Monthly Archives: December 2014

Prayer Times

I have been wanting to post for a while now on the subject of prayer times. For Islamic culture, it is a defining and notable religious practice that Saudi Arabia as a country respectfully observes. Prayer calls echo in the early morning, afternoon, and evening hours – six times a day. With mosques practically around every corner in neighborhoods and stores, it is easy to hear the lulling melodic singing over the loudspeakers. The calls halt most activity, encouraging businesses to close, work to stop, and men to pray in the nearby mosques. It is quite a scene to witness.

Prayer times can no doubt be a frustrating inconvenience and, frankly, are the most difficult part of my adjustment to life over here. I use an app called Muslim Pro to try and help me coordinate my shopping better, but it is not as predictable or logical as one would expect. I have often been dejected and irritated left outside of a closed store because I underestimated a prayer time. This happens mostly on Fridays which is their holy day of the week and in the afternoons when some stores choose to remain closed between prayer times. Without yet understanding Islam and how it moves a country, I imagine there will be a few more mix-ups with prayer times and my own schedule.

Yet with all the chaos and confusion prayer time can wreck in me, the call has the power to calm me too. I can hear these calls from my home and even more clearly when I’m outside in the yard or walking Pigpen around the compound. They have become a reassuring presence in my days – a spiritual reminder of faith and hope for peace. During these times at home, I feel my world quiet a little. My breathing becomes more apparent and the breeze softens my edges. When I’m paying attention, the calls give me awareness, pulling me away from myself and towards something larger. Behind the walls, the entrancing voices are unseen – repetitive and reverberating with every mosque sending out the call on their own loudspeakers, sometimes resembling the sound of a loose fog horn being blown into a cave.


Inshallah
means “God willing” and is a common expression used for most anything that happens/ has happened/ will happen among Saudis. It is used as a response when there is nothing left to offer a conversation, happy occurrence, or problem. This phrase not only punctuates sentiments passed between people, but marks the movement of a culture. Allah is God.

Prayer times might not have much significance in my life in general, but I respect what they represent and what they do for Muslims in particular. For now, they are a continuous reminder of humanity and what we seek in life.

My own prayer is that people find good in each other and peace on earth.

Inshallah.

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A Quiet Holiday

The holiday season this year was calm and quiet. David and I chose to keep our schedules relaxed and stress free after all the hustle and bustle these last few months. We attended only a few holiday events in order to keep our focus on family. There was not a lot of hoopla on Christmas day either, we decided not to exchange presents this year, but to instead save money for a trip in February. We went to a French café for breakfast (my freshly baked homemade cinnamon rolls went in the trash this year) and then to a neighbor’s house for Christmas dinner. All around the spirit was different. Families everywhere went home for the holidays leaving the compound deserted with darkened houses – it’s a ghost town around here. The only place I felt remotely spirited was in my own home where I decorated with lights, garland, wreaths, and a small tree, and played Holiday Hits from my itunes radio. It was just different. I would certainly describe it as being the most Charlie Brown Christmas I’ve ever had. The simplicity of it all, though, brought me back to the reason for celebration – a Savior is born. It is a strange thing celebrating Christmas in Saudi Arabia.

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

With our trimmed down schedules, our four day weekend was spent binge watching shows on Netflix (Homeland has me all stressed out), eating, walking Pigpen, and sorting through our HHE. Oh that’s right, our HHE (household effects) arrived from the U.S. last week which felt like Santa came early. Everything made it in one piece and I am super happy to see all my kitchen equipment. A couple things got accidentally left out of our shipment and put into storage (I’m hoping – otherwise they’re gone for good) which was a bit of a disappointment, but otherwise, we are fully moved in now!

I also spent my time cooking a feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I froze a pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce from November knowing that I would be trying my hand once more at the task of roasting a turkey around Christmas since David and I didn’t get to enjoy any Thanksgiving leftovers last month. Let me just say, WOW. I am so glad I made the effort because everything turned out delicious! It was a nice winter holiday meal for the two of us. A picture of my efforts follows:

Yummm

Yummm

And since I’ve been a little delayed in my posting, it’s not without good reason. A couple of weeks ago I started work! My duties put me in the Consular office where everyone has been kind and helpful in getting me set up. I work part-time, which is just enough to keep me from going stir crazy in the house while still leaving me room to do chores and dabble in my hobbies. The office is a good environment, often fast-paced dealing with customers at the window. I have learned a little Arabic to help with my communication, but I still have trouble with some words. I really feel part of the mission now that I am coming face-to-face with the locals.

Finally, I must comment on our weather over here – it is absolutely perfect! Sunny and cool everyday with highs in the low to mid-70’s and lows in the 50’s. Pigpen and I like to sit outside on the patio in the afternoons when there is a little breeze and life is pleasant and quiet. I couldn’t imagine leaving this time of year.

Happy holidays to all our family and friends. We send big hugs from the Middle East!

P.S.

We sent out Christmas cards to everyone back home, but it’s my understanding that they haven’t been received yet – I’m not surprised since we haven’t received mail in over two weeks and there is unfortunately a clog in the system. Just know that we’ve been thinking about everyone.

This is what I did wrong: Forgot to halve my dough, so I rolled them up double the size they should have been, then they rose beyond control, I tried to separate them but they still came out under baked. Delicious, but not right. I plan on trying them again this week.

My rolls were still rising in the picture here, if you can believe it. I lost seven hours of my life to these things. This is what I did wrong: Forgot to halve my dough, so I rolled them up double the size they should have been, then they rose beyond control, I tried to separate and roll them out once more but they still came out under baked. Delicious, but not right so they hit the trash can. I plan on trying them again this week – I will not be defeated.