Pray and Shway – Updated 5 February 2014

Stan+Laurel

Life living in the desert can ever be described as a)colourless b)monotonous c) straight forward.

From the mutant hour daily get ups at 4.45am before a 90 minute journey in the dark up to the Saudi Border, the day begins and ends in a fog peppered with exhaustion and bewilderment.  I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t recent moments of emotional paralysis where the frustration has seemed engulfing with private tears and public rants more prevalent than before.

Don’t get me wrong: this country is most definitely my home and I love it here. I am grateful each day for the patience and love of my fellow Arabic colleagues who are so encouraging and big hearted in my attempts to chat with them using my few dodgy Arabic phrases. However, my heart truly longs for the day when I can sit and listen properly to their conversations and hear what is really going on in their lives.

I often feel like I resemble Stan Laurel in my many facial expressions during the situations I find myself in where 1 out of every thousand or so words is comprehensible and my limited phrases and words can only get me so far. My eyes frequently twist and turn and my eyebrows definitely move like Jagger. Gormless is most probably the less glamorous word I could use here, but I shall move on as we all know that the power of life and death lies in our tongues and the words we speak, ahem. (See previous postings.) http://biblehub.com/proverbs/18-21.htm

I have attached some of the Stan Laurel moments from the past year below. They are in no way intended to mock anyone or show any disrespect in any way to anyone living or working with me who is from the UAE or the GCC. They are written to share the wonderment of this habitation of the daily bizarre during this particular jigsaw piece of our lives.

It is my sincere wish that these musings a) encourage some who are in similar situations to keep going and to b) make others in far (and not so far) away lands with cream sofas and Starbucks and Malls and shiny pretty things on their doorsteps to think outside their boxes and stop taking things like cream sofas and Starbucks and Malls and shiny pretty things for granted.

But most of all, I want just people to read these postings and smile.

Lord, help us to Pray and Shway.  We are always telling the children to ‘shway shway,’ in order to calm and slow them down. Help us, Lord, to apply this to our own lives and the every day learning experiences and frustrations we find ourselves in. Help us slow down, throw up our prayers and keep going knowing that you are in control and everything will be ok. In your name we pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday 5th February, 2014

So, today in a classroom in a far away land filled with sand, I dropped a piece of paper on the floor. The response from little Wildcat ‘friend’ (who looks like a mini Arab Idol contestant with his HUGE bouffant mullet hair, back combed and hairsprayed, and who often is caught combing his mane whilst sitting in class) was this:

‘Ohhhh sheeetttt!’, both palms up raised heavenward, both shoulders squeezed way up to his ears, face gasping then scrunched up in very, very dramatic way.

So, English obviously spoken at home then. Is my job here done?

(He is 5 but can write the word ‘Butterfly’ without help, so can be forgiven, right? He was also wearing his brown leather jacket zipped up to the neck and when he walks, he has that ‘home boy’ swagger thang going on. Was also caught yesterday jumping from one table to another. Maybe not forgiven, just yet?)

January 27, 2013

Somewhere, somehow, today in another (NB this is not the first) Arabic Lost in Translation Moment, my classroom was interrupted by a gasping Arabic lady asking (too mild a verb, sorry),”Meeez Choood!! Meeeezzzz Chooooodd!! Your daughter eeezz DYYYIIINNNNGGGG????!!! Where weeeeellll you go??!”

Erm, no. Sorry. No daughter and I would like to stay here, please? As I stood there with facial expressions resembling Stan Laurel (he was the skinny, dopey one, right?), about 4 other Arabic ladies, having heard the shrieking from the first lady and obviously concerned about what was going on in the doorway of my tiny classroom, had arrived.

I explained in very broken Arabic that I didn’t have a daughter and so everything was ok, no one was dying and that it was a good day, Mashallah.

However, they began to look even more horrified and I became even more afraid that the first lady was about to collapse.

‘Noooo daughtarrrr??!!’ they all cried in unison, going up way too high at the end of each of their words, eyes popping out of their shaking heads accompanied by much tutting and hands being raised heavenward.

‘No daughter,’ I replied meekly, shaking my head and almost closing my eyes in shame.

‘HAZZZZZBBBAAAANNNNTTT?’ They gasped-their voices becoming louder and much more shrill. Gasping for breath continued.

‘No. No husband,’ I whispered.

Shrieks (of horror?) from all the women now. Much more tutting and grabbing my cheeks and kissing my face, stroking my hair and shouting at each other. Were they blaming my short hair for my marital status? I don’t know. Were they were happy for me? Saddened? Excited about fixing me up with their brothers, cousins, uncles, sheikh friends? I. Don’t. Know. I feel like Stan Laurel. Am glad that the little wild kittens managed to get on with their work in the midst of such theatrics and produced some great pictures and words about aeroplanes (they’ve never seen a train before).

March 27, 2013

Quote from Land of Sand today: Meez Chood, pliz I take pikchar? Your face like kitty kettt…

May 20, 2013

Small child, pointing to her head/hairstyle: Meeez Choood! Looook! Cake!

Me: No, bun.

October 22, 2013

Small lispy, high-pitched Wildcat today, aptly named Essa (translated into English: Jesus), holding door open for me (I am, therefore, already suspicious): Tha-lam-al-ay-koom ha-bee-thee. (Roughly translated: How you doin’ sweetheart, eh?)

Then winks.

I look down at him and say: Imti hamza, Essa? (Aren’t you only five years old, Essa? Should you really be saying that to your teacher?)

Essa: La. Arba. (No. I’m 4). Winks and runs off.

Grrrr.

October 24, 2013

Week starts with car accident which narrowly misses us. Week ends with the little nocturnal Wildcats playing hide and seek in the pitch black outside the apartment despite pot-holes, glass and traffic and I am drinking shiraz from a mug because nowhere out here sells wine glasses, of course. Stay classy, world. No surrender.

November 18, 2013

Today in the Land of Sand everything was going ‘well’ until, whilst attempting to share the genius of drawing different shapes with a collective of non English speaking Wildcat-Bedouin 5 year olds, I managed to slide off the wee green chair I was sitting in. No one noticed until after about a long minute (probably less, who knows in this time-free, shawaya shawaya zone), when I heard a little voice announce to the class, ‘Whirrrr MeEeEeEEEEEzzzzz Choooodddd”. “Here. On the floor, habiti’, I said, raising my hand and lowering my head, wondering how in my 30,000 years of teaching across continents and varying academic establishments it had taken me this long to slide to the floor without alcohol. The Wildcats, for the first time this year, showed no expression. They simply didn’t react. They just looked at me like I was so dumb. So very, very stupid. Yet, each day, I see one of them, at least, attempt a handstand on the carpet before we sing songs or try to pull someone’s nose off their face. Or kick them in the head. Or jump off a table. So, really, Wildcats, game on if you want to get competitive. — eating Dahl which was originally intended to be a lentil soup but I got it wrong.

November 19, 2013

When travelling long distances each day to work, interesting conversations often pop up both as a way to stay awake and as a possible manifestation of the slight insanity which both accompanies and is a pre-requisite to desert living. Today, the topic of conversation included how many more Arab men seem to be taking Asian women as their 4th wives and how some of us had seen more mixed race Arab/Asia children in malls etc.

So far, so shaway. I arrive back into the village I call home and then head off to get my spuds and avocado (which I had been thinking about cooking since about 7am this morning – another survival trick) from the local Lulu’s when who should I see but an Arab man with super curly long hair, a flat cap, khandora, Ray Ban shades and a larger Asian wife. They proceeded to put my potato and avocado into their trolley. ‘Mafi mushukula’, I said, and they gave it back to me.

I then toddle on home and open up the kitchen window and proceed to go out of the flat to the rubbish shoot when I hear a bang. When I get back to the flat, the door has slammed locked shut behind me. I am horrified. I am wearing my pyjama bottoms and my work top. Thankfully, my bra had not been taken off for the night. So, after three trips up and down the stairs to check if Mr Advil (yes, really, as in painkiller brand) or Mr Jamal (yes, really as in Camel) our friendly maintenance men are around, I head off and walk across the lovely green garden outside the 4 apartment blocks, past lots of looks from the dear Muslim ladies and walk towards Mr Jamal, our maintenance man who, thankfully, I see across the car park. “Hazir kabir mushkula, Mr Jamal,” I exclaim.

We head back to the apartment and he knocks on the door of the Jordanian family who live next door and walks into their flat while my neighbour takes this opportunity to comes out into the corridor and starts to ask me about my day as I sit on the floor in my pyjama bottoms and work top, thankful that I am still wearing my bra.

Suddenly my door opens from the inside and Mr Jamal looks down and smiles at me. ‘Helllo Mz Chood techerrrr!” He says with a grin.

I am astounded and ask him how he managed to get into my flat but he doesn’t reply and looks at the ground and shakes his head. He is obviously embarrassed but my neighbour proceeds to explain that Mr Jamal has gone into his flat, stepped out on to the window ledge and WALKED ACROSS THE THIN WINDOW LEDGE to my open kitchen window (the cause of all the nonsense and suction/air vent rubbish in the first place) and let himself into my apartment.

Mr Jamal, at this point has walked off, obviously embarrassed and so I run after him to give him a 5 pack of noodles (all I could find in the flurry of excitement and bewilderment which ensued). I later see him standing across the car park looking towards our apartment block, I hope congratulating himself.

Spiderman lives on, people. He is truly alive and well here in this part of the Land of Sand. And yes, he was wearing a red t shirt.

January 20

Stan Laurel moment #(oh, a thousand and something, at least…)

“Mz Chood! Plizz. You gif me five minute I go uzzarr kless problem zay mik baby in za kless.”

Now, had I been in those hazy, halcyon days of teaching in Slough or glorious inner city London, innit, I might have been more concerned. This, however, is pretty standard Land of Sand daily chat.

Eat, Sleep, Do: Venice

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With so much to see and do, travelling doesn’t give us enough time to write plenteously, but it does give us time for reflection. In a further bid to simplify life, here are 3 things to do in the cities I have visited both this summer and at other times. I hope they help you plan and discover a little bit more of both the world, yourself and mankind. 

Eat, sleep, do: Venice

Sleep at the Santa Magherita Guest House. Why?

  • Clean & Safe
  • Next to a monastery. You will be able to listen to the monks practising their canticles and arias as you lie in bed at night. If you’re lucky, like I was, you might get the sights and sounds of a glorious thunderstorm thrown in for effect. There is a little bridge right next to the guest house which I stood on and watched the lightning as Mozart’s Requiem was rehearsed. Really…
  • Breakfast table right by the front door so you can grab some fruit and biscotti as you run out the door to start your day’s sightseeing.

Eat at the little trattoria behind the Rialto Bridge to the right hand side. I can’t remember the name but I stumbled across it whilst following the signs for the W.C. (it’s across the little piazza where the loo is situated).

Why?

  • It’s quiet and clean.
  • They do a mean pasta carbonara and a perky glass of chilled white wine without the hustle of the crowds and hassle of the pizzeria waiters near to the bridge.
  • I had lunch here with a bunch of locals (which included 4 gondoliers in their stripy tops) and not a tourist in sight. Hurrah!

Do…

  • This is the city to walk in. Take a left, take a right or go straight. Wherever you wander, you will see something beautiful (or find a place to stop and buy some more gelato).
  • Obviously, you’ll want to wander over towards St. Mark’s Basilica but there are so many unique places which will touch your heart and imagination.
  • Hop on a boat and take a cruise on the cheap around the city. Don’t take a taxi boat or a gondola as they are expensive. Take the metro boat for the same views at a cut of the price.

Eat, Sleep, Do: Istanbul

Aya Sofya, Istanbul

Eat, sleep, do:  Istanbul

Sleep at the Berce Hotel. Why?

  1. Clean & Safe
  2. Central location – easy to walk everywhere
  3. Delicious breakfast on a rooftop terrace with views of the comings and goings of the Sea of Marmara.

Eat at the Ottoman Kitchen. Why?

  1. A delicious selection of Turkish dishes
  2. Clean & Cheap
  3. Not far from the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya (keep the Blue Mosque on your left hand side and walk straight up the hill, keeping the tram line on your right hand side. You will eventually come to the Ottoman Kitchen. It’s right next to McDonalds).

 Do a Bosphorous Sightseeing Bus Tour. Why?

  • 48 hrs ticket for 40 Euros (negotiate if you are paying in Turkish Lira) which includes a Green and Blue Line tour as well as a night time tour.
  • It is the only tour bus which crosses the Bosphorous River.
  • Do the tour the moment you get to Istanbul and have seen the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya.  The buses are right next to the square. You can then plan when/where to hop on and off for the rest of your stay in Istanbul and you’ve already paid for your ticket. Simples!

Less is more

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We have all had to simplify our lives living here in the desert. The nearest city is around 180 minutes drive away and the journey is nothing short of exhausting.  A weekend trip to Abu Dhabi is supposed to be refreshing but any relaxation felt is soon erased by the arduous drive back to our desert accommodation.

At some point, all of us have felt that our former lives in the West have been brutally stripped away and have left us bare and vulnerable. Each of us has often questioned why we are here.

Yet something much stronger overrides this sense of exposure to the unknown and uncertainty of this lifestyle we now find ourselves in. Its name is Peace. http://biblehub.com/john/14-27.htm

Expat Desert Inhabitants have made difficult choices, sacrificing friends and family and a lifestyle back home to follow what we know in our hearts to be the right professional and/or personal choice.  If we looked at our situation with human eyes and took everything at face value, we would feel overwhelmed.

Yet, when we are in a place where we know we are meant to be, we are somewhat at pains to describe to others why we remain.  Paradoxically, we know that if we stayed in our home countries, we would feel restless and unsettled with each passing day; the silent sentiments of no longer belonging to the society into which we were born steadily consuming us.

I am blessed by new friends and colleagues who identify with the difficulties we are facing together. Chats whilst sharing cups of tea and coffee, bread, biscuits, books read, clothes that no longer fit, recipes, drives to the city, weekly car-pools to work when we all need a 30 minute lie in, recommended podcasts and albums all combine to enable us to develop our sense of community and sisterhood.

There is much joy to be found in what is sometimes an incomprehensible life when we look outwards, forget ourselves and keep going. Personally, I am often encouraged by the words once sent to me many years ago by my sister:  Look outwards; forget yourself. And those of my dad:  Keep going and don’t look back or you’ll turn into a pillar of salt! http://biblehub.com/genesis/19-26.htm

Many of us are finding talents which have been lying dormant for so long and are making jewelry or painting and sketching. Some are learning languages for travels to and from the Middle East whilst others are discovering a flare for making sour cream and guacamole (see last post: In the desert, we make our own sour cream…)

Although it may seem we have little, we are growing inwardly and outwardly.  Just as it was in the story of Jesus feeding the 4000, we learn that although things more than often do not make sense, as we continually pray in all circumstances and keep looking on the bright side, miracles happen and we find ourselves coping.http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+8&version=MSG

Prayer:  Lord, forgive us for times when we have been disgruntled, disillusioned and disappointed about the circumstances we find ourselves in. Forgive us for the times when we don’t appreciate what we have and help us see the satisfaction of simple living. Help us understand that it is by spreading out what little we already have that more of us are blessed and encouraged. Thank you that by trusting you, we don’t need to always have and understand the answers. Thank you that you are a creative God who loves communication http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%201&version=MSG; that you invented words, chats and a wonderful world to be discovered.

Please, help us, Lord.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Thessalonians+5%3A16-18&version=NIV,

Listen to:  Mumford & Sons

‘In the desert, we make our own sour cream…’

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I attended the rather jolly birthday celebrations of an Emirati friend at the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed stuffing my pretty lil’ face with various Mexican dishes prepared by two beautiful colleagues, R & M.

As we are living in the desert lands, these resourceful ladies, upon realizing that our two local food markets (not forgetting one an hour’s drive away) didn’t stock any sour cream, they decided to do what all good desert inhabitants do: make their own!

Please read below and try it out. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s muy delicioso!

Here are R’s words…  

Sour Cream was easy to make. I used about 1 carton of heavy cream and 1/2 cup of yogurt. I used a lot quite a bit of yogurt because the one we get in the market is not very sour, so requires a little bit. Do heat the heavy milk slightly in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes and then mix the yogurt or butter milk and let it sit in a warm place for about 24 hours. Ours was ready to go just before the party and I had started it 10:30 pm the night before…

Listen to: Salsa Music Party Mix, of course!

Lord, thank you for giving us imaginations and creativity. Thank you for parties, birthdays, global friends and all things jolly. Thank you that you delight in providing so much for us so that we can get together in the isolated parts of the world to have fun. Thank you for our Latino friends and their wonderful recipes and music. Bless them, Lord, and keep them in your care.  Amen. 

Cath’s Chilli Prawns

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Cath’s Chilli Prawns

My good friend, Cath, has sent me her Chili Prawns Recipe (complete with photographic evidence.)

Her recipe sums up her attitude to life:  Keep it simple for the best flavour.

  • Pour enough olive oil in to the pan to coat its base.
  • Add the  2 crushed garlic cloves and chilli flakes to taste.
  • Once the garlic is sizzling and has turned a shade of golden brown, add the prawns.
  • After a few minutes, the prawns will start to brown.
  • It’s now time to add the chunky slices of red and yellow pepper and the slim stalks of asparagus.
  • Stir them around and about until all golden and crispy but still crunchy.

As this dish is fairly hot, the best drink is probably iced water or a chilled Sauvignon Blanc.

Dear Lord, thank you for our daily bread but most importantly, thank you for delicious ingredients found in the sea and in our vegetable patches.

Yummy, Spicy, Veggie Dish

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This is a simple, healthy veggie spicy yummy dish which I can’t help but rustle up each week.  It feeds me for a couple of days or would feed about four people around the table. You choose.

You can use any vegetables you like, but the most important ones are of course a large, red onion and about 4 cloves of garlic (when cooking up, I always use one clove per person. Garlic, like most things, doesn’t scare me and is vital for flavour).

In the picture above, and pretty much also considered as most important veg to use are two big spuds, a broccoli, one red pepper, a large carrot, about 4 large squishy, ripe tomatoes, a couple of small courgettes, a fair bit of olive oil as you fry up the veg and a spoonful (tablespoon is ok if you like spicy and quite hot) of Arabic masala spice, a small tin of coconut milk and a mug full of chicken or veggie stock.

Start by warming up the pan on a medium heat as you wash and peel the veg. Start by peeling the red onion. I’ve learned over the years that the best way to peel an onion and to avoid streaming eyes, is to work with the onion next to the sink and keep the cold tap running (ok, so not ideal if living in the desert where water can’t really be taken for granted, but if you’re using the water to then wash the rest of the veg in, then it’s completely justified…)

Chop the top and tail off the onion and carefully peel off the outer red layer. Now take a closer look at the onion and you’ll see a small circle in the centre. Sometimes, there are two odd shaped circles but you want to aim the knife towards these little dudes, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CUT THROUGH THEN as they are the little blighters which maketh the crying starteth.

You can either chop the onion or tear it into small pieces as red onions are groovy like that. Keep rinsing the knife under the cold tap as this will keep life from becoming teary.  We all have enough to deal with…

When you’ve given the pan a couple of minutes to warm up, add a splash of olive oil (enough to coat the base of the pan).

Add the onions and the mashed up garlic.

Stir it around a bit and then add the chopped up, peeled potatoes along with the peeled carrots (which should be cut into slices which resemble a little finger). 

Now add the spice and mix it all together. Shawaya Shawaya. Slowly, slowly.

As the potatoes are cooking, you can sort out the rest of the veg.

The capsicum/pepper is pretty easy to deal with. Cut the top off and then just pull out the centre bit with the millions of seeds. Rinse it through and then you have an easy way to slice through if you use the creamy lines as a guide.

Add the peppers and the other veg and keep stirring around. You can also add some chicken/veg stock at this point (about a tablespoon at a time just so that the veg have something to soak in and the flavour gets to groove.

When you’ve added all the veg, add the tin of coconut milk and let it simmer on a low heat for about 45 mins.

When all is finished up, I usually just throw some couscous into a pan of boiling salted water and immediately take it off the stove. Add a knob of butter and let it stand for about 2 minutes before fluffing it up with a fork. Follow the instructions on the side of the couscous packet but usually it’s one cup of couscous for half a cup of boiling water.

This dish may be too spicy for some so make sure you serve this dish up with some/lots of yummy plain yoghurt.

Drink with Peroni/Tiger/Singa beer, if you have an alcohol license, or just plain water if you don’t. Again, I’m a BIG fan of Perrier Water and a slice or two of lemon and/or lime.

Listen to:  Ella Fitzgerald.

Lord, thank you for all the wonderful things you’ve provided for our palates, even the ones which make us cry. Forgive us for the times we have made others cry by the things we have said and done and the things we ought to have said and done and didn’t.  Grant us the grace to forgive those who have made us weep. May we never take things like water or food for granted. Forgive us, O Lord for the countless times we have grumbled, both audibly and internally, at the discomforts of life. Help us Lord. Please help us and graciously hear us. We can’t do this life through our own strength. 

Memories of food (good and bad).

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I’ve never really recovered from the time I ate take away sushi in Singapore and managed to get wasabi in my eye. Fear and loathing set in as a result of such unbearable burning and watering of the eye and I haven’t touched the stuff since.

The same applies to my relationship with octopus. I choked once on the slithery tentacles in an upmarket restaurant in Languedoc whilst on a French exchange as a teenager and now look fearfully towards this particular specimen. I can almost feel the gag in my throat as I write and am reminded of this most distressing of formative teenage moments.

Mushrooms, too, remind me of a time a guy at university sent me a valentine’s card with a mushroom stuck on the cover asking me to be his valentine as I was a ‘Fun-Gal’ to be with. Sure, it made me laugh and I loved the unique approach but there was no chemistry and alas, I had to break up with him shortly afterwards. I am reminded of the breakage of his heart each time I see these slithery items in grocery stores and vegetable stalls throughout the world.

Such is my culinary malaise that I will often reply with a grimace, “Seafood and mushrooms,” when asked for dinner and what I eat and don’t eat.  Mushrooms make me feel guilty. Octopus makes me gag and reminds me of social clumsiness around a sophisticated French dining table. Sushi just hates me.

What a shame! I am most probably missing out on the most exquisite culinary delights in the world yet am letting fear and memory combine to prevent this from happening. And I always, always feel uncomfortable telling people that I really don’t like to eat these things as I love, and am so grateful for, any invitation to eat with others.  I get so excited at the prospect of what topics of conversation will be covered and the people I will watch and learn from. And I  especially enjoy getting dolled up in anticipation of a good evening with friends and acquaintances.

Once bitten, twice shy, is a phrase often associated with a broken relationship but can also be applied to our relationship with food. Memories and emotions associated with mealtimes are powerful tools to prevent us from living in an emotional and healthy state.

How many of us were forced to eat dried up fish on a Friday and now resent Christianity as a result?  Sometimes, it is through facing our fears and gulping down that octopus, mushroom or dried up piece of Friday fish that we regain power over our minds and emotions. Perhaps this is why the good Lord invented Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot to help ease our pain in both the natural and in the emotional?

Not so long ago, whilst staying in a Kibbutz along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, I was offered some tasting looking St Peter’s Fish. Juicy, succulent and smelling great (and without a hint of dryness), I cautiously accepted. The fish was lovingly prepared by a chef and perhaps this attitude towards its preparation combined with the lack of association with a religious ritual had something to do with its tastiness and flavour?  Words can’t describe how delicious that piece of trout was. Unfortunately, it wasn’t from the Sea of Galilee itself, but it certainly has made a difference in my attitude towards eating fish in the future.

It is my prayer today for freedom in our memories and a quiet yet strong healing our hearts and minds and their somewhat unfortunate (and at times overpowering) association with food.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the freedom and love that you bring through allowing us to all have our quirks and foibles and attitudes towards food. We thank you for providing us with so much food in this earth to cater for our diverse palates and menus. But most of all, thank you for providing us with new mercies each morning to enable us to walk forwards and forget about the pains associated with food from our past.  Help us and forgive us Lord for the times we have allowed our memories to prevent us from moving onwards. Crush the fear in our hearts with your love. Amen.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Lamentations+3%3A22-23&version=NIV

Listen to:  Angus & Julia Stone:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDiCXmERp7Y&list=PL3B4CAA77361F7D49

Eating together in eateries…

Eateries in Nazareth

All human beings need food, clean water and shelter but here in the Middle East, cooking can seem too much after a day at work or travelling through heat-filled lands and buying produce to cook for one can prove expensive. 

Thankfully, we have many eateries where people gather to fill their bellies up on local produce and, in turn, repair their souls whilst chatting, sharing, encouraging, laughing and burping.

Recently, I had the pleasure of eating a delicious shwarma in a family run restaurant in Nazareth. These jolly bunch of Arabs were delighted to show me their home made pickled vegetables and flatbreads. I also witnessed a fiery rant between those two brothers which thankfully seemed to resolve itself quite quickly when I flashed a smile and started to ask them to ‘shawaya shawaya’ in my dodgy Arabic.

Within a few days, I found myself stuffing my face with a yummy chicken curry in Christchurch Café, Jerusalem, prepared by a group of volunteers, of which religious persuasion I am unsure and quite honestly don’t really care about as this didn’t seem to affect the goodness of the tasty feed I enjoyed.

In spite of what the media would wish us to believe, in this part of the world, we seem to all be sitting around a large, round table where we chat to (and thank God for) our Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Atheist and Agnostic brothers and sisters who are all lovingly and happily sharing their culinary skills and expertise with one another.

Drinks:  Diet Coke in Nazareth; still water & too many creamy cappuccinos in Jerusalem.

Some love tunes to listen to whilst perhaps drinking a 2011 Dalton Cabernet Sauvignon from Galileehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_RqDOaUS6M

Lord, in spite of the differences in how we perceive and express our thoughts towards you, thank you that you are both greater than that and much more forgiving than we could ever imagine. Help us to love one another and grow in inviting those whom we consider to be different to us in to our lives and our homes to share the food you give us. May we also grow in the courage to walk lovingly towards the homes and lives of those whom we may consider too difficult or different to share our experiences and love with them. Help us, Lord. Please, graciously help us. Amen.