Thursday, March 26, 2009

You know you're raising your kids overseas when...

This came from a friend of a friend. I edited it a bit...

You know you’re raising kids overseas when:

1. Your children don’t know your brothers or sisters, but they have at least 50 Uncles and Aunts who are no relation to them at all.
2. When you say, “We’re going home,” your kids ask, “Which one?”
3. Your kids can translate between American, British, and Australian English.
4. It’s 27 C outside, but your kids want a jacket.
5. Hundreds of total strangers have photos of your children on their mobile phone.
6. When you’re in a restaurant and the server doesn’t try to pick up your toddler and carry him around, you’re surprised - and disappointed since now you have to watch him.
7. Your kids prefer nutella to peanut butter and jelly.
8. Your kids flew before they could walk.
9. Your kids can greet strangers appropriately in multiple languages and cultures, but they’re not sure how to relate to their cousins.
10. One of the first phrases you learn to say in your target language is, “Can you put that onto 2 plates?”
11. You wish strollers came in 4-wheel drive models.
12. You know that the best toys are twigs, rocks, and cardboard boxes.
13. Finding your children in a crowd is easy: they’re at the center of it.
14. Your kids think change is normal and normal is boring.
15. You teach geography by saying, “And Uncle John lives there, and the Johnsons are from there…”
16. The thought of sending your children on an unescorted plane trip doesn’t scare you nearly as bad as putting them back into your home country’s school system.
17. You realize one day that your definition of “home” isn’t even on the same continent as your children’s definition.

My favorite is definately #5. Just today our boys were photographed on somebody's mobile at a coffee shop. I could add a few regarding living in the Middle East, and just our experience in general.

1. Your kids love to eat leban (yogurt) and rice but don't really know about yogurt with fruit.
2. Your kids have ridden camels more times than they have played with pet dogs.
3. Your kids can fall asleep at night even with fireworks and loud music outside due to tawjihi score results being announced or an engagement party.
4. They go to a McDonalds in America and are confused because there is no play area.
5. Your kids recognize several flags.
6. You had to get new pages in your child's passport before he turned five.
7. You agree with your friends that your child is sick because the weather is cold and not because he was sneezed on by another sick child. Akiid, min ijjaw.
8. You put your children to bed at 9 pm and your neighbor marvels at how early it is. Bakiir!
9. Your children are surprised at the feel of grass on their feet, and love the sand.

I'm sure I could think of more but my sleep-deprived brain has ceased to function. Please add to the list! ~ Um Tulip

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dissent Not Allowed

Last week, some little-known events transpired which I think reveal a lot about the politics between the US and Middle East.

Charles Freeman, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and president of the Middle East Policy council was a few weeks ago picked by a top Obama advisor to chair the National Intelligence Council. He was not picked directly by President Obama, but certainly with his approval.

Now, a little background on Mr. Freeman. He has been a voice questioning America's unquestioning support of Israel, urging policy-makers to look at all sides of the situation. He has been critical of the "Israel lobby" in Washington--those who take it upon themselves to ensure that Israel's interests become equated with America's interests in the minds of those who make policy. Read more here.

Basically what happened is that enough commentators and even elected representatives (like Senator Schumer of New York) complained so that Freeman was pressured into removing himself from consideration. Apparently Freeman was disqualified for his "extremist views"--that he is willing to criticize our policy of support for Israel is considered extremist. One commentator says about the efforts to marginalize Freeman:

The real rub, the basis of the whole controversy, however, is that [Freeman] has been far more critical of Israeli policy than is generally allowed within acceptable debate in Washington. . .

The whole effort strikes me as little more than a thuggish effort to keep the already too-constricted terms of debate over the Middle East and Israel/Palestine locked down and largely one-sided. . . . But the gist is that campaigns like this are ugly and should be resisted. Not just on general principles, but because the country needs more diversity of viewpoints on this issue right now.

Another writes:

The idea that Obama should not have advisers who challenge some of the core assumptions of the Bush years, especially with respect to Israel-Palestine, seems nuts to me. And the impulse to blackball and smear someone as a bigot is reprehensible.

I'm impressed that the Obama administration is willing to appoint someone like Freeman as an advisor to the president's foreign policy. Considering the lack of success in foreign policy we've seen recently, it seems some diversity in viewpoints is needed. Particularly on the Israel issue. However, it's very discouraging that others would pressure this man out, and the administration wouldn't be able to stick with him. Many people here were hopeful that Obama's election would bring some change in America's stance regarding Israel/Palestine. Rahm Emanuel's selection as chief of staff took a little of the wind out of their sails. The fact that Obama was open to Freeman's ideas shows he has some good intentions, but I'm afraid there is still a long way to go before American policy can be more even-handed in expressing our ideal that "all are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among this are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

-Abu Tulip

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yes, there are honest people out there

Over the weekend we decided to take a trip to the Dead Sea. Baby bulb is three weeks old, and the older boys were itching with cabin fever, so we decided a day trip was in the works. We had a good time at Amman Tourist Beach last fall, so we returned. It was a great day. We went with friends Z and F, which guaranteed playmates for our boys and good conversation! Admission for residents is 8 JD, and 4 JD for kids over four. When we arrived the swimming pools were being cleaned. This was a relief as last summer we went to the Day Spa and ended up with pink eye from the pools (as have other friends). This beach is much simpler than the five-star hotels up the road, but we still had a great time and stayed within our budget. The pool has a good size shallow area for the kids, and they had a blast. They also built sandcastles. I also took Oliver and Teddy Bear into the Dead Sea for a little bit (just up to their knees). This was their first time in the salty water.

The weather was amazing. Plenty warm to swim, but not so hot for me and baby bulb (as we were not swimming and he's still feeding every couple hours). We ate at their buffet, as they allowed us to bring in water and a few snacks for the kids, but not lunch. The only place you can do that is at the public beach or the 'shatt ilhurra'. Included in their buffet was plain rice, plain noodles, plain yogurt, and cucumbers without any dressing. Yes, my children ate! We enjoyed fish, oozi rice with chicken, stuffed lamb, and a variety of salads. The kids had jello for dessert and we had 'um 3ali' or Arab bread pudding.

We got back to our house with only an hour to bathe and get ready for church. Our service is in the evening as many people work Sunday mornings. When we got to the car, already running late, Abu Tulip and I both realized we did not have our mobile phones. He ran back in the house to look for his, and we both started to panic. We had put our phones inside our camera case (with the digital camera) to keep them safe while we were at the Dead Sea. They were no where to be found. With no way to contact our friends, we headed for church.

BTW, Z and F attend our church. As soon as we arrived (half-way through the worship) I asked my friend, who was with the kids in the nursery, if she had accidentally packed our camera case in her pack. With the chaos of packing up all of our belongings, and trying to prevent five kids from wandering back into the pool fully-clothed, anything is possible. She hadn't seen it so she gave my phone a call. Someone answered! "Hello, is this Abu and Um Tulip?" "No, this is their friend. Who are you?" "An employee of the Amman Touristic Beach. Did you lose your phone?" "Yes, two phones, and a camera." Thankfully, this employee was heading back to Amman, where he lives, and was willing to bring our belongings back. "nkuun mamnuuniin" my friend said, "we would be grateful".

So, after the service, I went back with F to her house with the kids for falaafil while Abu Tulip and Z met the man carrying our belongings. After a bit, Z calls. I see the look of horror on F's face and start to worry. "miitayn dinaar? hakayt ma3 isshurti? raayih al ATM?" "200 JD? did you talk to the police? you're going to an ATM?" Then laughter. "biddu ilcarseat kamaan?" "he wants the carseat, too?" More laughter. My dear husband had cooked up a plan with Z to fool us into thinking the employee had demanded 200 JD for our phones and camera. They really had us fooled for a few minutes. I guess that's what you get for leaving your husbands on their own for a while!

Needless to say, we had a good laugh afterwards. We are so thankful that the employee (who turned out to be a manager) was honest and brought back our phones and camera. He was extremely gracious, and renewed our faith in the honesty of people yet again. We arrived home much later than usual, and Abu Tulip had to carry all three kids in from the car to the home as they were quite sleepy.

Another day finished, another story to share. ~ Um Tulip