Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Midweek reflections - October 2010

…on the weather (always my favorite subject!)
It has cooled down a bit since last week, although it’s still definitely shorts & t-shirt weather, as well as humid. Courtney doesn’t come home from work drenched in sweat any more though. I keep wondering how cold it will get in the winter. When we lived in Cairo our neighbors kept telling us “Oh, you just wait! It will get COLD!!” and then it never did. (Only later did we realize that they were from California, and probably had a different perception of what signifies cold weather.) Here I’ve noticed they’re selling winter coats at H&M, and boots, hats, mitts and scarves in the stores, which seems to indicate that it will get cold. I guess I’m about to find out.
…on the city
I’ve been venturing out a bit more with the kids. If I want to go into any stores I’ve learned not to bring the stroller. All grocery stores have several floors without a lift, and in most other stores there’s simply not enough room for a stroller. Since we’re close to most stores though, it’s all right for Abraham to walk. The sidewalks are good (enough), and if we’re going to campus, we’ll take the stroller. We’ve discovered that we can walk through the Medical Center and avoid the busy traffic on Souraty street. Campus makes for a nice green haven, and the boys love going there.
…on the people
I’m still trying to figure out the Lebanese people. Some are so friendly and generous, but then we run into others, such as the taxi driver the other day, who thinks it’s perfectly all right to steal from us. The other day Courtney went to buy roasted chestnuts from the man on the corner, having watched many a Lebanese men and women do it before, and had estimated the price from having watched several prior transactions. The man gave Courtney a small bag with obviously some of his less nice chestnuts, and asked for an amount that tripled that of the regular. And it wasn’t that playful beginning-price you would start off with in Cairo at the souk (to bargain around); it was obviously what the man thought Courtney should pay. Why did he think that it was OK for him to rip Courtney off? Honesty was such an important feature in the Muslim society in Cairo (I'm not saying Christians are thieves, but there's something to notice in Egypt; be it terror or whatever that keeps crime away); although everyone enjoyed a long and sometimes feisty argument over a price, there was never a feeling of dishonesty or mistrust. Is it the class system? Is there a difference between the religious groups? Is it cultural?
…on our home
Because our house is so big it’s hard to keep clean. By the time I’ve managed to get through the entire house tidying, cleaning the floors, or finishing the laundry, I have to start all over again. I’ve been thinking about making daily chore lists, but Courtney is so busy right now with finishing his book, working on his classes, and preparing for his trips this fall, that I don’t want to burden his mind any further. I know he wants to help, but the way his brain works, even when we have ‘cleaning time’ he ends up following me around the house talking, while I work. The boys will work under direct threat or with an extraordinary and instant reward awaiting them. People keep telling me to get a maid, but we have this idea of privacy that is not quite compatible with a stranger spending hours on end in our home. I’m open to solutions!
…on family
We’ve been spending a lot of time together since, well, pretty much since the beginning of the summer, and with very few friends right now, we end up spending practically all our time together, doing whatever needs or wants to be done as a family; grocery shopping, errands, playing, going to the movies, sports, etc. Luckily it hasn’t worn us out, and the boys still play really well together (as do Courtney and I, ha, ha). We miss our extended family though, of course.
…towards an education
The boys started learning French this week with a real, native speaker tutor. I am excited to have them learn something well without having to be the only one there to teach them. Not that I don’t enjoy teaching them other things – I love homeschooling - but after Math, English, Science, Music, Art, History, Geography, Latin and everything else we do that has to be done, I’m glad that someone else, competent, is able to inspire the boys for a while.
…on the past
We miss our friends and family, probably more now that the holidays are approaching; we think of parties we threw or went to in the past, and the yearly traditions we developed first in Belgium, and then in Egypt. When moving to a new country I find we always have to create new traditions and rituals, and for some reason this does not quite seem to compute with the idea of a holiday; isn’t it supposed to be ALL about friends, family, and tradition? Well; no, I’ve concluded, because we always find the spirit to create new customs with different people and strange foods in a new place, regardless, and I’m confident we will this time around as well. Still, I always get a little sentimental this time of the year: I loved the Halloween festival at CAC in Cairo and I’m sad we won’t be there this year. I remember our last Thanksgiving in Leuven so well; we had dinner with our good friends, as every Thanksgiving for the past five or so years. We toasted to the words “This is probably our last Thanksgiving together here in Leuven,” knowing that, as our studies were coming to an end, we were all getting ready to move on, away from Belgium. I will always think back with joy at Sinterklaas celebrations at Sancta Maria and in Alma. I wish I could visit the Kerstmarkt in Leuven, and there’s nothing more awesome than standing in a dark, open, moon-lit, crisp freezing, snow covered field in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Sweden, nostrils freezing, and hear the faint ringing of church bells in the distance, along with fireworks, marking the beginning of a New Year. Should old acquaintance be forgot? Oh dear, I had better stop here.
…on the future
On the same note, we’re excited to celebrate the upcoming holidays for the first time in our new home country. We don’t know yet what we will do this weekend, but hopefully we can get the boys together with other children and do something fun. We decorated our house today, and Abraham enjoyed playing with all the little “mon-yuh” [monsters] the boys put out. Whatever we do we’ll still dress up. The boys have been more excited to come up with a costume for Abraham this year than for themselves. At first they seemed to assume that he would be a skeleton again this year as last, but since I pointed out that he has way grown out of that baby suit, they’ve been plotting Abraham’s costume. Especially the idea of his little body wrapped in a robe, topped off with a Yoda mask, light saber in hand, is really amusing to them. We’ll see what we can find.

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