Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping Warm

This seems like the best topic to tackle now as winter is setting in and we're navigating the waters of home heating here.

The first challenge of heating is the home design itself. The floors are cement, covered by tiles, the walls are cement...cement with no insulation. The ceilings are high, 12 feet more or less. The windows are abundant and single pane. The temperature inside and outside the house at any given time of day stay pretty similar. Now, here are your heating options:

-Sobba: a propane heater that is fairly economical, but will only heat one room while it's running

-Electric heaters: heat rooms nicely, but expensive to run. Also, with the electrical current not being constant, it's not advisable to leave it on overnight.

-Kerosene stove: Probably the best way to heat multiple rooms for a length of time.

-Water radiators: Living in a desert where water and electricity are expensive this is one of the priciest options.

-Air conditioner heater: I'm still not clear on the science behind this, but the wall mounted A/C units can blow out warm air in the winter.

Being that we're on a shoestring budget, we have one Sobba heater, one electric heater and heaps of wool socks, slippers, blankets and warm fuzzy coats.
The tile floor is really a killer on these days...I don't take my slippers off unless I'm climbing into bed. We have to keep the water heater turned on more often for showers because it takes the water so much longer to get hot. I think back to winter camping in Colorado and I see many similarities, save for the snow and high altitudes. This will be a post I will have to add to once we're deep into the rainy months of winter.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

You Asked, I Answer

I decided to give you all a chance to tell me what you wanted to know about living here. So, I will answer your questions to the best of my ability. Keep in mind, I've only been here since mid-August, so I'm sure some of these perception based answers will change over time.

How do the locals view us?

The locals view us the same way as most of you would view new foreigners in your neighborhood. You're interested in the different looking family that babbles on in a foreign language. The majority of the neighborhood seem to have gotten used to us and we are being woven into the tapestry of those who walk their streets daily. The local shop owners acknowledge me as a neighbor when I buy groceries in their stores. Some of the other mothers are smiling at me as we pass each other every morning walking our kids to school. This country is a melting pot of years of refugees and foreigners coming and going. Granted, our neighborhood is an older, more established neighborhood, but they still understand the landscape of this country. The extended family that owns and lives in this building are a product of the war in Palestine in the 1948. The patriarch emigrated here as a Palestinian refugee and has firmly and successfully established his family here. There are so many stories around us of families that had to flee and rebuild either recently or many years ago.

Are you making friends with your neighbors?

I'm very busy with 20 hours of school, plus travel time, plus domestic responsibilities and studying. Also, I'm a chicken when it comes to meeting new people. But, I have met one wife in the building and she is great. I've met all the kids that live in the building and every week I think about visiting some of the moms in the building. Bottom line, I haven't manned up enough yet to go knock on a door.
I am making friends with some of the other parents at our language school and the kids' school. Close to us lives a great Dutch family that's in my language class and a family from the US who's kids are in class with our kids and are becoming close friends.

How are you adapting to the food and culture?

The food has been great. The kids are enjoying the fast food:

Shawarma: Shaved chicken or beef, fries and pickles wrapped in warm pita.

Falafel: Fried grain balls with hummus and tomato wrapped in warm pita

Pastries: Cheese, potato, spinach, pizza, ground meat, egg...all stuffed in different breads just a block from us.

Honestly, we can find many Western foods here if we choose, the price is usually 2 to 3 times what it is stateside. The fruits and veggies are plentiful and varied. We have a lot more rice and veggies and much less meat than we had back in Colorado. That's due to what's cheap to make. Ironically popcorn and peanut butter are both fairly cheap and are eaten more here than they were back in the US.

You have to buy your pita bread daily if you want it to taste good. It's cheap and plentiful as it's subsidized by the government. I'm please that I can find wheat pita without too much effort.

As for adapting to the culture, it's been a fairly easy transition since the kids school situation is very similar here. Also, we've been trained to not be surprised by foreign cultures with all our previous global travel. We are all missing snow, mountains and open space though. My guess is that any big city dweller in the States would adapt to this large, noisy city better than I am.

Language barriers?

There will be no meaningful conversations for a long time in Arabic, but I we can have very basic friendly conversations with the language we've learned so far. Also, many of the locals speak very good English, so I may end up finding friends I can really talk to in my native tongue.

How are women in general treated and what are their rights?

The women here are treated quite well. Their rights are the same as everyone else. They are more conservative here. Many women go to college, work a little, get married and then stay home once they start having children. The young men here think it's fine to holler and whistle openly at any women they see in public, covered or otherwise. That's one thing that's been hard to ignore. I feel my gender here more than I did in the States.

Can the women vote and cancel out their husbands vote?

Yes,  yes they can.

How do you worship God when you don't understand the language?

Some of the church services and songs are translated. So, I sing when I can and enjoy the sermon when I can. We often listen to sermons online as a family and study the Word individually. Most of our time spent at the local church is used as language study. Sitting through a sermon is great for training the ear to follow what's being said in Arabic as the text is written in classical Arabic and the pastor preaches in the local dialect. Learning Arabic is a two part process: reading the classical Arabic and speaking spoken Arabic. We're working slowly on both in school.

Hope that answered your question, I enjoyed answering them. If you want clarification or have more questions please ask!

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Day In My Life

I have a longer post I'm working on, but I thought I would give a flavor of how long we spend in transport daily and why you don't hear from me often.

6 am-7:20 Wake up, eat breakfast, pack school lunches and head to a friend's house 2 blocks away where the kids' get a ride to school.

7:30-8:05 Walk from our hill down to the balad and up another hill to our school

8:15-12:15 Arabic classes (three classes total. Two spoken Arabic and one class written Arabic)

12:15-12:45 Walk down to the balad and catch a servees up our hill

12:45-2:00 Study, catch up on housework, shop for food for dinner

2:00-3:45 Walk through the balad to catch a minibus out to the kids' school. Pick up our kids and our friends' kids. Catch a taxi home from the kids' school.

4:00-6:00 Prep dinner, look at kids' schoolwork and homework

6:00-8:00 Clean up from dinner, maybe shower kids, Arabic homework

8:00-10:00 Study and relax with Jason if I'm lucky

Wash, rinse, repeat, 5 days a week.