Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saudi Summary

If you'd like to find all the posts about our Saudi trip without reading backwards (or out of order!) start here.

The reason we went - Epic Adventure
Getting there - We Survived
Jet lag and the Welcome Dinner - What Time Is It?
First day of touring (with camels!) - Desert Tour
More sightseeing - Busy Arabia
Visiting an orphanage - Girl's Day
A day at the beach - Arabian Gulf
The real desert and an oil facility - Shaybah
The Farewell Dinner - Saudi Style
An Evening of Style - Saudi Fashion Show
Lunch with old friends - Saudi Colleagues

One last excitement - Overseas Medical Adventures
Church on Friday? - The Final Day
The trip home - And...

And here are some of the other things that I noticed while we were there...

Driving: Only men may drive there and they drive like crazy! On the highway if you are in their way they will pass you on the shoulder, either side! They don't really use their signals and the stop lights in town are right above the first driver so when it turns green he can't see it and the guys behind him must honk to let him know it's green. Makes for a lot of honking and I just thought they were all impatient until Paul showed me where the lights were.

All public buses are like tour buses. They are nice and some even have toilets in them. The school buses there are for worker transport only.

People: The people are called Saudis there and the language is Arabic. They are extremely hospitable. For example, the welcome dinner was put on by the reunion committee and the chairman is Saudi. There was more food there than 3 times the people would eat.

Everywhere we go there are always snacks and they are trying to feed you. I gained 5 pounds in 2 weeks, but at least Brian gained more!

They especially love children so Cory was our pass for a lot of things! He was especially helpful to me if I was carrying him everyone finds a chair for me or lets me go to the front of the line.

Money: They use the Riyal, abbreviated SR (for Saudi Riyal) and it is tied to the dollar so there really is no inflation. It also means that stuff isn't that much cheaper there than here. Some things are, but not generally. The exchange rate is 3.75 riyals for one dollar and for some reason that was really hard for me to get used to. I kept wanting to multiply the wrong way and was thinking things were way cheaper than they were.

There are many other small custom notes in amongst my picture posts!

Leaving... on a jet plane

Well, we are down to our last day in Saudi. It's a Friday, but their weekend is Thursday/Friday so we went to church in the morning. I went out early in the morning before church to try and get some pictures in good light...

Here's one of the palm trees in front of Paul and Jackie's house. I seriously love palm trees!

Our lovely hosts, Paul and Jackie Carr.

This is their awesome house! Notice there are very few windows... that would be to help keep the inside of the house cool during the day.

The lovely Jackie in her fabulous kitchen. I can only dream of having a kitchen this big... I think you could fit half our apartment in it! Oh, and Cory thought the doors up in the ceiling were where the cat lived!

Off we went to church. This was all the people staying in their house for 2 weeks... plus one other guy. Good thing it's a big house!

They call their church "fellowship" since technically you're not really supposed to do any Christian activities in Saudi. But I guess as long as they keep it low key and inside the camp they are okay! They meet in the school gym.

After church, Brian, Cory, and I were invited to a family's house for lunch who had some small children. (We'd actually been borrowing a car seat from them for Cory). We only wish we could have gotten together with them sooner so Cory could have had some playmates! They were very fun to talk to as well!

This is the front of their house. You can see, most of the houses look the same... and they are all the same color. Boring!

Our plane left at 1am Saturday morning so we didn't go to bed at all... Cory got a short nap, but he was wide awake at the airport. He was so tired though that he was running circles around this huge marble pillar.

I already wrote about our insane trip home so I won't bore you with that again. But now I have a couple pictures to share. This is the French countryside heading into Paris. I loved the way none of the fields were square, but followed the contours of the hills and all the little hamlets had roads fanning out from them like spokes on a wagon wheel.

As we flew in to Paris I was hoping to see the Eiffel Tower. I mean it's pretty tall, right? Well, it was early in the morning and quite hazy... and we didn't fly very close to it. So you'll have to try and pick it out in this picture. I tried to help you out with the arrow. This is my one and only glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!

When we made it home Saturday evening Cory had been sleeping in the car for about 3 hours. I brought him in and set him on the couch thinking he would wake up and want to run around a bit... when I came back in with more stuff from the car this is what I found!

Poor child had just rolled over and gone back to sleep!

Oh the memories we have!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cory Posts

Hmmm, now that Cory is 2 I'm not quite sure what to do about my monthly Cory posts. I have all these cute things he's said and done collected, but I don't want to keep labeling them by months! Any suggestions?

Well, I took him to the doctor last week for his 2 year old check-up. He weighed in at 34 pounds (with a wet diaper!) and 36 inches tall. I think he might actually be a bit taller, but it's kind of hard to get a 2 year old to stand up tall when he just wants to check out everything around him!

They measured his head and it said it had shrunk since his last visit at 18 months... somehow I don't think that's the case and we have to stop in this week and get it measured again just to be sure. I hope we won't also be coming away with a prescription for some kind of ear infection/cold medicine. The poor little guy has just been miserable the last couple days. I've never seen green gunk come out of his eyes before. :(

Other than that this has been just a month of growing verbal skills. I know I've said it before, but he'll just parrot back anything we say. Sometimes when we're not even talking to him, so we'd best be careful what we talk about when he's around!

When he wants something he always says "you want" rather than "I want". I think it's a hold over from parroting what we say, but also he wants us to then ask him if he wants whatever it is that he wants. So he'll say "you want some chocolate?" and the response he's looking for is for us to ask him if he wants it! If we don't respond quick enough he will at times even answer his own question "yup!"

Lately he's been loving playing hide and seek and will run into one of the bedrooms, close the door, and then, if I'm not paying attention, I'll hear this little voice say "where's Cory?" or "where's a Cory boy?". He's imitating me when I'm looking for him!

The other thing he says is whenever we ask him anything along the lines of, where are we going, where did you get that (hiccups especially), or where's Daddy, he'll respond with "at the bread store". I think he likes that place because he gets a cookie when we go!

Last weekend at breakfast at Wendy's house he randomly announced, "I have a fat tummy"

One night this week he all of a sudden started crying at dinner. I asked him if he'd bitten his tongue, or lip. He said no and was still crying really hard. Finally we realized that he had bitten his own finger while eating! It wasn't really funny to him, but it was all we could do not to laugh.

We've been eating a lot of strawberries and I left the bowl out on the counter. He can reach and had gotten one when I wasn't looking. I told him he couldn't take them out of the bowl anymore since it was glass and I was afraid he would pull it off accidentally. Later Brian found a strawberry in the bowl with one small bite out of it... like he thought by putting it back it would be okay!

We went through the car wash last week for the first time in awhile and that was not fun for him. Poor kid is scared of anything he doesn't understand, mostly inanimate objects that he doesn't think should move (like Grandpa's chair that goes into the basement). We go to the car wash that doesn't actually hit your car other than with water and I tried to tell him it was like rain, but he was still pretty freaked out. He remembers too because he'll tell me "scared wash car".

And finally... awhile back we told him that his clothes were Osh Kosh B'gosh. But he couldn't pronounce it so he says "Popa-gosh-gosh" with sometimes a few extra gosh's on the end! This is one of his exclamations at times when he wants to make us laugh!

I leave you with this picture... there was a BBQ rally at the park this week and Cory saw the fire trucks from the next block. So of course we had to stop* and get a personal tour of them. This one was so tall I had to stretch to climb up into it and then the fireman handed Cory up to me. He thought it was fantastic to drive the fire truck!

He's definitely a friendly and outgoing little guy, just like his daddy!

*there was no other reason to stop... I didn't hear on the radio that they would be giving away concert tickets, and I certainly didn't bob for apples to see if I could win and then have the DJ give me a pair of tickets to the Montgomery Gentry concert in July. No way, not me!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Compassion goes to India

Well, rather it's a few bloggers who've gone to India to see what Compassion International is doing there. They left on Friday and I believe they'll be gone for 2 weeks. There are 9 people in total and most of them will be writing about what they see while they're there.

Would you like to follow along? There's a summary page where an intro to each post will be that you can click on.

And for today? Do you think that one life can make a difference in the world? Well, I think you should read this post by Pete about their first day in Calcutta (now Kolkota).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Saudi Colleagues

Thursday before we're leaving...

Brian's dad was finally able to connect with some of the colleagues he had worked with in the 90's. They wanted to take us out for "lunch". Keep that in mind!

They arrived at 1pm - ish to get us. First we went to Hussein's house to get him and his wife and son. We re-arranged cars because the one that Cory and I were in had no air conditioning. And it happened to be the hottest day we were there. Still not hot compared to summer, but when we came from snow, 85 degrees is hot!

We went to a restaurant called Chinese Tandoori. This is what we saw along the way...

Burger King


And this is the typical bus there. School buses to us are worker transport buses only there.

Lunch was quite the affair, but very good. There were 10 of us I believe and the food was very good. We shared our main dishes on a lazy susan in the middle of the table and there was plenty to go around!

Of course Cory had a poopy diaper while there and they had no baby changing area. When we told the waiter what we needed they just offered us another table and put up screens so no one could see! WEIRD!
When he had a second poopy diaper we went in the bathroom and just changed him on the counter. I wonder if the native people just don't take their children out in public until they're toilet trained?

Lath, Hussein, Derald, Brian, Cory, and Ali
(Lath is Hussein's son and trying to get to the US for college, his sister is already here)
Hussein and Ali's wives were there for lunch as well, but taking pictures of women is not okay in their culture.

After lunch we went back to Ali's house for dessert. Along the way we drove through one of the ritziest districts of Khobar. (yes, this is the town where the Khobar Towers bombings took place)

Look carefully at this house... then notice the size compared to the car driving by in front!
also compare below

Once we got to Ali's house the women had dessert for us and then Cory had another poopy diaper (can we say traveling finally had caught up with him?). I was out of diapers so we needed to go. They were very nice and offered to go to the corner market and buy us some diapers, but it was also about 4:30 in the afternoon and the little guy just needed a nap. Not to mention that I had a splitting headache since I had a sinus infection (which I already wrote about before we left as my Overseas Medical Adventure).

Hussein said he would take us home and Cory really wanted to ride in the "yellow car" which belonged to Lath. We tried to put his car seat in the back, but as you can imagine it didn't fit. So I just sat in the front seat and held him on my lap. At first I was like, wait, this isn't legal. Then I remembered, oh, yeah, it actually is! We were only going a short distance at low speeds so it wasn't too bad.

Cory went right to sleep and I proceeded to take care of my nose with the neti pot... Paul came home (with antibiotics for me) and went to have a bowl of cereal and when he poured milk in it little bugs came floating to the surface! So we then had a cereal dumping party since every box in the cupboard that was open had bugs in it! Jackie and I had been finding them randomly all week, but couldn't figure out where they were coming from! Now we knew and we got them all!

Oh, and remember how I said this was a "lunch" invitation? The rest of the crew didn't get home until 10:30! I was really glad Cory and I had gone home earlier because, although they had some fascinating conversations with other people who came, we would have been miserable!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book: Elisha's Bones

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Elisha's Bones

(Bethany House March 1, 2009)


Don Hoesel


Don Hoesel was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but calls Spring Hill, TN home. He is a Web site designer for a Medicare carrier in Nashville, TN. He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University and has published short fiction in Relief Journal.

He lives in Spring Hill with his wife and two children.

Elisha's Bones is his first novel.


Every year, professor of antiquities Jack Hawthorne looks forward to the winter break as a time to hide away from his responsibilities. Even if just for a week or two. But this year, his plans are derailed when he's offered almost a blank check from a man chasing a rumor.

Billionaire Gordon Reese thinks he knows where the bones of the prophet Elisha are--bones that in the Old Testament brought the dead back to life. The bones of the prophet once raised the dead to life... but they vanished from history in a whisper.

Bankrolled by a dying man of unlimited means, Hawthorne's hunt spans the globe and leads him into a deadly conspiracy older than the church itself. A born skeptic, Jack doesn't think much of the assignment but he could use the money, so he takes the first step on a chase for the legendary bones that will take him to the very ends of the earth.

But he's not alone. Joined with a fiery colleague, Esperanza Habilla, they soon discover clues to a shadowy organization whose long-held secrets have been protected . . . at all costs. And he soon discovers those sworn to keep the secret of the bones will do anything to protect them. As their lives are threatened again and again, the real race is to uncover the truth before those chasing them hunt them down.


Unfortunately I have not had a chance to read this book. It was the third of three that I was supposed to read and I only got them last Monday. I know, that's no excuse, but I have a toddler who doesn't like it when I'm reading and ignoring him!

I did read the first chapter and although this is a bit outside my normal genre I think this book will be fascinating!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Elisha's Bones, go HERE

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Saudi Fashion Show

We're up to Wednesday now of our 2nd week in Saudi.

Brian and I went on the "Local Exhibits Tour" which meant we took a tour of the Saudi Aramco Oil Exhibit - basically their science museum about oil. It was fairly interesting, but I couldn't hear/understand the guide very well so just took off on my own and read the descriptions of things. It's a very educational exhibit with a lot of hand's on items. I was impressed!

They also had this really cool looking wall that was made out of tile. With their perspective on the globe!

After visiting the museum we quickly stopped by Well #7, which is now known as Prosperity Well since it's the first well that they hit oil in back in the late 40's I believe. It's no longer in use.

There was a nice park, but for some reason, even though we were on a tour, it was locked up that day. Oh well! You can also see some modern oil storage facilities in the background.

That evening we went to the Fashion Show...
Originally this was just supposed to be for women and when it was opened to men as well I assumed that meant the women would be totally covered and it wouldn't be as interesting. Wrong!

My mother-in-law and I went and didn't get great seats, but the room wasn't that big so we could see much better than these photos show.

I did learn some interesting facts along the way...

There were 5 regions, each represented with a traditional dance, then women showing the traditional costumes of the area, then a wedding dress/ceremony at the end.

This girl was walking very slowly on a pair of wooden stools that her attendants were placing in front of her one at a time.

The dress that you see from pictures of Saudi with the men in long white robes and the red and white checked head covering is actually the traditional dress only of the central area of the country, where the capital, Riyadh, is.

But this is actually the traditional dress for the Eastern Province, where we were. It's kind of a white t-shirt and then a long "kilt" for lack of a better word. But it's more like of a piece of plaid flannel wrapped around like a skirt.

These boys were hilarious, by the way. They totally stole the show with their exuberance!

This is the women's dress from the Eastern Province. The abayas are brightly colored (many others were black with beading) and the design is down the front center only.

I believe these were fancier dresses from the Eastern Province.

This was the wedding dress from the Eastern Province and they then did a pre-wedding ceremony where the bride sat on the ground and was painted with henna (they didn't actually do this part) while the attendants waved a cloth over her head and pronounced blessings.

The lady in the center of this picture is Munira Al Ashgar. All the costumes for the fashion show (which lasted 2 hours!) were from her private collection. The fashion show was a fundraiser for a school for handicapped children. This lady is a serious philanthropist and quite a fun person to be around as well! (she was the tour guide for our orphanage visit)

At the end all the models got up on stage, here are just the guys, but I think there were close to a hundred. The models were all students from a local high school or women from the community women's group (inside the camp) who helped put the show on as a fundraiser.

And... This is one of my favorite things that I saw there, Coke in Arabic!

Two days left in our trip!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book: The Reluctant Cowgirl

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Reluctant Cowgirl

Barbour Publishing (April 2009)


Christine Lynxwiler


Christine lives with her husband and two precious daughters in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in her home state of Arkansas. Her greatest earthly joy is her family and, aside from doing God’s will, spending time with them is her top priority.

She recently took a break from writing romance to pen a Christmas story with a twist. Her Mom Lit novella, My True Love Gave to Me, is part of a 2 in 1 anthology from Barbour entitled All Jingled Out. It’s also included in Simply Christmas, a 4 in 1 Barbour anthology. One of her holiday highlights was seeing Simply Christmas at Sam’s Club a few weeks before Christmas.

She has written two other novellas, both romance, which are included in Barbour anthologies, City Dreams, and Prairie County Fair and a serial for the Heartsong Presents book club newsletter – The Carousel Horse. The Carousel Horse can be read in its entirety on the Heartsong website, and you can read excerpts from all of her other books on her website, HERE

In 2003, Christine was honored by being voted #2 Favorite New Author by the Heartsong Presents Book Club members!


Actress Crystal McCord gave up the closeness of her big family in order to make a name for herself on the New York City stage. But when life in the Big Apple turns sour, she follows a country road back to her parents Arkansas ranch.

The last thing she expects to find in cowboy country is a new leading man. Still, she can't help but imagine handsome rancher Jeremy Buchanan in the role.

Unfortunately, Jeremy's been burned by Crystal's type before. Or has he? Every time he thinks he knows her, the multi-faceted woman surprises him. Will the reluctant pair allow their hearts to guide them, or will their common stubborn pride keep them miles apart?


I think the book description above is a little misleading. I'd say this book is more about two individuals finding healing before they can fall in love again.

I expected this to be a slightly fluffy book, but it wasn't. It was an easy read, but didn't shy away from making the characters real people with real issues. I love books like this!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Reluctant Cowgirl, go HERE

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Impromptu Weekend

Due to our camera ceasing to function this week we made an impromptu trip to Seattle for Friday night and Saturday staying with my college roommate and her husband. They were very gracious to let us stay with them on such short notice, but we tried to help out with their gardening on Saturday.

Unfortunately this did not work out so well with a toddler in tow...

They also have a koi pond in their backyard and Cory wanted to look at the fish. Well, he got a little too up close and personal and fell in. The pond is not that big, maybe 3 feet by 4 feet, but it's at least 3 feet deep. I was just coming out of the house and from the time I heard him fall in to the time that Wendy pulled him out was all the time I had to navigate the patio furniture and get over to them. Wendy said he was actually trying to swim towards her so that was a good thing, but he wouldn't have been able to get out on his own I don't think. And he was rather freaked out.

So after a bath and an new set of clothes (for Cory and Wendy!) we went out to help weed the corn patch. Cory was interested for a bit and then started saying he was scared of the beetles and the ants. I realized it was lunch/nap time so thus ended Cory's participation.

We didn't get too far on the corn patch either, but they did get their tomato garden howed and planted near the house!

During all of this Brian had driven back to the camera shop to try and see if the camera could be fixed. They said maybe, but we're going to send it in to a shop that has repaired it before.

But after that he went and visited a computer warehouse where they put together a new computer for us! So I am writing this on a fancy new (super fast!) computer without any junk on it since it was custom built. Woo hoo! Now if I could just figure out how to calibrate our old monitor so things actually look white we'd be in business!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book: The Secret

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Secret

(Bethany House May 1, 2009)


Beverly Lewis


Not until her own children were well into middle school did Bev seek to publish her work, first in magazines such as Highlights for Children, Dolphin Log, and Guideposts for Kids. Her first book followed in 1993—Mountain Bikes and Garbanzo Beans—presently retitled Big Bad Beans.

Beverly's first venture into adult fiction is the best-selling trilogy, THE HERITAGE OF LANCASTER COUNTY, including The Shunning, a suspenseful saga of Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman drawn to the modern world by secrets from her past. The book is loosely based on the author's maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buchwalter, who left her Old Order Mennonite upbringing to marry a Bible College student. One Amish-country newspaper claimed Beverly's work to be "a primer on Lancaster County folklore" and offers "an insider's view of Amish life."

A member of the National League of American Pen Women, as well as a Distinguished Alumnus of Evangel University, Lewis has written over 80 books for children, youth, and adults, many of them award-winning. She and her husband, David, make their home in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking, and playing with their three grandchildren. They are also avid musicians and fiction "book worms."


In the seemingly ordinary Amish home of Grace Byler, secrets abound. Why does her mother weep in the night? Why does her father refuse to admit something is dreadfully wrong? Then, in one startling moment, everything Grace assumed she knew is shattered.

Her mother's disappearance leaves Grace reeling and unable to keep her betrothal promise to her long-time beau. Left to pick up the pieces of her life, Grace questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment.

Heather Nelson is an English grad student, stunned by a doctor's diagnosis. Surely fate would not allow her father to lose his only daughter after the death of his wife a few years before. In denial and telling no one she is terminally ill, Heather travels to Lancaster County-- the last place she and her mother had visited together.

Will Heather find healing for body and spirit? As the lives of four wounded souls begin to weave together like an Amish patchwork quilt, they each discover missing pieces of their life puzzles--and glimpse the merciful and loving hand of God.


Unfortunately I did not receive this book until Monday and haven't had much time to read. So I'm about 1/3 of the way into it and so far it's intriguing. I have not read any of Lewis' books before, but she has won many awards for her writing and this seems to be one of the better Amish novels I've read in awhile.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Secret, go HERE

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cory's Easter

Brian failed to realize that he planned an Anime convention with his students in Seattle for Easter weekend. So Cory and I went up to my parents for most of the weekend. The hit was that Grandma and Papa have trains!

Here's a little boy totally self-entertained for hours.

Grandma found an Easter Egg hunt at a local fruit stand so we thought we'd go...

Mad house!

There were probably a hundred kids there in the "under 3" category in a field the size of someone's backyard. Parents were allowed to "help" with this group, but there definitely should be been a rule that they couldn't touch the eggs. I didn't help Cory at all and out of 2,000+ eggs on the field he ended up with 7 while I saw babies who didn't pick up their own eggs go away with baskets heaping full. Lame-o parents!

Cory didn't care though and really wanted to see what was inside each egg...

He saw me open one by accidentally stepping on it so he had to try!

That didn't work, help Mom!
He was so excited!

Poor planning meant that his egg hunt was scheduled at 1pm and we hadn't had lunch. So Mama bought the boy a hot dog and he ate it in huge bites!
While waiting in line to ride the "cow train"!

This was definitely the highlight of the day for him. It's a custom train made out of barrels pulled behind a Gator!

Around the parking lot and fields, it went pretty fast, but Cory loved it!

Then we found the Easter Bunny. This one talked, but Cory wasn't so sure about it. He gave the bunny a "high 5", but no hugs.

Of course we had to sit on all the possible machines there were to be sat upon!

Oh, and behind this tractor... we're going into the petting zoo!


He wasn't so sure about the llama when it stuck it's head out towards him!

Eye to eye with Mr. Cow

It was a fun day overall, but the poor kid totally missed his nap. Yeah for a hyper cranky child in the evening!

Sunday we went back up after church and found out there was another smaller egg hunt in town. It was raining so there weren't nearly as many people there. There weren't as many other activities to do either.

Yet once again the parents went crazy in the 1-3 year old category and this time Cory only got 2 eggs.

But he knew all about what was inside this time and wanted me to open it immediately. He started unwrapping the candy, but didn't get it all the way off... ah, who cares, just eat the wrapper too!

The best part of this egg hunt though was the Fire Truck!

Hope your day was just as fun and filled with lots of chocolate!