Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas!

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Trying on a Christmas tree hat

Christmas Tree Collage
Christmas tree at the mall

The month of December has been a very busy one for us! We covered a lot of ground in our language studies and finished up with a big test at the end of our semester. I think I can speak for both of us to say we were mentally exhausted! It also started cooling down in our country and without having central heating in our apartment, that's been a big adjustment as well. So far the lowest it's gotten down to has been 45 degrees I think. We do have a few space heaters so that helps knock the chill off the room. Everyone's told us how expensive electricity is so we haven't wanted to run them a lot. We did get a gas heater a few weeks so that has helped out a lot! We have had to resort to sleeping in multiple layers of clothing though and have woken up seeing our breath on one occasion, fun times!

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Watching cartoons on the plane

For Christmas we have gone to the Gulf for a few weeks to hang out with some new friends that are from the States. It's interesting to see how different is is here. I think I wrote about that in a previous post. You better believe we hit up Krispy Kreme as soon as we got here for a dozen donuts, oh yeah!

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Hello taste of home!

Christmas Eve was spent with friends singing carols and eating cupcakes in celebration of Jesus' birthday. Earlier in the day all the kids got together and made the cupcakes and decorated them. Judah was very confused when he put icing and sprinkles on his cupcakes but then couldn't eat them!

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Hey! What's under the tree!?

Christmas Day we woke up and I told Judah Merry Christmas. He then looked at me and said, "Merry Christmas! Jesus' birthday! Santa Claus brought presents!" It was really cute. He opened his stocking first and then his presents from under the tree. He did great this year and was really into opening the gifts by himself. He even kept the paper all together and was really organized! Where does that come from? His favorite toys by far have been his Buzz Lightyear doll and his VTech Laptop (from Mamaw) that he calls his "pooter." Haha!


I think it goes without saying that it's hard being away from family for Christmas but thankfully we were able to talk to people back home on Skype! (We love you and miss you!)

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Stocking time!

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Gift exchange with friends

We have really been enjoying being in the Gulf so far, especially the warm weather in the 70s! We've also really enjoyed taking long, hot showers, washing clothes then getting to use a dryer and eating lots of yummy Asian food! It's also been great being surrounded by friends with young kids so Judah has had lots of playmates around his age. Oh and not to mention the brief reprieve from language study too of course!

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where did November go?

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Judah was excited about our packages!

Another month has gone by at the speed of light and now it's December! A lot happened during November. We finally went to the post office and got a PO Box and not long after we were blessed with our first packages! This picture doesn't do them justice. Most people lay the goodies out all nice and neat in organized rows but this was the best I did until we started ripping into things. Some of the goodies we received were PayDays (my fave!), Quaker Instant Grits (wahoo!), Lance cheese crackers, cute clothes, warm pajamas and bath toys for Judah, some pretty embroidered bags for me to put things in, a few maternity shirts and some Lifesavers Gummies. We were spoiled! Thanks so much to Susan and Eleyse G. and Kelly and Franklin A. for blessing us. You guys are awesome!

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Studying Arabic

We're here studying language full time and this month it cranked up a notch. They don't say Arabic is one of the two hardest languages in the world (the other is Chinese) for nothing! We started learning verbs and all their tenses and how to conjugate them all. Ahhhh! My head hurts just thinking about it. 

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Judah sharing his ice cream with Mamaw

The biggest even of the month was our visit from my mom and Thomas's dad. My mom had already booked her trip for the week of Thanksgiving and Thomas's dad happened to be in a nearby country for a conference and decided to come for a visit on his way back to Uganda. What a blessing! Two grandparents at one time! I don't think they minded sharing their Judah time too much. We still had language class every day so we only had the evenings and the weekend to go out and explore, but we made the most of it. It was fun showing them around our city and what our day to day lives are like here. 

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Riding on Babu's shoulders


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Enjoying some Arabic food

My mom really outdid herself and brought two entire suitcases full of stuff for us! Judah really racked up with lots of new toys and clothes wahoooo! (We were able to save a few of them to be used as Christmas gifts thank goodness.) She brought Thomas and I some warm clothes, me some maternity clothes and some other food items we'd been craving. Who are we kidding, food for the preggo – more grits, chocolate chips, Reese's peanut butter chips, a couple SunDrops and some Raisinettes!

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Judah and Babu playing with his new toys

Thomas's dad had to return to Uganda on Thanksgiving so he wasn't able to spend the day with us, boo! We celebrated Thanksgiving with about 20 people at a friends' apartment and had all the traditional American foods, even a turkey! It was a great time of fellowship and we all pigged out and enjoyed ourselves. It was really nice to have all those tastes from home! Not to mention how special it was to have my mom there with us. The pic below was our contribution.

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Broccoli casserole, green bean casserole, corn, stuffing, cranberry sauce

That weekend we took my mom to a lot of the Biblical sites close to our city and we even spent the night at a hotel at the Dead Sea. (Thanks mom!) The resort was beautiful and we had a wonderful time relaxing, swimming in the heated winter pool and rubbing mud all over ourselves down at the Sea. It was nice to get out of the city for a bit and enjoy the scenery. 

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Our resort at the Dead Sea

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Judah having fun in the sand

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Mom floating in the water

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The river where Jesus was baptized

This month we'll be traveling to the Gulf to visit some friends for Christmas. We're looking forward to a short break from language and also to warmer weather and a change of scenery. I can't believe it's almost 2013! We've had such a blessed and exciting year!

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Merry Christmas from us and our little elf!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Exciting news!

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Well it's official, we're having another baby! Wahooo! It's been so hard waiting til 12 weeks to write about it, but now I finally can. I know my mom is excited to be able to talk about it too. ;)

  12 Week Ultrasound

It's been a different experience being pregnant overseas so far, having my first pregnancy in the States to compare it to. For one, I get an ultrasound every time I go to the doctor which is really cool! I found a really great doctor here that practiced in the States and even lived in Georgia. It's a private OB practice and every time I go the doctor is very attentive and understanding to any questions I have. He also delivers at the main maternity hospital here in our city which is great. The other thing is when they weigh you it's in kilograms not pounds so it feels like you're not gaining as much weight! Until you calculate it...then reality sets in. Haha. I've actually only gained 3 kg so far which amounts to almost 7 lbs. With Judah I gained 25 lbs. but I think this time it will be less because we don't have a car and we're walking so much! Also I'm not eating Cook Out every other day for lunch, so there ya go.


The second thing that's different this go round is food cravings. Not that my cravings are different, but the fact that I don't have access to what I'm craving! Last time I was working in Cary, NC and lived close to Pei Wei, Cook Out, Chick Fil A, Bojangles, Thai restaurants and Cracker Barrel. I've really been wanting country home cooking like biscuits, green beans, fried chicken, mashed potatoes etc. To make matters worse I just read the Help, then watched the movie and there's a lot of country cooking there! My mouth was watering. Luckily I can make most of those things myself and even found a Bisquick mix for buttermilk biscuits! The things I can't get though are Pei Wei's chicken fried rice with broccoli and their spicy chicken salad, Cook Out's yummy milkshakes or onion rings, Bojangles, Chick Fil A or good Thai food. Hopefully my cravings will change and I'll start wanting more chicken shawarma, hummus and falafel! 


Friday, October 26, 2012

Enjoying the end of Summer

We've been enjoying the last few days of Summer here in the ME before the bitter cold sets in on us. This week it officially turned Winter, although the highs still got up to 90 a couple of days the week before. This week though it has already started feeling cooler outside and we're starting to need a light jacket.

Fun at the pool!

A couple of weekends ago we decided to rent a car and make one last trip out to the beach so Judah could go swimming in the pools. He loved it and we had fun going down the slides with him. We were exhausted by the end!

Misc

Things here are still going along as usual. We're super busy with class and studying Arabic. It is HARD! Things are starting to click a little more each day though and we're picking up more vocabulary we recognize while listening to people speak. We've also begun being recognized by people in our neighborhood and wave hi to people we know as we pass them on the street, which is fun. Judah of course if a regular favorite and knows who along the path will give him treats. Believe me, he takes full advantage!

This weekend is a major holiday or "Eid" called Feast of the Sacrifice. It's the Muslim holiday that commemorates Abraham's willingness and obedience to sacrifice his son to God (and God's mercy in substituting a lamb for his son.) The major difference in the story is that they believe the son was Ishmael, not Issac, as we do as Christians. The day begins with a call to prayer (at 4am!) and is commemorated by the sacrifice of an animal, symbolizing the substitution of a provided lamb as Abraham's sacrifice instead of his son. One-third of the meat is then given to the poor and the remainder is shared with neighbors and family. We will be enjoying the holiday off of school by visiting our neighbors and spending some much needed time studying!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Month 3 in the M.E.

Geez, we need to be better about updating more often. It seems like the time goes by and it feels like all we do is go to class and study. Then the next thing I know another month has passed and we did a few things after all! Maybe before another month has passed I can get another post or two up.

Jerash

Every few weeks we have ended up renting a car so we can get around the city a little easier and see some sights that would be too expensive to take a taxi to see. Last month we went to an historical Greco-Roman city in our country to see old ruins. We had a good time walking around and seeing something new and you can see Judah picked himself out a walking stick.

Swimming with Judah

It has also been a nice break from routine to go to the pool for the day. You can get a day pass for the pool at all of the many hotels in town. It's a little pricey so this is definitely a special treat! Judah loves swimming and it's a great way for him to play around and get some exercise outside of the house. He's also gotten quite the tan. I really loved on this trip how Thomas and Judah fell asleep in the exact same position, so cute. 

Playing at the Mall

Another thing that's popular here (because of the lack of outdoor options) is indoor playgrounds for kids. We just started noticing how prevalent they are! Almost every mall or multi-story shopping complex will have a floor or section dedicated to little rides and things for kids. Judah was a little underwhelmed by the rides that day but really enjoyed the little house inside the toddler section. He started getting possessive of it towards the other end and would tell kids that tried to come in the door, "No! It's MY house!" I tried to explain to him that, no, it was indeed not his house and that he has to share. It was a good learning lesson. 

Coldstone!
 Coldstone!!

At the end of the month we took a short trip to a nearby country in the Gulf. It was really interesting seeing all the differences between where we live and the Gulf! It was more clean and organized in the city we were in and there were a lot of shiny skyscrapers and Western restaurants. We were SO excited to see Krispy Kreme!! We got 2 dozen while we were there and enjoyed every bite! We did share them with our friends so we didn't eat them all, but we probably could have! It was such a nice taste from home. :) There was also an abundance of ethic foods that we loved like Thai, Chinese, Italian and Korean. We've really been missing Thai food so that was a great surprise!

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Ritzy Shopping Mall

There was one really interesting building that had these little windmill things in the middle of it. They're a little hard to see in the picture. We just had to go inside and check out what was inside. Well, it wasn't a shopping trip after all because ALL of the stores were waaaaay out of our price range as you can see. It was still fun window shopping and seeing the crazy prices of things. 

At the Beach
The Beach!

Another highlight of the trip was going to the beach with our new friends. Since we got here this summer I've really missed my family's annual beach trips. It was a lot of fun to be able to go to the beach for a few hours and watch Judah play in the sand and swim in the water a little bit. It was neat because the water was really shallow for a long way out so he was able to go out pretty far with it only coming up to his chest. We had a picnic and stayed out til the sun set.

These are the highlights and as I said before our days have been filled with everyday stuff like going to class, cooking dinner, keeping the house clean, caring for Judah and getting out in our community and trying to make some friends. I can't believe it's been 3 months! Looking forward to some cooler weather and growing more in our language knowledge over the next month!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Month 2 and a Special Visitor!

Found a playground!

August was a good month here! We have settled in even more and continue to learn where things are. We even found a park for Judah! Granted it's on the other side of town, but at least a nice one exists. It was fun watching him climb around and we all enjoyed laying in the grass. That's a rare find around here in the desert!

Judah Misc

At 26 months old, Judah continues to do really well. He's so flexible and just goes with the flow. Here he is chewing a piece of gum, posing topless, showing off his birthday outfit from Aunt Joan, riding his new scooter and eating spaghetti. Every day his personality shines through more and more. He has a great imagination and will pretend to do things like eat a cookie or slurp some soup out of an empty bowl. His vocabulary is growing and he can tell you what he wants in short sentences now. He's doing great eating with a fork and spoon and is starting to drink out of a cup all by himself. He also has quite the sense of humor.

Visit with Renee 1

Last week was the end of Ramadan so we had a week off of class for the Eid (which means holiday). All the Muslims holidays are determined by the cycle of the moon so we weren't sure exactly when it was going to be. As soon as we knew for sure we let Thomas's mom know and it just so happened that Thomas's dad was traveling the same week. So, after some discussion, they bought her a ticket to come and visit us! Wahoooo! It was a sweet reunion with Judah's Coco, my amazing mother-in-law.

Visit 2

We did some sightseeing around our city and saw some of the old ruins. I really enjoy all the history here. It's so different than the States where everything is relatively new. It makes me realize how little I know about the world and that I need to be reading up on where we live!

Anniversary and pool
Nutella banana pancakes, Swans in the pool for a wedding and swimming

August 20 was mine and Thomas's 7th wedding anniversary! Hard to believe ;) With Renee being here we were actually able to have a date night alone! We stayed in a nice hotel in the city and had a delicious dinner of Indian food in the restaurant there. That morning we had breakfast nearby and I had some amazing Nutella and banana pancakes. Later that afternoon Renee brought Judah to the pool at the hotel and we all went swimming. It was so much fun! Judah loves the water and we all got some sun. It was interesting being in more of a "Western" setting there at the hotel. It was a nice little getaway and felt like we weren't even in the ME anymore.

Pool by the sea

For the weekend we splurged and rented a car so we could get around a little easier. We drove down to the sea and got a day pass for a resort's pool. It had several different kiddie pools with lots of fun stuff for Judah to play on. It was very relaxing just swimming all day and hanging out with Renee. I think this was the most fun Judah's had since we've been here!

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It was a great visit with Thomas's mom, aka Coco. She and Judah had a chance to bond and they both enjoyed every minute of it. Again, there was another sad goodbye. It never gets any easier. It was a sad day but we know we'll get to see Renee again sometime soon! We love you Coco!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Month one

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Awesome view of our city

As always, time is flying by! It's hard to believe we've been in the ME over a month now. We've settled into our apartment now and it's starting to feel more like home every day. We're enjoying exploring our neighborhood and are starting to see familiar faces now which is nice.

Judah 1

Judah has been doing pretty well at adjusting to our new life. It's been a little hard going from all the amazing parks in Vancouver to...no parks here. We've heard of a few in different areas of the city, but we haven't had a chance to check them out yet. He's been getting a little stir crazy because of this and it's difficult because there aren't really sidewalks on the street so we have to watch him closely and either carry him or hold him while we're out and about.

Judah 2

Also, because of our luggage restrictions we decided to mostly pack his books so not many toys made the cut. It's been a challenge finding him some decent toys to play with.! Most of the things you see in local toy shops are cheaply made and fall apart easily or are made with a million little pieces and aren't safe. We got him some things one day and they basically fell apart as soon as we got home. You can find some American brand toys but they're unbelievably expensive! Think $50-$75 more than they would be in the States. Crazy! So, we just make due with what we have and hopefully Mamaw can bring him some toys when she comes to visit! ;)

Things around

One great thing about our city is that you can get almost anything here. We've been excited to find (Thomas's favorite) salt and vinegar chips, Doritos, Dr. Pepper!, and most of our favorite candy. I've always loved packaging so it's fun seeing things we're used to with the Arabic added to the label. One thing that we thought was funny in Korea was seeing how things were spelled incorrectly in English on packaging and signs, so that's been fun to see too. One of the other pictures up top is whole goats for sale! It's hard to see in this picture, but the heads were still on, fur and all. Eek!

Things around the city 2

Here are some interesting things we've seen around - starting at the top left: Cool antiques at a local shop, graffiti in our neighborhood, an awesome lunch I had at a western-style restaurant and Coke in Arabic.

Arabic

We started class 3 weeks ago yesterday and it's been a whirlwind! We've managed to cover the entire Arabic alphabet and can (sort of) read, we've covered common greetings and questions, the days of the week, numbers, telling time, colors and emotions. There are some sounds that are VERY difficult to make but we're getting there. We go to class 5 days a week for four hours a day. Needless to say, these days most of our time is spent studying!

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Okay, this post was longer than I thought it was going to be. Here are a few last shots from this month. One is of some horses being led by a rope outside this guy's truck window. We got behind him in a taxi... Next is some brightly colored chicks for sale at the pet store in our local mall. Last is the longest bunch of grapes I've ever seen!

Hope everyone back home is well. Thank you for remembering us!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Some interesting things so far

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As always, there are things here that are different from the culture we're used to back home. Here are just a few we've noticed thus far and a fun thing that happened to me the other day.

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Bathroom and bidet

One interesting cultural aspect is the use of bidets in the bathrooms. Each of our 3 bathrooms has a toilet and then a separate basin with a little drain in it and a small squirter hose attached. Very interesting. Thomas has been using it to wash his feet at night. ;) Another thing about the bathrooms is, because the plumbing here isn't that great, there's no flushing your toilet paper. Every bathroom has a tiny trashcan with a lid to deposit your used TP. Because that's not gross at all. We actually got used to this practice when we lived in Korea so it's not a totally foreign concept to us.

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Kitchen with washing machine

Next is the kitchen. No, that's not our dishwasher, it's our washing machine. Looks funny in there doesn't it? It's a really nice kitchen and I look forward to cooking on the gas stove.

Fun thing that happened:
Two days ago we went out looking for furniture stores because we need a new bed in our apartment – the current mattress has mold on it. Well, we're trying to get stuff done around here before language starts and in the midst of it all, trying to get Judah on somewhat of a schedule. That being said, nap time is still one of those elusive things that will just happen when it happens. We were on our third stop and Judah was fading so fast that he fell asleep in my arms as we were walking into the mall. Because we're walking so much and in and out of taxis, we didn't have the stroller. So here we are, sleeping baby and 20 minutes from home. We decided that Thomas would walk around and look for beds and I would sit down in this open coffee shop area to let Judah sleep. I sat for a few minutes and held Judah while he slept until I spotted an open couch. It was part of a little grouping of chairs and there was a lady sitting there by herself. I walked over to her with Judah in my arms and asked if I could sit with her and lay him down. I think she tried to tell me that she had people joining her but then she said okay. She ended up being a retired English teacher who has a son that's a graphic designer and went to Boston University! We had a good chat and then one of her sisters, her daughter and a niece joined us. They all spoke little English so it was a lot of them talking and me just smiling and nodding my head. Little Judah just laid there snoozing away, arms up and all sprawled out on the small couch. Then another sister and daughter joined us, it was a family gathering! The lady I originally met ended up buying me a pot of hot tea and we all sat around and drank as they chatted. One thing she kept telling me over and over was that I looked so much like her granddaughter. So much so that she pulled out several pictures of her to show me. She's about 8 years old and we really did look alike! It was so weird! We have similar eyes, face shape and smile.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We made it!

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View off our balcony

We arrived in the M.E. last Monday night at around 7:30pm. We were supposed to fly out of Vancouver at 6:30pm on the 30th of June but got delayed several times and ended up staying at a hotel in Vancouver and flying out 12 hours later than originally planned! Thank the Lord we had friends in the city who took care of us while we waited and let us hang out at their house instead of at the airport the entire time.

Judah having fun at the airport
Judah having fun in the airport

Judah did great for the first leg of the flight, 9 hours to London, and didn't start getting fussy until he was forced to stay in the stroller for another hour while we waited in line to get our new boarding passes. When we got on the next flight Judah and I both slept the entire 5 hour flight! We were exhausted!

We got through customs without a hitch and were met by some friends at the other end. It's been a whirlwind week of getting unpacked, keeping the power and water on, cleaning, shopping for the necessities, going out to eat, getting oriented and checking out our neighborhood.

Few pics of the new place
Few pics of our place, I'll put up better ones once we're settled in

Our apartment is nice, with a large living room/sitting area, 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, a really nice kitchen that looks like it was recently remodeled and a small balcony. The weather here has been perfect so far with highs in the upper 80's and lows in the 60's. We don't have air conditioning but we do have some pedestal fans that keep the air moving so it's not too bad!

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Yemini food

We've been enjoying lots of different shawerma restaurants and have eaten "Mexican" food, Chili's, Fuddruckers, Lebanese food and Yemini food. We've shopped at Carrefour market, which is a French Wal-mart type store and a few other places that have a lot of Western goodies that we might want. You can pretty much get anything you'd want here, but of course at a price. The most surprising thing was $12 for a box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes!

Judah enjoying the new place
Judah eating breakfast and watching some Elmo

Judah has been adjusting well and we're all getting used to being on an Arab schedule. Waking up around 10am, eating breakfast, lunch at 3pm, dinner at 8 or 9pm and getting to bed around midnight or later! That will all change next week though when we begin studying language and get on more of a routine.

Scenes around town

Here are a few shots of some cultural things. First is a burkini, Muslim ladies' swimwear. Gotta stay conservative – even on the beach! There are lots of malls here and they're pretty much all multi-level and crowded. Last is from one shopping trip where some girls invited Judah to come sit at the little table and chairs with them. It was pretty cute. They kept saying, "Hey baby!"

Now that we have our internet hooked up in the apartment we'll try to keep the blog updated with some interesting cultural insights. Thanks for remembering us! Excited to begin this new adventure!