Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Water Water Everywhere..."


I have often taken water for granted. I rarely think of it as being the basic necessity of life. I just assume it will be there when I turn on the tap, or drive down to the lake. I have been drawn to water for as long as I can remember. Being in, near, or around water has a calming influence on me. 

I have been thinking about water a lot these past few days. There is a critical shortage of water here in Jordan, and in other parts of the world (like in our own backyard). We have been asked to conserve water as best we can during our stay here. 

Kirk and I have discovered large plastic water drums on top of our apartment building. We haven't run out of water yet, but several of our friends have. We're not sure how it is monitored. If they fill those drums on a regular basis, or as they near empty, or if you're allotted a certain amount per person, or per apartment. (I'm finding there isn't a real exact protocol, at least we haven't figured it out yet.) 
I am trying to model Kirk’s near perfect example of water conservation.
The water never runs. There is a science here to saving water.  From the number of times you flush the toilet, to the way you do the dishes.  Tooth brushing, face washing, as well as mopping the floor take an extra measure of thought and creativity. 
Showering has been the hardest part of all for me. (I’m used to daily baths.) 
The water barely trickles out of the shower head, and one has to continually turn in circles to even try to stay warm (and wet). If you forgot to flip the switch for the water heater forty-five minutes earlier, then you get a cold shower regardless.  Kirk and tough people like him turn the shower completely off as they scrub down and wash their hair. I figure with my short hair, and how quickly I can spin, I make up for it in speed. (Actually, it's probably Kirk's water-saving prowess that have kept the shower going.)

The other problem I’m finding, as the weather becomes colder, is the bathroom fan. Every time you turn on the light, the fan comes on also. However, the fan is a big hole in the window, with a plastic propeller spinning faster than the water falls. And, it’s located exactly where the body has to stand to shower.  Today I stuck a bar of soap in the propeller to stop the breeze for just a minute.  If you can’t start out the day warm, can you ever get warm? That is my worry.

I look around as we travel the country here, and I don’t see grass. I haven’t seen any except for the artificial turf over at the soccer fields. There might be lawns behind some of the gated mansions, but I don’t really think so. There are trees and gardens and flowers. But I think they are of the water sparing type. Nevertheless, every weekend as darkness starts to fall, you can see families of all kinds pulling over to the side of the main road building fires. Right there on the dusty ground, they cook and they picnic. It’s a wonderful sight to me. Watching families gather around the warmth of the flames up and down the freeways. I'm learning that I don’t need a big fancy park, or the campground and the barbecue grill, or the pristine green lawn--as long as we have each other.  

We have had a great time these past few weeks, traveling to and hiking out to the point near Mt. Nebo and out to Umm Qeis to watch the sun set over the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.

Galilee is probably my most favorite place of all.  Life-changing events have taken place for me on those shores.  It is something different every time. But always something. This time I had a view from a different perspective, on the opposite side of the sea, and much further away.  I stood far off on a rocky hillside and watched the valley as the day faded away and city lights lit up the night surrounding Galilee. The fading sun bouncing off the water was amazing. 

Twenty-two years ago I stood at the waters edge with three children under the age of five. Now Kirk and I watch from a distance and wonder how a lifetime has flashed before our eyes in an instant. Here we are, standing on one side of the world and our children and grandchildren on the other.  At times they seem so far away. But there is a peaceful feeling knowing that because of the things that took place on that sea, and in those cities, no matter how far apart we may be, we are eternally connected.

…”And this circle just goes on and on, as it crosses every boundary underneath God’s sun. 
And this circle touches everyone, joining me to you, and you to me.”   

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Madabat It. But just Umm Qeiss, we've moved.

We've been relocated! 

Due to the constant commotion in the apartments surrounding us on all sides, it was decided that Kirk and I should be moved. The non stop traffic of fancy loud cars passing by our window late into the night, and the pitter patter of high heels running across our heads at 2am, and the slamming of iron gates outside our door,  all took a toll on our sleep.

"We don't want you to be Madabat it," they said to us, " but we've found a place we think you might like better. You should get more rest and it's up higher than you were at street level."

Dead Sea

"Here are a few of the maps. They should be easy to follow."
Holy Land and Egypt


"You can get there by either the camel limousine service we have...

...or there is the new twin engine straight shot plane waiting to shuttle you."

Should you get lost on your way, you could either stay in Moab, ...

 ...or we have candles to light the way."

Well, as soon as word got out, everyone wanted our new dwelling! 

 Griff and Esther thought they should get it.  Just "Umm Qeiss" there was more Arabic spoken there.

Nicole and Raagé believed it should belong to them because Raagé looks most Arab.

Then Stacy and Jacob piped in, "Hey look at us! We are already dressed for it."
 Jacob gave us the double victory sign because he thought they were a shoe-in.

Seth secretly climbed up the hill and hollered over to us, "Possession is nine tenths of the law!"

Kirk had to call in a police officer, who quickly decided he would take care of everything.

Kirk was sad, but felt comforted as his friend, the driver sat down and put his arm around him.

Linn put her foot down and said, "The one with the red pants wins."

Then Esther peaked around the corner grinning and said, "That's what you think!"

 Nicole decided she would settle the matter with a simple game of elimination.
"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe."
But only those with the coolest Chaco's could play.

By now the caretaker was getting frustrated. He sat and thought about it for a long, long time. 
 In fact, he pondered until the sun set over Jerusalem.

Then he had a great idea! He stretched his arm out over the Sea of Galilee exclaiming,   "Look, there's room for everyone. Can't we all just get along?"

We put our heads together and agreed that he was right.

Brock and Kristi were tickled with the basement.

Bay was happy to have the view.

Griffin and Esther discussed it into the night... and finally settled on the view over the Golan Heights.

  We all love it here!

Natural Lighting
Vaulted ceilings and recessed lighting in the ground
Brick oven
Sky light

The place could use a little work,...

...but with a view of The Sea of Galilee and The Golan Heights, we'd rather it stay just like it is.

Less Than Sense

Running through Carrfour (sp), the local grocery store, I quickly grabbed some much needed toilet paper. I only added a few treats, but was a little surprised at the amount the cashier took out of my hands. (she repeated the total a couple of times in Arabic. Each time louder and faster. But it didn't register any time, so I held out a 10 JD note, more than a $10 bill,  and she gave me a few piasters back, less than cents). Seemed like she kept a bit more than I had expected, but I headed for home just the same, pleased with myself that I had remembered the TP.

However, what appears to be 12 rolls of tp, is actually 6 rolls of sandpaper-quality paper towel. Or as is clearly stated on the label, "extra strong kitchen towels!"
No buts about it, I have got to start reading the labels! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Low Altitude

Linn's Famous Fruit Dip

 I know a lot of things about cooking. And if there's one important thing I know,  it's about the altitude.
Things don't cook the same at sea level as they do in higher elevations. Things don't cook in the Middle East the same way they do in the US. 
I'll admit I was a little anxious to take on a food assignment for Relief Society. (I don't mean "anxious" in the way that I couldn't wait)
But a fruit tray shouldn't be that difficult, right?
I found out you can buy brown sugar here now,  (hasn't always been the case) so Kirk and I ran to the local "Safeway" to get cream cheese and brown sugar so I could make my fool proof fruit dip recipe. You also need to know when cooking abroad, that ingredients aren't always the same as you might be accustomed to. It takes practice, and you have to develop a knack for these things. 
I didn't panic when the consistency of the cream cheese and brown sugar mixture didn't seem quite right. I just kept stirring. I don't have a mixer of any kind. Kirk suggested I might want to heat the brown sugar a little. (He often times has great suggestions.) Yet still, it wasn't responding as it should. The more I stirred, the more clumpy it became. I have less than two hours now and I'm frustrated because I can't figure this out.  I'm not much of a taste tester (Hannah?), but when I did finally taste this, it wasn't sweet a bit. I said out loud, "this is lousy brown sugar!" Kirk picks up the bag and starts to laugh. It wasn't brown sugar at all. It was a bag of bread crumbs.
Bread Crumbs and Brown Sugar. You decided which is which.
We quick hail a taxi and head to Safeway to buy actual brown sugar. Shoot our wad on another round of cream cheese, wait for what seems like an hour before a cab will pick us up again, and hurry home to try again. I made the dip again, and Kirk prepared all the fruit. Kirk was nearly late for class, and I made it to Relief Society with maybe two minutes to spare. 

Finished product

  I said I know a lot of things about the kitchen. Now, I know it's pretty important to read the label! Things are not always as they appear.