Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Ladies Night Out

 Duaa and I got dressed up in our toobs. These are the traditional covering that all married women wear when they leave their house. Mine was a gift from Rehem, one of my new friends. We're off to visit Rehem in her home.

 More of the same wonderful family who live across the street.

Duaa is on my left and Rhunda and her two children are on my right. They are two of the four sisters who live across the street and I help tutor them in English every Saturday. They've become my closest friends in Khartoum. Today we visited their cousin's house for a lovely ladies tea party with other cousins and aunts. It was quite the occasion as you will see.

 I made myself useful and helped serve tea

 We had tons of treats - 3 different cakes and small doughnuts dripping in honey. And the tea had lots of sugar and milk.
 Some of the aunties who came. Notice they are all wearing toobs and it was probably 100 degrees in that little room.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

143 words in 1 week!

 Yes, I'm serious! We learned 143 words in our first 4 days of Arabic class. About 50% of them we knew already but our friend Scott is new to Sudan and is keeping up wonderfully. At this rate, we're excited about the progress we'll make in 1 month!

 As you can see in the picture we have fun! We're using the Thomson method which is more hands on and interactive. When we learn new words, the teacher tells us the word and points to the object. We are only listening for the first 30 hours of class so we're not allowed to speak unless we have a question. After she tells us the word several times, she then says the word and asks us to point to the object or picture. Today we combined all the objects from all 4 days.

After we go over new words, our teacher records all the new words and we listen to the recordings later at home. Eli and I have carved an hour out of every afternoon to sit down and review everything from that day. So far so good although I cannot tell you how tired we've been this week!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Little Women

 We have a lovely family who live across the street with 4 daughters that I lovingly call my "little women". We get together every Saturday in their home for English conversation which means for 2 hours we only speak in English and I help correct and teach new words. There is something really special about these girls! Last night we were invited to go have special Eritrean coffee at one of their friend's house. Afrah, is the beautiful lady on the far left in the above picture. She and her family (8 other siblings) are from Eritrea.

 Heather and I went with Rasha and Dalia, 2 of the girls from next door, and Afrah had invited several other close friends. We spent a few hours together mixing Arabic and English in conversation, laughing, and learning a lot about each other's cultures!

 Heather with some of the girls.

 This was the table of treats: popcorn, candies (which you can't see in the picture) cake, dunking cookies like biscotti, and their traditional Eritrean bread (looks like pizza on the right)

 This is Dalia, the youngest sister who lives across the street.

This is Rasha with her petite coffee cup. This is how we drank our coffee - black, strong, sweet, and from a tiny cup. It was so much fun. It seems like every time I get together with these new friends, I make new friends and my circle of friends grows. As you can imagine my heart is heavy for them to meet their true Father.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First day of Arabic class

 Yesterday was a very exciting day for Eli and I because after 4 weeks in Khartoum, we finally got to start our Arabic class. It was a great first day of school. In the picture from left to right: Scott Whittaker, new from North Carolina, Eli and I, then Teacher Ms. Sanah, Dr. Sameeh, the director of the program, and Teacher Joseph.
     This program uses the Thomson method which means we use a lot of hands on and action. So yesterday as we were learning names of people in the family and animals, we used plastic toys and pointing to each one when we heard the Arabic word. We also learned actions (verbs) and had to act them out as the teacher commanded. For example, "Sit down, walk, jump", etc. We will be taking 2 hours of class a day, 5 days a week, and studying for an hour or so at home, not to mention the constant practice we get when we're out and about.
    Tonight I have been invited to my new friend, Afrah's house. She is from Eritrea and has invited my lady friends from next door and I for a coffee ceremony. A new blog post coming soon...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Language Learning Update

We have now been in Khartoum for almost 4 weeks. We feel like we are settled in our new home, making new friends with our neighbors, the children have adjusted to their new Arabic school, and we're learning our way around the city. I would even venture to say that we're getting used to the heat! This is good timing because on Monday, June 20th, we'll officially begin Arabic classes. We are beginning with a program called LIFE that uses the Thompson method for language learning which as far as I know, is more interactive, conversational, and uses a lot of hands on activity with props and actions. Our schedule for the next 6 weeks will be to have class 5 days a week, 2 hours a day. Study outside of class is also necessary and we're striving to put in 2 additional hours of personal study and review at home plus of course practicing our new language skills with our friends and neighbors.
     As I've learned since arriving, we have no lack of opportunity for language practice. We live in a wonderful neighborhood where everyone is very friendly and have opened their homes and extended friendship to us. We are so thankful for this.
    So as next week begins, please remember to pray for our family. Pray for Isaac, Evan, and Joshua as they learn new Arabic words every day. It's not easy for them to be immersed in Arabic for 4 hours every morning but they're handling it well and enjoying it. Also please pray for Eli and I to find a good balance between class time, study time, and caring for our family. This is not an easy season of life but more and more God confirms to us that this is exactly where He wants us for this year.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nothing seemed to go right

I don't know where to begin to describe the past 2 days! First of all, nothing seemed to go right or at least not as I had hoped, yesterday. From spilling things, misunderstanding my neighbor, getting lost, getting locked out, missing the vegetable man, and the electricity going out several times - all of that paled compared to the giant sand storm (habuub) that swept in for 12 hours.
In the morning there was a nice wind so I opened up all the windows.Within 30 minutes I realized the wind was laden with dust and there was a "fog" of dust in the neighborhood. I decided to close up all the windows and boy did it heat up fast! The sandy winds blew all day meaning my clean but wet clothes stayed in the washing machine (another thing that went wrong.) By 8:30 pm the boys were in bed and the dust had died down so I hung my laundry and opened all the windows again to get some air. After cleaning up a bit, Eli and I headed to bed. Little did we know that an even stronger habuub had blown in and blanketed our house in dust!!! Eli sat up in bed when he heard the howling of the wind outside. When we opened our bedroom door to look down the hall, the air was thick with silt and dirt! We hurried to close all the windows and I grabbed the now muddy clothes off the clothesline. I decided to start sweeping up the mess so the house would be clean when the kids got up in the morning and what do you know, just as I started, the electricity went off. Not wanting to sweep in the dark, I gave up, took another shower, and tried to fall asleep in the heat (no fans or AC since the power was out.) An hour later Isaac and Joshua woke up, whining about the heat. I put them in the cold shower to cool down and right as they got out, the power came back on. I was so relieved. We all went to sleep with the cool air and fans blowing on us. Thank you Jesus!
    I set my alarm to get up early before the rest of the family this morning and spent an hour sweeping up piles of powdery dirt, then got the boys ready for school. It's now almost 3 pm and I've been cleaning all day. I've dusted everything, re-washed 2 loads of laundry, re-washed all the dishes that had been drying in the dish drainer, swept the entire house 5 times and mopped twice. The dust is insane! And I thought I would go insane until the thought entered my mind to view this as a crazy new adventure, rather than a frustrating annoyance. It sure wasn't easy to keep a positive attitude when mid-way through a load of laundry and right when I wanted to shower, we ran out of water! Ahhh, the joys of life in the desert. :) Not only do I hope to continue viewing new "trials" as adventures, I will be praying for extra patience as that is my most needed virtue at the moment.

Friday, June 10, 2011

a few new things

 We are still trying to adapt to our new home and get settled before language school starts up hopefully next week. One thing Eli did was buy a jalabia - the local dress for men. Today he tried it on for us.

We also finally got the boys' classroom set up. All we had to do was buy a few plastic tables and chairs and clear a spot in our extra bedroom (which we were using for storage.) Since the boys have been in Arabic school in the mornings, our English curriculum at home has been kind of hit or miss. So hopefully now that we've got a real classroom set up, we can get into more of a routine.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

My first tea party

 Yesterday (Tuesday) was the first time I actually got to host friends over. Our teammates come over often and other neighbors drop in but yesterday was my first chance to have a few ladies over for tea and cake. I was so excited that I decided I needed to run down to the large outdoor market to find a nice tea set so I had something pretty to serve tea with. While Eli stayed home with the boys during their nap, I took a ruckshaw (the 3 wheeled taxis) and took off on an adventure of my own. After looking at many dainty pink and blue tea sets, this heartier brown and orange set caught my attention. Thanks to the bright colors in our house (orange and yellow paint) I decided to keep the motif going and bought this orange and brown set. :)

 Another reason I was so excited for Heather and Rasha to come to my house was because I wanted to take this opportunity to thank them both for everything they've done for me to help get me settled in in our new home. Heather, our teammate, spent weeks before we arrived helping with our visa process and looking for a nice home for our family. She arranged everything so that when we arrived we could move straight into our furnished 3 bedroom flat! What a blessing! She then spent the past 2 weeks taking me around to all the important places: supermarkets, butcher, bakery, veggie man, etc. She and her husband have been so generous with their time and we have been so grateful for their friendship and company here. Heather had introduced me to Rasha, her closest friend here. Immediately Rasha also took me under her wing and helped us find the great Arabic school where our boys now attend. So I wanted to somehow express to these beautiful women how thankful I am.

After tea, cake, and trying to follow difficult Arabic conversations I was happy but tired out. :)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Every day is an adventure

Just had a super amazing day! Yesterday one of my neighbors told me to come over today so she could do henna on my hands. Henna is a dye they use on their skin to color their nails and paint beautiful designs on their hands, arms and feet. It's usually orange or black. Mine is so orange it's almost brown. Anyway, this neighbor family is so wonderful. The mom's name is Sadiya and she has 4 beautiful and I mean gorgeous daughters. The oldest is married and has two little ones and she comes and spends every Saturday with her mom and sisters. The youngest is about 16. They're always very kind and generous to me. I can't believe how accepting they are of me as a foreigner and with my broken Arabic!
Today we were talking about university and I was asking each of them what they had studied and then they asked me what I had studied. When I said English teaching, they jumped at me right away and asked if I'd help them with their English. I would love to start a little conversation class with them every saturday during the boys' rest time. They live right across the street so they're easy to get to.
 Another interesting thing Sadiya tried on me was some sort of hair removal on my arms! Apparently all married women remove the hair on their arms and legs using a concoction of sugar,  lemon and water cooked on the stove until it's a sticky consistency like tree sap. They then repeatedly stick it on a hairy spot and yank it off to remove the hair. They were laughing at me as I yelped the first time she yanked it off! So that visit today was a highlight.

Then this afternoon we were invited to go to someone's house who lives in Omdurman which is like the "twin" city across the Nile River. It was only a 30 min drive but full of culture and many sights to see along the way. We had a lovely visit and ate TONS of food. The boys did remarkably well trying the different meats and soups. I was so proud of them.  After the meal the boys played with their cars outside and the women invited me into their bedroom and did a little perfume ceremony with me. I'd done something like it in Yabus, but this was even more involved. They basically rubbed and massaged oils and perfumes into my arms, neck, face and ears! After I was smelling very strongly, they then added real perfume from a bottle!!!! I wreaked! But in a good way I guess because the women seemed very pleased with their finished product.

We are learning so much and having incredible adventures every day. It seems like each day is so full of learning experiences but we're loving it! Tomorrow morning the boys go off to school for the new week and my teammate Heather and I are going to visit a friend of hers from South Sudan. Never a dull moment. :)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Letting go

Please pray for me today as I let my 3 precious boys go to school on their own. I love the school and know they'll be taken good care of, it's still a step of faith for me. Please especially pray for little Josh. Though he's almost 3, he's still my baby. I know this is what's best for them and I know they will be in God's hands, I just need the peace while they're away. :) Thanks.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

First day of "Rowda"

 Rowda is the Arabic word for Kindergarten. We found a good Arabic school where the boys can be immersed in Arabic language and socially interact with other children their age. So this week we enrolled them all in the same school just in time for the first day of school, June 1, which was today. School is 5 days a week from 9-12 am. They have different levels. The "Red" class is a playgroup for children ages 2-3 (Joshua's class), Yellow class is 3-4 year olds and the Green class are ages 4-5. Isaac is a little old but he needs to start with the basics like the other boys. They're going to learn the Arabic alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. Today I went along with the boys for the whole day to help them feel at ease. As you can see in the above picture of the boys as we headed out the door this morning, their uniform is jean shorts (which I bought at the market here) and the color shirt of their class.

 The school van will pick them up at our street tomorrow but for the first day of school we went by ruckshaw. :)

 Joshua did a great job in his class. We are using this first month as a trial period to see if he can handle going to "school" every day or not. All the teachers are wonderful and are determined that our boys will be speaking well in 3 months!

 Isaac and Evan were being praised for their wonderful truck drawings.

 In this culture they have a late breakfast around 10 am and lunch later around 3 pm so the kids pack a little "snack" for lunch time around 10.

 The playground is great fun.

This is one of the classroom buildings. It's a beautiful school and very well taken care. It's only a 5 minute drive from our home. We are so thankful for this amazing opportunity for the boys to learn Arabic as well. We know it will really help them in the future to be able to communicate with their friends since they will spend most of their childhood in Sudan. When they came home today they were full of exciting stories to share with Eli. I'm glad they're excited about "Rowda" too!