coffee, bad arabic, and vandalism

Coffee talk

beautiful Zamn coffee logo in my coffee

It’s cold and wet outside, a winter day in Ramallah and the perfect weather for a cup of coffee.  Most tables are taken in the coffee shop where I am sitting this morning.  All around me people are smoking.  I am in the non-smoking section but I will of course reek of smoke when I get home.  They should really just call this the “second-hand smoke” section.

I am sitting next to a table full of journalists and politically minded academics.  The table is over-full, like a clown car, with 5 large men and one woman all talking at full volume about the state of journalism and the occupation, about genocide, french movies and failed coupes.  Hands are gesturing, heads are shaking, voices are competing for the floor.  They are talking about evolution and voting as “a principle”.  I hear an American accent, a French accent, and an Arabic accent.  “Can I ask you a question?  If the PLO is not a democratic institution, why do you accept them as the only legitimate government for Palestine?” asks an Arabic speaker of an American academic.  A fist pounds the table and I think how different this conversation is from what I would expect to overhear in a Starbucks in the US.  This is part of what I like about living here.  I have to admit a certain sense of “ho-hum” comes over me when I think about returning to the states.  Life here is certainly more exciting in many ways (some good ways, but some I could seriously do without).

My terrible Arabic

The Arabic language is filled with rote memorization of polite exchanges. There are many common phrases that need to be answered by an exact response.  Good news is met with, “Mabrook” to which you say, “Allah yabarek feek(i)”.  Compliment someone on their cooking, and they will say, “Sahatein” to which you say, “Ala Albek”.   If you are doing something difficult or working hard, someone may say, “Yateekalafia” to which you say, “Allah yafeek(i)”.   I’m getting better.  But not fast enough to save me from making hilarious mistakes.

Readers of this blog will remember that my terrible Arabic has led me to tell well meaning strangers that I will “drink them” instead of nice to meet you, that the wind is an “ass” or a “fart” instead of a breeze, and that a little boy “farted” instead of that he hit something.  Well, yesterday a stranger simply asked me, “Keef Halik?” (how are you?) and I was so nervous that I answered, “Hamam!”  (doves!) instead of “tamam” (fine).  Well.   I would have been embarrassed if I wasn’t laughing so hard.

More Funny Life

The Bubble Vandals strike again

Vandals have repeatedly hit the new fountain at the top of our street with detergent, creating a huge mess and putting horrible chemicals into the water and air while making bubble mountains.  But they outdid themselves this time!

The first hint that something was amiss: a mass of bubbles rolls INTACT down our street, blown by the wind...

This is what we saw as we got to the top of the hill! A river of suds extending down the hill and out of sight.

Suds sliding toward the next village.

The Fountains at George Habash Circle.

A woman actually pulled over to ask me if the stuff on the ground was soap or snow.  It has been cold lately…

Other kids start showing up to play in the bubbles

Finally, true evidence of my acclimation to my new country: family photo in front of an environmental disaster.

stomp stomp stomp. Of course they LOVED it.

Drinky Barbie

From time to time I take pictures of the funny toys we see here.  My son knows the term “low quality” because we have to explain why something isn’t coming home with us or why something broke.

Knock-off Barbies are everywhere, but this one caught my eye not only because she pushes a cart that apparently has a flashing light, and not just because the cart is full of the most bizarre groceries, but because of what one of those grocery items is…

Don't let her smile fool you, she's got more than Hamburger Helper in that cart.

Drinky Barbie's got it all: an oversized yellow lobster AND the world's biggest can of beer! Just what you want your kids playing with.

Mom Thought For Today:  On Laila’s 2nd Birthday

Laila, Oh Laila.  The first time you climbed a chair by yourself and stood on top of it like a mountain climber you exclaimed, “I DID it.  I did it.”  You were just about 1, and we had no idea the intensity of your determination and desire for independence.  Well, actually I (your Mama) may have had some idea…

That feeling of “I did it” pretty much sums up the last year.   You are now one of the most able little people I have ever seen in my life.  You don’t just run, you run fast.  You run backwards.  You don’t just climb, you climb so that you can jump off the highest thing around.

You don’t just sing, you make up new, hilarious lyrics to our old favorite songs.  You can say, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” clearly.  You do yoga postures and love to disappear for split second and return 1/2 naked to streak through the room giggling like crazy!  You tell me that I “don’t have to be angry” when we have friction, and you have memorized the saying, “As you think, so you become”, which completely sounds like God using your little voice to remind me of the mystery of the power of consciousness.

What is mysterious is how I got so lucky as to have you and your brother.  I see the light in your eyes.  If I am lucky, and if I do my yoga, I always will.  But if I forget, you will surely remind me.

You are incredibly passionate (thank you for helping me reframe this, E).   What you love you LOVE…

and what you don’t love, well….

We had a birthday party here at the house to celebrate your birthday.  You asked for a chocolate cake AND a carrot cake.  While the hazelnut brown butter cake that I made (with chocolate granache layered over it) isn’t technically chocolate cake, you still loved it.  And your Baba made you a beautiful carrot cake.

When we asked you what you wanted for your birthday you told us that you wanted food.  So we made you a smorgasbord of food including guacamole to honor your Texan roots.  Overheard at your party:  “Wow.  Guacamole.  In Ramallah.  Wow.”   Can’t deny your Lone Star roots.

But of course the real beauty of you turning 2 is that your body is now catching up with your eager mind, and your mind is now organizing in a way that helps you deal with the big emotions and ideas that you’ve always had but haven’t always been able to process to your advantage.  It’s fantastic to see your sense of satisfaction in your own physical accomplishments, and even nicer to see you able to enjoy your amazing mind.

Plus you are so damn cute.   We love you, baby girl.

Yoga Thought for Today:  on the luminosity within

“Particularly when we are in our sadhana, let’s just make peace with ourselves.  Profound peace with ourselves and our human limitations.”

“The smile of a human being sometime is luminous it seems to me, like a light that’s been turned on, uplifting.”  

Both quotes are from Mirka Kraftsow (my beloved teacher).

I’m trying to find it.  I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately, and a little gloomy.  Life has been overwhelming me for numerous reasons, but not the least of which is my continued struggle to walk the path of yoga while washing the dishes and fielding tantrums.  Today I lost sight of myself entirely and gnawed on a disagreement with my husband until it couldn’t be gnawed anymore.  All the lesson had been used up from it, and still I couldn’t let it go.  It’s not like me.  I’m feeling a little tangled.  At times like these I need my practice even more than usual, and the strange thing is that it is at exactly these times that I feel deserted by myself and resistant to the healing in my practice.  Guilty, I guess, for not measuring up.  Maybe just distracted by the colorings of thought, as they say.

But we are human.  We are blessed to be human because we have the choice to learn and move on.  We have the path of yoga.  I have the desire to know that light inside myself and inside everyone that is the divine mystery.  It calls to me.  I am listening, though sometimes I listen better than other times.

is peace possible in the playroom? yes.

I have never been so down I couldn’t get back up again.  SO, back to my mat I go.  As imperfect as I am, to make peace with myself and with my limitations as a mother and as a wife and a friend…and a human.


12 thoughts on “coffee, bad arabic, and vandalism

  1. Beautiful. The caption of you and your sweet children in front of the bubbles made me laugh, your words to and about Laila made me tear up, and your thoughts on yoga made me thoughtful.

    Oh and that barbie – shaking my head and laughing…

  2. Ok, the picture of you in front of the “environmental disaster” is hilarious! I love it, maybe one of your best portraits. However, your description of passionate Laila reminds me of a certain someone else, who is one of the most passionate mothers I have ever seen. 🙂 Nut doesn’t fall far from the tree my dear.

  3. So, so lovely and timely. You, too, inspire me in your journey through the world of foreign culture, small children and dedication to your practice. I, too, have struggled to keep up with regular time on my mat, even more so as of late. Consequentially, my body and mind have waged a full blown protest. Thanks for the inspiration and the fantastic bubble story which reminded me that sometimes we just need to lighten up!

  4. So many awesome Laila pics in this post. Those eyes and those pigtails completely kill me, as I’m sure they do everyone she encounters! I love that she asked for food for her birthday (and not Drinky-Drink Barbie! Ha!), -such a wonderful way to celebrate. And oh my goodness, those bubbles are insane! I can’t imagine how much soap had to be used to create that monstrosity. But I bet it was so much fun for everyone to play in. Did you join in? 🙂

  5. I have to admit sticking my hand into a bubble mountain and throwing a ball of bubbles into the air when no one was looking. I made sure to be shaking my head when cars went by, though! hahahahaha!

  6. Okay, so much information I don’t know where to start. First, Happy Birthday to Laila! Love that close up picture of her. Really, both your kids are quite gorgeous. Second, I am cracking up about your language mishaps. And you know Barbie the beer drink would be a little more realistic with a gut!

    Also, the bubble bandits. That’s just some craziness right there.

    And as far as the cowffee-tawlk goes, you know what you wrote makes me want to go to Starbucks and eve’s drop. If I do it, I will drop you a note and let you know what I hear…

    Well, I hope you are well. Sending you good thoughts.

  7. Hello! So, I just found your blog last weekish, but I adore it. Really. I’m sure you’ve gotten more than a few awards, but I did put you on top of my list for the 7×7 award. It is today’s post on my blog, “49.”


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