Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Swiss Family Robinson vs. Jenny Montross

I've recently finished reading The Swiss Family Robinson and if you haven't read it already, I highly recommend it. It's a fairly fun and easy read but it has a lot of value to it as well. But be forewarned, this post will be a bit of a spoiler to the book.

When we came here, just about everything was already set up for us. My MIL and SIL had found us a rental house, had it completely cleaned and furnished it and add some decorative touches as well as ordering a new car from the factory, all before we got here. (Think they were excited or what?!?) All we had to do is get a few things like fridge (There was one here which we had bought last time we came for a visit but it was small for our present needs.), washer, oven and a few odds and ends here and there. In comparison, we arrived here very much like the Swiss Family Robinson arrived on their little island paradise. Their wrecked ship contained everything they could possibly need materials and livestock wise. Heck, they even had decorative items for the many homes they built.

By contrast, Jenny Montross was the lone survivor of her ship wreck to land on the island and managed to survive on her own for three years without much more to work with than a change of men’s clothes and some knives. Now, she had survival skills!

Our return to the US will not be quite as dramatic as Jenny’s story but we’ll be going back without a place to live or a car or much of anything else unless it fits in our 10 suitcases (and probably a few boxes of books shipped back the other way :D ). Friends will pick us up from the airport, we’ll probably stay in a hotel for a bit until we find an apartment or more likely a townhouse to rent short term while looking for a house and renting a van while looking for one to buy. DH has his job still so no worries there but we’ll pretty much be starting over from scratch. On the plus, we’re better off than many people who have been struck by tragedy such as losing everything in a fire or natural disaster so, I can’t really complain. I just find the contrast interesting. Also on the plus side, I get to make lots of fun purchases to set up housekeeping again and I’m wiser now to know what I really need and don’t need and what I like and don’t like.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The girls

I've posted a few pics of the boys lately so here is one of the girls, showing off their loose teeth. Yes, even my little 4 year old has a loose tooth!

Clearer picture

Some months ago, I compared my experiences in Iran to the movie Castaway, not so much because of the isolation or (preceived) primitive conditions but because of my need to adapt and change to the new environment. Now I know that lots of people have this notion that Iran is backward and primitive because of this status as a Third World country, but that's image is far from the truth. All of the latest, greatest technology is available if you've got the money from cell phones to big screen tvs to video screens for your car. There's been a huge increase in the last 10 years in the number of new cars on the road.

The difference it seems to me is not so much what's available but who sells it. There are very few places here that could be compared to the big box retailers in the US. Most places here are single stores run by individuals or families; which means that the products offered depend on the preferences of the owners and their customers or what they decide to stock up on at any given time. So, if you’re looking for something specific you may have to go more than one or two places to find it. Often having the stores run by individuals or families results in them being more customer-oriented.

A great example of this happened a few weeks ago. Here, the government subsidizes milk production but limits the number of liters sold to each store. Milk is delivered daily except on Fridays so if you don’t pick up milk by Thursday afternoon, you’re usually out of luck until Saturday. Now, you can stock up a bit but the milk here isn’t as heavily homogenized as in the US so the fat starts to separate after a couple of days, which the kids hate. One Thursday night after visiting the in-laws I realized we needed milk. There are four small grocers in my in-laws neighborhood, two of which are very friendly. We stopped at my dh’s favorite and he asked if they had any milk left. This was about 10 p.m. so of course they were out but the owner told dh to wait a minute and went a got 2 liters of milk from his own house for us since we’ve “got kids”. Now, how often do you think that would happen anywhere else?

Homeschoolers' quiz

This is just a cute little quiz that’s fun for homeschoolers but also gives non-homeschoolers an idea of the diversity in the homeschooling community based on the multiple choice answers available.

And in case you’re wondering, eclectic is exactly how we homeschool. A little of this, a little of that but all pretty relaxed.

Mr. Potato Head You have your ideal of how things should look, but you’re flexible enough to allow for change. You are not bothered by changing methods, mid-course if necessary. You use an eclectic combination of curriculum sources.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hafiz's tomb

One of the tourist sites here is Shiraz is the tomb of one of Iran's world famous poets, Hafiz. The marble tomb is under that circular canopy. On the underside of the canopy is tile work similar to that seen throughout Iran. Quite beautiful and very intricate. An interesting part of the "tourist" experience is the 2 or 3 men that hang around outside the entrance with little birds that pull out small colored sheets of paper from little tins. They're a bit like fortune cookies. On the papers are a snippet of Hafiz's poetryand sometimes a verse from the Quran. Between the two they give some vague indication of what your future may hold.

We're looking to be back in the states around the end of Sep. but may wait a week or so more as it would mean about $500 in saving on airline tickets during "low season." The downfall of this possiblity is that we would be traveling during Ramadan. Since we would be traveling, we wouldn't be fasting but would have to make up the day later. I was hoping for a couple of days to get settled before the beginning of Ramadan but we'll be doing everything at once this year.

For those that don't know-Ramadan is the month of fasting. From sunrise to sunset during 1 lunar month, muslims don't eat or drink anything, they are supposed to watch what they say and see (no lies or gossiping, not watching or listening to anything bad). The point behind Ramadan is to help you set aside worldly concerns and renew your spiritual side while reminding you first hand the hardships that far too many people on this planet endure everyday because of poverty or famine. The lunar calendar is 11 days shorter than the Roman calendar so Ramadan moves up a bit each year. When I first started fasting 11 years ago, Ramadan was in Feb.; this year it begins at the end of Sep. Young children, people who are sick or travelling and women who are pregnant or nursing are not required to fast. The beginning and ending of the month of Ramadan are determined by the sighting of the new moon. The end of Ramadan is marked by a celebration called Eid al-Fitr. On Eid, everyone gathers at the mosque for special prayers. (It looks alot like a church service during Christmas or Easter, where there are many new faces that are rarely ever seen during the rest of the year.) The kids all get gifts and most people wear new clothes and just generally celebrate. In bigger communities, there are usually festivals set up at convention centers or other large locations where there is a bazaar, games and rides for kids and plenty of food. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 12, 2006

My sneaky little boy

Being the clever little boy that he is, Reza spotted an unattended box of bakery goodies, put it off the table and dug in! At least these are better than some of the things he's sampled from around the house. ;)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Real Estate

I've been spending much of my free time and nearly all of my internet time lately looking for a house to buy and a place to rent (for between when we get there and when we can actually close on a house) that's why I've been quiet lately. The housing market in Northern VA is expensive! For a 3 BR single family house the prices START at $450,000 and that is for houses built nearly 40 years ago on less than a quarter acre! We're considering moving further out but that would mean at least a 2 hour commute for dh each day, one way! Fortunately, he can work from home up to 2 days a week but still. I know that would be really hard on him. Not sure that a newer, somewhat bigger house on a bit of land is worth it for him to have to do that. (Although there are alot of people that he works with that have insane commutes. One guy drives all the way from Pennsylvania!)

I haven't finished June's blue mini or started on July's purple. It looks like both will have to wait. The heat (similar to what much of the US is experiences according to everyone's blogs) and the impending move have sucked away my drive to get much sewing done. Couple that with getting Mustafa working through some 2nd grade work so that next year's homeschooling will be easier and I just don't have much extra time. He repeated 1st grade here because we were worried it would be hard on him to jump into 2nd grade with his limited Farsi so now he gets to do 2 years in one. No big deal though since he was well above grade level in everything except language arts so we're really not doing that much catch up work.

So, instead of any interesting quilt pictures I thought I'd show pictures from the property that we bought here a month or so ago. The first is the property itself, then views to the right and in front of it. That's Mustafa trying to duck out of the picture. He hates to have his picture taken, hates to talk on the phone or write a letter but sit down with him and he'll explain all about solar systems, dinosaurs, air planes, or just about anything to do with science. And his Farsi is getting good enough to explain in either language. Ok, enough bragging.I'll try to post again soon as I'm hoping to hit more of the "tourist" sites before we leave and I'll try to get some pics to share. (Now, if only the heat would let up.)

Note: The morning we took these pictures, I thought we were getting up and out SO early, before 6:15 but wouldn't ya know as we were driving over to meet dh's parents we saw tons of people already out enjoying picnic breakfasts, many obviously having already been there for quite a while! Posted by Picasa