Sunday, June 13, 2010

Musica Sacra

The choir I sing with, Dozan wa Awtar, recently got back from Germany performing at the Musica Sacra Festival.  Click here to listen to a performance.  I especially like this piece.  It's actually a collaboration of several themes, including a Byzantine communion hymn, a Sufi melody, and an Islamic song that's newish (rather than ancient, the original is sort of a pop song style / new age style / hard to explain).  In between the Sufi melody at the end, choir members are singing various songs that are important to them, including monastic chants.  It certainly reflects the color and beauty of the culture here. In a few days we have a Dozan get together where I'll get to hear stories from those who went on the trip.  Looking forward to it! 

~ Um Tulip

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Min Zamaan (been a long time)

Yes, it's been over two months since posting.  Lots of excuses, like wondering if anybody actually reads what I write.  I suppose I write for myself more than anything, though.  This morning is my first day off from school.  Exams are done, and we're planning for next year.  I'm really excited about teaching next year.  We're implementing the PYP (International Baccalaureate) standards for the elementary school.  I get to focus on creative writing.  So school has been busy, but fulfilling.

What else has happen in the past two months?  Well, my choir put together another amazing show.  This time, they traveled to Germany for the Musica Sacra festival.  Follow this link to read.  Performing religious music (both Christian and Muslim) I know they wowed the audiences there and had a blast.  This picture shows "qanuun" used to accompany a few pieces.  I missed going, but chose to focus on my family this month, as there have been some big events. 

  • Abu Tulip and I celebrated 10 years of marriage together.  10 years!  It's sad so many don't make it to this milestone, and I'm so blessed to be married to my best friend.  We're taking the family for Switzerland for 10 days at the end of the month to celebrate and take a little time out for refreshment. 
  • Oliver turned 7 years old.  His party was batman themed, hence the cupcakes.  He is such a joy.  The other day he said to Abu Tulip, "Dad, you were wrong, there is something that drinks but doesn't pee.  Plants!"  This kid is thinking and observing all the time.  He's done a great job on his first grade "exams".  No, I did not have him study, unlike his classmates, but he has learned a lot and is speaking and reading Arabic.  
  • Teddy Bear graduated from pre-school.  He'll go to KG1 in the fall.  He has a great little best friend from nursery that will join him at the kindergarten.  He sings in Arabic and English, and recently was jumping on my bed singing a song from my choir. (He is Mr. Sun in the picture)
  • Baby Bulb is no longer a baby.  I need to find a new name.  Ideas, anyone?  He is a climber, and has a vocabulary of about 8 words.  Mommy, no, la (no), anineh (bottle), hatti (give me), daddy, baby, daw (light).  
I'm looking forward to taking the kids to the pool this summer (nearly six years here and we finally spent the money on a membership), watching our plants grow (we'll see if any vegetables make it this year), and a visit from Abu Tulip's parents in July.   Here are some pics from our garden, beans, radishes, and snails.

Oh, Oliver also finished his first season of T-ball.  Yes, it was only T-ball, but watching him play reminds me that my kids are going to grow up.  Watching the high schoolers play on the field next to us was a reality check for me.  Those boys are all taller than me, and my boys will be taller than me some day.  One Friday morning we watched a few from the team get out of a taxi and go to their game.  In perfect Arabic, they thanked the driver and headed out to the field.  I learned that they had just come from running in a race down at the Dead Sea.  Responsible, capable, and thriving (not just surviving) in a bilingual, multicultural world.  Yes, this is what I hope for my children.  Lord, give me strength to raise my boys in wisdom and maturity!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easter Concert sold out!

Been a busy with well, life.  Last week was the culmination of many rehearsals and we put on a great show!  Both the Wednesday and Thursday night concerts were sold out.  If you read Arabic, follow this link, as a local paper wrote about our performance.  The Faure Requiem was outstanding.  At times, it was hard not to just close my eyes and listen to the blending of our voices along with the symphony.  Our director flawlessly gave us everything we needed to perform with beauty and grace. 

During intermission I was talking with a fellow choir member.  This is her first season with Dozan and she commented, "this is so exhilarating!'  Really, we don't tire of performing.  Our voices came together for what may have been our best concert yet.  I appreciate this diverse group of friends so much.  Thanks, Dozan, for a great spring break.  Thanks, Abu Tulip, for your support as I've skipped off to rehearsal and performances so many nights in a row.  Thanks, Lord, for giving us voices and instruments to create sound that gives you glory. 

~ Um Tulip

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Language advice you may or may not want to try

Abu Tulip has been reading a book, How Languages are Learned  by Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada.  This passage caught his eye, especially considering how difficult some of the sounds of Arabic are for speakers of Western languages.

"Another aspect of personality that has been studied is inhibition.  It has been suggested that inhibition discourages risk-taking, which is necessary for progress in language learning.   This is often considered to be a particular problem for adolescents, who are more self-conscious that younger learners.  In a series of studies, Alexander Guiora and his colleagues (1972) found support for the claim that inhibition is a negative force, at least for second language pronunciation performance.  One study involved an analysis of the effects of small doses of alcohol, known for its ability to reduce inhibition, on pronunciation.  Study participants who drank small amounts of alcohol did better on pronunciation tests than those who did not drink any.  While results such as these are interesting, they may have more to do with performance than with learning.  We may also note, in passing, that when larger doses of alcohol were administered, pronunciation rapidly deteriorated!"
(page 61)

I can think of a few people who probably would have been willing to participate in that study and contribute to scientific knowledge.   ~Abu Tulip

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blog about Jordan day

We've lived here in the Middle East for over five years.  It's hard to imagine being anywhere else.  I often don't really think about the fact that I'm a foreigner - a guest in the country.  I've learned the language (to an extent), love the food, and two of my children were born here.   Our oldest is in a local, private school where Arabic is the primary language.  It's adorable to watch him practice for his upcoming assembly, sharing "ana ilmalfuuf"  (I am the cabbage), a presentation on vegetables.

When I meet new people, they often ask, "where is home?"  I usually answer, "home is here".  This is my home.  Of course I miss family and friends who are back in the states, and there are certainly days I yearn for certain characteristics of my passport culture, but I'm proud to say we really have made our life here.

I realized my friends understood this during a recent choir rehearsal.  The choir I sing with is an eclectic mix of locals and foreigners.  We've been learning some Arabic folkloric music, and it is just fascinating.  At one point, the director asked for the Arabs to sing a section once through, and then for the others to sing once through.  This was for her to listen to us sing and check to make sure we were getting the pronunciation and nuances of Arabic music.  Quarter tones are amazing, but a challenge for us Western singers.  An Arab friend turned to me and asked, "inti ma3na 'aw mahum?"  (are with you us or them?) .  I smiled.  Both?  She had given me the ultimate compliment.

So, thank you Jordan, for accepting me into your country.  Your friendship, hospitality, food, music, and grace are in abundance. 

~ Um Tulip

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The best reason to wear a hijab

So, the other day I was driving home from work and saw the best reason to wear a hijab to date.  There have been some fascinating articles lately about women who wear the hijab, a typical headscarf for Muslim women. 

Check out and you'll find a lot of discussion.

Where we live, I'd say over half the women do cover, usually in stylish scarves that match their outfit.  It's usually a family decision.  The 8 year old daughter of neighbors has even started wearing one occasionally, so she can look like her mommy.  Choice?  Sort of.  Not any different than a daughter wanting to wear earrings like her mother.  Or our friend's daughter wanting to have the Coptic cross tattoo on her wrist, like so many of her friends. Or maybe not.  I'll let others work that out.

Regardless, as I was driving home I saw a woman driving through the circle, gesturing and talking.  There was no one in the passenger seat.  Then I noticed she had her mobile phone tucked in her hijab right against her ear.  It was almost invisible.  Why bother with a fancy bluetooth headset? Shatra, mu?

~ Um Tulip

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dozan wa Awtar February performance

Follow this link so see my friend's post about the first Feb. concert.    Next stop will be at Beit al-Ruwwad in Hashmi next week.  From musicals and choreography to muwashahaat (folkloric) music, Dozan is here to serve. 
~ Um Tulip

Monday, February 22, 2010

from the mouths of babes...

Here are a few comments from my children.  It's been a long couple weeks, as a bad virus went to the family. Baby Bulb turned one and was sick on his birthday.  We're all on the mend now, and in the past few days I've been making notes of some of their crazy comments.

Baby Bulb's words are pretty much: haada (this)  dad, dibedibedibe, and waaaa.

The other two, however:

Oliver: "Are mouses real?  I never saw one."
Teddy Bear: "I saw a mouse in my a story."  (sigh of relief from the parents)

Oliver: "Can you find a different way to help me get to sleep?  Counting backwards is really hard,

Teddy Bear: "I flushed the toilet and I wiped my bottom two times - not two and a half - Mom - David is two and a half."

Teddy Bear: "Coconuts don't eat onions - cuz they don't have mouths."

Mom: "I think we should change your jammies as they have throw up on them.  Teddy Bear: "Tomorrow I don't want to wear them."

Teddy Bear: "Don't touch your hand on this side of the potty - I peed on it, okay?"

Dad: "Buckle your seatbelt." 
Oliver: "Seatbelts are for cars - and airplanes."
 Teddy Bear: "If you go upside down in an airplane you need to have a seatbelt."
Oliver: "Yeah, in a plane they have a potty - but you can't use it all the time."  (we learned this the hard way)
Teddy Bear "Cars don't have potties!
Oliver: "You shouldn't go to the potty in an airplane when it goes upside down - you know what might happen?"

~ Um Tulip

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Jerusalem Trip: Part 3

Better late than never, right?  Have some spare time this morning and thought I'd better finish up writing about our trip as promised.  I'm a stickler for following through with what I started, but that's hard to do with three little boys, especially as baby bulb is learning to walk!

I left off with our first night at the Notre Dame center in the Holy City.  However, we still had one more day before actually seeing Jerusalem.  We got on the bus after a lovely breakfast (lots of food kids love) and headed toward Bethlehem.  Approaching the wall was probably the most difficult leg of the trip for all of us.  One new friend tried to distract us by telling us about olive oil.  Apparently, there is some amazing olive oil made in one part of the country that only locals can consume, as it's too heavy for foreigners.  She can hardly cook with it herself.   Each region has special olive groves with a unique flavor.  It reminded me of listening to wine aficionados and coffee growers discuss their crops.  Unfortunately, she couldn't distract us for long, as the conversation lends itself to a discussion of the land.  The tragedy of so many losing their precious olive groves leaves me speechless.


Olive trees dating to the time of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

Getting into Bethlehem took a while as we waited for a procession from the president of Costa Rica.  Then, we got tied up inside the Church of the Nativity as the security for the Costa Rican president came through.  The highlight was performing in the Church of St. Catherine next to the Church of the Nativity.  We joined in a beautiful mass and enjoyed a local monk playing the organ afterward.  We had lunch at a local pizza place and Abu Tulip got to meet up with a friend who lives in the area.  His son is a friend of ours from our college days.


The ancient mosaic floor under the current floor of the Church of the Nativity.

Dinner was back at the hotel and we got ready for a lot of walking the next day.  Our hosts couldn't have been better tour guides.  Not only did they know the history of the land, they could point out to an old home in the old city and mention, "That is my family's home.  My brother still lives there."  It was intensely personal.  A friend shared with us how her family and many Christian families decided to sell their homes to the Latin Patriarch.  While they continue to live there, this secures their home as part of the Palestinian Christian area, preventing it from being sold to others who will not preserve their heritage.    I recently read how in the 1920s the old city was around 52% Christian homes.  Today the percentage is a dismal one quarter of 1%.  The city risks become nothing more than a tourist attraction.  Again, I'm left without words to describe the anger and pain I feel along with my Arab brothers and sisters.  


View of the old city, looking over the Valley of the Kings.  I can hear Jesus weeping.

Phenomenal mosaics at the Church of the Ascension.  We weren't able to sing inside as another group was already there, singing a mass in German.  The acoustics would have been beautiful.

We did get to sing here, the Dormition of Mary Church
There weren't many tourists, so it was quiet and beautiful as we filled the space with song.  We stood in a circle, letting our voices play off the walls of the space.


I will never get over the unifying nature of making music together.
May the heavens delight in the sound.  ~ Um Tulip

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~Victor Hugo

He who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once. ~Robert Browning

Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken. ~Ludwig van Beethoven  

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wintry Mix

Thursday we were sent home from school early due to snow.  I had a class first hour, with the fifth grade.  As we were waiting for the rest of the students to trickle in due to bus delays, I had to come up with a quick English lesson on the spot.  I couldn't teach the lesson I had planned as half the students weren't in.  So thankful for the smartboard, I pulled up pics of snow on google images and we did a quick journal on snow activities.  This is by far my favorite picture.  The students loved it.  I don't know who took it, so I can't give it credit, but enjoy it anyway.


On the way home  I did see a little snow, more sleet, and a lot of rain.  It's been cold, but nothing like the snowy Michigan winters I used to endure.  We just received a text message that tomorrow is a one hour delay unless we hear otherwise.  It's been nice to have a little extra time at home.  Baby Bulb is taking his first steps.  He turns a year in about a week.  My, how time flies.              ~ Um Tulip

Thursday, February 4, 2010

do not be surprised if...

So, we just got this email from the department of state:

Warden Message

Subject: Tawjihi Celebrations – February 6, 2010

On Saturday, February 6th, the Jordanian Ministry of Education intends to release the interim results of the high-school exam (the Tawjihi). Families throughout Amman often celebrate when the results are announced, and for some the celebration is exuberant. Groups of young adults may drive around in cars blowing horns, and some individuals may shoot into the air. The direct threat is minimal, but traffic can be congested. Please do not be surprised if you hear shooting.

The U.S. Embassy in Amman is located on.......

I especially like the embassy's choice of the word exuberant. Wondering how this will all turn out if the roads are icy as predicted. Hoping for another snow day and to be inside with a hot cup of cocoa.

Minshuuf. ~ Um Tulip

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Creative cooking with children

I have to brag about my six-year-old, Oliver. The other day we were watching my favorite TV channel, Fatafeat. Well, seeing as I watch about an hour or two of TV a week, Fatafeat is the only thing I really watch. It's the local cooking channel, and is a mix of local programming in Arabic and shows from the west (Rachel Ray, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson). My favorite show is shouriba wa na'na'a, as the cook Andrew speaks in Arabeezi (an Egyptian and Canadian mix) and the Lebanese host translates into Levantine Arabic.

The show we were watching was all about fondue.  What caught Oliver's eye was putting the food on wooden skewers before dipping it into sauce.  He was in luck, as I was planning on heading to the grocery store.  I told him to make me a list of what I needed to buy.

He made pictures of strawberries, chicken, bananas, bread, etc.  We headed to the store, and used his list as a guide to my shopping.  Several other patrons stopped to stare at my grocery list, and I just smiled. Back home we cooked some chicken, chopped a bunch of fruit and vegges, along with hot dogs, and I shredded cheese to melt.  The kids had a blast loading up the skewers.  They mostly ate hot dogs and cucumbers, while Abu Tulip and I ate more chicken, broccoli, and fresh bread dipped in really yummy cheese. 


Finally, for dessert we melted some semi-sweet baking chocolate with a little bit of cream.  Strawberries, pear, kiwi, apple, and banana.  I don't know a better way to end a meal than to be scraping clean a bowl of chocolate with my boys.  Yum.

~ Um Tulip

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


With Christmas and traveling, we haven't posted at all.  Here's a funny picture until I get around to writing something with substance.   I had a staff Christmas banquet and a lady at my table was chain smoking.  I had to hang out in the lobby several times to take a break to breathe!  I just laughed when a saw her cigarette case.  Luckily, my friend had his camera with him and took a shot on the sly.  Enjoy.   ~ Um Tulip