Friday, May 31, 2013

Down days(Kind of)

We had a couple a days of no field trips. Janny cuaght us up on the wash. We have a washer but no dryer, so she and kids have become experts at hanging the laundry outside in the courtyard. It is dry and hot here, allowing the cloths to dry fast. She has been so super helpful to me in doing this service. 
We laid low without big field trips, although the kids and Janny and I went to the soccer court and played soccer and exercised. The best part about the cement soccer court is that is was sloped. So we put Jayne kicking on the down hill slope and she felt like a rockstar. In the evening we drove to the BYU Jerusalem Center (which is the campus for Near Eastern Studies for Brigham Young University- I forgot to put that in before), so Ellie could go to activity days and Sam to young mens. They had a super fun time, but maybe not as much as Jake and Jayne that got to run wild in the gym with other little kids that lived at the center because their parents were faculty. Seth and I were able to talk with the Branch President, President Shafer, and let the kids get their energy out. Below is one of the students, Megan, who Jayne fell in love with. She was so sweet and kind and taught Jayne hand cheers. 

The kids have been begging for Hebrew lessons. Our friend, Paul, who is watching over the house for our wonderful landlords set up lessons with a college student named Jonathan. He came to our home on Wednesday morning and taught Hebrew for an hour. All the kids and Janis and I attended. They learned how to say, My Name is ______, I am ___ years old, a name song, as well as the start of the alphabet, and how to write their name in Hebrew. Jayne has since vandalized all paper surfaces with her name in Hebrew. Obviously it is a very different laugage that English and would take a lot of memorization- which the kids are better at than I. Jonathan will return next week for a second lesson!

This classroom is our front patio- a great place to have lessons.

The second letter in the alphabet is Bet as you can seen in drawn below.

A little memorization game. Janny only looks like she was taking a nap, but she was awake.

 Jonathan, happy with his students, even though they have terrible accents.

In the afternoon we visited the Jerusalem mall. We were looking for certain things that we found super expensive. But a mall is a mall, where you are. I am obviously not a mall shopper :).

After the mall, we were invited over to some neighbors, some friends of the house owners. Judith and her sons were very kind and the kids had a fun time being with other kids. Jake especially liked being with the boys and cried when we left. He is really missing his best friends Landon and Ethan "who live far away over the ocean" (in his own words). The girls liked playing with the five dogs and the little foster kitten who the dogs were hoping to have as a snack.  Most of the cats here live out of the dumpster. There are tons of wild cats everywhere. Jayne started naming the ones that live in our little parking area- one was Garbage Can, Chocolate and Cupcake, then Sam joined in with some creative ones like Scabby Tabby and Molting Melvin. This little kitten was a lucky little one who Judith was taking care of. 

This was a little girl that Judith had invited over to play with Jayne. She was 7 or 8 and she only spoke Russian or Hebrew. But kids don't need language. She and Jayne played with the kitten and took about 20 pictures of it. Then they played some board games, without communicating accept through pointing, nodding their heads, or shaking their heads, with some grunting involved to get each others attention. It was my favorite part of the visit to see them playing without words. Judith was very kind and lent us some children's books, since we were sick of the three ones we had at our house. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013


The Star of Bethlehem

I was super excited to go to Bethlehem. We read Luke 2 in preparation. I think the kids were excited to because it was something they had heard and could relate to. We only took one wrong turn over the border and went to Rachel's tomb and then back through the border and around the corner to go over the boarder again, into Bethlehem. Bethlehem is part of the Palestinian state and so we had to use our passports to get through the border. We were warned about Bethlehem, that the roads are narrow and hard to drive. I only went up the wrong way on a one way street once, got honked at, and turned around. No worries. After entering, we drove up directly to the Church of the Nativity and someone waved us into a parking spot close to the church. Then we were approached by a Palestinian guide offering his services. Seth said yes and we were very happy that we did. He gave us the brief history of each of the sites, but mostly he acted as our body guard. He knew every one of the guards, and if vendors approached us, he would wave them away. It ended up being a great benefit for us.

This is us, in front of the Church of the Nativity

This small door is the entrance to the Church of the Nativity. It was built by the Ottomans to prevent camels to enter into the church. The bowing down to get in was also symbolic to humbling yourself before God. 

Here is our trusty guide, Sayid talking about the church.

Here is Sam overlooking the church of Helena floor, the original church flooring. Incredible mosaics. The other picture is of the kids sitting in front of the church.

The cave that Jesus was born in was under the church, so we walked down some stairs to get to the spot believed to be where Jesus as born. The kids knelt down quietly to see. 

The stone trough that the kids are sitting on the edge of, is believed to be the manager where baby Jesus was thought to lay. 

The Church of the Nativity is actually made up of three churches by three dominations- the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic,and The Roman Catholics. We were led through the three different churches, all making up the church of the nativity. (P.S. I hope I am getting my facts right.)

Below is a second cave under the church. This was the cave that St Jerome lived and died in. It was here that he translated the Bible into common Latin which is the basis of the Bible today. 
Here is Sam, Jake, and our guide Sayid.

Here is Janny and Ellie standing in St Jerome's cave, a very important place for Christians around the world.

And Sam and Ellie.

I am always in awe of the incredible stain glass windows.

Here is the kids in front of the one of the status of the crusaders. Jake like the dragon that was being slain.

Out side flies the flag of the star of Bethlehem

Here is Janny in front of the flag and the Star of Bethlehem.

After the Church of the Nativity, we asked Sayid to take us to an olive wood shop. We remembered going to a shop or a factory of sort when we were students forever ago. We remembered that much of the carving was done in Bethlehem. He took us to a shop but we had the American discount (meaning mark up).
Jake had won over Sayid and he sat them with his guard friends.

Then Sayid carried him around Bethlehem on his shoulders. While we shopped Sayid played tops with him. Jake started to cry when we told him he couldn't stay with Sayid. That kid.

Walking down the main street, Sayid pointed out that they had their "own" Starbucks here. Since we are from the land of Starbucks in Seattle, we had to take a picture. 
Look just behind Seth. "Stars & Bucks"

We asked Sayid to help us with some shopping and he said if he couldn't get a good price he would sign to us to leave. He was awesome. I think he had compassion for us after asking our situation and Jake had him wrapped around his finger. They hugged 20 times as they said good bye. Awe Jake. 

We sat down to eat what Sayid has said was traditional Palestinian food. It was pretty good. Seth had lamb, and we ordered a chicken dish and a pizza dish. We were eating right at the square of the Church of the Nativity. And after a bit, it filled with cars and people. We asked the waiters what was going on. They said they weren't sure. The guy who had helped us park can over to us and told us it was time to leave, that there was a dispute in square and that we needed to get out. Nothing more need to be said. We got into our car and took off. We were grateful he was looking out for us. As we left there was  heavy police presence and it was evening time.

Here was the pizza below. Those are red onions on tops. It was actually super awesome.

Of coarse as we are waiting in line at the border, Jake says he has to pee. Super Janny to the rescue, since I was driving. No potties in sight but a nice wall will do. You can see the political protests tagged on the separating the two states of Israel.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sabbath on Saturday

For those of you that didn't know this, but because the Jewish Sabbath is Friday-Saturday, we also have our sabbath on Saturday here in the Holy Land. Sunday is the first day of the work week and it makes it possible for me to keep track of which day is which. It makes the weekend come quickly and you have to be prepared. All of the stores and gas stations close on Friday evening and don't open until Sunday. I had shopped at the grocery store on Thursday but on Friday afternoon, Janis and I panicked and ran to the market for a couple extra items we thought we might need in case of emergency until Sunday (like watermelon, chocolate, ice cream and some diet coke- very important items that you might not survive without for 48 hours. :))

Here's Jayne and Ellie at the Market. No one could understand me at the deli counter, so the guy turned to Janis who was standing with me to translate. Apparently, Janis looks way more Jewish than I do. But when they found out Janis didn't speak Hebrew, they went and got the manager, the guy in the white behind the deli counter. He helped us threw the store and was some what offended when Janis asked for tortillas and describe him, but he already knew what they were. Of coarse he knew!

We were really excited to go to church. The LDS congregation that meets here in Jerusalem is a "branch" (it's not big enough to be a ward). It consist of about 6-8 families, 6 couples that run the center, and then the 80 college students that study at the BYU Jerusalem Center. Our church meetings are held at the Center which is about a 20 minutes drive from our house. Its 20 minutes, IF you know where you are going. We left 45 minutes early and made it 10 minutes late. We had it planned out on the map we were going to go to church, but when we got to certain streets, we found that we were driving down the streets of a very Jewish orthodox neighborhood. We had to turn around because they don't drive on the Sabbath, and cars are not allow on those streets. It was not intentional, of coarse, but we found ourselves feeling very uncomfortable. Our taxi driver last fall said if you drive in those neighborhoods on the sabbath they will throw stones at your car. Those words keep ringing in my ears. So after three U turns we found our way around those neighborhoods and up the hill to church. By the time we got there I was so stressed and so relieved. Mostly because I was so excited to go to church and then we were late. You know how it feels to be far away from your friends and normal life, church somehow is like coming home. The church members are so welcoming and this branch didn't disappoint. Our kids were so excited to be with other kids at church. There is only one other boy Sam's age and the two of them make up the Young Men's program. Ellie had a couple girls close to her age, as well as Jayne. Jake went to nursery in the bomb shelter- its were they keep the toys for the nursery kids, but it is one of the two bomb shelters required for the building. We laughed all evening about Jake going to class in the bomb shelter. There were three other little ones with him. We were super fortunate because the branch was having a lunch together after church. The students were on a field trip in Turkey, leaving the branch super tiny and allowing for a lunch. A friend had told me, so we were assigned to bring some dessert. It was so nice because we got to sit and talk with every one and the kids played at the center. Here is me and the ladies-

Seth wanted me to take a couple pictures of our family at the center. For those who have been there before, I hear your sighs of love and adoration for this place. It is truly a sacred and holy place.

If you look in both of these pictures you can see the Old City walls and the Dome of the Rock. In the picture below it is right between mine and Seth's heads.

Grandma Janny and Seth

Here are the center's beautiful arches. 

Grandma Janny and Ellie in the gardens at the Jerusalem center.

To BYU Jerusalem Center is beautifully landscaped as well, as you can see.

Here's a picture of each of these crazy kids at the Jerusalem Center.

After a great Sabbath day at the Jerusalem center we headed home. Grateful to be a part of it. 

"Grandma's Taking Us to the Zoo tomorrow...."

The kids sang a version of "Grandma's taking us to the zoo tomorrow(today)" all the way to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Seth had meetings that morning and then I drove him downtown to a lab to get some blood drawn, so we dropped of Grandma and these 4 monkeys at the zoo. I don't have too much commentary about the zoo because I wasn't there, but since we left them there for 5 hours and had no complaints, I think it was a hit. The weather was sunny but not hot and they kids loved being there. It was a nice break for Seth and I to get some things done. 

Grandma Janny took them in the bird sanctuary and let them feed the birds. 

I love this picture because you can tell that Jake is holding the food as far away from him as possible because he is scared to death. I'm not sure if it ever got close enough for the bird to eat it.

Zoo Train, that was actually a three little train cars pulled by a car. The review was that it was much too slow. 

Noah's Arch is obviously found at the Biblical Zoo

Jayne and her monkey friend.

While the kids were at the zoo, Seth and I went on a wild drive, with our destination being the lab downtown. We had written down directions but once we got on the main road, we were not on same road that our directions started on. But we headed in the direction we thought was right, following the signs for the city center. The street signs are poorly marked and we aren't familiar with the Hebrew names. So we make it all the way to the lab, guessing as we go, asking two taxi drivers, and make it exactly to the place we wanted without one single wrong turn. It was crazy. I dropped Seth off to find parking and with only one phone, told him I would meet him on the street bench if this was a wrong place. It was the right place. Yay! Huge blessing because the lab closed in 30 minutes. Now the ride home was three times as long, but that's okay, we made it.