Monday, December 15, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...if you live at the North Pole, anyway...

The weather here has been insane this past week! Last Sunday it started snowing while we were in church, and it snowed, and it snowed. And then it started getting cold. Last Thursday it took two hours to get to work, when normally it only takes 45 minutes. Friday afternoon it snowed some more, and traffic was backed up everywhere despite warnings to stay at home - the storm hit right around rush hour and it ended up taking people hours to get home. On Saturday we went to Australia (the movie, not the warm country where it's currently summer, unfortunately) and the normally five minute trip took quite a bit longer - either the snow was loose and slidey under the tires, or it was so packed down it was like driving on ice. The movie was pretty good though, and the theatre was mostly empty.

So if anyone not in Calgary is reading this, let me explain what I mean by cold. We're talking between -25 and -35 cold that when you step outside and breathe, your nose hairs freeze together. If you try to breathe through your mouth to avoid that very weird sensation, you start to cough because your lungs can't get any oxygen out of the frozen air. If you put a scarf over your mouth and nose to try to help with the breathing, the patch by your mouth freezes and is really just gross as it thaws and re-freezes as you breath out and in. You have to plug in your car (technically the block heater which keeps the engine warm) overnight because if you don't, it won't start. If you're going to go through a drive through, you need to test your window first, because there's a good chance it's frozen shut. I don't open the curtains or the blinds in the house because the windows are so cold you may as well be outside. It's so cold that the switches for the trains freeze up and leave crowds of people huddling in poorly heated shelters while they try to get to work. In short, it's so cold that you'd be in danger of loosing small appendages by the time you got to work, if you didn't go out prepared. (Like the lady I saw at the train only wearing thin leather driving down-filled MEC gloves rated to -30 were feeling not quite warm enough...I can't imagine how painful that must have been!)

Have I mentioned how much I love Israel and how nice and warm it was there??!!

My Mom and my brother got here from Nova Scotia yesterday, and it was a beautiful day - the snow was white and sparkling in the sun, and the sky was blue, blue, blue. It was also -30 with the windchill... I was kind of afraid they'd get back on the plane and head home to balmy NS where if it gets to -10 it's a cold winter. But Mom said it reminded her of when she was a kid in central Newfoundland, so they're still here. :) She came bearing seafood, and we had a yummy shrimp and rice thing for dinner, so it's a good thing they did stay!

Now I just have to survive a few more days of this, and then it's supposed to warm back up to -10 or -15, which will be great and we'll all be shedding layers and driving with the windows open. :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Much Rudeness at the Firm

It was so weird - my boss isn't here today, so the receptionist called me and said there was someone here about one of our clients.

I went out to the front and this lady was there, and she said she was this client's mother and she came to pay his bill and take his file.

I said we hadn't heard from him in months, and if he wanted someone to pick up his file that was fine, but we needed something in writing from him before we could release his file.

She totally freaked out and started ranting about how she came from Airdrie and had ID (like that proves anything?) and if I didn't give her the file 'right now' we were never going to see our money, etc. She pulled out a piece of paper and said here's his number, call him. So I said I'd go try to call him from the number that's on the file (he lives in China, so I really didn't want to wrack up a phone bill, either), and she laughed and said that he has a new number now. (?)

I was starting to get a little worried she was going to attack me or something, so I said I'd have to go talk to the office manager. Loris could hear everything from her office because of how loud this woman was being and she told me to tell this woman that she could pay, have the client send us a message with the address where he wanted the file to do, and we'd send it.

I delivered the message, and she swore, pushed past me and stormed out. She also stopped to swear a bit and tell the receptionist I was rude.

I'm glad the office manager and the receptionist could hear and witness the whole thing, otherwise I'd be a bit worried that I had been inadvertently rude, but they backed me up really well.

I can't believe how rude she was and how mad she got. She didn't phone, we haven't heard from the client in months…and to go ballistic like that? She seems pretty unstable. I was feeling pretty unstable after that hands were shaking so badly I could hardly type. I don't do well with confrontation in general, but this was just so totally out of the blue. It's not an unreasonable regulation - any other law firm in the city would expect their bill to be paid and to have authorization to release a file, but this woman seemed to think that I should just kowtow to her. SO WEIRD!

Anyway, I'm very thankful I don't have to deal with that kind of hostility very often, that's for sure. I'm very much looking forward to going home in a couple of hours and having a hot toddy - I think I earned it today!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

An Alberta Wife

Three men from Ontario were sitting together one day bragging about how they had given duties to their new wives.

The first man had married a woman from Quebec and had told her that she was going to have to do the dishes and house cleaning. It took a couple of days, but on the third day he came home to see a clean house and dishes washed and put away.

The second man had married a woman from Manitoba. He had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes, and the cooking. The first day he didn't see any results, but the next day he saw it was better. By the third day, he saw his house was clean, the dishes were done, and there was a huge dinner on the table.

The third man had married a girl from Alberta. He told her that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything, but by the third day some of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little bit out of his left eye - enough to fix himself a sandwich and load the dishwasher.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Preferences

So I've seen a LOT of those email surveys/questionnaires that go around, but this is the first Christmas one I've ever seen, but since Sunday is the first day of Advent, and my boss isn't at work today, I figured I'd post this here instead of swamping my friends with email. :)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Gift bags! They're less hassle, and since you can reuse them, they're more environmentally friendly.

2. Real tree or Artificial? I love real trees...nothing beats the scent of a fresh tree in your living room. And you can get one for $20 at Ikea, and they give you a $20 off a $50 purchase in January-March. Can't beat that deal!

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually around the second Sunday in Advent

4. When do you take the tree down? Epiphany...January 6, which is 12 days after Christmas, in case you were wondering!

5. Do you like eggnog? Sort makes me a bit sick because of the egg yolks in it, so I haven't drunk it in years. Now that I've found a supplement that helps me handle eggs, maybe I'll try it again this year.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I don't know...I always got lots of books and chocolates for Christmas - my family was never into big, expensive presents. I have happy memories of spending Boxing Day eating my way through a box of those seashell shaped Belgium chocolates while I read my way through a stack of books.

7. Hardest person to buy for? Dad and my brother-in-law...neither of them really ever 'need' anything, so that makes it hard. I like to be creative, and I start to feel annoyed when I end up buying wine and movie passes every year!

8. Easiest person to buy for? Mom - we like a lot of the same things, so when I see something that I really like but can't justify buying for myself, I'll often get it for Mom. :)

9. Do you have a nativity scene? I have two - a plastic Veggie Tales one, and an olive wood one I got in Jerusalem.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? When I actually get around to doing Christmas cards, I send them by mail, and I write something personal in all of them, which I why I sometimes don't get around to mailing any!

11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I can't think of any one thing, but definitely when I get stuff I don't need. And I'm ruthless about STUFF, if I get something I don't need, I put it in the box for Goodwill, not matter how I might feel about the person who did the giving.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I don't have one.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? This year I started in June, but that's just because I was buying souvenirs in Israel!

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Often...

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Gravy with stuffing, and gravy with mashed potatoes, and gravy with turkey, and gravy on leftover turkey sandwiches...

16. Lights on the tree? Is there any other way!?

17. Favorite Christmas song? "Joy to the World" and "I Heard the Bells"

18.Travel at Christmas or stay home? I like staying home, but I wouldn't object to travelling somewhere like Australia!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Not a chance

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Right now I have an angel, although I'm open to a star if I find one I like!

21. Open presents Christmas eve or Christmas day? Both...something on Christmas Eve after church, and then everything else on Christmas day after lunch.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The watering down of what the holiday is really about - it's CHRISTmas people, not a winter festival.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? I love sparkly stuff in blue, white and silver

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? This is a vague question...since I already said what my favourite food is, I'm going to assume the question is "place for Christmas dinner". I'm SUPER excited to have Christmas dinner in our own house this year - my kitchen is so up for it, and we have this awesome dining room table that seats 10!

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I have a ginormous wish list of books...they're mostly vintage ones that I look for in used book stores. I also have a few movies and cds I want, but really, it's all about the books!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tales from the Firm

I was reading this other blog which had a story that made me think of something that happened to me shortly after I started working at the law firm.

I answer the phone, and there's a very elderly man on the other side who proceeds to tell me that he's a war vet and he needs a lawyer. I ask a few questions and the conversation goes something like this:

"I want to sue my wife" he says.

"I'm sorry, we're a family law firm - we don't handle lawsuits".

"But she's my wife and I want to sue her. She's family!"

"Do you want to divorce her?"

"No - I just want my money back. She opened my mail and took a cheque for $20."

"I'm sorry, unless you want to get a divorce, you're going to need to find a law firm that specializes in litigation."

"Where do I find one of those?"

"You could look in the yellow pages..."

Meanwhile, I'm thinking that if I were billing for that phone call it would have cost $20, never mind that hiring a litigation lawyer is going to require a retainer of thousands of dollars...oy!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tickets for Sale!

We bought tickets for a show at the CPO in January, before we realized it fell on the same weekend as Break Forth, so now we're trying to find someone to take's going to be a fantastic concert - let me know if you're interested!

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra presents Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin hits performed by the Jeans and Classics band) on Friday, January 30, 2009, at 8 pm, at the Jack Singer - $70 for two tickets. Section UCLFT, Row A, Seats 4 &5

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


A pirate walked into a bar with a paper towel on his head.
The bartender asked "What's with the paper towel?"
The pirate said "AAAR! I have a bounty on me 'ead."

I hear that Johnny Dep has signed on to do Pirates 4 - wooooot!!!

Well then...

I have taken a lot of 'before' pictures of the new house - but haven't had time to get them off my camera! Things are coming a lot more slowly then I thought they would, but we're enjoying setting up the place the way we want it. Hopefully I'll have a chance to get some pictures up soon.

I'm really tired today...I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch the election results roll in, and I was pretty disappointed with the result. I held out hope for a majority till about 10:30, and then I gave up in disgust and went to bed. I did feel kind of sorry for Dion - he looked so much like a kicked puppy! Jack Layton just annoys me though - he's like a yippy Jack Russell terrier that just runs around with small dog syndrome, nipping at everyone's heels. And don't even get me STARTED on the Bloc...and the worst voter turnout! What's up with that??!! I sure hope you voted....

Here's a really excellent article I just found...sums things up very nicely.

PM Stephen Harper deserves the full support of Canadians
October 15, 2008

Hunting season is a popular time for many hunters in this area, whether it be deer, moose or small game.

However, as our election day drew near, it seemed that Stephen Harper had become the target for many political critics. As I read the recent letters in the Forester, nearly everyone has been attacking Harper and the Conservatives. As I watched both the French and English debates on TV it was open season once again by the four opposing candidates against our prime minister.
I was personally appalled by the accusations, rudeness and vilification of Stephen Harper. An old adage says, “The boat lost in the fog makes the most noise.” There was a lot of noise and only Stephen Harper had poise and conduct befitting a prime minister.

The old rhetoric of Harper being scary or extreme right wing is wearing pretty thin. In two and a half years as prime minister in a minority government he has proven very competent and trustworthy. It seems that some fear-mongers are afraid of a majority government, but this is what traditionally had been used to accomplish the will of the people in Canada.

Since when has having a strong military become extreme right wing? If it wasn’t for the sacrifice of thousands of Canadians in the past we would not be enjoying our freedoms today. When has law and order, moral values, traditional marriage and protection of life (unborn and living) become extreme right wing? These values are not extreme right wing; they are just right.

When hugging trees becomes more important than hugging babies who can’t protect themselves, there is something systemically wrong with out value system. The Bible predicts a day when people will call good evil and evil good. Has that day arrived?

May we return to the values of our founding fathers, who used their freedom and faith to build our political framework and our nation of Canada. On the arches of our Parliament building in Ottawa we read what our founding fathers used as the basis of the name Dominion of Canada, taken from Psalm 72:8. “and He (God) shall have dominion also from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

In the final days before the election, with world economies struggling to survive an economic earthquake, it was noteworthy to hear our Canadian banking system was ranked number one by world economists. Why? Because the Harper Conservatives had been proactive and not reactive like the opposition parties and had taken steps to strengthen our banking regulations. This created stability for our banks and financial institutions which encouraged the Canadian electorate to have greater confidence.

In conclusion, remember this truth: a leader is a person who influences people to accomplish a purpose. Stephen Harper is this kind of a leader and is deserving of our prayers and support as he continues on as our prime minister.

-Stuart Silvester

Friday, September 26, 2008

Courthouse Rage

ARGGGGHHH! Seriously...if you ever see a headline that says "Legal Assistant Goes on Rampage at Courthouse with Bent Paperclip" you'll know it's me. Some people are freaking unbelievable!

Thankfully house stuff is going much more smoothly, thanks to my Dad and Trevor's mom...tomorrow is moving day though, and we still haven't finished packing. Ooops....

The Brick screwed up big time with my order, and only two things are being delivered, and on Sunday, not tomorrow like they were supposed to... We're getting the washer and the stove, which SUCKS, because the only thing we've been able to actually get rid of is the dryer!!! How's that for crappy timing?

I need chocolate now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall already?

Where did the summer go??!!

So, the house is ours as of September 22nd. We're busy packing, calling to change utilities etc, having potential tenants come through our suite, deciding on rennos (what we want to do vs. what we can actually afford...) as well as the usual church stuff, regular chores, and trying to squeeze in visits with friends. Busy busy!

We did go camping on the September long weekend - Waterton is absolutely beautiful, and we had a really nice campsite. However, the wind on the second night was so vicious it kept pushing the tent into my face, and when the wind let up, the tent would spring upright again. We ended up 'sleeping' in the car most of the night, and it shook like a boat on the ocean every time there was a gust of wind. It was a very uncomfortable night, and we ended up coming home Saturday evening... I'd like to go back again someday, but to stay in a hotel this time!

What else has been going on? We went to a wedding, and ended up at the 'old married people's table', which was mildly disconcerting! We went to Trevor's work picnic at Heritage Park, which was fun - I won a jacket and our team won "Name that Tune". I bought a really nice antique table at the church garage sale, and I found a butcher block kitchen trolley on Craigslist - both of which are now residing in the middle of the hallway until we move into a place where we actually have room for them! I went to see Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2, which I quite enjoyed. And, I'm an aunt again - my sister just had her second girl, Aidah - middle name still TBA.

My mom and my brother are coming for Christmas, so I'm pretty excited about that. I can't wait to have our first Christmas in our own house! I'll actually have a kitchen big enough to cook a proper Christmas dinner in...

My first tickets of the season for the CPO are this Saturday night, for "Swing, Swing, Swing", so I'm looking forward to that. I also have tickets for a Natalie McMaster Christmas special, a Queen tribute, and the Arrogant Worms, so it's going to be a good season.

Counting down the days now to possession on the 22nd, followed by a week of cleaning and painting, and then moving on the 27th, followed by cleaning the old place, and lots of unpacking and organizing at the new place. Let me know if you're interested in helping! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big Purchase

I haven't updated this in a while - I was doing really well there for a bit!

I have a good reason though...we're in the process of buying a house!!!! So exciting...we have a conditional offer in on a place in Silver Springs - the financing is in place, we just need a home inspection and a review of the condo documents. The inspection is tomorrow, and we're supposed to get the documents today - the deadline for all the conditions to be met is Monday, so we're almost there.

It's been so crazy these last couple of weeks, and the next week or so is looking pretty busy too. We need to get everything all squared away before we go on our camping trip for the September long weekend, and then hopefully we'll have a couple of weeks to pack, and then we'll take possession on September 22 and spend a week painting and such before fully moving out of our basement suite in the hood, and into a nice townhouse closer to all our friends and the church.

Hopefully I'll have good news tomorrow or Thursday, and then we'll be looking for good friends to help with the painting and moving... :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

A few random things

I found this really interesting news article about the son of a prominent Hamas member who has become a Christian..

He emphases how he hasn't been involved in terrorist activities himself, and talks a lot about how he hopes that one day he'll marry a Christian - maybe even a Jewish Christian, which would really be something else!

Then I found this article...

The Israeli foreign minister thinks that giving the Golan Heights back to Syria is going to bring peace. HA!!!! Ok, I was digging in the Golan Heights. I read the book with the history of the kibbutz where we stayed. Syria used to attack the Galilee from the Golan Heights. The IDF took back that very hill where we dug because of it's strategic attack location. If Israel gives the Golan to Syria, that's going to spell the end of the Jewish nation. And I have no doubt that once the Arab nations have taken Israel off the map, they're going to move on to everyone else who doesn't believe what they do. The Arab leaders were buddy-buddy with Hitler during the war - that should give you an idea of where their priorities lie! I just find it so hard to believe that someone who's lived in Israel their entire life can think that peace can be reached with the surrounding nations. There isn't going to be peace there until Jesus comes back, and giving any ground away is just going to make the situation worse. Argh! I'd love to give that woman a piece of my mind...

On to something slightly more cheerful...I so enjoyed Prince Caspian when it came out this summer. I went to see it twice, and I've even joined a forum called Narnia Web. They're starting to film Dawn Treader early next year! Sooo exciting. Anyway, one of the other forum members did up this music video of Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and posted it on YouTube. It's really good...take a few minutes and listen to it! It'll make you think...

Hope y'all are enjoying your long weekend!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rant About Things that are Annoying Me

I may seem quiet and mild most of the time, but if you hit on something about which I'm passionate, you could get an earful. Or an eyeful in this case...I'm usually careful about things I blog because I don't want to offend anyone, but there are a few things I'd like to get off my chest. So if you're sensitive about lawsuits, gay rights, abortion, big development, the religious jewelry debate, or infant baptism, you should probably stop reading now!

"Hasboro sees Scrabulous as a Risk to their Monopoly"
I saw this comment on one of the discussions under an on-line news article, and I quite like it. I went on Facebook to make a move in my games this morning, and I got a message saying the application was shut down. Hasboro is suing the two brothers who invented it for copyright violations or some such nonsense. There are arguments for both sides here, but I'm annoyed that Hasboro can't find some way to settle this without pissing off the thousands of people who apparently use the application on a daily basis, including me! Not only is it fun and a good mental exercise, it's put me in touch with some friends I haven't been in contact with in ages. Argh...

My brother made a comment on one of his friend's photos, and it showed up in my news feed. This particular friend was part of the gay pride parade in Halifax, and she took her toddler along. The toddler was carrying a desecration of the Canadian flag - the center portion with the red maple leaf on the white background had been applied over the rainbow gay pride flag. Our family has strong military heritage and we're all quite conservative, and so Simon commented on how while that flag might make some people feel welcome, it certainly offends others. Preach it little bro! It's one thing if members of the gay community want to have their own flag - that's their right, but when you start mucking around with our nation's flag, that's a whole 'nother matter. I have to say, I've never really been a flag-waver, and when I was in Israel and Quinn was marching around waving the flag on Canada Day, I thought he was a little crazy. But having seen that photo on Facebook, I've suddenly become a bit more of a patriot!

The Order of Canada - again, not something I've ever really thought a whole lot about. Until this announcement was made...
"Henry Morgentaler, Member of the Order of Canada
For his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations."

"Health care options for women" my butt! Baby killer, more like. I know there's a strong camp out there that says it's a woman's choice to do what she likes with her body. To that I like to quote my old youth pastor, Jerod. He used to say that you have the right to swing your arms around all you like, but the moment your arm comes in contact with someone else, that right ends. So yes, you have the right to do whatever you want to yourself, but when that right infringes on the right of an innocent baby to have life, your right ends. There was a picture of me in our local newspaper when I was about 6, walking a picket line with Mom, outside the hospital where my brother and sister were born, yet were babies were being killed. There were a lot of things I didn't understand then, but I understood that babies like my brother were dying, and I wanted to help. I still do...I sent letters to my MP, Art Hanger, to the PM, to the Governor General, and the committee that appoints the Order. I've heard back from all of them - a fairly personal email from Mr. Hanger, a form email from the PM's office, and a mass email from the GG's office, but nothing from the committee. Interesting, hey?

Trevor and I go to the Calgary Farmer's Market in the old Currie Barracks a couple of times a month for brunch and a little shopping. The lease the farmer's market has on the old hangar is expiring next year, and the company that owns the land is planning to tear it down and build a development there. I've written to my alderman and the development corporation asking them to save the farmer's market - it's important for a whole bunch of reasons and it shouldn't be ground to dust under the wheels of big business because they want to build expensive condos or some such nonsense. Urban sprawl is out of control!

I read a news article today about a Sikh schoolgirl in Britain who goes to a school with a 'no jewellery' policy. They're only allowed plain ear studs and watches - makes sense to me because it means no one is bringing expensive jewellery to school to show off or get stolen, and makes everyone a little more equal. This particular girl has a bracelet that she wears as part of her religion, and kicked up a fuss when they told her not to wear it, so the family took the school to court and won. The girl said "I'm so happy to know that no one else will go through what me and my family have gone through". Oy! But my burning question is would the Christian girls who go there be allowed to wear their crosses now? Or is it just freedom of religion for non-Christians, which is so often the case? Thankfully we have a religion that is based on one's inward appearance, not symbols which we wear!

Heading off to youth group tonight to talk about infant baptism...a subject which I feel much conflict over. If I had a time machine, I'd go back and ask Jesus to be a little more specific about exactly what He had in mind when He commanded that we baptize all nations!

Back to work...I also have a rant about people who come to work and don't do anything, so I should do my best to avoid being the topic of my own annoyance. :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Boss

I don't know if I've blogged much about my boss...her name is Carolyn, and she's awesome. We work really well together, and I like her a lot. Which is good, because some days I talk to her more then I talk to Trevor. :)

She's on holidays right now, or is supposed to be...she just emailed me to say her mother-in-law died last night. Her health wasn't good, so it doesn't come as a huge shock, but that doesn't lessen the impact either. I don't think any of them are "church people", but I'm praying for them anyway - that some good will come of this sad situation. if you could as well, I'd appreciate it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yay for Friday!

It's been a long week...I still haven't even finished unpacking! Somehow I feel like putting my suitcases away will really mean it's all over. :(

Actually, my biggest fear about the trip did come true...I was really worried that Israel and archaeology would get under my skin and I'd have this burning desire to go back again...oy...

We talked to a mortgage broker this week - it looks like we're going to go ahead and try to buy a house in the NW in the next few months. The market has changed quite a bit in the last few months, so we're going to try to get in while we can. Things could still change, but for now that's what the plan is. And my mom and my brother are going to try to come out for our first Christmas in our own house, which would be super cool.

The trouble with that is if we buy a house, that's where all of our money is going to be going, and the odds of me being able to gallivant off to Hippos for another season are pretty slim. And I want to go so badly! But I also really want to buy a house...argh... I know that if I'm supposed to go again, it'll all work out, but easier said then done!

Can I just say (maybe again!) that I LOVED my experience on this trip? It was fantabulous, and it's definitely changed me. I can't really put my finger on what exactly, but something has changed. Maybe it's because after the stress of border crossings in the middle east, the c-train ride feels like a picnic? :)

Anyway, on the agenda for this weekend is a whole lot of housecleaning, brunch with a friend, hopefully a hike on Nose Hill and I'm going to see Mama Mia with another friend. Should be fun!

Oh, we went to see Get Smart this week - SO, SO funny. There was one really, really, really gross scene that I really could have done without though - I seriously thought I was going to loose my dinner right there in the theatre! Aside from that though, I had no complaints.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Major Update Part III (or Homecoming Musings)

So I’ve been home almost a week now, and on one hand it feel like only yesterday that I was climbing the hill before dawn, but it also feels like years ago. Flying is a funny thing – it always distorts my sense of time, like my internal balance can’t keep up with moving that fast.

I dozed for most of the first leg of the flight from Tel Aviv, just from sheer exhaustion, but after a few hours I was wide awake and my head was spinning with everything I’d seen and done in the last few days. I wanted to get out my lap top and blog, but the seat I was in didn’t have a power plug. So I thought maybe I’d read, but the reading light above my seat was burnt out. So I tried journaling a bit, in the dark, which turned out to be surprisingly legible when I looked at it in the morning! But it was a very long flight, and I got a little stir crazy.

When we got to Toronto, we had to go through customs, which was super straight forward, pick up our luggage and then check it in again on the other side of the terminal. Our group was down one after customs, as Jenn was driving home to southern Ontario from the airport. We prayed together, and then we were down to a group of 7. Once we were closer to the gates, everyone else went off to the Edmonton gate, and I went on alone to Calgary.

I found I was very lonely all of a sudden. After spending the last two weeks living and working and touring with the same bunch of people nearly every waking moment, it was almost disorienting to be all by myself. We’d gone from a group of 30+ to a group of 10 in Jerusalem, and then 2 left us to fly to the States, and from there we just got smaller. One of my concerns about going to Israel in the first place, without Trevor, was that I would be lonely. I’m very thankful that wasn’t the case, but it made that last few hours of solo travel very strange indeed.

By the time I got to Calgary, I was exhausted. And if you’ve known me much at all, you know the more tired and hungry I get, the more emotional I get. By the time I came through the security doors and saw Trevor, I was in tears over missing the group. But they were partly happy tears too, because I was coming home to Trevor. And then I saw that he had flowers and my Tim Horton’s steeped tea, and that really did it. :)

Thankfully all of my luggage made it, and we headed outside to the car park. We went out the door, and it was so incredibly cold, I started shivering right away. After weeks of 30+ weather, which was hard for the first couple of days because of the humidity, but which I got used to and enjoyed after that, coming home to a temperate half that was quite the shock. And it’s been rainy and gross ever since…brrrrrrr… I’ve been pretty jet lagged too – I did something at work on Friday that was so incredibly stupid I knew it was wrong even as I was doing it, but I was so dazed it was like watching someone else hit the button. (I did manage to fix it, but it took ALL afternoon…oy…)

I’ve been trying to digest everything that happened, and I’m not sure that even four days of reflection is enough time for that, and since I love making lists, I thought maybe a list or two would help in this situation.

Things I miss:
seeing the sunrise
the early morning hike up the hill
being warm
swimming in the lake
being grubby
fruit breaks
the excitement of finding something cool
living in community
devos by the lake
pottery washing
experiencing new things
the thrill of looking at something and having a corresponding Bible verse pop into my head
the humidity
the fresh air
the view from the hill
lazy afternoons
tomatoes and cucumbers
the laid-back kibbutz lifestyle
seeing a photo wanting to be taken around every corner
the sense of accomplishment as I get physically stronger
the turkey schnitzel

Things I don’t miss:
the wonky internet connection
not getting enough breakfast
the hike back down the hill when I’m super tired
missing Trevor
not being able to put anything white in the wash for fear it will come back in worse shape
Touring at break-neck speed
Being too tired to stay up and see the sunset and the stars come out
Seeing all the poor starving kitties
eating a bajillion granola bars
always checking for my passport

Dr. Chambers sent those of us who went with the Concordia Edmonton group a little questionnaire he wanted us to fill out for their future reference, if they ever decide to send a group again, so I figured I might as well share it with everyone, in case you’re thinking of going now! :)

What were some of the highlights of the overall experience (the dig, the kibbutz, the various tours, etc.)?

Tel Dan was my favourite place we went. It was really cool to see an Old Testament site and try to fathom how long ago that all happened. It was so lush and green and different from any of the other places we went – I probably could have spent a whole day there, exploring.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the kibbutz, and how safe it was. It was a fantastic place to stay.

Other then enjoying finding large chunks of pottery, my highlight of the day at the dig site was always the fruit break. That was the best fruit I’ve ever eaten – not sure if it was because of the fruit itself or because of all the hard work, but it was one of my favourite things.

What did you enjoy, or grow from, the most?

I think most of my growth was physical – it was like one of those boot camps you see on tv! I came a long way in two weeks of digging – I still couldn’t haul a full wheelbarrow, but I could walk up the hill without needing a break, and I could carry two buckets full of pottery down the hill at the end of the day. I could also walk over 15 kilometres, when just a year ago I couldn’t walk more then 5 without extreme amounts of pain.

The thing I enjoyed the most was the feeling of community, safety and acceptance. I also really enjoyed being dirty – such a switch to get up, not shower or do makeup, and just pull on old jeans and a tshirt and be out the door. At home, getting ready to leave in the morning is a major production which involves finding clean clothes that match, struggling with pantyhose and makeup etc. It’s really freeing to not have to worry about all that stuff!

What in particular made these such rewarding experiences?

It’s very unusual for me to go somewhere and not have something I’m in charge of or responsible for. It was so, so nice to just be one of the crowd for a change, and be told what to do. It left me free to really relax and enjoy all the new experiences and things that were going on, and let someone else do all the head counting and worrying! I really appreciated that.

What parts of the overall experience did you find the most challenging?

Before I left on the trip, my biggest challenge was my own fears and worries about what might happen. But by the time I’d gotten to Toronto, I’d been able to leave that all behind me.
The humidity was also a challenge for the first couple of days, but because I grew up on the coast, I was able to adjust fairly quickly.

Were the greatest challenges you faced physical, spiritual, emotional...

Definitely physical! Working a dig is a million miles away from sitting at a desk all day, but even that wasn’t as hard as I’d feared. I think I was expecting more of a driven work ethic on the site, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out about water breaks and that the professional archaeologists realize that not everyone works that hard all, or even most, of the time.

What could be improved next time?

The only thing I really wished someone had mentioned was that we needed a different currency for the Jordan trip. I got so much information and so many lists, I didn’t think about the fact that I might need something that wasn’t included in there anywhere. It ended up working out ok, but not having any dinars did cause me some stress.

Sometimes the speed at which we toured was exhausting, and I'd almost rather see just a few things well then try to see everything quickly.

What words of encouragement and/or caution would you want to give to someone who was considering joining the dig in a future year?

I don’t think I would have any words of caution, unless they had some kind of physical ailment that was a concern, or major dietary restrictions.

What would you say to urge them on, if they were hesitating about committing to the trip?

You’ll regret it more if you don’t go!

What would you tell them to be prepared for, that you think they maybe wouldn't foresee?

I’m not sure if I have an answer for this one…everything went really smoothly, and other then the dinar thing, I didn’t wish for anything that I hadn’t packed. But then again, I brought everything except the kitchen sink with me. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Major Update Part II (or How Much of Jerusalem Can You See in One Day?)

The morning after our whirlwind trip to Jordan, I got up shortly after 4 am to wave goodbye to the bus as the remaining diggers set out for the day. I was very sorry to see them go off without us, and if I could have given up the Jerusalem trip for two more weeks of digging, I would have!

The bus came at 6 to take us to Tel Aviv, and on the way we stopped at a gas station/café, and I got the most delicious croissant I’ve ever had. Flakey and buttery…oh my!

We got to the airport just outside Tel Aviv on schedule, and then had to find the luggage storage to drop our bags off. I was expecting something fairly high tech, with bomb sniffing dogs and lockers or something, but it was basically just a big room where we piled all our stuff. There was also a sort of gift shop there, with a big sign on the door that said “sale” so we were wondering if our bags would still be there when we got back!

Then we found the shuttle stop, and caught a bus that would take us out to the main highway where we could catch a bus to Jerusalem. When one finally came, it was totally full, so we had to stand in the aisles, packed in like sardines, for the half an hour or more it took to get to the central bus depot in Jerusalem. It reminded me of being on the C-Train in rush hour…

When we got to the bus depot, we had to go through security to get out, and then at the top of the stairs we saw a McDonald’s! It was a happy moment, as that croissant hadn’t really been very filling. I got a McChicken, and while the fries tasted exactly like home, the burger was a bit different. It had two chicken patties with white meat, not a single patty with processed meat, and it had a tomato sauce instead of mayo, and tomatoes instead of lettuce. It was different, but still very good.

After the food stop, we went outside to find taxis to take us to the top of the Mount of Olives, and then we would walk down from there. We were in a hurry, as it was after 10 am already, and lot of churches and sites close from noon to 2 pm. There were only 10 of us – 8 Canadians and 2 Americans, so Dr. Chambers approached a couple of taxi drivers who were standing around and asked for a price. They said we’d need three cars at 70 shekels per car, and he tried to haggle a bit, but they wouldn’t come down, so we went and got in the cars. At this point, some kind of altercation broke out between our taxi drivers and another guy who was standing there – it seemed like maybe he thought that we should have gone in his cab? I’m not really sure what happened, but there was a lot of yelling and shoving and fists swinging, and then our driver hopped in the car and took off like nothing had happened…and he drove like a maniac, but apparently that’s the way everyone in Jerusalem drives…

Our first stop was the Chapel of the Ascension, which was a really small, simple domed building…built over the rock where Jesus left his footprint as he pushed off into heaven…there’s not really too much I can say about that! :)

Next we went to the Church of the Pater Noster (Latin for “Our Father”), which was pretty cool. They have tiles all over all over the wall with the Lord’s Prayer in something like 60 or 80 different languages, and our group said the prayer together in this neat underground cave that was part of the church.

We stopped partway down the hill for our first good look at the temple mount. I have got to say, being a Christian and just a wee bit of a Zionist, I have a really hard time seeing a mosque in such a holy place. Aesthetically speaking, it’s a beautiful building, but spiritually speaking, it gives me the creeps! Anyway, it was super cool to see it in person after looking at so many pictures of it over the years. It was a lot bigger then I had thought it would be.

We were really running out of time before noon and siesta time, and we made it to Gethsemane just in time. They don’t let people in after 11:45, and we just squeaked past. The building was very beautiful – lots of gilding and mosaics. I pictured the garden of Gethsemane as a place where I could go sit in the garden and meditate, but the garden belongs to the church, and when the bells began to ring the noon hour, we had to leave. I was kind of vexed by that, but I guess I’ll have to try going there again sometime.

We walked over a bridge across the Kidron Valley, and along the road that runs parallel to the temple mount. In the valley and all down the slope of it is a huge graveyard – we were told that people believe Judgement Day will occur at that location, and they want to be buried there so they’re handy when it happens…

From the road there you can also see the outline of the original City of David, which also includes Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Warren’s Shaft. I need to go back there and wade through the tunnel – I think that would be a fabulous adventure!

The road curves to follow the curve of the wall, and we went through security to get into the Western (or Wailing) Wall. Men and women have separate security lines, and separate sections of the wall to pray at. I was a little miffed to see that men have about ¾ of the wall, and women only have about ¼, and there were way more women there. There was a Bar Mitzvah happening on the men’s side, and there were a few women standing on chairs, looking over, so they could be a part of what was going on. Crazy, hey?

Anyway, I managed to find a gap in the people crowded around and get close enough to the wall to touch it. And that’s when it really hit me that I was actually there, and I started just crying. It made me think of Simeon, when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, and Simeon said:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
And it made me really sad, because I wonder how many of the people who were also there praying believe that the Messiah has already come? How many of them are living under the law because they don’t know any better? One of the organizations I support is called “Jews for Jesus” and they exist to reach Jewish people with the news that the One who fulfills all the prophecies is Jesus and that their Messiah has come. The prayer that’s been on my heart a lot recently is “That all may see and know”. We didn’t have long there because we had a lot of ground to cover, but I’ll definitely go back there, someday.
We went outside the temple mount and into the old city for lunch. We ate from vendors in the area, and sat inside what was once a Crusader-era souk. It was right outside “The Burnt House”, which a museum of the last building to hold out against the Romans after the Jewish revolt in 70 A.D. It’s a really sad story, but I’ve read quite a bit about it, so it was cool to be there, even though we didn’t have time to see the museum. Another place I’ll have to go back to…
After that we walked through the souk (which was actually really clean, and not too crowded, as it was the middle of the week) and along part of the Via Dolorosa to the Basilica of St. Ann, who was apparently Mary’s mother. I’m not convinced of that fact, but it was one of my favourite places from the trip. The grounds were beautiful, and have extensive ruins from several different periods, and they appear to have been excavated thoroughly. It was the location of the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus cured the man who had been waiting for a miracle. The church is the oldest in Jerusalem, and is very plain and simple, free from all the gilding of the other churches we saw. The acoustics were amazing – one woman was sitting there singing very quietly when we went in, and it sounded like a whole choir of angels.
From there we went back along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It doesn’t look like much from the road – just a doorway with a small sign above it. You go through the doorway into a large courtyard, down some steps, and in through a small door. The first thing I noticed was an overpowering waft of incense (it was many hours and a Coke later before I cleared the taste of it out of my mouth) due to the large number of pilgrims anointing a large marble slab just inside the door, which is believed to be the place where Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ body to prepare it for burial.

Further down the hallway and under the large main dome is a small chapel – a building within a building – which covers the place where they believe the tomb was. Also nearby is the rock on which they believe the cross was set. I’m told that there is evidence to prove that this likely is the location of those events. However, I had a hard time picturing it! The chapel over the tomb is falling apart, and due to the fact that there are three groups using the church and they never agree on anything, nothing is being done to fix it. I thought it was all very silly. Here’s a link to a book that was written hundreds of years ago by a man who feels the same way I do about it. The section runs from near the end of page 170 to near the end of page 172.,+Arabia+Petraea,+and+the+Holy+Land+(1838)&ei=B_N_SOSHNKLgtAPnuqXwCQ#PPA170,M1
Happy to be out in the fresh air again, I set out to climb the spire of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer – apparently the view of the city is amazing – but it was 3:30 and they had closed at 3…

I crossed the street to get a bottle of water, and noticed some wooden nativity sets in a shop. I had sort of hoped to get one, so I counted my remaining shekels (200, plus 50 for supper and snacks) and when to look closer. The shop keeper invited us into the store and I mentioned that it was my last day in Israel, and I needed to get something small because I didn’t have much room left. He showed me one I liked, and when I asked how much it was, he said he would give me a good price because he likes Canadians, and that it was 480. I just about had a heart attack, and said that was too much, thanks anyway, and turned to go, forgetting that he would take that as an opening to haggle.

He asked how much I wanted to spend, and I told him honestly that I had a budget of 200 left. It was his turn to practically have a heart attack, and went on about how he needed to make a profit, and did I want him to have to eat bread without cheese? I was desperately trying to extricate myself and get out of there, and the closer I inched to the door, the lower his price came. Finally he was down to 270, and Jenn decided to grab that bargain for herself, because that was definitely the best price we’d seen anywhere.

But no matter how good of a price that was, I really didn’t have that much money, and I told him so. After he finished ringing up Jenn’s nativity set, he said to me that because he liked me and it was my last chance to get one, he’s let me have it for 250. I did actually have that much cash, so I took the deal. I felt pretty good about that – less then half price! I did tell him that I might not get supper though… :)

Next came our top-speed march through the city, trying to get back to the central bus depot in time to catch a bus back to the airport before the luggage storage place closed. We went out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, and I don’t know how many kilometers we walked, or how long it took, but after a full day of walking, by the time we got there, I wasn’t sure if I could go any further, my feet hurt so much! We had to go through security again, and then we had just enough time to restock our water supply before the bus came. With a little creative wrangling (Israelis don’t treat line ups the same polite way Canadians do) we all managed to get on the bus and get seats together.
We made it back and got our bags with about half an hour to spare, and then went and freshened up, repacked our bags, etc. My nativity set wouldn’t fit in anywhere, so I ended up carrying the package in my hands all the way from Jerusalem to Calgary!

I had meant to do email and update my blog, but by the time we got organized and got dinner, it was time to start going through security, which was quite the ordeal. We were standing in the first line, a baggage screening process, when some security people came up to us and started asking questions. They collected all our passports, and took Dr. Chambers aside to ask him some questions, and did the same thing with another member of our group. Thankfully they gave us back our passports and let us go through to baggage screening. They ran our luggage that we were checking in through an x-ray, and then pulled most, if not all, of us aside for a manual baggage search. They wanted to know what I’d bought, where I’d gotten it, and how many jars of honey I had. They were particularly interested in the things I’d bought in Jordan, even thought I hadn’t yet said that’s where they were from, which I thought was interesting.

Finally they were done with that and we got to go check in with the airline and get our boarding passes. Then we had to go through another security checkpoint, although I can’t remember what that one was for – they’re all starting to run together. I think that was comparable to regular Canadian carry on screening. Then we went through passport control where they stamped our passports, and then through another checkpoint where they checked the stamp we’d just gotten.

By this point we were only a few minutes away from boarding, so I still didn’t have time to update my blog! It was quite the time consuming ordeal…

I had a good seat with lots of leg room, even though I was separated from the rest of the group, and I was so tired I was asleep before we left the ground.

Speaking of tired…it’s now past my bedtime and I’m exhausted. More to come in Major Update Part III (or Homecoming Musings).
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Major Update Part I (or Much Adventure in International Travel)

We left the kibbutz on Friday morning at 7:30, and drove to the Israel/Jordan border crossing. We got there just after 8, and waited to be let into the compound. Then we had to go through Israeli passport control, and while I was walking into the building, I heard a loud popping sound, and jumped so violently I banged into the person in front of me. I was sure I’d heard a gun shot, but it turned out it was a bird cannon…

Other then that, I cleared passport control ok, but they had to run some kind of extra check on Jenn, which took quite a while and was kind of scary, but eventually they gave back her passport and let us go.

However, that took so long our bus driver who was supposed to shuttle us across the river to Jordan passport control had gotten tired of waiting for us and left! So we had to wait for a public shuttle and pay 4 shekels for it. Once we finally got across the river and met our guide, we had to go through Jordanian passport control, where they kept our passports until we’d gone through the baggage check. Once they’d cleared our baggage and we got our passports back, we trekked to the bus, and then they stopped the bus at one more checkpoint where an armed guard got on the bus and checked everyone’s passports before they let us out of the compound. By this point it was pushing ELEVEN am. Oy!

The landscape around Jordan is totally different from the more lush landscape around the kibbutz. It’s very arid and dry, and there is not much in the way of agriculture. The cities are crowded, noisy, run down and dizzying. Our first stop was the ancient decapolis city of Jerash, which in itself was pretty cool, but partway through the tour the Moslem guy in the tower started preaching and wailing over the loudspeaker, and it was so overwhelming. I didn’t enjoy it much, although the structures they’ve uncovered there are very impressive. We did happen to run across a Moslem full-fledged fancy dress…playing Ode to Joy on the BAGPIPES of all things! That was quite entertaining, I must say.

Then we went up to the top of Mt. Nebo, the site where Moses stood and overlooked the Promised Land before he was taken into heaven. It has an amazing view – you can see the Dead Sea, Jericho, and on a clear day you can even see Jerusalem from there. Unfortunately it wasn’t a clear day, but it was awesome to see the Dead Sea.

After that we went down to this church with a map of the Middle East in mosaics on the floor around the altar. We hiked really quickly through the city from the place where there was room for the bus to stop to the church, had a quick tour and then booked it back to the bus. By this point, because of the delay at the border, we were running a couple of hours late and we still had a three hour drive to our hotel just outside Petra.

You should have seen the hotel décor…it was called the Silk Road Hotel, and the lobby looked fairly normal, but as we started heading down the stairs to our rooms, the walls were all painted bright purple. Jess commented that it was like Alice in Wonderland…when we got to the landing, even the chairs were squishy purple velvet. Our room was entirely purple, too. It was pretty crazy.

On Saturday morning we set off for Petra – we walked the few blocks to the park entrance, and from there a few people rode horses to the entrance to the Siq, and some of us walked. We hiked down the Siq, and it was amazing. It was cool and shady, and there were a ton of neat rock formations. It was so beautiful, and when I got my first glimpse of the treasury, it was everything I had imagined it would be. Unfortunately after the first minute or so of stunned awe, a really noisy crowd came in behind us and kind of changed the atmosphere a bit. I could probably have sat there for much longer and just looked at it, but there wasn’t time.

Near the treasury there is a lower level of tombs that have been partially excavated, making a pit, and then it was covered over with bars to keep people from falling in. I went over and aimed my camera between the bars to get a shot of the tombs, but as I pulled away, my lens cap caught in the bars and the elastic strap came loose, and the cap fell into the pit. What a pain! But a little part of me will now always be in Petra. :)

We hiked down to the other end of the park, had lunch there, and then some of us tackled the 800+ steps up to the tomb known as “The Monastery” at the top of a mountain. Near the end, I was NOT sure I was going to make it – hiking up a ton of slippery limestone steps covered in donkey dung in the middle of a hot desert afternoon is a lot of work. Dr. Schuler kept saying “we’re almost there” and waiting for me and the couple other people who were lagging. It was kind of like being herded by a sheepdog, and I probably would have given up otherwise! I was surprised to find that I’m likely to push my limits more if I have encouragement to do so…interesting, hey? I’m not sure if the Monastery itself was really worth the hike, but I was pretty proud of myself for doing it in the end.

Hiking back down was also an adventure – while it wasn’t nearly as difficult as going up, the slippery steps were even more treacherous, so I took it pretty slowly. Once we were down, we started the looong walk back to the hotel, avoiding the myriad of offers for camel, donkey or horse rides. (Says the kid leading the donkey “Taxi miss? One dinar!”)

That was the thing I enjoyed the least about Petra – the descendants of the Bedouin who originally lived there now live in government funded housing just outside, and run all the shops etc in Petra. They really have it down to a science – snagging tourists. I managed to avoid getting hooked by anything, but Ian almost landed in some trouble with a kid who asked to be in a picture with him. Once the picture was taken, the kid expected Ian to give him a dinar! I just really did not enjoy being hassled when I was trying to soak in the sights.

After supper at the hotel, we were talking to our guide, and he estimated that we walked between 15 and 20 kilometres that day! I was stunned that I had done that – it’s all due to two weeks of hard labour on the dig site, I’m sure – there’s no way I could have done that three weeks ago. Yay! :)

We did a little shopping before bed, and then in the morning we set off for a whirlwind tour of Amman, the economic capital of Jordan. The actual political capital is in a different city, but most of Amman is fairly western, and there are quite a few Roman-era ruins there. Something about the Middle East: they don’t seem to be big on crosswalks or pedestrian right of way, so while our guide is booking it on ahead, we’re all trying to keep up without getting left behind or run over. It was quite the adventure…luckily our armed “Tourist Police” guard earned his pay by holding up traffic for us a couple of times.

So after the mad dash through the souk, apparently just to get the flavour of it, we went to the old Roman theatre and the little Jordanian culture museum that was there. Then we went up to the old citadel and the museum there, which has some fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display – that was worth the price of admission right there – SOOO cool to see, even if having parts of the Bible on display in a Moslem museum was a little weird.

Something else that was weird about Jordan was tipping in the bathroom. I can understand maybe tipping in store where you just go on for that purpose and don’t buy anything, or even tipping for a particularly clean one, but we went to a few where there wasn’t any toilet paper, soap, paper towel or a working blow dryer, and they still had someone standing there collecting tips. What a racket!

Our last stop on the way back to the border on Sunday afternoon was at a traditional Jordanian restaurant for a “bbq” lunch, which has nothing in common with a North American bbq except for the cooking over open flame part. It was hands down the best culinary experience on the whole trip – I ate till I thought I was going to burst, and then finished off Linda’s watermelon as well! They brought a round of little salad-y things with pitas and olives, and then brought bbq’d lamb and chicken with more pita and then two kinds of melon for dessert. I really thought I’d died and gone to gastric heaven – and they only charged us 10 dinars each – about $15. If I went somewhere like that at home, with that many hovering waiters and that much food, I would have expected to pay at least twice that. It was amazing.

Our goal was to be back at the border crossing by 4 pm so we could be back at the kibbutz in time for supper at 6:30, so our bus driver is booking it down this bumpy road (I’m sure way faster then he should have been) and there was this huge jolt and a block later he pulled over. Turns out he blew out one of the shocks and they had to call for a repair guy. Thankfully he came quite quickly, especially by Middle Eastern standards, and we were only delayed on the side of the road for an hour. It could have been much, much worse!

We cleared Jordanian customs and passport control with a minimum of fuss, and got back on the bus to be shuttled across the bridge. I looked at my watch at that point, and it was just coming up to 5:00 and I figured that would give us lots of time to make it for supper. Well, I guess the Israelis didn’t like us crossing the bridge in a Jordanian bus, and decided to hold us on the bridge for about 45 minutes before someone came out to talk to us. (This was very excruciating for those of us who had to go to the bathroom, let me tell you!)

Finally two people came over and Dr. Schuler went out to talk to them. They asked him a ton of questions about who we were and what we were doing, and then picked one person randomly off the passenger list to haul out and ask the same questions, presumably to see if the stories matched up. Once they did that, they came on the bus and asked us all if we were carrying any weapons, if someone in Jordan had given us something to carry across the border, and if we’d packed our luggage ourselves. Finally they let us go, and once we got off the bus, we still had to clear customs and passport control, and several of us were searched.

Once that ordeal was over, we emerged to find that once again, and despite Dr. Schuler’s two or three phone calls to say we’d be late, the Israeli bus driver had gotten tired of waiting for us and taken off. We eventually got back to the kibbutz two hours later then supper. L Then we still had to finish packing to go home, have Sunday church and say our goodbyes to everyone. I didn’t get to bed till very late!

It was so sad to say goodbye – when I’d been planning for this trip I’d thought a lot about what could go wrong (thankfully none of those things happened!) but I hadn’t thought much about what kind of people I might meet. I was very blessed to work and tour with an amazing bunch of people who will always be very special to me.

After I was mostly done all my running around, I walked down to the lake one last time. It was well after 10 pm, and I don’t think I’d stayed up that late the entire time I was there…so I got to see a beautiful sky full of stars, listen to the waves, and just soak it all it. I could have stayed out there all night, but I knew I needed to rest for the next day and our big trip to Jerusalem.

More about that to come in Major Update Part II (or How Much of Jerusalem Can You See in One Day?)

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Crossing the Jordan

What a weekend....we're safely back at the kibbutz, three hours later then we'd planned. Many adventures - too many to write about now, as I have to finish packing and get to bed ASAP. It's 9:45 and the bus to Tel Aviv is coming at 6 am. From there we're going to Jerusalem for the day. We'll be at the airport in Tel Aviv for quite a few hours tomorrow evening, and they have free wireless there, so I plan to post a big update then.
I'm heading down for one last walk along the lakeshore, and I'll finish packing and go to bed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Last day of digging :(

Sad day!!! I have to confess, I got a little teary a few times this morning. It's kind of like leaving summer camp, and I never did like doing that. It's literally been a mountain top experience!

Here's our A square after two weeks of digging - we've moved a lot of dirt, and I've made a lot of progress physically. Everyday this week I've managed to hike all the way up the hill from the bus without having to have a break, and today I carried down TWO full buckets of pottery without needing Nancy to rescue me. It was a really good feeling - now, how do I keep this up at home??!!

I did breakfast duty today, for the second time this trip. I enjoy my back a break at least! Here's what the breakfast set up looks like...usually there are tomatoes and cucumbers, bread, jam, chocolate spread (like Nutella, but not quite the same), hard boiled eggs, pickled fish, cheese, coffee, and usually one variable item - some days it was pastries, some days it was pudding, and today it was tuna...icky!

After breakfast Dr. Schuler took us on a tour of next year's dig site. For the last few years he's been working on the North East Church, but it's pretty well uncovered now, so he's looking at digging up the church in the area they believe was the domestic quarter of the hill. The location has an amazing view, and would be fantastic to come back and work on. The potential problem is that the Israeli government owns the hill, and they hold the dig permit. After next year, the current permit expires. They're in negotiations to renew it, but because no synagogues have been found at Hippos yet, the site isn't a big priority for the government, so we shall see what happens with that.

In this first picture, you can see the team standing in what would have been the main part of the church.

This second picture shows what was probably a paved narthex area - we can tell this because there's only grass there and no trees or bushes.

Tomorrow we head off on our trip to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I won't have internet access until Sunday night, so all my loyal readers are going to have to live in suspense until then. :)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Winding Down

It's just after 9 pm here in Israel, and waaaay past my bedtime. It's been a super busy day - I was helping restore the mosaic floor in the 'sacristy' area this morning, instead of back-breaking digging work, which I quite enjoyed. It was really neat to plaster the little tile squares back into place, as they were damaged during the earthequake 1500 years ago, and ponder about the person who laid them in the first place. It was a pretty cool experience, and I'm glad I asked to help out there!

Thankfully the bus was on time today, and after a quick swim I spent the afternoon doing chores - hand washing laundry, writing postcards, organizing the souviners I've picked up, checking my 'to buy' list, and visiting the kibbutz gift shop to find something cool for my little brother! Then we washed pottery, had a really good devo about faith in storms, a quick meeting about the Jerusalem trip on Monday for the people leaving Monday night (yay - we're going to Jerusalem after all) and then we were late for supper. We dashed from supper to a really good lecture about the dig history of Hippos, and then came back to the room to do email and such before bed. I'm so tired!!!

Tomorrow is going to be busy as well - we're leaving early Friday morning for our trip to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and won't be back till Sunday evening. Then we have to finish packing, as we're leaving Monday at 6 am for Tel Aviv, where we'll store our bags the the airport, take the Egged (public transit) to Jerusalem for the day, and then bus back to the airport before the baggage storage place closes. From here on out our lazy afternoons around the kibbutz are over, and I'm really sad about that.

I'm surprised at how hard it is to think about leaving this place. I realized earlier this week that while I never had a moment of "wow, I'm really here", I feel very at peace and less stressed then I have in a very long time. The serenity of this community has snuck into my spirit and Israel has gotten under my skin in a way I didn't expect it to. I thought this would be a very emotional experience for me, but it's actually been really calming. If I didn't have a husband patiently wating for me in Canada, I just might stay here! I sure don't want to leave...

I've really got to go to bed - it's super late and I don't want to fall asleep on our last day of digging!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

No news

Not much to report today - it was a hot one - about 41 degrees, the hottest so far. We found lots of rocks, and spent a pleasant hour or so bobbing around in the lake.

I get a news email everyday from Israel Today, and this is today's update:

'Pray for rain,' urges Israeli water official
A senior Israel Water Authority official on Monday said that Israelis better start praying for an exceedingly rainy winter because the nation today stands on the edge of a severe and protracted drought.
Water Authority official Shuli Chen made those remarks to Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper shortly after checking and confirming that the country's main fresh water reservoir, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped below its lower red line.
Chen said that five years ago the Sea of Galilee, known in Israel as Lake Kinneret, had dropped even lower, but only at the end of a very dry summer. This time around, the lake is at its lower red line and summer is only beginning. At this rate, experts expect the Sea of Galilee to reach its "black line" by mid-October, at which point irreversible damage will have been done to the quality of the lake's water.
Already damage is being done to the Sea of Galilee's water quality, former Water Authority chief Dan Zaslavsky told Israel Radio on Tuesday, noting that when the lower red line is reached all water pumping is supposed to stop.
The problem is that if Israel stops pumping water now, the nation will suddenly lose some 30 percent of its fresh water, necessitating draconian rationing policies. Israel is also obligated under its peace treat with Jordan to provide its neighbor with some 50 million cubic meters of water every year. Without the Sea of Galilee, Israel would be unable to meet that commitment.
But if the black line is reached, Israel will be unable to draw any more water from the Sea of Galilee as the national water carrier's pumps will be exposed and no longer under water.
In the face of this dire situation, the Water Authority on Tuesday put forward an emergency plan that restricts the use of water for private gardening and demands that the government accelerate plans to construct additional desalination plants. The plan also calls on the public to voluntarily practice greater water conservation by taking shorter showers, washing cars with buckets of water rather than running hoses, and taking greater care to use less water when washing dishes.
If these measures and the coming winter rains fail to alleviate the problem, Zaslavsky warned that Israelis will begin to experience sporadic water supply to their homes.

So while you're praying for the peace of Jerusalem, please pray for rain as well! We're drinking liters and liters of it - in this climate, fresh drinking water is an absolute necessity. Oh, that does remind me of a story from today...

For some unknown reason, the bus that is to pick us up from the dig site everyday was half an hour late today. It was HOT and there was no shade. It was so hot that my water in my bottle was literally warm enough to make tea in...not very refreshing when you're baking in the sun!

This girl from the international team (not one of our Lutheran group) comes up to me and asks for some water. I was a little distracted by what she was wearing - a skimpy red crop top and about the shortest shorts I've ever seen - that it took me a minute to respond and by that point she was impatiently demanding to know if I spoke English.

I reached for the water bottle hanging from my backpack and asked her where her water bottle was (meaning to pour some of my water into her bottle) as it clearly wasn't concealed on her person! She replied with "I don't have a water bottle. I'm Russian". This has to be the most memorable non sequiter I've ever heard, but I kept reaching for my bottle. I didn't really want to have some stranger drink my water, but I figured I could wash it later. Thankfully someone from her team saw my deilema and gave her their disposable water bottle.

Anyway, the Russian girl went on to say that "We're Russian, and we can't deal with this heat. Our winters get down to -30, you know." Unfortuantly for her, she was talking to a group of Canadians, so she didn't get much sympathy! I couldn't believe it though - to go up on the hill for a full day of digging without a water bottle. We're supposed to drink 2 liters inside of three hours, and then they come around with jugs to refill our bottles from. I haven't been drinking quite that much, but pretty close as I have no desire to die from heat stroke. Sometimes I really wonder about people...hopefully she's not sick tomorrow!!!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Playing in the Dirt

What a day! We shifted a TON of dirt. We're now working three squares in the A section, and out team has grown quite a bit. Other then uncovering a lot of rocks, we didn't find anything interesting except for a small section of mosaic by Liz's Wall. Here's a shot of all three squares, although the original, A0 is dug so deep you can't really see it.

Here's a shot of my favourite tools of the trade...gloves are an absolute necessity, and who could resist pink ones? Not me! The brush is for tidying up and defining the outline of walls, or rocks that could possibly be part of a wall. The small pick and the trowels are also used for the delicate work around walls. That's my favourite part of the job, and this is the section of wall I was working on today. We also use a tool that's a cross between a shovel and hoe, called a turrea, but I don't like it enough to take a picture of it - using it makes my back hurt!

And this is me at the end of the dig today. With so many people working in such a small space, the dirt was flying like crazy, and I emerged from the pit dirtier then I've ever been. I thought that was worth documenting, especially given the heckling I've been getting for staying clean!

At lunch today, still all grimy, having only washed my hands and changed boots for flip-flops, I was contemplating how much work it was going to be to get clean. I'd have to go back to the room, gather up towels, clean clothes and toiletries, wait for a shower stall, shower and rinse out all my dirty clothes, get dressed again without dropping the clean clothes on the wet floor, haul all the stuff back to my room, and hang out the wet things.

Jenn and Katie, my roommates, as well as my pit boss, Arnie, were sitting with me, and I said something to the effect of "I wish I could go through the dishwasher". They all looked at me like I'd spent too much time in the sun...

But the dishwasher here is super cool - you scrape off your dishes, and load it all onto a tray on a conveyer belt, and it runs it through the dishwasher. If I could take a ride on it, I'd be clean, and my clothes would be clean too! Sounds like a pretty good idea to me...

I should tell you about what happened last night...I did the stupidest thing I've done in a very, very long time!
I took my camera down to take some shots of pottery washing on the lawn, but got caught up in it, and then talked to some people, and went back to the dorm to wash for dinner. As I was leaving the room, I went to grab some shekels to buy a Coke at dinner (yes Mom, I know it's bad for me... :) and realized that I'd put my money belt (including my passport!) in my camera case, and that my camera was still sitting down by the lake.
Panic doesn't even begin to describe what I felt...I sprinted all the way to the lawn to find everyone from the group had gone, and so had my camera case. Literally in tears I went back to my room to see if it was there and I'd missed seeing it, but it wasn't. I trudged over to the dining hall, not knowing what else to do, and what did I see but Ian standing outside, waving my camera bag. It took a couple of hours for my heartbeat to go back to normal!
Then this morning on the bus up to the hill, I was dozing off, and the next thing I know Ian (who was sitting behind me) had leaned forward and said, practically in my ear "So did you dream about loosing your passport last night?" I nearly jumped out of my seat...thankfully I didn't scream, as I've been known to do when startled! He swears he didn't mean to scare me, and seeing as how he's not one of my youth boys, I suppose he probably means it. :)
Now I'm off to join Jenn on the lawn beside the Sea to read for a bit before pottery cleaning...and I'm leaving my passport safely locked in my room!!!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sabbath touring

Saturday was so busy, I was too tired to do a blog post when we got back from touring...we saw three sites, and a lot of the countryside from the bus windows.
Here's me in the stadium/theatre at Bet Shean - you can get an idea of the scale of it...

At Zippori, also known as Sephoris, we saw a lot of well-preserved mosaics, but I think this was my favourite...we've been digging up a lot of shards of Roman fineware at Hippos, so it was really interesting to see it here, intact.

Then we went to Nazareth, to the Basilica of the Annuciation. The church was pretty neat, but Nazareth was basically just one big souk. There hasn't been much, if any, archeaological work done there, so it was really hard to look around and picture Jesus walking there. However, I did pick up a few nice things at this little store...

I've been keeping a sort of mental "critter count" on the trip. Yesterday was very exciting, because I saw sheep, goats, ducks, and a cute furry mamal of some sort that I've never seen before. When I came out from having dinner and was watching the ducks, it scuttled across the deck, and it was about the size of a small cat, was mottled brown, had a pointy face and a big fluffy tail that was as long as it's body. I have no idea what it was, but it sure was cute. I also saw the most pathetic cat I've ever seen - it was at the gift shop at Bet Shean, and she was hanging around. She was so friendly, but sooo sooo skinny. She was obviously nursing, but she wasn't very old herself and just as obviously wasn't getting enough to eat. I felt really bad leaving her there. :(
Today on the dig our team branched out, with two new recruits, to start exacvating another square a bit further over to see if the wall we found runs through there as well. We also continued with the square we've been working on up till now, trying to get it down to the same level as the floor in the next room. I'm really sore today! As soon as I'm done this, I'm going for a nap...
One of the new diggers to our square is this Southern gentelman named Gene, and I'm quite enjoying working with him. I wouldn't say he's old enough to be my grandfather, but he's got a generation or two on me. Anyway, the first time he called me "ma'am" I was a bit taken aback, and then I decided I liked it - it makes me feel old when the kid at the grocery store calls me ma'am, but when someone older then me does, it feels more respectful. He also called me girl, which makes me feel younger, and is also pretty cool. :) He's got a wicked sense of humour, and apparently he's preaching at the Sunday service tonight, so I'm looking forward to that!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 04, 2008

On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry

I've always wondered what the Baptists were crying about...I realized today that it's either because the spring that feeds the Jordan is so cold they can't feel their toes, or it's because they're not Lutheran! hahahaha... :)

So, this is me at Gamla, our first stop on our tour today. See that big hill in the background? I had to hike down it to get to Gamla, and I had to clamber back up it to get back to the bus. It was a pretty rough trip back up, but I managed! Yay for me!

From there we went to Tel Dan, which is an ancient Biblican city, circa the old testament. When the kingdoms split into the north and south, the northern king built a temple there and installed a golden calf. It's also the location of one of the main springs which meet to create the Jordan River. It's right practically on the border with Lebanon, and the border with Syria is just over the hills. It was really lush and green, and it was easy to forget the precarious location until we were on the way back out, and we passed a man with his kids...packing his machine gun along as well.

Since we got to sleep in till almost 7 today, I was still up to see the sunset! It was beautiful.

Tomorrow we're off for more touring, and so I'm sure I'll have another hundred or so pictures! Today's lot are currently uploading to my webalbum, so make sure you check them out!
Posted by Picasa