Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kids Unscripted; Chapter 7 (The Portugal Edition)

Talia: "My heart is still beeping!"
Ben: (to Talia) "Is the water cold?"
Talia: "It's so cold it's making my mouth shake sadly."
Ben: "That's called shivering."
Ben: *BAM* with the flyswatter. "FLY!"
Talia: "I can't!"
Ben: "LOL, I meant 'there was a fly!'"
Ben to Talia: "What do you think we should name a girl if you ever do get a little sister?"
Talia: "Little-girl-pie!"
Talia: (about a scratch on her leg) "It looks like a sad face."
Talia: "Old MacDonald had a farm ... and on his farm he ate popcorn, E-I-E-I-O, with a *crunch,* *crunch* here..."
Talia: (breaking up clods of dirt) "I'm thousandizing it to make it as small as salt."
Ben: "I think you mean 'pulverizing.'"
I walked into the dark room where I thought Talia had finally fallen asleep and this little voice exclaimed: "Shuhara!?"
('What is it?' in Arabic)
Portuguese neighbor to Talia: " Voce è bella!" (You are beautiful.)
Talia: "Inglès!" (English)
Neighbor: "Bella!"
Talia: "Inglès!"
Neighbor: "BELLA!"
Talia: "Mommy, I grew up a little bit more last night."
Talia: "I'm being really careful not to mix Spanish with my language, Thè."
Talia: "I'm making sign language in Thè"
Me: "That's a great thing to do on a road trip!"
Older Portuguese gentleman to Talia: "Boa tarde!" (Good evening!)
Talia: "Hola!" ('hi' in Spanish/Portuguese)
Talia: (to me after he walked away- thankfully) "He doesn't have too many teeth..."
Ben: (singing a silly road trip song about a grilled cheese sandwich)
Me: You could probably just have someone mail you bread and cheese and it would be grilled when it got through Abu Dhabi..."
Talia: "Then you could have a grilled cheese camel sandwich!"
Talia: (to Ben) "Mommy made you some tea.
Ben: "Do you think she loves me?"
Talia: "Yes!"
Ben: "It's good for wives to love their husbands and give them lots of kisses!"
Talia: (as only an innocent 4 year old can say) "Oooooh, that sounds exciting!!!"
Talia: "I'm playing passport so my animals can visit another country."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

International Public Transportation: Overcoming Fear

Growing up outside of city limits where the extent of public transportation was pretty much just the school bus option offered by the local public school, learning how to use public transportation has been exciting, intimidating and a bit frightening at times. Especially the taxis.

In Guatemala it wasn't safe for a non-Guatemalan looking woman to ride the way-over-capacity buses that were available. Especially alone. Buses were always getting shot up and their drivers killed or threatened for the bus fare. One Guatemalan friend said that when she had to take the bus she would sit as far from the driver as possible because of how likely it was for a bullet to travel in that direction. Needless to say, I wanted to keep coming home to my daughter and when Ben used the truck with a different schedule after school and I needed to find a safe way to exercise, I had to make a choice: learn to use a taxi or keep running laps around the enclosed garage like a gerbil in a cage. I learned how to use a taxi. Now, admittedly, I'm no poster child for courage, but this was a big step for me. Something Guatemalan taxis did was to always ask for a name and then try to link names and phone numbers and locations in their database. While I recognize that they were trying to streamline their process in order to offer better service, that didn't seem like a good idea to me. The last thing I wanted was someone hacking into the taxi data and knowing people's locations, names, phone numbers and approximate schedules. It just didn't seem smart to give all of that information in a country where kidnapping people who attended the school I taught at wasn't improbable. I used the school phone whenever possible and gave a different name than my own every time. There's a thin line between being smart with your information and being paranoid... and I'm not really sure where that line is. I realize that fear can keep us from really living, and we have to make smart choices and keep going realizing that many things are always going to be out of our control.

In Abu Dhabi, many situations are different. While I haven't figured out the bus system yet, they are not near as exciting as the chicken buses of Guatemala. There is even a separate place for women and children in the front, which I prefer. If anyone causes problems here they are deported, so I haven't heard of any shootings, kidnappings or robberies. I know this doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it's much rarer. Stopping at red lights isn't as risky, since you don't have to worry as much about armed guys on motorcycles demanding money from your car window and then speeding off. You don't even have to give a name or really even call a taxi with a phone because there are taxi stands all over the place and rarely a long wait. Communicating in English with mainly Filipino, Pakistani and Indian drivers and learning my way around a new city are the most challenging things so far... But I still have difficulty getting over my initial fear of using the transportation and going places (and my natural tendency to just make homemaking my entire life and saving money.) However living an international experience means learning to do things that are uncomfortable sometimes because overcoming these things opens so many more opportunities to learn about the world around us and to create our form of community. I'm thankful for the friends I have made here who keep pushing me to learn new things and to expand my "safe" zone.

Have you ever dealt with fear of public transportation? How did you overcome it?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dubai Mall and the Dancing Fountain

I'm not very good at spending money and am not easily comfortable in big crowds, so I avoid malls whenever possible. Since malls here offer the largest air conditioned entertainment in the desert, that pretty much means I'm avoiding a good bit of where city life happens in Abu Dhabi. This does not bother me. However, when we were already in Dubai and with friends who knew their way around, it wasn't so intimidating. And a bit surprising...

While we were waiting to get in the restaurant I got to explore the first natural/organic food store that I've found here. I finally found good coconut oil. The coconut oil found in the markets is super processed and smells like lard... Coconut oil should smell like coconut!

We ate at the Texas Road House where, for the first time since moving here I heard the familiar sounds of harmonicas, fiddles and country twang coming over the speakers. Even if country music isn't your thing, if you are raised in the southern U.S. it reminds you of home. It was interesting to see the variety of nationalities enjoying food that was from my home country. The waiters were mostly Philippino, while the customers were mostly a mix of western expats, local Emirates and people from surrounding Arabic-speaking countries. It was amusing then, to see the people's reactions to the waiters and waitresses bursting into enthusiastic line dancing. I can't get the lady's expression who was across from our table out of my mind: it was a combination of shocked and amused and a little bit worried all at the same time!

We got to see the "dancing fountain," which was water synchronized with music and lights in a beautiful display that plays every 30 minutes and changes songs each time. Elias was trying to grab the phone part of the time, but here's a sample:

Talia liked looking at the fish as we were outside the huge in-mall aquarium. It supposedly has a tunnel that you can walk through, but we didn't have time this visit to do that. We did see a shark from the outside. The ceiling outside of the aquarium was twinkling with "stars."

She also really liked the butterfly ceiling decorations where what looked like a million shiny, white butterflies linked on strings were hung mobile style from a huge block of ceiling. Their wings fluttered with the wind, making it even more realistic.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kids Unscripted; Chapter 6

Talia: "I am an astronaut who runs on top of the clouds!"
Elias: "Da-da!"
Me: (to Ben) "You are called 'Papi' so he's probably just making fun sounds..."
Ben: "That boy knows what he's saying!"
Me: "Talia, do not jump on the furniture."
Talia: "I guess I can't practice learning how to fly..."
Me: "Talia, what did you draw on the windows of the apartment in your picture?"
Talia: "Fuzzies!"
Me: "Why?"
Talia: "To make it pretty!"
Talia: (in the kid car on the front of the shopping cart) "Papi, am I doing a good job?"
Ben: "Yes!"
Talia: (Eye-level with the candy) "I see stuff you get when you're doing a good job!"
Ben: "Not every time..."
Talia: "Ok..."
Ben: "I can't smell the music!"
Talia: "You're not supposed to smell music!"
Talia: "How long are we going to live in Abu Dhabi?"
Ben: "How long would you like to live in Abu Dhabi?"
Talia: "As many days as I want to."
Talia: "It's the leaves of it..."
Ben: "That doesn't make sense..."
Talia: "But you heard it, didn't you?"
Talia: (to Ben with some dates stuffed with macadamia nuts) "Papi, what are those?"
Ben: "Here do you want to try one?"
Talia: "Chutternuts!"
Ben: "Whaaaa...?"
Talia: (to Ben) "I made this picture for you, but Elias ate some of it..."
Talia: "Was this fish caught in the water or did it grow on a tree?"
Talia: "My stomach is saying 'I'm tired!'"
Me: "Your stomach!?"
Talia: "Yes, because it sleeps when I sleep."
Talia: "I'm not laughing, it's just the kind of cry that sounds like I'm laughing."
Me: "What were Noah's sons named?"
Talia: "Jam, Ham, and Jatheth."
Talia: "When I was three you had to show me how to do the puzzle even though you didn't know how because I was too little to teach you."
Talia: (to me) "I just heard a 'flip' from your flip-flop!"
Talia: "That yawn was to tell you I'm not tired..."

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Meet one of our family's favorite treats: Bread with za'atar. I wasn't sure what all was in the mixture, so I looked it up (since I couldn't read the Arabic on the bag.) According to wikipedia, za'atar is: "a blend of herbs, (oregano, thyme and savory) sesame and salt." Bread with za'atar is usually a light, pizza shaped dough cooked with olive oil and topped with this combination. So simple, but delicious!
I was surprised to find za'atar available in tea as well.