Tuesday, May 31, 2005

William Update

William has made incredible strides in his communication skills since we’ve been in Israel. I wonder if it’s because he is so often confronted by people he can’t understand. The other children at the park try to tell him things and it’s in Hebrew. When we drive people to church, they speak to each other and to him in Russian. I wonder if he’ll be a good language learner when he’s older as a result.

So, he learned to say yellow (yeh-yoh). Then, anything he really liked became “yeh-yoh.” His favorite blanket, the blue doggie one, is his “yeh-yoh.” A bottle of milk is the “yeh-yoh.” And he uses complete sentences to talk about these things. “I want de yeh-yoh.” This means either the blanket or a bottle of milk. Luckily, he still signs milk a lot to help us distinguish between the two. When he signs milk without specifying yellow, I sometimes bring him a bottle of water. He doesn’t like that and will often sign milk while saying “no water—I want de yeh-yoh.” I can’t refuse him after that! It’s just too cute.

Another thing he says a lot is “I see ____.” He’ll put in whatever he sees. Rock and water are his most frequent ones. All busses are “yeh-yoh bus,” no matter their real color (most of them here are green). And he likes to put locations on the end of his statements. “I see water down.” “Beep beep up” means he sees a car up the hill or going up.

He likes to watch TV and asks for permission by saying “I want to watch.” I always ask him to specify, but he generally means Thomas the Train. Eventually he’ll say “I want to watch the choo-choo.” Then, I generally give in.

He has also expanded his vocabulary for answering questions. He not only says “ya,” but he also sometimes says a strong “yes.” And if he has to think about it he says “uh ya.” And he is better at saying no when he means no instead of just ignoring the question.

Oh, and he turned 2 on Sunday. Hooray! We had the Bowden’s over for pizza, brownies and ice cream. I burned the brownies. We don’t have any sort of timer and the oven temperatures are Celsius, so I just kind of guess where the dial should be when I bake things. I checked them when they were still soft and jiggly, but then forgot to go back until the edges were black and crisp. Luckily the middle was just a little overcooked (meaning no longer gooey). They were fine with ice cream.

William got a new train set on a wooden track (a small one we can easily take back home). I think that’s the only thing I bought him. The rest of the things we gave him were from the gift back Rachel and Allison put together for our flights. He slept so much on the airplanes, we didn’t have to have gifts to amuse him. So, he got crayons and a coloring book. He got a board book and a toy car. The Bowden’s gave him a playmobile car and driver. He loves it and won’t let it out of his sight. We measured him that afternoon and found him to be about 3 feet 2 ½ inches. So, he’s going to be tall!

Lag B'Omer

This weekend was another Jewish holiday. It is called Lag B’Omer. Here’s an explanation of why the Jews celebrate it:

According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15), we are obligated to count the days from the second night of Passover to the day before Shavu’ot (in June), seven full weeks. This period is known as the Counting of the Omer. An omer is a unit of measure. On the second day of Passover, in the days of the Temple, an omer of barley was cut down and brought to the Temple as an offering.

Every night, from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavu'ot, we recite a blessing and state the count of the omer in both weeks and days. So on the 16th day, you would say "Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer."

The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavu'ot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah.

This period is a time of partial mourning, during which weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing are not conducted, in memory of a plague during the lifetime of Rabbi Akiba. Haircuts during this time are also forbidden. The 33rd day of the Omer (the eighteenth of Iyar) is a minor holiday commemorating a break in the plague. The holiday is known as Lag b'Omer. The mourning practices of the omer period are lifted on that date. The word "Lag" is not really a word; it is the number 33 in Hebrew, as if you were to call the Fourth of July "Iv July" (IV being 4 in Roman numerals).

People celebrate this day of joy in the middle of seven weeks of sorrow by having bonfires. Families gather wood, some of them all year long, and take it to a park or hillside or the beach. There, they build fires that can sometimes be really large. In the fire they cook potatoes wrapped in tin foil. I’m not sure what the significance is of this, but Tiffany says it’s the tradition. While the potatoes cook and the fire burns, they have picnics. We joined one of Kip’s coworkers and some of his friends to celebrate and went to a hillside not far from our apartment. The hill was dotted with fires and children were everywhere, dragging wood to their particular locations and playing in the bushes and rocks. William had no interest in stopping our climb where Kip’s group had set up. He charged on up the hill searching for rocks and following whatever other kids he saw. Eventually, he settled on the play area, with a couple of swings, a springy-rooster, and a teeter totter, as his location of choice. Kip and I took turns following him around.

Kip’s coworker and friends set up the fire and then started a couple of mini grills with hotdogs and hamburgers. These were eaten in pita with hummus. That is a really tasty way to eat hotdogs. They had juices and salad, too. We ate well between trips to the play area with William. Eventually, most of the kids in our group and several of their parents ended up on the play area with William. They all loved the teeter totter and William probably spent an hour on it during the course of the evening. It was a fun night.

Friday was another biking day for Kip. After his accident the last time they went out, I was a little nervous to have him go out again. But this time he did just fine. William and I spent the morning playing and watching Thomas (of course). Then, we headed to the gas station to spend our weekly $50 on a tank of gas. From there we went to the grocery store for a big shopping trip. Kip met us there after his bike ride since I had the only key to our apartment with me. (I guess most of the people who rent this place are here on vacation and don’t need separate keys.) We went home, unloaded the groceries, ate lunch and put William down for a nap.

That evening we went to the park with the big play structure by our old hotel. William had a great time running around. He likes to be outside. Then, we headed to a restaurant for dinner. The first place we tried was closed. Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday, so businesses tend to close down early Friday afternoon. Supermarkets and local stores close around 4:00, so if you realize you need something Friday, you have to go get it early or wait until Sunday. The mentality is very different from the States, where even religious people consider Saturday night party time and often stay out way too late being crazy. Maybe the Jews really do have a better understanding of keeping the Sabbath than we do. I mean, if you’re out all night Saturday (or Friday in Israel), you spend half the Sabbath recovering. How righteous is that? But I must admit that I’m not ready to give up that much of my weekend. I really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Saturday night in the States. The restaurant that we ate at that night was really very good. And, as usual, they were in no hurry to get rid of us. We could have sat and talked all night. This seems to be the case in most European eating establishments and I think I finally understand why. Unlike in the United States, the wait staff at a European restaurant is under no obligation to refill glasses or act pleasantly toward customers in any way. Also, they are paid more than American wait staffs and generally not tipped as much. This means they don't feel a strong desire to get rid of you and get back to their regular lives. And the restaurants here, even on Sabbath eve when half of them are closed, are never crowded. So why kick out someone who may order more food?

Meanwhile, it’s starting to get hot. It’s in the low 80s regularly and sometimes up closer to 90. It’s a little much for me. I like it cooler than that and our apartment takes a lot of time to cool down at night. Well, it gets cool enough for Kip and William, but my fat belly makes it so I stay uncomfortable a lot longer than they do. At least we come home before the real heat hits!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Weekend to Remember

This was a wonderful weekend. Except for the heat, it couldn’t have been much more fun.

On Friday, Kip, William and I went to the Monkey Forest, about halfway between Haifa and the Sea of Galilee. Kip’s coworker had told us to take fruit and feed the monkeys, so Kip chopped apples and peeled oranges and took the banana William didn’t finish at breakfast. The Monkey Forest has a lot more than just Monkeys. In fact, the first thing a visitor notices upon entering the park is the large amount of roosters crowing noisily to one another and wandering freely around the paths. There are also freely wandering ducks, pelicans (though they stay near their pool), peacocks and hens, and assorted “wild animals.” We saw deer and rabbits and lamas roaming around. The walkways were cut through the forest and fairly well shaded by the trees, which was lucky because it was incredibly hot, even at 10:00 in the morning when we got there. The first animals we fed were the Ganon and Macaque Monkeys. They have a tunnel going through their enclosure where you can walk through and have them walking around above you. There’s a layer of wire mesh for the tunnel and another layer for their enclosure, so they’re pretty well separated from visitors. I don’t know if we were supposed to feed them, the rules were very vague about feeding which animals and what. I pushed a chunk of apple up through the bottom layer of wire and a monkey above me reached down and caught it with its fingers and worked the apple up through the second layer and ate it. Then, we had a lot more monkeys looking for food. We found a place where we could toss the monkeys pieces of fruit over the fence and they were very happy. And we didn’t feed them very much.

We wandered around for a few hours showing William the animals. He learned to say “I see a baboon” and repeated it for several minutes before going back to his favorite thing—rocks. He would stoop down periodically as we walked along the pathways and touch a rock and say “daht?” Kip and I would either say “rock” or ask him what he thought it was. Then, he would say rock. He would try to pick them up, especially the big ones, and then try to carry them with us until he saw a better one or dropped the one he had because it was too big. Finally, we found the enclosure people come to the park to see. It was the Squirrel monkey enclosure. This one has a door so visitors can go right in with the monkeys and give them food. We took our apples and oranges in their and Kip filmed me feeding the monkeys. As soon as they realized that I had food, they were all over me. They sat on my shoulders or clung to my pregnant belly – conveniently close to the food container. Their little feet were cool on my skin in spite of the hot weather, which made me think at first that I was getting peed on. It was really fun to have them on me, but a little unnerving. After they finished off our fruit, Kip went and got their official food from the coffee shop – a cup of little worms. I filmed him feeding the monkeys those. For some reason, they didn’t like sitting on Kip as much. They would climb on him and snatch the worms, but they did it one at a time instead of in a group and immediately jumped back off. He thinks it’s because I’m easier to cling to with my fat belly, but most of them were on my shoulders (and one even took off my bandana). Kip held the worm spoon on William’s shoulders and got a monkey on him, but it kind of scared him, so we didn’t force it. William spent the majority of our time in the monkey cage looking at rocks and ignoring his crazy parents and their monkeys.

After finishing our worms, the monkeys had no further use for us and disappeared into their trees. We were hot and tired, so I insisted on getting ice cream treats from the food stand (where you can buy ice cream, cool drinks, or worms depending on your preferences). I got a Nestle Nok Out bar which was super rich and delicious and Kip got a Magnum which didn’t seem as good for costing the same. We got William a Popsicle but he wasn’t interested, so I ate it too. He watched us eat for a while. So did the roosters, gathering under our table and snatching at chocolate bits that fell down there. Then, William went wandering. I sent Kip after him. We spent the next half hour going back and forth on a wooden bridge over a murky pond with ducks swimming in it. William was fascinated with looking at the water through the bridge and kept saying “water down.” He would go over one way, get to the end and turn around and go back. It took some persuading to get him to go back to the car.

William took his nap on the drive home, so when we finally got home and all Kip and I wanted to do was sleep, all he wanted to do was play. Kip kindly took him off to the store and I tried to sleep and failed because it was just too hot. We do have an air conditioner, but the cool air doesn’t seem to penetrate the bedroom. It builds up in the front entry room and doesn’t do much for the rest of the house. So, after Kip and William got back and we all sat around a little longer, we decided to head to the beach.

We got to the beach at around 5:00, when most people were headed home and the sun was getting low over the water. We chose a spot on the sand and settled our stuff down and then William and Kip went up to play in the waves. William took a while to get into it, but then he realized how fun it was to throw rocks into the water as the waves came toward him. He loved it. And the beach is full of small rocks perfect for tossing into water. The sand is nice, fine and soft, not at all like at the Dead Sea. There are just a lot of small, smooth, beach rocks in it. And a ton of perfectly shaped sea shells. They’re all the same type of shell, the ones that are kind of a ridged third of a circle. But it amazes me to find so many perfect ones after not seeing any at all in Oregon and not many in Mexico.

William and Kip played for quite a while in the cool water. The sun got low and the breeze got cold. They eventually moved on to the big, fish-shaped play structure where William fell face first off the end of a slide and got sand all over himself. Later, he went down another slide before the little girl at the bottom had moved (she was just standing there forever and her parents didn’t even ask her to move even though they could see William wanted to come down) and he knocked her over and made her cry. I told them we were sorry (in English) and they said it was OK, but that was the limit of their English. Then, we dragged William home and forced him into a bath and to bed.

Saturday was district visit day at church. We had several people from the District center (Jerusalem) come out. It was nice to have so many people at church, especially so many English-speakers. We had some good talks and a good Sunday School lesson. Then, it was pot-luck time. I had brought my Mediterranean Pasta Salad (a cold version of a recipe I got from Real Simple before leaving) and it was a hit. There were several other salads, although most contained Kip’s least favorite food – tuna. And there were fruits and deserts. It was a nice meal. I got a lot of comments on how big I’d grown in the two weeks since we’d been at church (we missed church when we went to the Dead Sea). I guess I am getting big. I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.

When we got home from church, I took a nap. This time I succeeded in sleeping, in spite of the heat. I slept a good three hours and poor Kip had to keep William entertained all by himself. I think they only watched the Thomas video once, so he was successful in finding other things for William to do. And it was VERY nice to sleep.

So, it was a great weekend. The monkeys were a lot of fun. The beach was great and I intend to spend more time there. Church was nice and I enjoyed being fed afterward. And sleep is always great. I hope to have more weekends like that.

William in the water. Posted by Hello

Dad and William at the Beach. Posted by Hello

Mom and William take a break. Posted by Hello

Pelicans at the Monkey Forest. Posted by Hello

Feeding a Monkey. Posted by Hello

William points out a rock at the Monkey Forest. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 21, 2005

DOH! No VOIP yet :(

We finally got an apartment and DSL at home! I was so excited to set up the Vonage router and have a VOIP US phone number. We even had our Oregon home number switched over to Vonage. One small problem... a 220V system in Israel. I plugged in the router and there was a loud pop and an awful burning smell. Now I was in a new apartment with no lights, a scared 2-year-old, and no clue as to where the breaker switches were. Anyway - the router is toast! When I called Vonage the guy says, "That was really dangerous. I don't think that will fall under your warranty because it was... how do I put this... a user error." What he meant was, "Wow - that was a really stupid thing to do!" So I had to order a new Vonage box that will come via "air-mail" (hand delivered by my Mom) in early June. Sorry to everyone who was hoping to call us on the cheap. *sigh*

Learn from my mistake... 220 != 110 and always check your adapter capabilities!


P.S. Inside joke for my family... "Something bad is happening"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Apartment Living

So we’ve been in our apartment for a couple weeks now and I figured I should tell you all a little about it. It’s got its good points and its bad points.

First of all, we have a washer and dryer and a full kitchen! These are wonderful things to have that I missed a lot in the hotel. Now, we can bake things if we want to and there is actually a decent amount of working space for chopping vegetables and preparing dinner. The refrigerator is almost full-size! We can store all sorts of food! And we can do laundry at our convenience. It still takes longer for a load of wash here than in the states, but I can get it going and then go do something else, like watch “Thomas the Train” for the 3rd time that day because it’s the only DVD of a train that we have and trains are what William wants to watch. I try to fool him into thinking there may be some trains on TV so I can channel surf from time to time, but generally there aren’t either trains or things worth watching on our TV. I like living on the fourth floor again because that means that I can leave the windows open all night long (and all day if I like) and take advantage of cool breezes. I also like that we may be on the top floor but our entrance is street level thanks to the steepness of Mt Carmel. I don’t have to climb all those stairs!

An unfortunate thing is that if I want to walk anywhere, it involves hills and stairs. And there don’t seem to be any parks nearby. There is a nice stairway/path beside our apartment and the landlady claims it is merely a 5-minute climb down to some great shopping centers. She suggests, though, that in my pregnant condition I should catch a taxi for the ride back up. Of course, 5-minutes for a healthy person, even a healthy pregnant person is one thing. Try doing it with a 2-year-old. William and I took about 30 minutes one morning and made it almost down to the level of the next street. Then, something upset him and I had to carry him back – almost 5 flights worth of stairs. We attempted it a couple days ago and made it down 2 street levels (I’d guess about 10 flights worth). We found a tiny grocery store at that street, bought some treats and headed back up the stairs. We took about an hour and I was ready to stop climbing well before we reached our street. Good thing William takes it so slow. So, it’s not the best location for a pregnant lady with a 2-yr-old. Luckily, when Kip and Scott ride together to work, I can drive over to Tiffany’s and take advantage of things like their super-huge (comparatively) toy collection and all-day computer access. Plus, William enjoys playing with the other kids (or fighting).

Meanwhile, we’re getting used to sharing a room with William. Our only other option is to put him in the TV room, but then I couldn’t stay up after he’s gone to bed and get annoyed with the lack of decent programming. Plus, Kip often has meetings in the evening. His internet connection is in the entrance room, so he has to sit at the desk in there with his computer and telephone. It’s right by the door to the TV room, so that would be hard on William. So, we put him to bed and then I do things like the dishes (no dishwasher – man, I miss that machine…) and Kip does his meetings and eventually we head in and join our little snoring bundle of joy.

So, it will be fine for a couple of months. In fact, it’s really pretty comfortable. I wish there was a park, but we’ll make do until we come back to Oregon. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the good chocolate and the yummy fruit juices and guessing what is in the jars and cans of food in the grocery store.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Dead Sea Trip

This last week was Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day. What this means to us, basically, is that Kip didn’t work Thursday and only worked a half day on Wednesday. (Friday’s are always off because they are the Israeli Saturday.) So, we decided to do something fun with our 3 1/2 day weekend. We made a reservation at a resort hotel on the banks of the Dead Sea. Kip got home Wednesday afternoon and we headed off. It was a nice drive. William slept for the first 2 hours. When he woke, we stopped at a rest-stop McDonald’s. It was our first McDonald’s stop since leaving the states so I didn’t feel so bad about it. And it was nice because they had a McDonald’s on one side of the store and a kabob sandwich shop on the other. Kip went for the sandwich and I went for a kid’s meal for William and figured I’d fill up on whatever the boys didn’t finish. William wasn’t really interested in the food at all. He only wanted to watch the lights on the cheap toy vending machines. He especially liked the ones that sold little plastic balls with assorted junk inside. I bought him one with a tiny Thomas the Train inside, but he lost interest in it pretty fast. Eventually, he settled down and ate some fries with ketchup (his favorite food – ketchup), but not until having spent about an hour dancing in front of the vending machines.

We got to the Dead Sea about 7:00 and checked in to our hotel. We had had to stop at a rocky overlook on the way so William could collect some rocks. He really loves rocks.

On Thursday the 12th we went to Massada. This is a fortress on the top of a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod built a massive palace there to summer in (summer in the desert?!) and to retreat to in ‘hard times.’ When the Romans attacked the Jews in 77(ish) AD, a group of rebel Jews held out there. The Romans seiged the plateau and built a ramp up to break down the walls. When it was clear that they would be overtaken, the Jewish men killed their wives and children and then each other until the last one committed suicide. It’s a pretty miserable story. We weren’t sure how William would like the ruins. It’s just basically the remains of stone buildings on an almost completely barren mountaintop. There’s not even grass, just an occasional shrub clinging tenuously to the dusty stone. I wasn’t sure how I would like it either, for that matter. I mean, it’s not a very comfortable place (or cheerful for that matter). But, it turned out really interesting. We all enjoyed the ride up the mountain in the cable car. And then William was in heaven. Rocks, rocks everywhere! He wanted to stop and touch each one. He would find piles of gravel and just sift them through his hands or make a pile on his legs. I would find places to sit in the shade (if there was any) and enjoy the cool breeze. It was sunny but the breeze kept it from being too hot. And some of the rooms that hadn’t collapsed were wonderfully cool and shadey inside. We spent a couple of hours following William around and trying to lead him to the things we wanted to see, then dragged him back to the cable car and down.

That afternoon we all rested in the room. Unfortunately, the people in the room next door (that happened to have a door to ours that didn’t completely separate them) decided to spend the afternoon smoking in there. I got a miserable headache and finally went to the front desk to beg for mercy. They were very kind and moved us down one level to a room with no adjoining room and supposedly on the non-smoking floor. We asked them to move the crib we’d gotten for William down to the new room, but it never showed up, so we eventually requested another one. The one they brought was TINY! I don't think it would hold a newborn Killpack! We decided to take out its mattress (using the term loosely) and let him sleep on the floor but even that was too small for him to fit on. So, we took the pillows off the sofa to make a mat for him and we discovered that the sofa was a fold-out bed! Hooray! Even better than the bigger crib we had hoped for! We made up the bed and William was thrilled to have such a big place to sleep.

On Friday (the 13th) we decided to go to Ein Gedi. Although this sounds like something out of a Star Wars movie, it actually is the site where David hid from King Saul when Saul was out to kill him. It’s a sort of oasis, a stream and some trees in a valley surrounded by the bleak landscape of the Dead Sea valley. (Did we mention the fact that there is practically NO vegitation in this huge valley, not just on the plateau of Massada?) You have to pay 26 shekels to hike up the David’s stream trail, but they’ve done some nice things for the tourists. They’ve put stone stairs on a lot of the steep areas (well, practically the whole hike) and divided the hikers so climbers go up one side of the stream and descenders go down the other side. That’s nice -- you don’t have to struggle to get around people going the opposite direction. They say it’s a 30 minute hike one way. It took us about 30 minutes to get from the entrance to the base of the stream. William had to stop at each rock and ask what it was and then attempt to pick it up. Did we mention that there isn’t really much in the way of vegitation? This means, there are a LOT of rocks. He was again in heaven. But we were a little frustrated. It was HOT and I really wanted to get out of the sun. Finally, Kip carried him on his shoulders. That worked for a while, until we came to the stream. Then, Kip and William joined the other hikers in refreshing themselves in the cool water. They just hopped in tennis shoes and all. Everyone else knew this was a water hike and wore Tevas and swimsuits under or as their clothes. Well, we’re Americans. We don’t even know what they were saying. How would we know to wear water gear to hike in the desert? So, the hike was a lot like hiking in Utah. There was very little cover and the one thing that made it bearable was the cool water of the stream. But Kip and William had a blast in the water and I enjoyed watching them.

On Saturday we tried to take William swimming in the Dead Sea before checking out and heading home. Unfortunately, he seems to prefer streams to seas. Plus, the beach of the Dead Sea is not nice for walking or playing on. Instead of soft grains of sand, it is made up of pebbles. Sharp hot pokey pebbles. And it doesn’t get better in the water. Again, who knew we needed those Tevas? Plus, when we dragged him into the water to see if he would get used to it and calm down, a hotel attendant yelled at us to get him back out. Apparently, the super salty content of the water raises blood pressure and children shouldn’t be subjected to it. Of course, the public beaches were full of kids playing in the water, so how would we have guessed. The hotel guy said even adults shouldn’t spend more than 20 minutes in the water at a time. Wow. I wonder if people really follow that advice? Of course, the water is kind of slimy, so maybe people don’t like being in it too long.

We took William back to the hotel and put him in the bath. He played in the tub for about an hour and finally had to be dragged out kicking and screaming. I guess he likes warm clean bath water with a smooth-bottomed tub better than salty, slimy Dead Sea water with rocks underfoot and the hot sun glaring down. Who can blame him?

So, now we’re back. The Bowden’s have been out of town, leaving me and William home all day with no car. We’ve done a lot of watching our “Thomas the Train” DVD. William can’t get enough. Mommy has had enough. But there’s no park nearby and the only places to walk in this neighborhood involve a ton of stairs. We’ll try another outing today, but last time we went out William didn’t make it far down the stairs before demanding that I carry him back home up five flights of stairs.

Motorola's "parking lot" in Arad, Israel. Now where did I park that beast? Posted by Hello

Waterfall at the top of the Wadi David hike Posted by Hello
This is at Massada.

Rocks are fun! Posted by Hello
We found this sign on the way to the Dead Sea.

Where does this road take us? Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A few of my favorite things

I thought I’d list some of the things that I am enjoying about Israel…

Straight out of South Africa with authentic Hot Peri-Peri sauce – YUMMMM! There is one in the mall by Intel. My lower intestines aren’t too happy with me. I can’t wait to go back. Eat your heart out Chad!

Mountain Biking

My co-worker Yoav took me mountain biking on Mount Carmel. It was awesome – but painful! He’s been riding all year but it was the first ride of the season for me. We drove to the top of Mt. Carmel and did 10 miles of single-track that wound down the hill, then back up, then back down, then back up… I had eaten at Nando’s the night before and my stomach wasn’t sitting too well. The trails reminded me of a mix of Red Butte/Foothill trails, Cedar City downhill trails, and some Cottonwood Canyon trials. There were steep technical descents with large rocks, open/dusty single-track, forested single-track, forested jeep trails, and loose rock and stick sections. One of the downhill loose rock sections caught me completely off guard. Something caught in my front tire. It quit spinning and jack-knifed to the right. The bike dumped me forward over the handle-bars, and I rolled to take the brunt of the fall on my right shoulder while my helmet banged hard on some rocks. Nothing was broken except my pride. I have plenty of battle wounds on my legs and arms, and I have a 3x6 inch bandage covering my iodine splattered shoulder wounds – ouch! I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Kristin tells me she doesn’t want me to get back into mountain biking – I dunno why?

Bidet in the bathroom (prounounced Buh'day)

William finally stopped putting his toys in the bidet, but not until he learned how to say “icky”!

Football, Football, Football

And I am talking about REAL football! Any night, I can catch a game from the British league, European league, South America, or even Israel. Did you know Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem all have their own teams? I just wish the Israeli announcers got as excited as the South American ones – GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!

Rich, creamy, European style chocolate in every grocery store. My favorite brand is the one with the cow on the package. At work, whenever someone goes on vacation outside Israel, it is tradition to pick up some chocolate and bring it to work for everyone. I keep getting these emails with the subject “Chocolates in my cube at 14:00”. One person went to North America and “couldn’t find any good US chocolate in Florida.” They brought back Canadian chocolate instead. I told him that’s because there’s no such thing as “good US chocolate”.

25 degree weather
I wear sandals all the time, there are palm trees lining the streets near work, and I eat Kiwi’s for breakfast almost every day.

Driving in Kilometers per hour
I finally have a car that can get up over 100 on the freeway! Kristin told me she likes driving here because in the states she is a bad driver, but here she is just like everyone else. My co-workers laughed about that but pointed out the flaw in her logic. They said that the guy who cuts across two lanes of traffic to exit the freeway at the last second planned to do it all along. The same goes for the guy who backs out into moving traffic, turns left from the straight lane, stops in the middle of traffic to let people in/out, and drives the wrong way down the one-way street, etc. Honking is a regular affair, but every time William hears it he still says “uh-oh”.

Every Friday off
Need I say more? But there’s no such thing as a free lunch… too bad I have to work Sundays. :-(

Full-size rental car
It's a Subaru Impreza! Ha! The other full-size choice was a Honda Civic.

Elevator button pushing

We had two Holy days in a row – the Sabbath and Passover. I kept wondering why people would stand by the elevators on the 9th floor, but the down button was never highlighted. I reasoned they must have forgotten to push the down button or they just didn’t push it hard enough – they were kind-of old. Then we met a doctor who cleared things up for us. He got on our elevator and we asked what floor he wanted, to which he replied, “I can’t say”. Then he explained that it was breaking the Sabbath to push the buttons. So he either has to wait for the Shabbat elevator that stops on every floor, or catch a lift with some unsuspecting tourist who goes close to the floor he wants. Glad I could be of service. One Sabbath we got on the elevator and a hotel employee asked us what floor we wanted. We said 9. Then he pressed 4,6,8,9, and got off the elevator. Thanks buddy. No one was waiting on any of those floors, so at the top I pressed 7,5,3,2,1,L for the return journey. Was it out of spite or just wanting to be helpful? You’ll never know.

Last but most important… A daughter!
Wow – I’m gonna have a daughter! I didn’t think I had it in me. Well actually … she’s in Kristin. I’ve noticed that Kristin has been wearing a lot of pink this pregnancy.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Pregnant in Israel

Kip’s coworkers ask him every week what he’s going to do for the weekend. They want to hear about some major sight-seeing efforts and know that we are appreciating this opportunity to be in their beautiful land. Unfortunately, his usual answer is that we are going to Tiberius. Again. That’s an hour inland from Haifa, on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. That was an OK answer the first time, but now that we’ve been here several weeks, they’d like for us to do something more. Well, we haven’t. We tried to appease the questioners this weekend by going to the Mt of Beatitudes, also on the Sea of Galilee. We couldn’t do this on a Saturday (Shabbat) because we drive people to church who otherwise couldn’t go. So, our plan of taking picnics and seeing the sights around the Sea of Galilee on Shabbat has been foiled for the duration of our stay here. Instead, we took the chance on Friday to go to Tiberius early (before the fireside at the church that night) and see some stuff. Unfortunately, we got a later start than we planned, so the only thing we had time for was the Mt of Beatitudes. It was very peaceful. There’s a Catholic church built on the sight and the grounds are all manicured into a lovely walking garden. I’m not sure it was exactly like that when Christ spoke there. So, on Sunday, Kip told his coworkers where he’d been and they all looked at him blankly. Oh, whoops. Non-Christians. Yet another weekend of them not being impressed. At least it was fun for us!

On Saturday, Kip and I spoke in church. I tried to plan on how long it would take to talk and be translated (into Russian only this week), but my talk was too long. I followed it up with a flute solo – He Shall Feed His Flock. I figured an Israeli branch might just be the only place I could play something from the Messiah out of season and not have people sick to death of it after all the Christmas-time performances. Everyone loved it, in spite of the fact that Anne (the pianist) and I never actually practiced together. She played through it the night before and I picked out the flute part on the piano. Then, we were both late to church and didn’t get to try it together until the performance. She did great. I got lucky to have her in the branch—and a quality piano donated annonomously after a well-known Morman pianist visited the branch a year ago. So, Kip’s talk was great but got to be much shorter than he prepared. I thought all the nice comments he got on how great it was were at least slightly influenced by my bringing of the Spirit through music before he spoke. I got a lot of compliments on the fluting. I should have skipped the talking…

On Sunday I had my first visit to Dr Zamberg, my Ob while in Israel. I should have thought about the fact that office waiting rooms in Haifa would not be stocked with English reading material. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long. Dr Z looked throught my file and set up all sorts of things, exactly the things my doctor back home wanted me to do that I was hoping to get out of. I had to go take a glucose-tolerance test and get blood drawn and urine tested (all of which turned out just fine). He also scheduled a full ultrasound for me. He then did a little ultrasound of his own and sent me on my way.

The full ultrasound was set for Tuesday. Dr Z warned me that I should take 1800 shekels to pay for it (because I had neglected to bring any money to my appointment with him earlier that week). That is roughly $400. I didn’t think that you could withdraw that much at an ATM, so I went into the bank to get it. A grouchy lady behind a semi-private desk helped me. She took my Visa and my passport and went away and came back with a lot of paperwork for me to sign and a wad of 50 shekel bills. I thought she must be joking. 1800 shekels in 50s? That’s like using $10 bills to pay your $400 fee. She wasn’t joking. As she started to count them out, I asked if she didn’t just possibly have something larger than that. Even the ATM gives you 100s! And, I mean, this was a BANK, right? She shruggingly offered me four 200s and then the other 1000 in 50s. I felt like laughing. ‘Thanks for the ultrasound, Dr. Here’s 1800 shekels in small, unmarked bills.’ It made quite a wad in my purse. Oh, and it wasn’t quite 1800 shekels anyway. In spite of the fact that I’d been entirely clear in my request for 1800 (I wrote it down for her), with the ‘commission,’ as the grouchy lady called it, my total came to 1787. So, was I supposed to magically create the missing 13 shekels for myself? You’d think she could have worked it out to give me the amount I needed.

In any case, the ultrasound was a good experience. I think everyone should take the opportunity to get one if they’re here while pregnant. In the states this is done by a technician who takes measurements and makes little noncommittal noises and tells you little more than whether it’s a boy or girl. In Israel, the ultrasound is performed by a doctor who narrates the whole thing (although the language can be a barrier at times). You know right away that all the proportions are OK, or not. And the doctor I went to enjoyed dabbling in the latest 3-D technology where the computer takes the ultrasound picture and fills it in to show what the baby really looks like. I got some cute pictures of our little girl. Oh, and a full video of the process. Too bad I won’t be able to view it in the states. And for all of you wondering if it really is a girl, yes, the baby in my belly is as female as they come. Little Anna is on her way.

So, it’s been a full week. William learned to say “yellow” and can’t stop saying it. He also got his hand caught in the elevator doors as they opened at Bowden’s apartment on Sunday. He’s got some pretty hideous finger wounds from me yanking it free of the sliding door. But we bought him yellow bandaids and he’s happy with that. He can also say Anna now, in preparation for the arrival of his little sister. And he can say Evan finally. We talk about him a lot at nighttime when William doesn’t want to sleep and I don’t want him screaming in the hotel.

We move to our apartment this weekend. It’s a little one-bedroom place not far from the Bowden’s. It will be nice to have our own place – and a full kitchen. And we may work out and alternate plan for William’s bed’s location.

Mount of Beatitudes Posted by Hello