We interrupt programming…

…to bring you some special news. Yesterday, on the other side of the Atlantic, a little boy was born.

Long before he was born, he had staked his claim on our hearts. We interceded for his life and his future as we prepared for him to counterbalance our adult world with the innocent perspective of a child. In anticipating a fresh, unsoiled life, it was easy to see how jaded we had let the world make us.

I started to look for baby things as soon as I heard he was coming. I could picture him snuggled in sleeper pants, sucking his thumb and hugging his stuffed Pooh bear. I could see him flipping through books, absorbing pictures and words in his brilliant little brain.

Now he is here and he has made me an aunt. Welcome to our world, Albert Harris!

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Photo credit: my sister

Food- part 2

In my last post, I wrote about some of the typical North African food… or at least my experience with it (my experience combined with the moments that my camera was with me). Here are a few more pictures:

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Between lunch (1:30 or 2:00) and the evening meal (late evening), there is often tea/coffee time (around 5:00 or 6:00, but sometimes much later). It’s a relaxing time of sipping a drink and eating sweets and various types of bread.

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Cookies are commonly served at tea time.

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Also, this is a sweet that is first fried and then soaked in honey. Yah. Uh-hu.

The last meal of the day is often served in late evening, maybe around 9:00. Of course, this varies from family to family. Often the last meal of the day is soup and bread or lunch leftovers.

Food- part 1

The word “food” plugs happiness into a sentence. Did you ever think about it? What’s more is that I often find myself saying the word “food” affectionately.

God gave us food to survive but also to enjoy. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last six months in North Africa. Of course, I’ve been enjoying food since I was born, but here are some of my more recent gustatory experiences:

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A lovely North African breakfast: bread, yogurt, coffee or tea, eggs, and meat. (This breakfast is slightly Americanized because most don’t eat meat for breakfast.)

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At lunch, a cold salad is often served, at least for guests

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The main dish often includes meat and vegetables to be eaten with bread and olives

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And if you’re a tourist, you may even get real plates and silverware to eat with instead of eating out of the common dish!

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Food is even better with fresh orange juice

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On Fridays–the holy day– couscous is the standard fare. And dessert is usually a fruit of some sort: oranges, apples, watermelon, etc.

The pattern of practical loving

Sometimes I don’t know what the practical side of love is supposed to look like. And by the practical side of love, I’m referring to loving those in need. Is it really even “supposed to” look like anything, as if it were a consistent pattern? 

This is on my mind because today on my way to the store, I saw the same beggar that I always see on the way to the store. As usual, she sat on the sidewalk, her swollen feet outstretched for passersby to take pity on her condition.

I smiled and greeted her. Her face lit with an almost-toothless grin. She cackled a greeting in return and asked how I was. She wasn’t expecting anything more from me than what I gave.

So what did she really want? Was it the couple of coins I could have dropped into her hand? Was it the groceries I could have bought for her? Or did she really just want eye-contact: to be treated like a normal person, to be loved instead of patronized by a stranger?

When I walked back out of the store, I had nothing for her except another smile. And she was ready with that same brilliant grin. What I had given her was all she wanted from me today.

Perhaps the only consistent “pattern” in practical loving the fact that one is loving.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

Good windows make good neighbors

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Robert Frost once wrote a poem about good fences making good neighbors. But what if there are no fences, only windows that overlook walls of windows from neighboring apartments? Do good windows make good neighbors too?

Through the windows, I can sample the lives of my neighbors. Without really knowing them or even really knowing exactly what apartment they live in, I know certain things.

For example, a man sneezes about 9:00 every evening. It’s not just a sneeze, but a SNEEZE. Actually, it is a series of sneezes that gives me an estimate of the time not unlike the call to prayer. And since the Ramadan time change, the sneezes have been coming at 8 p.m.

There is an unpleasant child in a lower level apartment, whose screams are punctuated by the parents’ roars of disapproval.

I can smell what neighbors are cooking, at times even identifying individual spices. And there is often the clattering of women washing dishes or the hissing of a pressure cooker.

In a tiny courtyard below, some neighbors play soccer with friends. When there are five or six of them, I don’t know how they manage to fit, let alone play a game. Their shouting in African French echoes all over our mini community.

Parties on the roof until the wee hours of the morning mean that talking and laughter float through our windows with the cool night breeze.

One evening, a little boy appeared in his window wearing only a T-shirt and his underwear. Silently, he climbed up in the window sill and measured the window with a tape measure. Then he climbed back down.

See, good windows must make good neighbors… or at least provide daily entertainment.