Thursday, September 30, 2010

Celebrating Culture

This week we had a fabulous dinner with a great group of people.
We were all gathered to bid farewell to some friends whose job has transferred to another country. As I reflected on the evening, I was struck by the things that made it so incredibly enjoyable. Top of the list was the true friendships that had developed among a very culturally diverse group and the international flair that was scattered throughout the evening like the spices on our delicious dishes.
I counted more than nine different nationalities represented around our table.
There were Indonesian, Spaniard, Italian, Arab, American, Danish, British, Brazilian, Filipino...
The conversation at any given time flowed in and out of English, Arabic, Italian, or Spanish. Everyone just followed along and enjoyed the moment, the sounds, the laughs. We couldn't always understand the language (we get three out of the four between my husband and I), but we could always understand the emotion.

Our conversation topics ranged from great vacation spots, food, favorite movies, life in our little city, international politics, adjusting to moving/being transplanted, the International School that all our kids go to, jokes about local happenings (we got a lot of laughs/cries out of the recent rocket attacks!), and saying good bye.
The Italians got asked the food questions.
The Arabs got asked the government questions.
The Americans got asked the parenting questions.
The Spaniards got asked the football (soccer that is) questions.
The Europeans got asked the vacation questions.
The Asians got asked the hospitality questions.

I found it so interesting to observe how each culture said good-bye differently.
Some just cried.
Some confessed they would go home and cry into their pillow alone.
Some told wonderful stories.
Some told hilarious jokes.
Some made toasts.
Some spoke blessings.
Some shared memories.
Some were very quiet.
Some hugged.
Some kissed.
Some avoided the good-bye altogether, waiting for the last possible moment when they would bid the couple farewell one last time as the moving truck pulled away.
Some were already arranging reunions in the future.

In the end, we all celebrated our friendships that know no cultural bounds.
I've heard before that there are often more differences within a culture than there are between cultures. This was true around our table. All being so different, really we had a tremendous amount of things in common.

God has created people amazingly unique, yet desperately similar in so many ways.

I'm a big fan.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Job Posting

If anyone is feeling depressed about the unemployment situation in the States, I have a great job opportunity here for you. The only job requirement is that you have a limited understanding and knowledge of the English language. Simple huh?

You see, the problem around here is everyone wants their menus and store signs and promotional materials in English, but very few have a complete grasp of the English language. I've collected a few examples for you just so you know what your job would entail:

Store Front Signs
New Yourk Nigt Club
Rest and Pup (restaurant and pub)
Shobben Mool (shopping mall)
Hair Saloon (salon)

Hotel Lobby
We are pleased to provide your hostage (?)

Grocery Store Signs
Ass Juices on Sale (assorted)
Prokle (broccoli)
Egplant Big Sht (I have no idea)
Multi-Green Bread (grain)
White Beaches (white peaches)

Menu Items
Fried Brian (brain)
Gordon Blue (cordon bleu)
rape and mint (grape and mint)
Salad with Herpes Dressing (herb dressing)
Roasted Aborigines (aubergines which is eggplant)
Chicken Boob (chicken poppers)

Grocery Store Promotions Gone Wrong
Baby diapers bundled with Maxi Pads for a special price (TMI!)
Clorox wipes nicely placed in baby wipes section (ouch!)
Painted in store front window: SALE! ALL ITEMS 0% - 50% OOF (I'd like to find the rack that is 0% oof...what a deal!)

So if you are interested in this job, please send applications my way.

I will try to rent you a FURNICHED FILLA (furnished villa) for you at 0% oof.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nothing In Life Is Free...

It's always a good time to pull embarrassing stories out of the archives!

We were newcomers to the Middle East.
We had just come from the US, where everything is available at either Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or Target.
I was just adjusting to living in a big city where there were no apparent mega-stores or one-stop-shop places.
We had just signed a lease on our apartment which had a fabulous back yard for the kids to play.
My very ingenious hubby crafted a sand box for them out of building scraps left in the lot next to ours.
I was ready to fill it with clean, fine sand for hours of enjoyment for my children.
But, no Home Depot.
No Lowes.
Where to go?
I decided to start at a big garden shop. I was so proud of myself.
I even figured out how to say it in Arabic. I was really proud of myself.
I went in, head high.
I looked around.
I approached the employee with confidence.
I executed my perfectly formed sentence requesting to buy sand.
He smiled.
This was going to be so easy.
We would be playing in clean, fine sand by dinner that night!
There was an awkward pause.
His smile spread a little wider.
I panicked.
Did I say it wrong?
Are they out of stock right now?
Does is cost a lot of money here?
It all of a sudden got really hot in there.
The employee finally broke the awkward silence.
In perfect English.
He kindly said:
"Mam. Have you noticed we are living in the middle of a desert? We don't sell sand here. You can just drive out of the city with a bag and there is as much as you want for free."
I smiled.
I left.
I never went back to that place.
It really was too bad that I had not noticed that fact sooner.
We WERE surrounded by sand.
I swallowed my pride and went home.
I told my hubby we were due for a trip outside the city...and we had to take a bag.
Look at all the clean, fine sand we found!
For free!

And look how happy the kids were with their clean, fine sand and really strange unobservant mother.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fill in the Blank Fail

A friend mine went onto to check the forecast for the week. I actually check the forecast quite often...which makes me realize how crazy I am because it says the same exact thing every day: Burning hot. Sunny. No rain. No clouds.
Well, upon logging on to the website and typing in the desired city...this is a pop-up add that appeared.

Why is this a fail?
Let me explain using pictures:
This is what our garden looks like right now (even though it is watered faithfully everyday).

This is what the empty lot looks like next to us that is not watered faithfully everyday.

Don't you just practically see the grass growing?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My bathroom is the color of open heart surgery...

and other decorating dilemmas.

I have already confessed that I don't like change and that I would rather have root canals than move. The apartment we are in right now was our 12th move. Ew. I have completely painted every room in the last five houses we were in. I knew this time around, I could just not bear to do that again. So, this move had many conditions. I sent my hubby two weeks ahead to scope out a place and move in. I gave him a simple list of requirements:


sea view

'decent' paint colors

And my sweet little daughter prayed for weeks that God would give her a pink room. I had little faith. She did not!

My amazing, house scoping hubby found a jackpot! A dishwasher. A sea view from the master bedroom AND the kitchen. 'Decent' paint colors. And check out our daughters room...

pink enough, ya think? God does not mess around when it comes to little girl prayers.

Well, for all the great qualities the apartment has, we did have to adjust to a few things. I love home decor and having everything ship shape and matchy matchy. So, here are a just a few of my home decor obstacles...

This is the tile in my bathroom, ie: open heart surgery

This is the fabulous turquoise sparkle sink in our guest bath. I think the Barbie dream house had this same sink.

My kids have named all the light fixtures in our house. This is the dino egg in our bedroom.

This is the trilobite light in our dining room.

And this is the ram horns in our living room.

Crazy, heh?

So, we've acutally lived in this place for a whole year. And, for the sake of a renewed sense of energy to personalize yet another dwelling place of ours, I will actually break down and paint some rooms this fall. But of course, will happily work around the the constant reminders that we live in a culture that has a slightly different 'taste' than where we hail from.

Picture for Today: Sept 10 - 15

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My International Kids

We sent the kids back to school today!
Last night we had a little party to celebrate a new school year. We also presented the kids each with a gift of a bunch of words that describe them...all their good qualities, of course!

I did a lot of reflecting these days as to how truly resilient my kids are. And the experiences they have everyday that give them a unique and big perspective of the world. They go to school with kids from just about every continent. Their teachers are from all over the world and each bring their cultural flavor to the job.

Then, just yesterday I had two very funny moments the confirmed it kids have not had a normal childhood!

We were on our way to the beach for our last summer fling. My son had brought his binoculars along just to see what he could see. We were quietly driving along the road and he was gazing over the Red Sea toward Egypt. From the back seat, in normal conversational fashion, says "Hey mom, don't freak out, but I think I see the pyramids."
(No, we are not that close to the pyramids.)
It was just hilarious that he KNOWS what direction the pyramids are or for that matter even what they are! I don't think I knew they existed until I was at least in junior high!
Fast forward to later that evening. My hubby and I were having a random conversation about our bucket list of cities we still wanted to visit. Paris came up in conversation. My daughter, who was sitting near by distracted by something else at the moment piped in, "I've always wanted to go to Paris! There are so many things that I want to see there! Can we really go?"
She is 6!
She has a list of things that she wants to see in Paris?
I dreamed of going to Chuck-e-Cheese when I was six. But, Paris? Not so much!
So, back to school we go in the big, big world. Excited to see what they will both learn this year!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Picture for Today: Sept 4 - 9

A Trashy Treasure

As you know, our Trashy Cats are everywhere getting into mischief. Though I hate dislike cats, I must admit, our trashy cat neighbors have provided hours of free hilarity over the years. This is the stupidity funniness we came home to:

I think this is the daughter of Hitler, if you remember him.

My daughter now calls her the 'kitty with a necklace'.

I will call her Jackie O.

This actually explains a lot. When we came home and found evidence that a rat had been sneaking around in our made me wonder...what do the trashy cats do everyday? Can't they at least help to control the pest population?


The cats are too busy admiring themselves along side the shinny trash cans.

Delighted with their new accessories.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Strangely Familiar

Apricot Lady is back!
We enjoyed our much needed break and feel rested and ready for another year of excitement and adventure...which I'm sure you will be hearing all about.
This last trip was our 14th trip across the Atlantic ocean! To my amazement all our luggage was again patiently waiting for us when we got off the plane. Kudos to Royal Jordanian! Our 'stuff' gets successfully from one point to another because of two factors...heavy duty $25 Rubbermaid bins that I bought in 2003 and eight brightly colored luggage straps that I bought at the Ikea in Athens, Greece 6 years ago. I should get paid by these companies for such a great endorsement!

For a lady who hates change (yes, I know, I picked the wrong lifestyle), these past few days have been a delightful reflection on how strangely familiar our cross-culture life has become. It all started in the Chicago airport when I giggled as I watched three young guys do their prayers in a quite corner of the airport using the slim cases from the Mac's as a clean resting place for their heads. I found myself greeting every baby around me on the plane or while standing in line for the bathroom with the common cheek pinch and exclamation 'Look what God has done!" or "May God protect them", always returned by big smiles from the mamas and babas as they tell me all about how wonderful their child is. I smiled as the plane landed and everyone erupted into claps and called out "Praise be to God". You know everyone is saying that during the landing anyway...why not just shout it out? I found it strangely familiar to get on a plane in the lush green, cool mid-west and find myself 12 hours later landing in the dry, brown landscape of the Middle East. I found myself enjoying how although completely covered the beautiful Middle Eastern ladies express their individuality through their colorful scarves matched with their shoes and purses. And I love their quite, calm mannerisms and the way they let their kids be kids and seem to just enjoy the moment they are in. I laughed knowing I could report to my faithful blog readers that the first thing I saw when I walked out of the airport this morning was a trashy cat finding it's morning snack in the airport trash cans. Then, our driver cheerfully announced "welcome home!' when a pick-up truck pulled up next to us on a major street through town with a camel in the back. And I cringed when I walked in to my house which was closed up for too long to find a bunch of dead bugs and evidence that we had a rat visiting and playing while we were gone. My dear husband is with the Terminex man as I type 'dealing' with the issue. Strangely familiar. But for a gal who does not like change, at least my life is predictable!