Monday, December 31

we are kind of crazy

saturday night, we got up at 3 am (so i guess really sunday morning) to watch the patriots play football.

last night, jason and i stayed up till the wee hours of the morning playing cards because neither one of us wanted to forfeit.

it's been fun though. i really like vacation time.

on another note, we got some goodies from my parents via some friends visiting bethlehem. 2 lbs. of cheddar cheese and five packages of freeze dried bacon, plus other little goodies. i'm trying not to eat all of the cheese in one day. we had scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and bacon for breakfast this morning and it was divine.

Thursday, December 27

blessings and provisions

so i don't really understand why i always stress out about money, but i do. and every time that i am convinced that we didn't plan well enough or save enough or raise enough or whatever, God provides for us in a way that is beyond what i ever thought.

the last few weeks have been pretty tough financially. we realized how much stuff we are going to have to get for our baby, and while some of it will be gifts, some of it won't and it will be expensive. plus, having another member of the family will cost more money that we were expecting to be spending when we so carefully constructed our budget last year. our car keeps having problems that are getting progressively more expensive to fix. my phone is broken and cell phones are ridiculously over-priced here. the holiday season came with presents to buy and parties to throw and attend. so, i was getting pretty stressed out.

a few days ago, i had a small breakdown. i was so annoyed with God. i guess i thought that we had planned pretty well. and we had worked pretty hard to raise the support we need, budgeted wisely, saved where we could, spent where we needed to and we were running out. we were not to the point of wondering where our next meal was going to come from, but i felt like it was getting close to that. our savings was almost dry. we didn't have money to pay to fix our car, and while our mechanic was being so gracious by fixing it and saying we could pay him when we could, i had no idea when we would be able to pay him. we had already spent a good chunk of our emergency fund on things like buying a car and insurance and visas, so we didn't have money saved to pay for the delivery of our baby. and i was just sure that none of this would be provided. or at least not in the way that i thought was the best way. i always have this entitlement attitude, like i am "missionary" so whenever i am stressed, God should just snap his fingers to take care of the problem. and they way i saw it, His fingers were not snapping fast enough.

lucky for me, God is patient. i know, and always do know, that He will take care of us. He always has. last year when we were in a financial crunch, the same thing happened. i'm sure next year will be the same. and the year after that. every time that i feel like God is maybe forgetting about us or not keeping his end of the deal, He blesses us beyond what i was even asking for. we have received more money that i was even asking God to provide right now. our car is paid for. our savings is replenished. we got christmas money that can buy a lot baby stuff. we can continue saving for things like a plane ticket home this summer since immediate needs are now taken care of.

i wish that i wasn't so stubborn or hard headed or whatever and would just learn to really know that God will never leave us and will always take care of us. it sure would save me a lot of stress. as i've been pregnant, i've stated to think more and more about the father-child relationship that we have with Him. when our daughter is born, i will do every thing in my power to take care of her and to protect and provide for her. lucky for me, my heavenly Father has way more power to protect and provide for me than i could ever even think of having. not just financially either. that is the hardship that i've have been facing, but there have been so many times this year that He has provided emotionally or spiritually just when i have needed it and just when i felt like i was on my own.

so that's just some thoughts that i've been thinking a lot lately. i serve an amazing God. i serve a God who loves me more than i can know and who will always be with me. even when i forget his goodness, even when i get mad at him for really dumb reasons, even when i have such little faith, he chooses to bless me and to show me love. He is my Father and i am his child.

Sunday, December 23

Merry Christmas from Bethlehem

Bethlehem is decorated and ready for Christmas. Tourists are coming every day to see the birthplace of Jesus. Children are out of school for the holidays and are enjoying window shopping and Christmas candy. Christmas carols are played from shops and can be heard all evening long as you drive through town. Santa, or Baba Noel (Father Christmas), is all around, passing out candy and trinkets to children. Families are together as people have time off of work, school, and university. It is a very happy season, as people are enjoying themselves and seem to forget for a moment about the hardships of their lives.
This has been an especially busy holiday season in Bethlehem this year because the Muslim feast of Eid il Adha and Christmas fall at almost exactly the same time of year. Eid il Adha is a feast of sacrifice, where Muslim families sacrifice a goat to ask forgiveness for their sins. Each family also must provide a goat to a poorer family, as an example of sacrificial giving. The feast comes at the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that is used as a way to win favor with Allah. Wednesday was the first day of the feast and it ends on Saturday.
It is very interesting to see how this year everyone in Bethlehem is celebrating the forgiveness of their sins. The Christian families are using this time to remember the birth of Jesus and how his coming to earth provided us with a way to be saved. The Muslim families are using this time to celebrate the forgiveness of their sins through the sacrifice that they performed. However, this forgiveness is temporary, as it must be granted year after year. What an opportunity we as followers of Jesus have been given to use this season to share the unconditional love and forgiveness that God offers each of us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Please pray for the people of Bethlehem this Christmas.

Pray for the tourists who come and see the lives of the Palestinians. Pray that they will see that there is a Church here that needs to be loved and encouraged. Pray that they will see that there are Muslims who need to know the love of Jesus.

Pray for the Christians who live here. Pray that they will be encouraged during this season. Pray that they will be lights to their Muslim neighbors.

Pray for the Muslims who live here. Pray that they will know the love of Jesus and that they will turn to him for forgiveness and unconditional acceptance. Pray that seeds of hope will be planted in their hearts as they see and participate in the Christmas celebrations.

Pray for all who live in this land. Pray that the peace that Jesus brought with his birth will be known in the hearts of all who come to Bethlehem this Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27

Theft in Beit Sahour

Last April, when Sarah and I were still working at the House of Hope, we bought a small scooter. A Sym Superduke 125. I have primarily been using that as my way of getting around town, while Sarah uses our car. Typically, we are very careful to lock it up at night so it will not get stolen, however, there were some crafty thieves that came by the other night and were able to make off with it.

This is kind of like my scooter, except it is in much better shape and mine is much less fuzzy looking.

Friday night after we realized the theft had occurred we went to the police station to file a report. We were forced to do this entirely in Arabic, since no one at the station spoke English. We left the station expecting never to see the Superduke again, but we were wrong.

On Monday morning the Police called my house before I went to work and told me that they had found the bike. I couldn't really understand his responses when I asked what condition the bike was in and where they found it. I soon learned.

Apparently, the thieves had decided to go for a joy ride after breaking the plastic cover from the front of the bike and hot-wiring it. They then popped the rear inner tube, crashed into a ditch, and then ran off with the battery and one of the side panels. When I first saw what had happened to the bike I thought it wasn't even mine. The problems:

Battery was gone
Ignition cables were cut
Left side panel was gone
Front panel was broken
Rear panel and light fixture was broken
Rear tire was flat

Fortunately, the bike still ran and I was able to get it to my mechanic's shop, where it still sits. We are still working on getting all the parts that I need and I am certain that we won't figure out who did it (not that it really matters). The situation is a pain, but it certainly could have turned out much worse. There were also an number of positives that came out of the situation.

The ability to practice Arabic in a sink-or-swim situation and in testing new vocabulary (speaking with the police and with the mechanics has been great practice and a very new kind of practice).

A new friend (Musa) from the mechanic shop.

The ridiculously kind response from the community: We had our scooter stolen 4 days ago. In those 4 days, we have had 2 policemen, a taxi driver, a mechanic, and one random lady stop us on the street to apologize or express regret for what happened. It is so incredible to see the way that people have responded to this. Overall, I still prefer that it wouldn't have happened. But it did. And considering that, I think the whole thing turned out pretty well.

P.S. Please, please pray for the Annapolis Conference that starts today. I know there is not much optimism around this event, but good could come from it, as could evil.

Friday, November 23

Thanksgiving Extravaganza

Happy Thanksgiving! We got to celebrate in good American style with lots of people and waaaay too much food. We had a meal at our house with some friends from Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Most were Americans, but we had a few Palestinians, a Canadian, an English couple, and an Austrailian. All in all, there were 27 people over here.

Jason and I made the turkey and gravy, which actually turned out and was really yummy. I made green bean casserole, and we had other people bring the rest. It was all here...turkey, ham, potatoes, rolls, salads, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and lots of pies. Here's some pictures of the event.

The turkey still had a head when we bought it...

Making the green bean casserole, my must-have for Thanksgiving.

Jason making his awesome gravy

Rachel cutting the ham

Ethan, Wes, and Trey carving the turkey.

Most of the food


More eating

One other awesome thing about our meal was we had a inflatable bouncy castle for the kids. There were seven kids over here, all under the age of 10. Fun times. Jason, Salim, Andrew, and Munther braved the cold and the kids to set up the castle and supervise.

The bouncy castle

Munther getting beat up by the kids. This was his idea of supervising.

Munther...tryptophan strikes again.

Sunday, November 11

New and Improved

i moved our online photo album and changed the link on the right. so check it out sometime. there's not too many new pictures up yet, but it is improved and there will be more new ones on the way.

also, a disclaimer to my last post...liz, i know the difference between sheep and goats. but there are a few sheep in the pictures and there were more further down the hill. however, maybe i didn't get them because i was trying to inconspicuously take the pictures out of our window, so i didn't look like a dumb foreigner gawking at the shepherds. but thanks for the correction. also, the sheep (or goats) weren't doing the talking, the shepherd lady was (are they still called shepherds if they're a woman? or is is shepherdess? or something entirely different?), who is also further down the hill with the rest of her sheep.

Friday, November 9

so this morning, i was sitting in our office, checking my facebook site and i heard a noise outside our door. i thought it was just birds. and then i heard talking and a lot of clicking sounds. so i looked out. it was not the birds, but instead this.

i don't think i've ever had sheep graze right outside my window before.

Wednesday, November 7

The News

1. We are having a girl. Or at least, there is a 99.9% chance we are having a girl. She will be here in April, inshalla.

2. Our memory chip for our PS2 is corrupted and won't save or load games. This means any time I want to play Dance Dance Revolution (which has been pretty often lately), I have to start a whole new game and all of my awesome stats are lost. Sad day.

3. Work is going well for both of us. Or at least for me it is, and I think it is for Jason as well.

4. Yesterday, it was hot and sunny. Today, it is cool, cloudy, and smells like rain. This may mean it will be difficult to find ice cream in the near future.

5. We've been having kids from the House of Hope over each week for dinner. Week 1 was Sheda and Kais, week 2 was Hiba and Aya. This week we're taking a break and probably having Nabil and Mhammad next week. It's so fun to hang out with them again and they love it.

Monday, October 29

Our Rough Life

Really, our life is not rough. It has it's moments, but we also get to do things like spend the afternoon floating in the Dead Sea. So here are some pictures for you all to enjoy. If you come and visit us, you can float in the Dead Sea too.

Sunset and the Jordanian Mountains

Free Mud Baths

Ein Gedi, where we hiked last year, but forgot our camera.

I also added pictures on Facebook of our recent tour of Hebron and our new apartment. You should be able to view the ones of Hebron here and our apartment here, even if you're not my friend.

Saturday, October 27


I don't know if any of you noticed this story in the news, but earlier this week someone broke into our church in Jerusalem and tried to burn it down. Fortunately, the damage that was done was relatively minor. A lot of chairs were destroyed, along with the sound system and some musical instruments. No one was hurt and there was no structural damage to the building. In fact, we were able to have our service there this morning.

Even though the walls were still black and the air still smelled like smoke, we had a pretty awesome time of prayer and worship during the middle of the service. The congregation that Sarah and I belong to is actually a Baptist congregation that is pretty buttoned-down. However, during the middle of the singing at the beginning, folks just started shouting out prayers and praises to God, some people started singing and clapping. It was a pretty cool experience, in my opinion anyway. It was one of those moments when God kind of steps in and takes over what was meant to be an orderly and planned out worship service. I think we need a lot more of that and I hope that today will be the beginning of a new practice of listening to and responding to the leading of God, even if it messes up our plans. I know I could do a much better job of that than I do.

In much more disturbing news. I know some of you already know about this, but perhaps not everyone heard, a young Palestinian Christian from Gaza named Rami was killed a few weeks ago on his way home from work. It appears to be the work of Islamic extremists, but we don't really know yet. Please pray for his family and for Gazan Christians. Please also pray for Rami's attackers and for those who attacked the Church. Pray that God will bless them and enrich their lives, and please pray that Jesus will call them to himself.

I should also point out that in both of the above instances, the vast majority of Muslims and Jewish people have been loving and supporting toward those who have been hurt by minority groups within their own religion. Praise God for such love. It has done a lot to maintain peace and prevent the desire for vengeance and retribution. Thank you guys for your prayers.


Friday, October 5

we went to the dr. today and got a picture of the ultra-sound. we still don't know if it's a boy or a girl, the dr. said we can tell next month for sure, but he has a guess. only, he wouldn't tell us his guess. but here is our little baby, 14 weeks along.

Friday, September 28

Allright, finally you all will be graced with glorious pictures of the beautiful land of Palestine. Last weekend, Sarah, Andrew, Eman, Lindsay, and I went hiking through a valley called Wadi Akhratoon. The purpose of this hike was to take pictures and map out a route for an alternative tourism program that we are putting together to raise money for Paidia. Fortunately, we also got to hike through a gorgeous Wadi and spend about an hour or an hour and half caving.

The view at the beginning of the hike

About halfway through, this is what most of landscape looks like.

Inside some old monsastic ruins, which are everywhere along this hike

Fresh and clean before entering the cave

After caving. Apparently Sarah's shirt is dirt-repellent. Mine is not.

Wednesday, September 26

tug-of-war and water balloons

since my last entry was about how normal life is here, i thought i'd share about my afternoon yesterday. it's nothing too weird, but just not the go-home-take-a-nap-arabic-lessons afternoon.

so i was sitting at my desk and ala' (one of my co-workers) asked me if i knew about the bbq for lunch. i said no, so he told me that all the students, faculty, staff, and administration were invited to beit alaqa (the house of joy) for a bbq. so i said, hey free lunch, i'll be there.

well, it was not just a bbq. it was a field day. like you have in middle school. or freshman orientation. we did get to eat, which was very good food, and then the games began.

the students at bbc are divided into five groups with teacher sponsors. they're like small groups. so then all the volunteers/internationals/random people from the media department got thrown together on a team. i was going to just eat and run, but andrea, a lady who teaches english classes here and is a new friend, volunteered me for the team. so i played.

our team was pretty dominating. we did tug-of-war, electricity, water balloon toss, peg the sponge at your teammates face (i don't know the real name of it), shaving cream and bamba (peanut butter cheetos), sack race, mummy wrapping. i'm pretty sure we won each event, but we were only against one other team the whole time. i don't know who won overall. by the end i wasn't very concerned about it either.

it was fun for the most part, but then all the water fights made me feel like i was a freshman in college again. and i liked being a freshman in college, but i'm not anymore. also, people were very concerned that i was participating in games like tug-of-war (which i did not really try to hard in), anything that involved running, anything that involved throwing or catching anything, and anything that involved hopping because i'm pregnant. it was funny at first, and then i realized that i have another six months of this ahead of me and it was not quite as funny anymore.

anyway, it was a fun afternoon. it was fun to meet new people and see how the students were getting to know eachother. it was fun to see the teachers enjoying the time with the students. it was fun to make some new friends. it was even fun to try not to be a party-pooper and think that i'm way to old for this kind of stuff.

Thursday, September 13

just life

so, life is back in full-swing. it is weird and nice to be back here. it's weird that it feels so much like home, but it's also nice. it's weird that it feels so normal to me, our daily life, but it's also really nice. i've been trying to think of something to post about, but not much exciting happens in our life, so i haven't. last year, we had tons of stories at this time. stories about the kids, stories about the culture, stories about things that happen every day that seemed so out of the ordinary to us. but now, it's just our life. and which i find it cool and interesting, i don't feel like a lot of other people will.

a typical day for me goes like this. i get up around 7, eat breakfast, ride our scooter to work, and work till 1. at work, i talk to people who come to the bible college, i answer emails, i have tea. after work, i eat lunch and usually lounge around for an hour or so before arabic classes. then i drag myself down to arabic lessons and am confused for an hour, learning to write what still seems to me like a secret code that i don't have the decoder to. then sometimes i'll go to the store or the bakery or the butcher to get stuff for dinner, sometimes i'll go get some ice-cream, then i make dinner, hang out with jason, maybe go visit some people, maybe go to a coffee shop, then i go to bed, and start over the next morning. i guess it does make it that much more interesting that all of this goes on in palestine, a third-world country where i don't speak the language. but even that isn't that crazy to me anymore.

we do still see things that we think are funny or odd. especially when we first got back. but even four weeks later, it just kind of has settled into life. things that were huge adventures last year, like grocery shopping or trying to find places, have become routine. it's still not nearly as easy and comfortable as it is for me the US, but it's a lot closer than i expected it to be.

so what has happened...well, we have our apartment mostly set up. i keep meaning to take pictures. we still need a bed, but i think we're getting that tomorrow. we didn't have to buy hardly anything, which was a huge blessing. people just keep giving us stuff. of course, beggars can't be choosers, so we have a bit of a wicker theme going on in the living room, which is not my first choice, but it's like we live on an island, so that's fun. we are buying a car, which i'm super excited about because it means i don't have to drive the scooter around everywhere now. which has been fun and all, but i'm about done with it. it's still nice when we go to jerusalem and don't have to wait in line at stoplights, but driving in bethlehem scares me and i'm excited to have a car protecting me from the crazy drivers. we're making friends and renewing friendships. the people at our church in jerusalem have been super welcoming since we've been back, which has been a huge blessing to us. we're meeting a lot of arabs as well and finding more ways to become involved in life here. so that's about it. our life in a nutshell. so until something exciting happens...i'll be here, just living life.

oh, and also, we're having a baby.

Monday, September 3

The Other

One of the stated goals of Paidia's involvement in Bethlehem is to help increases understanding and tolerance for "the Other" (Muslim & Christian, Fatah & Hamas, Poor & Rich). I am starting to realize how much work I have before I can see the other as like myself.

As I was driving home last night, I saw a young (mid-thirties) Muslim couple walking arm-in-arm, whispering in each other's ears. As I think of my first weeks in Palestine, I remember the idea that Muslims (the ultimate Other for many Americans) live, think, and act in most of the same ways that I do was almost impossible to conceive. As I started hanging out here more, and I began to talk, eat, work, argue, drive, walk, shop, play sports, and live with Palestinian Muslims, I realized the total absurdity of this attitude. However, for just a moment last night, my old prejudices returned as I was surprised by the fact that a married Muslim couple was in love. I am embarrassed to remember my surprise.

As usual, I am not reaching for any specific conclusion here. But I do want to challenge anyone reading this (as if there was someone) to think about the Other who is present in your life sphere. Once you have a specific individual in mind, think about what you have done over the last 48 hours (perhaps you have shopped, eaten, prayed, exercised, or driven). Imagine that person doing some of those things. What is your gut reaction to those images? Just think of your initial impulse, not what you are supposed to feel. I think I am figuring out that I am more prejudiced than I thought.

Sunday, August 26


During June of this year, when Sarah and I were looking forward to coming back to states, visiting friends and family, eating familiar foods, etc, I often referred to my impending departure as the time I was "going home." It made sense to talk that way, and I do feel in many ways that Siloam Springs (and Little Rock, though I've only lived there for 3 months) is home.

Then, near the end of our summer in Arkansas, I started referring to my impending departure as the time I was "going home." This made sense as well, since this is where some of my close friends live, where my job is, and it's the only place where Sarah and I have our own living space. In many ways, this feels like home. I am used to rhythm of life here and the smells, sights, and tastes of Bethlehem are incredibly comforting.

I don't know whether I have two homes or none. I suppose Sarah and I's experiences are far from unique, as many ex-pats, missionaries, and other transient beings have had similar impressions. I'm not so much looking for an answer to the question "where is my home" as I am trying to figure out how to make myself feel at home wherever I find myself.

Maybe it's just me, but I have a sense that this transient sense of lacking belonging may make it easier to consider myself an earthly sojourner. My citizenship is in God's Kingdom, therefore my home is with Him, not in a specific earthly place. Oh well, I suppose I haven't thought this through all the way, but you can look forward to some pictures of our new apartment, which Sarah will let me post as soon as we have a tablecloth that matches our decorations.

Saturday, June 23

Saturday, June 16


well, i (sarah) am back home. it was really nice to wake up in my old room, especially since the bed is new and nice and comfy. i do miss jason though.

please by praying for jason this week. things in the middle east are getting kinda rough, if you haven't read the news. bethlehem is relatively unaffected by everything in gaza right now, or was on friday morning when i left. so we are safe where we are, but it is affecting millions of palestinians who are our neighbors in towns close by. pray that peace will somehow prevail in the land.

well, i'm off to breakfast at cathy's corner. the the tour of eating begin!

Tuesday, June 12

The Headlines

This is a little update we just sent ot our support list. I'm to lazy to write an origanal post, but here's the headlines from the last few weeks.

The last few weeks have been quite a blur, complete with flurries of activity, many "see you laters" and a few goodbyes (for now) with our House of Hope family. The children will return to their homes for summer break on Friday and Sarah will leave early that morning to return stateside. It's hard to believe that these 10 months we've spent in Palestine are almost over, but it actually is true.

So much has happened in the last few weeks that we will have to just give you the highlights (and lowlights). Please don't expect any great words of wisdom concerning our time here, they won't be ready until we are able to rest and reflect. Without further ado, here are the highlights.

Light of the World (Formerly Hiba Amru Charitable Fund) Benefit Dinner
Last Saturday night, at 7pm, the first annual Light of the World Foundation benefit dinner took place at the Bethlehem Hotel. Sarah took the lead in organizing and staging this dinner in order to benefit the newly established Light of the World Foundation, which is the newest (more official) incarnation of the Hiba Amru Charitable Fund, which we have been working to establish in order to help a young girl from Hebron to receive a Kidney transplant.

We were able to raise about 3400 shekels during the course of the dinner, and though it wasn't quite the financial windfall we were hoping for, it did provide some valuable experience regarding how to organize and run such an event, and some much-needed exposure in the community. Sarah expects that this will become at least an annual event, and we may (if you are lucky) stage a similar event stateside if the opportunity arises.

The Adventure Gardens
Construction on Paidia's Adventure Gardens has finally begun. Although the beginning of the project was fraught with delays, we have now completed the structure of the 40ft climbing tower that now stands on what was formerly a Jordanian and (later) an Israeli military base. We hope to begin holding summer camps by the first week in July, and therefore must complete construction of the low elements, at least one side of the climbing tower, and all our safety checks by that time.

This project has been an adventure, and most every minute that Jason is not at the House of Hope, he is working on the tower in Beit Sahour. The last week and a half of his time here will be very busy, as he is planning for the summer, trying to finish strong at the House of Hope, and contribute to the construction project at Paidia. A new wrinkle was thrown into this project this morning, when Jason woke up with severe back pain, preventing him from working at the site for the immediate future.

Computer Theft
Unfortunately, all the positive excitement was apparently not enough. Sunday night, when we decided to spend the night with some friends of ours in Beit Sahour, our room was broken into from our balcony door. Fortunately, the thieves left our money, passports, camera, (as well as the money that we raised at the Foundation dinner) in our room. They did, however, manage to make off with our laptop computer and a DVD player that we were borrowing from a friend. The government situation being what it is, there is really no reason to alert the local police, and we realize that, barring God's intervention, we should not expect to get the things back.

We have already been able to make contact with someone in order to replace our computer on the cheap, but our backup CD's were also in the computer case, meaning that many of our pictures, documents, and other personal files are now gone. Although we are frustrated by this turn of events, we are thankful that we lost only things, and that God closed the eyes of the thieves so that they did not take the other things in the room.

Another sign of God's grace in the midst of frustration was Sarah's comment that she made to me (Jason) last night as we talked about the theft. "I hope that whoever stole the computer was a poor person who has a family to feed, and they are able to get the money they need from it." My response was far less generous, but Sarah's merciful spirit shone through clearly at a time of crisis, and I thank God for such an incredible blessing.

Financial Support
We are not entirely sure exactly what our support situation is right now, because we were keeping track of our financials using spreadsheets on our laptop. However, we should be able to rebuild our records within a few days (and with some help from you, Eric) and we'll know more once we are stateside.

Prayer Requests
Some of these may seem a bit disconnected from the rest of the e-mail, but these requests are really what are on our hearts and lips, and we ask you to join with us in talking to our loving Father about these concerns.

Please pray:
For the safety and development of the children over their summer break
That we will not forget too much Arabic during the two months in the US
For safe travel and protection from jet lag
For Jason's back pain to lessen so that he can return to work on the construction project
For the House of Hope, Paidia, and Light of the World to grow and to glorify God in their work
That God will provide the money that we need for the coming year

Monday, June 4

crunch time

i have 12 days left here. jason has one week more than that. it's weird to be almost done. i keep saying that i only have X days/weeks left, but it doesn't really feel like that.

i'm really gonna miss the kids. iyad didn't come back after this last break and ahmud was sent home, so we've already gotten to see what life will be like without some of them in our lives. jason's a lot sadder about it than me, but i think if any of the girls hadn't come back, i would understand more. it will be a big shock to be able to wake up and not have to worry about if asma is up running around, if baraa fell out of bed, if aya is invading someone elses bed after she peed in her own. some of that will be nice. i hope it will be relaxing. but i'll still miss it.

so jason and i are really busy right now. i kind of like it because it keeps me distracted and gives me things to do. but i also get overwhelmed and do things like write on my blog or watch the office instead of being productive. i'm trying to wrap up our work at the house of hope, working on a benefit dinner for light of the world that is this saturday, figure out what's going home and what's staying here, and still have energy to take care of the kids. jason's working two pretty much full-time jobs. they're building the climbing wall and the low ropes elements for paidia this week. he's really excited, but also really exhausted.

we're trying to figure out when we're gonna get to see people this summer, so if you'll be near siloam or little rock, let us know and we'll try to find a time. if you're not close to those places, buy us a plane ticket and we'll come see you.

Wednesday, May 30

becoming real people

yesterday while the girls were playing, aya made me some "tea". we have play dishes for the girls and aya loves them. and she was so cute when she was making it and serving it. she was like a little person. she carried everything over on a tray, stacked carefully and then laid it all out, one thing at a time, just like the women do here. then she served me tea, put some food on my little plate, served herself and told me to eat. it was just like a grownup.

it made me think about what these girls will be like in five or ten years. aya, asma, razan, and hiba come from families who love them a lot and treat them basically like a normal kid. i'm sure that when aya lives at home, she'll learn how to really make tea and serving it to guests might be one of her jobs. and she'll be good at it. asma loves to clean and i bet when she's older, her mom will help her learn how to clean the house and asma will be able to help out. razan will do anything to please adults. i can see her doing laundry or the dishes...probably not very well, because she gets distracted, but i think her family is the kind of family who will let her try to help. hiba is teated like any other of the girls when she goes home. she loves doing dishes and helping in the kitchen. it's fun to think they they will all be adults one day and i think they will have the chance to contribute to their family. it's fun to see how they play now and think of how that will help them in the future.

i don't know about sheda and baraa. baraa is pretty physically disabled, so she can't walk or even stand still without someone right next to her or she'll fall down. her parents love her, but they're really overwhelmed. sheda is just crazy and i don't if she'll ever calm down. her three sisters are almost as crazy and her parents are completely overwhelmed and don't know what to do with them. it makes me think of the importance of teaching them little things that will lead to a little independence, like how to really wash their hands, how to shower themselves, how to get dressed and put their clothes away. i don't know how much sheda and baraa will ever be able to contribute to their families (especially in the eyes of this culture), but at least i can help them to not be as much of a burden.

sometimes i feel like we the kids haven't changed that much over the year. but then i think of how they really were. sheda was crazier, wouldn't sit still, peed in her pants almost every day, spit inside, wouldn't share toys. now she sits through most meals, goes to the bathroom really well, and this morning she was actually playing with aya. happily. hiba didn't talk, she didn't play with the girls a lot, she didn't do much of anything. now she's at least trying to talk all the time, she makes all the beds every morning, she prays at night, she loves to help us take care of baraa. aya was like a turtle in a shell when she got here. she still doesn't talk to the house-parents a lot, but she loves to play with the other girls, she makes me tea, she plays outside, she dresses herself every day without hardly any prompting. asma was such a brat and wouldn't listen to anything i said, she just did her own thing, she grabbed toys and threw lots of fits. now i just look at her and she listens and she's way better at sharing. baraa wouldn't listen to anything anyone said when she came. she fell all the time because she wouldn't pay attention to what was going on, she would get out of her bed during nap time. now she loves to play with the other girls, she's getting better at waiting for us to help her walk or get up, she lets hiba help her. razan didn't talk much and was really selfish with toys or anything when she got here. now she's great at playing with the girls, she'll share things, sometimes without being told to. she loves to help hiba make the bed or help fold laundry, things she didn't do when she came.

it seems like little improvements that may not seem to matter. but i can see them becoming more like "real people", not just little kids. even if aya is just making fake tea, it means she's paying attention to life, watching carefully, and wanting to be like an adult. even is sheda is just barely sharing toys, it means less fights with her siblings for her parents to deal with. even if hiba is just learning how to wash dishes and still isn't very great at it, it means she is willing to help and will be able to be a part of her family. when i think of how far the girls have come it makes all the late nights, all the fights, all the putting them in time-outs and feeling awful for it, all the peed beds, all the headaches worth it.

Monday, May 28

i think next year i'm going to be working at bethlehem bible college. i'm excited about it and glad i have something that i know i'm coming back to. besides cooking and cleaning for jason, of course.

i'm home in 18 days and jason follows a week later.

Friday, May 11

bring on the meat

last night, jason and i went to a bbq at the house of some new friends. the dad runs a falafel shop down the street that we've eaten at a few times. last week, we went by to say hi and really talk to him for the first time and he was like, "so, when are you coming over to my house for a bbq?". this culture is great like that. you meet someone one time and you have them over to eat. and you really mean the invitations. because we said, "sure, we'd love to come sometime", and his response was, "yes, i know. when? today? tomorrow?". so we settled on thursday night.

this put jason and i in a bit of a pickle. thursday night we were taking the kids to mundo's, a pizza restaurant, for dinner. the pizza is really good there. i love it. but we knew that we would have more food shoved in front of us at the bbq than anyone would ever think of eating, so we shouldn't eat any pizza. but we did. jason was smart and at least only ate one piece. but when i finished my first piece, they brought a brand new, hot, cheesy pizza out and sat it right in front of me. so i ate another piece. i figured i had about two hours before i'd have to eat again, so i'd be ok. i was wrong.

we got to the house and abu mahmud was out grilling. they have a beautiful yard area with real grass and an arab style table...mattresses in a square with pillows all around and big sheet in the middle. it was so great. the weather was perfect. it's been hotter than heck the last few days, but yesterday it was cloudy and warm and it even rained a little bit. mostly just sprinkles off and on, but it was still rain. so we sat down and made ourselves at home.

abu mahmud handed us each a steak sandwich. they were probably only 6 oz. steaks, maybe a little bigger. and they were soooooo good. juicy, lots of flavor, fresh off the grill. i told him how good they were and he said that i shouldn't get too excited, this was just the appetizer. i laughed. but he was serious.

then they started bringing out the second appetizer. hummus, babaganoush, french fries, bread. there were two dishes of each, one for me and jason and one for everyone else. i was already getting full and i had no idea what was coming next, so i didn't eat. but then aida, the wife, shoved the fries in front of me and told me to eat them because they were hot and fresh. i offered her some and she declined because she'd just eaten an hour ago. well, so had i, but that excuse apparently doesn't work for guests. so jason and i picked slowly at the fries and hummus, hoping to not have to eat too much before the main course.

and then the main course arrived. his sons had left the meat that his shop, so they had to go back and get it. they came in carrying two buckets of food. yes, buckets. not big bowls or huge serving platters. buckets. abu mahmud started to put the chicken on the grill. it looked and smelled delicious. i think he cooked two chickens. and there were eight adults and four little kids eating. then came the kebabs. they cooked them as little meatball things. there were probably forty of those. and this is in addition to the steak appetizer that everyone has already had. and as if that wasn't enough food, he threw on a couple more steaks and then so kindly plopped them onto our plates before we could say anything.

so two steaks, one chicken breast, two chicken legs, one kebab, a handful of fries, and a spoonful of hummus later, i couldn't move or think about eating anything else. at this point, they were actually very un-arab and stopped putting food on our plate when we said we'd had enough. most places we've been, we've gotten at least one more serving at this point, especially jason. it was some of the best meat i've eaten since i've been here. and probably more meat i've eaten since i've been here.

we stayed for about another hour, talking about what we do, what we're doing next year, where their families are from, stories from america (abu mahmud has been there twice). it was a really fun evening and i hope we get to spend more time with them. aida, the wife, has offered to teach me how to cook arab food. i think i'm going over next weekend. they told us when we move to our new apartment, they can be our first guests and i can cook them an arab meal. they were such a fun family, very relaxed and welcoming, doing their best to make us feel at home and make our time here as good as it can be. also, they gave us ice cream, which was actually a normal texture and no toothpaste aftertaste, so we'll definitely stay friends with them.

Wednesday, May 2

pics from ramalla

View from the Top

The park from the top of the ferris wheel

Fida, Razan, and Baraa

Fida, Razan, and Bara'a. this is the spinny ride i made nabil go on that made him cry. i have no heart.

Sarah, Ahmud, and Nabil

Me, Ahmud, and Nabil on the spinny ride

Fida, Sheda, and Aya

Fida, Sheda, and Aya

bumper cars

Bumper Cars!

Baraa, Razan, and Hiba

Bara'a, Razan, and Hiba

lunch 2

Lunch time!

Bus Ride

The Party Bus

Monday, April 30

field trip!

today we went to ramalla with all of the kids from the school and the boarding section. i wasn't too excited about the day because i was told we're going to a park. and i really like a lot of the teachers, but when the kids are on the playground, they just sit around and talk to each other. so that's what i was picturing all day and the houseparents having to take care of all 30 or so kids. not fun.

but i was wrong. it was an amazing day. we actually went to a (sort of) amusement park. it was more carnival type rides, but the kids LOVED it. the houseparents just hung out with the kids from the boarding section, and we all kind of stayed in a group, which was really fun. most of the kids loved the rides, i think all except for nabil and sheda. i made nabil go on a spinney ride with me and he was terrified. then i made him go on the ferris wheel, which i thought would be less scary, but he was still scared. poor kid. i made sheda go on a different spinney ride and she wouldn't hang out with me the rest of the day near rides because she was afraid i would drag her onto one. although i did trick her into going on a "roller coaster" (a very small roller coaster) at the end of the day, which she didn't mind too much. the highlight was definitely the bumper cars. all of the kids and houseparents went at the same time and we were the only ones in at that time. it was great. all the kids loved it and i think all the houseparents got to take out some aggression on the kids. i slammed into sheda's car a lot.

the bus ride was also an adventure. the kids were surprisingly well behaved and sat most of the time. it was quite the party bus though. fida brought a drum so we could sing and clap and dance in our seats the whole way. and if she wasn't playing, the driver had music blaring. it was fun on the way there...annoying on the way back. no concept of sleeping after a long day like that.

i took a few pictures, but then our batteries died, so when i recharge them, i'll put the pictures up.

Friday, April 20

Turkey Pictures!!

Flowers and Blue Mosque 3

The Blue Mosque. There were tulips everywhere.

Blue Mosque 5

Inside the Blue Mosque.

Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Jason and Sarah and Blue Mosque

Jason and Sarah

Tulip Festival Band

These guys were really funny. They played "Que Sera Sera", "Satisfaction (Can't Get No)", and a wired mix of other songs.

Aya Sofia from Blue Mosque 2

The Aya Sofia

Aya Sofia 6

Inside Aya Sofia

Whirling Dervishes

Whilring Dervishes at the Sufi Monestary

Bospherous Cruise 8

Bospherous Cruise. (Although my friend April pointed out that it's not really a cruise if they don't give you free food. So really, the Bospherous Boat Ride.)

Harem 9

The Harem in Topkapi Palace

Topkopi 6

Topkapi Palace

Sarah and Nana at topkopi

Sarah and Nana at Topkapi

Suleymaniye Mosque 5

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque 6

Inside the Suleymaniye Mosque

Mosaic Museum 10

From the Mosaic Museum. Notice the blood dripping off the antelope.

Istiklal 3

Istaklal. An estimated one million people walk this street every day. We were two of them every day were were in Istanbul. Because we're that cool.

View from Laurie's 3

The view we woke up to every day. Topkapi is on the left, then the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque. The waterway is the Golden Horn and behind the monuments you can kind of see the Sea of Marmara.

and there's more pictures from turkey, as well as a bunch from christmas break and new ones of the kids in our photo album. check them out.