Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Holding Hands

When we first arrived in the Middle East, I had a few adjustments to make. (HA!)

I had to get used to seeing men kiss each other.

A normal greeting.

Then I had to get used to seeing men walking down the street holding hands.

A normal gesture of friendship.

Then I had to get used to seeing men sitting together with their hands on each others shoulder or leg.

A normal conversational posture.

Then I had to get used to men kissing my husband.

Then I had to get used to men holding my husbands hand.

Then I had to get used to men putting their hand on my husbands leg while they talk.

That was a lot of adjustments!

Today, I had to make a new adjustment.

While waiting at a traffic light today , I saw two police men kiss, then they joined hands and continued on their way.

My image of public safety was shattered for a bit.

Then I was o.k.

Told ya, I just had to adjust.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Day in My Life - Sort Of

On any given day, I may be doing a number of things.

Yesterday, I had to clean out all my kitchen cupboards and fumigate them because of a horrible 'rice bag full of bugs' incident.

Today I learned how to crochet and knit. With plastic grocery bags...plarn.

Why, you may ask? Good question.

In December I had the huge privilege of helping to launch a program for low-income/at-risk ladies in our community called the Creative Co-op of Re-use. Our goal is to teach ladies how to make handicrafts out of 100% recycled materials to sell and make an income. Beautiful trash. We are actively searching out venues to sell these crafts not only here to the tourist market, hotel chains, and shops, but in the States as well. We just were contacted by a large museum in D.C. area interested in our products!

The main materials we have used so far are magazines, newspapers, and plastic. And we just ordered a kiln to do glass (melting) and a tumbler for glass and rocks. We have been making jewelry, beads, purses, coasters, place mats, baskets, vases, bowls and come up with new ideas everyday. (like the Plarn!)

We applied for a grant through the USAID poverty alleviation initiative and are hoping some bling comes our way through that. We'd love to expand to our own location (right now we use space in a community center), hire a local lady to manage the program, expand our working hours (right now we are only 3 mornings a week) and continue developing our distribution channels, website, and product catalog.

We have about 15 ladies that come very consistently and we have 10 on the waiting list! Each lady in our program goes through an interview process and qualifies based on her income or any risk factors that she may be dealing with...divorced, multiple wives, handicapped, infertile, single, orphaned, widowed, etc.

They are each precious to work with and come everyday with a big smile and hands ready to work. It has been so neat to see the community form.

If you are interested in hosting our products for sale OR if you are the crafty type and can teach us any new techniques - just let me know. We'd love to include you in this exciting group of ladies!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Live in a Crazy World

I know I have a somewhat not-normal life.

Yesterday I realized just how far removed from 'normal' I really am.

I had to order something from the States.

I called the company in Texas from my phone number in the Middle East that has a Michigan area code.

I put the purchase on a credit card belonging to the director of the community center that I work with here. The billing address for the card was in Connecticut.

I had it sent to my in-laws house in Illinois.

I had the order confirmation email sent to a colleague of mine who is from Oregon.

It will get sent to my in-laws house. Put on a container in Chicago. Travel across the ocean for a bit. And arrive to me in about 6 weeks.

It will be used at the community center where I work with a bunch of Jordanian, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Sudanese ladies.

All from a guy in Texas.

And I used to get excited when my Grandma gave me postcards from places that she had traveled. Like the giant shell museum in Florida.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Picture for Today: April 7 - 12

The One About the Car Crash

I have an awesome friend.

Her husband calls her Red.


Because she has great flammin' red hair.

We had an adventure together a few years ago when she was a newcomer to the Middle East.

This is our story...Red wrote it. Only she could capture the raucousness of the entire situation...

"I was a newcomer in every sense of the word having only moved a few weeks before, and Apricot Lady, from my point of view, was a veteran. Learning to live in another country has many highs and lows. Apricot Lady had been through many of them plus some. I was still going up that first dreadful climb on the roller coaster. She was showing me some of the ropes and had taken me out shopping for my family’s new home. The reward for all that hard work was going to be the country’s favorite fruit cocktail.

The lack of available parking is a very common scenario, so when Apricot Lady found a space directly in front of the door to the cocktail joint we had found our prize! Apricot Lady veered the car to the right claiming current occupation on that parking space when we heard a raw grinding and felt a slight tilt. Both of our faces appeared blank to each other when there was a knock on the driver window. Since I was hearing gibberish without the luxury of subtitles, I could only assume the man was discussing raw grinds and weird tilts with her so I cranked my head to the right side of the car looking for evidence that would support my hypothesis. I noticed a caved in back passenger door that fit perfectly into a van’s back corner bumper sufficiently holding our vehicle off the ground.

Apricot Lady got back in the car, “I’m not really sure what’s going on, but that man seems to have some sort of plan he’s rigging together as we speak.” We had questions we wanted answered. Who was the owner of the van? Where was the owner? Should we write a note? What do insurance companies require you to do? We would hear no answers to any of these questions, only a cry from the general population to fix this shameful scene and put some self-respect back in the lives of these poor Western women. Apricot Lady did ask one question that seemed to get a relatable response, “Is there any damage to the car?” to which the reply was, “Well, your husband won’t be very happy.”

Apricot Lady was studying the crowd forming behind our vehicle, which also happened to be in the middle of the street….a very busy street. “Oh my goodness! Look!” I cranked my head to the back of the car to view approximately 12 men crowded around the bumper prepared to act like a crane. In one big heave the car was removed from the van and placed gently inside the respective “lines” of the parking spot. After being told we wouldn’t have to do anything else and we gave the men our thank yous, they returned to their previous positions as if nothing had occurred. We claimed our yummy fruit cocktails and left the scene. Seriously, that van had no damage. That driver was none the wiser and we got some positive benefits to group oriented culture."