Saturday, January 25, 2014

Great sayings involving butts

Arabic is a much a more colorful language than English.  Everything is more vivid.  Two of my favorites:

Arabic: Hehm teehze ooh be feswa

English translation: Not only is he/she an ass, but there's a fart in it.

Arabic: Teehze ehyne fet il bahs

English translation: Two butts, one underwear (butt buddies)

This last is my American friends' favorite, it comes in so handy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

I dream of Bibi

Scrubbing myself with a loofah this morning in the shower, I was daydreaming of my Bibi Karima. Bibi means "grandma" in Arabic.  Bibi Karima was my mom's mom.  She passed away in 2001; unfortunately, not being able to meet Zoe or Zena.  She would've loved to meet them, I can see her shaking her head and tsk-tsking at the idea that I actually had a baby. She always saw me as a little kid.
Anyway, Bibi Karima never thought that we were actually clean.  I mean, we showered everyday, but she didn't think we did a good job, especially me.  So, when she had the chance she'd take it upon herself to give us a bath.  There was no escaping.  The bath went something like this:  

  • Bibi runs boiling hot water in the bathtub, and fills up the large basin that was in the tub.
  • I have a seat on the tub stool, while Bibi leans over the edge of the tub.
  • Bibi pours boiling hot water on my head.  Several times.  I scream.
  • Bibi washes my hair all the while muttering disgustedly, "Ehn guhtah el sahboon," (the soap is cut off), while she scrubs really, really hard. The "soap is cut off "means that you were so dirty that the initial washing could not even produce lather.
  • Bibi starts scrubbing away on my body with the loofah, the really rough one she brought from Baghdad just for this purpose. The soft one was reserved for my mom.
  • Bibi is satisfied the dirt was gone when my skin cells have been appropriately removed, and I was red enough. 
I lived to be bathed another day.  

One of the many ways my Bibi lives on in is what I now call "the Bibi Karima treatment."  My own daughters know exactly what's coming their way when I announce it's Bibi Karima day.  And you know? She was right, the soap does get cut off on these small children, despite their showering everyday.

Note:  I grew up using loofahs and large pumice stones.  Except we couldn't get them at Rite Aid or Walmart, or whatever equivalent we had then, you had to wait until someone was coming in from Baghdad, and they would be special requests.  Non-Chaldeans who saw them always thought they were strange.  Sometimes, I wondered what it would be like to just use a washcloth like the rest of the world and not the rough loofah and black pumice stones.  Now when I'm in the shower, and am using my very special loofah that my uncle brought back from Jordan,  I'm excited that I don't have to use my low-rent store bought loofah.  And of course, I dream of Bibi.

This guy would never survive the Bibi Karima Treatment.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Seasonal Entry - The Polar Vortex

The polar vortex released its hold on the area.  I can tell because my food stores are low; both pantry and perishable.  I, like others in the nation, went to the grocery store and stocked up on staples when I heard that we were colder than Antarctica.

In this way, I am not a good representative sample of the Chaldean community: According to our rulebook, at any given moment, all Chaldeans should be ready to feed fifty or more people.  The idea that one needs to "stock up on food" implies that you didn't have enough food to begin with. Outrageous.

All over town, Chaldeans laugh at the "Americans" who don't have enough food to get through three days (or a month or two) of impassable roads.
My husband reminded me today that this Chaldean phenomenon is made possible by the fact that Chaldeans have at least one extra refrigerator in the garage.  Okay, fine, this is a stereotype.  Sometimes the extra refrigerator is in the basement, like mine :)  

Anecdotal evidence:  My aunt and uncle were moving into their house.  As is the norm, the neighbors look to see who's moving in.  One of the kids observing shouted to his mother, "The new people are Chaldean!  They have a refrigerator in the garage!"  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Not a good idea, John.

John's parents love to camp.  It might be because they're extremely frugal or they really enjoy the outdoors.  Regardless, they fully embrace all aspects of the camping experience and try to integrate it whenever possible.  Side note:  I've never gone to the bathroom outside and I'm not sure I know how, so that's what's keeping me from more rustic camping.  My only experience with camping was at a "campground" where I heard the most white trash conversations I could ever have imagined).

One fourth of July weekend, the Kissingers invited my parents and my sister and Kirk to their house on Lake Michigan.  My in-laws like to have everything PLANNED.  This includes a notebook that describes what activities we will be doing or have the option of doing and what we will be eating.  I plan on taking a photo and posting one day.  One night, the planned evening activity was having an outdoor hot dog roast over the firepit, to be followed up by S'mores.  Overall, yummy!

Now, while everyone can acknowledge that hot dogs are delicious, my dad sometimes has a hard time believing that he's actually eating a hot dog, let alone cooking it over a fire using a special stick.   I think he thinks they are overall a "low-level operation," being used to as he is to home-cooked Chaldean dishes that involve someone slaving all day over a hot stove.  Thankfully, the novelty of the experience was distracting.  Or maybe it reminded him of the time he was camping in the desert and decided to cut off a bit of his finger and cook it over a fire to see how human flesh tasted.  He thought better of it as he was about to put it into his mouth - cannibalism really is reserved for a last resort.  I'm sure he would've tasted like chicken.

Hot dog roasting went well.  Check.  Now onto S'mores.  This is what my dad would refer to as an "advanced system."  The marshmallow roasting and the quick removal to make a scrumptious graham cracker and chocolate dessert was intriguing to my dad. But, my dad has an aversion to stickiness, even if it's not on him.  Anything sticky weirds him out.   In fact, at one point he confessed to us that if someone wanted to torture him, he could drip honey on his neck and not allow him to clean it.  

There's a method to removing marshmallow goo, so one can store the sticks without attracting ants.  John explained it to my dad:  you take your metal stick and plunge it into the sand and take it in and out repeatedly until the sand has removed all the goo, much like a good exfoliant.  So, John being the good son-in-law, takes my dad's stick and plunged it authoritatively into the sand, except it hit a rock buried shallowly on the beach.  John removed it to find that the roasting stick with tines akimbo.  My dad simply looked at him with pity (or perhaps distress, because it was still sticky) and said, "That was not a good idea, John," and walked away in search of some proper wipes to sort out the matter.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The bidet mystery unravelled!

My mom loves to read my blog!  I'm so excited!

She called me twice to explain how one dries off after using the bidet:

1.  Wipe normally.

2.  Use bidet .

3.  Dry off using either paper towel, specifically there for that purpose or "if you're fancy," you have a special stack of washcloths and a basket or hamper for the drying off.

A side note: mom says that if you're butt and parts are clean, you can go a couple of days without a shower.

This makes a lot of sense, and I may jump on this bandwagon!   Thanks, mom!

Clean, but wet? Or dirty, but dry?

That is the question.

Americans, as a general rule,  are not bidet users.  I expect it's because we aren't used to the sensation of a jet of water aimed at our nether regions. While it seems that this is changing with the advent of the sort of portable, installable bidet - not just for Mtv Cribs anymore - bidets have been a staple of foreign bathrooms for as long as indoor plumbing has been commonplace. 

My in-laws tell a story from the 1960s when they were backpacking through Europe, or living in Germany, or camping in Sweden, not sure which European adventure they were referring to, but they were booking a hotel room and they were asked if they would like a room with a bidet or without a bidet.  Since they're American and prefer to travel on the cheap (bidet = more money), they said, "without."  As the story goes, the hotel staff treated them like lepers because what kind of nasty-ass (literally) people wouldn't use a bidet? It was embarrassing.  On the flip side, this was also the time in Europe where the only people who used deodorant had some kind of body odor disease.  Which led to them getting strange looks while trying to buy some antiperspirant at the pharmacy - it was behind the counter.  I guess this was a sort of a reverse boater experience.  

My mom always told me that people in the middle east love bidets.  I speculated out loud how one was supposed to dry off, and she always told me it was much cleaner than simply leaving feces residue in your nether areas. 

Generally, this was followed with a mumbled unsavory story from her gynecology practice about somebody who could've used the services of a home bidet.  I always felt bad for whomever she was talking about:  seriously, how many people would pass what essentially is a crotch sniff test?  I always thought it was strange, then, that my parents' bathroom didn't have one - their home was custom built, after all. 

Sidebar: Still, no real answer on the drying off.  One would imagine toilet paper was involved, but wet toilet paper makes a bigger mess and may stick to your parts - just like it sticks to the ceiling of middle school bathrooms.  Is there a special towel that you're supposed to carry with you? A specific way of folding the toilet paper? An unwritten rule that when someone has a bidet, an outside user could look through their cabinets and help themselves to paper towels? My theory is that you use the toilet paper as best you can, and then use the hand towels to pat dry.  Yes, this could be gross, but I think if you got the hang of it, combined toilet paper and hand towel use could be completely sanitary. After all, I'm not talking about rubbing the towel in between the cheeks, just a gentle pat on the the cheeks.  

A part of the landscape of my parents' bathroom and the guest bathroom was a watering can.  Now, as I've told you before, my dad loves plants and trees and cultivating them is a great hobby of his, but we didn't have many plants in the house, and certainly not in the bathrooms.  I never thought about the watering cans. Then, one day...Ding Ding Ding!  I made the connection:  DIY bidets!  The long skinny spout on the watering can was ideal for aiming properly at the offending area.  Once again, not being a coordinated person, I couldn't figure out how one would do this, but my dad especially was very fastidious, so I'm sure there was an optimal way to aim the pitcher.  

Much to her pleasure, and my daughters', mom had her bathroom retrofitted with an in-bowl bidet.  But the guest bathroom still has the pitcher, for those so inclined. 

Still no direct answer on the drying off, though.  

What's a boater again?

Some people have been wondering: what is a boater?

I found it on Urban Dictionary.  Apparently, it's a Detroit thing!  Check it out:

There are several definitions, this is the best one...


A person who has recently immigrated to America. A first-generation born American may also exhibit "boater" tendencies. The opposite of being "Americanized." A term commonly used in the Detroit, MI area.

Boater tendencies may include:

- canning your own foods, having a large garden, or making your own wine or lunch meats.

-having an uncircumcised penis.

-living at home with your parents until marriage.

-wearing fashionable European clothes such as Armani Exchange or Versace.

-growing up idolizing European soccer stars. 

-wearing lots of cologne or gel

-getting hit by your mother or father well into your 20's.

Having a kitchen in your basement is very boater!  
Having a refrigerator in your garage is very boater!