Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

30 April 2011

BSME Games

In November Ethan was selected to be one of the twenty-five athletes to represent Jeddah Prep & Grammar School (JPGS) at the British Schools of the Middle East (BSME) Under 11 (U11) Games. Team members were selected based on their athletic ability and their maturity to represent the school. The team would compete in multiple sports including, football (soccer), basketball, swimming, athletics (track & field), and netball (an international adaptation of basketball for girls only). With the limit of 25 team members, the versatility of playing multiple sports was important. This plays well to Ethan who has not yet met a sport he doesn’t like. He will admit that baseball is far better than cricket, but if the only way you can play with a bat and ball is to bowl for wickets, well you have to give it a go.

When the kids returned to school after Christmas vacation, Ethan began practicing for the games. It was great to see him dive in and work hard to improve his skills. He actively practiced with the football, basketball, and swimming team. We were amazed by the aggressive nature of his swim practice. During the course of his hour and a half practice he swam hundreds of meters of front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, and medley drills. For the first time, I think we saw Ethan actually get to a point of being slightly tired. He still has incredible stamina and appetite to compete.

Just as preparations were getting serious, the political turmoil in the Middle East began to boil. Did I mention JPGS was signed up to participate in the “small” schools BSME Games in the Cairo? After Ethan expressed his concern for his friend who recently moved to Cairo, he began to wonder what would be the fate of his competition. As the situation seemed to quickly resolve the initial phase of revolution, the school made the decision to remain enrolled in the games. Up to the very last minute, the games were going as planned and JPGS was planning to attend. Three weeks before the games, however, the organizers canceled them. This brought great disappointment to our family. Ethan was disappointed he would not be able to compete. I was disappointed I was going to miss the opportunity to go to Cairo and support him.
Within less than a week we received word from the coach that a spot had opened up for the “big” school BSME games in Qatar. Again, excitement prevailed and a few questions were asked. What happened to allow us to get into these games? Is Qatar safe? Can we still arrange things to allow me to watch and support Ethan? It turned out a last minute spot was made available in these games because a Bahraini school pulled out due to the unrest in their island country. We are sorry for their misfortune but excited to have the opportunity to compete.

Melissa and I woke up early to get Ethan to the school by 6:00 a.m. so he could join his team and travel to the airport. Yet again, we had the unsettling experience of putting one of our children on a plane destined for a country neither of us had been to. Thankfully I would be joining him one day later. As it turned out Kennedy and Erin made the trip as well.
Day one of the games was basketball and swimming. The coaches elected to have Ethan sit out the basketball game, as his stamina was needed in the swimming. The girls and I arrived just in time for start of the swim competition. Ethan worked hard and competed to the very end of each race. He swam in the freestyle, breaststroke, and all of the relays. Ethan was younger than most of the athletes by as much as two years. He did not let this intimidate him.
Friday (day 2) came and brought with it the contests of football and athletics. As Doha is a bit freer than Saudi Arabia, the girls and I were able to join the local Doha Ward for church. We felt like we were in Houston, Texas. Many of the members were Exxon Mobile employees or other oil and gas exploration employees working in Qatar. Kennedy quite enjoyed the opportunity to meet with a large group of youth. We arrived at the school after our team had been eliminated from the football competition. After the teams competed in netball and the football finals there was a bit of time before dinner started. It was very interesting to see how the group naturally filled the time. Someone started playing dance music, another boy grabbed the microphone, and an interschool dance contest broke out on the stage.
If you leave a bunch of nine to eleven year olds to it, you can bet life will never get boring. Erin enjoyed dancing along with her friend.

After a little dancing, Ethan had had enough and went with a few other boys to join in a pick-up game of football. During the game, Ethan met with the ground resulting in a fairly bloody elbow. They made a little bit of a big deal about this, but Ethan didn’t mind as it meant a trip to the ambulance. His lucky day!!

Saturday (day 3) morning brought the final event, athletics. Ethan was asked to anchor his team’s 4x60m relay. With excitement he watched as his teammates raced around the track with the baton. As the baton reached him, he grabbed it and ran for all he had. I was very happy to see Ethan race hard to the finish. He is very fun to watch compete.
The only thing left was the awards gala and the flight home the next day. The athletes were instructed to take “smart” clothes for the gala. We did not know what “smart” clothes were. We asked one of the British teachers at the kids’ school what this term meant. He described it at “Sunday Best.” Ethan knew what that meant and gladly took his white shirt and tie. He looked sharp. Ethan and his teammates enjoyed a feast and a great awards gala.
With the games complete, it was time to fly back to Jeddah. Even with the best efforts, the girls and I were not able to get on the same flight as the team. We got tickets on a flight that arrived about 30 minutes before the team which allowed us time to go home, drop off our suitcases, and arrive at the school in time to greet the bus as the team returned.

The BSME Games in Qatar were great fun for all of us. It was an opportunity for Ethan to compete on a much bigger stage and he learned a lot. The girls and I enjoyed cheering him on and the opportunity to eat at an American style restaurant each morning for breakfast. Doha is a great city. It felt like a place where it would be enjoyable to live and work.

11 April 2011

A Rare and Special Visit

Our family had the great opportunity to visit with a special man this past weekend.
Due to the nature of his visit and the sensitivity of our location, I’ll restrict my remarks to generalizations. Many of you reading will know who he is and therefore, the wonderful opportunity it afforded our family.

Dano’s service here outside of work, allowed him the opportunity to pick him up from the airport and escort him around while he was here in Jeddah, as well as another friend who was visiting from Al Khobar.
Dano and I and some other friends from within Saudi were able to meet with him on Friday morning. It was a beautiful and very memorable morning.We then met with a larger group in a most intimate setting. Kennedy was thrilled that this visit fell on her Friday to play the piano. She practiced diligently and played superbly. We are very proud of her and I think she is pleased with her effort. (She wasn't in the above picture with the kids because she was playing postlude music.)
At one point he opened the room up for any questions. As you would not be surprised, one of the three questions came from Ethan. He very seriously asked, “What do you do when there are riots in the Middle East?” Again, I can’t give the details of his incredible response here, but concluded by saying, “Ethan, I’m leaving you in charge. You’ll be my agent here in the region. I’ll let Barak Obama know the region is in capable hands.” He reminded Ethan a couple more times throughout the day that he was in charge of keeping watch. Ethan, of course, took this to heart, got his e-mail address, and has committed to sending him updates.

Following the questions, he gave a wonderful talk. He had Dano and Emily come up and stand beside him and used Emily as an example in his talk. As he looked at our sweet girl, he stroked her little cheeks and said, “Now those are Holland cheeks!” We think we agree.

Following school on Wednesday, spring break begins and we will leave for Dubai where we will again participate in meetings with this wonderful man. What a privilege it has been to have him in our midst, to talk with him, listen to him, and have our children feel of his great love and testimony. These are moments we hope they will always remember.

06 April 2011

Parenting..Somedays are a success and somedays…well…

(a post I wrote a few weeks ago but for some reason didn’t get published)

I have to admit I love the moments when it seems something I am doing as a mother is sinking in and having a positive impact. One of those days happened recently when Abby opened up a book and began to “read” it. This is how the story went, “And it came to pass in the temple of our God I have a family here on earth.” It made those of us within earshot giggle and made my heart swell with happiness.

Perhaps it bordered on pride because it was not long after that I was toppled from my little pedestal. Ethan and I were working on his scouts and completing the character connection for Respect. We were discussing why others might be disrespectful to things we value. When he didn’t quite understand, I tried to use the example of the value of hard work. Our conversation steered in the direction of how others scoff at our choice to not have a maid or nanny here where labor is so cheap. Ethan ingenuously replied, “Well yeah. We’ve got Kennedy!”