drove by and spooked it. Evidently Hitler had not practiced car evasion enough with the inexperienced kitten, and he jumped right into the path of an oncoming 86 Mercedes. I did see a slight drift of the steering wheel towards the feline.

The Mercedes won.

Seems I’m not the only one with a dislike and somewhat sadistic lean towards these satanic beings.

There were reports by the neighborhood boys of an eyeball rolling in the street, as well as several other gory details. The boys gathered around and ceremoniously gave it a respectful burial by throwing it into the dumpster via its tail. Hitler wandered around as if nothing happened. No grieving, no remorse, and the pride stayed clear of the dumpster.

I hate cats.

Hitler and his spouse (thus far unnamed) are now kitten-less. No doubt there’ll be some late nights and another litter of trashy cats to deal with soon. If survival of the fittest is in play here, it seems that Hitler might have to pick a different mother for his offspring. Their first litter didn’t have the right stuff evidently.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What Comes In...

We live by a very large port. One of the biggest that supplies the surrounding region.

We live by a very large highway. One of the best that goes north through the country and reaches other countries in the surrounding region.

I see a lot of strange things go by my house.

One day an entire airplane went by on flat bed semi trucks.

First, the nose.

Then some wings.

Oh look! A fuselage!

Wow! A big engine.

Another one.

And...the tail.

Yesterday, on our way home from the beach (on the highway that passes behind our house), we passed 26 flat bed semis each full of military artillery trailers and fuel tanks.

Should I be worried?

This weekend, we had to drive by the port because we heard a ship full of 10,000 Australian goats had arrived.

That was the most goats I had ever seen in one place.

Sorry I didn't take pictures. I might get shot at if I did. Some days I'm willing to risk my life for a photo opt, some days, not so much.

The port is not the only thing that entertains us though!

Last week, my hubby and I enjoyed a fabulous night out on the town. We had dinner out on the deck at the yacht club which is right at the marina.

We only had to kick one trashy cat away from our feet when our dinner came out.

There was a HUGE yacht parked in the gulf. We had heard rumors it belonged to Bill Gates.

We were enjoying our dinner when off on the horizon we saw a 'smaller' boat coming from the HUGE yacht. Mind you, this 'smaller' boat was still bigger than any of the large yachts parked in the marina. The 'smaller' boat pulled into the marina with it's nicely dressed four member crew and dropped off a man, woman, and teen aged girl. Of course everyone in the restaurant was trying to look without really looking. The ladies at the table next to us, just got up and left their food to 'take a walk' down by the 'smaller' boat. (I made sure trashy cats didn't eat their abandoned meal before they returned. I'm just that kind of person.)

I made my hubby ask the waiter if he knew who these people were. The waiter reported to us that the boat did indeed belong to Bill Gates, but Bill Gates' business partner Paul Allen and his family were using it. They were all staying in one of the big hotels in town.

Well, the next logical step for me was to text message my friend whose husband is the general manager of THAT hotel. Surely, she would give me the low down.

Confirmed: Paul Allen was in town on one of his HUGE yachts - he owns them, not Bill Gates. He and his family were staying at the King's palace here in town. Only his 30 member boat crew were staying at the hotel.

The Octopus:

The Tatoosh:

Keep buying Microsoft products.

They are spending their money least I stay entertained!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yesterday, I wanted a bunch of Apricots...

so I could throw them.

Let me explain.

I went to the grocery store to 'grab a few things.' I could do a post a day about grocery store stories. But, I don't, because they would all be heavily focused on complaining, and that is not what this blog is for. This blog is about seeing the humor in the situations I encounter everyday and therefore enjoying the differences. I currently see no humor in anything to do with my stinky, dirty, unorganized, low stocked grocery store. (that was not a string of complaints, by the way, just a few facts).

I was particularly surprised about the nice selection of fruits and veggies that day. I even found sweet potatoes! I was actually a little happy at the grocery store. A feeling I am not really familiar with.

I even got a chuckle at the guy in front of me at the veggie check out (you have to have your veggies weighed in the dept before you go to the check out) because he had just come from the check out where his apples were priced at 40 dinar (about $60!) Poor guy!

After loading up my cart, I get in line and all my items get scanned and bagged. I hand over my credit card and she swipes it. She waits, she waits, she waits, and reports that the card won't go through. She tries the credit card machine at the register next to her. She waits, she waits, she waits, the line grows and grows, she waits, and reports the credit card won't go through. I tell her I don't have enough cash with me. (I am an American, for Petes sake. I don't carry cash with me. I use my credit card because then I get miles and can therefore visit my homeland for free! Good deal!)

So, I take my full grocery cart up to the managers desk, tell him what is going on and ask him to run my credit card again. He does and waits and waits and waits. No go. The machine reports an error with the phone line.

I tell him I have to leave my groceries, run home, get cash and come back to pay. He keeps my cart for me. I run home, grab cash, and run back. When I arrive, the receipt that tells how much I have to pay has been lost. So, they send me back to the line, take all my items out of the bag, re-scan everything...and low and behold...the total is different than before. So, they scan everything again...and another total comes up. Some quick math is done and a 2 dinar item is scanned again to get the total from before, before. I pay my cold hard cash and come home. AGAIN.

Later that day when I was on Facebook, I found this posted by a few friends:

Okay, I get the message. This guy knows how to enjoy his apricots today.

I will too. And my sweet potatoes too!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Another 'P' Problem...

As quickly as I wrote the last post, another funny 'p' problem came our way.

My sis-in-law and I found 27 Dresses airing on MBC Persia. MBC is a big free-to-air satellite broadcaster. There's MBC Sport, MBC Action, MBC 2, MBC 3, MBC 4 and the list goes on. When American shows or movies are showing, there is usually some censorship. Definitely the love scenes, some language...basically they turn R movies into about PG and a 1/2. I have noticed that the Persian (Farsi subtitles - spoken in Iran) station is even more censored than our regular Arabic MBC stations.

Back to 27 Dresses. All the cute kissing scenes were cut out, the Arabic MBC usually leaves them in. Then there was a conversation between the two main characters. She was yelling at him about using their relationship to 'pitch' a story for the newspaper. Well, 'pitch' was censored out. At first, I was totally confused. They weren't kissing, they weren't even talking about kissing. Then it occurred to me...take out the 'p' and put in a 'b' and it becomes a word many would think worthy of censorship.

Not only do they have a hard time saying that letter, they must have a hard enough time distinguishing the sound and would rather err on the side of safety. MBC Persia is relatively new to the MBC empire. They must not want to run the risk of further upsetting the Iranian Ayatollahs. With the current nuke issues, that might just push things over the edge.

And a final confession.

This dress:
I wore it to my Junior prom.

I didn't have the gloves...

but I did match dye the shoes.

I truly am ashamed.


I am teaching an English class at a great community center in town.

It has been fun (in an unhealthy kind of way) to be the one that knows all the answers as opposed to when I am speaking in Arabic and sound like a total doof.

There are some very common mistakes that Arabs learning English make. (Likewise, there are very common mistakes that English speakers make while learning Arabic.) One of the big areas of trouble for Arabs is the letters that the English language has that the Arabic language does not.

Case in point. A conversation I overheard while shopping at the grocery store:

Grocery Shelf Stocker #1: Can you give me the number for that item?

Grocery Shelf Stocker #2: It is BT 8546

Grocery Shelf Stocker #1: What is it?

Grocery Shelf Stocker #2: BT 8546

Grocery Shelf Stocker #1: Is that 'B' as in Baby or 'B' as in Bebsi.

Problem: There is no 'P' in the Arabic alphabet, so things like Pepsi turn into Bebsi.

Another example:

Yesterday I was in the car with my fabulous sister-in-law. Her husband surprised us all by sending her to visit us for her birthday! He scored a lot of points for that one...but what is he going to do next year? We were on our way to aerobics. My neighbor was with us. She has also been learning English and I was so proud of her for trying out her new English skills.

Neighbor to sis: Are you heavy on your visit?

Me: Is she heavy? What are you trying to ask?

Neighbor: Is she heavy here?

Me: [in Arabic] You are asking her if she is fat?

Neighbor: [Gasp!] No HAVVY!

Me: Oh! Happy!

Problem: That darn P again.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Trashy Cats Birthday

There was such an overwhelmingly positive response to my first series, Apricot Lady has invited me back to continue the cat saga. I think I have accidentally served to stimulate a global anti-cat movement. If you want your voice heard, leave comments!

Last week, we celebrated our son’s birthday. We had a smashing good party complete with pizza, cake and little boy games involving matchbox cars. After we had said goodbye to all the guests, we returned to the back patio to begin cleanup, only to discover the local pride beat us to the punch. They were engorging themselves on cake bits and pizza crusts, and we had to fight our way in with brooms and dustpans to clean up the mess.

After all was tidied up, the boy did his nightly duty of taking the trash to the dumpster. The bag was unusually full given the activities of the evening, and as he heaved the bag into the rolling cess collector, it broke, and half of the contents dumped in the street.
Meanwhile, I was in the underground garage, and heard yelling as the boy came running down the ramp ‘Dad come help! I spilled the trash, and there’s cats everywhere!’ The poor boy had run for his life as the cats swarmed on the new found find released from its enclosure.

When I arrived there Hitler, mom and baby (along with some other cats I haven’t seen lately) were fighting over chocolate and pepperoni. There was a real turf war going on, and we were right in the thick of it. (incidentally Hitler used to have 2 kids, one of the kittens passed away… tragic slip and fall off a high wall, which necessitated a tasteful, respectful burial in a plastic bag in that exact dumpster).

Now, most locals would just leave the trash in the street, in fact most people don’t even walk it down to the dumpster. But, we, being model citizens, and wanting to set a good example, of course had to clean up our mess.

I did my best growl and kicked a few cats out of the way, due justice from an angry father for scaring his son, and we commenced cleanup with rocks at the ready in one hand to throw at any advancers, and pizza boxes as dust pan/shovels in the other.

We concluded and the cats rushed back to finish the cleanup, and some hopped into the dumpster to dig for treasure. As we returned to the safety of our home, I couldn’t help but think the jungle in Africa might be a safer place for my children to grow up.

I'll leave you with this...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Camel Montage

Last night my hubby took my son to a birthday party for a friend at McDonalds. I was teaching an English class across town. When I was done, I called hubby to let him know he could come pick me up. He was just leaving McDonald's...good timing. As we ended our conversation, I heard him say in Arabic: "Can you move your camel?"

As the story goes, hubby grabbed the kids hands and was heading out the door at McDonald's, only to find a camel butt blocking the exit.

Camels are about as common around here as dogs in the US.

Please enjoy a montage of Camels from the recent past...

"Honey, would you like to take the Suburban or the camel today?"

Our main mode of transportation.

Some people let their dogs do this right?

"Does this color look good on me or does it make me look fat?"

Director: Cue the camels! Cue the backdrop! Lights! Camera! Action!

Hello darling!

WARNING: What you are about to see will totally shock you!
Camels drinking water.

Something about that fleece soccer blanket doesn't look right in this context.

Alas, there are some animals that are MORE prevalent around here than camels.
"Yes, I'd like to order 48 Mint Chocolate Frappuccinos blended cream with Chocolate Whipped Cream...the flock deserve a treat."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Trip To The Big City

The end of Ramadan is cause for celebration! The kids had the week off of school because of the Eid Holiday. So, we decided to head up to the capital city for some fun...and some meetings, doctor's appts, car repairs and essential shopping.

Here are some highlights…

There are two North/South highways that run through the country.
We decided to take the more ‘scenic’ highway this time.
We pulled over to take this photo of the beautiful red sand…

Then got scolded by these soldiers because apparently I was taking a picture in a military zone.

"Sorry sirs. Please don’t point your big gun at me. By the way, you made me rush and the picture turned out dumb. I couldn't get the right setting on the camera because of the menacing military entourage right next to me. How mean."

I thought it was better to take a picture of them as they were driving away, as opposed to taking a picture of them when they just asked me not to take pictures. I'm so naughty!

It rained! We watched the temperature in the car drop from 36 C (97 F) to 24 C (75 F) as we drove up into the mountains. I wanted to put that rain smell in a jar and bring it home with me!

We shopped at the fabulous grocery stores.
Some things I bought: French Vanilla coffee creamer, canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling, Ritz crackers, soft tortilla shells, Parmesan cheese.
I saw a box of Lucky Charms cereal, it was $15. I cried.
I saw of box of Maple and Brown Sugar Quaker Oatmeal, it was $14. I cried some more.

We went to our old church. Man, we love those people!

We visited with nine different families in four days.
Do you know how many cups of tea and coffee that is? We were well caffeinated.
Some nights, we got fed dinner twice at two different places, ah we love the unmatched Arab hospitality!

We took our car to get all the dings fixed and had to once again ride in taxis.
Remember the arcade game Crazy Taxi? Its just like that in real life. Keeps you spiritual.

I took the kids to the Children’s Museum with some of their friends and their mom (whom I love so much!). And we saw this very creative camel!

I was reunited with my old hair dresser.
A blog is to follow on how much this guy means to my hair.

Hubby got more pages put in his passport at the Embassy. His passport has another 8 years before it expires, but no more blank pages. Occupational hazard! He did enjoy his brief time in the United States of America.

Now, it's back to 'normal' life.
I always start each week with the thought..."What crazy thing is going to happen to me now?"

You'll be the first to know!