Saturday, January 11, 2014

I'm Going on an Adventure!

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly 
find out how far one can go. --T.S. Eliot

Most in my family are world travelers, enjoying that "risk of going too far"... but I rarely do. I'm usually the one willing and able to stay home; playing chauffeur to and from the airport, happily staying behind while they go off on their adventures.

However, when our oldest daughter and her husband committed to work in North Africa for two years, with no opportunity to come home - I was once again ready to take my family to the other side of the world. After all, it had been thirteen years since we'd last taken our entire clan abroad, and so our younger three children either didn't remember it or weren't born yet.

(HOW many hours in the air did you say? And we're smiling?!)
An adventure was apparently long overdue.

What an adventure it turned out to be! Getting our entire family together meant eight of us getting on planes and negotiating airports. Once we reached our destination, there were ten of us traveling/living together for two weeks. We were like our own tour group - but without the tour guide taking charge of it all. Never fear. Have you heard that old saying, "Too many chiefs and not enough Indians?" Well, in our family we've probably got too many tour guides and not enough tourists. But it all worked out - we saw some amazing sights, met some even more amazing people, and enjoyed - you guessed it - some amazing family time together.

Someone may be confused about their location.
I can't show you pictures of the places we visited. More regrettably, I can't show you pictures of the people we met. (It's terribly scandalous for a woman in that culture to allow her picture to be taken.) But it was easy to see why my daughter Rachel speaks so lovingly of the ladies she lives amongst. They were so hospitable, accepting, friendly, and so happy to meet us. One was laughingly ready to sign a marriage contract between her son and my 12-year-old daughter. Some were insistent on seeing my girls try to dance - so they could laugh hysterically with us. Another was quick to tell me that she prays for one certain thing even more than I do, since she loves Rachel so much. Another invited all TEN of us to her home for a meal (men in one room, ladies in another,) even though it meant a tremendous amount of work for her and her daughter-in-law, and those two ladies wouldn't even sit down with us to enjoy the meal. We were honored and humbled by all of these ladies who have so little materialistically - yet shared of themselves so freely.

Tea on a Mediterranean beach
The men? Well - men and women don't socialize together, so I have no first-hand experience. I do know that Nate and our son-in-law, Kyle, were often invited to sit and drink tea, and were told, "we are not friends - we are brothers." Tea seems to be the common thread that accompanies all social interactions. Women invite ladies into their home for tea - while the men (who are the shopkeepers, and men do most of the shopping) invite guys frequenting their shop to sit and have a cup of tea with them.

Rachel is there - but behind the camera.
We did get some comical, first-hand experience with the men and boys of the larger cities. Around every corner, another group of males were ready to try out their limited English skills on my daughters... "Hello! Welcome! What nationality are you? I LOVE YOU!" One man was quite creative. As we walked by him, he shouted, "You dropped something!" When one of my girls naively turned to look, he said, "It is only my heart." Thus, our method of walking in public looked like this: Kyle in the front - shooing men away in Arabic - and Nate walking behind, as the rear guard. The rest of us simply kept our eyes down and tried not to laugh.

Josiah managed to hide behind the females.
Yes, it was exotic and exciting to be in such an unnamed, far-off place. Yet the best part of it all was simply having the ten of us together for two whole weeks. We could have been in a random, backwoods place and it would have been just as enjoyable. With four of our seven children now into their adult years - time together is our most precious commodity, a priceless gift.

One challenge of our togetherness was trying to get family photos will all of us in the picture. At one point, we handed the camera to an English-speaking stranger...but he unknowingly chopped one of us out of the photo.

Faster, Nate - faster!
One time, we tried the selfie thing...only Kyle has an arm long enough for that. We sometimes attempted the timer and remote set-up...but there always seemed to be some glitch.  (Nate not being able to run fast enough being the funniest of glitches.)

No worries. Whether or not the family picture attempts were successful, the memories made were exceptional, and not soon to be forgotten.

Of course, the 2,000+ photos I now have on file will insure that we remember as many details of our adventure as possible. And the countless stories we'll be repeating to each other in our old-age? They may someday bore our grandkids, but we'll treasure them for a lifetime.

Here's to venturing out the door countless more times, out of our comfort zones, and being swept away...

"It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” --Frodo Baggins, about Bilbo

LOOK - we're all in the pic! Now if someone could dim that sunlight a bit...