Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lost for Words

Yesterday, we had a wonderful time with friends touring around the Madaba Plains sites.  But, it's been an exhausting few days, and I'm tired and at a loss for words, so here's a picture summary of our day:

nothing like potty training on an ancient potty!

looks like as good a spot as any to set up a bed!


fried halloumi cheese

pita so fresh, it's still puffy

holes in a bench + Jack's creative mind

tea at the Madaba museum

a little exploration of tomb-caves

Jack's response to "Show me your cutest face!"

a poor cow in need of a good milking

the boy captured how we all felt

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pottery, Pottery Everywhere

We are up to our ears in pottery around here.  First, it took over Owen's office and the large storage area; then it took over our apartment floor; now, it's also taken over our table.  We've been kept busy organizing, sorting, washing, and hovering over the sherds like a jig-saw puzzle with missing pieces, trying to make sense of the jumble. 

Where does it all come from, you ask?  At the very beginning of this month, Owen finally got all his permission letters in order from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to haul all of their Safut material from the Department Warehouse to ACOR (see Owen's blog on the subject), so that it is easily accessible for him to scan and study.  He rented a big truck with workers, and at the end of the day we had 115 crates of pottery and dirt from Tall Safut (and some other random sites--oops)...each crate filled with hundreds of sherds, many of which also need to be reconstructed.  It's a MASSIVE job, and we are feeling completely overwhelmed.  Too bad it took half of our time here just to get the material, but I guess that's how governments run: inefficiently.  After this mountain of pottery is done, there is still more material at the Warehouse that accidentally got left behind, as well as another museum to visit.  Phew!  I'm panting just thinking about this crazy race against time.  While Owen focuses on the stuff only he can do, my job is to sort through all the crates and find the most important stuff, to help wash the pottery, and to rudimentarily reconstruct pieces for scanning.  (Anything important goes to a professional pottery re-constructor.) 

The children also help where they can...Safita often finds herself sitting in a pottery crate of her own, beneath towering stacks of even more crates, while Jack wanders around the basement maintenance area to see what trouble he can find.  He usually finds plenty.  (It's not an ideal location for a 2-year-old, but we can only do what we can do!)  He also loves helping with the washing.

The other "commune" kids seem to have found our pottery stash rather exciting, and enjoy trying their hand at washing and fitting pieces together.  We're thinking about hiring them...Except, wait--they'll do it for free!  Even better.

pottery sherds make great "roads" for toy cars

It seems like we're always under a gigantic amount of pressure with a quickly ticking timer, frantically trying to accomplish unreasonable amounts of work in absurdly short periods of time.  And every time, I naively think, "As soon as we're done with this stage, things will calm down and we can relax."  Never happens.  I'm starting to feel a bit like our life resembles the pottery that's taken over it of late: jumbled, scattered, disorganized, a mess of broken pieces...The good news is, each piece is valuable, broken or not!  And one day soon we'll find some glue to put the pieces back together again!  One day soon, we will function normally.  And I can't wait!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Prosperity in Poordom

Being poor is hard.  

Especially when it's something new to learn.  I was blessed to be raised in a home that lacked nothing of need.  But since marrying a PhD student, then having a child, then having a second child, and raising a family of four on...well...basically no income...I've been learning the hard way that it takes great finesse and resourcefulness to learn how to be effectively poor.  It also takes steely resolve and self-control.  It's hard on one's personal pride to not be self-sufficient, and to not be in a position to contribute to society. 

(Disclaimer: I use the word "poor" in the sense of being in the lower end of the "financial well-being" scale in the U.S., according to tax brackets and the federal poverty line.  In a global sense, I know that we are quite well off; we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and clothes to wear.) 

But...Being poor has some great advantages, I’ve discovered, and here are a few of them: 

  • It forces you to be creative and crafty.  When you don't have, adapt!  I felt so proud the other day when a 6-year-old girl admired how we create things we need but don't have from things we DO have.  And I thought, maybe we're doing something right.
  • It inspires original art—if you can’t afford a beautiful painting, then take an idea and make it yourself, or create your own idea!  The beautiful thing about art is that it's subjective, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  (Art critics, don't jump down my throat!!)  I can't wait to get home and do fun painting projects with the kids. 
  • It forces you to learn new things that you may never have otherwise pursued.  When you can't afford various professional services, you learn a lot of valuable skills.
  • It helps you discover obscure interests that you would only find on the “hidden” pathway of need.  For instance, needing a job helped me discover that I really like accounting--something in college I thought I wouldn't enjoy.  (Too bad I realized it too late!)
  • Having less helps you discover more, to broaden your horizons & try more varieties of things. 
  • It helps you to not become too comfortable in your own little world.  
  • It helps you appreciate nature.  Nature provides great recreation, free of charge.
  • It helps you become savvy, to seek out those free hidden treasures. 
  • It encourages better eating…to a point: It is cheaper to make a meal from scratch, but fresh foods can be expensive.  
  • It pushes you beyond your inhibitions of what you think is possible, or what you think you're capable of.  It helps you realize new depths of inner strength.  
  • It clarifies which things in life are truly important and necessary, and which are for convenience.
  • It encourages--demands--dependance on God for daily needs, and gives opportunity for receiving His amazing care and answers to prayer. 
I still want to live like we're in a higher station; it's a daily struggle, and a fair struggle.  I think it's good to want to improve your station in life, to aspire to live without fear of "how are we going to make it through another month?"  This stage of life is not comfortable.  But it is good.  We’ve never been without the things we truly need...only learned that there are things we think we need because we've become so accustomed to them.  We are struggling, but striving to prosper in the struggle, and take advantage of the rich lessons to be learned.

I know we're not alone in this...What have the rest of you learned from your hardships?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Life with Non-Humans

Lately, we've had some unwelcome non-human guests taking up residence in our apartment.  Bugs are part of life, and I'm not usually queezy about them.  However, I do not like them in my house and WILL declare war on them if they attempt to co-exist. 

Today, however, I'm feeling a little wigged out.  As I was doing laundry, one of these nasty creatures wriggled out of some folds of cloth:

It appears to be some sort of desert centipede.  From cursory investigation, it does not seem to be poisonous.  They don't bite, but they do pinch.  Regardless, it's not something I want creeping around my house, especially when there are 2 tender children about. The one I found was about 4 inches long.

It reminds me of the two camel spiders we found in our apartment a couple weeks ago...Normal spiders don't bother me, but these things are freaky just because they're so HUGE.  Again, I don't think they're poisonous, but they can bite. 

This picture shows two spiders connected, but they're still big!
Needless to say, I've been vigilantly checking under sheets and blankets and beds before we go to sleep at night.  A 6-inch long pinching centipede or a melon-sized biting spider are not particularly things I'd like to find myself cuddling in the middle of the night!

I'm just praying we don't ever find any snakes, because that--that would legitimately freak me out.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Languishing for Language

I love how God provides. 

Last night, I was feeling so frustrated and sad about having no opportunity for learning Arabic while here, and feeling a desperate need to learn.
Today, a sweet, friendly Jordanian girl named Alaa who studies in the ACOR library offered to teach me Arabic and took a good deal of time out of her day to do so. 

So, thank you God, and thank you Alaa.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have noticed with curiosity while being here how people with seemingly very different values become friends and socialize together.  As an example: out and about, you will see women together, some of whom are wearing full burka and hijab, others in more "revealing" Western clothing (like a t-shirt with knee-length skirt) and hair down.  I always silently wondered how they happened to be of the same social group.

Not all of the fellows at ACOR are into archaeology...some of them are social researchers in various fields.  One of these fellows is doing research on Arab-American youth who are sent back to their Middle Eastern homelands for school or enculturation.  In talking with these young people, this fellow researcher told me, what is interesting is that they have experienced a different set of values in their Arab homelands than they have in America:  A general respect for all people is encouraged, regardless of how someone may be different from you.  This respect eliminates cliques and bridges wildly differing people.  Everyone is simply friends (or friendly) to everyone.  I have experienced this friendliness as well, but I was amazed that the teens she has interviewed have not experienced cliques in their schools, which are absolutely inescapable in the States.  There, everyone wants to seal themselves up in a bubble with the people who are just like them; I guess it's more comfortable to us to be surrounded by those who dress and talk and believe as we do.

Cliques are no fun.
But the down side to that kind of congregating and labeling behavior is that always, inevitably, there are many who don't fit neatly into the "bubbles of normalcy" that we create, and are left feeling unacceptable, shunned, outcast, with nowhere to belong...And those who do belong tend to become what their bubble dictates they should be; they are bound by their label rather than free to be themself.

My own natural tendency is to seal myself up in a comfortable bubble with those who are just like me.  It makes me feel secure in myself and in the world; it makes me feel stable and like all is well, and also like I myself am "normal."  But, having been forced out of that in various situations (including our time here in Jordan), I'm realizing what an amazing gift it is to befriend people who are wildly different from me, and so to see the world through a new set of eyes.  I have often felt myself on the outside of a clique, I have felt that un-belonging--so how amazing would it be if there were no boundaries on who you could and couldn't befriend?  Or should I say, would and wouldn't befriend?

unlikely friends
It would be so freeing, and so enriching!  Respect is a beautiful thing.