Monday, February 28, 2011

Today's Forecast

You know when you look at the forecast and it tells you what the highs and lows are supposed to be, and then they give a desciption of the weather? Usually it says something like sunny, cloudy, rain, thunderstorm, blizzard, partly cloudy, etc. You know what I'm talking about. Today, I went to check the weather because it was feeling suprisingly cool. I got online, where it assured me that yes, today it was not going to get over 100. Yippee! And then I saw what the description said:

Blowing sand.

Really? I didn't even know that was an option. Blowing snow, I've heard of, but blowing sand? That's a new one.

So far, this condition doesn't seem too bad, but I might have another story to tell after I've walked to the market...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Define: Normal's just such a strange concept. For a while, I thought nothing about living in Africa was normal. And it wasn't. But now it seems normal. Things that I used to wonder or stare at I am now doing myself. Take for instance my experience at an ice cream 'shop' yesterday. I walked up to order and pay at the first counter. I stood there, waiting for him to finish counting his change and organizing bills. He knew I was there, but didn't really acknowledge me or say, "one minute, please." He just looked up, and kept organizing his bills. I started to order, and then realized that he wasn't going to take it until he finished the task he was working on. It didn't matter that I was a paying customer that he "should" have been serving. But that was okay, I just waited. It would be my turn when he decided it was. I've definitely learned that here, the customer isn't always the most important.

After paying, we got tokens to take to the next counter and again tell them what we wanted. This place was super busy and people were crowded all around. And I just crowded right next to them. I didn't even notice that there wasn't a line until the girl I was with mentioned it to me. I just pushed my way up and shoved my tokens at the guys getting the cones ready. It didn't matter who had been there longest, it only matters who pushes their tokens the closest to them. This is normal. I'm not even sure what I would do if I came across a line I had to wait in today. Lines are becoming foreign concepts to me!

All this said, what is 'normal' to me has changed dramatically in the last few months. So let me define my current 'normal' for you:

Normal is people coming up selling random things.
Normal is getting yelled at on the streets.
Normal is people answering their phones in the middle of something,
even the class that they're teaching.
Normal does not include waiting in a line.

Normal is traveling 45 minutes to get somewhere.
Normal is traveling by rickshaw and bus.
Normal is walking down a dusty road.
Normal does not include the word easy.
Normal is every native I meet wanting my phone number.
Normal is people offering to help.
Normal is eating fresh fruit, veggies, and bread.
Normal does not include silverware in public.
Normal is hearing the call to prayer- and sometimes not even noticing.
Normal is sitting on a bus next to a woman covered head to toe.
Normal is putting on a headscarf when I walk outside my door
Normal does not include shorts.
Normal is watching what everyone else does to understand how to do it.
Normal is speaking in a different language.
Normal has an ever-changing definition.
But mostly, Normal does not include the expected.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spell Check Anyone?

Seeing as English is not the primary language around here, when things are written in English they are often misspelled. They are a source of great entertainment. Take this pizza box:

Oh dear. I love living here!

In The Past Few Days...

This is a compilation of random things that have made me smile recently, and maybe a thing or two that will brighten your day as well.

A few days ago...

...I heard someone singing in the shower. Apparently that's an international thing!

...I was having a hard time lighting a match for the stove. After striking several different matches and only getting tiny sparks, if anything, a flame finally arose. The only problem...the box of matches had lit instead of the match! Luckily it was easily put out and the box of matches is still mostly in tact.

...I was riding the bus that I take twice a week in the early morning. Each bus has a kumsari, a man who takes the money and tells the driver when to pull over. As we approached where I usually stop the bus to get off, (which is indicated by snapping your fingers at the kumsari) the kumsari looks up and looks directly at me, expectantly. Kinda freaky, he apparently recognized me and knew where I was going!

...a friend said, "Driving here is like a Nintendo game. Only you don't get any re-do's."

...I saw an empty bus stop and pull over to the side of the road. The kumsari reached out, grabbed a few bricks from the random pile of them on the corner and put them in the bus. I presume they were used to hold some of the seats up.

...I was putting on a Veggie Tales for some kids and one of the older ones said, "Hey, this isn't pirated!" Only an American growing up overseas...

And that, my readers, pretty much sums up everyday life around here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Misadventure Times Two

Until two days ago I had easily gotten around using public transportation and had never gotten on the wrong bus. Can I hear a round of applause- this isn't an easy feat! But in the last two days, I've gotten on two wrong buses. Yep, two.

Yesterday was my fault. I was in a place where I normally catch a bus and apparently I should have been listening closer and paid more attention to the hand signals. I realized as soon as we started moving that this was not the bus I wanted to be on. But then I figured that I'd see where it would take me, just for fun. There was a lot of traffic and we were moving slowly. There were a few times I wanted to just get out and walk, but I also wanted to see where it would take me, which was likely to be a market or a bus stop where I could find a bus that would take me in the right direction. We finally got to a spot where everyone was supposed to get off, and it looked hopeful, with many buses around. Unfortunately, as I walked around looking at the sides where their routes are written, I didn't see a single one that went to my part of town. So, I started walking. I knew that a ways up the road there was a place where I could catch the correct bus, but it was a looong ways away. As I walked down the road I stopped a few times to ask friendly looking women, "bus, *insert area of town here* where?" in Arabic. I always got told, "Next stop that way." They like to be encouraging around here and not dissapoint you. Unfortunately, it wasn't very encouraging to hear, "next stop" at each next stop! After a long walk, I finally made it, and I think I learned my lesson about listening carefully!

Getting on a wrong bus today was not all my fault. I was in a totally new area of town and I had no clue where I was. I walked to what I thought was the correct spot, and after a few of the same bus came by I asked, saying the name of my area, the guy kind of waved me onto the bus, and I saw that the name of my area was on the bus. I figured I had it right. But then after a little while, I knew it wasn't. And I was completely lost (remember, I am quite directionally challenged and it was not time for prayer). I just knew we hadn't gone over a bridge like we were supposed to, but I had not a clue which way was home, or where in the world I would find a bus home. So I stuck it out, resolving to enjoy my ride in a place I had never seen, and that at the worst I would have to pay extra to take a taxi home. I ended up in a market at a bus station, yipee! And I walked a few steps, asked where I would find a bus to my area, walked back to the bus the one I was previously on had parked and got on. This means that I had been on the right bus, it was just going in the wrong direction. Whoops! I was still a bit worried, so I tried hard to figure out if we were headed in the right direction.
First thought- It's afternoon, so the sun is on it's way to setting.

The sun sets behind the mountains in Colorado.

The mountains are west.

The sun is mostly behind me, which means we are going East.

Wait- I have no clue which way we should be going, hopefully home is East!

Luckily, it was. We crossed a bridge, and was overjoyed to see Lucky Meal. Yes, Lucky Meal, it's the local version of McD's. I had finally made it close to home, and rode the bus until it stopped and made everyone get off, which was only about a mile from home, and I could easily walk!

Note: This was written a week ago now, and I have not gotten on any wrong buses since. I learned my lesson and listen more closely and don't follow my instinct when getting on a bus!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bubble Up Bubble Down

Bubble Down: Our cool weather is headed out, it's supposed to be getting back into the triple digits again today.

Bubble Up: My friend's car stalled and wouldn't start again on our way home from class. But then, as we started to get out to push it to the side of the road, two men walked up and started pushing until we were off the road, and then they walked off before we could even say "shukran". People in this country are so helpful!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

By the Numbers

An approximation of my day:
16- The number of random strangers that yelled at me as I was walking today.
6- The number of times I had to explain to the first graders what part of the paper they were supposed to be drawing on.
50- The number of ants that decided to crawl through a hole into my room and die in the corner- At least they're dead!
90- The difference in the current temperature between here and Northern Colorado right now (in degrees F).
0- The number of riots I've seen, despite living in Northern Africa right now. I am safe (and if you don't know what I mean by that, please expose yourself to some international news!)
And finally, 1- The number of days until the weekend, yay!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Turning Back

One of things I've had to learn here is how to cross the road and walk down the street in general.

Scene 1: The streets here are busy. Especially when you get near the market. The streets are lined with fruit stands, juice stands, and people selling just about anything you could imagine. This is also where the bus station is. You have to dodge

Donkey carts,                                               wheelbarrows,
                                                                                                 tea ladies with their stands,                 buses,               
                       cars,                                             other people walking around                and the occasional begger

 all while watching to make sure your feet don't fall into a pothole or walk you into a pile of trash! Since this can be difficult, I've devised a plan that gets me through safely most of the time. I find a person in front of me who is heading in the same direction and stick close to them. This way, I can just concentrate on following that one person.

Scene 2: A couple of times a week I find myself crossing a very busy road that is almost equivalent to a highway. Sometimes, it reminds me of the times we'd cross Highway 34 during cross country practice, where there was no light. We'd dash across to the median, then wait for an opening on the other side. Some of us (me) were more cautious than others who would dart at the tiniest break. It always scared me a bit, but the few times we did it were usually to cut some length off of our run, so I found it worth it. (If you're reading this coach, I confess! We were pretty good at finding ways to make our runs just a bit shorter.)

Wow, that was a bunny trail all the way to Loveland! Anyways, back to here... When someone else is around who is also crossing this busy street, I've learned to go with them. I can't hesitate, or my opportunity will be gone, and then I have to wait for a really long time for a big break or to get up the courage to go at a tiny one. So mostly, I just try to cross with someone else and trust that either, 1, they can perfectly calculate whether there is time to cross, or, 2, that there's safety in numbers and that a car is more likely to slow down if they see two people crossing the road.

When I was thinking about all this as I walked (stalked?) through the market the other day I realized that it was a lot like life. Everyone goes their seperate ways, milling around with plenty of distracting things out there. But I must learn to follow Jesus, to cling to him each step of the way because my life depends on it. It is really about each step and being with Him. Just like in the market, I can't take my eyes off of the One who is doing the leading. And I have to go with His timing and not hesitate. He won't just keep cruising along without me if I don't get across the street with Him, but it's the best option if I go with Him, because I know His timing is perfect. If I look around instead of at Him, being one step off could mean that way gets blocked by a different hinderance. Walking through life by myself just isn't an option. Sure, I could maybe make it through, but it'd be pretty difficult and stressful. So, as the hymn goes:
"I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back."