Monday, August 24, 2009

Random finds on the rooftop
The other day we were taking in the view from a friends rooftop and I was awestruck by the expanse of the land and buildings. I was taking deep breaths and thinking, "did I ever imagine being in such a beautiful place?" Then I turned around and saw countless satelite dishes, laundry, a tray of onions, and even a couple of bikes. My immediate conclusions were that laudry would get direct sunlight on the roof, a tray of onions would maybe taste better after being baked in the sun or maybe the heat would kill any bugs, but I am baffled by the bikes. Do people ride them on the roof? How did they get the bikes up there and why doesn't anybody else have bikes on the roof? Any guesses? I guess I am used to roofs serving as solely shelter, but storage or entertainment are all reasonable uses as well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Some days begin by dropping your doughnuts

The other day at around 9:00 am we were going to the Medina and a friend offered for us to try a Moroccan dougnut from a vendor. So we walk over, purchase, and she dips the aromatic goodness into a plate of nearby sugar. Now you would think that I would have remembered that these doughnuts were fresh, meaning they had just come out of the hot oil when I reached out to take one off of a ring made of a long stalk of some green plant, but I didn't remember...I put my hand on one of the five doughnuts hanging on the string, burned my finger and caused all five doughnuts to fly off of the ring and into the street. I quickly rushed to pick them up and almost dropped them again because they were so hot. Then I looked around and saw my friends laughing which made me begin to laugh until I cried and almost drooled because my mouth was hanging open. So there I am standing on a busy sidewalk laughing, crying, and all the while trying to switch the doughnuts from hand to hand without dropping them again. Eventually we got the doughnuts back on the plant ring told the vendor thanks again, as he looked at us in a very bewildered manner, and we walked into the Medina. The rest of the day was pretty great!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top 12 for settling in....

Well I have unpacked most of my suitcases. We are also beginning to recognize landmarks close to our apartment. N. Africa is beautiful in so many ways. I will post pics very soon!

1. I just have to tell you that we found the school supply store today and it was well WONDERFUL! Of course it wasn't exactly like walking into Walmart, but there were pens of many colors, gluesticks, erasers, graph paper (which will take some getting used to), and markers, pastels, crayons, etc... ) But there's nothing like schools supplies to warm a teachers heart!

2. I went to the market for the first time and ordered a sausage and cheese sandwich, yogurt, and water in Arabic (woot-woot!) The salesmen are very patient! I can't wait to buy apples and other favorites that I can find here!!

3. I almost ran straight into a donkey today!!! The cars and other modes of transportation (mopeds, bikes, scooters) are aggressive and fast! It's like playing frogger (ATARII video game from the 80's) LOL but kinda scary.. We've decided that if we follow other locals then 'they can't take us all!" LOL This is a very verbal culture the volume of noise is incredible.. there is always innumerable events happening at once and sometimes I forget that I am walking down the street because I am distracted by everything.

4. We went to this crowded market place that used to be owned by the Jewish community and we saw anything that you could think to buy from tea pots, to hijabs, jllebas, shoes, sweets, towels, potato chips made fresh. All of the sales men are yelling and the people are just hustling and bustling by without caring if they bump into you or what!!!

5. Did I mention it's blazing hot here?! Did I mention I might regret bringing the snow pants?! Oh, but we did hear today that we can go hiking in the mountains, maybe I can wear them then. The mornings are very cool here which maybe a precursor to what a glimpse of winter might be........I am stretching this as far as I can, can you tell........

6. We are now used to hearing the call to prayer.

7. We took care of a small insect that snuck into our apartment as we were coming up the stairwell tonight. With lots of screaming, throwing of multiple shoes, running as it chased us, and some courage we took care of the situation and will be placing our first notch in our beloved "bug terminator"Bass Shoe size 9 donated by our dear friend Laura! :) Bring it on we say! (We've decided to buy bug spray tomorrow, just in cast!)

8. I will be teaching 1st grade and sharing 3rd grade with Suzanne! School begins on Sept. 8th, and inservice begin September 1st! :) Here comes the learning curve!

9. I can read french apparently. I was able to install the ASDL internet on my laptop after three tries! What do they say...the third time's the charm?!

10. I have observed that sometimes you can't be shy here, even if it takes leaning into a cab, rushing to a sales counter and speaking louder than three other people in a crowded area! Oh and we were advised today to bargain as much as possible on a variety of foods or items. I may need a little prayer and encouragement in this area...maybe that little talk about assertiveness in high school will pay off afterall! I'll let you know!

11. I learned how to properly greet women. It's very french. I place my cheek to her right cheek making a kissing sound in the air, go to her left cheek and do the same three to five times. The first night I was told that if I only greet with two or these then I am not perceived as being excited to see the woman I am greeting! This will be fun to try in the states someday! Just kidding! :)

12. I saw the palace of the king today! We heard that each tile was hand crafted and assembled! The entry doors are golden and had knobs that can only be reached from the height of horseback. There were soldiers standing guard. We took pictures and tried to peak in the sliver of sight b/w the doors to see a glimpse of gorgeous gardens!!!!! (I will post pics soon!)

Thank you for your warm wishes, prayers, and thoughts as I transition into life in N.Africa!
Couscous, Tagine, and Olives galore!
I have been in N. Africa for the past three days and I have already eaten a lot of delicious foods! The first afternoon we stopped at a tourist cafe and had mint tea (very sweet to the taste, it reminded me of the sweet tea from Kentucky, but this had the mint leaves right there in the cup!) I ordered Tagine with chicken which is a stew like dish with peas, carrots, red olives, onions, garlic, etc. The best thing about Tagine was that we learned how to eat it with our hands and scooping with a small piece of bread. I laughed to myself thinking about all those years of my mom telling us not to play with our food! Well eating tagine without utensils was fun and somewhat liberating. Small pleasures in life are what make life worth living, right?!

The first night after unpacking my suitcase I walked with friends to a McDonald's....but we all decided it would be better to try authentic foods to immerse ourselves in the culture. So we walked a few blocks and stopped at a nice restaurant that had tables outside and we ordered couscous with chicken. The plate was piled high with raisins, carrots, potatoes, chicken, beans, and grain on the bottom. Every bite was delicious, but I was so stuffed that I took leftovers with me.

The second day we went to a local fast food restaurant that served us eggplant with peppers, greens with artichokes, and wonderfully seasoned cuts of chicken and beef. Again, I got to eat with my hands!

The third day, today, I had a chance to eat a meal prepared by a good cook in a local cafeteria. Earlier in the day at tea time, I saw her massaging the chicken in a marinade. An hour or two later after taking care of some business, I returned and there was a table set with cooked green and red peppers, cucumbers slices, rice potatoes and carrots, and in the middle of the table there was....the chicken covered in layers of green olives, onion, garlic, parsley, celery, etc. Carrying on with the theme, I ate with my hands again which I am really getting used to and really enjoying! was absolutely delicious!!!!! I am getting hungry just thinking about that meal. :)

So far I think that this part of adjusting to the culture is a plus which gives me hope for three things:
1. that I will learn how to cook these meals and therefore broaden my repretoire of recipies.
2. that the dishes prepared with fish will be just as satisfying!
3. that other adjustments will have their liberating aspects.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Great Expectations

Time is flying and all preparations have been made. In less than a week I will be 'leaving on a jet plane' to go to N. Africa! I have been asked many questions over the past few weeks. For instance, many people have want to know if I am excited or nervous. Some have even asked if I am afraid. I never feel like I have enough time to process my answer within the length of time provided in the conversation. To be honest, I have felt a range of emotions as I have read many texts, attempted to speak Arabic/French, and plan lessons for the year, so trying to melt it all down in to one sentence is a difficult task. I am greatly anticipating living in a new culture, yet I know that it will take time to adjust and find my place. My brain has been filled with fears and questions concerning my ability to handle the stress that major life change presents, but about a week ago when grappling with those questions in prayer a deluge of scripture came to mind.

-" I am with you until the end of the age..."

-"I will never leave you nor forsake you."

-"I am the Lord your God; I will hold your right hand saying do not fear for I am with you."
Isaiah 43:10

-"When you call I will answer and while you are yet speaking I will hear."

-"Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, I will help you speak and teach you what to say."
Exodus 4:11

-"God is not a man that he should lie; nor a son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"

-"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert...I provide water in the give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise! " Isaiah 43:18-21

And finally I read this verse:

" The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 43:11

I have come to the conclusion that the Father has gone before me and it will be HIS strength that I will rely upon when I face any difficulty. My confidence will be in HIS ability because I know that I have limitations and that it's normal to fear the unknown. But the great thing about my limitations and fears is that HE can use them to show others how great HE is...I am honored to be considered worthy of such a divine audience.