Monday, July 11, 2011

Switzerland or bust 2011

We just got back from our long awaited family vacation to Switzerland.  We had planned this trip in 2009, saving up money and time for our 10 year wedding anniversary.  As life doesn't always work out the way we hope, last summer Abu Tulip's dad died suddenly and our summer plans changed quickly.  This year has been an emotional roller coaster for us all, with loss overshadowing some great experiences of living in the Middle East.  In just over a week we'll head for an extended stay in America.  We're looking forward to being close to family, and curious about how the reverse culture shock will play out in our kids.  As I won't be teaching this semester, I hope to take time to post more often and more than that, pause and reflect on the journey we're on.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  I wish I could post them all, but I honestly don't think my few readers really want to see them as much as I'll enjoy talking about them.

The first night there we were blessed with a rainbow.  I took this picture from the window of our room.  Seriously.  The reminder that God is faithful through every storm has stuck with me throughout our travels.

We took a walk through the village after the rain cleared and came upon this covered bridge.  I turned to Abu Tulip and said, "it's hard to even imagine evil existing after seeing this".  Just a public road with such extraordinary beauty.  The care the community puts in to tending to their gardens.  No litter, no broken down benches.  Just a small village that cares about creation and welcomes visitors to meander along the roads and take it all in.
A few days later we took a train and then a gondola up the mountainside for a 6 mile hike to a lake.  We were in First, and although the hike was exhausting with 3 boys, the views were breathtaking.  We all earned ice cream from Migros Supermarket back in the village after that day.  

The second half of our trip took us to the village of Monstein, near Davos.  This is the interior of a church built in the 1600s.  the village currently has 180 inhabitants, and our Australian friends who live there have built an amazing community.  Each day people dropped by to chat, invite children over to play, or literally borrow a cup of sugar.  I sat in the church alone for quite some time, just imagining what it might have been like to worship here during a particularly harsh winter some 400 years ago.  We were up at an altitude that was likely unreachable many months of the year, yet the Swiss work ethic and determination has certainly paid off, making it such a prosperous country.

A few patterns that caught my eye.  I'm not an experienced photographer, and I just have a regular point and shoot camera.  I'm afraid my pictures of the alps, while amazing to me, aren't near the quality you can find in other places.  So often as we hiked around, rode in the trains, or just looked out the window, I'd comment that there was no way a camera could even capture the sights.  Snow-capped mountains, green pastures, majestic peaks and deep valleys.  After seven years of living in a desert country, it was a feast for the eyes!

These next few pictures show the ceiling of the church, stacks of wood ready for winter, cobblestone pavement, and a stain glassed window that is over 400 years old.  As Teddy Bear told me on one hike, "Mom, there sure are a lot of mountains in Switzerland.  Like 152 of them!" 

One day we headed up to an alp, the green pastures high in the mountains where farmers take their cattle in the warm summer months.  We made a small fire to roast sausages right among the cows.

Our final hike was from the Rinerhorn back over to Monstein.  We rode the gondola up with our friends, and they went back home with our kids via gondala and car.  Abu Tulip and I hiked several hours alone.  We never saw another person, just continually took in the majesty of the mountains.  We finished the evening with our anniversary dinner at a village inn.  Traditionally Swiss food including, rosti, which is like hash browns, pork, veal, potato soup, and impeccable service.    As much as we love our three active boys, having a few hours alone is a rare pleasure and it was great to catch up and reflect on the past year.  It hasn't been an easy one, for sure.  We are thankful for our three healthy boys, for the adventure of raising them in a bilingual / bicultural setting, and for the perspective that being American in the Arab world brings.  We are blessed with many loving friends and family members, and a choir community that fills our days with singing and laughter.  Our church communities teach us more about what we hope to be, and our continual need for grace.  We are weary, and utterly dependent on our creator God for all things.  If He created these mountains, with all their peaks and valleys, He is sufficient.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Going to the farm and another concert you don't want to miss!

One of the favorite activities of a lot of local families is to travel out of the city to the family farm.  Usually this is a few acres of land owned by several family members collectively, and Friday afternoons are a perfect time to grill some meat, drink copious cups of tea, and enjoy time away from the busy city.  We are blessed to have some local friends with a lovely farm not too far away.  A couple weeks back we joined them for burgers. Spring is a perfect time to do this, as the summer has not yet scorched the land and the green is luscious.  Of course, if you are allergic to the olive trees like me you better take some extra meds, but it's well worth it.  I'm not a fantastic photographer, and have a simple point and shoot camera, but I'm super pleased with how my pictures turned out and so I'm sharing them with you!

This is roasted hamli. What is hamli?  Fresh garbanzo beans.  The taste is a bit like fresh peas, and it's hard to believe these are the same beans we dry and make hummus out of.  We bought them from a farmer off the side of the road on our way tot he farm.  Super yummy!

The roses were falling of the stems and so beautiful.  We took a bunch of petals home and they perfumed our home for a week.

 Grape leaves.  Reminds me of a song we sang in choir -  "Bayn iddawali".  By the way, go to for more info on our next concert, Lamma Bada.  Arabic folkloric music with some great percussionists.  Rehearsals have been so much fun, learning choreography and working with props.    I love this choir and can't wait to perform next weekend.  It will be an unforgettable concert.

 They grow their own mint.  Try tearing off a few leaves and placing in boiling water for a perfect cup of tea.

 The figs weren't ready to eat, but will be great later on.

Little olives just starting to grow.  The blasted pollen from these trees are killing my sinuses right now, but you can't beat local olive oil!

I think these are green cherries, but I'm not positive.  Feel free to correct me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Easter Holiday

Our holiday week started out with a bang, as it seems our darling two-year-old can't stay out of trouble.  He got a hold of a chocolate candy with a hazelnut inside.  One of those yummy chocolates I keep hidden away just for mommy, when she's having a rough day.  Well, he choked on it, and while he was breathing, he continued to wheeze and cough for half an hour after.  After calling my mom and my pediatrician, it was off to the ER.  Both suspected the cause, a portion of hazelnut had aspirated into his lung.

A chest x-ray and breathing treatment later, we saw the pediatric surgeon who recommended a broncoscopy.  So the Saturday before Easter we spent with Linus being sedated and having a large piece of hazelnut removed from his right lung.

He was up an running the next day, happily shouting المسيح قام - حقا قام  "Christ is Risen - He is risen indeed" up and down the aisles at church.  I am so thankful it wasn't worse, and while his antics continually put me on edge and the tantrums are wearing me out, I love my little blankie boy. 

We took him to Petra the next weekend for a choir getaway and he enjoyed the view from the backpack.  Despite the rough beginning, it was a great week of family time and visits with friends.  We also made a volcano with Teddy Bear and Oliver, as Oliver has been learning about natural disasters in science class.  The Arabic word for earthquake is so cool - زلزال  "zilzal" and the plural even better "zilaazil".

Now I'm back to school and we're frantically finishing up teaching material and preparing for end-of-the year assemblies.   We'll see if there's time for a few more posts this month!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Easter concert

So this Saturday we're performing Mozart's Requiem.  It's a joint concert with the Syrian orchestra and choir and is going to be amazing.  I am so excited to perform.  Viva magazine did a big article on us and my picture is huge.  I totally feel like a celebrity.  If you haven't heard Mozart's Requiem you are missing out on phenomenal music.  See the poster, find us on facebook, and read our revamped website for more information.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Terrible Twos and a time to reflect

The past few weeks a been full of activity.  Extra work at school, which included a cultural festival and successful IB visit.  I've been so pleased with my students and the growth they've made this year.  At home the terrible twos have set in, which means a lot of tears and tantrums.  Linus turned two in February.  I knew it was wearing me down, but didn't realize how it was affecting the big brothers until Teddy Bear made a sign and taped it to the door of the room where he was building a race car set.  The two is backwards, but the message is clear.  "No two-year-olds allowed!"  After a pic of the sign is a pic of Linus, doing two of his favorite things, climbing and wearing his spongebob jammies. 

This week we're finally on spring break. I'm definitely due for a week of rest and reflection.

These words certainly remind me of what this week is all about.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulder
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Thankful for my adorable children, and even more thankful for the cross, immeasurable grace.

~ Um Tulip

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Spongebob

My two year old is now singing Happy Birthday to Spongebob.  Teddy Bear turned 5 this week and today was his Spongebob themed party.  A good friend helped me make marshmallow fondant and we made the most amazing cake.  I will never be able to top this cake, no matter how many more birthday parties I throw over the years.

One thing I love about Teddy Bear is how fun and at-ease he is with people of all nationalities.  He has a knack for Arabic, and is a total boy. He's enthralled with light sabers, and his BFF bought him one for his birthday.  The kids had a blast tearing through the house playing today. His invite list for his birthday party included people from six countries.  Not a single child that came to today was 100% American, most were 50% this and 50% that.  I guess at times I feel more comfortable with an international crowds.  Abu Tulip has a scholarship to do some graduate study in the States next fall, and I'm worried about fitting in there.  I love our international life, and the amazing people I meet on a daily basis.

Here is the cake, before and after the party.

  Happy Birthday to my sweet 5 year old.

    ~ Um Tulip

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Contradictions - or why I love living here.

Since it's blog about my adopted country day and I have a huge to-do list today to catch up on life, I'm just going to link to a friend's blog.  To peak your interest, the title is: Nuns....bikinis....camels....and my husband.

Life here is full of contradictions, and that's one of the reasons I love it.  I love the mash of cultures and beliefs and the way we all live out our faith, whether we think we are or not. 

Mammabean also posts her reasons to love it here.

I love that I can teach English at an Arabic school and be confident my three boys are getting an excellent bilingual / bi-cultural education, then head downtown to barter for curtain fabric and head to the western part of the city to sip a latte with my mother-in-law at Crumbs cafe. Then end the day with a choir practicing both traditional folkloric music and Mozart's Requiem.   The day is sprinkled with two languages, laughter and more serious discussions of faith and politics in a region full of turmoil.  I'm so thankful to be part of it all.  And that all happened just last Monday.

We said good-bye to my mother-in-law Thursday evening.  I can't write about it much now, because I miss her so dearly and my post would just be weepy.

That and I really need to catch up on stuff around the house.

~ Um Tulip

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Star Wars storms our home

Those of you with boys in the house probably know that Lego Star Wars is really cool.  I had R2D2 underwear as a child, but not until recently did I realize the reprisal of Star Wars.  Teddy Bear very proudly talks about Dark Vader, Light Savers, and the Storm Creatures.  He also likes the "Teddy Bears that jump up and down a lot"  (aka Ewoks).  Isn't he adorable?

I had a lot of fun shopping at the Lego store in Columbus last month, and got all sorts of figurines and special pieces.  Then I happened to walk buy a high-end cooking supply store and saw Star Wars pancake molds in the store-front.  I couldn't resist.  Here are the results.

If you spray the pancake molds with non-stick spray (what is that stuff made out of anyway?) they pop out okay.   I want to do sugar cookies soon.  They were a huge hit.  The black / red / yellow lego structure is the "bad guys spaceship" and is shaped like a slice of pizza.  It is on a hinge to open up sideways.  The blue / white / grey structure is the colors the boys chose for the "good guys spaceship" and has a rooftop that opens to access the computer and stash of light sabers.  The only question that remains is: who had more fun building the lego spaceships - me or the boys?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

God looks after the little things.

Recently Abu Tulip and I were talking about how insignificant our lives really are, considering the population of the earth and the conflicts befalling nations surrounding us.  Yet it is at times comical how important the tiniest details matter to us personally on a daily basis.  We are told God knows the number of hairs on our head.  Although I am confident in my faith, I am still surprised at little miracles such as this morning.

Last night we went out to a restaurant for dinner.  Abu Tulip just left for a work conference, and my mother-in-law and I are holding down the fort.  It was a lovely "date night".  Seafood ravioli.  Yum.  Afterward we stopped at an ATM to make sure we had enough cash for the week.  The ATM was poorly lit, and as Abu Tulip opened his wallet a few things fell out.  I bent down and found a credit card and a receipt.  I didn't notice anything else around.

This morning we were heading out our road for Abu Tulip to drop us off at school and then return to finish packing his suitcase.  As we pulled out, we noticed our neighbor waving frantically at us from the car behind.  We pulled over and Z came up.  "How's it going?" we asked.

Z is a young shab who is loads of fun and his mom makes the best maqloubi I've ever had.  I learned a lot of Arabic from this family and they are dear friends.  "Well," Z said, "my buddies and I were out last night and we stopped at an ATM.  My friend found this credit card and showed it to me.  It's yours!  So here you go."

Dumbstruck, we headed on our way to school, marveling at God's intervention in our lives.  That the lost card would be found by a good friend is beyond me.  Had it been stolen, a lot of damage would have taken place before we would have ever noticed, especially with Abu Tulip traveling this week.

I guess I needed to be reminded of His care and concern.  Thank you, Lord.

~ Um Tulip

Monday, February 21, 2011

A few pics for now.

Still working on editing some photos and forming those posts.  For now....can you name where this one was taken?  Do you have any idea what "Best without taste" means?

This one is of a family restroom at a nice hotel.  Again, what were they thinking!  As a mom of three boys, I have been in this situation before and let me tell you, I nearly wet myself the first time I saw this sign.

This is just a shot of the lovely fabric my MIL and I got downtown for a great price.  She's been busy this week making curtains for our living room.  They are beautiful!

Teddy Bear made this valentine for us last week.  I edited out the name of his best friend for privacy's sake, but I think it's adorable.
 More to follow.  ~ Um Tulip