Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Surround(ing) Sounds

Our family is family that loves small towns and the wilderness. Coming to a big foreign city is very far outside our preferred living situation. If we could live anywhere in the world, I think it would be the wilderness of Montana. But, here we are in a very full and noisy foreign city. Every city has a cacophony of noise that is part of its daily life.

In our building with 8 homes we share a stairwell. Since everything is made of tile and cement everyone in the building knows when and who is going up or down the shared staircase. Also, due to the tile and cement scenario AND the old windows that don't block out sound well, we hear many of the street noises echoing through our house.

We share our garden wall with a furniture repair shop. Many people here have to work very long hours daily to try and make a living and the furniture man is no different. The owner seems to be there from the time we leave for school to 11 at night. There are a couple of young men who help him, so we hear them reupholstering and chatting daily. Many of the stores here have a garage door that protects the store front overnight, so the sound of people closing their garage doors is a common sound in the evening.

Our intersection also has a mechanic's shop where the shabaab (young men) like to hang out during the day. At night, especially on the weekend, they will rev their engines and show off their car maschismo.
The streets in the city are alive nearly all the time, so the sounds of neighbors greeting each other, kids playing soccer in the street or a group of school girls laughing as they walk home is an integral part of the daily soundtrack.
Being at an intersection also means that every time a car passes there is a quick honk of the horn. Car horns are used here all the time as an important part of driving.
You honk if:
-you drive through an intersection
-you see a person who looks like they're thinking about crossing the street
-you see a friend, neighbor, relative
-you see a pretty lady
-you need to ask a fellow driver a question while waiting at a light
-you need to ask a pedestrian a question
-you're celebrating a wedding, graduation, holiday...
-you're at a light too long
-you think another driver is an idiot
This is just a beginner's list of the all the appropriate ways and reasons for using your car horn here. Needless to say, it's a sound we're very used to.

Both the farm trucks and the 2nd hand/scrap metal/recyleable trucks have bull horns mounted on them that you can hear within a 2 block radius. At least 2 of these trucks pass our street on a daily basis.

The call to prayer is a melodic sound heard at least 5 times a day, but they also have a call to the call to prayer sometimes. Also, around noon on Fridays is the sermon. All these are heard from the various mosques that dot the city. When we first arrived, the early morning call would wake us up. But we've acclimated to the point that it no longer wakes us.

Then there's my favorite sound, the sound of the weekend or holiday mornings. Everyone here still observes an actual day of rest on these occasions. The streets are empty, the stores all closed until usually around noon or a little later. I've never lived in a place where everyone fully appreciates and takes the time to rest and be quiet. Maybe this is more valued here because of the general chaos of the day.

Welcome to another noisy day in the city. Nashkurallah!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Since The Break-In

We have yet to move home as the kids are still nervous. Hopefully in the next couple of days we will head back.

We are so grateful for all our friends both here and in the States. Stateside friends and family have been available to let me vent my frustrations and thoughts. Friends here have given my kids the gift of an old iPod and a safe and quiet place to stay until they're ready to go back.

If you weren't already aware, this crime happened just 2 weeks before we need to decide whether it's financially possible and sensible for us to spend another year here learning Arabic. We will make this decision based upon the facts before us and not an emotional response to the last couple of weeks. Hard things (friend's dying, burglary) happen anywhere. Our conviction is that Biblically we are free to choose to stay here or move back to the States. Neither choice is sinful. But, above all we must be wise, both with our resources and with our family.

So, stayed tuned as we decide what is best!

Below is an encouraging quote sent to me by a friend after the burglary. It's long and in older English, but I found it very encouraging. Feel free to guess who wrote it:

"Here we are forcibly reminded of the inestimable felicity of a pious mind. Innumerable are the ills which beset human life, and present death in as many different forms. Not to go beyond ourselves, since the body is a receptacle, nay the nurse, of a thousand diseases, a man cannot move without carrying along with him many forms of destruction. His life is in a manner interwoven with death. For what else can be said where heat and cold bring equal danger?
Then, in what direction soever you turn, all surrounding objects not only may do harm, but almost openly threaten and seem to present immediate death. Go on board a ship, you are but a plank's breadth from death. Mount a horse, the stumbling of a foot endangers your life. Walk along the streets, every tile upon the roofs is a source of danger. If a sharp instrument is in your own hand, or that of a friend, the possible harm is manifest. All the savage beasts you see are so many beings armed for your destruction. Even within a high walled garden, where everything ministers to delight, a serpent will sometimes lurk. Your house, constantly exposed to fire, threatens you with poverty by day, with destruction by night. Your fields, subject to hail, mildew, drought, and other injuries, denounce barrenness, and thereby famine. I say nothing of poison, treachery, robbery, some of which beset us at home, others follow us abroad. Amid these perils, must not man be very miserable, as one who, more dead than alive, with difficulty draws an anxious and feeble breath, just as if a drawn sword were constantly suspended over his neck?
It may be said that these things happen seldom, at least not always, or to all, certainly never all at once. I admit it; but since we are reminded by the example of others, that they may also happen to us, and that our life is not an exception any more than theirs, it is impossible not to fear and dread as if they were to befall us. What can you imagine more grievous than such trepidation? Add that there is something like an insult to God when it is said, that man, the noblest of the creatures, stands exposed to every blind and random stroke of fortune. Here, however, we were only referring to the misery which man should feel, were he placed under the dominion of chance.

11. Certainty about God's providence puts joyous trust toward God in our hearts
But when once the light of Divine Providence has illumined the believer's soul, he is relieved and set free, not only from the extreme fear and anxiety which formerly oppressed him, but from all care. For as he justly shudders at the idea of chance, so he can confidently commit himself to God. This, I say, is his comfort, that his heavenly Father so embraces all things under his power—so governs them at will by his nod—so regulates them by his wisdom, that nothing takes place save according to his appointment; that received into his favour, and entrusted to the care of his angels neither fire, nor water, nor sword, can do him harm, except in so far as God their master is pleased to permit. For thus sings the Psalm, "Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday" &c. (Ps. 91: 2-6.) Hence the exulting confidence of the saints, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me." "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear." "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." (Ps. 118: 6; 27: 3; 23: 4.)

(My note: I thought this was an appropriate place to insert the section from paragraph 5.)
I concede more—that thieves and murderers, and other evil-doers, are instruments of Divine Providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute the judgements which he has resolved to inflict. But I deny that this forms any excuse for their misdeeds. For how? Will they implicate God in the same iniquity with themselves, or will they cloak their depravity by his righteousness? They cannot exculpate themselves, for their own conscience condemns them: they cannot charge God, since they perceive the whole wickedness in themselves, and nothing in Him save the legitimate use of their wickedness. But it is said he works by their means. And whence, I pray, the fetid odour of a dead body, which has been unconfined and putrefied by the sun's heat? All see that it is excited by the rays of the sun, but no man therefore says that the fetid odour is in them. In the same way, while the matter and guilt of wickedness belongs to the wicked man, why should it be thought that God contracts any impurity in using it at pleasure as his instrument? Have done, then, with that dog-like petulance which may, indeed, bay from a distance at the justice of God, but cannot reach it!

How comes it, I ask, that their confidence never fails, but just that while the world apparently revolves at random, they know that God is every where at work, and feel assured that his work will be their safety? When assailed by the devil and wicked men, were they not confirmed by remembering and meditating on Providence, they should, of necessity, forthwith despond. But when they call to mind that the devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are, in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how much soever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay, unless in so far as he commands; that they are not only bound by his fetters, but are even forced to do him service,—when the godly think of all these things they have ample sources of consolation. For, as it belongs to the lord to arm the fury of such foes and turn and destine it at pleasure, so it is his also to determine the measure and the end, so as to prevent them from breaking loose and wantoning as they list. Supported by this conviction,
Paul, who had said in one place that his journey was hindered by Satan, (1 Thess. 2:18,) in another resolves, with the permission of God, to undertake it, (1 Cor. 16:7.) If he had only said that Satan was the obstacle, he might have seemed to give him too much power, as if he were able even to overturn the counsels of God; but now, when he makes God the disposer, on whose permission all journies depend, he shows, that however Satan may contrive, he can accomplish nothing except in so far as He pleases to give the word. For the same reason, David, considering the various turns which human life undergoes as it rolls, and in a manner whirls around, retakes himself to this asylum, "My times are in thy hand," (Ps. 31:15.) He might have said the course of life or time in the singular number, but by times he meant to express, that how unstable soever the condition of man may be, the vicissitudes which are ever and anon taking place are under divine regulation. Hence Rezin and the king of Israel, after they had joined their forces for the destruction of Israel, and seemed torches which had been kindled to destroy and consume the land, are termed by the prophet "smoking fire brands." They could only emit a little smoke, (Is. 7: 4.) So Pharaoh, when he was an object of dread to all by his wealth and strength, and the multitude of his troops, is compared to the largest of beasts, while his troops are compared to fishes; and God declares that he will take both leader and army with his hooks, and drag them whither he pleases, (Ezek. 29: 4.) In one word, not to dwell longer on this, give heed, and you will at once perceive that ignorance of Providence is the greatest of all miseries, and the knowledge of it the highest happiness. "

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Not the Post I was Expecting to Write

Well, this has been an unexpected 24 hours. Our house was burglarized yesterday.
The thieves must have been watching us for awhile because they knew when we were gone. Monday is the day when we are absent from our house the longest. They had 8 hours in which to accomplish their task.

From what we can tell, they tried to pry open the back kitchen door first (the most private door to our house). When that didn't budge, they ripped the Arabic toilet window screen only to discover that it was barred (all our windows have bars). So then they had to move to our garden entrance which, while surrounded by our garden trees, is the most visible. This door obviously gave them trouble as well, but they finally succeeded in prying it open enough to get in.

They were thorough. They went through every room, drawer and suitcase. From the dusting the police did of fingerprints, it's obvious that they wore gloves. Our room was in complete disarray.

But it was an odd burglary for what they didn't take. They left our desktop computer, our passports, credit cards and our Wii. What they took was all very portable and they even took a plastic bag to carry it all in. They took 2 older iPods, the kids' Kindle Fire, our daughter's Nintendo DS, some cash and my husband's Mac.

The Mac is our biggest concern because of all the personal information on it. Hopefully the thieves only desire is to wipe everything from the computer to resell it.

The iPods are old and not much for resale value and the Kindle is completely useless to them since Amazon was able to wipe it and lock it down via internet.

What they took from us is our time, some financially valuable things and our sense of trust and safety in the house we're in. My poor son was very nervous and scared last night. My husband didn't sleep and I'm not sure when any of us will feel safe sleeping in this house again.

Unfortunately this also colors our view of living in a foreign culture. Our neighbors all said this never happens around here to them. I believe the fact that we're foreigners played a part in all this. Everyone that the police interviewed said that they didn't see anything. This is a very busy neighborhood where people are nearly always around and neighbor's routinely watch each other's business from their windows. If this neighborhood can't look out for us, do I want to stay in this house? Do I want to continue this adventure of living in a foreign country?

These are the sort of things you think about in the first 24 hours. For now, the priority is making sure our kids feel safe.

Friday, May 10, 2013


I think I addressed this topic briefly in a previous post, but shopping is different here from what we know Stateside. The exception is the wealthy in this country. The west side of the city has a large amount of malls and stores that are identical to the States. But, for the majority of the people in this city we still rely on the local stores for our daily and weekly fare.

There are certain stores that you will see every few blocks in all neighborhoods because they're vital to the everyday existence of the people

One note: As you read the description of the various stores, remember that all of the stores are the size of a spacious living room, though sometimes smaller.

Dukkan: These are similar in style to convenience stores ( think 7-11) in the States. Each one is individually owned, often by a man who lives in the neighborhood. My local dukkan is two block from my house and is owned by two older gentlemen (we designated it the "Old Man Dukkan"). They carry a variety of staple dried goods, candies, toiletries, some fridge/freezer foods and fresh bread two to three times a day. Unless you have a car or time to head to the large grocery store, this is the place you pop into a couple times a week. Prices are usually very close to the price of goods at the large grocery store, plus you aren't charged an extra small tax that the larger stores charge.

Bread store: These are further apart in neighborhoods. They're busy most often before work as people pick up bread for breakfast and work. They churn out large amounts of white and wheat pita bread which is the staple of every home in the city. They also carry dry biscuits, long pretzels and fresh French loaves of bread. I'd love to visit the bread store more often, but the closest one is 5 blocks from our house.

Coffee Stand: These are truly everywhere and they stand out starkly in the rows of shops. They usually have a distinctive black and red checkered design painted on their exteriors. They hold shiny carafes of strong black tea and the smells of cardamom laced Turkish coffee waft from their open store fronts. In the summer they add a slushy machine to the offerings. There is often an attendant standing in front of the store waiting for a driver to stop and order. Taxi drivers will occasionally stop mid-trip for a caffeine boost, but often offer to buy for their passengers as well.

Snack shop: These are the kids' favorite shops. They're often open after the kids are out of school because they cater to them. Racks of chips, tables of sweets and fridges of pop at very cheap prices make them a very popular place.

Fruit and Vegetable Shop: I have a guy I frequent a block from my house. He has boxes of fruits and veggies on raised wooden tables against the walls. I choose what I want and then take it to his low table that has a money drawer, calculator and scale. He weighs each bag, adds them up on the calculator and takes my proffered coins. While these stores are fairly reasonably priced, there is an even cheaper, easier way to get fruit and veggies.

Farm Trucks: Nearly every day of the week you can hear a voice hollering through a PA system on top of a truck. As it drives closer you can make out the call of, "Come get cucumbers, come get tomatoes, come get potatoes, onions, cabbage, oranges....". These trucks drive in from farms outside the city to sell boxes of goods to the people. If you flag down a truck you are required to buy by the box. The prices are 2 to 5 times cheaper than buying at your local stand. BUT without a freezer you'd better use or give away quickly the 6 pounds of cucumbers you've bought!

While they aren't stores, we have some other very useful kinds of products move through our streets.

Push carts: I'm sure there are varieties I have yet to spot, but our street vendors tend to come in two kinds. Most mornings I wake to the yell of the breakfast sandwich vendor. He will slap together egg, falafel, spices, cheese, yogurt, cucumber, or hummus on a small french loaf for needy breakfasters. The other cart is the trinkets and cotton candy man. I know it's him by the slide whistle he blows.

Propane carts/trucks: Since propane is the way we cook and heat our homes, this man is in high demand. You can hear the tapping of a wrench on a propane bottle if the cart is walking by or an annoying song (think ice cream truck annoying) playing if the propane truck is passing.

Water bottle trucks: These trucks are actually delivery trucks. The city water is not the best, so many people buy coupon books from local water bottle services. We have two bottles which last us about a week. So, once a week I call for the water delivery to come and switch out bottles.

Not sure how well I described these, does this post raise any related questions for you?