America, Asia, Culture, History, Travel

Good Question

I literally feel like I’m dusting the cobwebs off of this whole blog thing. I’ve had good intentions. I always have good intentions. It’s on my list of best qualities on my resume’. Right under “go getter” and right above “proficient with Microsoft Word”

What happened is: October. It was the busiest month our business has ever experienced. So, I sat down in my office chair, buckled in, and rode it out. 

The last time I wrote something was on October 17. A lot has happened since then. 

– The Cubs won the World Series. (I was in Chicago on the day that went down, and I’ve never seen more sports fans in my life) 

-Trump became our president-elect. (Equally crazy, I stayed up wayyyy too late watching that coverage) 

– I went to Shanghai (which I didn’t even post anything about, how’d that happen?) 

Here’s a quick pic from rush hour in Shanghai, I’ll write more about it later. Promise.

– And finally, we got some new [massive] screen printing equipment, which they sent a tech out to install. 

His name is Walt. We’ve met once before. He came in and said: do you remember me? 

Yes, I remember you, Walt. 

He’s nice and he likes my music. He’s almost done with the install and I’m currently hiding behind a stack of t-shirts, hoping he’ll quit chit chatting and leave so I can go eat dinner. That pretty much sums up how my day has been. 

Pieces of the machine we got

It seems like everyone thinks that owning a business is the ideal set up, the “American Dream”. You get to set your own hours! Mine were 7 am – 6:30 pm today, so that’s how that works, in case anyone was wondering. Not ideal. Everyone thinks you live a life on easy street, but somehow I got stuck around the corner at “this is hard and I don’t know exactly what I’m doing and it takes more time and energy and patience than I ever imagined” avenue. I’m still wandering around with my map, so I’ll let you know when I find this easy street everyone loves so much. 

I’m really not that cynical. It’s definitely got it’s own unique perks and challenges. Like conducting job interviews. Perk because you get to evaluate the people you’re going to work with. Challenge because I’ve never personally been through a job interview. 

That’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of jobs. I’ve done the standard babysitting, lawn mowing routines when I was in school. I worked at my uncle’s local drug store through high school. But, that didn’t really require a job interview. It was more that the phone was ringing while I was there and I started answering it and I knew how to do what the customer needed, so I just did it and started turning in my hours. 

I also did a typical Arkansas job for awhile: working on a chicken farm. If you ever want to know about a dirty job, go work on a chicken farm. But, farm jobs don’t usually require an interview either. 

As we were getting ready to interview a potential employee, Jake told me to prepare my questions that I wanted to ask. So, I spent some time thinking about it over a couple days, trying to figure out what I needed to know about this guy, what things would most effect the way he and I would cohesively work together. I compiled my list and Jake compiled his, so when he asked me if I knew what I wanted to ask, I was ready. 

I’ve heard interviews are stressful, but the interview day came and I wasn’t nervous at all. The poor guy we were interviewing was. I know that because he came in and told us that. We talked for a few minutes before we got down to the questioning. Then, Jake began. 

When you haven’t done something before and have no precedent for you should proceed, you just figure out your pace as you go along. So, he and I switched off on our questions. 

Jake: “what are the skills that qualify you for this job?”

-a pertinent question, pretty basic, one you’d expect

Brittney: “what is your favorite historical era?”

-also a very pertinent question. I can tell a lot about a person by their favorite historical era. If you like ancient Chinese dynasties, we probably aren’t going to get each other very well. His answer: Middle Eastern history. That’s a pass, I can be fine with that. Not the best answer he could’ve given me, but it’s okay. 

Jake : “what were your requirements at your last job?” 

-straightforward, to the point. 

Brittney: “what’s your favorite food?” 

-again, tells a lot about a person. You could pretty much give me any answer and it would probably pass. Unless it’s Pop Tarts or French fries or some other boring thing like that. He said he wasn’t picky and liked pretty much everything. He obviously doesn’t know my personal definition for a person who “isn’t picky”, but I can’t fault him for that. In my mind though, I know he’s probably more picky than I would prefer. I’ll give him a very slight pass on that one. 

Jacob: “how many hours a week do you expect to work?”

-boring, but necessary question, I guess

Brittney: “what’s your favorite genre of music?”

-he said “rock”, which was too generic for me. I listen to music most of the day and my music choices annoy most people, so that was not a pass. 

Jake: do you have references?

-basic

Brittney: what was your least favorite class in college? 

-an Ancient Greek class. Interesting, I’ll give him that. So, point from me.

Jake proceeded with a few more questions that I didn’t really care about. I had all the information I needed. 

So, there it is, ya’ll can consider those cobwebs dusted. I’ve got good intentions to post more often now, but because we know how good intentions go, we’ll just play it by ear. 

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America, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, History

Surprise, Surprise

I’m not good at surprises. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. (pun totally intended) There are a lot of different reasons I could list for me not being good at surprising someone, but I’ll summarize it for you: 1) I’m not a good liar (which is typically an endearing quality, right?) and 2) I live in my own little world most of the time (which is fine except for you have to be pretty self aware to surprise someone) I have noticed though, that while these qualities make me terrible at surprising someone, they make me a great candidate to be surprised.                                                                                         

However, my whole family seemed to overlook this list of factors when they chose me and my brother to be in charge of taking my grandma to her surprise birthday party. Really, the best idea would’ve been for them to not tell me what was going on either and we both could’ve been surprised.

                                                                                                                                   

I really did a pretty good job, I think. I went over, in my mind, a list of safe topics to steer the conversation towards that didn’t involve anyone else who was in town for the party. I was cool and casual. I had a story as for why I was dressed up. And, she arrived at the party almost on time. I count that as a roaring success on my part. 

                                                                                                                                   

Today is my Grandma Connie’s birthday. I won’t tell you her age, however I will show you this picture and let you guess. 

                                                                                                                                   

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And since today is her birthday, I wanted to tell you about her. Because if you don’t know her, you’re missing out. 

                                                                                                                                   

She’s definitely not your typical grandma type. Let’s just say: she’s very independent. She doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do and she always has an opinion she’s not shy to share. She’s headstrong and free willed. Basically: she’s a force to be reckoned with. 

                                                                                                                                   

She’s one of four kids and she had five daughters, who all had two children. As you can tell, we have a large family. Having raised five daughters, I feel like Grandma has some solid life advice. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite pieces of wisdom. 

                                                                                                                                   

1. Diamonds go with everything.

                                                                                                                                   

If you are questioning whether or not to wear your best jewelry, it is always a yes. This was said to me because I had changed from something dressy into something casual and still had on a necklace I had been wearing. I made a comment about how it clashed and she said “Brittney, I raised five girls and I told every one of them. ‘Girls, always remember: diamonds go with everything'” So, whether you’re going to a gala or just going to sleep, wear your best. Grandma’s orders. 

                                                                                                                                   

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Four of the five daughters at the party

                                                                                                                                   

2. Don’t waste your time with desserts that aren’t homemade. 

                                                                                                                                   

It’s not worth your time or calories. I feel like this same principle could be applied to a lot of different things in life. It’s about quality and time invested and effort.

                                                                                                                                   

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Three generations of homemade Rice Krispy makers

                                                                                                                                   

3. “Whether the wedding costs $5 or $5000, it either takes or it doesn’t.”

                                                                                                                                   

This obviously is dated because $5000 won’t buy you a very fancy wedding these days. But, she preaches this one quite a bit. It doesn’t matter what type of wedding you have, if the relationship isn’t solid to begin with, you’ve missed the point. I can attest to this because my parents eloped and they will be celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. Looks like Grandma was right about this one too. 

                                                                                                                                   

4. They can chew me up, but they sure can’t swallow me. 

                                                                                                                                   

This actually comes to us from my great Grandpa Teasley. So, she’ll always say: “Brittney, Dad always said… Then she’ll repeat this same quote to me every time. Thus, my memorization of it. Essentially, people can and will say what they want about you. But, ultimately, you’ve gotta stand up for what you believe in and ignore the haters. Grandma obviously didn’t say anything about ignoring the haters, that is my own personal summary of what she said. You’re welcome. 

                                                                                                                                   

There are so many more that I could talk about, and I know that I’ll think of 100 others after I post this. She’s a lady with a lot of sayings. But, sometimes it’s not the sayings that teach you the lesson, but rather the way the person lives. She instilled in us all the value of hard work, never looking down on someone else because of their status in life, but never thinking that anyone or anything was above you or out of your reach. She taught us to always look for a chance to give and help, to share what we have, and to be nice to people even when we don’t think they deserve it.

                                                                                                                                   

Grandma Connie is not perfect, she’ll be the first to tell you that. In fact, she told a joke the other day that made me blush. She’s that type of grandma. But, her life is a testimony to the lessons she’s taught. And quite a few of those lessons are worth taking note of. Surprise, surprise.

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America, Culture, History, Travel

For Free

On my way to the airport this morning, a man in the elevator asked me where I was from. He was from Texas, which I could tell before he even told me. Those Texas people, you can always just tell. When I told him I was from Northwest Arkansas, he said, “Oh, the pretty part of the state!” And he was immediately my friend. Atleast someone knows what’s up.  

Selfie on my final flight home

 
You know, I love a lot of things about traveling. There are some downsides. Currently, I’m sitting at the airport, having been delayed overnight in Chicago. So, I can definitely say there are downsides. But, the thing I love about traveling is perspective. 
We have no idea how many things we take for granted. I will be the first one to stand in that line and raise my hand. I have no idea. But, traveling gives you that perspective. It exposes you to new ways of thinking, to taking things as they come, to not always getting things your way. 
In America, we have so much more freedom than we know. We argue and banter about freedoms and the government trying to take away freedoms or be too free. But, the fact that we can even have these conversations, the fact that we can oppose or agree with whatever we want is, in itself, a freedom. We don’t even realize it. 
We don’t have to take things as they come. We can change, we can fight, we can protest. But, it’s not like that everywhere. 
I started out this post thinking I was going to write about the things I’ve realized I take for granted. Like ice (I love ice and they don’t have it in abundance in very many places), fresh milk, drinking water from the tap, hot water whenever you want it, clean streets, understanding the language, cereal, central heating, things like that. Little things, preferences that I don’t get when I travel. 
But, I think the bigger picture is freedom. You don’t know what you have until it’s taken away. You don’t truly know freedom until you’ve experienced restraint. I’m used to getting what I want. It’s the American way. I want it, I’m going to have it. Not everyone has this privilege. Don’t take it for granted. 

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History, Medicine, Middle East, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized

Checkmate

We’ve officially crossed into the Holy Land of Israel. I’ve crossed a few land borders: America to Canada, Hungary to Romania, and Germany to Poland. But, crossing from Jordan to Israel definitely reminds you that you’re in the Middle East. The security is tight. Which is good to know. It should be tight, especially in this part of the world. 
They sent my backpack through the x-ray scan, and when I came through the metal detector, I saw it had been held back and two people were discussing it. Not a good sign. They brought it over and started pulling everything out. Apples, phone chargers, my iPad, magazines, a scarf. Then, started the questions: where did you get the scarf? How much did you pay for it? What did you bring with you? What did you buy in Jordan? Finally, after they had flipped through every page of my Glamour magazine and my Bible, they declared I was not a security threat and let me in. 

Jake asked our bus driver where we could get a phone card for our wi-fi and the driver said, Bethlehem. So, we decided to follow a star and see where it took us. 

As it turns out, there wasn’t a wi-fi card to be found in Bethlehem. We did, however, find an inn with an open room. Ironic, right? 

  

We moved on to Jerusalem and found the card we needed there, then headed south toward the town we would stay in for the night. As is normal, I was sitting near the back of the bus, with my headphones on, so I had no idea where we were at. It was dark outside and dark in the bus, so to be honest, I didn’t care where we were. 

Apparently, in this darkness, we crossed from Israel into the West Bank (a shortcut to get us where we needed to go)  What I also didn’t realize was that when our bus came to the border to enter back into Israel, we would be checked. Again. 

Jake passed back my passport to me from the front of the bus and I was ready for the standard check. As the woman boarded our bus, she passed by a few people, not taking one look at their passports and picked one of the women on the bus to ask a couple questions to. There was a man behind her who followed and as he came closer, you could see his gun, not hanging casually by his side, but finger on the trigger and ready for aim at a moment’s notice.

The woman passed by everyone else and came right towards me. Immediately, she started firing questions at me. Where was I going? Where had I been? “Do you have a weapon, maybe?” How were all these people on the bus related? Were we all from the same church? The questioning ended with a search of my backpack. The very same bag that had been searched earlier in the day. So, out come the apples, scarf, snacks, cords, books, and everything all over again. Finally, she was satisfied and exited the bus without looking at anyone else. 

Are we there yet? 

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Culture, History, Middle East, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized

Trader Joe

The rumor is true. You can only float in the Dead Sea. It is seven times more salty and you literally just float like a bobber. There’s no swimming, just floating.   
This trip has been part mission, part sight seeing. So, today was a sight seeing day. We’ve been to Mount Nebo where Moses looked over the Promised Land, to an ancient Roman city that was part of the Decapolis that the Apostle Paul travelled through and by the river Jabbok where Jacob wrestled with the angel. 

City hall at Jerash

And to the Dead Sea, where we were covered with mud and dried out and floated around. My skin has never felt softer. You go out in the water so far until you can’t touch the bottom any more. It’s such a weird sensation to stay above the water without any of the effort of swimming. There were waves, but because you float, you can take your phone or camera out in the water and float around taking pictures. So, a selfie seemed appropriate. 

  
Along with touring comes souvenir shops, which are not my favorite. And this is the reason why:

  
They are always trying to dress me up. All I want to do is browse and I end up getting fully clothed in the local style. 

First, it was the Bedouin skirt. I tried to explain that I was fully aware how it was supposed to be worn, but he insisted on putting it on me anyway. 

Next, it was the Bedouin scarf. These are harder to tie and I didn’t ask for a demonstration. In fact, I hadn’t even looked at the scarves. But, he found one and brought it over and tied it on my head. 

  
Then, it was the face covering, just to complete the look. 

  
And the cherry on top, he brought out some Arabic kohl, which he put on my eyes to give me the real look. When he finished his work with the kohl pencil, I thought we were done and I could take off the garb and leave. Nope, not quite done yet. 

Let me explain who the Bedouins are. They’re tribal people who travel in caravans, making their home out of animal skin tents. They’re nomadic. They have herds of sheep and goats and camels, so they travel where the animals can graze. Let me give you a clearer picture: Abraham was the original Bedouin. As in Father Abraham. The one who had many sons. 

 

Bedouins at Petra

 
So, once I was dressed up in traditional Bedouin attire, the man asked my brother if I was his wife or girlfriend? (Take note: he didn’t ask me, he addressed the male, which is the norm in this culture) Jake said, no, I was his sister. Next question? 

How many camels will you take for her? 

I’ll shortcut the story for you. No deal was made, no camels were exchanged, but it left me with a question I’ve never asked myself before.

Just how many camels am I worth? 

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Culture, History, Missions, Religion, Travel

Second Story Room

Pictures seem to be a sensitive subject. I was told to ask if I wanted to take a picture of someone. I completely respect that and they return the favor. (For the most part. I have caught a few people taking pictures of me when I wasn’t looking. I don’t mind, it’s just a little odd. Which, I guess, is good to know how it feels) I don’t usually ask any of the women, but they don’t hesitate to ask me. One girl came up to me yesterday and asked to take my picture, so I posed with her while someone snapped it. But when I asked her if I could take one with mine, the answer was no. 

The women especially do not go for the photographs. Except for this one. I was told, rather than asked, that I was going to take a picture with her. Then, the person beside her was cleared out of their chair so I could sit down. And, the cameras were brought out. 

  
With all of that being said, I did take pictures of the Syrian families I visited. They were very willing to be photographed. However, since some of them shared so openly about their faith, I think it’s best not to attach pictures to all of their stories.

We entered a narrow alleyway, were led up two flights of stairs and welcomed into a small, bright room. Taking our shoes off and sitting down on the mats placed around the walls, we made ourselves comfortable and the story began. 

  
This is another Syrian family: a husband, wife and 4 young children. The youngest was just a newborn, only 24 days old. They have been in Jordan for 2 and a half years. They lived in the town in which the uprising started. The man was an Arabic teacher, the woman a high school chemistry teacher, both with college degrees and good jobs. They were surrounded by family, most of which are still in Syria. 

As we sit and talk to them, we are encouraged to ask questions. My same question for every family is always: how did you get here? Their town was close to the Jordanian border, so they walked. 10 miles with their small children. The boy was 5 months old at the time, their girls 2 and 4 years old. They took nothing with them, except a bag of medicine. No clothes, no personal belongings. Imagine loading up your small children and fleeing into the unknown. The Syrian army was shooting at them from a distance as the walked. 

Since this was at the beginning of the conflict, many people had decided to flee at the same time. They said their group totaled 700 adults and 200 children. It was a literal exodus. At evening, as they approached the border, three bombs exploded around them. But, they made it. 

Local families have ministered greatly to them and because of that, they have come to know Jesus. When the woman was asked what convinced her to believe, she said: “Jesus was the only one who said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one else said that. My background has only been confusion. This was clear to me.” 

God is love and in a place that violence and war and radicalism has wrought so much destruction, the love of Christ shines bright. “I read in the Bible about how Christ loved the world and came to give us eternal life.” What a light giving message that is to someone who has wandered in darkness for so long. 

When they were asked about the future, their response was one of faith. “The Kingdom of God is like a seed that has produced a large tree. We hide ourselves in that tree.” Come what may, their faith is sealed and they rest assuredly in that. 

War is obviously terrible. There are lives lost, hate spread, homes destroyed. What can be good in this? Is there anything at all that can come from something so awful? Yes. The Lord promises us in that He works ALL things together for our good. And that promise stands, even in times of war. At the end of our visit, they proved this to be true. “The only benefit from war is that we have learned of Christ and received eternal life.” 

The Lord’s work will prevail. Always. He is removing people from Syria and displacing them around the world, places they never dreamed they’d have to go. And He is placing people there to minister to their needs. Everything has been taken from them, but through the grace and love of Christ, they are receiving life they never knew of and a new home for eternity. 

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Culture, History, Missions, Religion, Travel

Out of the Blue

Beer and nuts. Not the snack I expected from a missionary. We arrived in Jordan a day early and the missionary invited us over to his house to meet his family.  

 
We started off with coffee and baklava. I love the opportunity to sit down with people one on one and hear their stories. This family is so warm and inviting, answering all of my questions and sharing their experiences. 
 
More family showed up to join in the festivities and more food was brought out: bowls of nuts and ashtrays, which I discovered were to put the shells from the seeds in. They asked me if I wanted a drink and the description was that it was like non-alcoholic beer. In my western mind, the thing I compared this to and thought they were trying to explain was root beer. So I told them that was fine. 
  
 They brought it out and I found that it was literally a non-alcoholic malt beverage that looked and smelled exactly like beer. They obviously were being completely literal in their translation. 

Visiting is a little bit of a vague term to me. Visit has always been synonymous to talk in my life. Like when my aunt would call my mom and they’d talk, that was referred to as “visiting”, just talking and catching up on life. Going for a visit meant going to someone’s house and doing that very same thing. 

So when the missionary asked if I wanted to go on home visits, I didn’t really know exactly what that would entail. As I loaded in the van with a couple of the leaders from our group, I learned that we would be going to the homes of Syrian refugees that are currently living here in Jordan. 

I’ve been hearing about Syrian refugees for months now on the news. About them escaping Syria, about countries deciding whether or not they’ll allow the Syrians to seek refuge within their borders, about government and politics and war. But, to be honest, I mostly ignored it. I didn’t really understand what was going on and I never took the time to learn about it. There was never any relevance for me. But, that has changed.

Syrian refugees aren’t a news headline, they aren’t politics. They’re people. People who have been displaced by violence. People who have had to leave their home, leave everything they own and move to a foreign land where they are given no rights and barely enough help to survive. 

So, I want to share their stories. 

This family fled Syria a year and a half ago. The husband and wife had a fruit and vegetable stand there, where they sold produce. They came to Jordan in a Jordanian army bus, which helped them flee from the fighting going on. They came with only the clothes on their backs, leaving everything and everyone behind. 

Mom and son

Her children are fortunately able to enroll in school here (only 25% of Syrian children are allowed into the Jordanian public school system). She and her husband, however, are not able to get jobs. They survive on 10 dinar per person per month. This is given similarly as food rations and is the equivalent of about $14. Their pricing is not too much different than ours in the U.S. so you can imagine how difficult it is for this family to survive. 

Their temporary home is here in this one room apartment. They sleep on mats on the floor. In Syria, they had a home. Now, they have this. 

  
They have applied for asylum through the UN. They’re hoping to be able to move, but the list of asylum seekers is long. People have been waiting since 2012 and still are stuck, with no way to support themselves. 

They were a happy group despite their situation. They were excited to have us visit and wanted to take pictures with us. 

  
This mother didn’t ask us for help, she didn’t want anything, she only asked that we listen. She needed to tell her story, to share her burdens. These are the stories that need to be told. This is what people need to hear. 

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