Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Impressions

First Impressions is a series of posts about one extraordinary person's first impressions of the United States. To read about how he got to the States, go here. To read all the posts in the series, go here.


The day finally came, and we moved him in to his dorm last week.

It was one of those happy/sad moments in life...I was so excited for all the adventures that await him at school, but was sad to drop him off and drive away. My mommy heart skipped a beat. 

The university hung a Jordanian flag in his honor to welcome him as a new international student. That made us all feel really proud!!

Ok! Enough of the sappy-ness of the drop off of our first kid to college. Now on to a few quotes from the enormous list of insightful and often hilarious observations since his arrival. We have so enjoyed seeing our culture through his eyes.  
"The amount of green I see where I am now is more than the amount of desert in the whole country where I came from. Just the back yard feels like a jungle to me!"

Leaving the desert...
landing in the jungle.

 "Cars are actually stopping whenever they see a stop sign, and giving signals when they want to go left or right, not acting like they are Chuck Norris and trying to go through other cars without crashing in to them and pretending that they can go through them like a phantom."
Image from Jordan Times


 "I have noticed there are no cats on the streets. Are there any cats in the US?"
For a full dissertation on trashy cats...go here.


And one of my favorite quotes:
"Americans spend a lot of money. Everyday."
And there you have an astute summary of America: beautiful, rule oriented, rich, animal lovers.

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    When History Repeats Itself

    Our family had an experience this week where history repeated itself. It happened at the zoo.

    Way back in 2005, we took the kids to a zoo right outside Amman. Going to a zoo in a developing country is quite different than going to a zoo in America. Most the animals in the zoo in Jordan were sick or 'deranged' animals that had been left behind from the Russian traveling zoos that passed through the country. Zoology is not offered at the local universities, so the people running the zoo are, uh, just people running a zoo.

    So, when my small boy walked past the bear exhibit {the angry, hungry, deranged bear in a cement block cage} the bear decided to roar at the top of his lungs and rear up on his legs so the small boy could see how small he was compared to a big, angry, hungry, deranged bear standing on hind legs.

    Fast forward to 2012. I took the kids to the zoo this past week and while going past the bear cage, my small daughter got to see how small she was compared to bear up on his hind legs.

    Except this time it was all clean, cute, cuddly, nice and safe. 

    We did, however have a very strange zoo experience that you would have thought should have happened in a developing country with deranged animals. One I would never expect to have seen in real life  mostly because I have seen this scene play out between the characters in Madagascar...a cartoon.

    We approached the chimpanzee enclosure. One of the chimpanzees was right in front, making some great monkey faces and sounds. He seemed to be quite pleased with himself.

    More and more people were gathering around as he carried on. He then bent down and picked up a piece of poop. Strange, I know. Picking up the poop just made him more charged up. He was starting to dance around and do the typical 'jumping, scratching the armpits' dance that monkey's are stereotypically known to do.

    It was right after I snapped this photo above, that I decided to switch my camera from photo to video mode. This monkey was getting down and I needed to get it on video! But, in the split second that I was flipping the buttons, that coo-coo chimp flung his poo right up in to the crowd! We screamed, he fell over laughing, and my son grabbed my arm and said "mom, we gotta get out of here!"

    That is when I decided two things:
    1. I should not be so critical of the deranged animals kept in a developing country's zoo.
    2. I did not evolve from monkeys because throwing poo at people and laughing about it has never crossed my mind.

    Quite a day. And this was the zoo trip right after we found out my son needed glasses {ostensibly so he could better see poo flying at him} and had his 8 stitches removed from his leg by an evidently inexperienced PA who missed two...so my former ER nurse husband had to finish the job when we got home.

    And I thought life in America would be relatively boring.

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Iftar in America

    We were invited to join some friends at their iftar last weekend and it was quite a night!

    First, some definitions {copied right from wikipedia}:

    Ramadan {Arabic: رمضان‎} is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; Muslims worldwide observe this as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids and sexual relations.

    Iftar {Arabic: إفطار‎}, refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is done right after Maghrib (sunset) time.

    Now, the opening scene:

    We were invited in and joined the crowd that was already gathering. A few guys were working on setting up a new TV that had recently arrived. One guy introduced them all like this:

    I'm Tunisian, that guy is Egyptian, this guy is Syrian, but was raised in Kuwait, this one is Palestinian, that guy is Iraqi, but lived in Jordan and this guy is Jordanian. We have been trying to decide what to watch on TV for the last 15 minutes and can't agree on anything. We may have to call Kofi Annan.

    That is when I knew we were in for a fantastic night. 

    We waited for the sun to set {which is quite late when Ramadan is during the summer!}. 

    And then, dug in to the amazing food!

    We lined up and cut into an entire lamb...

    accompanied by all the traditional delicious side dishes...

    I lost count, but I believe we met around 50 new people. {And a little girl that went 'shopping' in our shoe pile that accumulated by the front door and adopted my daughters flip flops for the remainder of the night.}

    After way to much food and wonderful conversations with people from all around the world, we walked away with big smiles and full bellies, having been reminded of all the delightful and quirky things we love about the Middle Eastern culture!

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Tangible Hope

    In 2009, while still living in the Middle East, we were introduced to an extraordinary kid. To stand back and look into his life, it sure seemed he had a lot of strikes against him. Ethnic minority, religious minority, single mother, disabled sister, absent father, low income. Frankly, very little reason for hope. What made this kid extraordinary was his zest for life, outlook of hope and expression of real dreams he had for his future. My husband and I had the privilege of getting to know him well over the last three years as he interned with my husband, tutored our kids in Arabic and karate {he is a black belt!} and as we championed him to finish well in high school.

    Well, his story only got better as he dared to dream big and apply to colleges in the States. He studied hard for his English language testing, SAT, and worked hard to save money. He applied, he wrote essays, he researched, and we all prayed. In early March he received amazing news that he was awarded a full ride scholarship to the very prestigious Hope College! {he forwarded the acceptance email from the college on to us with one simple question..."Is this a spam email?"} Sometimes, your 'dreams come true' are hard to believe!

    These are some of my favorite quotes out of the essays he wrote as he applied to this school:

    I was born in an Arab country and have lived in the Middle East all my life.  I’ve been through many tests regarding my faith both in living among people with a much different religion and temptations to immoral habits and thought patterns. During my childhood my mother has always been my shield and been my guide in the path of God.  She never gave up in planting seeds of faith that she always hoped would grow into my own relationship with God.

    My mother, sister and I have been experiencing very challenging situations physically, mentally and emotionally in which without our faith in God we would have fallen from the weight that we have been carrying through these years. And thanks to him, we never slept hungry, never hated ourselves or others and kept our hopes high towards the future.
    After I started being more independent and mature, I realized life has a bright side. Unfortunately, there are many people in this world that look in the empty half of the cup, not realizing that life is worth living and that God created every person in this world for a purpose.  As an expression of my faith, I have started to feel fulfilled whenever I help a person put a smile back on their face, to help them find hope.  Faith is the motivation required to show as many people as possible their great value in this world, make them realize that God is always watching over them and taking care of them through this life as he did for me.
    I would love to talk about the country I come from, the culture and the Jordanian community. Also because of some media sources telling about the terror side of Middle East, my voice and story can be some positive media that will tell the other side of the story.  I can help decrease the thoughts about Middle Easterners being primitive, violent or disrespectful and encourage those I meet to embrace and nurture racial, ethnic, cultural, and geographic diversity.

    Well, last week, having left his birth country for the first time on his first trip traveling on an airplane, he arrived to the States. He has started writing down all his experiences and we are excited to share some of them on this blog. It is always interesting {and hilarious} how someone from the outside sees American culture!

    Hope. Something amazing can happen if you hold on to it!

    Saturday, August 4, 2012

    More Prayers for Syria

    My blogging has been a bit silent this week. Syria weighs heavy on our hearts. Here is the most recent update we have received from our dear friends...
    {to read the first update, go here}.

    August 4th - Hope my email finds you well. Your emails and phone calls were real encouraging. I wrote this mail Wednesday night, but since that time till now, Friday noon, we hadn’t any internet access or cell phone coverage! This night (Friday night – Saturday morning) was the worse since 10 days! Very heavy explosions and sound of fighting not far from our home, by strong machine guns. The situation is still the same as for the centre of fights and also the same in the other safe areas. What is very new is that one of the main tribes or maybe more than one tribe (originally from Aleppo) decided to fight with the army of the government against the oppositions who are nearly from the same background.

    On Monday and Tuesday I went downtown again and  noticed that the people got used to the new situation, and the bakeries are working little bit more than the past few days. More streets are closed, and in addition to gas for cooking and gasoline for cars, a lack in Oxygen  for medical use start to be noticed.

    Let me explain the fear of the Christians here in Aleppo, it’s not only that they are not armed but they are afraid that the scenario in Homs (another city in the middle of Syria) could be repeated here. Because what happened there was that when the fights nearly came to its end in Bab Omar (an area there) the fundamental armed groups ran away towards the Christian area and forced some families to leave there apartments and the other families ran away from their fear, until now we have hundreds of Christian families out of their houses which is the same as the Iraqi scenario.

    Please keep us in your prayers.