Sunday, January 30, 2011
Sunday, January 16, 2011
My dear reader, please accept my apology for being absent these past couple of weeks. It is neither the holiday festivities nor a lack of ideas that have kept me from posting, but internet problems.
You see, when we moved into our apartment this past September, we were told that in order for us to get an ADSL connection we would have to apply to the mayor’s office for a phone number, which in Lebanon - it seems - is rather difficult. It involves several trips to the city hall, paperwork in Arabic only, and most importantly, some hundreds of dollars. Seeing that we don’t really need a phone in our apartment (we use cell phones), and that we’re hoping to move into faculty housing next summer, we decided this was not worth the time, effort or money required – especially in light of the fact that we were able to connect to the university campus wireless network from our apartment. I’m saying “were” here, and I think you might be able to guess where this is going. Granted, it was never a super-strong signal, but consistent and enough to even stream videos and such at times; enough for us, and probably not much worse than we would get with our own ADSL anyways.
This was all fine until a couple of days before Christmas, when suddenly the wireless signal got very weak. We could only access internet on the balcony, and it was extremely slow; Blogger was out of the question, as were posting, sending or viewing pictures, and most important, Skype was impossible. For a while we thought maybe things would improve after the break, but when the signal stayed weak, we ended up buying the only other alternative really, a WISE wireless dongle. Now we have internet anywhere in the house and it’s consistent, although the up-and download amount is very limited and we have to be careful so we don’t run out. The dongle itself cost $250 and every month you want to use it, you buy a refill card, which costs $50. I know; it’s expensive! But what can we do? Sigh.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
As a parent AND my children’s teacher, I am very privileged as I get to witness every moment of progress and success my children make academically. (It is also a curse as I have to struggle through everything that is difficult myself, but that is a post for another day; today I want to focus on the joy.) At the end of the day, I don’t have to wonder what my children did in school or if they learned anything, if there were any problems, and if there were, if my boys overcame the obstacles; I know that they did well, because we never finish a day until both boys have done perfectly. We have a very rigorous curriculum, and sometimes it is hard for the boys to get through everything, but they always succeed, simply because there’s nothing else. Because this is a school just for them, there are no B’s, C’s, or D’s and certainly no F’s for fail; we work until the boys have reached an A-level every day. It is hard but also very rewarding, and I know they appreciate it. To see their faces and hear their, “Yes! Done with school for the day!” at the end of an extensive school day makes up for any struggle, because I know they are satisfied, and so, so proud of themselves. They know they made progress and that they are on top of their game. Of course, sometimes they have trouble learning something or they don’t get all correct at a test (just like any other child), but if they don’t, we’ll work through whatever went wrong, they’ll take another test or complete a worksheet until they know their lesson, and at the end of the day, they know they’re “100%.” They always get a small reward too; sometimes it’s a movie, some gaming time or something else they’ve been desiring, and sometimes it’s a small treat. We call it “after-school,” and everyone in the family enjoys it. Being a homeschooling parent is hard work, but so, so rewarding.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
A couple of days after Christmas our best friends from Cairo arrived by plane for a two week visit. It was a dear reunion. The children – all the same ages – ran screaming towards each other and piled up in a big hug/bodies rub-together kind of chaos that lasted a good solid five minutes. It was loud and cute, both at the same time. It was great to see how happy they were to be together again. The kids then proceeded to pretty much spend the next fortnight in the same excited state, and I’m still wondering how they all got by on so little sleep for so long.
The adults were happy to see each other too, and we spent most of the holiday doing what we do best together; travel and visit sites, and eat & drink to our hearts’ delight. [I asked Courtney here if he could think of a verb form of ‘decadence’ and he suggested ‘decay,’ but however correct it would be to say that we ‘decayed,’ it doesn’t quite capture the spirit of our festive consumption.] We had fun indulging in everything from oysters with champagne, to caviar, duck, shrimp, bouillabaisse, salmon, wine and various spirits, sushi, octopus, and other delicacies.
On the day we went to visit Byblos we had a wonderful meal at a restaurant by the port; fresh fish that was cooked in an amazing way. The beautiful surrounding did their share to make the experience a truly memorable event. We hired a tourguide for our visit to the castle, well worth its money, and the whole day it didn’t rain but the sky looked dramatic with huge dark and fluffy clouds promising of a storm (a storm that came as we drove back to Beirut), which made the view over the Mediterranean sea fantastic.
Our visit to the Jeita Grottos was amazing as well, but what I think everyone enjoyed the most was our hike at the Cedar reserve up in the Al Shouf mountains. The kids just rolled around in the snow, excited to finally play in snow after all these years in the Egyptian desert, until they were so wet and cold they could do nothing but cry. Abraham kept excitedly exclaiming “No-man! No-man!” [For some reason he thought the word for snow was snowman.] but had trouble getting around in the foot deep snow. The adults enjoyed watching the kids have fun, as well as the beautiful view. Until that day I had not realized how diverse and extensive the country of Lebanon is. It’s not just Lebnah, horrible traffic, and Chestnut-selling men in the street corners; it’s ski-resorts and mountains, and hiking trails through forests.
After this decadent yet rejuvenating break we are now all back to work and school again. Bring on 2011!