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Young Mom in the Big World



Married out of high school and lovin it



Updated: 2017-12-13T06:09:17.456-08:00

 



Honk If You Love Driving in a Foreign Country

2014-11-30T14:00:24.818-08:00

( I will be releasing some old posts that I intended to post while still living in Jordan but didn't get around to completing.)Driving is an adventure wherever you happen to live. I think every city and town in the States approaches driving a little differently. Europeans tend to drive a little differently and the Middle East also has its unique way to approach the open (or mostly traffic jammed) road.I've learned that Jordan is currently #24 of the 25 countries with the highest percentage of traffic fatalities according to population. There's rarely a day when I don't see a near accident, either between vehicles or involving a pedestrian. Roads are for playing in, parking on, partying and arguing. Here's a list of driving suggestions for your next trip to JordanBeware of trucks especially in the stretch from Petra to Aqaba.  There were probably five 18-wheeler trucks for every compact car in the Desert Highway.  Some of them are going so fast that our car shook as they whizzed by.  Some of them are so old and rickety and going so slow.  Some are covered in neon lights—neon lights—that will strain your eyes as you pass them.  Some are carrying such heavy load that the entire truck is running at an angle.  They do not make for a comfortable drive.  From the Desert Highway, we lost the trucks north of Ma-an; most if not all exited towards Highway 5 which leads to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.Read the road signs.  Yes, your GPS may be updated, but with construction work and road closures, you can end up on a road to Saudi Arabia or Iraq.Watch out for speed bumps and speed control patrols.  The police cars are positioned throughout the highways.  I can imagine that getting pulled over by one would not be such a pleasant experience.  Watch out also for speed bumps; most of them are not sign-posted or painted so a lot of cars make a sudden stop just before them.  That’s a surefire accident if you’re right behind and not paying attention.  The speed bumps almost always come in pairs.  I highly recommend that you keep an eye out for them because if you hit them when you’re going at 100kph, you could cause damage to your car.Don’t get distracted by the neon signs.  The Desert Highway is peppered with tea shops by the roadside.  You’ll recognize them by their big, flashing, neon lights.  Try not to get distracted by them when driving at night and keep your focus on the road.[...]



A Quick Word...

2014-10-10T09:58:26.490-07:00

...to my readers. I am so sorry that I have dropped off the planet. We started a new job as dorm parents for international students in August and I have yet to catch my breath as I'm still learning how to do my job well. This new position is very interesting, and busy, and difficult. So, hopefully I can tell you about it soon.



Reintegration Part 2

2014-08-02T19:18:09.035-07:00



Those of you who live in big cities may understand my discomfort at the lack of bars on the windows and doors of our home. Homes here are insanely easy to break into and I'm sure most burglars revel in all the big windows and isolation of each home here. I have to resist the urge to buy extra locks and alarms for our windows and doors.

I am enjoying the process of obtaining household furnishings and all the little items needed. I know where to find good prices on items and I speak the language of those selling what I need. Also, we own a large car that can haul all of our stuff to our new home. No negotiating with a furniture mover or piling a compact car full of our bags. We did save some household items but they're in 6 different homes in two states.

We are reveling in driving here. There's so much space between cars parked along the road and those driving. I do think there are too few roundabouts and too many traffic laws here. We lost our instinct for immediately putting on a seatbelt after riding so long in taxis. I also have had a lifelong hatred for cars because they never seem to run like I want them to. I did not miss owning a car!

Instead of falling asleep to the crooning of lusty feral cats (Amman's official vermin), I fall asleep to the quiet of the mountains and wake to the chitter of chipmunks and birds. We've seen elk, moose and deer around our home in the mountains. Being a Montanan and a nature lover the great empty outdoors was something I heartily missed. I'm so happy to be back where I can hike!

The absolute best part of coming home was coming home to our local church body. We had Skyped in some Sundays and I had Skyped into women's group bi-monthly. It's not the same as physically fellowshipping with your body though. My heart ached most often for that group and their friendship. I teared up our first Sunday back in service. The church we attended in Jordan was a fine place, but there was a language barrier and I didn't invest because I knew we'd be leaving.

As you can see there's been a lot of adjustment for us. Summer has flown by and we are gearing up for school next month.

What are we doing next? Jason will be teaching high school history at a private Christian school. The kids will be attending the private school. Our family was also hired to be the dorm family for the international students at the school. We will be living in a large brick dorm building with about ten Asian students. I will be spending my days managing the dorm and cooking meals for fourteen. We're hoping our time spent in Asia and our own understanding of how weird it can be in a foreign culture will be helpful for the girls.

Stay tuned for some last posts on Jordan and future fun of a house of fourteen!



Going To Bed, Alone

2014-08-01T21:52:12.117-07:00

It's currently 10:45pm and on your average night I'd be hassling Jason to hurry up with his last snack so we could head to bed. But, instead, I'm reluctantly considering heading to bed because Jason's gone on a hiking trip.

I haven't had to sleep alone for 13 1/2 glorious years.

And it's hard...every time he's gone I struggle to go to bed without my living, breathing security blanket.

Sure, I slept alone for a number of years as a kid, but half of that time was spent scared of what I imagined lived under my bed (let's never speak of wolves again, okay?).  I do empathize and understand when my children are reluctant to head to their lonely beds.

I also recognize that some have spouses that bed hog or snore or cause other disruptions and may welcome an evening off. I'm not in that camp.

I will once again try the measures I always employ to try and fall asleep:

-Netflix
-reading
-internet nonsense
-melatonin

And now, since I have nothing else to distract me I will once again head to a lonely bed. Thankful that my lonely bed scenario is only temporary.





Reintegration Part 1

2014-07-28T18:26:18.164-07:00

(I have a handful of posts on our time in Jordan that I've meaning to write for a couple of months. Hopefully once school starts I will have time to write them. Until then, here's part 1 of our time back in the States.)We've been back in the States since early June. Packing up our things in Jordan was more stressful than I had anticipated. The piling and folding, throwing away, giving away and space bagging took hours. Even with all the giving away we had more than anticipated. We bought two cheap bags the day before we left so that we fit all the unanticipated things. We took home 8 bags and had sent home 6 bags with friends. It's amazing how much one acquires in two years!We wrestled with jet lag and slight altitude sickness for the majority of June. We are still wrestling with our reintegration to US culture. Our first shocks came in the Amsterdam airport on the way home. We were stunned at the amount of flesh that was on display. Short shorts and spaghetti straps were never on display in our adopted country.  I'm sure we looked Amish by comparison in our long sleeves and pants. Being able to fill our water bottles at a water fountain (not a device found in Jordan) was a watery delight. Water related surprises have been a continuing theme as we adjust. Filling my water bottle up with tap water and copious amounts of ice still pleases me. Tap water tastes so sweet compared to the bottled water we had in Amman. We still have to remind ourselves that showers can be longer and that sprinklers and rivers exist. I reflexively shudder at all the water that's being used seemingly so carelessly around me. I catch myself wondering how in the world all this open space in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana can be so covered in vegetation.The food...let's talk about the food folks! I miss my cheap and healthy fruit, veggies, bread and falafel. We are trying our darndest not to fall back into our processed food and sugary ways. I'm pleased that I still crave an Arab salad and fresh fruit over other snacks. I'm finding it harder and harder to not purchase shortcut foods from the store because our summer has been so busy. The cheap ice cream, cereal and real cow's milk has thrilled our tastebuds.That leads me to maybe the biggest unexpected shock for me: people. It is overwhelming to move from a culture where you can walk down the street and feel isolated because you cannot follow the majority of the conversations happening around you. It is über stimulating to have so many discernible conversations suddenly dumped into your formerly isolated ears. We are well-liked and have many friends in Colorado. That has also been overwhelming. We had relatively few friends in Amman and spent a lot of time alone or with just us four. To suddenly have so much friend variety and so many more lives to invest in as made me want to curl up in a ball. I like all our friends and family, but it was a sudden rapid expansion of our social circle, akin to an explosion. This coupled with my realization that I am an introvert has been stressful.We have friends who have graciously allowed us to live with them this summer. It has been wonderful to have some ability to cook and clean and have a quasi-normal routine. But the housewife in me craves my own domain again. Living out of suitcases and boxes had not been easy this summer. Our stuff is stored in six different houses and their some items I've given up looking for until we move into an apartment in August. [...]



Final Week

2014-06-01T10:32:52.316-07:00

I'm having flashbacks this week of a time in late June of 2012 when I was slowly emptying my house in preparation to move across the world. That time has come again as we ready to leave Saturday to go back to Colorado.

The moving back is much easier than the moving here for a number of reasons.

-We don't have to sell our furniture as a family already bought all of our things and will move in soon after we leave.
-We have less stuff to deal with as we haven't accumulated much over the last 2 years. We are also willing to leave some things here knowing that we can replace them when we get back to the States.
-Instead of checking 8 bags, we only have to check 4 because friends that visited since January have been taking some of our stuff back with them.

The biggest factor in the ease of leaving this time is: I know what I'm getting into! There's no leap into the unknown, there's no language barrier, there's a church home and friends from long ago waiting to greet us upon arrival.

We also have a job, housing, vehicles, the great outdoors, a church family, and a social life waiting for us back in Colorado.

I am thankful for our 5 friends from church visiting for 11 days recently because we showed them the best that Jordan has to offer. Wadi Rum, Petra, Jerash, the Dead Sea, Karak castle, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Citadel, wadi's and the market were all on display for them to enjoy. It also renewed my view of all great places that inhabit this tiny kingdom.

Yes, we will miss people (school friends and our awesome neighbors), but we are all excited for the adventures to come.



7 Weeks

2014-04-29T11:02:46.663-07:00

Sorry for the lack of posts on our cross-cultural adventures. I really thought I'd be posting more often since I'm not in language classes this semester. I've been enjoying taking better care of my family this semester. I have to admit that I hit a wall with being here a couple of weeks ago. I'm starting to dream of being back in the States and that pull gets stronger as the weeks here tick away. Seven weeks from today it will be very hot here in our Jordanian home and we'll all be done with school and ready to fly home. Suitcases are slowly filling with items we're taking home and I'm turning a critical eye toward those things that should disappear.
There are shoes to be bought, dental and eye appointments to attend and friends to spend time with before we board that plane. We've had many friends take advantage of this semester to visit us. We had one visitor in February, Jason's parents came in March, a friend and his mom are here now and five friends will visit in May. This has been a great chance to proudly show off the sites here in Jordan, but seeing them makes me long for the States all the more.
I will try to get a couple more posts about foreign living before we leave.



Ancient Relic Appreciation

2014-03-13T02:46:19.664-07:00

I have been reminded in the last month how many ancient sites I've been privileged to see in my lifetime. The sermons at our church have been on the churches mentioned in Revelation. Years ago, when Jason and I took college students to Turkey I saw the ruins of Ephesus and Pergamum. I have seen Topkopi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia so many times that I tired of them. I've seen the underground church in Cappadocia and stayed many times in the city of Antakya (the Antioch where Paul started his journeys). Since we've been in Jordan I've seen Mt. Nebo, the Dead Sea, the Dead sea scrolls, the ruins of Jerash, Karak, Pella and Ajloun castle. I'm living in a country where you can't throw a rock without hitting an ancient ruin with the ancient ruin you thought was a rock.Now that we're nearing the end of our time living among a lot of old, dead civilizations I'm starting to appreciate the experience. While walking through Jerash with our kids, our son enthusiastically lead the way to each ruin. He was the only one of the four of us to have been to Jerash before. Our daughter was tired and trudged behind us groaning at all the distance between each ruin. "Just leave me here and come back for me," she moaned. I told her that she would look back fondly on the chance to see these things someday. I also told her that she lives in a good time in history. Travel is affordable enough for us to see ancient sites, mankind has dug up quite a bit of them and many of them haven't been destroyed since their discovery. She agreed that this was true, but it didn't make her more enthusiastic about the experience. I think about places like Syria and Iraq which have lost sites and artifacts in the recent past. Those are sites I, and everyone else will never get to see.I confess that part of this newfound enthusiasm for ancient things surely is due to my old age. So, Jordan, bring on your ancient architecture![...]



Run Visa Run

2014-03-07T10:32:08.135-08:00

I've been privileged to live in a time period and in a country that has granted me citizenship. This means that I can move and work freely within the bounds of our countries borders. Since we are such a big country with a good economy, few of us consider applying for visas to work in other countries.

Other people groups are unable to find work in their country and move in order to work in a different country. This often requires a visa of some kind.

We are not Jordanians but have been living in Jordan for nearly 2 years now. This has required us to get a visa. Our hope when we first arrived here (with the promise of a teaching job) was that we would be able to get an iqama. An iqama is a 1 year visa that is given to those working in Jordan for a local company. When the job fell through we considered the other visa options available for US citizens:

-a student visa, valid for as long as one is a student at a local university (we attended a language school that couldn't get this visa for its students).

-an investment visa which you acquire by investing a large sum of money in a local market. (we don't have a large sum of money)

-a tourist visa, good for one month with the ability to be extended.

Ultimately, we had to settle on the last option. This requires one to go to your neighborhood police station after your first month here and register for 2 additional months in the country. When those 2 months are up, you can apply at a government office for another 3 month extension which (if approved) gives you the ability to stay in the country for 6 months. After those 6 months, there are no more extensions given and you must leave the country. You can come back into the country the day after you leave and start the 6 month process all over again. The government at any of these points can choose to deny you your visa and you have to pack up and leave. Thankfully, they've given us all the extensions up to this point.

Anyone trying to do a border crossing with a family will understand that it can be costly and time consuming and wearisome. There was a time when it was a cheap and easy and fun to make a visa run into Syria. A mini vacation and you have a new visa. For obvious reasons, Syria is no longer an option...Egypt is iffy at the moment. Saudi Arabia is not option and Israel is an awkward option. Last year we were able to visit our friends in Ukraine for our visa trip. This year we were able to go to the resort area of Taba, Egypt.

There are many people here (predominantly Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, etc) who work as maids in order to make enough to support their family back in their home country. Jason does a fine job providing for us and I hope that we will never have to be separated by so much physical distance in order for him to continue to provide. I have a new appreciation for living in a country where I don't have to wonder if my visa request will be denied. We'll move back to the US in a couple of months and I won't have to worry about the government kicking me out of the country.

I'll look back on our time here in Jordan as a great cross-cultural adventure. We definitely got to spend time in a good country. Thank you Jordan for renewing our visa.



Somebody is a Homebody...

2014-02-22T05:52:08.740-08:00

...and that somebody is me!


Incredulity has been expressed many times by our friends when I tell them that I am truly the boring one between Jason and I. While I am the more outgoing of our dynamic duo, he is the one with the ideas. All the travel, fishing, hunting, soccer playing, etc. is by his encouragement.
Whether it be from nature or nuture my ideal day is one where I spend a portion of my day exercising, cooking and reading; never to leave the house. I revel in hours spend chopping veggies, baking breads, reading old dead guys.
My family knows that they're happy this arrangement because they've experienced the me that has too much going on. I get short tempered and unable to enjoy interacting with them. They get less fun interaction, homework help and homemade food when I'm overcommitted.
All this is hard because I do miss being in a classroom learning Arabic this semester. I love interacting in a classroom and learning something new. If there was some way to do it all I would, but for now I enjoy doing what I can.





Moldy Oldies

2014-02-15T05:15:18.370-08:00

Winter this year has been somewhat of a disappointment. We had one tremendous snowstorm that shut down the city for a couple of days. Since then, we've had nothing. This is not a good scenario for all of us who need water for our everyday needs. With the influx of refugees there are also many more people in need of the water supply. I also love the rainy season for it's ability to clean the streets and make the air smell slightly less like big city air.

There is an advantage to the lack of cold and moisture this year. It has to with mold. The buildings here are build of cement and stone with paint slapped onto the inside walls. When the walls get cold and damp, the mold begins to show it's ugly face. In our house, the walls lining the shower and any wall with furniture close to it harbor patches of black mold.
This isn't an example from our home, but it's indicative of what we have. This is a widespread problem that everyone here deals with. The expat forums are full of people asking for advice and tips on how to deal with it every winter. There is some mold-resistant paint sold here, but it's pricey. So, most of us use a cleaning mixer and paper towels to wipe down the walls every few weeks. Also, our tile floors leach a mineral that grows white fuzz in the corners of our rooms. Sort've like weird indoors patches of snow.
I continue to wonder why the newer buildings aren't build in a way to combat this problem. One thing I've learned in traveling through other cultures is to not ask why. All cultures have ways that things are done that are illogical.
I do wonder how many of the people here have mold-related illnesses.
So, I say bring on the dry weather, but please fill our reservoirs so there's no water shortage this year!



Happy Holidays

2013-10-16T08:25:18.664-07:00

While most of you are buying candy for Halloween, we here in the Middle East are in the midst of our holiday season. It's the week of Eid al-Adha, an important end to the muslim holiday season that starts with Ramadan which ends in Eid al-Fitr and a month later we have the current Eid holiday.

This holiday commemorates Abraham's sacrifice of Ishmael (we differ on this point) and Allah's provision of a sacrificial lamb in his place. The first morning of the Eid many of our neighbors bought a sheep and slaughtered it. They are then required to give a third to the poor, keep a third and a give a third to friends and neighbors.

Our landlord gave us a portion of their sheep which will have it's home in a stew pot in the near future. The streets and stairwells obviously are a little bloody on a morning with such a holiday.

Everyone is dressed well during this holiday as they are to pray in their best clothes and many of the children are given new clothes as gifts. Children also receive gifts of toys, candy and money from family members and close friends during the four day festivities.

Visiting friends and family is a must during this holiday. Copious amounts of date cookies and Turkish coffee are consumed as everyone stays up late chatting and reveling in holiday cheer.

These are some assorted cookies the neighbors gave us. I couldn't help but get in a festive mood. This resulted in chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, caramel corn and salsa.

Have I visited my neighbors yet? Nope.

Why? Because I'm a shy person and am not always sure what the cultural protocol is for this holiday. I know it's their holiday season and may not want the goofy foreigner intruding on their holiday season. I am hoping to go see a couple of ladies that are good friends in the next couple of days.

If I don't, I won't have wasted my week off school. The kids and I are enjoying our time of movie marathons, dance offs and baking. Happy Holidays!




Spreckin da Arabic

2013-09-23T04:39:08.709-07:00

We're back in Jordan for our second year of language acquisition. I was slightly concerned that our summer away in the States would be detrimental to all that we had gained. In talking to other foreigners and given our own experience taking a break may have actually helped. Summer was all about resting and recharging after a year of busy time in an unfamiliar place. That rest has translated into our brains being given time to organize all the useful words and sentence structures we gained.

I've been delighted to come back to see that I now can understand most of the conversations going on around us without having to concentrate, translate and conjugate each word. This has the added bonus of knowing that we aren't the topic of most conversations that go on around us on the street. Classroom discussion time on issues such as economics, theology and government are much more engaging as all of us are better able to express our opinions in Arabic. Tasks such as giving drivers directions, asking for prices and goods at the store and calling for water aren't the stresser they were last year. Gone are the days of rehearsing a phrase 5 times before I enter the scenario in which I need to use it.

Simply put, everyday tasks have become everyday tasks.

Sermons at church are still a challenge. This is mainly due to the preacher's mixing written Arabic in with spoken Arabic in every message they give. We are gaining an understanding of the written Arabic, but it's coming much more slowly. Written Arabic is also the Arabic used in radio and TV news reports. I do understand the gist of any report I hear now, but the details so far elude me. 

I may sound like a 3rd grader, but it is exciting to be able to read! I'm not just sound out the letters slowly when I sing hymns and look at signs and advertisements.
While the first year of language was a very, very hard task, this is starting to be an exciting adventure once again.



Night Life

2013-09-02T03:22:33.457-07:00

There's no way to sugarcoat it. It is hot here in the summer...in the city. Whilst we're not a desert exactly we are right next to one that loves to blow its sand our way. So, between the cloudless skies, the hot pavement and the relentless heat, people here have adapted.

P.S. What prompted me to write this was twofold:

1. Everyone here seemed to be so loud late into the night and I was a little flummoxed

2. In Egypt they instituted a 7pm curfew during the latest disturbances. I'm only able to fully appreciate the import and inconvenience of that curfew because of how people live here.

First let me say that fans and A/C do exist here, but A/C can be pricey and fans only push around heated air. Also, the houses are built to minimize the heat inside with high ceilings and lots of windows (obviously a problem in the winter). There also seems to be a fairly consistent breeze blowing through the city on any given day. The inside, while not always extremely cool, is better than walking around outside or sitting in a hot taxi.
Their solution is that, unless absolutely necessary, stay home and sleep in during the cool of the morning.
Get up around 10 or 11 am and have breakfast.
Then there's a nap time.
Get up and eat lunch between 3:30 and 6
Get the family out of the house for errands. Maybe take the kids to the park.
Eat dinner between 8 and 10
Let the kids play outside while you socialize until midnight or so.
Wash, rinse, repeat and stay outta the heat.

Our kids have started school and there's is no way that I would let them stay up past 9 even if it's hot and there are people out socializing. We all just have to learn how to ignore the noise and go to sleep at a reasonable (for us) time. I don't think I appreciated the logic behind their environmental adaptation last year. This year I understand their reason for the differing hours. It's not one our family can do though with our 8-12 and 8-3 school hours.

So, Egyptian people, I understand now why a 7pm curfew would be so hard. Neighbors, I now understand why our hours of eating and sleeping confuse you.



Cell Phones & Internet

2013-08-23T03:12:26.538-07:00

Cell phones and their plans are one of the areas of US culture that absolutely do not miss. Having to sign a contract and buy data plans and decide on a phone was a hassle because I'm a phone dinosaur. I want a phone to perform two simple functions: texting and calling people. Beyond that I don't want to do a darn thing with it!

In Jordan there are three major phone/internet companies to choose from. We chose Zain because we heard that it had fairly reliable coverage in our neighborhood. No contract needed to be signed when we bought our basic phones (they cost us around $17) and anytime we need minutes added to our phone we go to any of the dozens of phone stores in our neighborhood and buy a 5 JD scratch card. It usually takes us 2-3 months to text and call enough to use up those 5 JD's. I love that a cell phone is not a major expense here. One feature of cell phones here that's a throwback to the 80s is the inability to leave a voicemail. When you call someone it will not connect if that person is using the phone and will automatically disconnect you after 7 or so rings if no one picks up. I'm not sure why these companies didn't include that function, but I love it because I hate leaving messages. 

We are paying around $30/mo for internet and a landline (it was a special deal Orange had at the time) which overall makes our technology costs really low. One caveat is that we're only allowed to use up to 40 GB/mo and if we go over the rate tacked on is quite high. I know that back in Colorado we would be spending at least 3 times as much for phone and internet, so I'll gladly limit my usage and keep our tech costs low for another year.



Summer Feelings

2013-08-16T20:28:54.786-07:00

Sorry for the lack of blogging, but our summer has been a whirlwind of activity. There was a lot of camping which was wonderful. Fishing and swimming desires were fulfilled. The cravings for burgers (specifically elk burgers), steak, pizza, enchiladas, chips & salsa, good ice cream, alcohol, pork products and real milk have also been fulfilled.
We have been able to visit all of our family members and have them all exclaim on how much the kids have grown.
As anticipated, the last two weeks stateside saw my emotions sway toward anticipation and excitement for coming back to Jordan. There's more language to be learned and time spent with neighbors and friends. I had missed the fresh food and simple fare. Eating in the States was hard on my waistline. The way that the US government had so many silly rules governing daily life had started to grate on me. So, it was with happiness that I boarded a plane to enjoy this second half of our overseas adventure.
The travel itself had some slight hiccups, but was overall easy and reminded me once again how close the world seems when one travels by plane.
We have a week to recover from our jet lag before school begins. We slept until noon yesterday and woke up at 4am this morning.
The house is in fine condition after our absence. So far three cockroaches and handful of mosquitos had inhabited our house in our absence. It also looks as though a homeless person may have slept on our porch. Today will be a day of running errands for phone cards, food and other essentials that need replenishing.
Soon you'll see more cultural posts as I fall back into the fun of foreign living!



Retraining

2013-06-05T10:13:24.083-07:00

My husband worked for a major airline for 5 years and was given 5 years of standby flight privileges after he took a buyout. So, the only way we can afford to fly to the States for the summer is by flying standby. I think I've written about this process before, but it's a process that can employ a large amount of patience. At any point, we have the possibility of being stuck there for days. So, my husband has to have at least 3 possible flight route options in case one of the flights fill up and there aren't any seats available. So, last weekend our plan A and plan B routes both became nonviable. Saturday night found Jason planning our plan C route for Sunday morning.

Here's how the flight plan shook out:

-4 hour bus ride from Amman to Aqaba
-5 hours in Aqaba in 108 degree weather
-8 hour flight from Aqaba to Brussels
-7 hour layover in Brussels (extremely tired at this point, REALLY wanted to get on a plane)
-got the last 4 first class seats for the 10 hour flight from Brussels to JFK (this is an amazing outcome, so thankful we made in the first flight we tried to get on)
-2 hours in JFK and got the last 4 seats on the 4 hour flight from JFK to Denver.

The whole trip was God's providence and grace because it's not common for us to make it on the first flights we try for AND to get first class. Not deserved or necessary, but we were very thankful for the ease of the trip. Total cost of trip was under $1,500 for all four of us.

Now we are in the mode of jet lag recovery and retraining ourselves to this culture. We catch ourselves wanting to light the stove as if it's run on propane, putting TP in the trash can, climbing in the backseat of the car from only the passenger side and forgetting to buckle our seat belts. We're already missing the fresh food of Jordan. But we're enjoying the pizza, root beer, cereal and milk that we all missed so much.



Surround(ing) Sounds

2013-05-28T01:11:59.210-07:00

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!



Since The Break-In

2013-05-20T06:17:47.339-07:00

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 [...]



Not the Post I was Expecting to Write

2013-05-18T05:51:07.020-07:00

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.



Shopping

2013-05-10T01:44:16.693-07:00

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 peopleOne 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 [...]



No Time to Post Words

2013-04-28T01:26:15.351-07:00

Life has been very busy. I know I haven't blogged in awhile, so here are some pictures. The first three are from the Citadel in Amman. It's a collection of ruins from the various empires that ruled this region over the centuries.




These are a few photos from our time in the Dead Sea. Both events were a part of my friend's visit to Amman.









31 Years

2013-03-24T02:11:57.155-07:00

Today is my 31st birthday and I have been reflecting on my life.

Life has been tremendously fun and interesting over the last 31 years. If it were all to fall apart tomorrow and I were to have nothing but suffering I would have absolutely no reason to complain. I am a decrepit being who has had my eyes opened to the sovereignty of God. God continues to bring me both pleasant and challenging events both internally and externally for His glory. This is by far the utmost reason for my thankfulness. Though despite this more than sufficient gift of grace, He has given me far more common grace than I deserve.

-My childhood was one of ease and enjoyable experiences in the beautiful state of Montana. I was able to grow up well-fed, well-educated with a myriad of modern comforts and conveniences. I had many extracurricular activities, many friends and a great family. And yet, He deemed fit to give me more grace.

-My married life has been one of excitement and joy. I have been given a husband who continues to lead this household in God-honoring ways. Jason is such a supportive and enjoyable husband. I never knew married life would be this great. Through his leadership of this family, we've traveled to many countries, taught the kids a love of God, the outdoors and soccer, and done so much more in our daily life than my routine ways would have given us. I have been given two children whose personalities are so much more fun than I had anticipated. Being a mother has caused me to be less selfish and learn how to teach others. And yet, still more grace.

-God has given me life-long friends that cause me to grow in further knowledge of Him through expositional study of the Bible. He has given us the Nelkins who we can grow old with as best friends. He's given us a church body in Colorado that has taught us why God saw fit to have a church age.

These and so many more graces I have been given by the One who has authority over all things. So, for all this and so much more I am eternally grateful for 31 years.



Not So Far Away

2013-03-17T02:31:26.029-07:00

I had the privilege of flying back to the States for a week in January for the funeral of my grandpa. I had a journey of 6,900 miles and 24 hours to reach Colorado where I hopped into a car with my sister and drove for 550 miles and 8 hours to Montana. No, this isn't a math story problem, but I state these numbers because I believe most people think that to be a great distance and time commitment. I suppose it is.

But, after 12 years of traveling to many countries and waiting in many airports, I've gained a perspective that I think few have. The world is a very small place and getting anywhere by plane is really a relatively quick and reasonably priced venture. We've seen friends in 17 or so countries while living on a shoe string income by American standards. We're able to visit relatives in Tennessee and Montana on a fairly regular basis as well. It struck me starkly on the flight back to the States this time because the trip was put together so quickly. Isn't it absolutely amazing that it can take humanity a day and a half to travel around the world to see family?!

From friends and family alike, we still hear amazement and trepidation at the thought of spending time in foreign places. But the reality of the commonality of mankind on this planet has been pushed forward more and more strongly the more we travel. People treat each other much the same for many of the same reasons (depravity and common grace) here as they do in our home state of Colorado. Yes, there are cultural and religious nuances everywhere, but that's exactly what they are. Nuances.

Our lives are in some ways quite long, so spending 10 years or 10 hours living or traveling in a foreign culture doesn't seem like such a long time to me anymore. 

"Come now you who say 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. INSTEAD, you ought to say, 'If The Lord wills (inshallah) we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast on your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." James 4:13-17



Where's My Brain?

2013-03-05T04:27:05.829-08:00

Everyone has stated that this is the toughest semester of the four semesters at our language school. I wholeheartedly agree since in the last two weeks I broke out in tears during grammar class AND had my brain shut down all last week. I've never experienced such a response from my brain before. It literally felt as though so much had been stuffed in there that my brain refused to give me any information I needed and kept demanding that I just take a nap. I have a newfound appreciation for the job of school that my kids experience every day! So, in search of information on why my brain reacted this way, I found this helpful information:By the time you reach adulthood, learning a foreign language is a struggle – even after you memorize grammar and vocabulary, there's no guarantee that you'll understand a fast-talking native speaker, and when you stop studying for even a month, you seem to forget everything you'd learned.Children's brains, on the other hand, are hard-wired to let them pick up languages with ease. Plus, a new study finds that even adult brains can re-wire themselves to mimic the brain patterns of native speakers – and this effect is amplified if they study by immersing themselves in a foreign language, rather than sitting in a classroom. And when they were not exposed to the new language for five months, their native-speaker brain patterns actually got stronger.The new finding contrasts with previous studies, which indicated that similar levels of language learning could be achieved by both studying grammar rules in a classroom setting, or "explicit training," and immersion in the language, or "implicit training," defined as "training that engages…learners with the target language but does not provide any explicit information or direction to search for rules." But these studies failed to examine students' brains.Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center and the University of Illinois – Chicago used an artificial 13-word language, Brocanto2, to describe a computer game. While the artificial language's small vocabulary allowed subjects to learn it fairly quickly, its grammar was relatively sophisticated, mimicking the rules of Romance languages while diverging from the participants' native English grammar.Next, the researchers separated 41 adults, who spoke only English, into two groups at random. One would study Brocanto2 through explicit, and the other through implicit, training. To standardize the brain scans, the participants all had to be right handed.After studying and practicing the artificial language, the subjects listened to Brocanto2 sentences that were either correct or contained grammatical errors, and they had to press buttons to indicate whether the sentences were "good" or "bad." While participants underwent testing, EEG electrodes monitored the electrical activity on their scalps, which allowed the researchers to build a picture of their brain activity.While both groups achieved similar proficiency in the artificial language, their brains weren't as evenly matched. Only the brains in the immersion training group processed language like native speakers' brains would. And even after five months of zero exposure to Brocanto2, the brain patterns in both groups only became more similar to those of native speakers."The results demonstrate that substantial periods with no [language] exposure are not necessarily detrimental. Rather, bene[...]