Monday, July 27, 2009

Ah, Bliss!!

We arrived safely in Jordan and it's like heaven next to Qatar. There is greenery, scenery and blue skies.

I've got to keep this quick as I'm on my brother-in-law's office computer and he's waiting for it, but I'm happy to report that all the problems of last year have vanished. All the kids are getting along fabulously, everyone is much less stressed and we are having a great time.

I'll check back in when I can.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If You are Epileptic, Don't Drive Through Saudi Arabia

We are two days into our voyage through the deserts of  Saudi Arabia.  It’s been mostly drudgery, with never-ending stretches of sand.  However there have been a few  note-worthy moments.

Right after crossing the border, Emily noticed a herd of camels. Sure enough, I looked up and there were about 100 camels on either side of the road.  It was so neat, but what surprised me was the fact that there were camels like I’d never seen before. There were black camels and white camels and camels with patches. I didn’t know that they came in any color but brown!!

As the sun went down and we neared Dammam, where we stayed the night, we found that the Saudis use an unusual method of marking roads.  Instead of street lights, they lined the road with barrells and hung lights from them.  Then they would put big flashing arrows whenever the road bent or lanes shifted (which was often).  The combination of all these lights, in addition to the multi-colored lights which many large trucks sport along their side, was reminiscent of Las Vegas.  All right at eye level.  My eyes felt like they were being assaulted.  I kept thinking that it’s a good think I didn’t inherit epilepsy from my mom or I would have been in full-on seizure mode!!

Today has been spent driving through little tiny towns in northern Saudi Arabia.  Our GPS is so lost!  Nothing shows up but a little arrow representing us.  Emily, of course, has been flaunting the law and refusing to wear her headscarf, though she is wearing her abaya.  Let me tell you, those women who wear the headscarf must have talents I don’t possess.  Mine keeps slipping off my head and looks nowhere near as elegant as many of the women I see.  Apparently I just have no talent for anything above my head since I can never get my hair right either.

We just pulled into Arar, our stop for the night, so I’m going to sign off to look for the hotel.  More updates from Amman!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Almost Time

Hopefully 24 hours by now we will be in Saudi Arabia.  We leave tomorrow around lunch time, or so the plan goes.  You have to take into account that Hubby has to work in the morning and will have to try to extricate himself from work, even though his boss told him he could leave at 10 am. I would be SHOCKED if that happened.

And even when he comes home, we will then have to endure the traditional "Hubby runs around packing at the last minute" rigmarole.  I hear you now, "Why doesn't she just pack for him?" Because he likes to do it himself, so I let him.  But he, being a bit of a procrastinator, always puts it off until the day of the vacation to pack his clothes.  I'm going to encourage him to do it tonight, but I'm not generally successful in that arena.  

Anyhoo, back to the trip.  We plan on stopping tomorrow night in the city of Dammam, then continuing on the next day to Arar, then arriving Amman around lunchtime on Thursday.  It's going to be a loooooonnnggggg trip.  I'm so grateful for iPods and iTunes.  That may be our saving grace. The worst day will be Wednesday - about 600 miles driving time and all of it on Hubby's shoulders since women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. 

I'll check in if any of the hotels we stay at have internet access and let you know how it's going. We don't have internet at my in-laws, but we are planning on getting it installed for them while we are there so we will be able to talk to them via Skype from now on.  Depending on how soon we can get it done, I'll be checking in sporadically throughout our visit. 

We plan on going to the Dead Sea and Petra during our time.  We are also looking forward to finding some things that we can't find here at the stores.  Last year I scored real vanilla, celery seed, and vanilla instant pudding (not to mention pork products!  whoo-hoo!).  

Ok, back to work for me now.  Lots to do before we head out.  We have a housesitter coming to take care of the dog and the fish and water the plants, so I can't leave the house a mess.  :(  That would be so much easier!!
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Think on this..

"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. 
There is no such thing."

~ C.S. Lewis ~
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thankful Thursday



Oops, now see I was so excited about our upcoming drive through Saudi Arabia that I went ahead and posted about it first, forgetting that it's Thankful Thursday. So today will be a "double post" day!

I'm going to be totally honest and say that I'm not in one of those places today where I'm in a happy mood. I mean, I'm ok, but overwhelmed with trying to do things for our trip, 110 degree hot and windy weather, a sandstorm that keeps finding cracks into my home creating general ickiness, and missing home. But I'm going to be faithful to God's call to give praises at all times.

I'm thankful that I'm saved. God redeemed me even though there was no worth in me. Nothing I did brought me to that state of salvation, but it was all through His reaching out and grabbing me.

I'm thankful that I'm His. God has taken a girl who was lost and given her a sense of identity - that of a princess. I know I'm His and He is always there for me. Before I was saved, I was always trying to fit in everywhere. I was one of those kids who was desparate for approval and would go along with what everyone else was doing just to have friends. Now I know that I have His approval and love and I don't need to worry about other people. I still struggle with this from time to time, but when I sit back and remember who I am, that goes away.

I'm thankful that God is wiser than me. I often am not able to see what He's doing and feel hurt and confused by the way events play out. But as I look back over the course of my life, I see His hand in things that, at the time, seemed terrible. But while they seemed bad at the time, God took those things and used them for His glory and my growth.

I'm thankful that I have His word. Even though I fail to take full advantage of it, the Word of God is such a blessing in the life of a believer. It's one of the best ways to get to know God - what His heart is like and what He wants from us.

I'm thankful that I know that God is never going to give up on me. I fail so often, in so many arenas, that I know that if I were God, I would have walked away a long time ago. But, like the patient parent that He is, He just picks me up, dusts me off and encourages me to try again. With my whole heart I want to please Him, but the honest reality is that I often make choices which I know sadden Him. But I know that it is my heart that He looks at. Like David, I often mess up, but I'm still after God's heart.

So that's it for me today. I am blessed to have had you visit. May you be blessed too as you read other women's words about what they are thankful for. Be sure to visit Spiritually Unequal Marriage to see more Thankful Thursday posts. Thanks for popping in!

Our Upcoming Trip

So, yes, we are driving to Jordan.  And, for those of you who are a bit rusty in geography, that will involve driving through Saudi Arabia.

My mother is freaking out.  (Stop reading now, Mom!)

The Saudi border is about 2 hours or less from Doha.  We are hoping that we won't be held up long at the border since we will be arriving in early afternoon in the middle of the week.  Shouldn't be a busy time.  

Once we draw near to the Saudi border, Emily and I will have to don abayas, those long, loose black robes you see on many photos of Middle Eastern women.  Hubby says he's been told we don't need to wear headcoverings, but should wear scarves at our neck.  That's much preferable to wearing headcoverings, which I thought we would need.

We are planning on hanging towels in the windows so that we can have a bit more privacy and freedom as we drive through.  We don't want to wear the abayas the whole time, so hopefully those towels will allow us to have the freedom to wear our normal clothes while we are driving and just slip the abayas on when we have to get out of the car.

We'll spend one full day and two partial-days in Saudi, so it will be interesting.  Well, that might be a stretch.  With the exception of the one big city (Dammam) we'll drive through, we will pretty much be in the middle of nowhere.  And poor Hubby will have to do ALL the driving, as it is illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia.  

It should definitely be an experience.  But I think we will be happy we did it.  For one thing, it will save us big bucks on airline tickets.  For another, we will have our car at our disposal while in Jordan.  But the 2 1/2 day drive?  Well, here's what we have planned to keep everyone happy.

Both kids have iTouch's so they are each getting a small allowance to download things from iTunes.   They can choose applications, music, tv shows or movies to watch.  I'm also downloading for each of them a book that they've been wanting to read to keep them occupied.   We've also picked up a few movies to watch in the car.  (Boy am I glad we bought the car with a dvd player!)  We got Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Night at the Museum II, Mall Cop, Bride Wars, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Mousetrap.  

We'll pack a cooler with snacks and drinks and load up the car with pillows and away we'll go!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preparing (In More Ways than One) For Our Trip

We will be leaving next week for our visit with my husband's family. The upcoming days will be spent in packing, cleaning house (we'll have a housesitter while we are away so...), and generally running around like crazy.

But amid all the physical preparations that need to take place, we are also trying to prepare our hearts.

Last year's visit was, well, painful. While I love my husband's parents and siblings, there was a lot of conflict last year between our children and some of their cousins. There were several arguments amongst the grownups, which happily my husband was able to play peacemaker for. There were plans for a family wedding that fell through. The whole trip was very stressful, very emotional and very hard.

This year, my children are naturally reluctant to spend time with their cousins. They still vividly recall the hurt feelings, the unkind words. Hubby and I have been trying to explain to them that, as Christians, we have the responsibility to be forgiving and to continue to try to show Christ's love. None of Hubby's family are believers, save one niece, and we really want to demonstrate the love of God to them while we are there.

But I have to admit that, deep down, I still harbor hurt feelings as well. You can insult me and I will be able to move past it. But, like a Mama Bear, hurt my young and I go blind with rage. I know it's irrational of me to be angry with children who are too young to realize what they are doing, but those feelings are still there.

This trip will be different, I know. Circumstances have combined to mean that we will be spending less time with everyone except for Hubby's parents while we are there, due to one reason or another. On top of that, we'll be driving (more on this later), so we will have our car with us and can be more independent. Still, there is apprehension.

So a big part of my preparations this week needs to be prayer. Prayer for forgiving hearts. Prayer for healing of wounds. Prayer for things to be better this year. Prayer for the ability to clearly show Christ to our family.

The other stuff is the easy part.
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thankful Thursday



Wow, it's been a long time since I participated in Thankful Thursday.  Not because I have not had much to be thankful, but because life has just been busy and has slowed down my blogging efforts.  So the first thing that I'm thankful for is that life has slowed down enough now that I have time to start blogging more regularly!

One thing that I'm hugely grateful for is the restoration of relationship between my husband and daughter.  For whatever reason, we went through a period where she was very angry with him and showed it readily.  There seemed to be no logic to it and it was very painful to Hubby and I to watch.  However in the last month or so, that relationship has been healed, the anger has dissipated and life has become much happier in our home.

I also have to take a moment to share how thankful I am for my husband.  He's been so understanding about a huge range of things in our lives.  He is wise and patient.  When I'm stressed out, he knows just what I need.  When I'm over-emotional (happens all the time!! LOL!!), he helps me to maintain an even keel.  He's amazing.

And, even though I whine about it, I'm thankful that we are here in Doha.  Yes, yes, I know that I complain frequently about life here.  But the reality is that, had we stayed in Miami, we'd be in very serious trouble right now.  My husband's firm there has laid off more than half their employees, reduced the remaining employees to part-time and cancelled all profit-sharing.  We could not have withstood that kind of financial hit.  Hubby had been hinting about looking for work in the Gulf area for years and I always shot him down.  But God opened my heart to it at just the right time.  

I guess I am pretty blessed.  Life here in Qatar is odd and challenging at times, but if I've got a happy family and my God, I can really have no complaints.  :)

Thanks for stopping by.  Visit Lynn at Spiritually Unequal Marriage to read more Thankful Thursday posts.  
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cultural Differences

It's funny how different cultures place priorities on different things. Something that is considered minor in one place can be extremely offensive in another. It seems strange to us when people have differing opinions and don't seem to see things our way. I know that's how I feel over here sometimes. I just shake my head and wonder why they don't "get it."

One thing in particular that bothers me over here is the complete refusal to place children in car seats, let alone in seat belts. I can't tell you the number of times I have witnessed a mother holding an infant in her arms in the front seat (of a car with air bags, no less!). I frequently see children climbing around in cars, standing up, hanging out windows, and the worst, hanging out of a sun roofs. Today I saw a child, maybe two years old, standing up in the front seat of the car driving next to us, The father was driving and the baby was just hanging out the window and climbing around. I couldn't believe it. I think that the penalty for this here is about $50. It's something that is never enforced however and the only people I see buckling up their kids are the Western expatriates for the most part.

But the big news around here the last few days is that U-turns are no longer allowed on a small road running between two malls. There's really no other way to go east from the mall except to drive another mile or so down the road to the next intersection, so it's very common for people to come out of one mall and make a quick U-turn to get back to the intersection that's right there. Well, the police have decided that they are going to put a stop to it and have begun fining people for it. The fine? 6000 riyals. That's $1500, people!! $1500 for a U-turn on a little-used road, but $50 for not protecting the lives of your children. Like I said, sometimes I just shake my head and wonder.

Another thing that seems incongruent to me is the censorship that takes place on one of the channels here. It's not a local channel, I think it's based in Saudi Arabia maybe. It actually is one of my favorite stations here because it plays a lot of American shows that I enjoy. But there have been many times when we've been watching a movie and the F-bomb comes blaring out, or some other equally offensive word. I'm so used to that kind of language being bleeped out on US channels that it's always a shock to me to hear it on TV. But what's funny to me is that while there is no censorship on language of any kind, the slightest little peck on the cheek will be cut. Now, I've got no problem with racy scenes being cut. But seriously, I've seen very jumpy cuts made when I KNOW that it was just a quick little peck. It just is funny to me that language doesn't bother them at all, but a little kiss between even married couples on TV is taboo.

Even stranger to me is that lack of censorship on the radio. Not that I'm promoting censorship (although I think a little is a good thing, I'm not a Nazi), but if you are going to censor TV so heavily, why are some of the filthiest lyrics allowed to play on the radio. There's only one English radio station in Qatar and some of the music they play (hip-hop mostly) is simply disgusting. But then they will cut away straight from that to play the call to prayer. It would be hysterical if it weren't so sad, honestly.

I try to remind myself that each culture is different and that one needs to be careful of thinking that "your" culture is really superior.  There are things that are worthy in each culture and there are many things that I would like to change about American culture.  But some things are just so ingrained, that just seem to be so sensible, that it seems crazy that other people don't see it.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Daze

Well, it's the midst of summer here in the Persian Gulf and that means hot and boring. Not much to do around here, particularly when most of your friends have packed up and left town for the summer. Here's a snapshot of what we've been up to:

** We've been busily thinking/preparing about our upcoming trip to Jordan. Well, maybe not so much the Jordan part as much as the "trip" part. That drive through Saudi Arabia is going to be a 3 day process (well, two half-days and one full day). That's a long time to be cooped up in the car with two kids. I'm thanking my lucky stars that we got a car with a DVD player in it and we'll be stocking up on movies to watch on the way. Any recommendations?

** Yesterday we met some friends at a local cafe where you can purchase ceramics and paint them. They'll glaze and fire them for you and you pick them up in a week. We had a nice time and are looking forward to collecting our new works of art. And speaking of ceramics, yesterday Emily gave Hubby and I a gift which she had made from some clay that I bought her last week. It's a set of salt and pepper shakers. We watched "Fireproof" a few weeks ago and in one scene, a character explains how he and his wife are like salt and pepper. Different, but complementary and always together. It was sweet of her to think of us like that and to make a concrete reminder that, though we are different, we are better and stronger when we are together.

** We went to the mall on the 4th of July. I think we were all a little homesick, so Hubby decided to treat us with dinner out and ice skating for the kids. (The rink is inside the mall.) Several months back a teenager committed suicide there by jumping from the fourth floor onto the ice below. Some say it was over a girl, others say it was over a bad school report card. As I stood there looking down, I was overcome with emotion thinking about how vulnerable teens are to their emotions. We are having Emily read "Preparing for Adolescence" right now and she came down the other day in tears. She told me she couldn't finish the chapter she had started because it was all about emotions and depression. I remember vividly the wild swings that my moods put me through when I was a teenager. I pray that Hubby and I will have wisdom to guide our kids through these turbulent years and that they will learn to turn to God when it's too overwhelming.

** I have self-diagnosed myself (Dr. Lori at your service!!) with PCOS. I have many of the symptoms, none of which I particularly want to go into here because they aren't very attractive honestly. Anyways, I picked up a book about dealing with PCOS and it seems that the best thing is to eat a healthy diet and exercise. Dang!!! That just keeps popping up in my life. But seriously, women with PCOS are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease so it's something to take seriously. I'm working on making healthier choices and have begun to take a multi-vitamin and saw palmetto, which I understand can reduce some of the effects of overproduction of testosterone in women. I'm making changes slowly and deliberately rather than just rushing into it, hoping that it will be more long-lasting change if I take my time.

Well, that's about it from here. Hope you are enjoying your summer and relishing these days!!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Seriously???

I went grocery shopping this morning. One of the things on my list was ground beef so that I could make a) burgers for the 4th of July, and b) koosa mahshi (stuffed squash). I went to two different stores and neither of them had ground beef. Nor does the other store which is closest to me but I never go to because it's disgusting. And, of course, the somewhat-Western-style grocery store that is nearest to me closed down three days ago for some unknown reason.

Seriously?? Should it really be that hard to find ground beef? (Ok, I have to fess up and admit that there was "ground beef" at one store, but it was LOCAL and I'm not buying that. Who knows what's really in it and it's an odd pale color. Usually we buy beef that is imported from New Zealand which is widely available.)

Oh, in other grocery shopping news this morning, I found pasteurized eggs. Now, back in the States, eggs are all pasteurized so this is no big deal for most of you. But for here, where I've NEVER seen that, and eggs generally come with remants of bird poop and sometimes feathers on them, this is a big deal. In fact, the packaging for the eggs declares it to be "break-through technology!" Of course, there was only one package in the whole store, so I don't expect to see them again any time soon.

This seems like a good time to think about some good points of living in Doha. After all, no place can be ALL bad, right?
  • No hurricanes.
  • No blizzards.
  • Clothes dry very fast in the summer. (Of course, if I were in America I'd have a dryer, but let's stick to the positives, ok?)
  • Men often let women go ahead of them here.
  • Free (basically) healthcare, quality notwithstanding.
  • Cheap gas - I fill up my Chevy Tahoe for just $15
  • I can get cheap falafel. I don't like it, but I can get it cheap if I want it.
  • Um, yeah, that's about it.

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