Category Archives: Culture

40 days

40 days after a baby is born is a significant day for several reasons in this culture:

  • this is the day that women can leave the house for the first time since the birth of their baby (things are changing more now where women leave before the 40 days, but as a culture it is “cleaner” to stay at your house for the first 40 days)
  • the baby’s hair is shaved sometime within those 40 days, then weighed and the family gives away money to the poor equal to the weight of the hair (or something like that- this was explained to us in Arabic- so we are not exactly sure of all the details- ha)
  • an animal sacrifice is performed (2 animals for a boy and 1 for a girl) and the raw meat is given away to the poor, neighbors & friends of the family; a life for a life our friends told us
  • the women get together for a celebration (kind of like a baby shower in the states) and bring food, gifts and spend time blessing/praying for the baby

On November 11, was Lydia’s 40th day of life! So we decided to open our home to our friends (locals & westerners) to celebrate our baby’s life, to praise the Lord for her, to bless her, and to commit to the community that we want to raise her to love and serve Jesus. We decided to combine some of our traditions as well as the traditions out here. We gathered the women inside and the men were outside (yes I had to make two of everything!). Chase had a great time showing off his baby girl (it is a lot easier for me to show Lydia off to my local friends because she comes with me on my visits, but Chase usually meets up with his friends at coffee shops, so this was a great chance for his friends to meet her) and was able to share about the blessing that Lydia is to us and thank God for her life.

As you might remember November 11th was also Blair’s, my niece, first birthday in heaven. So on this day we got to celebrate her first year of Glory with Jesus while also praising Jesus for Lydia and the blessing she is to our family. It made me tear up when I calculated the days and realized it was the same day- the Lord is so good… He turns ashes into beauty time and time again.

Some friends of mine helped me make goodie bags with chocolate to send home with the guests. We attached a blessing prayer and Psalm 139: 13-18 in Arabic on them.

Our Lord, 

You are the creator of all things created. We know that children are a blessing from You and that every good gift comes from You. Bless Lydia with every spiritual blessing. We praise Your name in all the earth. Thank you. 

In the name of Jesus Our Redeemer, Amen. 

    Posted in Culture, Mcnugget | 5 Comments

    mcgough trip (part 2)

    I am back with more pics of the mcgough trip! (can you tell I have more energy in 2nd trimester?! I am trying to catch up on the blog while this wonderful energy lasts!)

    …more exploring, more memories, and more fun!

    Jebel Akhdar “green mountain” visit. We drove up the tallest mountain in Oman and stayed at a hotel up there… enjoyed the sights, food, cooler weather and an early night to bed. On our way up we stopped and were invited for coffee and dates with the guards. They also honored us by giving us “rose water” to rub on our hands and hair, this water is made on the mountain and is used for cooking, medicinally, for celebrations and used to be used as perfume. I have to admit, I am not a fan of the strong smell- it smelled like smoked meat because of the way they make it- which is by distilling and boiling the flowers, read this article if you are curious about the history and making of this Oman tradition. This was a fun cultural experience.

    Next stop: Nizwah Souk (“market”)- we have heard that on Friday mornings this place is happening… I hope to visit it one day on a Friday, but it was still nice to shop around even if we were one of the only groups of shoppers.

    Next-door to the souk is the Nizwah Fort… we Chase & Cecil (Glenda & I were done in about an hour) spent 2 hours exploring and checking out this historical place. It was really neat and a fun stop.

    After exploring the interior cities of our country we came back to our town and rested for a few days before our final trip to Al Ain and Dubai. In Al Ain we got to show them the hospital where our peanut will be born! I think it helped them feel better about us staying here for the birth. I didn’t take many pictures of our “resting” days.

    Dubai- the city of man-made beauty, malls and a taste of America with an Arab flair! Oh how I love getting to go on weekend get-a-ways here every once and a while. The first night we took them to the Burj Khalifa for some yummy Italian food (don’t think I mentioned before but all I really wanted to eat while they were here was Italian food- I think I calculated that we ate it 8 times during their 19 days with us! sorry guys… didn’t know you were gonna come to the Middle East for Italian food did you?!) and the water show. It is a must see if you ever travel to Dubai. On a side note, the restaurant we ate at serves gummy bears instead of mints at the cashier counter and has fresh basil plants at every table- love it!

    Musandam is about a two 1/2 hour drive from Dubai so we decided to take a day trip there for a Dhow boat cruise, snorkeling, and dolphin watching. It was well worth the drive! Gorgeous views and beautiful weather. And a bonus was that neither Glenda or I got sick on the boat- Praise Jesus cuz we both lean toward getting sick on moving objects.

    Our last night in Dubai we did a desert Safari. What a crazy, fun, somewhat scary experience! We trusted our lives (including our child’s life!) with a shabab (“young guy”) driving an SUV across the sand dunes. I thought for sure a few times we were going to flip, but thankfully we never did! We all had a great time…however, Glenda said she thinks it was a one-time thing for her, as she had her eyes closed the whole time worrying about her 8th grandchild while getting sick- poor thing.

    After the sand dune ride they brought us to a desert camp where we got to enjoy a short camel ride, a traditional Arab BBQ, and entertainment by a belly dancer and Tanoura (this dance form originated in Turkey) dancer. It was a fun touristy-cultural experience that I hope we get to take anyone who comes to visit us on.

    Like I said before we had a wonderful time getting to show Glenda and Cecil around. It was a blessing to get to share this part of our lives with loved ones. Thanks for the great memories!

    We can’t wait for our next visitors! Let us know when you are coming 🙂

      Posted in Culture, Family, Travel | 2 Comments

      Eid

      a few weeks ago Chase and I got to celebrate a very important local holiday called, “Eid al-Adha” with our friends. It was our first time to be in country during an eid celebration. It was a great time for us to get to visit our friends, learn about the culture, and eat delicious traditional food.

      Here are some pictures of what we experienced/saw….

      …henna hands, lamb for lunch, visits, nice clothes, beef cooking in the ground, animals being sacrificed on the side of the road…

        Posted in Culture | Comments Off on Eid

        brokenness

        Wow, I can’t believe it has almost been a month since I have posted on this thing- so sorry! I feel like this semester has been defined by getting settled back into living here, setting up house, being tired, and things being broken…

        I am going to attempt to explain one of the many “broken” stories in our life right now… sorry if it is hard to follow!

        A week ago I drove to Dubai for the first time by myself (with my friend Jord, her baby & her mom) without Chase for a girls shopping day! Now normally this wouldn’t probably be a big deal except for the fact that we have to drive through mountains to get there & once you are in the Big city there is lots of traffic, big round abouts, & its hard to navigate around, which Chase is great at… so all this to say it was a pretty big deal that I did this! I was super proud of myself- (only got off track twice- which is pretty good for me)…. All was going great, we had a successful/fun day shopping, packed our car out with new purchases for Jordi’s new house… until we came to one of the border crossings before we entered the mountain….As we pulled up I heard something strange- thinking it could be a flat tire we decided to pull over. Jord & I get out and try to evaluate the situation- no flat tire, but smoke coming out of the hood… we figured this was probably not a good sign.

        So we popped the hood, turned the car on to listen & it didn’t sound normal, but in all reality neither of us really knew what we were listening for, so we decided to go ask the boarder guards if they could help us or see what was wrong…

        As we pulled up, I hopped out and asked if anyone spoke English- No. So I took a deep breath and thinking awesome, I am going to have to bust out some Arabic not only to men (which I usually never talk to out here in Arabic), at night after a day of shopping & about car stuff- which I barely know vocab for in English! I think I got my point across with Jord’s help & after they didn’t believe us at first- I am pretty sure they were thinking “these stupid American women they don’t know what they are talking about…” But once they realized my steering was no longer working they saw there really was a problem & were super helpful, respectful, and nice.

        here we are waiting for Chase to come pick us up!

        After a little bit they called the police & a tow truck to come help us out (in the meantime Chase was picking up an SUV from a friend to come pick us & our stuff up- he was about an hour & a half away…). Once the police got to us he started talking to me in what I thought was Arabic & we didn’t understand him- Jord said I think he is speaking to you in “borken-hindy Arabic” (which is sort of a slang Arabic they use with the Indians, Pakistanis, etc here)… so I went up to him they next time he started talking to me & asked him to not speak to me in broken Arabic, but in real Arabic— he smiled & started talking to me again & I understood him way better than before! I was beginning to think I knew nothing- was super thankful Jord was there to help!

        Eating dinner while we waited...

        Eating dinner while we waited...

        there goes our Soda! (kead named her that- it means black in Arabic)

        It was quite the night, and could have been much worse, but were so thankful for our experience with the boarder guys, the weather was gorgeous, Evie was content & thankful that we live in the country that we do- the people truly are so kind & helpful.

        All this to say,  our car has been in shop for a week because a few days after this happened the country had a local religious holiday- so everything has been shut down for a few days! So we decided to rent a car to share with the Remkes so we all wouldn’t be car-less for the week. Praise God our car is fixed now!

        I am also learning a lot about my brokenness and how sinful I am. I have had a hard time trusting & feeling settled when it feels like everything around me is broken (our fridge,/freezer, electricity in one room, etc) but then I remember that I am broken as well and am reminded how thankful I am for JC and his Redeeming cross.

          Posted in Culture, Everyday Life | 1 Comment

          hefla

          I think I have mentioned twice now that we threw our local friend a bridal shower, or hefla (party) in Arabic, but have neglected to give you any pictures or details- so sorry. I will make up for it now…

          At the beginning of the month my friend and I threw an “American-style” bridal shower for a local who is getting married in July. We had American-y shower food (in addition to a ton of local food that other girls brought), games, and music (which lasted for like one song & then got switched to Arab dance music). Here are a few details of the party. (with some pictures– I can’t share many as I don’t want to post pictures of the local women on here)

          Location

          We decided to host the shower at the work place of the bride that way more girls could come. (this is the same place of the girls that I try and visit weekly) It was a good thing we had it there because over 30 local girls came! The room was covered with girls talking, eating, singing, and dancing. It was so much fun.

          Entertainment


          We played to games and danced. (my friend got a video of this and of course I joined them! if you are lucky you might get to see it when we are home! ha)

          The first game involved putting cotton balls into a bowl blind folded with a small spoon (pictured above)… pretty funny to watch! They got really into it.

          The second game was a competition to see who could create the best wedding dress out of toilet paper & then the bride-to-be got to pick the winners. This was also so much fun to watch. I was surprised at how much fun they had with these games. We weren’t sure what they would think since this is not a typical activity during parties here.

          Food


          – Strawberry Punch (a hit & new drink for these ladies)

          – Cheesecake (my first one to make! They love this stuff out here)

          – Fruit Pizza

          – Cream cheese herb dip with crackers

          – Chocolate bits

          – Ranch dip with chips

          – Random Arab food

          Decor


          This was an interesting task out here because they don’t have a Hobby Lobby, or Target or Party City or anything really… But we made it work & I think it actually turned out pretty cute!

          We bought the plates, cups, & forks in the “big city” at an expat store and the tablecloth was purchased at a material souk with some of our friends. I have already re-used the tablecloth! I hope to bring back some more crafty things this summer so we can use it for future parties.

          All in all I would say it was a successful party! I had a great time & can’t wait to throw another one!

            Posted in Culture | 1 Comment

            henna hands

            I have lots to catch you all up with, so I decided to start with this…

            Last week my good friend and I went with two local girls and got henna done for a bridal shower we threw for a friend (more on the shower later). Henna is a plant that is used to dye skin, hair, fingernails & clothing. It is like a temporary tattoo that the women here get done before weddings, engagements, and parties.  They also use it as a type of natural nail polish. I have had it on my feel before (as you can see on our header), but never on my hands. I think after this experience I like it on my feet best because it has a slight smell to it (they had petroleum to the plant to help the dye last longer) and now that it is fading it just feels like my hands are always dirty! It was fun to get done though!

            Here are a few pictures…

            waiting for the henna to dye my skin (it takes about 30 min- 1 hour depending on how dark you want your henna)

            day 1: A lovely orange color… To help the color last longer you put lotion/Vaseline on it and don’t wash your hands/feet for at least 2 hours…

            day 3: much prettier…

            More to come about the shower we threw. Only 9 more days of official school left!

              Posted in Culture | Comments Off on henna hands

              desert days

              I have been meaning to post several times in the past week, but every time I sat down to do it I had to go do something else, so I just decided to do a recap on a bunch of different things…

              1. I picked up my Kandora (Arab women dress- that I had made with my neighbor). I really like the way it turned out! Even if Chase said I looked like I was wearing a curtain… Also, on a side note, I wore it to go show my neighbors and even though it is made of cotton it is super hot! I don’t know how the women wear what they wear out here.

              not really into the whole modeling thing, but wanted you to see my dress!

              2. Our friends had us over the other morning for breakfast and we had pancakes & peanut butter! I actually had never cared for the combination until that day. I am not sure if it was because it was with peanut butter from the states (Peter Pan) or if it was because of the homemade pancakes she made, but it was good!

              3. Peanut Butter cups! I found a recipe to make these from scratch. And to my surprise they turned out great and tasted like the real deal! Next time I hope to make them look prettier- not sure how to make the chocolate melt to where it smoothly pours- any suggestions?

              4. Study break. Last month we stayed in our town (which is small) for an entire month. I sound spoiled, but I really needed a change of scenery so when it was time to do a Visa hop we headed down to Sohar. We had a great refreshing visit with friends and got to do a little studying at Costa Coffee!

              5. This week we have had a break from school. And so we decided to head up to Dubai with some friends. We split a hotel room and had coupons for dinner to save money. It was one of the best trips we have had to this city. Normally when we go there we have been busy looking for our car, shopping, fighting traffic, and getting lost. We had a restful trip this time, despite me losing (or getting it stolen) by I-pod touch, forgetting to take my camera to the beach, and getting locked out of our house when we came home!

              Pool on the roof of our hotel

              Where we spent our mother’s day… Chilis! We thought of you moms as we ate yummy chips & salsa! Thank you for all you have done for us- for your love, care, and prayers. We love you!

              Water show at the Dubai Mall- crazy how fancy this place is.

              Texas Roadhouse coming to the Middle East!

              Pedicures and coffee with my friend for her birthday! Thankful you were born & glad I got to celebrate with you!

              The kids watching Aladdin while the grown-ups packed!

              We are thankful for this week of rest & time with friends & excited to finish our semester of Arabic strong- only 6 more weeks of our first semester here- hard to believe how fast it is going.

                Posted in Culture, Everyday Life | 4 Comments

                helu-wat

                “Helu-wat” (an Arabic transliteration of course..) means sweet ones- referring to a group of girls…

                I am telling you this because I have started (well the last 3 weeks anyway) visiting a group of girls (helu-wat) at their work on Tuesday afternoons to work on my Arabic and build relationships. It has been a great experience so far. There are about 6-10 girls that come a sit & visit with me… most of them speak little to no English! So this can be a bit of a challenge at times. There is lots of laughing, silence, pointing, acting, etc… This week they even wanted me to teach them some ballet! I have a feeling they are going to want a weekly lesson. The girls are very patient with me and have encouraged me to visit them everyday! I can’t do that, but I have made it a goal to go at least once a week.

                In June my friend and I are throwing one of the girls a bridal shower because she is getting married in July (I am sad because I will be in the states for the wedding…). We are going to try and show the girls what an American bridal shower is like- who knows we may even play a game or two!

                Another thing that I enjoy about these visits is the “cappuccinos” the girls make when I come. I also try to bring some sort of dessert to share with them.

                Here is a picture of one of the many plates of cookies I have made since we have been here. Never knew I would be baking cookies so often here! (good think I love to bake!)

                p.s. I am sure most of you don’t care what this looks like, but I am sure the moms will appreciate it!

                sorry for the glare! it is Saran wrap- they love this stuff here..

                Hope to share more stores about my time with these girls in the coming weeks.

                  Posted in Culture | 1 Comment

                  happy birthday! hey beautiful!

                  I have a few posts to catch up on with what we have been up to lately, but I thought I would share this story with you today….

                  Last week I got invited to a birthday party for my American friend & her local friend. It was really fun and a great cultural experience… Here is what we did:

                  – Arrival: typical greetings… “hello, how are you? what’s your news?” (in Arabic 🙂 ) with hugs & kisses from cheek to cheek . After this a girl started talking to me in Arabic… and I sort of looked at her strange (because I didn’t understand) and then she said “how long have you been studying Arabic because I don’t think you understood me…?” –or something to that effect… in Arabic, but I did understand that part. I responded with 2 months only! And then she started laughing because my friend, on accident, told them before I came that I had been speaking Arabic since I was 3!! What she meant to say was that I had been dancing since I was 3! Ha- minor details right! Glad I could clear it up with the confused look on my face!

                  • lesson learned from this: Arabic is hard & easy to say the wrong word for things…

                  Coffee or tea?: Next we were offered coffee or tea- good thing I love both, because this is offered at most visits.

                  Party time: Next they lead us into another sitting room where they had the lights off with firecracker candles burning on top of the birthday cake… next we sang “Happy Birthday” in Arabic (in which they say… “Happy Birthday! Hey Beautiful!… I like this version 🙂 ) and then we sang it in English. After a little singing we all sat down and enjoyed a feast. They had so much food prepared and all of it was delicious.

                  the only pic I got all night!

                  The dancing: After the food was eaten and the cake was cut the music came on… and of course since they learned that I have danced since I was 3 they were telling me to stand up and start dancing! – ha… I just sat there for a minute not wanting to do a solo until one of the girls pulled me up to dance! It was a blast- believe it or not these girls love to dance! I kept thinking about my sisters and how much fun they would have at this party. I hope to get to go to more dancing parties in the future.

                  The goodbyes: After the dancing was over we moved to the other sitting area and had a really great discussion (most of which was in Arabic, but it seemed good 🙂 ) and then they brought out the incense (or BaKhor in Arabic)… I have heard about this tradition but never had it done to me before… here is what they do:

                  • The put frankincense (which is grown in this area) in an incense burner and as it is smoking they walk around to each girl and put it under their shirt and skirt and wait for the smoke to billow out… not really sure what the tradition behind this is yet, but I will find out…
                  • Once everyone has been “baKhored” (as I am calling it now) they pass around fancy designer perfume & everyone sprays themselves with it…
                  • I have heard that once the perfume and baKhor is brought out the evening is over and it is time to go. They are so polite in this culture that they would never ask you to leave, but I think this is their nice way of saying thanks for coming, but you can leave now, now you smell good. 🙂

                  It was a great night. I am thankful for my experiences here and the conversations that I am getting to be part of. I am humbled each day by the hospitality of these people & their kind hearts to invite you into their homes to share all that they have..

                    Posted in Culture | 4 Comments

                    camels & arabic

                    last weekend we went on a picnic in the desert with some new friends and while we were eating a heard (not sure if that is what you call them) of camels came walking by! It was a site to see and so fun to take pictures of! We have seen a lot of camels on the road driving to Dubai, but none this close! We had a great time in the desert and felt very arabian sitting under a tree trying to use the small amount of shade available, but thankful the weather was gorgeous!

                    Another thing we got to do this weekend was go to a STARBUCKS and study! It was so wonderful! We weren’t sure if we would ever be able to do this because of border/visa stuff (too hard to explain… just now sort of understanding it all…), but praise the Lord we were able to on Saturday! I am pretty sure I had one of the best Vanilla Lattes I have ever had, and got some great studying in. What a blessing.

                    Slowly we are trying to figure out the best way for us to study & learn Arabic. We keep hearing… get in the community, sit with Arabs, listen to the language, get a language helper, don’t stress out about school, study hard, but most importantly get with the locals… this all sounds super easy in theory- except when you can’t speak a ton, the woman are mostly in their homes, and a lot of the men speak enough English for Chase to get by… so we are just asking and hoping that doors and opportunities will open for us to meet people and to start building relationships… we know it will come. It is just hard to be patient, because my personality wants it NOW! But I am learning how to wait, how to ask, and how to be creative…. the is a very slow process, but we know worth it in the end.

                      Posted in Culture, Language | 2 Comments