Friday, October 31, 2008

MommaBean's Best Of: And So We Begin With Linguistic Contortions

Well, I've had this blog going for over two years now. And, I think we've had some laughs (and tears) together, my 3 readers and I. However, lately, my 3 readers have been joined with new names and faces in the commenting section. Newbies may have missed some of the most fun things I've captured with my trusty cell phone camera (see my really early posts for information about the life-changing event that was my cell phone purchase). So, I thought I'd do a best of. It has the benefit of sharing the joy with more folks and being a lazy woman's post, teehee.

As most of you probably know by now, I find so many things about Jordan absolutely wonderful. And, one of the things I love most is the license they take with the English language. That, in fact, is what has inspired this series. So, we'll begin there, with unique practices in the realm of spelling. I've intentionally left out the multitude of Saloons around Amman (no not Western watering holes, rather hair and make-up places for my non-Ammani readers, are there any?). Those are simply too ubiquitous, but here are some I hope you'll enjoy whether as a re-run or a new-to-you replay!

This is the best of my 2 years' worth of errors. It's not only wrong (in so many ways), but it's one of the few blog posts that seems to have shamed the vendor enough to change the sign. Yep, my 3 readers must have some pull because two of my Best Of pictures are of things you can no longer see... Here's the one for tonight, the one... the only...

Now, my brother suffers from dyslexia. For anyone who is unfamiliar, this is a problem in the wiring between the eyes and the brain. One of the symptoms of this problem is severe difficulty in spelling. My dear bro could always remember that beauty had extra letters, he just wasn't sure what they were or where. I think the guy who created this sign suffered from the same affliction...

This next one is what I referred to as an uncomfortable chiropractic treatment. If you can read Arabic, you'll see it actually is a store selling Cedar Decorations (Decor)...

The next three are all P/B issues. I've dedicated more than one post to this topic. So, here's a collection of my favorite P/B mix-ups (too bad I never got a snap of the Fresh Brince of Pel Air store...)

Now this one comes from a company having no excuse. An American company allowing this one to pass... what a shame, teehee.

Perhaps this one should be captioned right letters, wrong order?

This one wins awards for how many creative spellings they fit into such a small space. Negts and Fahettas. Who could ask for anything more?

Now, with only 4 words here, is a 50% accuracy rate good or bad? I'm going to have to go with bad... really bad.

This next one comes from the Saudi postal system, actually. Several readers found this disturbing on multiple levels. I presume they were aiming for Unknown... they missed.

Here's another one hailing from outside Jordan... this time Dubai. If you'd like some tea, just go for the Heet...

And last, but certainly not least. is one that tripped up MemeBean when she was visiting. This is a misspelling that comes from a mispronunciation. Vowels are often a problem (both in writing and saying words). So, this one is quite fun. I shudder to see the fabric serviced by this contraption...

There are many runners-up that I just had to stop somewhere. But, who can forget the shy pillow (it's Extra Blush and Bouncy), the flowered cow (Rose Beef, anyone?), and the Swiss Patsry's available in town? But really, I did have to stop somewhere, didn't I? Stay Tuned for the Next Installment (That's SO not what they meant).

Happy contortions (bad spellers of the world... untie)!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

V-up The latest Drink Craze? : Fun with Menus

Recently we were sitting getting some ice cream for the Beans and I found the menu particularly amusing. My favorite thing was the new drink listed below:

Yes, that's right V-up. For those who don't know, the V is actually 7 in Arabic. Talk about Arablish...

I also enjoyed the Browine and the capitalization errors on this page...

So, once again the proofreading skills in Jordan are a bit of a failure.

Happy Copy-Editing!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Am I? How Much Do We Really Choose Where We Fit?

I was reading an article today about the impending election (can't it just be OVER yet?!) and thinking about one I read a few weeks ago. In the article, the writer talked about Obama "choosing" to identify with the Afircan American community. At the time it struck me as naive and silly. Today it strikes me as even more so. Let's face facts. Even if Barack Obama has a white mom from Kansas, on the outside he's black. I grew up in a still very racially divided American South.

Do you know that when I was in 1-3 grades, one of the girls I went to school with was the daughter of the head of the Ku Klux Klan. Yep, the grand poobah of the KKK was my classmates' daddy. And, how did I know? Well, she told me with pride in her voice, obviously. You see, it was a legacy in her family. First her great-grandaddy, then her grandaddy, then her daddy. Does that sound like an American that has overcome it's race problems?

The schools I went to typically had an overwhleming majority of whites. But, I always had black friends. Most of them lived around the corner, they were raised just like we were, they sounded just like we did. And yet, if the cops were going to pull someone over, I assure you it was them. Because, no matter how "white" they may have been raised, they look black. They don't choose to be African-American, they are. Period. And, really how different is that than anywhere else in the world.

The Beans all have blond hair and blue eyes. Do you think that will color the way they are viewed at school and in society? They won't choose to be American-Jordanian. They just are. Now, I'm positive they will become just one more part of the fabric that makes up Jordan. The Arabic they speak will be the same Palestinian/Jordanian brand of the area. Their cultural upbringing will be local (and American at the same time). But, always, when people look at them, they will see Americans.

Let me give a simple example of this. Junior Bean's teacher was telling me how pleased she was with him because he asked her bil 3arabi, "Miss A, biddi aruuh 3al hamam, lo samahti." The next thing she said was, even the Arab kids don't ask in complete sentences bil 3arabi. She backtracked worrying about offering offense and said, I mean not that he isn't an Arab, I mean the ones with two Arab parents. Now, I'm not the least bit offended. I know that when you look at the Beans you see Americans. That's reality. But, do you think they have any choice whatsoever? Of course not, because perception is reality.

So, in the end, how much choice do we have in what community is ours? Although I may live here many years, in the end I'll still be the American in the room...

Happy Color-Blindness!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Goal = Consistency : Outcome = Failure

So, El 3atal has been doing an amazing job dieting. He's lost like 50 pounds and he's looking great. However, the success of his efforts have been negatively impacted by Jordan's continual lack of consistency in importing products. His diet has primarily consisted of having Fitness bran flakes for breakfast and dinner. But then, about six weeks ago, every store in town ran out of Fitness. And no seems to be able to get them. I was, understandably, excited when I found them last week. The only problem was, well, size... While I can handle large or small boxes, I refuse to pay a fortune for miniature boxes. This is what I found...

As you can see, the box is less than half the size of a normal small box. How sad is that? That'd last like a day. So, once again good plans are foiled by this wonderful country's complete lack of consistency. Just once I'd like to be able to actually COUNT on something being available in stores. And, lest you think this applies only to El 3atal, we're having to crush Hershey Kisses since there have been no chocolate chips available in town for just as long if not longer...

Happy Shortages!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Apparently, they DO make a manual for raising kids, I just didn't get MY copy...

Unfortunately for me, ButterBean DID get her copy. Today, I got an e-mail from one of my favorite parenting websites talking about kids ButterBean's age. The headline was about your little "Collector". It was talking about how kids at this age enjoy collecting things.

So, what do you think ButterBean has been talking about all week? Yep, that's right, collections. She wants a collection of key chains (can you imagine? I think this bizarre idea came from Little Kinz, so Kinzi you're on the hook for this one, teehee).

So, clearly, although she was a week early (she always has been a bit precocious), she seems to have gotten the manual. So I ask you, did mine get lost in the mail?

Happy Collectibles!

The Point At Which It's Really Just Laziness After All

El 3atal and I were out getting him some shawarma the other day. We had pulled up and parked in the small street near the vendor. Across the street from us was a nice big place (we probably could havefit the BeanMobile into it, it was that big). I thought, well how nice for someone with a small car. And, someone is just such a car pulled up. And, what do you think he did? Did he take the 3 seconds to properly parallel park the car? No, indeed he did not. I've dropped in a picture from my cell phone.

Yes, that's right. He puled head first ONTO the sidewalk almost up to the door of the shop. And parked there. Like that. You know, that is the point at which it's really just plain rude, inconsiderate, laziness...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So THAT'S how "Supermoms" do it...

Well, the earlier claim by the American media that Sarah Palin's "supermom abilities provoke envy and anxiety in women, especially other working mothers" left out the important information about how she could accomplish such a feat. Now, I'm a working Mom. In fact, I'm an entrepreneur with 3 small children. Due to financial realities, I started back to work 4 weeks after the TwinBeans were born. In the course of that job I traveled some, mostly within about 2 hours of our house. While most of my colleagues traveled out, stayed for a few days and then came back, I traveled out and back the same day. Every time. Even when my trip was to a city 4 hours away. I did it because I couldn't accept not seeing my Beans.

Apparently, I'm the sucker. What I should have done is bring them with me and charge the company for them, right? Call them the "symbol" of the project? Is that how it works? I mean, I could have been taking them with me on vacation flights, right? I have to say, the more I hear about Sarah Palin, the less I like her. In her first speech, I thought she was negative and hyper-critical, but at least she was well-spoken. However, every day that goes by shows me why she is a rotten choice for Vice President. Shaming conferences into inviting your kids by "informing" them you're bringing them? Then calling that official state business? How many more ways can she use her public office for personal gain?

If that's what it takes to be a super mom, no thanks. I'll continue being a regular, vanilla, ordinary Mom. My conscience, as a Christian, would prod me about having someone else pay so I could bring my kids along. I applaud her desire to have her kids with her, but reality is that she should be paying that our of her hefty salary... not the taxpayer's money, no?

Happy misappropriation!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No offense, but...

I was poking around today and came across this really interesting article on the fact that humans are predisposed toward taking offense. Called Well excuuuuuse me, it refers to a number of different studies and is 3 (web) pages long. Well, deep in the middle of the second page, I found this following paragraph that I found most interesting.

Humans' sense of indignation is not just limited to violations against us. Even if you're able-bodied, think of how offended you feel when you see another able-bodied person pull into a handicapped parking spot. Most of us will just walk on, quietly irate, but a few will yell at the driver. These moral enforcers are vital to society. Frans de Waal writes that experiments with macaques show that if you remove the individuals who perform this policing function, hostilities increase among the entire band.

So, why did this strike me? Well, it seems to me a very un-Jordanian idea. This concept that you would feel outrage on someone else's behalf really seems to be foreign here. At various times, I have chastised people in banks and government offices for ignoring the line and for pushing past Filipinas as if they did not exist (even when I'm not in the line). Locals give me the American pass, but Jordanians who dare feel outrage on behalf of others are accused of being "too American" or living outside "too long". I also find it terribly interesting that the so-called "moral enforcers" keep hostilities from increasing across the entire group. Given the astonishing level of road rage (and standing rage it seems), I wonder if this explains some of Jordan's tendency these days towards hostility? At any rate, it's certainly a call for community spirit and empathizing with your neighbor. Maybe we need to turn back on the moral enforcer chip, both here and in the US. Maybe a little more outrage on the part of others would do us good. After all, kit's not an accident that America is where the term road rage was coined, now is it?

Happy Outrage!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Half a Song Better Than No Song At All or The Day the Music Died in Jordan

So, today HelperBean and I were listening to Mood fm and one of those amazing, awesome, wonderful songs came on. That's right, the sweet sounds of Don McLean singing American Pie came across the radio causing me to literally stop what I was doing and dance and sing along. And then... the music died (ironic given the lyrics to the song, no?). My first thought was that this was an odd bit of censorship, but now I'm not so sure. They had just finished the verse about the jester stealing the king's crown and another song started playing. No real break, nothing. I noticed this particularly because the last verse (and the one most likely to be censored?) is my favorite. You know, the one about the father, son, and holy ghost taking the last train to the coast... Okay, so maybe you don't know.

My curiosity piqued, I googled the lyrics and here's everything that was cut off. So, here are all the parts that were missing:

"Helter skelter in a summer swelter.
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter,
Eight miles high and falling fast.
It landed foul on the grass.
The players tried for a forward pass,
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast.

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune.
We all got up to dance,
Oh, but we never got the chance!
`cause the players tried to take the field;
The marching band refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

We started singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again.
So come on: jack be nimble, jack be quick!
Jack flash sat on a candlestick
Cause fire is the devil’s only friend.

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage.
No angel born in hell
Could break that satan’s spell.
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite,
I saw satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

He was singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news,
But she just smiled and turned away.
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before,
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.

And in the streets: the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken;
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

They were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die."

Since much of the cut parts refer to either church or Satan, perhaps it was censorship. Or maybe Mood fm's DJ just did a REALLY bad cut. Either way, it left me disappointed and unsatisfied. So, I'm dropping the YouTube in for those of you who would also like to hear it (song only, no video because the sound quality is so much better). Oh, and though Madonna's version wasn't bad, it could never compare to this.

When the song came on, HelperBean said, wow, it's like a story. It starts with a long, long time ago (you know like once upon a time...). For those who aren't aware, this song was written about the day that the plane bearing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens (La Bamaba) and The big Bopper (Chantilly Lace) went down. That day (February 3, 1959) was known as the day the music died.

For me, this song is rather quintessentially American (like most of John Denver's music) and never fails to place me back home in Alabama (in my mind). It hearkens my childhood and early college days (it is a huge song for playing by amateur guitarists) and just has SO much going on in it. There are many interpretations (none by the author) that you can simply assume that no one knows what it means. But to me it's an interesting picture of Americana at the time of its writing and release (written in the very late 60s and released in like 1972). So, it's pretty much one man's view of the America I was born into...

I hope you've enjoyed it. I've listened 3 times now and may just repeat it a few more, teehee. Here's hoping that the next time I catch it on the radio, it will be complete.

Happy Cuttings!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Age Old Challenge of the Expat

So, I face the dilemma of many people living outside their comfort zone. Today, I am officially out of foundation. (For you boys out there, this is the all-over facial coverage makeup). Now, lest you think I live in a backwater where my make-up isn't available, there are stores that sell it. One on Mecca Street and the other in the new Baraka mall. Herein lies the challenge. Although this make-up is an American make-up (and priced for American wallet might I add), they only carry colors suitable for ladies of darker complexion.

So, you may think I should be able to make do, hunh? I would think so too, if the colors were even near. But they're about as close to my complexion as San Francisco is to Amman. Here, the numbers say it all. The lowest number that the stores in Jordan carry is #22. I wear #01. See my dilemma?

Oh, and I don't really wear make-up just for the look. I discovered at the age of 13 that f I don't wear foundation, I break-out terribly. Until I was about 17, I used prescription make-up. Then, I found Clinique's oil-free blend and haven't changed since (except for a 2 week break-out filled period thinking I would try Mary Kay, never again!). So, here I am, left without make-up and minus choices. I've done a shop and ship shipment, but it makes my already-expensive make-up even more so...

Wait, I got lost in there. There was a point when I started this post. What was it? Oh, yeah. I my attempts to find make-up, neither store either time asked, would you like me to order that for you? How hard is that? And yet, how much would that make me a loyal customer? Because, my make-up case (you know the not-absolutely-necessary items are also Clinique. My whole make-up drawer looks like an advertisement for them (own to the free gift bags and little tester items). Instead of being able to give my business to a local vendor (nearly always my first choice), I have to ship stuff from the US because not one of the places has any customer services skills... How sad is that?

Happy Break-outs!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An American in Jordan? Make That Americans in Jordan!

So, yesterday a group of ladies that I simply adore had a gathering at City Mall. These ladies are unique in so many ways. They are mostly American (shout out to the few from other places like Brazil and France), mostly Muslim (yeah, I'd be the exception here), and mostly Generation Xers. So, why do I like them so much?

Well, first, they're a taste of home. It's a group of people who has a similar experience here, seeing the funny, the uplifting, and the sad from a shared perspective. Most of these ladies are married to Arabs (as am I), so we see this world from the outside of the inside (did that blow your mind, teehee). We see inside the families and as a part of the culture, rather than the typical outsider experience.

I also love these group gatherings because these ladies' experience is so different than mine. They help me see the common ground between Muslims and Christians in a visceral and real way. Most of these ladies not only wear hijab, but also the jilbab (the coat/dress that goes over your clothes). How different is that from the way I live? Their in-laws are beyond grounded in the culture (some to the extent that they don't speak any English). While mine are as well, much of their life experience has been spent traveling to other parts of the world.

But the biggest blessing that these ladies give me is showcasing how people of true faith can use their God-given gifts to make a difference. They remind me that the issue is not whether you are Christian or Muslim, but do you follow the tenets of your faith. These ladies live an example of good Muslims that shows me what that should look like. And, I appreciate them for this.

They also show me the commonalities. Talk around the table centered on such things as what type of education is best for our kids. We talked about the schools our kids are in and what the benefit of that is. It's nice to know that everyone is worried about the same things. How do we put food on the table, are our children getting a good education, and how do we live as people of faith and pass those beliefs and values along to their kids?

And, honestly, I wouldn't have expected such a large group to turn up and remind me that there are lots of us here who can be supportive to each other. We must have had 30 people and it seemed like every time we turned around more people came. I am so glad these ladies graciously honor me with the opportunity to be part of their community. Thanks, Umms!

Happy blatherings!

The Poor Will Always Be With Us: Blog Action Day 2008

You know, I often talk about similarities between the US and Jordan. Folks on both sides of the pond often think I'll a bit off I'd imagine. And yet, the similarities are striking to me. They say more about humans and less about places. Today is Blog About Poverty Day. Bloggers around the world are talking about one issue, that's right just one. Poverty. So, today, I want to draw another parallel.

First, know that I am definitely not blogging from a position of poverty. I live in West Amman and rarely see the poor in the course of my days. My life is lived between the first and seventh circles and the poor just don't live here in large numbers. I know that. I am at least THAT self-aware. But, you know what? The poor exist in Jordan. There are people who can't afford to buy clothes. People struggling to pay rent, people unable to heat their homes. Today, there are people in Amman going hungry. And we'll probably end up throwing out food that is going bad. That's life. And you know what? America is just the same.

There are people in America who can't afford to buy food. There are people who can't pay electric bills, who have no phones, who live right on the edge. And, many Americans are one job loss or one major medical emergency away from life on the streets, life in poverty. The more things change, the more they are the same.

While it's easy for those of us who live in the land of plenty, be it in Jordan or America, to forget that the poor are always with us, it is not right. It is not the call to help the poor that people of faith - both Muslim and Christian - receive. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, help the sick. And, on this day of solidarity against poverty we must remember those world-wide who will be hungry tonight. As a Mom, the children move me the most. Knowing that here in Jordan, in my home state of Alabama, all around the world children will cry themselves to sleep over the grumbling of their hungry bellies is enough to bring me to tears. It's also enough to bring me to the resolution to find a way to do more. The poor may always be with us, but we should each remember that there but for the grace of God go we. It's not them versus us. They ARE us.

Erase Poverty, one person at a time!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When did Hussein become a bad word?!

You know, I keep hearing about the fuss republicans are making about Barack's middle name. They seem to be tying it to Saddam Hussein. So I have two questions:
  1. Who cares?
  2. Why pick Saddam?

I mean, first his middle name is irrelevant to how well he would do the job. And second, if his middle name bears resemblance to anyone, it's the late King Hussein, right? At least with our former king, it was his FIRST name, not his last. How did Hussein become a bad word? Who stole this name and co-opted it to mean radical Muslim terrorist? I protest! Vigorously! After all, isn't America supposed to be the land of equality? Don't we strive for lack of discrimination? Do we really want a President and Vice President who try to use people's fears and lack of understanding to further the aims of discrimination? So, again, I protest!

Happy Hussein!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Feeling the Squeeze, Is Either Potential VP REALLY Like the Average Joe?

You know I read an article the other day on msn called A vice president like the rest of us. The premise of the article is that since each of them would be the "poorest vice president in recent memory" that they would understand what the average American is going through. At the time, the idea seemed a bit off to me. So, I did a bit of digging yesterday evening. My thought was that while they might not approach the super-wealth we're seeing among Presidential nominees, the rest of country would consider them rich. I wanted to see if I'm right. Oh... and I am. :)

In my digging, I first wondered, how do their annual family incomes compare to the national average. So, I looked about a bit and found that America's national median household income is $50,233 (Wikipedia). In addition, 80% of households make $100,000 or less (Can't find the reference on this one, why didn't I write it down?). So, Palin's $125,000 combined with Todd's $125,000 gives them a household income of $250,000 in salaries alone. So, you tell me, would someone making $250,000 per year REALLY understand the issues facing someone making $50,000 per year? Really? Now, being bipartisan here, Biden earned $300,000 (working two jobs it appears), so he's in no better shape (Both numbers from the article referenced at the top). I've lived the difference between $50,000 combined income and $200,000. I assure you there's a huge difference in your approach to things as simple as grocery shopping. At $50,000 you clip coupons, buy generic, and definitely notice when milk goes up by a nickle a gallon. At $200,000 those things just don't impact your budget nearly as much.

But, I though being fair, I should another measure to see how much "like the rest of us" they are. So, I went to look at the national median net worth. It's $86,000. For those who may not know this term, it refers to the value of ALL of your assets minus your liabilities (so your house is included as it's full value minus the amount you owe). So, the average American household net worth is less than these guys make in a single year. It's less than half. Bt what is their net worth? I'm glad you asked.

Biden's assets are hard to pin down because of the reporting requirements, but the article at the top lists his retirements accounts as being between $65,000-366,000. That's an awfully big range. At the top end, he's far above most Americans and at the bottom he's a bit lower than the national average. Palin comes in at $381,405. Far above most of the nation.

But where does that place them? With all the talk about their being middle class, how does this really stack up? Of course, perception is king as there's no actual formal definition of middle class. So, what does American perception say? 77% of a recent msn live poll say 100,000 or less in income falls in the middle class. In a NY Times survey, 29% of people said earning between 100-200K is rich. In addition to these surveys, I read an interesting article by MP Dunleavy called Just How Rich Is Rich? In it she says:

"...there's an amazing variation in dollar amounts that people attach to that four-letter word.
Those who earned less than $30,000 thought that a household income of $74,000 would qualify as rich.

Those who made $30,000 to $50,000 said an income of $100,000 would be rich.

And people in the top half of earners were more likely to say that an income of $200,000 earns you the right to the R word.

So the less money you have, the less money you think you'll need to become rich. And the wealthier you are, I suspect, the more money it takes to make you feel rich."

And yet at all levels according to Dunleavy, both candidates would be rich. So, the bottom line for me is that neither of the candidates is average, middle class, or whatever other term you might want to use. They live well. That's not a negative, it just makes them less "Joe Six-Pack" or Sally Super-Saver (my own term this one) than the media seems to want to portray them. When we see a candidate for the office who knows what a gallon of milk costs and battles over whether they should risk the lights or the water getting cut off this month I'll rejoice about a Vice President like the "rest of us". Because while I personally may share more in common with these two, I recognize that MOST Americans don't. The wealth divide is still staggering and we need to simply admit that those who attain high political office will rarely understand the plight of the common guy. And, when any candidate talks about "helping the middle class", I had to teach El 3atal early on that, no matter what party, they're in they're NEVER talking about us... :)

Happy Pseudo-Class Consciousness!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Help, My Daughter Goes to a Madrassa!

You know, this is one of those things that really annoys me about Americans. We're REALLY bad about this. I mean really, really bad. I'm sitting her watching the debate between Biden and Palin (good job Biden!) and my guy just said something SO stupid... And, it's not necessarily his fault, but the media's. Somehow we Americans get lost in the idea that a foreign word may have the same meaning as an English word. Okay, I know that sounds stupid and self-evident, but... if the shoe fits.

I have gotten so tired of hearing about these "madrassas" that are in Afghanistan. Hello! You idiots, madrassa means school in Arabic. How stupid do we sound? Now, if what you mean is a school of radical Islam, then say that. Don't say madrassa. Because, in fact my daughter attends a madrassa (a school). And so do my nieces and nephews in the US. They all attend school. So, let's drop the stupid attempt to use foreign words to sound scary.

It calls to mind Americans saying about Muslims, "they pray to Allah" in that tone of voice that is saved for horrifying whispers about serial killers. And I always answer, yes and so do Arab Christians. Allah means God. It's just the Arabic word... How stupid can we sound? And I blame the media in great part. They do a good job of brainwashing us... And, they do it because it makes better news if it's sensational.

So, while I'm on the topic of misleading and outright lying, I wanted to go back to a post by Ali. I know he thought I missed his comment, but this is one of those conversations that requires thought and mulling over. Ali's post was on the mailing of 28 million copies of an inflammatory movie called Obsession to voters in swing states in the US. Now, long ago in my life, I learned not to comment on something about which I have no personal knowledge. So, I went out to youtube and watched the movie. It's divided into 10 six (ish) minute segments. So, now I've mulled and fermented my ideas and have some thoughts.

First, I am disgusted each time the elections roll around by the tactics Americans will use to win (or cause to win) an office. The movie is clearly designed to scare people and push a political agenda. Within the movie there are misstatements, poor translations, and outright falsehoods. Some of my favorites are:
  1. The equating of the Palestinians and the intifada with radical Islam (ignore those Christians over there with crosses, won't you?)
  2. The statement that Yasser Arafat hated America for its religious freedom and hated Christianity (You know, his wife was Christian, right? And he was on TV each year in church on Christmas. Funny demonstration of hatred for Christians, that.)
  3. Even I, with my pitiful Arabic, noticed that they translated the same word from Arabic into English multiple ways (some of which were outright wrong) to make their point. One example is when they translated deen as law. That was blatant enough that I caught it (since ButterBean takes deen in school and I'm fairly certain they aren't starting law in the 1st grade).
  4. The obvious pro-Israeli slant that has no actual place in a piece on radical Islam.
  5. The horror with which they presented the idea in Islam that every non-believer would not be saved. Far be it from me to point out that this is a central belief in every faith. We Christians believe that only those who know Christ as their personal saviour will be saved. Hello. Every faith has the same fundamental principle...

But, (and here's where I'll get into trouble) the movie had some valid points that moderate Muslims everywhere need to hear. Therein lies the challenge. Here are the points I walked away with that I think bear some thought:

  • One fundamental message that followers of Islam would do well to heed is that Americans, average Americans, are scared of you. No, not just the radical Muslims -all Muslims. This is normal, it's natural. We're almost always scared of anything that's different. And, you look different. Sadly, both non-Muslims and Muslims alike get drawn into the trap of focusing on differences. Instead of pointing out the similarities between Ramadan and Lent to help bridge the understanding gap, the message delivered is that Christians wouldn't understand fasting (which says more about a lack of understanding of Christianity than anything). Islam and Christianity may vary widely, but they also share similarities. If you can help Americans (and Westerners in general) see that, you will be doing all of us favor. Each of you can play a role as an ambassador of your faith.
  • Moderate Muslims have a role to play in stopping the spread of radical Islam. Over and over again, we hear about the "silent" majority. You know what? The time for silence is done. Now is the time to raise your voices. Get angry about the fact that a fringe element who does not even represent Islam faithfully has hijacked your faith for their political purpose. Osama bin Laden doesn't represent Islam. He's not out there fighting for your rights (or those of the Palestinians). He's out there fighting for his own agenda (whatever that might be). But until Americans hear the voices of good Muslims everywhere standing against what is being done in their name, they have no choice but to believe that you agree with it. The reality I face is that outsiders will not be able to stop this zealousness and twisting of Islam. Only Muslims can. Just as only Christians could stand against those who bombed clinics and killed in the name of our faith. It was wrong during the Crusades, it was wrong during the abortion clinic bombings, and it's wrong now. Murder is never justified, but only we can ensure that that element doesn't represent us. As an American, I have a role to play in ensuring that another bad advertisement for Christianity like George Bush doesn't end up in office. He doesn't represent my faith. I take that responsibility very seriously. So now is your time to take a stand. Don't have sympathy for these people who pervert your beliefs to their own ends. Don't sit idly by and let them continue. Speak against them, work to bring them back into the right faith. Do whatever you can to reclaim your religion.
  • All that it takes for evil to flourish is for good mean to do nothing. And this is true in every society in the world. Take it to heart and resolve to do SOMETHING. The movie tries to use this as a scare tactic, but it should be a call to do what's right, what's just, and what's religiously based.
The reality about Americans is that while we may not be the most aware people in the world (nor are we the least, by the way), it's mostly a country of good people. They get up every morning and eat breakfast. They work hard to provide for their families. They love their children and want the best for them. The more things are different, the more they are the same. Americans are just like Jordanians. They're people who try their best to live life and ensure the well-being of their families. Understanding that whatever differences in tradition are just that - differences in tradition - may help bridge this gap. Remember that while you may even agree that American women are immoral, in the same way Americans agree that Arab women are subjugated and without rights. Neither picture is either wholly true or accurate. I think if we all try to understand each other better (not necessarily become like each other), our conversation will be richer and we may be able to leave fear behind and move forward with understanding and respect.

Happy Education!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thy Will Not Mine, Lord

So, I never send on the messages that I get from various people in e-mail. no matter how nice or inspirational they may be, I just don't send them on. It's just not who I am for a variety of reasons. First, I hate to clutter others' in boxes when everyone I know is just so busy. But, really more importantly, I get the sense that lots of people I know think that simply forwarding these e-mails is building and continuing a relationship. But, for me, just getting a forwarded message isn't nearly as meaningful as hearing about YOU, how you're doing and such. So, I don't send them on. That said, yesterday MemeBean sent me one that was rather special to me. She doesn't send many and the ones she does are usually really awesome. But this one was extraordinarily moving to me.

First, let me set the stage by explaining why this particular one merits inclusion on my blog. Those of you who know me have likely asked me at one point or another how long we're planning to live in Jordan. You likely got one of two answers (yes I really have only 2 answers to this question):
  1. Until God tells us it's time to move
  2. We don't make plans any more, God takes care of that for us

Now, I know that this is a foreign concept to many people. You can imagine the looks and follow up questions I often get. Even for Christians in America, this seems like an oddity. But the truth of my own life has been that when I make plans, they are rarely the best thing for me. If I get my want, I come to that realization. If I submit to God's plan, it is always better. So, let me give you an example...

El 3atal and I got married young (he was only 23). We planned to have little Beans right away so we'd still be young to enjoy them. So, we made our plans and worked hard on the process. And had no success. None. For five years. Five LONG years. We saw some specialists, but moved around quite bit and didn't remain consistent. At one point, I had basically given up after a visit with a Doctor who was saying my only choice was surgery and such. I was at quite the low point. Then, a friend from church noticed I was really low. She asked about it and we talked. She raved about a new specialist that the local women's hospital had lured away from the big city. We went to see him. In one month (yes I just said one month) with the most minimally invasive procedure, we conceived ButterBean. So much for my plans. And, having it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. The time wasn't right. We needed time to become a couple before adding kids into the mix.

So, when we first began considering coming to Jordan, I prayed about it. Alot. I asked God to clear the way and send signs to ease my concerns. I turned it over and awaited the outcome. After many years of El 3atal sort of wanting to come back and the right opportunity being elusive, this time one just worked. The house sold easily. Everything was clearly right. And, so far I have absolutely no regrets about it. It's been the right thing for the family.

So, when people ask me how long we're here for, I give them the only answer I have. We're here until God tells us something different. And I know how foreign that concept can be. But this is why the story MemeBean meant so much to me... And with no further ado, here's the story. I'd love to give appropriate credit, but as with most of these e-mails, no name came with it. I have no idea if the story is true, but am certain that it COULD be true. I hope you might find meaning in it as well.

A young man had been to Wednesday Night Bible Study. The Pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord's voice The young man couldn't help but wonder, 'Does God still speak to people?'

After service, he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message. Several different ones talked about how God had led them in different ways. It was about ten o'clock when the young man started driving home. Sitting in his car, he just began to pray, 'God...If you still speak to people, speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey.' As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought to stop and buy a gallon of milk. He shook his head and said out loud, 'God is that you?' He didn't get a reply and started on toward home. But again, the thought, buy a gallon of milk. The young man thought about Samuel and how he didn't recognize the voice of God, and how little Samuel ran to Eli. 'Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk.' It didn't seem like too hard a test of obedience. He could always use the milk. He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home.

As he passed Seventh Street, he again felt the urge, 'Turn Down that street.' This is crazy he thought, and drove on past the intersection. Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh Street . At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down Seventh. Half jokingly, he said out loud, 'Okay, God, I will.' He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop He pulled over to the curb and looked around. He was in a semi- commercial area of town. It wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst of neighborhoods either. The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed. Again, he sensed something, 'Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street.' The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat. 'Lord, this is insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going to be mad and I will look stupid.' Again, he felt like he should go and give the milk. Finally, he opened the door, 'Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something, but if they don't answer right away, I am out of here.'

He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man's voice yelled out, 'Who is it? What do you want?' Then the door opened before the young man could get away. The man was standing there in his jeans and T-shirt. He looked like he just got out of bed. He had a strange look on his face and he didn't seem too happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep. 'What is it?' The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, 'Here, I brought this to you.' The man took the milk and rushed down a hallway. Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby. The baby was crying. The man had tears streaming down his face. The man began speaking and half crying, 'We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn't have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.'

His wife in the kitchen yelled out, 'I ask him to send an Angel with some. Are you an Angel?' The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man's hand. He turned and walked back toward his car and the tears were streaming down his face. He knew that God still answers prayers.

This young man learned what I have as well. God does still speak to us. Everyday, if we listen. In the quiet times and places when we silence our inner voices and distractions, God leads us, guides us, and directs us. When we want Him to and not. When we ask Him to and not. When it's easy and not. In His greatness and mercy he shows us his plan for us. All we have to do is listen with our ears and our hearts. What could be easier than that?

Happy Divine Inspiration!