Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Can See Clearly Now


This is a photo taken at 6:00am from my bed in Amman Jordan. I sit up, lean back, look out the window, and watch the sun rise. 

We are going on our fourth week here now. I love so much about being here. An all time favorite love of all has got to be the sun shining on me first thing in the morning. 

So why was the window the very last thing I decided to clean in our apartment? The only plausible answer I can come up with is the fact that I am afraid of heights, deathly. Cleaning the window would require me to go out on the balcony of our top story apartment. 

Did I say balcony? It's more like a window ledge with wrought iron around it. Seriously. 

Yesterday, upon awakening, I realized my cloudy view wasn't my lack of glasses, nor was it my misty morning vision, it was a really dirty window that needed attention if I was going to get the full benefit of the sunrise. 

As Kirk ran out the door, I announced with victorious but premature satisfaction that I was going to clean those windows before lunchtime. His suggestion that I wait for him to come home and help was met with a shrug of the shoulders, like "well see." He left with a word of caution not to work too hard, "this was a big job!" (famous last words)

Long story short, I locked myself out on that window ledge/balcony! In my pajamas. With nothing but a bucket of hot soapy water, and a sponge. Well, there was the blazing hot sun beating straight down on me, reflecting off my shiny clean window! There was that.

Photo re-enactment:

                                            Eight stories up.       Lonely, empty street below. 

                                           Balcony; half an arm span wide! 

I hadn't panicked yet, although I probably should have. I tried to push and pull the door open. I tried the "bump and slide" method. I leaned and lurched. Then,  I noticed on the metal casing of the sliding glass door an engraved marking which read, “Made in Italy.” My heart sank. That said to me, “Lady, you are not breaking into this door! It’s a European import!

The street is never this quiet! I’ve never seen it this bare. Where was everyone? My friends and neighbors live in the building across the street. I thought about shouting for them. I tried it. “Jessica! Eliza!” No way. They couldn't hear or they were just plain gone.

Nobody's home! No one's around! No one is gonna miss me all day long! I just talked to Kirk 45 minutes ago. I am in a tight spot here. Literally.

So, there’s another balcony, same size, attached to the bedroom just next to ours. Probably three, maybe four feet away. I’m way too afraid though, now that I’ve looked down, to attempt anything like jumping from one to the other. We are 8 stories high. (The elevator says we are on the fourth floor. But they have it messed up! There are two flights of stairs for every floor here. I’m onto them. And I am on the eighth floor!

Oh yeah, did I mention I’m in a foreign country, a very conservative country, in my pajamas?  I can’t speak the language well enough to get help even if I found someone anyway.

I do have some mad nonverbal skills however. And, as luck would have it, after what seemed like forever but was maybe 30 minutes, a boy
rounded the corner. Maybe seven years old, pushing a stroller with his baby brother inside.

Wahoo, I'm thinking! I watched, hoping they would come closer. He stopped though, on this lonely street about 4 parked cars away, let his 18 month old brother out, and started playing hide and seek in, out and between the parked cars.

When he got near enough, I hollered down. “Hey!” His brother was crying because he hated the game they were playing, so this kid thought I was reprimanding him. He quickly looked away. I hollered again and in my best pantomime, acted out my predicament. I did use a little Arabic and tried to yell "Please!"
as I pointed to the little security shack that the guard sits in near our apartment building. I'm hoping against hope that the guard was inside. 

This new little life-long friend of mine, Abdullah, did get him, brought him out and pointed up at me. The guard instantly recognized the trouble and in his limited English yelled up to me, “one minute please.”

A long few minutes later, our 'Haaris,' the "super" for our apartments, jumped into action and had me rescued.

There’s a small miracle here.

Our doors are such that when you are home you have to use the key to lock the door. You typically leave key in the lock and then no one, not even someone with a key can get in. So if I lock it, not even Kirk can get in unless I unlock it. I always leave the key in the door, because it would be terrifying to be locked in.

For some reason, I left the key in the door but didn’t lock it. If I had, I don’t know how even the Haaris would have been able to get in to help me, without breaking the door down.

He explained to me in Arabic that it’s not a good idea to wash the windows with the hot sun shining on them. It makes it much more difficult. Wash the windows when it’s shady! 

Who knew?

After quite a break and a cool drink, I attacked those windows again. This time, I stuck a shoe in the sliding door track. I wasn’t taking any chances.

You can see now why I had to wash the windows though. 

The call to prayer wakes me up at 4:00 every single morning.

And then the sun comes shining in my room. Right onto my pillow, at 6:00am. I was missing half of it for the dirt on my windows.

I can see clearly now. 

However, what I see is not as bright as I was hoping. 

I talked to our students for a few minutes today about pride, and about willfulness. 

Sometimes I set my jaw, roll up my sleeves and push ahead into the fog without stopping to really look or listen, thinking I've got this. Pretty sure I can do this on my own. Then get more and more angry when it doesn't work out. Yet I continue to do the same thing over and over again.

Gratefully, there was a small miracle and I was rescued. Much like I am rescued over and over again every day, when I get into trouble because of my stubborn pride. 

Kirk suggested I wait for him to come home and he would help with the window project. For several reasons he wanted to help. But I had something I needed to prove, I could do it on my own!

I shared this analogy that I love from CS Lewis with the students today:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that  hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of...throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, and making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but He is building a palace.
We don't usually see clearly why things are so difficult at times. And when they are, at these times, many of us either get angry or feel like things are unfair. "This is not what I signed up for." We are pretty sure we are in this battle alone. Or else, we choose to go it alone. Oftentimes it's out of fear or anger, or perhaps, just that we are certain we know the best path to take.

And then we end up trapped on the ledge.


Really at the mercy of One who will help. 

Linnea Belnap

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Punxsutawney Phil Day

I miss my Dad today. No matter where I was on February 2nd, I could always count on a message from my him wishing me a Happy Punxsutawney Phil Day. He was anxious to inform me whether the groundhog had seen his shadow or not.

Tomorrow marks twenty three years since his passing at the ever younger age of only 54.  There are so many things I miss about him. But some of the things I long most for are miraculously given to me in the twinkle of a child's eyes, or the smirk on one of their faces. It could be in the song one might sing, or the witty comment another pipes up with. His love of life, and hope for the future has somehow emerged in my children's lives. He did hard things and so do they. He overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the same way I see these guys tackle similar trials.

There have been many times that I have wished he were here to see a graduation, or be here for a wedding, welcome a new grandchild, bid farewell to a missionary, and a hundred thousand other things that are happening all the time. And sometimes when things seem extra hard it's always nice to remember the influence that he's had on my life, and his legacy that lives on in each of us.

Like today for instance; late this afternoon I received a text from Hannah.
One simple line, "Happy Punxsutawney Phil day Mom."

Here are some of my favorite lines from Groundhog Day. I am sure my dad would appreciate them as much as I do.

(Phil) "There is no way that this winter is *ever* going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out. He's got to be stopped. And I have to stop him."

(Phil) "When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter." 

(Phil) "This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You're hypocrites, all of you!" 

                                         HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior!

It's been too long since I've posted.  I'm "behind" now.  No use catching up.  The Weekend Warrior has been at it again!

Definition of the Weekend Warrior;
"The middle-aged athlete that thinks she can go out and play as hard as she used to. The unconditioned athlete that thinks she can go out just every once in a while and push it to the limit."
It was one week before our departure from Jordan, two days before Kirk's return to Jordan from the US, and the last Saturday in Amman for the students to play football. 

I had no intention of playing this time. I had nearly learned my lesson the week before. I had been mistaken for a hefty linesman and was thrown to the ground. These are some tough boys. I was going this time only because I wanted to play with Locke and talk to Tasha. What could I do though, when Tasha needed a sub? I would just go in for one series.  I lined up as a receiver and went long.  Surprisingly my defender was nowhere in sight. Either I had totally outmaneuvered him, or he didn't think I was worth the effort and was taking a personal time-out. Quarter-back Tom (better than Steve Young) saw that I was open and threw deep into the end zone. Perfect pass. Perfect timing. Right into my outstretched arms.  One second I was catching the ball, seriously, had my hands on the pigskin, and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back. How embarrassing. No one was around to blame it on. No one pushed me or got in the way. No pass interference,  I just fell. Hard. Trying to avoid the spotlight I hurriedly got up but knew my tailbone was not okay.

I'll spare you the rest of the sordid details. But it's too late to spare Tasha those. She's not only the mother of Locke, my grandson away from grandsons, she's the Program Nurse. Even more than the program nurse, she's my friend and confidant. She kept me as sane as I am on those long days Kirk was back home.  She was by my side the next four days visiting ERs, supporting me as I refused admission, left the hospital with me "AMA" (against medical advice), and journeyed with me to labs, radiologists, urologists, and a rheumatologist, (and him only 'cuz he's a friend of a friend).  After test results came back,  I was given the go ahead to travel. We packed the next morning and hobbled to the border.

Back in January I tore my calf muscle. Actually, the term is a rupture of gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Both muscles in my calf tore pretty bad while I was playing tennis.
I’d like to say I was jumping over the net or leaping to save an impossible hit. But I was really just minding my own business when out of nowhere it felt like someone with a bat came and knocked me upside the back of my leg. I tripped and turned to see who it was, and no one was there.
I couldn’t put weight on it, at all….
I was in a boot cast for 6 weeks, the first four were non weight bearing. Miserable and depressing.

This injury is dubbed “Tennis Leg”. Here it is again...
"It’s most often seen in the “middle aged” athlete. The Weekend Warrior. The older athlete that thinks she can go out and play as hard as she used to. The unconditioned athlete that thinks she can go out just every once in a while and push it to the limit."

When I think about the weekend warrior, it scares me. If I compare my physical muscles, my strength and condition, with those that are spiritual, how do I measure up?
I wondered about my spiritual strength. Am I a weekend warrior? Thinking I will have the strength and endurance when I don’t put the effort into the daily conditioning?
It didn’t matter how hard I tried that day to stand on my leg, I couldn’t. It wasn’t possible.  I think, “oh I’m just gonna buck up here. Sheer willpower can keep me on my leg”…but there was no way. If our spiritual muscles are that weak, we won’t be able to stand up to the battles we have to face everyday. 
I’m learning, slowly, that you can’t run faster than you have strength.

These past two weeks have been amazing. We have traveled from Jordan to Israel. We've climbed Masada (well, we rode a tram up the mountain),  had lunch in Jericho, and went to bed in a convent in Nazareth. 

 We went to Akko, saw new Excavations and walked through a prison.

We visited Haifa where the Bahai Promenande Gardens are, and went to the beach. 
We have sung amazingly beautiful hymns in churches all over Nazareth and Galilee. We hiked  Banyas to a waterfall, ate lunch in a Druze restaurant and saw the Golan Heights. Ceasaria, Megiddo, and ate falafils at a Kibbutz. 

We watched the Jewish Sabbath arrive as the sun set at the Western Wall. 

We've seen the roads in the Old City that show the Via Dolorosa, we've walked those streets. Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden Tomb of course. And sacrament meeting in the chapel at the Jerusalem Center. A group of students and faculty loaded with musical talent singing together is probably my favorite thing of all. We have gathered nearly nightly to sing Christmas songs by candle light.

I have stories to tell from so many of these experiences, and even more pictures than stories. We have been on the road a lot, and not a whole lot of Internet access. But I am gathering photos and thoughts and will post them as soon as I can.  

The other injuries and setbacks I've had since January are numerous, and  I'm just gonna say that this weekend warrior is waning. In fact, she's becoming the 
                                                              "Weakened Wuss."

the weather has been awful cold in Jordan, we've tried everything we could think of to warm up. From water bottles, hot chocolate, space heaters, scarves, blow dryers and yes, even irons....

 Kirk's hot!

I'm Not!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turkish Bath

Blame it on the weather, or the lack of oxygen, or maybe just the fact that I'm 50 years old and these kinds of opportunities don't come around every day.

It was nearly five o'clock in the afternoon when Kirk and I walked into our hotel room and plopped down on our beds.
We had just returned from a full day of hiking the red dirt trails of Petra. Dinner was still several hours away. And the thing I wanted more than anything was a warm shower!  The hotel wasn't scheduled to turn the hot water on until 6:30pm. By then all the students would be back and we would all want the shower. As I thought about the logistics of it all, my hopes began to fade. We were on the third floor (the top floor). Water pressure was already piddly at best. And by shower time, I was guessing that we'd be lucky to see even a trickle of water, and the "warm" part?... extremely doubtful. 

Jokingly I turned to Kirk and said, "hey let's go to the Turkish bath."  The Turkish bath experience had been recommended by several local "experts".  20JD's (about $25) gets you a bath and a massage. And even though I had no idea what the Turkish bath was all about, the idea started to sound more and more inviting. As I reached up and felt the knots in my neck and looked down and saw red dirt on my ankles, I repeated the idea to Kirk.  He was more than willing after running ten miles that morning before we even started hiking. Part of the Petra hike is climbing about 300 steep steps up to the High Place. He was moaning as he tried to reach down and touch his shins.  He looked my way out of the corner of his eye knowing that going to a public bathhouse was not even on my list possibilities, and couldn't imagine I was serious. I wasn't. I sat on the edge of the bed shivering, dirty, fighting a headache, when suddenly I heard myself calling my own bluff!  In a flash we were standing at the consierge desk in the lobby as he called for a car to pick us up and take us to the bath.  I informed him that I only wanted to go look at the place. "No problem" he assured me as a taxi pulled up, loaded us in, and drove us to a small, hidden, stone building with a cold rock stairway that led to the Bathhouse. 

The place was empty. No one else was there! The manager gave us a “tour” at the very same time as he was handing us our bath clothes. Cotton shorts for Kirk, and a lava-lava thing for me. He said we could go together, "no problem".  Everything looked nice. It was clean, and there was no tub!  See, I was afraid it would be this huge communal bathtub everyone would climb in. Naked.  Silly me. We were covered, and no one else was there. The first room was this awesome steam room with mysterious red lighting glowing through the fog. It was like heaven. Kirk and I sat in this warm, very steamy room and started to relax. This was going to be amazing! The man said he would come and get us after ten minutes. After about twenty minutes we were too warm, inhaling too much steam, so Kirk went looking for the guy. "Okay, no problem. I take you to the next room".  (I have never been in a country where they have so few problems. Except maybe Egypt, Morocco, or Israel.)

The next room was the Hot Stone room. The same ethereal mist hung all around and we were instructed to sit on the marble stone. He handed us each a large pitcher with warm water in it, and pointed to the tap right next to us. Warm water miraculously, endlessly poured out of the spigot. We were to lay down on the hot, wet stone and let the heat penetrate our back, legs, and arms. Seriously, I could have stayed in there all night. Every other minute I was filling my pitcher with warm water and pouring it over my head. We were in there about twenty minutes as well.

He next led us into the Sauna room. Not my favorite. Breathing that hot, dry air has never appealed much to me. But I had to laugh, as we sat in that room breathing in the hot air I was reminded of a scene from Everybody Loves Raymond. The men in that sauna room suddenly didn't seem so far fetched. 

Kirk sportin' his shorts, and me still clinging to the wet lava-lava thing, found ourselves being escorted into two different, private rooms. I sat there on this long marble table and waited. For what I had no idea. In fact as I sat there and started to get cold again, I started wondering what in the world I was doing, and quickly started mapping out a foolproof escape plan. I became more and more anxious and wasn't sure if I was shivering out of fear, or the cold. Where was Kirk? What were they doing to him? Who was going to come in this room? What was I thinking?  This was a bad idea. I needed to get out of here. Where do I go? Where are my clothes?  Just as I was about to open the door and holler out that I was so done with this, an Arab woman veiled and covered from head to toe came in the room. In her gentle, soft-spoken voice she told me to lay back down on the table. She began dumping more of that warm water on me as I lay there clinging to the sheet. She proceeded to scrub, exfoliate and pour warm water from that magic tap. I said her voice was soft and gentle, but I have never been exfoliated with such vim and vigor before. Who am I kidding? I've never been exfoliated before. The massage with those essential oils from the Dead Sea, was a very good thing for my aching back. 

After all of that she showed me to the shower, I washed my hair, found my clothes and even found Kirk. 

We returned to the hotel just in time for dinner with a pact between the two of us that we wouldn't tell a soul where we had been. But as soon as I saw my good, good friend I immediately leaned over and quietly exclaimed to her that we'd just returned from the Turkish Bath! "You're kidding!" "Hey you guys, guess what? Kirk and Linn went to the Turkish Bath!" "No way! You guys really did?" The word spread quickly and one of the couples at our dinner table left for the bath before they’d even finished eating.  

I wasn't going to write about this experience, but the strangest thing happened yesterday. I've been a little nervous here venturing out on my own, but I was going stir crazy yesterday and decided I didn't care any more. I was going to the chocolate shop no matter what. I have this theory that if you keep your eyes either down or straight ahead, walk briskly with a purpose, confidently knowing where you are going (I don't know how many times I have confidently walked up and back and around in circles trying to find my way somewhere), then you won't be harassed. I blew that theory all to heck yesterday as I marched toward the candy shop. No grinning, no eye contact, just focused on that dark chocolate in the corner store. Imagine my surprise as I'm studying the assorted chocolates, when this burly, dark Arab man taps me on the shoulder and invites me to the Turkish Bath! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The near-kidnapped story you asked for

I have had requests wanting to know more about my "near-kidnapping" experience. Here it is.

The following is a journal entry I had made after a frightening day (and night) in Egypt several years ago. We were with a group of BYU study abroad students who had all been anticipating the horse and camel ride to the pyramids at sunset:

..."The whole group signed up to ride. Kirk found a guide that had a whole slew of "well trained" horses ready to take us. Hannah was opposed to the idea and told me so all day. I kind of wanted to go, so I talked her in to a "slow, calm" horse insisting we'd walk side by side the whole way. I promised. 

Oh my heart! We got to the stables and out came these huge stallions prancing around. Hannah started crying. Levi was the first one on and we should have gotten a clue when just a few minutes later he cam walking back down the trail (with that grin smeared across his face) saying he needed a "different horse". He downplayed the fact that he had just been bucked off, because he didn't want to scare Hannah. The guide calmed Hannah and put us both on our horses. Two ten-year old boys grabbed our horses by their bridles and we were off. Half of the group were on camels, the other half on horses as we headed up the trail. Kirk was last to saddle up and shocked us all as he came speeding by as if the posse were chasing him. He was hollering and pulling back on both reins, the camera (my camera) was bouncing around his neck and we all held our breaths waiting for him to fall. His horse bucked and turned around and sped back past us all nearly brushing him off against the stucco wall off to the side. I don't know how he hung on, but he did, and he too got a different horse. (I'm thinking seriously that they gave him the horse Levi started with.)  We settled into our hike up the trail, Hannah was smiling and even let her horse trot a bit. I on the other hand, had not been smiling. My horse was a "show horse" I later learned. He was spooked by everything, and everyone. He’d pull back on his haunches, snort and ninnie, and start dancing in an effort to rid himself of this annoyance riding on his back. "Goumah" (one of the locals spear heading this trek)  went speeding by on his horse. My horse thought he should follow, so we bucked and danced some more.  Goumah came back, winked at me and called me Habbibi. (My baby). People say that all the time, it doesn't really mean anything, but for some reason this gave me the creeps.

Night began to settle in quickly as we started on the trail that led to the top of the hill overlooking the pyramids. Goumah seemed to always be near me somehow. He wanted to talk to me, or he'd run ahead and then before I knew it, he'd be back by my side grinning and trying to get my horse to trot. I wanted nothing to do with any of that. I was as scared as Hannah with this high-strung, huge black stallion that could read my mind! We all made it to the pyramids. Cool. Nice. Sunset at the pyramids... The sun started going down and I was anxious to get back. I was hoping to get back before dark, but that wasn't going to be.

I'm not sure what happened next exactly, but I grew increasingly more frightened. Goumah rode up next to us again, and told my little horse boy to hold my horse back, I think because the horse was so jumpy. But my mind started thinking the worst and I felt this awful feeling deep inside that I was going to be kidnapped and taken out into the dessert never to be seen again. I honestly don't think that was a totally crazy idea, because it happens, and girls are warned about this quite often. 

I watched the others in our group riding further and further ahead of me fading into the dark as they disappeared over the hill. My horse was still misbehaving and I was sick of it, not to mention quite sore. I wanted to get off and walk. I wanted to run really. I wanted to catch up with my group.I didn't want to be left behind. Goumah encouraged Hannah's horse to trot, and she was relaxing and enjoying the ride. Her horse boy was darling and led her carefully toward the others. But they were much faster than I was, and they too began to disappear.  Then as if things weren't scary enough, Goumah shows up again, he's trying to talk in English to me, but he's bad at it...and I'm worse at Arabic, and I don't even want to talk to him. But before I realized what was happening, he had climbed off of his horse, threw my little horse boy up onto his horse, and sent them both trotting back to the stables into the ever growing darkness. I felt my last hope of rescue was in that little boy galloping away.  Okay, now I'm seriously in trouble. It's pitch black, Goumah is walking my horse, and we are no longer even on the path everyone else was on. Me, the horse and Goumah in the black of night. I thought about kicking my horse real hard hoping he would take off on a sprint for home. Would I be able to hang on? Could I lose Goumah? I told him I wanted to get off. I wanted to walk over to that same trail I saw the last horse go over. "NO, no, it's okay, you stay..." I really wasn't sure what I was going to do next, but I knew this feeling in my gut was real, and I knew I had to do something. With every step I felt more and more panic.  Then miraculously, up over that hill I saw a shadow of a person. It was our tour guide. He yells out "BYU!?" Goumah said nothing. Again, "any more BYU?!" I didn’t want to scream and scare my horse, but  I screamed anyway,  "Yes!!! I am BYU! We are coming!" Goumah turned the big horse I was on toward the voice and started making his way slowly back to the trail. As we came nearer to that hill, I insisted on getting off my horse. I slid my leg over and jumped off the animal and started walking away as fast as I could.

I walked right into Levi. He had been worried that I wasn't back yet. He came looking for me! I could've cried. Really. In fact one of the questions Goumah asked me was how big was our BYU group. After I told him 30 plus, I wished I hadn't. In a group of 35 it might take awhile before you notice someone is missing. Now I've probably blown this out of proportion, maybe he were just trying to keep my horse calm by holding it back. But I didn't feel a bit good about it, and Levi was concerned enough to come looking for me. Which is what I was praying for riding there in the dark, "please let someone realize I'm not there". 

So maybe it's not really a story of a near kidnapping. Maybe it's a story of following that still small voice that can warn us of danger, and guide us to safety. I'm grateful my son was listening. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Camel Lot

 Camel Lot

    "A law was made a distant moon ago here;

Three coats, two scarves, can never be too hot.

And there's a legal limit to the "rain" here,
                                                                                                    ...In Camel lot.

Camel Lot

Now kissing is forbidden 
till December

And for a ride they charge you quite a lot

By order, camels must not lose their temper,

               In Camel lot.                     

I know it sounds a bit bizarre,

but in Camel lot, 


Camel lot,


That's how conditions are.

The camels never poop til after sundown

By eight a.m. it all must disappear

 In short there's simply not

       ...a more congenial spot


For happily ever-aftering

than here, 
Camel lot!