Thursday, December 24, 2009

Arabic Christmas Carol

Just viewed this Arabic Christmas Carol.  We sing a lot of translated Carols here, but there are some amazing traditional Carols as well.  Jingle Bells has been translated into too many languages!  I've been learning a little about 'mowashahaat' in choir, or traditional, folkloric songs. 

I like this because it reminds me that the melodies I often hear playing around are not necessarily Islamic.  The depth of Arabic music is incredible.  To the Western listener, one might think this melody is a recitation of the Quran, while it's actually proclaiming the miracle of the virgin birth.   It's Byzantine, and the pictures are from the Holy Land.  The end of the video lists where the pictures are from, so it's worth listening to the end. 

I plan on writing a few more posts about our trip, as well as share some thoughts based on a book I'm reading, "From the Holy Mountain".  For now, I'm enjoying the break with the boys.  They spent most of the morning playing pirates, and coloring Christmas cards.   Most of the presents are wrapped, and we're ready for Christmas Eve service tonight.

Praying you enjoy this evening, and are able to spend some time pondering the miracle of the incarnation.

~ Um Tulip

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ABC question

Was looking at license plates the other day, and I've got a question maybe a reader can help me with.  I'm wondering if there is a set correspondence between the English and Arabic alphabets.  Our local plates only use numbers, so it's not an issue.  However, we often see Saudi plates and those are number/letter combos.  They are also dual language.  So the "waw" و stands for U, etc, etc.  Arabic has more letters than Arabic, and as there are two types of "s", two types of "t" etc., you can't do a phonemic correspondence.  Impossible.

So do all Arabic countires use a set system for their license plates?  If so, which letters got the axe?  Additionally, Vitamin C in English is called Vitamin ج "jeem" in Arabic.  Are the vitamins and the licences plates using the same system? 

Just curious. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jerusalem Trip: Part 2

This past week has been busy with 7 nights of rehearsals and performances for the annual YWCA Christmas Concert.  Abu and Um Tulip were both in this choir, which means we've had little time for anything besides work, kids, and singing.  We are looking forward to the next few weeks as work winds down for a bit and we have time to celebrate Christmas as a family and with our friends.  Might even think about doing some Christmas shopping. 

Next stop on our trip was lunch by the Sea of Galilee.  We had "St. Peter's Fish", which was a bit boney but tasty.  My good friend who happens to live in Nazareth joined us for lunch, then took my boys back to her house for the afternoon.  The choir then headed to a few beautiful churches around the Sea.  We were able to do a little singing at the church at the Mt. of Beatitudes, and visit where Christ multiplied the fish and loaves.  Hearing the Palestinian choir sing for the first time brought tears to my eyes.  Their passion for music overflowed in their expressions and the sound was beautiful. 

The Sea of Galilee

Mosaic of the Fish and Loaves of Bread

Church of the Beatitudes

Church of the Annunciation

The whole first day I think we all just kept pinching ourselves to see if this was really happening.  It really was a dream come true.  As night fell, we all loaded on the bus for the drive to El-Quds, the Holy City.  Our friend dropped the boys off while we stopped in Nazareth- I'm sure they had a lot more fun playing with her kids and drinking hot cocoa than they would have listening to us sing. 

We arrived at our hotel and had dinner there.  Our room was nice, and had a fold out sofa for the boys to sleep on.  However, there were no baby cots left at the hotel.  Obviously, I was a bit upset.  We hadn't brought our pack-n-play and Baby Bulb can't exactly sleep on a bed yet.  Our bed was really two pushed together so there was no way to have him sleep in between as the beds were on wheels and slid apart. 

We worried about what to do as we talked to the hotel staff in the lobby.  One of the Palestinian choir members saw us talking and came over.  We explained the problem, and she outdid herself with that famous Arab hospitality.  She went back to her house and found a portable cot that belonged to her nieces and nephews, and brought it back to the hotel within the hour. 

The kids fell fast asleep, and we were out soon after.  It had been a wonderful day. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jerusalem Trip: Part One

Many of you are itching for details about our trip with Dozan wa Awtar.  That's the name of the choir I'm part of.  The name means "Tuning and Strings".  The choir is made up of local singers and foreigners.  For us choir-types, there is nothing more magical than getting together with a group of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses and creating a blend of sound, rhythm, and harmony together.  Creating music with my Arab brothers and sisters really does feed my soul.  This time we had the opportunity to join the lovely Hania and her Magnificat Choir, from St. Saviour's Monastery, also made up of Palestinian and and a few foreign singers.  Rehearsals included Arabic and English, with a little Italian and French thrown in.

We decided to bring the whole family, and reflecting on it now I wonder how many families with three young boys would even considering traipsing around the city of Jerusalem with a touring choir.  As Abu Tulip commented, "maybe it was crazy, but I want to live."  Staying at home just because traveling with our boys is a challenge is simply not an option.  The opportunity to see Jerusalem, and spend time with locals who love this land was absolutely worth it. 

The trip started with a 5 am wake up call.  We finished packing out bags at 11 the night before, after a long day.  Teddy Bear got his stitches out just in time for the trip, we shared a thanksgiving meal (chicken, sweet potato casserole) with local friends, and took Oliver over to visit a former classmate.  I finally called family at 11 pm to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving (seven hour time difference)  and went to bed.  We had the boys sleep in their clothes to make the next morning a bit easier.

We were the second group to arrive at our meeting place.  We piled our luggage on the bus and got moving around 6:15.  Being up so early meant we really got to take in the full effect of the adan, or call to prayer on a holy day.  It was the start of eid al-adha, or feast of the sacrifice.  Our drive to the north border took us through several small towns.  We saw the crowds at a mosque, a shrine of an important Muslim historical figure, and numerous sheep being slaughtered.


We arrived at the border.  This was an anxiety filled time for all of us.  Our local friends had visas in hand, but this trip was actually a postponement of a previously planned trip.  The first time we attempted to travel the visas did not come through.  This was extremely disappointing, and at that time we did not know if the trip would happen at all.  For some choir members, this was the first time for them to visit the land where their parents and grandparents, and many generations before them, grew up.  They were traveling to their homeland, a place they knew only from stories told while sitting on grandpa's knee as a child.  For us foreigners, we can enter easily on a tourist visa but are often questioned randomly before allowed entrance.  Abu Tulip was one of the "lucky" ones questioned at length.  I had to tell them my father and grandfather's name, and with the wiggly baby in my hand I think the border control officer decided I was telling the truth.  After about an hour of processing, we made it to the other side of the Jordan River.  We were immediately greeted by the Magnificat choir members.  It's hard to describe the joy-filled welcome we received.  We were quickly loaded on to the tour bus, handed maps, a refreshing bottle of water, and we filled the bus with songs and laughter.  Our first stop would be lunch by the Sea of Galilee.

It's getting late.  Part Two will have to wait for another day.   ~ Um Tulip