Swinging into the Turkish Language

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Learning any new language has its challenges.  From the fall of 2017 to the summer of 2019, our family of six had been submerged in the Chinese language of Mandarin and doing our best to learn a language with a completely different alphabet structure and way of speaking.  Stephen and I did not have the advantage of going to a formal class the way our four children did.  At least 4 or 5 times a week, they would take an hour long class to learn how to read, write and speak in Mandarin.  Our oldest son was most successful in picking up the basics of the language.  I learned how to say a few basic phrases and I learned how to count.  But I could never read more than a few general symbols in Chinese and I wasn’t able to carry on any kind of conversation in that language.

Turkishalphabet

After that huge struggle, I have been pleasantly surprised as the ease in which I am learning how to speak basic words in Turkish.  It does help that the alphabet is very similar to English, except for a few letters having accents and “embellishments” that change the sound of the letter from the way we pronounce it in English.  Being able to recognize letters, read the words and pronounce them correctly makes a huge difference in the learning curve of a language.

Before you start to be impressed, I will confess that I still don’t even know how to say “you’re welcome” in response to “Thank you” and I can’t ask the simple question, “How are you?” and answer it.  However, I have learned about 20-30 words in the past fifteen days.  So, I’m proud of myself at the moment.

One thing I am very glad to have learned fairly early are the words for “yes” and “no.” For “yes,” you say, “evet” and for “no” you say, “hayir.”

The word for “no” literally sounds like the word “higher.” Now, one might not realize immediately the circumstances in which this word is used in English that might cause confusion in the mind of a Turkish person who doesn’t speak your language.

So, let me take you to the Turkish playground where a small child who speaks English has just asked you to push him or her on the swing.  You give the child a firm push and you watch as their swinging feet move higher off the ground.  The moment of confusion would come when the child requests a firmer push on the swing with the most common command we would hear in English: “Higher!”

So, you push the child even more firmly so the swing continues its course further up and away from the ground.  As the child continues to plead to be pushed “higher!” try to imagine what it must sound like to the ear of a Turkish person.  Soon, you might have several alarmed people in the park thinking you are torturing a child who keeps yelling “No! No!” to you.

swing

But have no fear.  I have come up with a perfect solution.  Before causing any need for Turkish child services to hunt me down, I communicate to that child that if he or she wants to be pushed “higher” on a swing, they should simply request, “Up! Up!” And to get off the swing, they should say, “Stop!”

That will work for now, until I can remember the much longer phrase in Turkish that actually is “push me higher, please.” Yeah, it’s not in my 20-30 word Turkish vocabulary yet.

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Hallelujah on Halloween

November 2012

A lot of churches around here have taken to celebrating “Hallelujah” night in the place of Halloween. Last year, we visited a variety of different locations.  One church in town celebrates an annual “Trunk or Treat.” Other churches open up their facilities to carnival attractions for kids.  Blow up slides and bounce houses are spread out across their lawns.  Beside the row of bounce houses, there are often little activity stands with different varieties of bean bag tossing or hammer throwing or face painting.  Some churches boast of small petting zoos with the appropriate number of hungry lambs, baby goats, bunnies and chickens to entice a good number of young participants willing to feed them. Last year, we even went to the mall.  The kids got free tokens at Chuckie Cheese for being dressed up in their costumes and some of the other stories were giving out candy as well.

However, this year, Halloween fell on a Wednesday.  Jared and Luke are members of a local Awana club that meets on Wednesday nights at a Baptist church in Clute.  This particular Awana gathering was designated “Hallelujah Night” and the special event of the night was the costume contest to take place after ‘group and verse time.’ Each club member had a chance to dress up as a person, character or animal from the Bible and would need to explain who they were and why they were important in the Bible.  So, we didn’t have a lot of time to try to visit many other church events before our scheduled weekly trip to Awana at 7pm.  We did make it to one “Hallelujah fest” at the Baptist church close to the school.  We stayed for about thirty minutes before we pried our kids away from the festivities to get to Awana on time.

(Jared, Luke and Grace pose with a couple friends)

Last year, Jared was the only one in our family attending Awana.  He had dressed up as Sampson and had won second place in his Cubbies group.  This year, I had purchased a little Abraham outfit for Jared and put together a costume for Luke to play the role of “the little boy who shared his lunch with Jesus.”  For weeks we practiced going over the story of how Jesus needed to feed 5,000 people and a little boy shared his lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish so that everyone could eat.  Then Jesus turned his lunch into a “miracle meal” and there were 12 baskets of left overs when they were done.

I kept Jared busy memorizing six main points about who Abraham was in the Bible.  One main point was a Bible verse that he had memorized, which was Romans 4:3 and states, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. (NIV)”

When it came time to stand before the judges, the boys were able to recite all the information they had learned about their Bible characters.  Luke got a second place prize for his Cubbies group, which included two free movie tickets and “Awana bucks” to be spent at the Awana store in the near future.  Jared got first place in his Sparks group, which I consider even more impressive because it includes kids in kindergarten, first and second grades. He also won free movie tickets and “Awana bucks.”  Both boys were proud of their accomplishments and I was proud of them.  I can’t think of any other way I would rather spend Halloween night.

Oh, and Happy Reformation Day to those who celebrate this alternative on October 31st.  I think Martin Luther would have been proud of my boys, too.

Weather or not in Lake Jackson

November 2012

I grew up without any seasonal changes, so I’m not a person to be disappointed by snowless winters, a lack of a real spring blossoming or colorful fall foliage.  The process in which a tree goes from green to gold and then brown before become leafless is something I only read about in books. It also doesn’t help that my book knowledge of tree species is limited to elementary basics.  I’m pretty sure I can identify your basic pine tree (although I will probably confuse it with the spruce and fir trees).  I think I can tell the difference between a maple, oak, magnolia and birch, but I might get confused if you throw a beech or sassafras tree in front of me.

My first experience with true seasonal changes among these deciduous varieties was when I lived in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia.  The trees would begin to turn colors in early October and bursts of brilliant colors would cover the hills as we moved slowly from fall into winter. By December, the trees were appropriately bare and the weather would dip down near freezing on various nights.

Then I moved to Texas. The trees I have met in Lake Jackson, Texas during my year here were different from the ones I’ve seen up north. It doesn’t help that there is a curious blend of tropical plants and palm trees planted in the same neighborhoods with the oaks, maples and firs. They all seem to live and thrive well together for most of the year.

My confusion began when fall weather came upon us in a rush on a cold October morning.  Perhaps these Texan trees are confused by the fact that October temperatures still resemble those of early August. Maybe they feel the peer pressure of their tropical counterparts to keep their leaves to themselves. After weeks of balmy weather, October temperatures dropped to near freezing leaving tropical plants crying out in misery. The rest of the trees seem to fall in three categories.  The first group of trees turned to their fall colors in a flash. Their reds, oranges and yellows happily cried out, “Fall is here!” After a few weeks, these trees began dropping their leaves in accordance to Mother Nature.

The second group of trees was less decisive.  They waited until the first group had long begun to lose their brown leaves before tentatively allowing some of their green robes to fade to yellow.  Eventually, they would also catch up with their fall-happy partners and begin to lose their leaves as well.

The last group of trees is a bunch of stubborn oak trees that wait until spring before they realize that they have not updated their wardrobe.  In a sudden rush, they work to remove the old leaves while pollinating at the same time.  I learned that this is actually normal of the oak trees in our back yard as they deposit both leaves and a layer of yellow and brown dust on our back porch and lawn.

In any case, we have discovered that our biggest raking efforts need to be saved until mid-March when we finally are able to collect the last of the leaves that fall from our trees.

(Kids in the Yard – March 2013)

Fireworks in Galveston

July 2012 – This was our first summer in several years that we did not make big travel plans to visit people around the U.S.  In spite of lighter summer hours, Stephen was still pretty busy with his job and I was still struggling through nausea and fatigue from my present state of being.  However, we wanted to do something special to celebrate the 4th of July.  We did hear that there was a fireworks event here in Lake Jackson, but that seemed a little tame after some of the fireworks events that we’ve attended in the past.

After some research, I discovered that Galveston put together a pretty good show on their beach front that included a parade and a fireworks show over the ocean in the same evening (http://www.galveston.com/cvb060812/).  Galveston is only an hour away from Lake Jackson.  So, we piled the kids, a picnic dinner and a sense of adventure into our van and made our way over to the seaside of Galveston.

We arrive mid-afternoon while there was still some parking available along the parade route.  Several streets were already being roped off, but Stephen squeezed our mini-van through and managed to find a parking spot on the very edge of a parking lot facing the ocean.  For the first time, we used the “tail gating” option on the back seat of our Chrysler Town and Country Minivan. We spread out blankets and got ready to enjoy the evening.

Our Patriotic Children

We were trying to decide if we should put on our bathing suits and take a quick swim in the ocean when Jared and Luke informed us that they needed to go to the bathroom.  So, I left Grace with Stephen and walked down the block to the nearest gas station to use the bathroom.  Of course, there was a long line of people also trying to use the restroom.  So, it took us a while to get through the line.

As we waited, I grabbed a free copy of a car sales magazine.  Jared and Luke became immediately fascinated with the vehicles they saw displayed.  I told Jared that the magazine was free, so he could keep it.  Ever since then, Jared will skim through that same magazine and dream about the car that he wants to own when he grows up.  (This changes usually every few days.)

By the time we finally got back to the car with bladders relieved, stomachs were beginning to speak.  So, we started getting dinner ready.  Hotdogs were distributed, baby food was prepared for Grace and we munched on our dinner as the parade participants prepared themselves for the show.

The weather was pleasant.  There was a breeze making the summer temperatures feel cooler than normal.  The sun was setting behind us, and the sky was nearly cloudless.  The ocean’s waves were mild, and the hum of vehicle and human traffic filled the air around us.

Right on schedule, the police cars that led the parade began to make their way down our street.  Lights were flashing and people scrambled to the sidewalks to find a good spot to catch any surprise gifts that might be given to them from the floats that were soon to arrive.

For the next hour, the boys waved their American flags and chased down candy, colorful beaded necklaces, fliers and stickers that were tossed in their direction.  Grace was especially fascinated with the beads.  I think she ended up with about 10 strands around her neck by the time the parade was over.

Once the parade was over, there was a lull as we waited for the sky to darken enough to begin the fireworks.  During that time, the kids played with their new treasures, relieved bladders once again, brushed their teeth and got their pajamas on.  (We were expecting them to fall asleep on the way home.)

At about 9:15pm, when the sky was just beginning to darken completely, the fireworks show began.  Music played in the background as kids watched in fascination at the bright colors lighting up the sky.  We were far enough away from the explosions as to not scare Grace.  So, even she was enjoying the show. The show lasted over 20 minutes, and we were all happy with the display.

We hit some traffic on the way home, and it was hard for the hyped up kiddos to finally close their eyes.  However, by the time we got home around 11pm, they were all fast asleep.  The parade and fireworks in Galveston is definitely something we will look forward to attending in the future, if we decide to spend our summer here in Lake Jackson again.

Storytelling the Texan Way

January 2012 -We have now been living in Texas for over a year. During the first few months, I started to become familiar with the cultural differences between this western state and the very far eastern states in which I lived in the past.  Since I’ve never lived in any other western state, I couldn’t tell you if Texas is similar or different to some of its western neighbors.  I can only compare it to Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York where I lived or visited in the first 35 years of my life.

One thing that did become very clear in the first year of living here is what I like to call “the pride of Texas.”  This is the first state that I’ve lived in that focuses on teaching their kids about their state history, legend and lore. It is a required part of their school curriculum and you can even see it in the stories that are found in the library.

I take my kids to a local library on a regular basis and we’ve found well-known children’s stories that have been re-written with a Texan twist.

The Gingerbread Man has become “The Gingerbread Cowboy.”  This cowboy made of gingerbread goes running across the desserts of Texas being chased by cowboys, buffalo and other Texan ‘villains’ before being eaten by the sly coyote crossing a river.

Then there is the slightly disturbing retelling of the three little pigs in a story about three little gators being chased by a ‘big bottomed boar’.  The boar destroys the first two gator’s flimsy homes with a “bump, bump, bump” of his large rump.  When he can’t knock down the third gator’s home, he tries to scoot his body (rump first) down the chimney.  The gators respond by heating up their grill.  The boar’s large behind gets slightly charred at which point he quickly retrieves his large proportions out of the chimney and runs away never to be seen again.

Side note: My sons really got a kick out of me acting out the role of the big-bottom boar knocking down the gators’ homes.

I think my favorite book so far is the Texas ABC’s.  Every letter of the alphabet has a picture of something from Texas.  Jared helped me take pictures of the pages, because I thought they were so cute.

I’m sure there are other books re-told Texan style.  I’ve only pointed out the few examples with which I have already become familiar.  Let me know if you know of any more, or if you know of another state that has its own similar stories.

Summoned to Jury Duty in Texas

January 2012 – I’ll never forget the first time that I was summoned to Jury Duty.  I had always wondered about the process and if it would ever happen to me.  When Stephen and I got married in the summer of 2005, we settled down in the northern Virginia area for a year.  Then we purchased our first home in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, just over the border between West Virginia and Virginia.  We lived there for two more years.  We were registered to vote.  We paid West Virginia taxes.  Yet, we were never summoned to jury duty.

Then, we moved to Ecuador in 2008.  We rented our home in West Virginia for the three years that we were living there, so we were still registered to vote there and were still considered residents of West Virginia.  We had all our mail forwarded to us in Ecuador, but some of our mail took several months to reach us.

During our final year in Ecuador, I received a piece of mail telling me I was being summoned for jury duty.  I almost panicked because the letter was over a month late of the day I was supposed to contact them to let them know if I was unable to attend.  I called them and was able to straighten things out without any problems.

So, let’s fast forward a few months.  Stephen and I had just moved with our kids to our new home in Lake Jackson, Texas.  We got our new Texas driver’s licenses and registered to vote at the same time.  About a month later, I was summoned for jury duty once again.  However, this time, I was able to respond in a timely fashion by making myself exempt from duty due to the fact that I was the sole caregiver of three children under school age.  It was a little disappointing, because I would have liked to have that experience.  Perhaps I will be given the chance again in future years when the kids are all in school.

Anyway, the story doesn’t end there.  A few months after I made myself exempt from jury duty, Stephen was summoned, as well.  So, he was able to attend his first summons, in the city courthouse of Angleton, which is about 10 minutes outside of Lake Jackson.

This was when we were able to discover that simply because you are summoned for jury duty doesn’t mean you will be assigned jury duty.  A large group of people are summoned and then a smaller group is selected from them to serve duty.  Stephen traveled out to Angleton twice before he was eliminated from the group.  So, his experience with the judicial system was short lived. However, now he can say that has been summoned for jury duty at least once in his life.

The outside of the courthouse building in Angleton, Texas where Stephen was summoned to jury duty.

All I Really Want for Christmas

I love listening to Christmas music during this time of year.  I have some of the classics, but I also have a lot of albums made by Christian contemporary artists.  In 2005, Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote a song called “All I Really Want” describing what an orphan would really want for Christmas.  I thought the song was sweet, but the words never hit so close to home as they have this year. These words have taken a new meaning for me:

“All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win
There’s so much I could ask for, but there’s just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family.”

© By Stephen Curtis Chapman

This Christmas a little girl is getting that Christmas wish.  She may be too young to understand it.  After all, she’s only nineteen months old.  But one day she will understand.  She’ll find out how her parents, Philip and Chrissy Cobb, began praying for direction in adopting a child.  When the door closed for them to adopt a child from Ethiopia, they didn’t give up.  They moved on to another adoption agency and were introduced to a little girl in China who was in need of a permanent family.

They first announced to the world that they were looking at adopting a little girl in China in early May of 2011.  Although they had been told the process could take well over a year, they were able to fly to China on December 8 of this year and are now finalizing the paperwork in order to fly back to Florida in time to spend Christmas together with their new daughter, Li Rose.  They are due to arrive in Gainesville on December 21.

It has been quite an adventure.  Find out more about their story by visiting their blog: http://hobnobwiththecobbs.blogspot.com/

Philip with Josh, Chrissy with Li Rose