Wednesday, December 31, 2008
#1 Be on time for church. We live like less than a 10 minute walk away and we're still late, almost consistently. Pathetic, I know, but at least we're consistent. We should be able to get there 5 minutes early. Completion of this goal pending on Rachel's behavior Friday mornings...
#2 Memorize the monthly theme and scripture for primary. Since I say them every week and they're short enough for children to recite this shouldn't be a problem.
#3 Have more focused scripture study. I definitely need to just set apart a block of time in my day, preferably when Rachel is either asleep or otherwise occupied. I used to read my scriptures before going to bed and never could understand why anyone would study them in the morning. But now I do...it's just easier to do it before Rachel gets up. But since I don't like to be awake before she wakes up this could be tricky. If all else fails I will just download the audio scriptures and listen to them throughout the day. I did that with General Conference this year and it was kind of nice because I could listen while playing with Rachel or working or cleaning, etc. I also never used to understand why people did this. Now I do. I just listen and Andrew sometimes listens with me and then we talk about it, or I'll remember a certain scripture someone quoted and look that up later, and think about it throughout the day. Obviously I still need to work out some details.
#4 Pray more sincerely. I've already been working on this and I think I might be getting better at it. At any rate it's becoming more natural, which is kind of what my goal is. "As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7: 7-11)" BD:prayer. I suppose then that this goal is actually to better understand my identity as a daughter of Heavenly Father.
#5 Restart doing indexing for Family History. Since we're a little far away from temples, this is something I would like to set some time apart to do once a week, if not more often. Not that doing indexing can replace temple attendance in any way, but going to the temple on a weekly basis is impossible here. Hopefully we'll be able to get to the temple a few times while we're out here...this summer, possibly....
I don't think I'm going to make any other goals other than those. Of course I'd like to do other things, but I think that if I focus on these things the other things will just fall into place.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Tonight was one of those nights. She was sleeping rather uneasily and I could hear her tossing and turning before the crying started. I gave her a few minutes before I caved and went in to check on her. I'm a sucker, what can I say.
She just wanted a hug and for me to sing to her, so I did, and then she went back to sleep.
I thought she was out for the night but she started crying about an hour after I had put her back down. This time she was screaming and I could tell she wasn't going to stop on her own, so I went in to check on her. I sat on her bed and she climbed onto my lap and curled up into a little ball around her favorite blankey. She just cried and cried and cried while I patted her back and tried to talk some sense into her.
She said "no" to everything I said while I asked if various body parts hurt and if she needed a drink of water or to go potty. When I asked her if she wanted her Daddy, however, she sobbed as loud and desperately as she could,
So he came and joined us and we all sat on the bed, rocking and talking.
Eventually we got her calmed down enough to want to sing some songs, so I started singing and Daddy left. He wanted to get back to playing Starcraft with Josh and the situation seemed to be under control. Unfortunately, however, the singing didn't last long. She started sobbing again soon after Daddy left and she had a death grip around my neck.
In an attempt to get her to let go of my neck so that I could breathe again, I started asking more questions. Talking to her is like playing 20 questions. Mostly she can say "yeah" and "no" and even those aren't necessarily reliable answers, but it's the only way to get her to talk.
"What's wrong, baby?"
"Are you sick?"
"No!" In fact she is feeling much better, but still has a runny nose and a slight cough.
"Are you scared?"
"Yeah," she whimpered.
"Do you want to tell me why?"
"Tell me, what scared you?"
"Come on! I can't make it better if I don't know what it is,"
"Fine. Don't tell me."
We sat in silence for a few minutes after that. Rachel and I have little arguments like that all the time. It's going to be a blast when she's a teenager, let me tell you. But usually she wants to tell me and I just have to stop pressuring her to communicate. This was one of those cases, so I just sat there, rocking her and patting her back, until she decided she wanted to tell me.
When she did she looked up at me with her wide eyes still brimming with tears. She waved "bye-bye" and said,
"Oo-oo! J-osh! Oo-oo!"
Roughly translated this means,
"Mom, I had a nightmare about the other day when Josh and Carolee stopped by and there was that big dog on a chain. Josh was holding it and it kept opening up its mouth and I was so scared! And every time I close my eyes I see the dog staring at me with its mouth wide open and I can see all of its teeth and I just can't sleep!"
At least, I think that's what it means. I did quite a lot of quesswork because all I got was, "Oo-oo! J-osh! Oo-oo!" But I'm pretty sure that's what it means.
After talking about the doggy and showing her that, although Josh and Carolee were over, the dog was no where to be found I put her back to bed.
She seems to be doing okay so far, but I understand her plight and I know Grammy/Naunie does, too!
Though we were coughing and sniffling on Christmas Eve we still made an effort to be festive. The Schillings came over and we made gingerbread houses from scratch because that's the only way to do anything over here. After we got our hands on some molasses (thanks, Sara!) we started brainstorming about what we could build. We came up with some pretty big plans, involving building the Nile, the pyramids, a mosque, and a nativity scene, among other things.
After making the patterns for the pyramids and the mosque we decided that was enough. We'll save the nativity scene for next year, I guess.
The pyramids were pretty easy, but the mosque wasn't. We couldn't think of how to make the dome or the minaret. Carolee and I stopped by Moody's while we were out Christmas shopping and found a little round cake pan. We bought that and put dough on the outside of it to make the dome. It turned out pretty well and made us want to eat ice cream. Can you imagine candy cane ice cream in a gingerbread bowl? How much more Christmassy could dessert get?
It took us quite a while to make the dough, roll the dough, cut the dough, and bake the dough. By the time we were finished with that part it was bedtime for Rachel and we were all feeling like we were living in the story of the Little Red Hen. No one wanted to do anything. We were gingerbreaded out; still, though, we had to keep going. We had yet to actually make any actual gingerbread structure.
And we still had to make the icing. Every instructional website I looked at suggested using royal icing. I have never made royal icing before, but we decided to do it anyway. The problem with royal icing is that it uses egg whites which you have to whip to oblivion and back until they form "stiff peaks." We don't have an electric mixer so we had to beat them by hand. That took just about all night, so if we weren't bored of our project before we were completely sick of it by the time we'd all taken a turn beating those eggs. We found that when we twirled the whisk in our hands (like we were using a bow-drill to start a fire) we got the best results.
When I broke out my cake decorating set the boys got really excited about our project again. Josh had never used an icing bag and Andrew, much to my surprise, hadn't either, so they both dove in and got right back to work as soon as the icing was ready.
We were up decorating until almost midnight, but it really helped us get into a Christmas mood. I suppose part of that is because we listened to Christmas music the whole time we were working.
This just might become a family tradition...
Saturday, December 27, 2008
We're off the hook
But I suppose when you have like 1 pot and 1 pan you kind of need your pan back. We totally understand that. We have 1 pan and 2 pots and consider ourselves very lucky.
So we washed the dishes...actually Andrew washed the dishes and I did laundry...and then the Schillings came over.
We told Rachel that they would be coming over, so she was looking forward to hearing a knock at the door. What we didn't tell Rachel was that they would be coming over on their way home from walking Bonaparte.
Bonaparte is a dog, and a pretty big dog at that. He belongs to some members of the branch who went to France for the holidays. The Schillings are babysitting him for them.
The doorbell rang and Rachel ran to the door, very excited to see who was there.
"I think there's a dog at the door, Rachel," I said.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Rachel screamed. She ran away from the door and all but climbed into my arms.
I picked her up before answering the door. Carolee was standing in front. Josh and Bonaparte were hanging out several feet away.
Rachel freaked out.
As usual she really wanted to like/meet the dog, but only as much as she didn't want to. She would wave at the dog and make the dog sound and then cower into my shoulder and scream.
She was quite glad when Bonaparte went home, but was still pretty nervous. She wouldn't let me put her down and was really clingy and whiny.
"Did a dog come to our house?" we asked.
"Yeah," Rachel whined.
"Did you like the dog?" we asked.
"Were you afraid of the dog?"
"Do you want a dog?"
"No, no, nooooo!"
"Do you want a cat then?"
"Do you want a pet, ever?"
"No, no, no!"
There you have it. We are off the hook. We will never have to get a pet because Rachel is so afraid of every animal she lays eyes on.*
She's still pretty terrified of the door. Our upstairs neighbours have twin girls and they just walked up the stairs. I know because I heard them. Rachel heard them, too.
"Ooo-ooo-ooo!" she barked and then screamed and pointed at the door.
"Did a doggy visit us today?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said.
"Is it there now?"
"I think that's just some girls..." I said.
"No," said Rachel, "GOG!"
So no pets for us.
*We realize she will probably end up begging us for a pony, puppy, or kitten in 4 years regardless of how afraid she is of them currently.
Friday, December 26, 2008
All I want for Christmas
We basically got Rachel two things for Christmas. One was a set of twelve cars. We opened it up, though, and wrapped them all individually. We put six of them in her stocking and six of them under the tree.
She was a little apprehensive to start opening up her gifts because they'd been sitting under the tree for about a week before Christmas and she, naturally, kept trying to get into them. We, equally as naturally, kept telling her to "wait" and to "put that back" and to "not touch."
So when we handed her a wrapped present on Christmas morning and told her to open it she looked at us like we were from the loony bin. Then she walked over to the tree and put the present back. Sooo funny! We had to help her open the first few to help her get into the Christmas spirit.
Even when she did start unwrapping presents she was very careful about it and took forever. She would rip off a tiny little piece of paper and hand it to either Andrew or me, then she would rip off another, equally small, piece of paper and give it to one of us. It was so funny!
All of her wrapped presents, besides the puzzle that I got for both Andrew and her, were cars. She was excited every time she unwrapped one. It was great. I've never seen anyone get so excited over the same present so many times in a row.
She also got a proper chair to sit on while she colours instead of having to sit on the laundry basket. Such a lucky baby!
I got Andrew the game "Danger 13!" and he got me a necklace and a jewellery box.
Our stockings were pretty barren this year. I got some little camel bone ornaments for us. And we each got a candy bar and an orange. All Rachel got was more cars. Our stockings were so empty, in fact, that Andrew took it upon himself to open all of them, the little cheater!
We had the Schillings over to play games that evening and we all took turns talking to our families with Skype and The Gizmo Project until all hours of the morning. Carolee was having trouble getting a good connection with her family so they said that they'd call back in an hour or so. We were in the middle of a game when the computer rang and I said,
"That's probably your family, Carolee!"
So she jumped up to answer the phone. But it was my sister, Kelli, instead!
"Hello?" said Carolee.
"Nancy?" said Kelli.
"Ummmmm...yeah...." Carolee said, making her voice sound funny and motioning wildly to me.
I came and took over the call. When it was about time to hang up Kelli said,
"That's so funny. You just didn't sound like you when you answered the phone."
I was like, "That's because it wasn't me!"
It was just difficult to keep track of all the "phoning" programs that we had open on all our various laptops. We were completely wired up with headphones and webcams and everything. It was so fun to see everyone. Rachel had a heyday talking to my family--she kissed the monitor and kept pointing at everyone. She even said, "Hi!" It was so cute! She's excited for Uncle David to come and visit in just a few days!
Flashback Friday: A Christmas Special
Rachel even (finally) warmed up to President McCallister and was content to sit on his lap for quite some time, holding her toy cell phones up to his ear and playing with his reading glasses.
While we were visiting, Sister McCallister suggested we each tell a Christmas memory that stands out in our mind. I was racking my brain and could only come up with a few memories, one of which was about Josie when she was about three.
All the older kids were all in the basement waiting for our parents to come down and tell us it was alright to come upstairs and look at our stockings. Josie was little enough that she was allowed to be upstairs before it was time to "unveil" the presents, so to speak. My dad was carrying her when he came to get us and they had to walk past the gifts in order to get to the stairs.
She peeked, and as they were walking down the stairs she cried out elatedly,
"I got an Esmerelda doll! Oh, thanks Mom and Dad!"
The minute she saw us all standing at the bottom of the stairs she clamped her mouth tightly shut. Her eyes searched all our faces; I don't know what she was looking for but I think it was a hint of disappointment or shock at her declaration of Santa's true identity. She found what she wanted in Patrick's face.
"I mean..." she paused sincerely and dramatically and then, after mumbling an apology to Patrick, resumed exhuberantly,"...Thanks, Santa!"
Patrick is 5 years older than Josie. It was so hilarious that she thought she needed to apologize to him for spoiling Santa's identity when she was only 3 and he was 8. She was quite a cynical child and apprently thought Patrick was much more gullible than herself.
Andrew shared about our first Christmas together. We were in Rome on our honeymoon and did nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Actually we went to the Vatican earlier in the day, which means we probably went to see the Coliseum and other things as well, and saw all the chair set up for midnight mass and even asked a priest for the details so that we could go. And then we went back to our ghetto hostel to take a nap.
We woke up around 10 PM and it was cold and rainy and dark. The metro and bus systems had already shut down for the holidays which meant that we would have had to have walked from the hostel, which was by the Termini train station, all the way to the Vatican. It wasn't actually a terribly far walk, but just the fact that it was dark, cold, rainy, and late made the thought unbearable. So we just went back to sleep, got up the next day, and went out sight-seeing.
We had a lot of fun that Christmas even though we didn't buy each other anything, other than a whole lot of pizza!
Christmas Eve Cats
I had always had problems with this scene because Gideon's meows were absolutely ridiculously fake. Or so I thought...
...Until this Christmas Eve!
We were up late making our gingerbread creations with the Schillings when we heard a cat begin to meow.
"Meee-ooow!" said the cat, "MEEEE-ooow! MEEEE-OOOOW!"
Cairo is overrun with feral cats and we are used to hearing them fight and holler well into the wee hours of the morning. Cats live in our stairwell, in our yard, under bushes, and pretty much everywhere, so the fact that this cat was serenading the night from our corridor wasn't exactly a surprise, either.
Except that this cat kept getting louder and more obnoxious every time it opened its mouth. It sounded like it was right outside our door.
We were talking about it while we continued to stick candy on our gingerbread pyramids and mosque. At the moment Josh wasn't doing anything so Andrew told him he should go open the door and peek at the cat. So Josh did.
And the cat rushed the door and tried to run inside!
Josh tried to close the door, but the cat kept pushing against it. They had a little push war with Josh finally got it mostly closed...then the cat started really yowling. Its paw was caught in the door. Josh opened the door just a crack further, the cat pulled out its paw, and Josh slammed the door.
The cat charged at the door a couple of more times and kept yowling and meowing and making a huge racket. Our British/Polish neighbours, who are perpetually drunk, also heard the chaos and opened up their door. The cat must have gotten inside their apartment because the next things we knew we heard screaming and banging coming from next door.
We took turns spying through the peep hole. Our neighbour's door was hanging wide open. We could still hear the crashing and yelling. Then we saw her, clad in red pyjamas and armed with a broom, swinging wildly at the cat. It took her a good 5-10 minutes to get the cat out of her apartment.
And after all that, the cat still didn't leave. It stayed in our hallway yowling, though quite a bit angrier than before. We could tell because half its meows had turned to growls.
When we had finished with our gingerbread and Josh and Carolee were heading home, we could still hear the cat. It had left our hallway but was definitely still in our building somewhere. Josh, who had come closest to being mauled by the rabid cat, was quite afraid to venture out. So afraid, in fact, that he made Carolee go first.
They met the cat in the stairwell and said it was huge and angry and terrified all at the same time. It was crouched down low with its ears flattened against its head, shaking in a corner, and growling at them. As soon as they walked past it ran up the stairs. We haven't seen it since.
But it just goes to show that if a cat is meowing unrealistically by your door you shouldn't open it, especially if you're drunk. You could get kidnapped or attacked by a rabid cat!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Play with the Letters Board
I got Andrew and Rachel a puzzle of the Arabic alphabet to share for Christmas. It's highly educational. There's a blurb on the back of the puzzle explaining so:
Play With The Letters Board This Game Helps Child To Know The Correct Order To Letters During His Play And Put The Letter In The Correct Place When he Takes Of The letters From The Board appear Under every Letter (Drawing Shape) The name Of This Shape Begin with The Take Of letter For Example In Arabic Letters The (B) Letter When The Child Take Of Will Find Under the letter Becture In a Duck Shape And in English The(D) Letter When We Take Of We Will Find Under The Letter a (Dog) Shape ....Etc
Rachel finds the puzzle entertaining and Andrew and I couldn't stop laughing after reading the back of the puzzle. So all in all I pretty much think it was a great gift!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
We three Heisses
We three Heisses of Amrika are...
Sick and weak and, frankly, bizarre.
No sign of health so far.
O-oh! How we wish that we weren't sick!
Gee, this is a nasty trick!
Every Christmas we find sickness,
And end up feeling ick.
Rachel started out with the flu.
Andrew next, and then you-know-who.
Head aches, throat aches.
Refrain from handshakes
Or you'll wind up sick, too!
It's Christmas Eve; I slept in real late.
No time to bake, no time to ice skate.
We're in a sorry state.
Alright, that's all you're getting. I was going to write more but trying to think of rhymes is making my headache worse. Obviously I think Christmas should be void of sickness. I certainly could do without being sick right now.
We keep worrying that Rachel has the chicken pox. She's been vaccinated, it's true, but so were the kids in our branch who got it. Last night Carolee noticed some spots on Rachel's abdomen. Rachel had a fever 2 days ago and was exposed to chicken pox at the Christmas party about 12 days ago so the time line is just about right. Luckily this morning there weren't any more spots and they haven't broken open or oozed or anything so maybe the spots were just a fluke.
Or maybe she really does have the chicken pox, just a really mild case of them. Apparently if you've been vaccinated and end up getting chicken pox anyway you shouldn't get them very bad.
That doesn't explain why Andrew and I are sick though.
Hopefully it's not chicken pox and we all get better soon. Have a *sniff, cough, cough* holly, jolly Christmas, it's the best time of the year.
Monday, December 22, 2008
The most pathetic sicky in the world
So she got up and wandered around the house aimlessly while whimpering to her heart's content and I worked on her bunting bag. She kept coming over to me and leaning against me and crying, so I finally just put her to bed. She went so willingly it was a little eerie.
When Daddy came home, he and Josh got all set up to play Starcraft, leaving Carolee and I with little to do, so we decided to go to an "eat our food because we're leaving to go home to America for a month" party thrown by Caitlin (she's actually leaving for good) and Lindsey (only leaving for a month). Right before we left I walked past Rachel's door and heard her pathetic whimperings.
I went inside and she was sitting up in bed, just whining and clutching her dolly. So I brought her out and took her temperature. It was up around 102°F and she was crying and whining so much that I couldn't figure out what to do to help her. Andrew and Josh gave her a blessing, and then I nursed her and put her back to bed.
Then Carolee and I went out to the party and Josh and Andrew stayed home to "babysit Rachel." Carolee and I were out until around midnight. We even did an ice cream run to Seoudi's and walked Sarah all the way to Kimo's in order to stay out a little later. When we got home our husbands were still playing Starcraft. They'd hardly even noticed we were gone. They played for like an hour longer before they finally heeded their wives' whinings and called it a night.
Just as we were getting ready for bed, Rachel woke up screaming. Of course.
I went in there and she was just muttering to herself, "Da, da, da, ba, da, da, da, da. Blah! Da, da! Da, da!"
"I think she wants you, Daddy!" I hollered.
Andrew came in and Rachel seemed a little happier holding his hand while she continued to mutter on and on about what was bothering her. She still had a fever, but it had already gone down to just around 100°F. We tried everything we could think of, but everything just made her scream louder. Finally she remembered that she could say 'yes' and 'no' and give us other hints instead of making us blindly guess what was wrong.
She put her hands on her head, "Ba, ba, wa, thwaka boo!"
"Does your head hurt, baby girl?" I asked.
"Yeah," she sniffed and then put her hand on her neck, "Awa, wa, wath, spinch toe!"
"Does your neck hurt?" I asked. Sometimes my neck hurts when I'm sick, like when my glands are all swollen.
"Noooo!" she wailed and clawed at her throat some more, fake coughing for dramatic effect.
"Does it hurt inside your neck? Where your food goes down?"
She nodded and sniffed and said as pathetically as possible, "Yeah."
"That's called your throat. You have a sore throat."
"Yeah!" she sniffed again.
I sent Andrew to make her some warm milk with honey. She started crying when he left.
"Do you want Mommy to hold you?"
"Nooo!" she preferred to just lie flat on her back. Everytime I tried to pick her up she screamed.
"Do you want Mommy to rub your back?"
"Do you want Mommy to sing to you?"
"Yeah," she sighed and stopped crying so I sang Christmas carols until Andrew came back with the milk, which she completely rejected.
We forced some baby tylenol down her throat and then I nursed her back to sleep. She woke up a half hour later. And then an hour after that. And then 45 minutes after that. And that's pretty much how our night went. It was awful. I probably nursed her 50 (okay, maybe only about 10) times during the night.
But she woke up in the morning feeling fine, with no fever and an incredible amount of energy, which was unfortunate because Andrew and I were a bit sluggish. Actually, Andrew was a bit sluggish and I was a slug. He brought her in to nurse at 9 AM and then I didn't get out of bed until the afternoon.
I suppose we're lucky that Rachel at least made an effort to communicate with us instead of simply screaming all night long. So even though I ended up nursing her 10 times last night things have improved slightly since she was 2 weeks old. Good to know, good to know.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Flashback Fri...Sunday: Ladna, Lada!
All the taxis here are painted black and white, but it's still quite easy to tell the make of the car. In Jordan most taxis seemed to be regular American sedans; here, though they're all European small cars and they pile people in them like none other.
Seeing so many ladas surround me reminded me of life in Russia. My host family owned a lada and when I first saw it I wondered how we were going to squish me and all my suitcases into the tiny little car. Amazingly enough, everything fit.
Then I wondered how the tiny little car was going to make it through all the ice and snow. Amazingly enough, it made it.
Everytime I questioned the car's abilities the car proved me wrong. Ladas are one tough car. Seriously. They can push through just about any amount of snowy-muck and if they break down, you just get a couple of your friends to flip the car over for you, so you can work on it, and then flip it back over when you're finished. And off you go. We only got stuck a few times, but even then the car was so lightweight that it didn't take much effort to make us unstuck.
They're small though. I always wondered how my super-tall host dad managed to fold his legs inside and scruntch his head low enough to see out the windsheild. For the first few days I was there, things were fine and I fit in the backseat perfectly, without bumping my head on the roof.
But then my host family became increasingly concerned about my fertility and took measures to make sure that my future children's lives were protected. They began piling blankets on my seat to shelter me from the cold. Sitting on cold things can decrease your fertility because they freeze your ovaries, according to Russian superstition.
At first I tried moving the blankets aside, but I was informed that I was supposed to sit on them. So I did, which was fine. But then they kept adding blankets to the pile. Everyday my head got closer and closer to the roof. Soon I was sitting on a pile of blankets, with my head cocked to the side and would bang my head on the roof every time we went over a bump. It felt like a living version of the Princess and the Pea.
I was all too happy when spring came around and my blanket pile shrunk enough that I fit comfortably in the car again.
Suq Bulaq (or Wikalat al-Balah)
And when we finally make it there the cab driver says,
"Ah, the market is closed on Sundays."
Thanks a lot Mr. Cab Driver. Thanks for telling us that after we'd already battled the traffic and made it to our destination. If he thought we would pay him to just turn around and take us home, he was sorely disappointed. Instead we paid him and got out of the cab so we could go explore.
"But everything is closed," he called out after us.
Yeah, well...we're here now, aren't we? And everything, mostly, was closed.
Suq Bulaq is probably the world's biggest second-hand shop. There were racks of clothes lining the streets and bins of clothes on the sidewalks and little shops filed with clothes, clothes, and more clothes. All of it used.
Some of it looked fairly new and some of it really was new. Other stuff was definitely used--half of it we wouldn't even touch. Like, seriously, used underwear and lingerie? No thank you.
Rachel had to go potty right when we got there. We found a mosque and Andrew took her in to use the potty, but they only had squatters so she ended up throwing a fit and refused to go. Instead she cried and peed her pants, poor thing. She was miserable all afternoon after that.
So it was a rather short trip because of her grumpiness and because, truthfully, most everything was closed. We saw only one or two open shops selling bolts of fabric, but nothing really...interesting. I don't think any guidebooks say this, but the suq isn't open on Sundays, so don't bother going...unless you want icky second (or third or forth or more) hand clothes. Most of the alleys were completely deserted and we just wandered around looking at things and taking a few pictures.
When we walked down the alley pictured below a strange man followed us and started yelling at us about taking pictures. This was odd because most people, when they see we have a camera, start asking us to take pictures of them. This particular man, however, was quite perplexed.
He screamed at us to stop taking pictures and accused us of espionage.
"Are these your background pictures? Are you turning them in to your government? Are you spies?"
He was quite livid. Andrew tried to calm him down by explaining that we were just taking pictures of the handprints because we don't celebrate Eid al-Adha in America and so it's interesting for us.
"You don't have blood in America?" the man screamed.
"We do. We just don't have bloody handprints on our walls. That's all. I'm just taking a picture."
"Well, you'd better get out of here! It's dangerous. There are people with knives down that road. People have seen you taking pictures and that's suspicious. They'll get you. They'll stab you. We don't like spies around here."
And on that happy note we decided to call it a day. The weird thing was that we don't even know where the guy came from. It wasn't his store or house we were taking a picture of...unless he wasn't telling the truth because he thought we were spies. It kind of makes me wonder what he was up to.
We weren't too sad to head home, though, because there was nothing to see since the suq was closed and Rachel was pretty grumpy, anyway. We did manage to pick up some blankets for fairly cheap, which will be nice since it just keeps getting cooler. I made one into a bunting bag for Rachel--hopefully it will be a little more difficult for her to kick off. I had to go sneak her into it after she'd already gone to bed; turns out she was so grumpy this afternoon because she's sick and she was absolutely begging to go to bed by 7:30 PM. Poor baby!
Metro and Merchandise
Here are just some funny things that we saw while we were out and about at the Dar el-Salaam suq and on and around the metro.
I've wanted a picture of this sign for quite a while. It's asking those less handicapped to give up their seats to mothers (and I suppose just people) with small children, pregnant women, old people, and those with other physical limitations (such as having your foot in a cast and having to use crutches). What gets me are the lines coming off the pregnant lady's belly...what? What are those for?
Maybe it's not a pregnant lady. Maybe it's someone with a bomb strapped to their stomach and the clock is ticking? I don't know, but if someone with a bomb walked onto the metro when I was on, I'd probably give up my seat for them, anyway.
This next picture was taken at the el-Maadi metro stop. A billboard claming that: The Top of Performance it is not just a Slogan, it is a Commitment to Our Costumer. They must have a good costumer!
And, of course, whenever you go out shopping, you're sure to find some great merchandise. Including these awesome sweaters:
First, the typical B/P confusion brings us Baris at night.
Then some lovely gems we pulled out of a bin full of holiday sweaters. I love you, what about you? and Flow me? For the life of me, I cannot figure out what these sweaters are driving at.We actually tried to find one of these sweaters (with a somewhat coherent message) for Rachel to wear over her pyjamas since she can't seem to manage to stay under her covers and it's getting a little chilly at night. They're the only sweaters I've been able to find that aren't hoodies (and hoodies aren't very comfortable for sleeping in, I find). Alas, they were all much too big for her so we'll have to keep searching.
Lastly we have this little polar bear number, which might be considered cute by some...until I point out that this is my size and not Rachel's. Guaranteed to keep you warm at night and only 87 LE. I, for one, am sold.
There were some pretty scary mannequins in the suq, but these ones took the cake--they are still boasting the Eid al-Adha revelries.
This last picture isn't an article of clothing, but it is found at the Dar el-Salaam metro stop and I think it is amazing. If only we lived here; I would never have to give directions to my house again.
"So, where do you live?"
"You know that tall building painted lime green and decorated with orange diamonds?"
"There. I live there."
Rachel and I look for it every time we ride the metro. It's priceless, really. Especially since it seems to be a mostly unfinished building. Maybe we should just go squat in it until someone claims it. It would save us rent money and, let's face it, it would be so cool!
Dar el-Salaam Suq
There's a cute little suq that we've seen at the Dar el-Salaam metro stop several times. We've just never gotten off the train there so we didn't know what it was like. Yesterday we went to explore it with the Schillings.
It's definitely a local suq, which was nice because most of the prices were somewhat set--and at local prices, not tourist prices. However, it wasn't really a touristy-place so the only things to buy were somewhat practical. That was perfect for us because we needed to find Rachel some new shoes.
She has outgrown all the shoes we brought with us except for her Sunday shoes (from Piper) and her sandals (from the twins). Her big toe hangs off the front of the sandal, so it was definitely time to get her new shoes.
We found a shoe stand not too far in the suq, selling mostly baby shoes. Rachel was excited that we stopped to let her try on a few pairs. She kept grabbing at more and more different pairs; finally we settled on a pink pair and a yellow-ish pair.
The vendor told us the price: the pink pair was 28 LE, the yellow-ish pair was 17 LE. But while the vendor was packaging them up Andrew joked,
"We're going to throw these at Bush,"
"Really?" asked the vendor
"Well, we're Americans so we'll see him sometime...and when we do..." Andrew said, cocking his hand in the air.
"And you like Obama?" he asked.
"Yes, we do!" said Andrew.
"I give you discount!" the vendor rejoiced, "40 LE for both pair!"
Sweet! We saved a whole dollar. Not that we're actually planning on throwing them at Bush, but I do find the whole scenario a little funny. I don't necessarily find the actual throwing-of-shoes at our president funny. I do find it funny that all the press releases are emphasizing that throwing shoes are an insult in Arab/Muslim culture. Of course it is! But they say it like it isn't an insult anywhere else. Can you name one culture where it isn't an insult to throw a shoe (let alone anything other than flowers and rice) at someone?
I can't. And really, really...I think Iraq was one of the biggest mistakes of the Bush presidency. But that's just me.
Anyway, Rachel was really excited about her new shoes and she was so good the entire time we were in the market. At least most of the time we were at the market. The problem with this market was, in spite of all the treasures to be seen, it was slightly overrun with donkeys pulling carts of wares.
Rachel is terrified of donkeys. She's terrified of most animals, really, so we're planning on taking her to the zoo for Christmas because we're nice parents like that. Every so often Rachel would start screaming and would grab onto me for dear life...and then a donkey cart would rumble by. I figure that by taking her to the zoo for Christmas I will earn a year's worth of hugs in one day.
We also bought some "freshly squeezed" juice. Since the juice stand had fruit hanging out in front we thought the "freshly squeezed" part meant just that, fresh. We were sorely disappointed, then, when we ordered our juice and the owner showed us to a fridge with juice already squeezed and in a glass. Who knows when they squeezed it? To me, fresh juice means you squeeze it in front of my eyes.
We should have gone to the store just down the way. At that store they really were squeezing the juice individually for each customer...and putting it in plastic bags with straws. We didn't get any since we had barely finished our unfresh juice, but this young man was nice enough to pose for a picture. Him, and all of his friends. Once we asked them for a picture they just wouldn't leave us alone; they kept asking us to take more and more pictures of them.
Just an update: they rerouted the internet through Southeast Asia and sattelite so we're up and running again (apparently they did learn something from the last internet outage: that people don't like to be left in the dark for weeks). Wahoo! The internet is just a little...bit...slow...but we can deal with slow!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
We usually do our shopping at Seoudi Market, which overall is a nice store. I just can't stand the butcher area. *Shudder* Or the fish stands. I usually have to hold my breath and hurry past while Andrew grabs whatever it is we need from around the meat department. Not that we ever buy meat there, because we don't. And not that hurrying past it ever helps, because it doesn't. The whole store stinks.
But we still shop there because they seem to have the best stocked shelves in Maadi, and tend to have good prices, as well.
So on Thursday when we went grocery shopping we went to Seoudi, of course. And since the pasta, and the canned goods, and the frozen goods, and the bottles of sauces, and packages of soup, and most everything on our list was right by the meat department we spent a lot of time back there.
Almost everything, actually, is by the meat department, except for the cereal and baking goods.
We spent a long time back there, trying to find the flour, which we thought would be by the sugar. It wasn't. But we spent a lot of time looking for it and while we did we heard the butchers having a conversation. Apparently a British man had come to their stand earlier in the day and asked if they had "fresh fish." They thought this was absolutely hilarious and were still joking about it hours later.
"Andik fresh fish?" (Do you have 'fresh fish?')
"Andu mish fresh fish!" (He has not 'fresh fish.')
"Andik fish?" (Do you have 'fish?')
"Andu mish fish!" (He has not 'fish.')
"Fresh fish!" (uhhh...'Fresh fish.')
"Mish fish!" (No 'fish.')
"Mish fresh fish! Mish fish! Fresh fish!" (I think you get the idea.)
They were having a great time. I almost wanted to stick around longer just to listen to them carry on about fresh fish...except that the smell was making me queasy.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Life without Internet, day 1, take 2
A while back someone cut an internet cable in the Mediterranean Sea--actually three of them-- launching the Middle East into an internet black hole.
It happened, again.
I fail to see how or why, exactly. Wouldn't they have realized it was a problem when it was cut the first time? Wouldn't they have taken measures to protect the cables better and/or route them differently?
So last night, just as I was beginning to download my friend Shallee's Christmas letter, the internet died. I haven't had the chance to read Shallee's letter yet, but I'm sure it was fabulous.
We were also going to purchase some plane tickets last night--using the Lewis's fast-fast-volvo-like internet--so that we could take a trip to Spain and Morocco in January after my brother leaves. Unfortunately we are not sure how that's going to happen now given that there is no internet connectivity anywhere.
I was also planning on getting caught up at work, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen, either. It's really too bad, too, because we just got the internet in the middle of October so I haven't even been able to work all that much since we've been out here and I'm behind from not working that much in the summer because I was too busy packing and/or stressing out.
Sadly we don't even know if a cable was cut for sure because our television doesn't work, either. We are completely cut off from the world.
Today's Friday or we'd probably see what we could do to fix our television that hasn't turned on for weeks and weeks. The Schillings are coming over soon...to use our internet...they will be disappointed that all we have to offer them by way of entertainment is good ol' fashioned card games.
Anyway, I'm banking on a cut cable. It would only make sense for it to happen twice. This is Egypt, after all.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Rachel the adorable Jawa
Along with that fruit bowl, Sara bought back a little jacket for Rachel, again from Tunisia, and I can't get over how cute she looks in it. It's a traditional Berber coat and apparently everyone in Tunisia wears them. I think Sara mentioned that they're made of camel hair; I was too busy being shocked at how adorable it was to pay full attention.
Rachel was a little afraid to try it on, but that's alright because I think Sam was a little scared of his jacket, too. He doesn't like it when the hood is on.
We eventually got her to put her jacket on right before we left for tithing settlement, but only after Andrew and I each pretended to put it on. Even then she took it off once we got inside the church and refused to put it on before we left to walk back home (cold!).
I hope that she'll learn to love it because it is absolutely adorable.
Andrew says it reminds him of a little Jawa, as well it should because George Lucas seemed to have a certain fondness for Tunisia.
So while Sara and I were discussing the wonders of Tunisia--the clean, white buildings; the ocean; the clear, blue sky; the rain--and were reveling in the absolute adorableness of the little jackets, Kevan and Andrew were in some sick nerd-induced bliss, talking about Jawas and Tataouine, the namesake of Luke Skywalker's home planet, and Matmata, where Skywalker's Homestead still stands today.
I? Knew none of that. Nor did I care. The jacket is just too cute. Seriously.
I'm cold and it's not even snowing
When it is so cold that the snowbanks freeze and you can stand on top of them; and the wind picks up dry snow and whips it in your face like sand; and the minute you walk outside you can feel your constantly running nose stop dripping because it has frozen instead, well, then it's too cold to do anything fun.
Making snow angels and building snowmen don't sound appealing. Snowball fights and snow forts don't even cross your mind. Sledding and ice skating are absolute no-gos.
Recess, once my favorite subject in school, became my least favorite time of the day. I hated bundling up to go outside. Sweaters, coats, snow pants, long johns, extra socks, boots, gloves, mittens, scarves, tuques; I wore it all. And I could hardly move. And I hated it. Recess just wasn't fun anymore. We were supposed to have inside days if the temperature dropped too far below -20°C (-4°F). The problem was they, meaning the school district, never seemed to the wind chill factor into account. I spent many recesses jumping up and down behind huge snowballs that we'd roll to block the wind just so we could keep warm.
I don't think I ever warmed up after that first winter in Alberta. Want evidence?
My favorite place to eat ice cream is at home so that I can sit on the heater vent with my legs pulled up inside an oversized T-shirt. Need more?
I moved to Russia when I was 18, much to the shock my mother, to teach English. Russia is obviously cold, and although I hate the cold I am no stranger to it and knew I could handle it. I went with a group of girls, several of whom were from Arizona. The first week we got there they were thrilled about the snow and asked me to join them outside to build a snowman and throw snowballs. I refused and when they asked why I told them that they would see. Soon they all learned to hate the snow as much as I. Why? Because it's cold and cold is awful.
I now live in Cairo, Egypt. Today it was over 20°C (about 70°F) and I am freezing. If I lived in Alberta this would be the equivalent of a beautiful early summer day. But out here? It's cold. I'm wearing a long sleeve shirt and a fleece jacket. And I can't get enough hot apple cider. And I'm cold. My nose is cold and my toes are cold and I have goosebumps on my arms.
Perhaps I should turn on the heater. But that silly Canadian inside of me keeps telling me to suck it up, that I should be enjoying this weather in shorts and a t-shirt, not snuggled up on the couch with a blanket and book. I suppose I'll need these "cold" memories to battle the upcoming summer. At least it's not snowing.
***Written, a little apprehensively, for Scribbit at Andrew's behest. I'm always a little nervous to write "on topic."
An orange by any other name is still as orange
When Andrew got home from The Tree, I (promptly,this time for real) put some bananas, clementines, and lemons in the bowl. He made mushroom soup for lunch and we all sat down to eat.
It's a beautiful bowl and the fruit looks 10 times more tempting in it. Perhaps now we will eat more fruit and have less of it rot at random in our fridge.... How did Sara know that a fruit bowl is exactly what we needed? Probably because Andrew spent like a half hour at her house last week rearranging the fruit in her fruit bowl after dinner. She could tell he was jealous.
Rachel thought the mushroom soup was delectable and didn't hesitate to lather it up in her hair, which is apparently genetic since that's what I did with my favorite foods as a child. She was ridiculously messy by the time she'd had her share of soup. And then she wanted an orange.
She kept pointing and grunting at the bowl of fruit until I finally clued in that she was pointing and grunting because she wanted some. Sometimes I am a little slow at picking up what she's putting down. But finally I realized that she was probably pointing at an orange, specifically, and not the fruit bowl (as pretty as it is).
"Do you want an orange?" I asked her. She nodded.
"Those aren't oranges," Andrew corrected, "They're clementines."
"Clementines are oranges," I informed him.
"No they aren't. They're clementines."
"Which is a kind of orange."
"Then why do we call them clementines?"
"I don't know. They're oranges, though. Just like apples are apples no matter what we call them."
"We only call apples apples," Andrew said.
"Golden delicious, red delicious, granny smith, fuji..." My grandpa had a farm and enjoyed grafting apple trees. That doesn't mean I can name all that many varieties of apples. I can't.
"Okay, but an apple is an apple. They have different names but we still call them apples. In multiple languages we call oranges by different names--in Italian and Arabic they do--so they probably are different fruits and not just different oranges. Otherwise we'd call them oranges."
I left the table to look some things up on Wikipedia, namely oranges. Clementines are a type of mandarins which are a type of orange. As are tangerines. And a lot of other orange-fruits that are called things other than just oranges. For the sake of Rachel, I argued, it was fine to just call a round, orange fruit an orange--even if it was technically a "clementine"--because she's too little to understand the difference between oranges and blah, blah, blah. I win.
So I grabbed an orange out of the bowl and started peeling it for Rachel, and in the true Christmas fashion I peeled it off all in one peel. It's kind of a tradition in my family, and in other families where oranges are a Christmas must. Boy, do I miss Mandarin oranges at Christmastime! Clementines will do--because clementines are Mandarins and Mandarins are oranges. For some reason the States won't import oranges from China. I don't know why since they import everything else from China, but oh, well. Clementines are local here in Egypt, and Egypt doesn't feel the need to import Mandarins as well, so we're stuck with them.
Anyway, my peel came off looking like an elephant, like it should if you do it the right way. I showed it to Rachel.
"Look!" I gloated, "Mommy peeled the orange all in one piece! It looks like an elephant!"
"Eeeeeeeeeoooooo!" said Rachel, lifting her messy hands up high to make a "trunk."
"Yeah, that's what an elephant says," I praised her, "Good girl!"
I gave her a piece of the
"Uh-oh," I told Andrew, "I think she now thinks that oranges are elephants."
I picked up an orange and showed it to Rachel.
"What's this?" I asked.
"Eeeeeeeeooooo!" she trumpeted.
An orange is an orange, I suppose, and if she wants to call it an elephant she can, since I call it an orange and Andrew calls it a clementine.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Take Care, Sister!
"Almost all the girls in my class loved my hair!"
There are like 6 girls in her class besides her. So if only "almost all" of them liked it, that really isn't a huge crowd but at least it made Megan happy.
So this morning while I was doing her hair Megan said,
"Do you know what Ms. Bridget called you?"
At the time I had no idea who Ms. Bridget was or why she'd be calling me anything so I just said, "Nope, what?"
"She called you my nanny!" and then she started cackling with laughter, "But I told her that you weren't my nanny. You were just taking care of me because you're my friend and my mom and dad aren't home."
"That's right," I told her, "So what, exactly, did Ms. Bridget and you talk about when you were talking about me?"
I'm not vain; I just like to know what's being said about me. Especially if it's a six year old doing the talking.
"She just asked who did my hair and I said, 'Sister Heiss,' and she said, 'Who's Sister Heiss?' and I said, 'She's taking care of us while our mom and dad are gone,' and she said, 'So she's your nanny?' and I said, 'No, she's just Sister Heiss,' and she said, 'But who is she?' and I said, 'She's just taking care. That's all. She's my friend.' and she said, 'Oh,' and I said, 'Yeah' because I just didn't know how to explain it all."
I totally know what Megan is talking about. She's in that stage of life where she talks fluently but doesn't grasp a lot of concepts. She doesn't understand the different between city/state/country/continent. She doesn't understand how time works. And while she may know there are different religions, she doesn't know what the differences are.
And unfortunately for her our religion has a lot of lingo that confuses people. Like "Sister."
I remember having a similar conversation with my friend Rebekah and her mom.
Rebekah: Can I stay and play a little longer? Please, please, please!
Me: No, you have to go home because Sister Loos is coming over.
Rebekah's mom (relieved that I wasn't also whining for Rebekah to stay over longer): Oh, is she a nun?
Me: A nun? What's a nun?
Rebekah's mom: You said, 'Sister Loos is coming over.' Do you call her 'sister' because she's a nun?
Me: Ummm...I don't think so. I don't even know what a nun is. She's just my friend's mom...
Rebekah's mom: So she's not a nun. You just call her 'Sister Loos?'
Me: Of course, that's her name!
Yup, I can see how that would be a difficult concept for Megan to explain to Ms. Bridget. It was difficult for me to explain when I was Megan's age because I assumed that everyone went to church and everyone called grownups "Sister" and "Brother." I didn't even grow up in Utah and I was confused about this--I knew that not everyone belonged to the LDS church, I knew that I didn't call my neighbours or teachers Sister and Brother. However, I did occasionally slip up and call them that by accident and I definitely didn't know how to explain why when I did make that mistake.
I was introduced several times at the party like this, "This is Sister Heiss. She's just takin' care!"
And then I would smile and shake hands and say, "I'm Nancy. I'm tending Megan while her parents are away."
And then Megan would nod in firm agreement.
It worked out well. I don't think we confused too many people, even with Megan saying, "She's just takin' care" and eliding "of me" every time she introduced me.
Soon she'll be able to pull a fast one, like Emma. "This is sis....Mrs....Nancy." But only after she's able to make the jump between church and secular life.
Christmas Activities at School
Rachel and I went to CAC three times this week. The first was to watch Jessica perform in a choir soiree--it was wonderful, if not a little strange to hear them singing about the first snow of winter. We got inside without any problems from the guards. I just told them I was waiting for a student to check me in, Jessica showed up, and we walked through--and got completely stuck in the turnstile with the stroller. Oops.
These pictures don't have anything to do with Jessica's choir concert. They are pictures of the dress she wore to introduce the character Mrs. de Winter to her English class. We didn't watch her present but she loved the dress she borrowed from the theater department and modeled it for us at home.
On Tuesday night we went to watch Emma's puppet show. Before she had even flashed her ID card the guards opened up the big gate for the stroller so that we wouldn't get stuck in the turnstile. No problems there. We went and enjoyed her puppet show. Her class is studying Native Americans right now and they retold the story of Where the Buffalo Begin. Emma has this habit of speeding through everything she has to say but when she was narrating the story she enunciated beautifully. It was a good thing her group presented first because Rachel only barely made it through their presentation before getting too fidgety; after Emma's group was finished we spent most of our time in the story corner reading books.
Emma's turn narrating
The guards had Jessica talk to the Middle School authorities who said that they couldn't give her permission to let me in since I would be visiting a kindergarten class. We then phoned the Elementary authorities who had me explain the problem not once, but twice! Grrrr! While I was in the middle of explaining the problem yet again a mother from Megan's kindergarten class walked by.
"Are you Megan's babysitter?" she asked. "I've heard all about you? Will they not let you in? Sheesh. She's my guest; she's going to my classroom. Let's sign you in, here we go."
Apparently this mother, Ms. Bridget, is an aide in Megan's kindergarten class and lucky for me she showed up just in time to let Jessica get off to class in time!
I'm glad I went because the children each got a pointer to show their 'parent' around the room--showing off all their artwork, offering them treats, introducing them to their friends, etc. It would have been pretty lonely for Megan if I hadn't shown up! She had a great time showing us around. Rachel was so excited to be in her classroom! They have a guinea pig, two budgies, and some fish. They had decorations and projects set up all over--it was like a museum! Megan read all the Christmas poems and songs hung up on the wall and showed me everything she had made and all the stations they have in their classroom.
We even got to stay for story time in Spanish and English. Rachel sat on Megan's lap for most of that!
I can't help but wonder, though, if we weren't missing some class party information for Jacob. Emma had to bring in treats for her Arabic class Christmas party and had her puppet show/pizza party and had to bring in presents for homeroom. Jessica had a bunch of things going on with the Middle School Performing Arts Week and had to bring treats for her choral soiree. Megan had to bring treats and presents for her class party. But Jacob had nothing of the sort. Either he's in the most boring class in the whole world or forgot to relay some messages.