Monday, June 27, 2005

Our Final Weeks

So, the end is drawing near. We head back to the States on Friday. I am excited to head home, though I know there are many things I will miss. This is really a beautiful place—if only it weren’t so hot or I weren’t so pregnant.

We’ve spent the weeks since our trip to Jerusalem doing pretty normal things. We’ve done laundry, played at the parks, gone to the beach one morning after dropping Kip off at work. The beach at 8am is absolutely perfect. The breeze is cool and the sun is not yet too hot. William loved playing in the waves as they rushed up the sand. He didn’t throw rocks the majority of the time we were there that morning, having too much fun splashing in the water. The only problem was that I got worn out pretty quickly. I’m not used to standing up following him around for a full hour. If I turned my back on him, though, he ran off straight into the oncoming waves and I had to run after him. So, there was no chance to just sit back and enjoy the waves and the weather. I’d like to go back with Kip, but we’ve run out of time.

Kip went biking for his last Friday here. He had a great time and I feel bad about taking him back to Oregon where there really aren’t any good mountain-biking trails nearby and no mountain-biking friends to go with either. I know he’ll miss his rides, although we’ll go through fewer bandages and first aid supplies. When he got home Friday, we headed off for a final time to the Carmel Center Park and dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Habank. (Yeah, the name is pretty lame, but the food is good.) It was super hot even though it was getting late. I’ll enjoy getting back to Oregon, at least until the heat hits there. The weather here now is probably comparable to the hottest weather Oregon gets and we’ll get back to Oregon just as that weather gets going. But at least we won’t be here for it to get hotter than it already is.

It was sad to say goodbye to our little branch. They got us a going-away gift and were very sad to see us go. I’ve got a lot of respect for the members here. They have incredibly strong testimonies and are generally very intelligent and interesting people. I will miss them.

But it will be nice to be back home!

Friday, June 17, 2005

How William likes his hummus. Posted by Hello

Our Hotel, Notre Dame, from the walls of the Old City. Posted by Hello

Yellow work vehicles from the Ramparts of the Old City. Posted by Hello

William on the Ramparts Walk. Posted by Hello

Garden Tomb Posted by Hello

Kristin at the BYU Jerusalem Center Posted by Hello

Garden of Gethsemane Posted by Hello

Mom and William in the Tunnel Tour. Posted by Hello

Grandma, Kip and William at the Dome of the Rock. Posted by Hello

Kip and William ride a camel in Jerusalem. Posted by Hello


Kip took the day off work on Thursday (and on Monday) so that we could take his mom to Jerusalem. The drive is roughly 2 hours and we arrived there a little after noon. We stayed at a hotel right by the old city and yet amazingly affordable compared to other hotels in the area. It was built in the 1800’s as a French Catholic pilgrim’s center. The center of the building is a cathedral and both sides flanking it are full of simple rentable rooms. It was not very crowded at all, which meant that William got a lot of attention from the adoring staff and the group of brown-robed priests that seemed to live there. It was really very pleasant and even had an inexpensive cafĂ© with very good food. We ate there at least once every day.

The day we got there we rushed to the Dome of the Rock. Friday is the Muslim holy day, so we had to see it Thursday if we wanted Kip’s mom to get the chance. A nice Jerusalem resident approached us as we entered the Old City and asked if we were headed to the Dome. We said yes and he proceeded to guide us there – for a fee, of course. He told us that we wouldn’t have to pay him and then, when he got us there and we offered him $10 he laughed and said that was way too little. He wanted $40. We settled on $15.

After looking around the Dome of the Rock for a while and turning down countless pesky postcard-selling children and tour-guides, we headed to the BYU Jerusalem center. The atmosphere there was completely opposite that of the Dome. It was quite and peacefull and (my personal favorite) air-conditioned! It was lovely. We watched a little video about students there and the facilities and then Brother Squires (the resident organist) played us a short concert. It was very nice. But we had to rush back to the old city and the Wester (wailing) wall to do a tunnel tour. I had a migraine from the heat and sun and trying to navigate the crazy streets (which is absolutely impossible) and wasn’t very eager to do the tour. Luckly, though, this is a tour underground. The Jews have dug under the buildings along the western wall of the Temple Mount and found the Herodian roots of the wall and things like a moat and bridges that used to lead into the Temple Mount during the time of Christ before the Muslims took over the city and built up the area so their homes could be closer to their holy site. Our guide was a Jewish student who had some obvious contention with the Muslims. The tunnel itself was very interesting and quite spacious in some areas. And it was cool and dark. The only problem was that there was usually no place to sit when the guide stopped to tell long-winded stories about what might have taken place along certain spots in the excavation during the ancient times. There was an area where they had found the paving stones of a roadway the went along the Western Wall during the time of Christ. It was neat to see and imagine the Savior walking there (and throwing out the money-changers and animal-sellers). And it was so nice and cool and dark that my headache actually went away during the tour. The Muslims aren’t very happy about the tunnel being there and especially not about the end of the tunnel opening into their Quarter of Jerusalem, so the Jews usally post an armed guard at the exit to escourt their patrons from the site back to the Jewish Quarter, but there wasn’t one there for us when we got out, so our guide decided to take us. I don’t know that it really is necessary. The only Muslims we saw on our walk were the shop-keepers and they were certainly not interested in driving us away. If you even looked at something in their direction they tried to get you in their shops.

On Friday we hired a tour guide (in advance) to take us through the Old City. He announced when he arrived at our hotel to get us that he had decided to drive us to some sites outside the Old City without charging us extra (we learned later that it’s usually 2X more expensive to do a driving tour). We all loaded into his minivan and drove up to the Mt of Olives to get some panaramic views of the city and some colorfully bizarre explanations of what was really going through Christ’s mind when he was there and about to be crucified. But what can you expect from a non-Christian. He took us to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations and then back to the hotel to park and walk into the Old City. I was physically tired mentally sick of siteseeing, so I offered to skip the rest of the tour and play with William in the hotel. We watched some videos on Kip’s computer and then took a 3-hour nap in the cool dark hotel room. That was nice. Meanwhile, Kip and his mom had a lovely tour of all the important Christian sites in the Old City. They followed the Via Dolorosa, the path Christ may have taken from his trial to his crucifixion and saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Catholic site built over where they believe Golgotha and the tomb were located. They shopped a little (only at Jewish stores because the guide claimed they were better). And they went to the Garden Tomb site outside the old city (the Presbyterian site not covered by a dark cold cathedral).

On Saturday Kip drove his mom to the airport and William and I took a taxi to the BYU center for church. Kip met us there only a few minutes after church started. It was a nice meeting.

On Sunday we took things pretty easy. I stayed in again (having overfilled my sightseeing limits and feeling pregnant and tired) and Kip and William did the Ramparts Walk, climbing up and walking along the walls of the Old City. William especially loved the part overlooking some construction vehicles that were his favorite color (yellow). I loved the part where they were directly across the street from the hotel and called to have me look out the window and wave at them from our 3rd floor room. That afternoon we did some shopping (I can handle spending money and buying souvenirs, I’m just tired of looking at ruins) and ate a yummy dinner at an “oriental restaurant.” (That’s where you get things like hummus and skewers of chicken and plates of french fries.)

Monday we drove home.

So, that’s our trip to Jerusalem. It was a lot of fun but Kip and I are both now burned out of touristy activities and ready to get back to living the boring life. This weekend we just went out souvenir shopping again and next weekend (our last here in Israel) Kip’s going mountain biking and we may not see any tourist sites at all!

Grandma's Visit

I’ve sent William and Kip off to the park – the one up 11 flights of stairs on the street above us – so now I can try to catch up on this silly blog. Two weeks of not writing means there’s a lot to write about and not a lot of desire to do it. So, we’ll hit the hightlights.

Kip’s Mom came to visit! It was a ton of fun to have another family member around to show things to and especially to show William off to. She arrived on Friday, the 3rd of June. We picked her up at the airport outside of Tel Aviv after only getting slightly lost and being slightly (30 minutes-ish) late. William did his traditional ignoring act for the first part of the drive. He puts his head down and just doesn’t respond to the person sitting next to him. But it only took about 30 minutes before Grandma broke him down and he was laughing and smiling at her. I’m sure it helped that she actually spoke English to him instead of Russian like our regular back-seat occupants.

On Saturday we took Grandma with us to church. We packed sandwiches for lunch and after the meetings took Kip’s poor jet-lagged mom off to see some of the sites around the sea of Galilee. We saw the St Peter’s Primacy (where Christ told Peter to feed his sheep—supposedly) and then went to Capernum. Capernum was cursed by the Savior and is now just a bunch of ruins. All that remains now is the dark stone foundations of buildings that once were houses and synagogues. Part of one synagogue is still in pretty decent shape, with some of the walls standing a good ten feet and some nice columns. It looks very Roman. After wandering around there in the hot sun, I was ready to crash. But we couldn’t let Grandma miss the Mt. of Beatitudes. We took her there and let her enjoy the beautiful view of the sea and then headed home.

On Sunday I took her and William to the Zoo. It was a lot less crowded than my last time there because this time it wasn’t free admission. I liked it a lot better. Plus, it helped to have Grandma there to push the stroller (and carry the backpack full of diapers and water bottles). I’m afraid I really abused her during this trip.

On Monday we (the women and William again since Kip had to work) went to Ceaseria. This was a lot like Capernum in places, but in other places there was a lot more left of the old buildings. That’s because the Crusaders came in and built over the older ruins and then future inhabitants built on top of Crusader stuff. (I don’t have the best grasp of the history of this land yet. It just turned over from one nation to another way too frequently!) So, we walked around a little and ended up out on the old harbor. William threw rocks down from a walkway onto the beach for a long time while Grandma and I sat and enjoyed the breeze. William had a terrible two melt-down at the end of lunch when we tried to get him to leave the waterside and head back to the car. We ended up having to drag him. Thank goodness Grandma was there because I couldn’t have done it alone!

Tuesday we took the morning easy and headed out in the afternoon to see Akko, or Acre as the Crusaders called it. This was the last Crusader stronghold and currently a functioning Arab community. We wandered through the streets of the old city and it was amazing to see people living in buildings that were literally a thousand years old. Unfortunately, it was rather dirty and run-down and the best things to see as a tourist were closed by the time we got there. There is a beautiful Crusader Citadel still in good condition and only open for touring, but we’ll have to visit it another time if we want to go inside.

On Wednesday, Sister Powell, here with her husband on a mission, offered to take us around Galilee to see the best sites. She’s been here a year and really devoted time to studying where biblical events occurred, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I drove us out to the church in Tiberius and she met us there. She took us to see the famed Ancient Boat, a wooden boat frame found in the mud of the Sea of Galilee and discovered to be about 2000 years old. It was very interesting. Then, we saw Tabgha, which is where the feeding of the 5000 most likely occurred. She pointed out how small the area inhabited by Jews was by the Sea of Galilee. That’s why it was possible for the Savior to walk from place to place. (Although it still took a lot of walking in hot sun on dusty roads to get around.) We saw where the legion of devils was cast out of the man and drove a herd of swine into the sea (not in Jewish Galilee because they would not have had swine). And we saw a couple of sites where Jewish zealots were slaughtered by Roman invaders or committed suicide to avoid slaughter by Roman invaders. We’ve decided that every inch of this land has a story or legend associated with it and that half of them involve one group of people being slaughtered by another and the other half involve religious events in Jewish, Christian or Muslim history. And there are several different places that lay claim to the same religious events. This makes for a lot of places to visit as a tourist.

Kip carries William around Akko. Posted by Hello

Mom, Grandma and William at Capurnaum. Posted by Hello