Sunday, January 23, 2011


In my mail Friday, I found three letters! What a lift to my spirits. They were all from friends who want to stay in touch while I’m away in Morocco for the next couple of years. Apparently spontaneously, they all decided to initiate the letter-writing before I leave. What a treat!
I went right out and bought some index cards and an index card  box so that I can keep track of written communications (gotta have a system!). Of course, now I have to write the replies. I spent the last couple of days in Grand Rapids with my older son, Robin, and his family. That’s my excuse for not having done so already. And a friend invited me over to watch the Chicago-Green Bay playoff game today….okay, so maybe I’ve procrastinate a little. But they’ll be in the mail tomorrow. Promise.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Learning Arabic (ensha'llah)

As part of my Peace Corps preparation, I’m studying Arabic. I just finished going through a workbook on the Arabic script. It’s challenging but satisfying. Right now, I’m still at the novice level, sort of like a second grader just beginning to learn cursive. It’s slow and paintstaking. It’s almost as if I have to draw each character, rather than write it.  I have two more months before I leave, so I hope to improve my facility considerably by then.

My next (and more important) challenge is the language itself, which I’ve barely begun. I listened to the tutorials the Peace Corps provided us, and I said, “Whoa, I’m not gettin’ this.” That’s when I turned back to the script. I’m a visual person. And hands on. The script is important for me to make the mental connections.
Some people just like to just leap right into the spoken language, but I don’t do well (or as well) with just that. I like grammar, too! Go figure.

The Arabic in the title is a common expression - God willing - used whenever talking about plans for the future. Given the number of changes in my Peace Corps program so far, perhaps I should include that in the heading of my blog as well!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another Test

Son Joe and I spent the day in Grand Haven yesterday. When we got home, about 4:30, the cottage was cold, 52 degrees. The pilot light was out on the furnace, so I tried, unsuccessfully, to relight it. I was about to call our plumbing/heating guy, when I remembered that my ex had called two days earlier saying our propane supplier had phoned and said they couldn’t deliver because the road into the cottage area was icy. I checked the propane tank. Empty. This should never have happened, because we’re on an auto-fill contract, but it had.

I called the gas company. The best they could do – they said – was deliver within 24 hours. I was not pleased with that answer and this time did call our plumbing/heating guy to see if he had any recommendations on another company that would come out. He told me it was a futile search – they wouldn’t fill a competitor’s tank – and the best bet, as long ours was going to do it in 24 hours – was to get a couple of electric heaters and hunker down. He then, graciously, offered to loan me some of his. I drove into town to his shop and picked them up. By now it was 6:30, the outside temperature had sunk to 20, and the weather was getting really bad. When I got back to the cottage, I put one in the TV room, and one in each of the bedrooms, cranked them up and shut the doors. They became quite manageable – low 60s, probably. Joe and I microwaved some leftovers and watched a couple of movies (The American and The New Star Trek). By the time we went to bed (about 12:30) the temp in the rest of the house had dropped to 42.

I slept well and awoke at 7:00. Even though it was still dark, I knew immediately we’d had a big snow because it was stuck in the screens and piled on the mullions of the doors. I turned the outside light on as I let Jack out and watched him trudge through 8-10 inches of powder. Outside, the temperature was 10 degrees. The house, amazingly, was still not that bad, just under 40 degrees. I was doing all right in that without a jacket - only a heavy fleece and a stocking cap to keep my bald pate warm. It took me about an hour and a half to shovel the deck and stairs and by then the sun was peering above the dunes to create one of the more glorious mornings I’ve ever experienced. As the sun's rays hit the water of the Lake, tendrils of vapor started rising, eventually forming a cloud that sat down on the surface of the water about a quarter mile offshore. Overhead the sky was a piercing clear blue.

The propane truck arrived about 11:00. I was happy to hear the driver say that he should have been called out last night and that we wouldn’t be charged an emergency delivery or a pressure test fee because they should not have allowed the tank to go empty. By 11:30 the furnace was cranking out the heat again, and we were feeling pretty comfy.

And the test?

My patience, of course. But I did keep it.

But the one I was really thinking about was living without central heat, living in the cold. I doubt I’ll have electric heaters in Morocco, but this nevertheless convinced me that I can deal with the cold as long as I dress right.