Ants and “Lysol”

Two weeks ago we moved into a new house and it has been just one drama after another. Yesterday was no exception…

Gary’s story:

So, my nose doesn’t always work very well – I have to preface this story with that to save some face. Yesterday we had an unusually high number of ants scampering around our kitchen. We don’t have any bug killer, but we do have some cleaning chemicals which also work pretty well on small insects. I decided to use the almost empty Lysol bottle to spritz all of the ants. There was a fairly long line of them by this point. I noticed it didn’t smell like normal Lysol, but it didn’t dawn on me that the smell was really bad until I heard Sarah saying “Gary, that smells like lighter fluid!” Well, I had that “aha” moment and thought to myself, “That’s what the smell is!” It was only then that I realized I had just doused our kitchen in lighter fluid…

We ran out of the house because by then, the fumes were going to our heads. After letting it air out for about an hour, Gary went back and cleaned the kitchen with water and vinegar.

Also it turns out the bottle of Lysol wasn’t even Lysol, it was some other brand of air freshener and let me tell you the air was freshened with the very robust smell of lighter fluid. Why someone had put lighter fluid in an air freshener bottle is still beyond me.

Good news though, we didn’t burn anything down and the smell is all but gone… the ants are back though 😛

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Arabic Lesson with a Friend

Through the alley, up the stairs, I ring the door bell
It sounds like a song bird.
“Marhaba Habibti!”
We kiss, one, two, three, sneak in four times because I really love her.
She brings tea. She brings the fan.
The sheet hanging over the window flaps in the wind
Yellow sun pushes through, exposing the ever-present dust.

Sitting on the floor together
She is unveiled, no men in the room. Long, marble-black hair flowing down her back.
She told me she puts olive oil in it… I try it at home.
Cushions, carpet and tea on the floor. Otherwise empty, like all the rooms here.
People fill the refugee homes, not stuff
Except the kitchen…
Always waiting with tea, coffee and food to stuff the visitors, announced or unannounced.
Today we ate Uzi, a Syrian dish
Rice, peas, meat, peanuts and, as always, yogurt on the side.

We commence our lesson.
She asks, “What was your longest conflict with him?”
We had been talking about conflict resolution.
Why not be real?
“About this,” I said, “Coming to Jordan… I wanted to, but he didn’t”
“How did you resolve it?” She asked.

“It had to become less important to both of us… to compromise”
It had less to do with where we wanted to live and more to do with what we believe about God.
I felt God would love me more if I lived in Jordan and served people here.
He felt God might not provide if we left our work, our comfort and spent savings.
Lies.
Usually things tend to come back to Him.
We have His love and acceptance no matter where we live or what we do.
He will provide here or there.

Empty tea kettle sitting on the floor
Empty walls, dusty yellow from the setting sun.
I look at my friend and her sincere smile
I pray her life will be full despite the emptiness in her house.

We get up quietly to not wake her father
A tall, soft-spoken man in a dish-dash lying on a cushion in the living room.
“Wake up in goodness, my friend”
“And you are from its family.”

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Month in Jordan Update

What has been on my mind? We’ve been in Jordan just over a month now.

God, what is my prayer? I am afraid of missing out… I’m here for a short time… I want to meet people, practice Arabic, serve, help, encourage, love people, busy, busy, busy and yet I feel the knot in my stomach… the tell-tale sign that I am anxious about missing out, not doing enough.

God, help me slow down, help me breathe, help me trust your timing. Help me not see people as a means to an end, but as you see them, people worthy of relationship, friendship, time. You hold me in your hands, and you hold us in your hands, I do not understand a lot about you, but I trust that as I ask you to guide me, you will… and your guidance is good and you will not leave me.


In other news, I am now starting four regular weekly commitments. I will be teaching English class to a beginner class three days a week in the morning for two hours a day. This is an eight week session. I am also starting an exercise class for Syrian women on Monday evenings, and possibly other days if it goes well. I really hope it goes well, we will see, tomorrow will be the first one. I am meeting with a Syrian friend twice a week to work on Arabic (BTW, I absolutely love her and her family so much, they are wonderful!). And on Saturdays, I will help with a young girl’s program that helps teach girls conflict resolution, other useful interpersonal skills, and Bible passages through play.

Gary got a part time job with a friend’s new company in the US (thank God!), so he will be working on that 10 hours a week. He is also working on several computer programs that will benefit the administration at the Church. He is also studying Arabic with an Egyption friend, and might start formal classes soon.

Other than those commitments, we are both visiting Syrian families a few times a week and building relationships with them. That has been a lot of fun and often some very good food is involved :D.

For fun, we’ve been able to get together with other volunteers to play board games, basketball and we’re planning a few trips to nearby rivers for hiking. I have discovered that I like basketball if not played seriously (at all)… I am very good at fouling people and I tend to play it more like tackle football. I have not made a single basket, but I find my own measures for success in the game ;P Gary, on the other hand, is pretty good for a shorty 🙂

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Chicken Hearts

Yesterday Gary and I went to the Suq (the marketplace) to get some food to stock up for all the shops being closed for Eid Al-Adha. We got our fruits and vegetables at the different stands, then went to the chicken shop. There was a pile of chicken breasts, a pile of wings, a pile of legs and thighs, and finally a pile of organs. I can’t lie, I was super excited about the pile of organs. In Brasil, we grill chicken hearts and they are one of my all time favorite foods, but the last 5 years in the US it has been so hard to find chicken hearts. I’ll ask the butchers at all the supermarkets I go to if they have chicken hearts, but all I get is some really weird, judgy looks and a package of mixed chicken organs with maybe only five hearts.

So, the employee at the chicken shop asked what I wanted, and I told him I wanted around a quarter kilo of hearts. He looked kinda surprised, but he very kindly picked through the pile to pick out the hearts…

Best buy ever!! We grilled the hearts (and some legs and thighs for Gary) and it was AMAZING. I will definitely be going back to the shop for my next heart fix…. Muah ha ha ha 🙂

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I couldn’t even stop eating to take the picture XD So yummy!!

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PlayStation Disappointment

When I was around 8 years old, living in Jordan with my family, I remember being introduced to PlayStation for the first time. I was in class and I heard some classmates talking about playing in this play station. I was intrigued. I listened eagerly as they described it, imagining that the play station was a type of magical theme-park type land where kids could go and play. From what I understood, you could race cars (they even let eight-year-olds drive!), play with dinosaurs, explore different lands, jump really high and even fly. As I listened to their stories, I longed to go to this magical land, so I asked my classmates where the play station was, but I could never seem to get an answer that made any sense. A few kids mentioned it being at their house, but that didn’t make sense to me, “ The can’t have this magical land in their house… maybe they aren’t understanding my question?”

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One day, soon after this, I was invited over to play with Suzanna, a friend from school, at her home and I was informed by her mother that I could play on (“She must mean ‘in,’” I thought. For some reason, no one used the right preposition for this place, so I would just correct them in my head.) the play station. I was so excited to go to visit them because I was expecting they would take me to the play station… “maybe we would drive there from her house?” When I arrived at the house, I asked where the play station was, wondering how many long I should expect the car ride to be. I was amazed to hear that the play station was in right there in their house!!! As they led me into the house, I expected that they would open some door in the hallway and there would be an entire other world right there, kind of like Narnia. “They had a freaking portal to the play station in their house!?!?!” I thought. Instead, I was led into the living room, Suzanna sat on the ground in front of the television, turned it on and picked up some gadgets from the floor, one of which she gave to me.

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At this point I was highly confused, but to be polite, I didn’t ask any more about the play station. I figured maybe I had misunderstood and we weren’t actually going to the play station this instant. I also reasoned, “surely they didn’t mean the play station is at their house… I would be able to hear the kids playing through the walls if that were the case… and there is not enough room in this apartment.” I thought we might drive there later, “Her parents must be too busy to take us right now, so we just need to pass some time before we are able to go.” Oddly enough, Suzanna didn’t seem to disappointed about the delay in going to the play station. She seemed content to sit in front of the television and press buttons on the thing she called a “controller.” She tried to teach me what buttons to push and I politely pretended I was interested while trying to hide my disappointment about not being on our way to the play station.

As the hours passed and it became late, I felt my heart drop as I realized we weren’t going to have time to go to the play station today. Later, my parents came to pick me up and I thanked Suzanna and her parents. For a while after, at school, I would hear kids talking about the play station and I would try to get information on where it was and how to get there. In my head, I had become so certain that the play station was a very special place, so when the kids explained that they have one in their house and they play there every day after school, I was certain that they must be misunderstanding my question. How could I get them to understand that I was talking about the magical theme-park like play station that I had pictured in my head.

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After a while, I gave up on trying to figure out the puzzle and forgot about the play station. Several years later when I learned that a PlayStation was a gaming console but I didn’t even connect it to the magical land called the play station that I had believed in as a child. It took years after that for me to finally remember and realize I was the one who didn’t understand what they meant by PlayStation and that Suzanna’s family actually did deliver on their promise to take me to the PlayStation.

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Week 3 Jordan

We’ve been in Jordan now for a little over two weeks.

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Here are a few thoughts (please just keep in mind that Gary and my experiences here in Jordan are not universal in the Middle East. We are mainly around pretty poor and traditional Syrian refugees, so our experiences reflect that context.):

  • Language is hard, especially after barely practicing for the year after I graduated. I am looking forward to beginning classes with a personal tutor soon again. However, I am remembering and using quite a bit.

  • I have found it quite funny that mostly every woman I meet asks me the same question over and over, No baby?” Usually it goes like this:

    Them: “You’re married?”

    Me: “Yes”

    Them: “And you have children?”

    Me: “No”

    Them: “How long have you been married?”

    Me: “Two years”

    Them: (in a confused tone and in English, as if maybe I didn’t understand the question when asked in Arabic) “And no baby?”

    Me: “No, not yet”

    Them: (as if offering condolences) “God willing you will have one soon”

    Honestly this exchange doesn’t bother me, I just think it is amusing… especially now that I know to expect the follow up questions and the look of pity in their faces. I’ve had a few women suggest that I should go see a doctor. I just smiled and explained that we are waiting a few years… maybe in one or two years we will try to have a baby. At this explanation, I usually get a very confused silence… like, “what do I say now to this crazy foreigner?

  • Last time I was here, before I got married (I was engaged to Gary at the time), I had a different constant conversation with women I would meet. Most every time I told someone I was engaged to be married soon, the women would ask, “Do you love him?” At first this confused me, I would think, “Of course I love him, I wouldn’t marry him otherwise.” After learning more about the context I was in, I began to realize that they would ask because many of them did not get to choose who they married. I met several women who had married at very young ages, like 14 or 15, and they didn’t have a choice in the matter. After learning this, I began to ask the question back to them, “Did you love your husband when you married him?” Some would say, “No, not when I married him, but now I do.” Others simply said, “No” and didn’t give further information. Of course I met many others who explained their family would never force them into a marriage that they didn’t want and they would only marry who they choose. I hope and pray more and more women get to have this freedom.

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  • Gary had a funny interaction with one English student the other day. They were going through some prompt questions in the curriculum and one of the questions was, “Do you take your shoes off when entering your house?” Gary explained that he did here in Jordan, but he didn’t in the US. One student looked shocked and asked, “Are your shoes really that clean in America?” XD Gary said he might want to start removing shoes in the house in the US also… it really does keep the house a lot cleaner.

  • I am again reminded of how incredibly hospitable and generous Arabs are. After just being here a few weeks, we have already received so many invitations to have meals in people’s houses. We have feasted on the floors of refugee homes and eaten until we could burst. I was having tea and one home and I complemented the hibiscus tea, so, the hostess brought me her entire container of hibiscus for me to take home… not just a little sample, everything she had and the container. I tried very hard to refuse, but she insisted. I have learned that in a battle of offering to pay for something or trying to give food or a present, the Arab will always win. I have heard Americans who oppose the entrance of refugees into America argue that the refugees will just be a burden to society and depend on welfare. I have seen anything but in the time I have been here. They are hard working and generous, even when they have next to nothing to offer.

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Neighborhood Kids

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Olive tree and Mystery Fruit tree

Kids here in Jordan often play in the street without their parents nearby. The older ones take care of the younger ones. You can see their moms sometimes peek out the windows from their apartments. Yesterday, there were several kids gathered around the wall to our apartment, trying to pick the fruit from trees in our yard (I will call it mystery fruit, because I don’t know what it is yet). Two girls, ages 10 and 12 were the oldest of the pack, the smaller one pushing a stroller with a chubby baby brother and the other carrying her little sister. Sarah, the one pushing the stroller, age 10, assumed leadership of the group. Along with them were an assortment of around eight other siblings, friends and neighbors. When I first approached them, I could see apprehension in the older ones eyes, wondering if I would scold them for picking from the tree. Instead I welcomed them, asked their names and invited them in to have better access to the tree. The girls lifted the stroller through the gate and filled it up with the mystery fruit. I also let them get some grapes and pears from other trees in the garden (the house we are renting has several lovely fruit trees).

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The grape vines are full!

This evening, as Gary and I returned from church, we saw the group of kids waiting for us by our gate, stroller and all. In a polite and confidant voice, Sarah asked, “May I just have one word with you?” (In Arabic of course) I chuckled at the formality and maturity of the request coming from this skinny little ten year old girl. “We were wondering if we could exchange skills, we could teach you and your husband Arabic and you could teach us English. We have this rare opportunity now that we have foreigners living near us.” Her sincere brown eyes widened as she waited to see if I understood her request. The other kids all watched and remained silent so their little leader could speak. I told them we could practice speaking together whenever we come home after work. Sarah smiled with her cute little crooked teeth, chubby baby brother gurgled.

After chatting with them a bit, Gary and I told them goodnight and went inside. I remarked that I was expecting them to ask for more fruit when I saw them all waiting for us at our gate. I was impressed with their maturity and desire to learn English. We’ll plan on setting aside some time for the language exchange with the neighborhood kids that little Sarah proposed.

Edit: We found out that the Mystery Fruit is Ziziphus jujuba also called a Chinese, Korean or Indian date.

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Tiny Trash Truck!!

In Paris, after seeing the Eiffel Tower, I saw a tiny trash truck! It was sooo cute!! It’s shorter than Gary and I, and we’re pretty short. Anyways, I had to take a picture with it.

When in Paris… take a picture with the tiny trash truck.

 

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Traveling to France and Jordan

We left for a mini-vacation/layover in France on August 1 then left for Jordan on August 7.

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The houses in Thibvillers were beautiful!

First we arrived in Thibvillers, France and stayed in the cutest little old barn converted into a cottage. Some friends were kind enough to host us for the host us and help us with initial transportation. Gary and I biked around the countryside to nearby villages. The countryside was very quiet and peaceful. The houses were mostly ancient with beautiful gardens.

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We stayed in this little cottage. I am holding lettuce from the garden and a baguette! 

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Our host’s house

After two nights resting in the countryside, we went to Paris and stayed in a tiny little Airbnb apartment. The entire apartment was smaller than our guest bedroom in Oklahoma, but it was right in the center of Paris which made it easy to get around by metro. My old roommate and her boyfriend showed us around the major tourist sights for the first two days. The last day, Gary and I took our time exploring Notre Dame and then relaxing in the gardens surrounding the Louvre. I was happy about our budget while in France. We didn’t pay for any admissions into tourist attractions, which I was fine with because there was more than enough to see for free. We only spent money on train, bus and metro tickets and two meals, then shopped at a grocery store for the rest of our meals. We had our fill of cheese, bread and wine. It was so great to see my roommate again. 

We flew to Jordan on the 7th of August. There was a little bit of a hassle trying to get ticket information sorted out because I had forgotten to update my passport to my married name, so we had to get the name on my ticket changed. I was a little worried that would be difficult when we arrived in Jordan and got our visas, but thankfully it went smoothly… so while we’re here, I’m still Sarah Bradford. 🙂 We arrived at the airport around 3AM and someone picked us up at the airport to go to a city outside the border of Syria. We’ll be staying at the church for two nights, then renting an apartment from a family who is going on vacation for a month. Then we’ll have to find another place for the remaining five months.

Something I’ve been noticing both in France and now here in Jordan is how traveling puts you in a position where you have to receive hospitality. Friends and even complete strangers have been so hospitable and generous to us already in the short time since we’ve left the U.S. To be quite honest, it is very uncomfortable for me. I don’t like to be in a position where I am a burden. I don’t like feeling like I’m accruing a debt, and I feeling like I need to repay for everything I’ve been given. I like being in the position where I can take care of myself, pay for myself, transport myself, clean and cook for myself. It is a very humbling thing to be served. Admitting that I am not independent, not all knowing, that I need help is very humbling. It is humbling to accept gifts that you know you don’t deserve and know you can’t repay. It reminds me of the position we are in with Christ. He gave his life for us, he daily gives us everything we need and more, he lavishes love and grace on us, he seeks out relationship with us (for some reason, lol)… and we really aren’t in a position to give him anything. We certainly can’t pay him back. Sometimes His love makes me uncomfortable… sometimes I feel like I should try to pay him back, to earn his love, to close the gap between us. But he already closed the gap… he made us not mere creatures, but his sons and daughters… co-heirs with Christ.

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Jane Eyre

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I just finished reading Jane Eyre and wanted to record my impressions and thoughts about it. When I began, I thought I was going to hate the book because I had seen trailers for the movie (I had never seen the movie) and also knew the basic plot. When watching movies or reading books, I tend to hold grudges against the male characters. As a kid, I always rooted against Jasmine giving Aladdin another chance after his lies, I was disappointed in Belle for falling for the Beast after he kidnapped her. I also remember enjoying Pride and Prejudice up until the point where Elizabeth has a change of heart towards Mr. Darcy… for me, it went downhill from there. Anyways, I knew before beginning the novel that Mr. Rochester would give me plenty of reasons to dislike him (hiding his lunatic wife in his mansion, injudiciously marrying her in the first place, tricking Jane into almost marrying him, etc.) and I knew Jane Eyre ends up with him, so I was expecting to be disappointed by this story. I decided to read it nonetheless because it’s a classic and I had the book on hand. I was pleasantly surprised by the novel and ended up really loving it and the author, Charlotte Bronte.

I think had the novel simply revolved around the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester, I would have been correct in my assumption that I would dislike the novel. However, the story was about Jane, her character, passions, strength, determination and beliefs. I was super excited to see some incredibly strong and brave feminism in this mid-1800’s novel. Though she was a poor, unconnected, orphan girl Jane saw herself as an equal to the men around her, even those in positions of power. She also succeeded in helping them see her as an equal through her strength of will, wit, wisdom and character. She points out, multiple times, how women are equally as intelligent as men and should have the same opportunities.  “Women are supposed to be calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow- minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”  She also refused to be controlled by men, “I am no bird and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

I also love the theology contained in this book. When Jane is a young girl at Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst teaches a rigid stoicism that rejects natural bodily desires such as hunger, the desire for warmth, the desire for affection, etc. He teaches these bodily desires are evil and should be repressed in order to purify and save the soul. Similarly, St. John believed that his desire to marry a woman he loved and his physical attraction to her was an evil weakness that he must overcome.  These men believed in a cold God who despised all human pleasure and was only pleased by a self-flagellating type attitude in humans.

Jane however, did not buy into this belief about God. She desired to enjoy life and its rich pleasures such as food, friendship, family, romantic love and marriage. She however did not pursue pleasure at the cost of righteousness. When faced with the temptation to marry Mr. Rochester, despite him already having a wife, she chose to deny herself for the sake of doing what was right.   “I care for myself. I respect myself. I will keep the law given by God sanctioned by man. I will hold fast to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad- as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour.” However, when it was good and lawful for her to marry Mr. Rochester, she did and enjoyed his love.

Where Mr. Brocklehurst and St. John rejected all emotions and passions as evil, Jane had the wisdom to know when to abstain from indulging in a passion and when it was good to do so and to enjoy it. Bronte planted much wisdom about emotions and God in this story. I think one of her points was to show that emotions are not evils that should be shunned, nor are they a license to do whatever you feel. Instead, you must do good regardless of your emotions, but when good and your emotions are in sync, then embrace and enjoy them.  Jane was truly happiest when she did both what her heart desired and what was right in God’s eyes. This reminds me that God gives us passions and desires for His glory and gives us the freedom to pursue those desires. When we do so within the limits of his law, then we are happiest and what once seemed like limits to us we actually discover are enablers of true freedom and happiness.

I loved seeing this theme so prevalent in this novel, because it hits very close to home for me. Over the past few years, I have been learning that I do not need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about my emotions or desires. I cannot easily change them and it does me no good to try to repress them; however, I do not need to be controlled by them. Also, I have recently been noticing a belief among some people that emotions and intelligence are mutually exclusive. That is, if you feel strong emotions, then you cannot think clearly or act judiciously. This is absolutely false and Bronte illustrates in Jane how a person is able to both feel very strongly and still act rightly. “Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.”

Anyways, I absolutely loved this book and could go on about different themes and bits of wisdom and humor, but this is enough for now!


“I would always rather be happy than dignified” — Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

 

 

 

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