Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Glamping in Petra....

 Camping in Petra, Jordan....
(our Middle East Adventure Part 2)

Meeting up with our dear friends the Peacocks, now living in Amman Jordan, was the highlight of our, the highlight of our year!  Actually, it was the main reason we chose to visit the Middle East on our vacation.....  Together, our two families, 7 blonde children total, headed to Petra for a few days of amazing adventure, food, and Glamping! 

Glamping: (verb) - Glamorous camping. Satisfying your craving for the outdoors and your penchant for a good meal, a nice bathroom, and a comfortable bed...
 "Oh Heathcliffe dear, I'm ever so glad we are glamping this weekend. By the way, is the butler done catching our trout?"

I say we went Glamping, because our "temporary" residences for the week were vastly more elegant and comfortable that the permanent housing of many local residents, the Bedouins that reside in the region.  The term "Bedouin" derives from the Arabic word badawī (بدوي) which means "desert dweller" or "those in the desert." 
The Bedouin Arab have a relatively harsh existence. They are nomads with no permanent homes, but live in portable tents made from woven, goat hair. The tents are divided by a decorative partition called a gata. Half of the tent is for the women, children, cooking utensils, and storage. The other half contains a fireplace and is used for entertaining. 
One of the Bedouin tents seen from the road to Petra... makes me feel dry, hot, dusty and crave massive amounts of lotion and chapstick. 
Animals are indispensable to the Bedouin lifestyle.  Camels are the predominate form of transportation, and goat and sheep are the main commodity among the people and are bought and sold and occasionally traded with famers for produce. 

 The main food source for the Bedouin is dairy products. Milk from camels and goats is made into yogurt and butter. Most of their meals consist of a bowl of milk, yogurt, or rice. Round loaves of unleavened bread are served when available, and  dates, which can be found in desert oases, are eaten for dessert. Meat is only served on special occasions such as marriage feasts, ceremonial events, or when guests are present......Luckily, as guests, we were served as if each night was a special occasion!
Sawyer exploring the desert at dawn.
Our campground "The Rock" at sunset. 
The inside of our Bedouin tent was much more comfortable than I expected out in the middle of the Jordanian desert, and definitely more luxurious than the mats in authentic Bedouin dwellings. 
Exploring camp after sunset with Sawyer. 

Nightly entertainment around the camp fire was provided by our camp hosts. 

A long day of desert hiking was rewarded with a traditional Bedouin feast known as "Zarb".  This iron rack is filled with delicious tender lamb and chicken, melt in your mouth onions, savory potatoes and juicy tomatoes.  If ever on death-row, I will request this as my last meal and die happy.  It was seriously that good!  The method of cooking this carnival for my mouth was equally exciting.  It was roasted for 11 hours in an pit covered with coals and hot sand.....  This slow cooking method tenderizes and steams the meat until it falls of the bones.  The drippings from the succulent meat then drips and perfectly seasons the vegetables on the lower tiers.

Logan and I got to help a Bedouin woman make "Shrak" on a hot domed stone.  Shrak is unbelievably delicious bread that is perfect alone or even better when wrapped around tender rice and lamb.  It's a lot like a hot, fresh, melt in your mouth tortilla from Cafe' Rio!

Vince, Britt and kids enjoying the authentic Bedouin dinner.  The Lentil soup was unbelievable.  It was made from yellow lentils and topped with a crunchy fried bread that resembled won-tons.  AMAZING!! No one ever gets second and third helpings when I make beans! 

Relaxing under the stars after dinner while the unsupervised kids hike and chase desert animals in the dark.  We can't be an attentive parents all of the time.
After dinner, a Bedouin woman applied traditional Kohl under our eyes. It is used to protect their eyes from the harsh desert sun and sand.  It also has a side-effect of  making their eyes look gorgeous....picture Johnny Depp as Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean... No one can argue that a little eye-liner didn't add to his allure.
Hiking to the Treasury in Petra
Camping was only part of the fun, the real adventure was hiking to the ruins in Petra, one of the greatest wonders ever wrought by Nature and Man.  My attempt to describe the beauty and vastness of this ancient city will fall pitifully short, as it needs to be seen to be believed. 
Petra is a vast city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans more than 2000 years ago.  this city became the main junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. 


The entrance to the city is through the Siq, a deep gorge carved out of the rock that is nearly a mile long.  The shear rocks extend over 200 feet high on each side dwarfing us and providing shade as we made our way to the ancient city.

 Al-Khazneh  (the Treasury)  was a first century tomb for an important
Nabataean king.  This entire building is carved from a single piece of rock, truly an architectural and engineering marvel. 

Emerging from the Siq to begin exploration of the vast stone city

You may have recognized the Treasury as the setting for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!  It was just as amazing as in the movie, minus Harrison Ford of course!  After returning to Amman we watched the movie together so the kids could appreciate Petra from a different angle.
With a few kilometers of stone city left to explore, we opted to rest our hoofs and ride camels.  Going from a kneeling to standing position on a camel is an experience like no other.....lots of rocking, tipping, and sliding with no seatbelts or airbags. 

Alexis screaming with excitement while holding tightly to Hannah!

Hunter and Logan were naturals on their humpy bumpy camel!

to be continued.......



Monday, June 10, 2013

Update Overload!

Middle East Adventure...Part 1

You may think the silence on the Woodruff Blog is because I subscribe to the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"!  That couldn't be further from the truth.  I firmly believe, "If you don't have anything nice to say,  you should say something TRUE!!"....... I have plenty of True stories to tell.  Some nice, and some not so nice.  So many anecdotes to BLOG in fact, that I've become a bit overwhelmed.

So, that's my only excuse for silence...I've been overwhelmed lately.  Sometimes I can accomplish epic tasks without thinking twice...Just recently I whipped up 200 cupcakes and the Ceremonial birthday cake for the Marine Ball, while simultaneously planning and hosting a dinner party for several couples... No biggie!  Other times, small feats are akin to climbing Mount Everest....  I practically need Sherpas and an oxygen tank to traverse the distance from my bed to the closet to put away laundry.  Small tasks such as changing from normal clothes to PJ's (or vice versa), turning on my computer (to write a blog post), or simply walking to the other room to get myself a drink can be more than I can handle.  At times I will lay in bed and freeze all night because of the effort required to pull up my duvet.... Frankly, I'd stay in bed all day if it weren't for the need to relieve my bladder...and the three crazy kids who need to eat. Clearly, we have established that I am LAZY and that is my only excuse!

This dad has the right idea!  He's not lazy...he's just conserving his energy!....I'm Lazy

Rather than tell you one or two really good stories, I'm just going to post a bunch of random pictures to sum up a few of the things we've been up to....maybe later I will back track and fill in the blanks with the exciting (sometimes gory details)...Don't count on it though because I am currently having difficulty conjuring up enough motivation to find the TV remote.


Sitting on the wall on the "Mount of Olives" overlooking the Dome of the Rock and Old Jerusalem.
We walked up and down the streets of Old Jerusalem following the 14 Stations of the Cross (a Catholic tradition during Lent to commemorate the Passion of the Christ).  We followed the path of Jesus from his condemnation to his crucifixion and resting place. 
The Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion.  The ancient olive trees in this Grove are estimated to be over 1000 years old producing beautifully textured wood and olives (a staple in the Middle Eastern diet).   Over the years, the olive has been the symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and purity.  It's leafy branch has long been a symbol of peace....a perfect setting for the final Supplication of the Prince of Peace.

Borekas- A middle eastern pastry filled with Cheese, Veggies, Olives, yummy Sauce etc.! We selected a few different varieties from the display and they were promptly heated in a brick oven until the cheese melted and oozed out.... just like the American "hot-pocket" minus the diarrhea and self-loathing that follow.....and the filthy microwave of course.
Bethlehem-  Church of the Nativity-  There was no room in the Inn, so I guess Jesus was born in the basement of this fancy, ornate church!!!  Visualizing the humble birth of Christ in a stable was a bit difficult with the gold leafing,  massive tapestries, and gaudy jewel-incrusted light fixtures that were built over the sacred location.  Take all the décor away, and you had a setting fit for the birth of a King.   
The Wailing Wall-  Also known as the Western Wall as it was the West wall of the temple that was destroyed
Jews may often be seen sitting for hours at the Wailing-place bent in sorrowful meditation over the history of their race, and repeating often times the words of the Seventy-ninth Psalm .Psalm 79 . On Fridays especially, Jews of both genders, of all ages, and from all countries, assemble in large numbers to kiss the sacred stones and weep outside the precincts they may not enter.
Notes and prayers shoved into cracks of the Wailing Wall.

Golgotha, Skull Rock, or Calvary-  The crossroads where Jesus Christ was crucified between two thieves.  This picture shows the eyes of the "Skull", but the bottom of the rock (the Skull's mouth) has now been destroyed by the construction of a bus station. 

The  Garden Tomb- "He is not here, for He is Risen"


Easter Weekend could not have been more appropriately spent than at the Empty tomb of our Lord and Savior. 

Well, this was hardly a dent in all that we have been up to, so I will vigilantly Blog every night until I get all caught up!  That is of course unless there happens to be something good on TV, I'm too tired, my nails need to be painted or I allow myself to be distracted by any number of potential hobbies I could develop in the next 24 hours.  Stay tuned!!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Saturday Church??

As a kid, I LOVED field trips!!  Not only did it mean a special treat in my brown lunch bag (I distinctly remember the Hostess cupcakes I found in my bag on the way to the train station for our fourth grade field trip to Hanford, Ca), but it means seeing something new, exciting and memorable.  I'm still excited by field trips.....especially when it means getting out of the house and off the compound for an entire day!!
A couple of weeks ago, we took a trip with some other Embassy families to see the two most iconic buildings in the city of Abuja, the National Mosque and the National Cathedral.  I pass both of this buildings nearly everyday, but had never been up close.  In fact, the National Mosque is my 'North-Star' for navigation around the city.  Whenever I am totally lost (which happens frequently, especially with street names like Ibrahim Babangida, and Kashim Ibrahim, and Shehu Shagari, Amino KanoCrescent, Adetokunbo Idamola) I glance up to the skyline to find the Mosque to figure out where in the world I am!  Generally, If I keep the mosque in site I can orient myself and find home, (no matter how many identical streets I pass with the name Mohammed in them)!
Our visit to the two houses of worship was strategically planned for a Saturday to avoid the Friday Prayer services at the Mosque and Church services at the Cathedral on Sunday.  I think the kids were a bit bummed to find out we were going to spend a perfectly good Saturday at Church, but were excited to do something new. 

The Gold-Domed National Mosque, always seen from a distance...Since the Government of Nigeria objects to tourists taking photos of buildings, this picture is an online stock-photo. 
Photo: This Head scarf is really helping me stay warm since it's only 102 degrees out!!
Alexis wearing her wool head covering.  She looks beautiful, but with Temperatures over 100 degrees outside, I'm sure she was wishing the tour was less than 3 hours!!
I love that I didn't have to do my hair!  How much time would that save me if I could cut blowdrying our of my daily routine.  I could learn a new talent with all that spare time.....  Too bad it was so hot that I was wishing I was dead!
The Whole Clan at the Doors of the Mosque... This is where we would part ways.  The Men worship and pray on the ground level, the women proceed upstairs. All shoes are removed before entering to show respect.  As I proceeded barefoot to the top floor I nearly fainted from the sweltering heat.  The Mosque was not air-conditioned, and as we know heat rises!!  How do these women do it?!
Logan showing off his huge smile and his Kaftan (traditional Nigerian shirt). 
The kids wandering the Mosque's Market  with Miss Linda.  She treated them to peanuts and "toothbrush sticks".  Toothbrush sticks are what  is traditionally used here to clean teeth... No toothpaste needed, just chew on the jagged wood!  I tried it and for now I think I will stick with Crest and my Sonicare!

Alexis and Logan leaving the Mosque as we head to the National Cathedral

Our next stop was the National Cathedral located only blocks from the mosque.  Equally stunning and ornate, but much less reverent.  Alexis and I got a break from our head coverings, but the heat was still intense.  
Sawyer Loved the spinning floor!  The entire 30 ft platform with the pulpit rotated constantly so that the entire audience had a great view.  I just hope the preacher doesn't have a problem with sea-sickness!

The whole family in front of the stain glass at the National Cathedral....I think we look pretty good for 3 hours of churches!  Too bad it's only Saturday...

We enjoyed seeing first hand two of the most important places to the people in Abuja as well as to learn a bit more about their two main religions.  We received a booklet about the 5 pillars of Islam as well as interesting facts about the Mosque.  (Strange that they even included details about 43 male toilets and 19 female toilets).  I was glad to give our kids a view of the Muslim religion so they could better understand their school friends as well as not be fooled by common misconceptions about their faith. 

On the drive home, the real excitement started.  Alexis became extremely nauseated and overheated.  So nauseated in fact that she wouldn't eat the ice-cream we stopped for on the way home (this was the second time we'd had ice-cream in 7 months, so it was serious!!) We skipped her dance class and drove straight home for a cool bath.  She laid in the bath as I took her temperature and gave her lots of liquid to drink.  Between the baths, Tylenol, and liquids, her temperature would not drop below 102 degrees for several hours.  I was starting to get very worried because I knew she needed IV fluid to get her core temperature down because everything else just wasn't cutting it.  I guess being upstairs in an un-airconditioned mosque with full head covering while the sun was scorching outside was more than her body could bear.  Luckily after 4 hours, her temp finally returned to normal and she crashed on the couch for the rest of the night. I was so relieved that she was OK and we didn't have to head out looking for medical care for our little girl.  How do the women here do it?  Covered from head to toe all day long and going home to huts and shacks that are little protection from the brutal African sun.  They must have built a higher tolerance for heat over time. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Taking Crazy to the Next Level!

This week, the Embassy offered a refresher course for all health care providers here at post.  The class was for Basic Life support, CPR, and First-aid.  Although I'm not working as a nurse here, the embassy community is eager for those of us in the medical field to maintain our skills....because we are just about the only reliable health care in the country.  Our basic clinic at the embassy and the handful of us with a little knowledge under our belts gives the US community access to better health care than a lot of the population. 
The realization that there is no "911", no ambulances,  paramedics, EMT's or Firefighters that can be summoned to an emergency is very unnerving.  Medical care (other than village medicine-women) is sought only by the very wealthy, mostly those who can afford to fly to Germany for treatment.  CPR is a household word in America, but I was reminded in the class, that very few people here had ever heard it.  If used on any non-American, or in a public place like a market, the result would be devastating!!  My good intentions would be misinterpreted as the cause for the victim's demise.....  causing a mob attack... responsible for my demise!!  Understood!!!  It was clear that our medical skills were for use in our own community ONLY so as not to be misunderstood.....  So much for the "Good Samaritan Act"!! 

Stop this horrible woman from attacking this poor man!!!
How sad  it would be to walk away from someone having a heart attack, or suffering an injury, knowing that I could help.  I realized that even if I could help, the person would have no long term hope anyway. There was no chance of being rushed to a capable hospital, given oxygen and other medications, and definitely no hope of  having a stint placed and follow up care.  Here, a heart attack is a death sentence!  A stroke, a fall, an open fracture or any just about any accident, infection or illness that requires attention is a death sentence.  Simple as that. 
This is the answer to why we never see elderly people here!  There aren't any old people.  I figure most of us have, or will be rushed to the hospital at one time in our lives...If treatment wasn't available, what would be our outcome?! 
Anyway, my point here is we are lucky to have access to such amazing care and facilities in the US.  Even here the US citizens, with our simple clinic, have access to much more than others could even dream of.  Luckily, if one of us finds our self in an emergency situation (and can get to the embassy), we will be flown out to London, Germany, or South Africa for adequate care.
Clearly, the medical situation here weighs heavily on us.  I am more concerned with kids falling, car-accidents, etc. than ever before because of this.  A head injury is likely more than the best-equipped hospital here could handle effectively.   For this reason, it is Seat belts, helmets, and anti-malaria meds for the Woodruff kids....almost to the point of obsession! 

Luckily, we haven't had to go quite this far to make sure the kids are safe here!!
Tyson is exceptionally risk adverse... That's why he was so stunned and a bit horrified when we found out we were having a baby!  Yep, you heard it...The Woodruffs are taking Crazy to the next level and growing a baby here in Nigeria!  (Does that make it an African American baby?)

So Nigeria has the 2nd highest preventable pregnancy deaths in the world (second only to India). Wow!  That's reassuring!  Last year it was estimated by the WHO (world health organization) that there were over 60,000 of these deaths.  Here were some of the sited barriers to receiving care.

  • Pregnant women seeking obstetric care in public hospitals must bring their husbands to donate blood. If the husband refuses or if the woman doesn't have a husband, she is refused care.
  • Women in labor are forced to travel to hospitals on motorbikes.
  • Public health facilities demand in exchange for care that pregnant women purchase basic necessities like antiseptics, syringes and gauze—and that these items be a specific brand name.
  • Doctors keep flashlights handy in the delivery room for use during regular power outages because health centers are not equipped with alternative sources of power.
These are the barriers to receive care in the hospital.  Most others depend on birthing at home, homes that are little more than crude shelters.
Home Birth??  No thanks, I prefer my epidural..and ice chips!

Luckily, I don't have to face the problems of other pregnant women here. Selfishly, my biggest stresses are that I can't get a Cherry Lime-aid from Sonic (with the pellet ice) or a Grilled stuffed burrito from Taco Bell.... the two intense cravings I faced during the last three pregnancies! mmmmm, I will have to get creative because I'm definitely not craving Suya (aka 'Street-Meat')! 

For fetal-dating purposes, I was compelled to go to a local clinic for an ultrasound (The most exclusive, high-tech facility in town).....I don't want to get into the gory details, but I have been in Truck-stop bathrooms that have felt more sanitary.  At least in a gas-station bathroom, you can hover over the toilet seat avoiding most germs. (Tyson claims it wasn't too bad)  This was not the case at the clinic.....I had a malnourished pregnant woman just inches to my right spewing TB bacterium into her handkerchief  during the 45 minutes we spent in the waiting room.  After enduring the crowded room with 15 strangers, the hospital administrator finally came out to tell me that there had been an emergency and I would need to reschedule!  I was happy for the excuse to leave, but she continued to tell me the horrific details of the emergency describing the massive hemmoraighing and "blood all over the room"!  Wow, What a way to instill confidence in potential patients, let them visualize HIV and Hepatitis flying all over the room they were to be examined in! 
Unfortunately, I had to return the next day, but I lucked out... I was relieved there was no Tuberculosis Lady, and no infectious bodily fluids spurting onto the examination table during this visit!!   In fact, I was supprized with how impressed I was with the doctor.  He was knowledgable, capable, and had uncharacteristically good bed side manner!  AMAZING!!  He was also board certified in the US and Europe!  For a moment, I forgot where I was and figured I was in a clinic in Washington DC.  I have a million and one complaints about the sketchy-clinic, but completely satisfied with the doctor....maybe one of the best I'd ever seen!
The most prestigious hospital in the area!  Takes only cash, up-front .......they did have a flat-screen TV on the wall!
At the end of my appointment I went to pay (because all things are settled in cash, no billing, and no credit).  I brought the 30,000 Naira I was quoted when making the appointment.  The ultrasound was indeed 30,000N, but they failed to mention the 'White-man-tax' of an additional 20,000N!!!  Yep, even at a 'reputable' clinic, they were trying to pull a fast one!  Seriously, they were trying to milk me (not even lactating yet) for 20,000N ($150.00) more than the service costs.  I said I didn't bring that much and couldn't pay it, and would make sure the price discrepency was reported to the Embassy.......... The next morning the embassy health clinic recieved a letter reguarding the "financial mix-up", and that I would be receiving a discount for my loyalty and should come back to retrieve 5,000N.  No thanks!!!  Not worth risking TB for $35!!!
Woodruff baby #4.  Alexis has a notebook of names she has picked for the baby...not one of them is for a boy!!
Long story short, I will be having the rest of my prenatal care at the Embassy with two additional trips to Europe for Ultrasounds.  When School is over in June, the kids and I will head back to California and Utah to spend time with Grandmas and Grandpas, have access to proper medical facilities, and most importantly to be close to a Sonic and Taco Bell.  The baby, Due Sept 18th, will require 6 weeks to get a passport and the immunizations required to head back to see daddy!  Then we will head back on our adventure.  I thought flying to Nigeria alone with 3 kids was a handful..... I will just have to carry stacks of tipping money for the airport and lots of Benedryl!!!