9.30.2009

Be Still My Heart!

I bought her entire album on itunes. It's one the best I've heard in months, years even.

As a bookmaker and lover of most things folky, this video stole my little making heart.



Lisa Hannigan - Lille
Music Videos at www.roxwel.com

This video/song sealed the deal.

There and Back Again: A Joyful Return to Jordan


We have made it back and this is our tale:

We left for the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge Border Crossing north of the Dead Sea at about 2pm on Saturday afternoon. We were very graciously driven right up to the border checkpoint by some friends and they bid us a fond farewell. Packs upon our backs, we headed into the fray.

And it wasn't too bad.

I mean, the flies were everywhere and we had to wait for several people who were sharing the same brain cells to figure out what they had done with our passports. But we got across to Jordan and happened to meet some American students who were told to leave class in Cairo because of a swine flu outbreak (fancy that, an epidemic occurring in Cairo! Imagine!) We split a cab up to Amman and we found the Sydney Hostel without a problem. It is on Prince Muhammad Street, right downtown and we were greeted by a very friendly receptionist. Since the dorm rooms were under renovation, he "upgraded" us to a private room at no additional charge. Don't get me wrong, we were thrilled to be in a private room, but "upgrade" is certainly not the verb to use. All the same, it was a very inexpensive place to stay and provided us with very adequate accommodations.

We set out immediately for Wild Jordan, a swanky little cafe/boutique that sits at the end of a street where we bought one of our favorite paintings last summer of a line of Arab sheikhs done in very Impressionistic style. We had a little feast involving coconut fried shrimp, a chicken wrap, curry and two fantastic smoothies. Mine was a mint-and-lime lemonade and Brooke's was a banana coconut Croccan. We rolled back down the street to our lodgings and fell asleep.

The next day, we marched up King Hussein Street leading out of downtown in between Jebel Webdeh and Jebel Hussein up into Abdali. My dear friend Hassan has his shop right on that street, across from a dilapidated Daihatsu dealer. We met his next door shop keeper, Bashir, whose brother works in Utah selling cars. We chatted with him for about 20 minutes while Hassan made his way back from downtown. It was so good to see him again, still chain smoking and very proud of the new wall in his studio and the recent success of his calligraphy. He also showed us the entry he will send in soon for an upcoming conference of Arab art and poetry in the UAE next year. It was a banner-sized excerpt from the Quran and he pointed out one tiny mistake where his son had jogged his arm while he was drawing. More on little Abdullah in a second.

After agreeing to have lunch with his family the next day, we said farewell and got a spot of kunafa, something with which I feel into deep smit last summer that full of crunchy sugar on top and piping-hot goat cheese on the bottom (Way better than advertised! I swear!).

More on the Jordan trip coming up after Brooke has her meeting with the group that is hiring her to teach English.

9.25.2009

Aint Nothing Gonna Brake-a My Stride

You may wonder why I've been posting every 30 minutes. I'm sick. That's why. I caught a Mcnasty cold on Monday morning after a weekend of festivities for the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (I'll post about the fiestas later). I've pretty much been in bed since then but today I got out of bed, showered, ate regular meals, and put on some makeup.

Why? We are going to Jordan tomorrow! A dear family in the branch offered to help us get our Visas (he's a Foreign Service Officer) and give us a ride across the border into Jordan and we couldn't resist the offer. Snot or no snot we are going.

I think. I also convinced Max that it would be fun to stay in one of those crappy mixed dorm rooms where they rent beds for 11$ a person a night. Really. We are staying 3 nights backpacker style in the Sydney Hostel for 60 bucks or so. Sweet deal....maybe not so sweet rooms. I kept saying "But we'll never get to do it again! We'll have kids or be too old. Let's just do it once and if it is a nightmare we can upgrade." The room only has 6 single beds in it and yesterday it was empty. I hope that no one signs up and we will have paid 22 bucks for a private room. I shall report.

We Are Fans

Big giant ones. We were SORELY disappointed in "Glee", but this new fall series is amazing. It strikes the perfect balance of smart and cynical with heartwarming and funny as all get out.

Blog Stalking: Foreign Service Style

Evidently, bid lists are out. I'm not exactly sure what that means yet or if all bid lists are out or just some, but the blogosphere is a flutter with bloggers who have just learned that the bid list, the list that contains many locations throughout the world, one of which will be their home for 18 months to a 3 years, is out.

I have done a little bit of blog searching lately with the terms "Bid List" "Foreign Service Bid List" "State Department Bid List" and found some pretty great blogs of some pretty interesting people. Several times I have been able to catch the first post some years or months back about the list being out and then follow the people right up to when they disclose there new home. It's actually thrilling. And a little bit embarrassing too, but they are posting it for ALL to read so I shouldn't feel too snoopy.

It's a big deal, this bid list issue. There is a lot that goes into determining where you go on a given tour in the Foreign Service.  We will probably spend at least two of our tours, one of our first, in an Arabic speaking country. I actually feel fine about that. We have loved the Middle East so far and the idea of staying here seems familiar to both of us. We can't believe how foreign something like China sounds, but Bahrain? Bring it on. The possible Arabic speaking countries (where we have embassies) are as follows:

Algeria
Bahrain
Chad
Comoros
Djibouti
Egypt
Eritrea
Iraq
Israel/Palestine
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Libya
Mauritania
Morocco
Oman
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Sudan
Syria
Tanzania
Tunisia
United Arab Emirates
Yemen
*There are African countries on this list too, so really I should say "Middle East/North Africa".

There is at least one unaccompanied tour on this list (Iraq) and probably several hardship posts, but that list fluctuates. Hardship posts are just that, hard. A location usually qualifies based on strenuous environmental, political/social, or geographical situations in the region and things like access to goods/services/healthcare. U.S. Business Week did a study recently on The Hardest Hardship Posts
that helped me get a better hold on things.

The bottom line is, we will probably go many places that are hard. Perhaps I'll have to be without Max for a time and perhaps I'll get malaria. Especially for the first little bit, we should just expect difficult places. But we feel really good about this decision. And I should say specifically
I feel good about this decision. Sometimes when we tell people what we are doing they get this idea that "Isn't that nice of Brooke to follow Max around even though she'd rather be doing something else?" And that couldn't be further from the truth. We may decide that foreign service isn't for us sometime in the future, but for right now I am very excited about the opportunities we'll have to learn about the world, to travel, to do good work for our church, and the opportunities our children will have. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it be rewarding in ways I can't articulate? Yes. But the more people we meet who have done the foreign service for years, the more our choice is confirmed. The values that they hold and have instilled in their children are the same that we would like to focus our lives on.

So, I keep looking at the hardest hardship list and gearing myself up for that. It's a kind of pessimistic optimism. If I can conceive of the worst and plan for it to the extent that I am able, it will be manageable and everything else will seem wonderful.

9.24.2009

Beard Update: Entering the 3rd Dimension

Hello friends. You've probably done it, too: drawing a beard onto the face of some unsuspecting picture or other drawing and silently laughing to yourself at the vandalism. Well, for several weeks now, my own beard has been similarly flat, like someone took a brown/red Magic Marker and colored in the appropriate areas on my face.

But no longer.

Behold! A beard that sprouts beyond the confines of my face and into the 3rd dimension! Huzzah!

9.21.2009

Fairly Warned Be Ye, Says I



We haven't blogged about this for a bit, but as part of this stage in the Foreign Service process might involve many of you we thought we'd p
ost and update.

Last week Max had his security clearance interview at the US consulate here in Jerusalem. A nice woman asked him all kinds of personal questions and several variations on the theme "Have you ever tried to violently overthrow the U.S. government?" (The answer is no, by the by.) This woman indicated that the process might take a while since Max has never had government clearance before and that he has lived in several places. We hope it does actually, we would really like to finish the program here before we go.

Evidently last week someone called Max's brother and said "This is so and so from the State Department. I assume you know why I'm calling." So, let it be known that someone from the State Department may be calling you with a similarly cryptic opener.

As the famous words of the old Pirate's of the Caribbean ride said "Fairly warned be ye says I" (This phrase is also said by Captain Mcalister on the Simpsons in case you were wondering. Max made the connection on our family trip to Disneyland years ago).

Speaking of Beards

Summer Plans...

Ok friends, I need all of your collective resources on this one. I had an epiphany last night about what we should do this summer. Max won't have classes but we will still be paying for expensive housing and it doesn't look like jobs will be in our future (I'm still holding out for one job here, but not holding my breath). If we knew we could get jobs at home we could go home and probably at least break even, maybe even make some money. But it would also be fun to travel, but who has the money for that, right?

Soooo, I was thinking that we could go somewhere that would pay us to teach English! We wouldn't have to pay for our apartment here, we could maybe make a little bit of money or at least break even wherever we go, and we could see a new place.

Trying to find the right kind of program is going to be the hard part. I wanted to put some feelers out there and see if any of you are aware of programs that pay to teach English abroad. We are really open to going anywhere in the world, though Asia, Europe, and the Middle East are probably the most practical. Spain is my current pie in the sky idea right now, but we are not picky.

Send us your knowledge!

9.19.2009

9.18.2009

"I've Fallen To The Communists"

Max and I played monopoly for 4.5 hours last night. That's right. It was a swinging Friday night at the Stoneman's. (Thursday is our Friday)

We had a breakdown a few hours into the game where we argued solely through historical metaphors:

-Communism
-Glasnost/Peristroyka

-Tearing Down the Wall

(Max was ticked when I wouldn't trade with him. But I was the only one with develop-able property, why would I trade?)



-The "deal" that Netanyahu is willing to make with Palestinians - including no control over their airspace or electromagnetic field (radio and television), restricted movement, no military, and many other things that make the deal unpalatable to Palestinians.

(I didn't trade, because Max was offering a garbage deal)



-Partners in Peace
-Meeting at the table

(They always use these terms when they talk about the Arab/Israeli conflict. The Israeli's won't come to the table because they don't have a "partner in peace". While I was laying under the table threatening to quit and secede the game to Max he kept yelling "I need a partner in peace to meet me at the table! Don't you want to be partners in peace?")



-Armistice

(We did indeed trade and I ended up wining about 1.5 hours later. It was my first victory and it was well worth the 4.5 hour game)

9.11.2009

Mosh Pit at the Damscus Gate...dude

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A week ago today Max and I did a crazy thing, that I don't regret, but that nearly got us squished. Check out the pictures below to see just how crowded it is in the Muslim Quarter during Ramadan.

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Very Crowded, that's how crowded.



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We decided to brave the crowds and try to make it through the Damascus gate just to "see what it is like" for Muslims during Ramadan. Woa. Is all I can say. I took a video at one point as we were being crushed through the street that normally takes us 45 seconds, but this time took us about 30 minutes. It was kind of an amazing experience of humanity. I wouldn't do it again, but I'm glad I did it once.





Also, a video journal update


9.07.2009

Hamstergate Revisited

He lives.

Or at least he was moving around a little bit in his cage today. It maybe not be a happy life, but it's a life.

Beard Update: Where I See My Bearded Future


So, the beard is as thick and complete as it has ever been in my life. Soon after returning from Brazil in late 2004, I began to grow a beard in the hopes that it would be full and commanding, but it was only able to support an Amish-esque growth (all chops, no 'stache) and it started to push out from my face like a fuzzy, reddish frame. I asked Brooke to marry me with that beard on my face and, against better judgment and in testament to her love for me, she still said yes. And later secured from me a promise that it would be gone by the time our wedding rolled around. (Brooke, reading the above paragraph, said to me "I didn't make you promise. You knew." True, indeed)

I had thought my future would hopefully include a beard, though the four year stint at BYU didn't do much to help that dream what with the draconian anti-beard honor code and all. So now that it is in bloom upon my punim, I have begun to wonder what my beard may look like a month from now. Or a year. Or a decade.

And today I got my answer.

I was walking home from Hebrew U along Sderot Churchill today when, to my great surprise, I saw myself walking towards me on the sidewalk. It wasn't me, of course, but an aged version, maybe mid 60s, wearing my exact same outfit. White button up with blue plaid striping, sensible khakis and sandals, glasses and a messenger bag. And the beard, a mostly gray number tailored to look like Toby Ziegler from the West Wing. I started thinking of things I could say to him in Hebrew that would convey my shock and delight at this chance encounter with my future self (exact translations of some of these thoughts: "Hi! We still dress the same!" or "When are you me? 30 years? 40?" or "What's in the bag? My memoir?" (And yes, I know the Hebrew word for memoir - zikhronot)).

But all I did was smile and say "Shalom!" I knew it was indeed my older self when he smiled back and said "Shalom!" Too chipper for a non-Max. He probably sings when gets home, too.

So there you have it: my beard's career has only begun and will yet involve many hilarious and exciting travels. I will keep you posted.

9.06.2009

HamsterGate

There is a hamster in the library at the school where I volunteer. Students are allowed to play with it during lunch and since I'm 'on duty' during lunch my only rule is that I don't have to touch it.

Two of the most adorable blond girls from Norway come in every day at lunch and ask to play with him. It struck me on Thursday that to me, they are adorable blond 3rd graders, but to Mr. Hamster, they are terrors. Probably worse than terrors. They poke at his cage, coo for him to come out, make him walk up and down planks (though they are practicing their knowledge of simple machines) and sometimes put him on their shoulders.

I think that something bad happened the other day because I came over to where they were playing with him and he was laying face down on the ground, not moving.... They quickly put him back in the cage and ran through the doors as fast as they could. ...Seems suspicious doesn't it?

I haven't been back to school yet, but I hope all is well with Mr. Hamster Pants. I don't want to touch him, but I don't really want him going to Hamster Heaven on my watch either.

Hurt Feelings

Should it have hurt my feelings when, after asking for face lotion in an old city pharmacy, a nice Arab woman reached directly for the "No Shine-Matte" type?

9.04.2009

Holy Envy: Fasting

(The Old City Lit up with Ramadan Lights)
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(The red snakey lights say "Allah" in Arabic)
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Ramadan is a large (maybe the largest) holiday in the Muslim world. During the whole month of Ramadan Muslims fast from sun up to sun down and only eat early in the morning before the sun comes up and late at night after it has gone down. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and trusty wikipedia says that

"Fasting during this month is often thought to figuratively burn away all sins. Muslims believe that the Qur'an was sent down to the earth during this month. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad told his followers that the gates of Heaven would be open all the month and the gates of Hell would be closed".

We belong to a church that also encourages fasting, but for a 24 hour period once a month on what we call "Fast Sunday". We fast because we reap personal and communal spiritual blessings from it. We feed the spiritual self as opposed to our physical self to demonstrate our commitment to the idea that our spiritual self can conquer the fallen physical self and we can be more spiritually in tune to God's will. On this day we share our testimonies of the gospel and give offerings to the poor.

Fasting is hard for me.

Not the idea of it, which I think it beautiful, but the physical part of it. I get loopy and light headed and try and make all kinds of excuses to myself for why I can't (and shouldn't!) fast, but it's all hooey. It's just a hard thing.

Observing these Muslims go about their day, every day for a month, not eating or drinking in sweltering weather, often times covered from head to toe, walking everywhere with bags and children in toe is pretty awe inspiring to me.

It's a great feeling to be in the land where Jesus walked, but it is also amazing to be surrounded by people observing their faith so fervently, both Jews and Muslims alike.


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9.03.2009

Nuggets from Library School

I have an Archives and Manuscripts class this fall and I came across this in one of my readings


The word “record” finds its roots in the combination of two Latin words: cor (meaning “heart”) and dare (meaning “to give”). Literally, “to record” something is to find a way to give it to your heart. A record, then, is a way to perform this action, a way to bring something back to your heart over and over again.


In part that describes while I keep a journal like a crazy person, to bring my life, my joys, and my experiences "back to my heart." Isn't that a nice thought?

9.02.2009

My Work Station


In case you were wondering, this is what my "space" looks like where I do most of my blogging and graphic design stuff. What's that bowl in the bottom right hand corner? I hear you ask, well it's a bowl of cheese. We found this cheese finally that tastes closest to good old Orange American Cheese. It tasted so good to me that I put it in a bowl and had it for part of my dinner. Gross, huh?

And yes, that is a picture of my little brother Matt dressed like a Tomato for his 3rd grade vegetable play. It is one of my favorite pictures.

9.01.2009

"My Favorite Iron Chef is Bobby Flay"

So I started volunteering everyday at an International School Library. The library serves children ages k-12 and the school is taught in English, though the library has materials in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian as well. Today was my second day and so far so good. I got on a bus all by my self and got off on the right bus stop on my FIRST try.

Yesterday at lunch I had the kind of conversation that I used to have at the library and it made me so happy. 12 year old Sarah approached the library counter with "The Joys of Cooking" a tomb of a cooking book.

Me: Are you going to learn to cook?

Sarah: Are you American?

Me: Yes, why?

Sarah: Do you know Iron Chef, the show?

Me: Yes...

Sarah: My brother wants to be a professional chef so I'm getting this for him. His favorite chef is Bobby Flay

Me: Oh! Well, who is your favorite chef?

Sarah (without hesitation): Kat Cora

- she checked out her book and went her way. Later that day the miniature spiting image of her in little boy form walked in and marched right up the the desk

Little Boy: My sister got it wrong, Mario Vitallio is my favorite Iron Chef.

He informed me. Just so I knew. It was great, and, for the record, I think Bobby Flay is my favorite Iron Chef because of all the grillin'.