7 Weeks, 13 Cities, 10 Suitcases and One Cadillac

flying into LAX summer 2014

En route from Hong Kong to Dubai, as everyone slept, a window of stillness appeared.

Our seven official weeks of summer vacation were over. A bit uncertain what the future will bring, this summer we prepared for transitions.  Meeting new people, we cracked open the doors of possibility.

Landing in Los Angeles, our journey started in Manhattan Beach enjoying the warm Pacific coast summer. Ace and Mark’s long-lost triplet convinced them sleeping in the garage was the height of coolness while Suzanne enjoyed her completely silent, hotel room.

barnstable and sandwich town line

We flew to Boston, spent July Fourth on Cape Cod and visited Barnstable, the town my first English ancestor landed in in 1630. Journeying north we visited our friends’ beach front house on the Beverly Glen shore. That set the stage for our whirlwind tour of New England boarding schools through towns with classic East coast names – Deerfield, Windsor, Farmington, Suffield and Wallingford.

flying over potomac and madeira school grounds

Leaving Hartford, we flew into our beloved Washington National to Arlington where our children were born. As Arlington gentrified, we felt so at home there. It was an ancestral connection. My Scot-Irish ancestors had settled along the Potomac. The land called to Suzanne too. She loved the hills, the river, and declared Virginia is where she wants to go to school.

Finishing the East coast school tour, we ventured further into the deep South, to steamy Georgia.

When I was a child, my father appreciated Georgia’s dense forests where a man could lose himself. He found love and built a life there. Growing up my sister and I visited his one-stoplight town during the summers. Returning home, I described the Red Velvet cake my southern step-mother baked to my friends who had never heard of such a delight.

Of all places in world, our expat friends from Bahrain migrated to a Georgia town that even my father used to call “country”. We pulled into their neighborhood, and if it wasn’t for the cicadas, I would have sworn we were in a Virginia development. As the kids instagrammed, my friend and I practiced our yoga in her thriving studio.

Saying good-bye and moving to my father’s, I drove the new byway lined with the requisite CVS and Kroger shopping malls before passing Jefferson. I noticed the signs pointed towards Old Town Road and the Old Swimming Pool Road. It finally dawned on me when I reached the Old School Road that I needed to turn back.

Winding past the new two-story houses with central air, I knew the backwoods of Georgia had been invaded by Yankees and others. Just before my father’s driveway, the city council had posted a sign informing the new “tourists” they had arrived in Historic Jefferson. My father was officially a relic.

overlooking Santa Barbara and Channel Islands

Returning to California, we left Los Angeles’ millions of cars behind and unpacked our bags in Santa Barbara. There we relaxed as the morning breeze carried the fog’s coolness. After a couple days shopping, picking avocados and distilling rose water, I left the kids in my husband’s care.

I followed PCH to Venice and dropped my bags in a renovated flop house a block from the beach. Venice has also gentrified since I was a teenager. Along Main Street, there was a Robert Graham men’s store. I was amazed to learn the now-hip Venice is where their only free-standing store is in all of California.

After practicing movement and meditation in Emilie Conrad’s Santa Monica Continuum Studio, I danced back north.

Together again, we continued our school visits.

Situated on a mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Los Padres mountains on the other, my children described the setting as “nice”.   After visiting Thacher with its impressive view of the Ojai Valley, we drove through orange tree farms for a quick stop at famed Lulu Bandha yoga studio then ate pizza made with garden fresh vegetables.  Once again, the kids said,

“It is pretty but we prefer the East Coast.”

In Santa Barbara, we met old friends and got an intimate, close-up of actress, now singer, Minnie Driver. The annual Fiesta marked the end of our visit with a parade and mariachis.

Packing a full mini-van, we headed south to our home-away-from-home in Newport Beach. The owner texted me saying this fall they will be tearing it down, leaving us homeless next summer. With friends and family, we celebrated our final year and toasted the unknown future.

saying goodbye in Newport Beach

Just before closing the front door, we placed a framed, family-selfie on a table. Like the summer, we are gone, but not forgotten.

POST SCRIPT

This summer many asked me whether I had unfriended them from Tales of Dragons, Rabbits and Roosters. No one was excluded; I was not writing.

Delving deeper into my yoga practice, I am embarking on a mission to study yoga in its original Sanskrit at Loyola Marymount University.  As I want to relieve my mind of other writing responsibilities and to be with my children before they leave home, I am taking a hiatus from Tales of Dragons, Rabbits and Roosters. If I feel inspired I will post, but I will not be blogging full-time.

I send you gratitude for reading my posts. I encourage you to follow your hearts and to experience this beautiful world with all its diversity and cultures. May you fly like a dragon and befriend all the roosters you meet.

With blessings,
Eva the Dragon

Advertisements

Making Room for New Wives, New Stories

holy land mount nebo jordan by eva the dragon 2013 When God told Moses “Behold you are about to sleep with your father,” Moses quickly finished writing down his book of laws.  After finishing his final sermon to his people, God told him,

“Ascend this mountain of Abarim, Mount Nebo which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho; and view the land of Canaan….and die on the mountain you ascend.” Deuteronomy 32:48-50

Depositing my poor sick friend at another host’s house, my Irish friend and I continued to Mount Nebo so, like Moses, she could view the entire Holy Land before she died.

I first ascended Mount Nebo several years ago.  At that time, we simply walked up small road, past the boys selling chocolate and bottles of water, to the old Byzantine Church. Standing on the balcony built facing west, the sky was filled with dark grey clouds. As we looked across the Dead Sea to Jericho, a few clouds split open and the sun’s rays streamed through highlighting the small piece of earth causing such turmoil. It was a powerful moment. Both my husband and I felt it was a Divine experience.

This time I easily found my way by following the government signs posting the road to Mount Nebo. We parked in the nearly full lot outside the newly constructed gate. While my friend gathered her things, I said “Salam” to the group of guards manning the Guard House and a Jordanian guide and walked through. I began taking panoramic photos of the entire valley. Behind me, footsteps crunched on the gravel.

“Madam, madam,”

I turned.

It was a short, brown-uniformed security guard and the guide in a sparkling-white thobe.  He was very tall and carried a long, goat-herding stick. They came up alongside me, a little too close.

“Madam you must buy a ticket.”

“Really? That is new. I apologize. How much is it?”

“One JD.”

I rummaged through my bag. I only had twenties, fifties and hundreds. I offered my twenty. The man shook his head. “You don’t have one JD?”

“Sorry, maybe my friend does.”

The man came closer. Too close. His closeness was not respectful. He pointed down the hill.

“You see the big tree? That is Mousa’s spring. There he took his stick and opened the rock. Sweet water comes from the spring. If you want later, I can take you.”

Mousa is Arabic for Moses. Very interesting. I had never been there before. At the end of the curvy road, cars were parked near the leafy tree. I could see flashes of color as children played in the stream.  After seeing the church, we would go, but not with this man.

“No thank you. I am a very good driver. My Pajero can make it down the road.”

“Where are you from? UK?”

“No. America.”

“Ahh America. I have always wanted an American wife,” he smiled. Again, he moved too quickly to intimate matters. It was aggressive.

“I am sure,” I said. “American wives are very popular. We are very independent and know how to make money.”

His eyes brightened with appreciation. “

Yes, I am looking for an American wife.”

“So did my husband. And he got me.”  I thought that would stop them. The man in the thobe piped in.

“I have three wives. I can have one more wife. I would like an American wife.”

Time to teach them a lone woman was not an invitation.

“My husband has three wives too,” I told him. His eyes nearly popped out of his head.

“Yes, my husband is Saudi. Right now he has three wives. Me and the other wives are tired. We want him to marry an American wife.”

“Your husband is from Saudi Arabia?” I nodded. “I am first wife. I have given my husband three children. Two boys and a girl. The other wives are pretty, but they are, well, not so good like me. We are looking for a new wife.”

The man nodded in understanding and appreciation. The security guard was watching me.

“How can I get an American wife?” the guard asked. He stepped back a respectful distance.

“You must look on the internet. Lots of people find someone on the internet. There are many websites for good Muslim girls. Put up your photo and I am certain you will find someone here in Jordan.”

“I want an American wife. Can you help me find one?”

“No, no. American women are very particular who we marry. He must be a man with very high standing. He must have a good job. He must be able to buy a house. It is very difficult to find an American woman to come to live in Jordan.”

“I speak English. I have a good job.”

“It will be very hard for you to find an American woman. But maybe,” I shrugged my shoulders.  “Try the internet.”

“Your daughter, how old is she?”

“Absolutely not.  She is too young to be a wife.  She is smart and must go to university.  Besides we are very careful who our daughter will marry.”

“I am a good man.”

“I am certain you are. But we do not know you. You would have to fill out an application, tell us all about your family, your history, your job. Only the best man will marry our daughter.”

“I work for government. I have a salary.”

Too much. Time for the hammer.

“You are a security guard. My husband is a business man.  He would never allow it.  And you smoke. Look – your teeth are brown. I would never let my daughter marry a man who smokes. You will die early and leave your wife and children all alone. Who would take care of her?  Absolutely not.  My daughter will NOT marry a smoker.”

“Please help me find an American wife.”

“No.  I am first wife. I know who is a good wife and who is a good husband. American women like men with shiny white teeth and who are healthy.  Look at you.” I pointed to his large belly. “You must find someone who will take a man like you.”

Finally my friend arrived carrying two tickets. I laid my right hand on my heart.

“Shukran. Masallamah my friends. I pray that Allah blesses you with a good wife.

“Wives? What was that all about?” my friend asked.

“Laying down the law. Those men needed an ass-kicking.

Enjoying Jordan?  For more, click through to All the amazing sites from the Bible and ancient history you can find in Jordan. Jordan – The Holy Land Museum The Land of Shared Ancestors More About Moses’ family and exploring Petra

To Hire A Man or Not – Being assigned our Pajero at the Queen Alia Airport

Interested in Oman?  Click through to Touring Oman – First Stop Fanja

Or riding the train to France? click through to Don’t Pick Me Up – Eurostar Evaesdropping

Or life on a small desert island? – Read A Day in the Life of Unexpected Coincidences

Magician And Mystic – May 29 at La Fontaine

Magician&Mystic May 29 La Fontaine

La Fontaine’s public love affair with Ibn-Battuta‘s travel, Sufi mysticism, and ancient lands continues.  May 29 under the stars explores modern Turkey and India with an eye to the past.

Still can’t find La Fontaine?  Here’s a link to a map.

 

Cheese Versus Beans

I am comparing the UNHCR refugee lunch to the Wadi Rum, sack lunch my Bedouin guide gave me when I was in Jordan.

We both got tuna.  What I wondered was whether Zach and Chris had a guide who taught them how to use the tuna can lid as a knife?

As a paying tourist, I got an imported apple and plastic plate.  And my lunch was all mine.  I didn’t share my cheese with anyone.

Looking at the refugee lunch, it struck me, is it possible a family of four can live on that can of beans?

You can read all about Zach and Chris eating their lunch at Registering as Refugees.

 ABOUT SALAM NEIGHBOR

What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach launched Salam Neighbor. They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach are living alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!

www.salamneighbor.org

Facebook Saints and Mobsters

gold shoes and sandal close to petra cliff edge by evathedragon 2013

My photo collection began after my grandmother gave me my first Kodak Instamatic camera.  Processed at the drive-through Foto-mat, a lifetime of pictures are mounted in albums with sticky backs and plastic covers.  Stored in our spare bedroom closet, the photos have faded but you can still tell who the characters are.

They are my personal treasures – both for the memories and for their value.  Half-jokingly, I have threatened my friends with,

“If I ever find out someone says something rotten about me, I will post these to Facebook.”

While in Jordan, I found a kindred spirit in our young, Bedouin guide, Mazan.

After my friend loaned her camera to him, his professional demeanor dissolved into a child’s joy. He scampered around the cliffs recording choice moments for digital posterity.

petra cliff walking by eva the dragon 2013

Joumaa conned Louise into crossing a tiny ledge along the Petra cliffs.  She cursed and nearly fainted but made it across.  When we stopped to regain our composure, Mazan nudged my elbow and asked for my camera.  I could not tell what he was looking at but I figured it must be interesting.

He started snapping photos, then shouted something in Arabic.  I recognized one word – Facebook.

“What do you see?” I shaded my eyes and squinted.

balcony scene from petra version romeo and juliet by evathedragon 2013

He placed his hands on my ears and moved my head.  Across the canyon, like Romeo and Juliet, two, star-crossed, Bedouin teenagers, sat alone on top of the cliff.

Mazan took more photos and shouted again, “something, something, something Facebook.”

Facebook is going to turn all of us into either saints – or mobsters.

Salam Neighbor – Hello Neighbor

1001Media Mohab Khattab Salam Neighbor leaving for Jordan to film

I just dropped my Mojo off at the airport.  Carrying two extra bags of winter clothes, he is on his way to Jordon.

His first stop is Amman to meet American filmmakers, Zach Ingrasci, Chris Temple and Sean Leonard, the creators of  Living on One.  They flew in from California.

Why?

Zach and Chris want to say “Salam Neighbor” to the 570,000 Syrian refugees.

On January 19th, he will drive them and their Jordanian translator, Ibraheem, north, five miles past the Zaatari Refugee Camp, to the Syrian/Jordanian border.  There, in the middle of the wintery desert, he will drop them off, and they will walk away with the clothes on their back and a camera.

You might be asking, “What kind of evil plot is he involved in?”

The Jordanian government and the UN have given Zach, Chris, Sean, and Ibraheem permission to become a refugee for the next month.  Like a half-million Syrians, they will walk away from the bombs to the the fourth largest city in Jordan, the Zaatari Refuge Camp.  Joining the long-line, they will be checked in, given an UNHCR tent, a ration card and, maybe, a blanket.  Sean will film everything and post to YouTube.

Why have they given this opportunity when international reporters have not?

Because these extraordinary, twenty-somethings proved in Living on One that they are willing to take themselves out of their comfort zone and live in unimaginable circumstances.

The state of Syria is currently unimaginable.  And the refugees keep crossing into Jordan.  No one knows how or when it will end.  No one knows what these young men are going to encounter.  Security measures have been put into place but Zach and Chris want the full experience: getting tossed out of their home; crossing a border; and setting up a new life in a UN refugee camp.

Salam Neighbor is not just a film, but a social action campaign.  Generous donors will give $1 for every Facebook LIKE.  The funds will be distributed between UNHCR, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee

On January 19, they will leave Amman and journey north.  Zaatari will be their home-away-from-home until just after Valetine’s Day, February 15th.  

I invite you to stay abreast of how Zach and Chris fare during this winter. They are already tweeting @livingonone and put up blogs on their website.

You can participate by sharing Salam Neighbor on your FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts.  And in your nightly prayers, send your wishes for Salam to the Syrian refugees and their Jordanian hosts.

ABOUT SALAM NEIGHBOR AND LIVING ON ONE

What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach have just launched Salam Neighbor.

They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach will live alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!

www.salamneighbor.org

The Majlis – Public Salam

In Arabic, majlis means a place for sitting.

In the Gulf, all important or connected people have a majlis, a ring of chairs that is opened for anyone to enter and sit with the King, the business man or the esteemed, religious leader.  Upon entering, you are expected to walk around the entire gathering and great everyone individually before taking your place at the end of the line.  One by one, each visitor gets an opportunity to chat with the host.  It is a kind of town meeting where congratulations are given, grievances are expressed or issues discussed.

Of course, fitted for a King, a royal majlis is grand.

But anyone can create a majlis.

majlis one bench by side of the road by eva the dragon

It starts with a bench set along the street or in any open spot.  Someone sits down and calls out, Salam a lay kum – “PEACE be upon you” – to the passerby.

Like Jesus in John 20:19, the receiver responds with “PEACE be with you” – Ah lay kum a Salam.

Greeting someone with PEACE clears the air of any shared negativity.  Without any animosity or grievances, a second chair appears because now there is space for a conversation.

Shlow-nik is the local greeting after Salam.  Like a mood ring, the majlis holder literally asks, “What is your color today?”

I interpret the greeting as a way to express feelings without actually calling them forth.  An unpaid psychiatrist, the listener does not have to engage in the situation.  He lends an ear and responds with haram, masha al’lah or mabruk confirming his understanding of the situation, but leaving all solutions and graces up to God.

Tea, sweets or whatever is on hand are offered because the next part will take awhile.

The conversation expands outward to others in your sphere of influence.  How your children, your mother, your father, your great-aunt, and how all the extended relatives are fairing must be addressed.  To a 21st century Westerner accustomed to getting down to business, it feels like a lot of time is wasted talking about irrelevant people.  But to the Arab, our lives are intertwined with our family, our tribe.  Meeting one is coming into contact with the entire tribe.

It is only after we understand the other’s state of mind and their current family situation and after any physical discomfort caused from hunger or thirst has been eased that we are ready to discuss Matters.

majlis with satellite dishes dragons rabbits and roosters

In the village near our house,  over several weeks, I watched a man create a majlis.  It started with two plastic chairs set up in the vacant lot across the street from his house.  An old sofa was added, then a second.  An extension cord was pulled across the street to run a popcorn maker.  A third sofa appeared and because it was summer, a large fan.  It only took a few weeks before a satellite dish was added and outdoor lights.  Despite the nearby altercations between the villagers and the police, nothing was ever covered or stolen.  It was a majlis.

Last summer in the USA, I noticed people living in beach towns created outdoor majlis.  In my grandparent’s small, Mid-Western town, the unfenced, front yard and porch was the equivalent.

A majlis can only exist where there are no walls, and someone invites you to sit in Peace.

Previous Older Entries

Archives

Tales by Chapter

%d bloggers like this: