Monday, November 29, 2010

A Little Bit of West in the East

As you know, we live in the Middle EAST.
As you know, Thanksgiving was last week.
As you know, that is a 100% WESTERN holiday.
As you know, we couldn't let a holiday pass like that being un-celebrated.
So, this is how you pull off a WESTERN holiday in the Middle EAST.
{WARNING: it is not easy}

Step 1: You get very nervous that no turkeys are showing up in the local grocery stores leading up to Thanksgiving. You block out a day near Thanksgiving to drive 4 hours up and 4 hours back to the capital to buy a turkey OR you put a friend in the capital on stand-by to buy a cooler, buy a turkey, and send it on the bus down to you. But, you rejoice when you get text messages from every foreigner you know in town the day turkeys arrive to the local grocery store. You run to the store and pay $65 for an 18 lb BUTTERBALL turkey. Then you come home and try to figure out how to squeeze a frozen 18 lb turkey into your tiny freezer.

Step 2: You google a lot of really strange things.
Google Search: can I freeze celery {because celery only shows up every once in a great while at the veggie man and if you don't grab it when he has it, your celery recipes will, well, lack celery}
Google Search: what is cream corn {because your Aunt Dena's cream corn recipe needs cream corn, so if you have to 'fabricate' it you wonder if you just dump regular corn in the blender to make cream corn}
Google Search: how do you cook a pumpkin {because, gasp, there are no cans of Libby's Pumpkin Pie mix to be found this year, so, gasp, you have to get pumpkin from A PUMPKIN to home make all the pumpkin recipes}

Step 3: You have to field funny questions from your neighbors. {In our last apartment, we received a knock on the door as the turkey was cooking. The smell was apparently wafting through the entire building. The knocker was designated by the other neighbors to come and ask if we were cooking pork. No, we said. It was our Thanksgiving turkey. He explained he had never smelled either. Then asked if his family could join us for Thanksgiving. The more the merrier!}
Step 4: You have to look for hidden treasures in the ingredients. {It seems that all the flour here is laced with bugs. Yum. So, not only do you have to MAKE the cornbread {no Jiffy Mix} for the corn casserole, MAKE the spice cake for the pumpkin pie cake {no Betty Crocker}, and MAKE dinner rolls {no Great Harvest Bread Co}, you have to SIFT ALL THE DRY INGREDIENTS in case there are hidden treasures. I only found a few this time around.}

Step 5: You invite people over that have become your family away from family. You eat till you can't eat no more. You all crash in the living room in a food coma. Then you play reruns of Charlie Brown and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That's what we did. {And since it was 90 degrees out the 'kid table' got to be outside.}

Step 6: You eat tons of leftovers for days and days with no microwave to heat them up in because it was an knock-off Chinese thing that caught on fire a while back and you never bothered to replace it for fear of a second more disastrous fire.

And that, my dear blogging friends is how you bring a Western holiday to the East. 


Now I'm off to figure out Christmas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Barfing in Ramallah

Last week we took a whirl wind tour of the Holy Land. We visited Masada, Old City of Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Ramallah, Nazareth, Cana, Tiberius, Sea of Galilee, Capurnum, Garden Tomb, Tower of David Museum, Hezekiah's Tunnels, City of David, Bethlehem, Shepherds Field, Church of the Last Supper, Davids Tomb, Qumran (where Dead Sea scrolls were found), and a hike up to a waterfall in Ein Gedi. It was Amazing!

I have debated as to how to 'cover' our trip.
Serious. Funny. Photo Journey. Just the facts. I could take it from so many angles.
Alas, because of the theme of this blog, I must go funny. {Because any trip with our family seems to have its 'moments'.} So, without further ramblings...

Our Top 10 {mis} Adventures in the Holy Land

10. This is a scientific break-down of how we spent our time:
          20% sleeping/listening to the neighbors dog barking
          20% getting lost
          10% at border crossings/checkpoints
          5% arguing about directions while getting lost
          25% at amazing sites of Christendom
          5% eating
          5% in our tiny apartment we rented (we pretended we were living in a box car)
          10% driving around while getting lost
{*none of these calculations are scientific. i just made them up. do they even add up to 100%?}

9. The Temple Mount - a holy site for three religions. Closed again. The last time we visited, tourists were not allowed up on the Temple Mount because there were riots/rock throwing over some excavating being done by one group that the other group was not happy with. This time, closed again because of the eid holiday. Bummer. We'll just have to plan another trip!

8. Apparently there is a brand new, beautiful, fast North/South highway running through the West side of the country. Apparently the Lonely Planet guide we were using was published before that brand new, beautiful, fast highway went through. We saw a lot of back roads. The countryside really was beautiful!

7. If we had not been standing directly on one of the Christian worlds most revered places, I would have had serious words with the rude Spaniard tourist that pushed my dear daughter out of the way at the manger scene. My girl just wanted to see where baby Jesus was born. Mean lady.

6. Because of #8 above, we saw the sunset in Galilee. We didn't get to see the Church of the Loaves and Fishes or the Mountain of the Beatitudes or the Church of St. Peter. Nope. They were closed. But, we saw the sunset. That was nice. Another reason to go back.

5. While approaching the Garden Tomb, my daughter told me she was really glad that Jesus rose again...otherwise we would have to see his bones in the tomb. I agreed with her.

4. We took our own car across the border and covered about 1,000 miles. We love our Hybrid...42 mpg! The border guards however, were not so keen on the hybrid. They kept asking why the only sound our car made was clicking noises. Our battery did its little hum/recharge thing while one of the guards was scanning under our car for bombs. It made for some exciting moments. They repeatedly asked us to start our car...when it was already running. Having out of country plates was also a plus so many times when we were lost and people flagged us down to help us. They all would start the conversation by telling us what relative of theirs lived where we're from and how they just felt compelled to help us. Hospitality is amazing in the Middle East!

3. Signs in English in foreign countries just make me laugh. Here are some of my favs from this trip.

I like people that don't take themselves TOO seriously.

Run out of money? Come get some free change.

What a creative name. What a creative logo. I've never seen anything like it before!

2. The culture-lover in me enjoyed our time in the Old City because you get to watch the three people groups/religions all co-exist together in that small area. Fascinating. Here is my hubby buying falafel sandwiches from an Arab guy whose family had lived in the old city for centuries. Behind them are two Orthodox Jews deep in conversation. Muslim. Christian. Jew. This does not happen many other places in the world.

1. Since we were so close, we wanted to drive through Ramallah just to get a feel for what a West Bank town that is always in the news is like. We enjoyed our little spin around town. When we started seeing soldiers posted on the road every 150 yards, we decided our spin should be over. We wound our way back to the check point at which time I realized I had not given my car sick prone child her daily Dramamine dose. Sure enough, just as we made our way to the soldiers, she barfed. In Ramallah. It was a good way to get the soldiers to hurry us through the check point!

West Bank wall artwork is fascinating!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Laugh to Tide You Over

I am having a hard time getting my next post out.

Vacation last week + Thanksgiving this week = no time to sit down

{not to mention we forgot to pay our internet bill this month and it got shut off. whoops! we paid and are now back on the grid.}

So in the mean time, I leave you with this to keep your laughs regular...

You know those tourist shops where you go in and can dress up like saloon girls and wild west cowboys?

They have those here too...

The Bedouins 2006

Picture for Today: Nov 15 - 20

Friday, November 19, 2010

We're Back!

We had a wonderful week touring the Holy Land. I'm still sorting pictures (and laundry and groceries)...and will post some of the highlights in the coming days (highlights of the trip, that is...not the laundry!).
But, because I'm nice, I'll give you a little taste.

We visited and were surrounded by so many fascinating sights. But my camera lens also gravitated to things that captured the everyday feel of the quaint streets of the Old City. Such an exciting place to explore!

This is the tea man that runs up and down the street delivering tea to the shop owners. I stuck my camera above my head to capture this hustle and bustle moment.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Eid!

'Eid' in Arabic means 'Holiday" and this coming week is a big one around here! I found this article (below) in the Jordan Times recently. It not only gave me some chuckles {with the detailed explanation of how sheep slaughtering is going to take place this next week} but also a good explanation of the holiday itself.

Last year we were invited to our neighbors for their sheep slaughtering in their driveway. It {if you like blood and gore and innards}.

I will let your imagination determine what happened next!

My sons re-enactment of the days events.

This year we are off on a whirl wind tour of the Holy Land. We are excited! Blogging may be sparse next week, but I'm assuming we'll have some humorous adventures that will provide lots of blog fodder in the weeks to come!

(GAM) has designated 10 locations for selling and slaughtering sheep ahead of Eid Al Adha in mid-November.

GAM, which will start receiving permit applications from traders this week, specified several regulations to safeguard public health and the environment at the designated locations.

Traders wishing to sell sheep at these sites should obtain approval from GAM and pay JD200 as a service fee as well as an extra JD300 as a refundable guarantee, which the municipality will confiscate if they fail to abide by the regulations, according to a GAM statement sent to The Jordan Times.

The regulations also stipulate that livestock should be enclosed in pens and adhere to Sharia and health regulations, while traders must provide safety gear for the butchers and plastic bags for storing the meat.

Traders can display and sell live camels and cows provided that they are slaughtered at GAM’s main slaughterhouse in Ain Ghazal, and agree to replace any animal rejected by the veterinarian assigned to supervise the slaughter and report any violations.

The enclosures must be situated a minimum of 500 metres away from any residential area to avoid the spread of foul odours and insects. The permission to sell sheep will be valid for seven days, three days before Eid Al Adha and during the four days of the feast.

Muslims usually sacrifice at least one sheep per family during Eid Al Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his own son, Ismail, in the name of God. According to the Holy Koran, Ibrahim’s faith in the Lord was rewarded when a voice from heaven said he was to sacrifice a ram instead.

Under Islamic law, the family or individual who sacrifices an animal - camel, cow or sheep - is allowed to consume only one-third of the meat, and is obliged to give one-third to relatives, while the rest should be distributed among the less fortunate, preferably neighbours, to encourage and build social cohesion.

Eid Al Adha is the most important feast in Islam, as it concludes the Hajj season, when pilgrims journey to Mecca to perform holy rites.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Next 24

We plan on staying home for the next 24 hours.
Schools are closed.
Businesses are closed.

Tomorrow is election day which brings a buzz of excitement around the country.

Here are the issues I am voting for:

I will be SO happy when the elections are over so all the banners that are hanging in every intersection in town can come down! Driving is bad enough around here. It makes it even 'better' when you can't see around the round-about.

Instead of the annoying commercials we endure in the States during elections, each candidate here sets up a tent in any available empty lot that constituents can visit in the weeks leading up to the elections. It seems as the commercials in the States try to out do themselves, each tent tries to out do itself here. I drive by this one every morning and a little chuckle escapes my mouth each time. Yes, that is the King, the Crown Prince, and the candidate running for parliament. Larger than life (and palm trees for that matter)! 

And I will be happy when the elections are over so the noise level in our neighborhood goes down. Each night the candidates speak/holler from their tents as constituents pass through to hear their views on all the issues. The national anthem plays in my mind even while I'm sleeping. That can not be healthy!

The Jordan Times recently ran a great article about the unique political situation here. Monarchy. Democracy. Tribalism. We are a three in one deal! And it will be interesting to see how it all plays out...from my window.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Just Another Day in Paradise

My hubby was in one of our top vacation spots this week. Without me. Boo. He had work meetings, which left me here with just good memories of the times we've spent in Cyprus. Oh how we love Cyprus. A 30 minute flight and we are in EU paradise.

One of my vacation memories, however, is not such a good one. In fact it is a memory of mine in which I thought at the moment: "so THIS is how I'm going to die". A bizarre thought indeed!

We went on a day trip with a diving company. The plan was to enjoy a boat ride along the coast as a family. We would pull into a cove, which the dive master had discovered, and proudly announced was "un-accessible by land, only by sea". He told us how beautiful the sand was and the rocks and the clear water and how the shore was lined by caves. The kids and I would play there while the guys (hubby and diver guy) did their dive trip. They would come back to get us and we would eat lunch on the secluded beach. I was excited. And it was just as he described it. Secluded Paradise!

The plan was playing out perfectly. The kids and I were basking in the secluded glory of our own little slice of the universe for the day. The guys were off exploring caves and other creepy interesting underwater things. That is when something caught my eye.
A man.
No, two men.
Scaling the cliff by the water.
Onto OUR secluded beach.
Wearing old Army camo clothes.
Handcuffed together.
Walking toward me.

Instantly my mind flashed to the horrible events that my poor children were about to witness. Convicts. Criminals. Me. Caves. There was no good ending to this story. THIS was how I was going to die. I was going to be on CNN!

The two men came toward me. In very broken English, they asked if I had anything they could use to pick the lock on their handcuffs.
I said NO.
They pointed to the bobby pin in my hair.
I said NO again.
Then they asked if they could drink some of my water.
I said NO.
Then they walked away.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job disguising my utter fear in front of my children. I was proud that I stood my ground. NO I was not going to help them!  I may be on CNN for being killed by escaped criminals, but I was NOT going to help them. I had my standards!

Then, to my dismay, they went over by one of the caves and found a large rock. They put their handcuffed hands down on one rock and picked up the other rock and started trying to smash the handcuffs apart.

Great, I thought, now that I did not help them, they were going to help themselves, break out, and then come do all those horrible things I had imagined.

Don't forget. I am on a secluded beach. Alone. With my small children. My husband is around the coast, out of sight and 10 meters under water. I was a goner!

The camo criminals successfully smashed themselves out of the handcuffs. And climbed up over the cliff on the land side. Out of sight.

Had I just imagined that whole thing?
Would anyone EVER believe me when I told them what happened?

It was bizarre.

Time passed and my heart slowly started beating again. The dive boat pulled back into the cove. I was going to survive! As I approached the dive boat to greet everyone, something caught my eye. There they were again! The two smashed apart handcuffed camo criminals were hiding/laying in the bottom of the dive boat. Was this a hostage situation? Were they just covering their tracks by planning to take out my only witnesses before taking me out?


They were a bunch of Cypriot military guys on a three day survival adventure as part of their basic training. They had to rely on any help they could get to survive.

I gave them a drink of my water.

And then I wondered if I watched too much nightly news for all those dooms day scenarios that were playing through my head the whole time.

I did have my wits to snap this photo as they walked around the cove and joined up with their other mates and hit up another innocent tourist for some help. Don't ask me why the tourist appears to be in his underwear, with his car, on this supposed "SECLUDED BEACH UN-ACCESSIBLE BY LAND!"

Maybe the dive shop guy was the true criminal. We will never know!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another Peek

Thanks for the emails and encouraging comments about the store! Green Creations really is so exciting. Here are more pictures...the journey from start to opening night...

What was once a rental car store...
furniture arrives!
decor arrives

recycled paper and pop cans
recycled glass and magazine paper beads

product arrives...woven newspaper baskets

rolled magazine paper necklaces

more necklaces

coiled newspaper clocks

folded magazine paper purse

rolled magazine paper earrings
all ready!

our first visitors

PIcture for Today: Oct 28 - Nov 2

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dreams to Reality

What a week.
Let me give you some highlights:
Brazilian bikini fashion show...belly dancing...camels...pumpkin carving...make shift friends...hours and hours at the store...anticipation...henna...big party...grand opening...more dancing...loud music...priceless expressions on dear ladies faces...

And some low-lights:
S.L.O.W. Internet (no blogging, boo)...nearly broken camera lens (yes, my NEW ONE!)...vicious flu bug...sad, sad news from home

Each of these items mentioned could be turned into their own post (I will have to write about the Brazilian bikini show...long story...let me just say it involved, yes, bikinis, nuns, gawking teenagers, my husband giving a speech, camels, Michael Jackson music...and it was just a night to remember).

But the event I just came from will certainly be one of the highlights of my entire time here. I have blogged about my work before. And I should more often...I really love what I do!
Tonight, we celebrated a huge milestone: the Grand Opening of Green Creations, our store. The party was a perfect celebration. The looks on the ladies faces were priceless as they saw their beautiful work in a beautiful place. The sweet things their husbands and family members said to each of us just put the icing on the cake.

I'm will let the pictures do the talking. And if you are ever in the area, come on by the new store!