A World without walls
everyday life while homeschooling overseas
Today was Review Day, so we went to a place for review: Mini Israel! We watched a 3D movie about Israel and all yelled when we saw places we'd seen (we were all alone in the theater, so it was ok). Then, we went out to the 'park' to see all the model buildings. These people took all the important landmarks of Israel and reconstructed them (1:25) in smaller size so we could look at them. The kids were totally enthralled! In some of them, the cars drove on the freeways, planes taxied on the runways, people prayed, dances, marched, and played football (aka soccer)! We saw Jerusalem's Old City and pointed out all the places we'd been. They really enjoyed it, and it was fun to see how much they recognized without any prompting from me! :) The only downside to the outing? It was HOT HOT HOT!! The sun was blazing down on us. I'm sure glad we went early when it was only 33C!! Sheesh.
Thanks to Jon and Leora, our good friends who 'introduced' us to FS life (Devin replaced Jon in Cameroon), we were invited to spend a day in Tel Aviv with our own private tour guides! :D So, Sunday morning at 6 am, we were all up and getting ready to go! (It still took an hour and a half to get out of the house...)
By 8:30am, we were in Tel Aviv and noticed that it was already 34C/92F!! Oh boy. The sun was out and it was relentless! We walked around and saw some fun historical points of Jaffa--some Egyptian finds, cannons (as opposed to canons...), a clock tower, some beautiful arches and old cool buildings... We ate ice cream and were introduced to the juice shops here. Oh my. They squeeze the juice for you while you watch and it's amazing...
We took some time to play at the beach where the kids were yelled at by the life guard. He he he... It was funny only because the life guard blared something on his loudspeaker, and amidst ALL the people on the beach, I had this feeling it was my kids since they were slowly making their way out to sea (Devin was watching them). I jumped up and as I was running over to them to get them to come closer, the lifeguard must have figured out he didn't get any response so they must not speak Hebrew, because he yells out, "Kids! Three kids! Come back now, it is not allowed!" How did he know they spoke English? Are we that obvious?? Ha! They were mad, and Josh sulked a bit, but they overcame it and made a spectacular sand castle that I didn't get a picture of. :( But it was so nice to just sit and chat... Devin and Jon stood out in the sun with the kids, and Leora and I sat in the shade and talked away about everything. That was so lovely!
After swimming and dying of heat stroke, we went and had lunch at a yummy little place on the street. Mmmmm... It's so fun trying new things! And even the kids found something to eat! Hooray for Schnitzle! :D
After eating, we were ready to try to find a park to play! They took us to a big park--we're talking BIG--and we found a little place that rented paddle boats! We got two paddle boats for an hour and had an absolute BALL paddling and steering around the river! (Sadly, I left the camera in the car, so I don't have any pictures...but it was SO FUN!) It was a great workout, too! :) After the paddle boats, there were these 'dune buggy'-type things that you could rent, too, and the kids BEGGED... Unfortunately, we gave in. It was a four-seater. One person steered and pedaled, one other person had a faux steering wheel and also pedaled, and two in the front just sat and enjoyed the ride. The kids were in heaven! Devin and I jogged after them to make sure they didn't run into trees, people, bicyclists, or the river. We definitely got our workout!
When we finished this, we were walking back to the car and stopped off at a store to pick up a few things for the next day--fruits and eggs and stuff. The kids talked us into some chocolate. Never again. We were passing it out, and lo and behold, it has Hazelnuts. Dang it. Claire was having a reaction, and I had already used up the epi pen! I had one dose of Benadryll in the car, but she wouldn't close her mouth when I gave it to her, so most of it spilled on me. I was so upset! We found a pharmacy, and the guys at the pharmacy were infuriatingly slow-- "Benadryll? Antihistamine? Yah, I guess we have something like that. Let me look..." Then, a few minutes later, "Here you go." Jon asked if it was the same dose for kids (how did the guys miss the fact that I told them my DAUGHTER was having an allergic reaction? Do I look old enough to have an adult daughter?? Really?), so then the guy said, "Oh. Just a minute." So they had to confer for awhile about it, and then it was ok. Basically, they gave me Claritin. Whatever. If it helps... I gave it to Claire, who decided to CHEW it (seriously???) and within a few minutes, she threw up in the car. Then she felt much better. The swelling in her mouth went down and she was ok. We didn't get home until almost 10pm. The kids slept REALLY well. Josh got VERY sick while we were out and about--I'm almost 95% sure that it was heat stroke of some sort. I felt the same way. I had to rehydrate him and we decided to spend the WHOLE day today doing nothing except watching movies. :) Sometimes you just have to have a day off. It's been very beneficial for me as well as the kids. Poor Josh sat in the same place all day long in a stupor. All the kids did, really. They were watching the Muppet Show, and I missed 3 episodes because I fell asleep!!!!! Can you believe it?? ME?!??! I couldn't believe it, either. Funnily enough, I'm STILL tired. I hope I'm better tomorrow so we can do something else fun!
A grove of olive trees on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
_ What a weekend! We started our weekend off with a bang—by going to church. We had district conference this Saturday, and it was quite the surprise! As we were walking in and trying to take our seats, whom should we see, but PRESIDENT UCHTDORF!!!!!! HI!!!! We had NO IDEA that there would be an apostle there, let alone a member of the First Presidency! It was a GREAT conference; all the talks were wonderful and it was just so cool to sit in that room, with an apostle of God, and to see Jerusalem out the window! Oh my! Amazing! It was so peaceful and happy. I absolutely love going to church and being reminded of who I am and what I need to do to find peace and happiness in this life and in the life to come. After the conference, everyone brought their lunch to eat there at the Center, and as the kids were eating (Devin and I were standing by them, since there were only 4 chairs at the table we were sitting at), Pres. Uchtdorf and his wife came over and said hi to us! (He actually said our lunch looked really good—I’m sure it was just a nice thing to say since all we had was some cold leftover roast chicken, melon, tuna salad, and veggies…hmmm, that sounds really good when I say it, but it sure didn’t LOOK so nice! Ha!) We got to shake his hand and talk for a minute before he and his wife were pretty much mobbed by everyone else. That was pretty special for us. I’m sort of sad that I didn’t have my camera, but I just feel so silly asking for a picture with apostles. Same reason I never had a picture taken with Elder Holland when he came to Cameroon, even though we got to be with him quite a bit (Devin was the ‘official’ chauffeur). It’s a nice memory that, to me, would feel cheapened by a hectic photo shoot. Probably just me. I’m a little crazy.
We decided to leave soon after eating, as we had a long way to go! Dev and I decided to take a weekend trip to Galilee! We drove up next to the Jordan river (Hi, Jordan!!) and ended up in the city of Tiberias. Since it was still the Sabbath, we decided to do a ‘holy site’, as has become our new habit here. We went to the Mount of Beatitudes. We made it 15 minutes before they closed, which was ok. It was POURING rain and windy, so we couldn’t really meander about and ponder the beauties and history of the place anyway. :) We walked around a bit and enjoyed the lovely flowers (when we weren’t running for cover); we went inside of a church there and looked around a bit. Mostly, we just enjoyed the view, and the feeling of knowing WHERE we were! We read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 with the kids and asked them if they thought it would have been a nice place to sit and listen to the Savior’s teachings. They said no, but that was probably because it was raining and cold.
We then drove over to our little B&B that Devin had booked. It was such a cute place! It reminded me a lot of the movie ‘Leap Year’. If you’ve seen that movie, this room was like all the places where she (they) stayed. The kids thought it was great. It was very cozy—our own little ‘house’ in the middle of nowhere! I’d stay there again, though.
Honestly, it has inspired me with a new vision of the future: Devin and I will buy a giant piece of land somewhere, grow an orchard, build a huge Victorian mansion-esque building made into a B&B with themes of awesome old-school movies (Somewhere in Time, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, etc.), and people can come and stay and we’ll make their food if they want to order it ahead of time, they can pick their own fruit if it’s that time of year, we’ll have chickens (I know, they smell…) and strawberries…and during the day I’ll work at a library because I’ve decided I want to be a librarian. We’ll hire our grandchildren or siblings’ grandchildren to work the B&B/farm for us so they can have ‘experience’. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? *sigh*
Anyway, we all enjoyed our evening and everyone actually slept through the night! WOW! The next morning, we had a lovely breakfast there at the hotel. The couple who own the place were very cute. The husband is the ‘chef’ and everything is cooked right there for you. So fun! Seriously inspiring…
Then, we were off! We actually had no idea what we wanted to do. I wanted to go further north to some waterfalls. Devin wanted to see Mt Carmel and Mt Tabor. I wanted to go on a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee, too. So, off we went searching for a boat ride. Unfortunately, everywhere we went, they told us to go somewhere else for a boat ride. L We saw bits and pieces of places and the kids were really stir crazy. We went to Capernaum, but didn’t end up going in because the kids started a rousing game of tag in the parking area and were running into people, so we felt like another sacred site would be less effective at this point.
Instead, we drove down the road a bit and I noticed a walking trail along the shore of the sea, so we stopped the car and went for a walk! As we walked along, we saw that it was called The Gospel Trail. Cool! So, we walked on the Gospel Trail. I’m cool with that! It actually started to warm up, too, which was nice. The walk was lovely with beautiful views, lots of flowers, and a very peaceful feeling. It was nice to let the kids out of the confines of the car and let them just be themselves and run and yell without bothering anyone. Kids need time to be kids. All that energy has to be let out!! That is the key to happy kids (and happy moms)!
After running on the Gospel Trail for awhile, we drove down to Tiberias to see if we could find a boat ride (and some lunch). We found a great place for lunch called Cherry. They had EVERYTHING!! The kids had pasta, pizza, calzones; Devin had a salad; I had St. Peter’s Fish (Tilapia), and it was all absolutely delicious!!! I highly recommend the place! You won’t find it on a GPS, but it’s there, so if you’re in Tiberias, go there and eat their food. Mmmm… We did some shopping after eating (found some cool Jerusalem placemats, postcards, a Frisbee, and sunglasses for everyone). Then it was off to find a boat ride. Again. Sadly, all the boat rides we found were only for large groups, and our family didn’t count. It’s funny that everyone’s jaw drops when they see how many kids we have (are they ALL yours??—although, there are lots of other people who have more kids than we do, so I don’t know what they’re getting all worked up about…), but they don’t think we’re big enough to constitute a group boat ride. Ah well. We did find a small boat (speed boat) that the owner was willing to take us out, but they only accepted cash, and we didn’t have any shequels…just dinars and credit cards. Doh. So, we didn’t get to go on a boat ride. Sad. The kids were devastated, especially Andrew who just sobbed the whole way back to the car. Poor kid. Me, too, Drew.
We got in the car and decided to head to some ruins down the road called ‘Bet She’an’. They were pretty interesting. The best part was the play that Devin and the kids put on for me (Devin danced like a ballerina across the stage—he was the tooth fairy—it was ADORABLE!! OH, how I love that man!!), and the Roman Toilets. Ha!!
We tried to get up to Nazareth to see it, but traffic was really bad, so we decided to head home through the Jezreel Valley (yes, the future Armageddon site—did you know they even have the Armageddon National Park there?????) which was very beautiful. We had to take some side roads to get home, as the GPS kept trying to take us on a toll road which we’re not really allowed to take since we don’t have the toll sticker on the car window. It was an interesting trip home… :D But, we finally made it, and we are all EXHAUSTED. But then, we usually are. You’d think we’d get used to this pace we set for ourselves. It’s nice, though, that everyone drops like flies at night every night because they’re so tired! Hooray for outings that wear us out!
Yesterday was the Israeli Independence Day, so Devin had the day off of work. We spent the morning Skyping with our parents, then headed off to the park. The park was just getting into the swing of things--full of people, tents, grills, cotton candy, loud Arabic/Hebrew music, balloons, impromptu soccer (aka football) games... It was so fun! Everyone was celebrating just like we Americans do on the 4th of July. For some reason, it just really struck home how people are people no matter where we live, what religion we are, ethnicity...doesn't matter. We're all people, and intrinsicly, we're really all very much alike. We are all God's children, and we really are brothers and sisters. I don't know why a city party at a park made me philosophize about that, but it did. It was a lovely epiphany.
Peter looking over the balcony, hoping for more planes!
We enjoyed the park for a bit, then we headed off to look at the city from a high promenade view. It was so pretty! The kids and I decided we are going to go back to that spot some time and have a nice picnic there. Maybe that time I'll remember to bring the camera. It was pretty cold and windy. I was the only one who had brought a jacket, so I ended up giving my jacket to Andrew and my scarf to Claire. They were then fine and ready to play tag and hide and seek on the hill, whereas I was shivering! Ha! Oh well. We ended up heading home and having a lovely BBQ and watching a movie, because that's what you do on holidays! While we were watching and grilling, there was a cool fly-by right over our house! Some military planes were flying in formation super low over the city. It was so cool! We really enjoyed it! And just as I remembered to get my camera and take a photo, they flew off. Oh well. We still had a great time watching and listening! Hooray for some family time.
Today, the kids and I headed out on another new adventure. I had made reservations to go on a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels! So, we headed out and made our way to the Old City all on our own. Good gravy...I don't know why doing new things is SOOOOOOOOOOO hard for me, but it is. When I know I"ve planned something that I've never done before, I make myself sick worrying about it. In the past, I would either chicken out at the last minute or BEG Devin to come until he finally gave in and took off work! Ha!! Well, I've had to overcome that quite a bit in the past month. While Devin was gone, I had to find lots of things for us to do to keep us occupied. I even drove to Petra all by myself with all the kids! Whew! Here, Devin doesn't have the luxury of time off. And if I don't give myself a little kick to the backside, we won't see anything! So, I'm learning to do new and scary things...and finding that they're really not so scary! And if they are, well, they're still not worth the ulcers I give myself.
Anyway, it was definitely an adventure finding everything, but it was SO much easier than I had anticipated!! We made it to a shopping mall near Jaffa Gate and just parked inside the mall parking. The elevator led us up to Mamilla Ave which is just a long sort of strip mall that's lined with sculptures that are for sale. We REALLY enjoyed looking at all the sculptures!
We got to Jaffa gate and went to the ticket info center to chat with the lady there about the Ramparts walk, etc., that we want to do in the future. While we were talking, the kids found a bunch of televisions displaying all the different tours. That kept them very happy while we paid for tickets and talked about tours available. :)
Then off we went to find the Western Wall! As we were traveling to the city, I had a long discussion with the kids about sacred, special, reverent places. We talked about what we do (and DON'T do) at these types of places. How we walk quietly and be respectful of people--how we don't play tag or scream. They really did a great job. They didn't do any crazy running through the Western Wall area. Andrew only did his high-pitched-Roman-Candle-esque cry once, and that was because he slipped on some slippery stone ramps that we were walking down to get to the entrance. Totally understandable. On the tour, the kids were really good, too. I was a little nervous since I knew it was a guided tour, which meant we were going to be in the dreaded Large Group. It was 95% adults (there were 2 other kids that looked about Josh's age). The guide did a great job telling all the history in a very interesting story format, and since it was all mostly review for the kids, they listened very well. I was impressed with how well they did, especially Peter. He only got angry and asked to go home once. That's pretty good for him!
The tour was great--very informative and interesting. The feeling of being right next to that famous wall was awesome! And I now know the reason why the Western Wall is so special! I always thought it was just because it was the actual wall of the ancient temple, but it's not. It's the outer wall of the temple complex. But the reason why it's so special is because of the temple itself. No one was allowed in the most sacred part of the temple (the holy of holies) where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, except the high priest. However, everyone knew how important and sacred that was. The temple was built East to West, and the Ark/Holy of Holies was situated at the back (the western-most side) of the temple. So those who wished to be close to that area, pray toward that special and sacred spot, would stand at the Western Wall to be closest to it! That makes complete sense to me now. And you can truly feel the reverence and peace of the spirit of that place. I could tell the kids did, too, by the way they comported themselves. A great experience.
After the tour, we made our way through some more shops (I had no idea where I was...) and found a nice looking pastry shop where I got the kids some cinnamon rolls, pain chocolate, and a GIANT sesame bagel. The streets of the Old City are maze-like, but very fun. We actually really enjoyed walking around in them. It wasn't terribly crowded, either, so that made a difference. We walked out of Damascus Gate, then had to circle around the city to get back over to Jaffa Gate and the mall where we had parked.
Peter threw a fit because Josh at the pain chocolate, so I had to carry him on my shoulders all the way back to the car, but I usually expect the end-of-adventure-it's-time-to-go-home-now fits, so I didn't mind so much. I knew he was tired as we all were. We came home, watched a documentary on plants, and I finished making dinner. Now, the kids are in bed, resting up for another day of fun tomorrow! :)
It's always nice to go on family outings together when we have a weekend. Lately, it's felt like we haven't had ANY weekends...and we literally haven't for quite a while! All those trainings and random assignments and travels to TDY locations made weekends pretty much a no-show.
Well, now we're taking advantage of our weekends. So, Sunday morning, we...wait for it... Went grocery shopping at 8am. HA! It was SO nice to be done grocery shopping by 9:30am! The only issue was the fact that our kids were really awful this time at the store. They ran around and took whatever they wanted off the shelves and threw HUGE tantrums (yes, all of them, it was humiliating) when we said no. By the time we were ready to get in line to pay, I had to drag most of them out of the store to wait in the car with me. Man, that was really bad. When we got home, we dragged everything upstairs (have I mentioned that we live on the 3rd floor--which is really the 4th floor by American counting?) and the kids left us to go do something else interesting (not sure what). Devin and I looked at each other, then at all the bags on the floor, and Devin said, "Well, let's see what we bought!" Ha! Cracked me up.
We finally put that away, packed a quick snack and some swimsuits on the sly, and then told the kids we were leaving. I wanted to go to Caesarea. So, off we went! It was SO amazing to drive away from Jerusalem--this country is really beautiful! There are lush forests and amazing beaches... Wow. The drive to Caesarea was really lovely, and hardly felt like it was almost 2 hours long. We made it and were considering whether to go into the National park, but decided the kids needed a beach trip first. We went to a beach that had an ancient Roman aqueduct running alongside it and had the time of our lives! We spent 4 hours there without even realizing it! We all searched for shells and played in the water and buried Andrew and dug holes and ran up and down the shore. The weather was perfect and glorious: The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze, the water wasn't warm, but it wasn't super cold, either. It was so peaceful and enchanting to stand on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. We played in the Mediterranean Sea on the shores of Northern Israel. How cool is that?
It was a spectacular day and I didn't want it to end. We were all sad to leave, but it was late afternoon (4pm) and we had to drive another 2 hours to get home, plus we wanted to make a quick stop at IKEA on the way home. He he he... We got to IKEA, and we were all STARVING, so we got some food and everyone eat heartily (mostly salads and pastries, but still...). Sadly, since it was 5:30 by the time we were ready to do some quick shopping, the play area was closed. Doh. This was a BAD thing, because Peter and Andrew saw the play place and it was pretty darn cool. They began our shopping trip with a tantrum. Great. So, we started looking through for silverware (that's basically all we needed), but the kids started playing tag in the aisles (instigated by the OLDEST, who should know better) which is not a good idea when you're walking through piles of stoneware. *sigh* Luckily, they didn't break anything, but we got a LOT of death glares from the sales people. Obviously not fans of kids. We found silverware and a new spatula, along with a nice apron (you'd think with ALL the stuff I brought with me I'd bring my apron, too...) and a bunch of stuff for our plant unit (dirt, pots, etc.) then headed for the exit as fast as possible. Peter was completely out of control and his siblings were not very helpful--they like to egg him on because he's pretty funny when he's hyped up--but it's not so funny when we're in a store. They lost out on their post shopping ice cream (lots more tears and tantrums) and once again I was forced to take most of the kids out to the car while Devin paid for our stuff. Twice in one day. Sheesh.
We ended up with a LONG drive home, since we hit evening commuter traffic right outside Tel Aviv, but that was ok, because we got to watch the sun set over the city! Pretty awesome!
Some pretty good shots for going 75mph... he he he...
We got home late and thoroughly exhausted, but with lots of happy memories of a beautiful day at the beach...and bags and bags of sea shells. Everyone's getting sea shells from us for your birthdays and Christmas for the next 10 years. Just a little heads-up for you all.
Visiting BYU Jerusalem! Thanks, Sister Judd! :)
Going to church here in Jerusalem is such a special experience! The place where we attend is over on Mt Scopus, so we overlook all of the Old City--the view is spectacular! Today, there were a LOT more people than last week, and it lasted the full 3 hours (plus some) instead of 30 minutes. But it was amazing! The prelude was by this fantastic organist, and a choir sang 'Come Thou Font'. Wow. There were some great talks, and I think it's just so amazing to partake of the sacrament while looking at the city where Jesus lived, died and was resurrected! One of the students sang 'O, Divine Redeemer' and WOW, it was so gorgeous! An amazingly special experience. Then we were able to watch the Sunday Afternoon session of General Conference (for those of you who don't know what this is, every 6 months our church leaders broadcast a conference where we hear them speak. It's wonderful and uplifting.) where I was reminded about the importance of being kind and showing love to others. I love conference.
After church, some members invited us to lunch. This wonderful family lives a few houses away from my in-laws in Orem, Utah! They're here at the university as teachers. Very cool. We enjoyed a lovely lunch with them, then all the kids (they have 5, plus our 4...) sat down to watch some Sabbath flicks, and we got an insider's tour of the BYU Jerusalem Center. Such an amazing and lovely place. I'd love to go to school there!! :) We had a great time with a special family, and all the kids whined a lot when we said it was time to go! :D
Since we had to pass through the Old City anyway, and since it's the Sabbath, we decided to stop by another Sacred Site. So, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane. It's a very special place. There were LOADS of tourists there, and you could hear all the cars and buses zooming past on the road, but that couldn't cover up the fact that that is a special place. The feeling of peace is very strong there. The olive trees are definitely ancient--don't we wish they could truly speak and tell us their story?
Well, life never stops at our house, does it? I guess it really never stops at anyone's house, if you think about it...
Anyway, today I had made reservations to go to an Archaeological Experience... In other words, we got to be Archaeologists for a day! We went to the Emek Tsurim National Park where they've kept truckloads worth of dirt from a not-quite-legal excavation of the Temple Mount, and we all get to help sift through it! There's stuff in every single bucket of rocks, so you don't go away disappointed that you didn't find anything. We found shards of pottery, small fragments of glass, a few bones (eeew!), flint and marble pieces, chunks of mosaic pieces, and a rusty old nail! Good times. The first hour of our 'experience', the guide talked about the history of the area (the kids are going to be experts--Josh even got some applause when he answered a question correct that no one else caught! The guide asked why Herod was called Herod the Great if he was so mean and cruel, and it was because he was such a great builder.) and then explained why they had created first the National Park and then the public 'sifting experience'. Fascinating. Seems those who basically control the Temple Mount decided to do their own excavation so they could use some of the underground chambers as a new mosque--but they didn't do the excavation properly--with hand tools and careful digging. They brought in bulldozers and tractors! **GASP!!** I guess they were in a hurry. They had over 40 truck loads of priceless dirt just dragged out and dumped all over! So, people got together (this is a long story made short, by the way) and said, "Hey, this could have some good stuff!" and they started trucking it over to this place and now they let people help out in the dig. So, we got to play with dirt and rocks from the Temple Mount today!
We parked up at the top of this big hill that was straight up from the site. There was a great view of the whole Old City and Temple Mount from the path we were walking on. Beautiful. The kids were super excited. Andrew kept yelling, "LOOK! it's the Dome of the Rock!! That's one of the Ancient Wonders of the World!!" Then, their attention was drawn to the bees searching for nectar/pollen in the flowers. Then, they found mini snails on the stairs/rocks/plants and started to collect them. Andrew found a snail that decided it liked his hand and slimed its way all across his fingers. gross. He decided he wanted to take it home as a pet. Unfortunately, while we were walking up the path, he walked through a pile of giant red ants and it freaked him out and he dropped his new pet snail. Sad. So, we came home pet-less. Whew.
Today, we had quite an experience. We went to The Time Elevator. I was looking for something that would give a nice overview of Jerusalem history for me to springboard off of, and man, was this ever IT!! The sad thing, though, was that they didn't allow children under the age of 5 to go. Poor Peter. Devin met up with us (luckily it's almost across the street from the US Consulate), and he and Peter went out to lunch while the other kids and I had a crash course (um, literally) in Jerusalem history!
We got to sit in these super cool 'roller coaster' seats and they moved with the movie (think 'Star Tours' technology of Disneyland fame). Hold on tight, kids! :) Andrew and Claire weren't sure about it at first, and Andrew kept saying how he was so scared, but they quickly adjusted and were completely enthralled! Chiam Topol (Tevieh in 'Fiddler on the Roof') was the 'tour guide' and did a marvelous job. Love that guy. We fell down shafts, crashed through walls, flew through burning cities, went on a treasure hunt through a mine (SOOO fun--like a roller coaster!) and we even 'fell' into a pool--and they sprayed water on us from above! Ha! Claire thought I was spitting on her. Cracked me up!
Seriously, this was such an amazing treat! It was a quick journey through history and a very insightful (and respectful) look at the history of this city through Christian, Jew, Arab and secular eyes. The kids want to go back again. Of course they do.
After the Time Elevator, we went exploring at the park nearby and found some fun places to play for a while...that way Peter didn't feel so bad that he couldn't join in on the Elevator fun...
Tonight, Devin and I got to go on a little date, so we headed over to some sites that we figure the kids aren't going to be able to be patient (quiet) enough to see. We saw the Western Wall. There was one point as we were descending that I wished I had brought the camera (totally forgot it...doh!!) where we looked on the Wall with the Dome of the Rock floating above it. Wow. So beautiful all lit up--and such an amazing historical spot. There was such a peace there. I loved being in a reverent place where people were praying all around us, and those who weren't praying were respectful of those who were. Beautiful. If only we could all be so kind, respectful, reverent and tolerant all the time. Much of the world's ills would be solved. A lovely experience that can't really be captured on film, but will stay in my heart.
So...Saturday is the Sabbath here. Just another confusing twist of the weekend for us! It was so difficult to change to Friday when we got to Jordan. I'm just starting to adjust to it, and now we're switching days again. However, it's still sort of the same as Jordan, since we have Saturday as the Sabbath, and then Sunday as the 'weekend' day. So, it's not too bad. Just a little off in my mind.
We went to church at the BYU Jerusalem center. We got there a little late, and when we walked in we were greeted by 2 things: The first was the fact that there were very few people there (I somehow expected a group of students or something...); the second was the view! WOW!! Behind the stand where the speakers, etc. stand, there are huge windows that overlook the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a magnificent view. I was in awe. Well, we got into some seats and sang along to the opening hymn, had sacrament, then someone got up to announce. They said, "And now, our speaker will be (so and so--I don't remember who)". My first thought was, "Oh no, this lady is going to speak for a full hour!" She got up, spoke for 15 minutes, and then they closed the meeting!!!! That was it!! Apparently, all the students were off on a field trip to Galilee, so they only had a SUPER shortened meeting. The kids were hilarious: Andrew kept yelling how it was the BEST CHURCH DAY EVER! (ha ha) Peter cried because he really wanted to go to his class. Claire and Josh were totally taken aback, but just said that now it was time to go home and watch a movie! ha!
We all wandered about the grounds of the center for a bit, then we decided that since it was the Sabbath, we should go to a holy site. So, we went and found the Garden Tomb.
It was very lovely. The people who run it are super nice. They gave the kids little 'mystery' maps where they had to find the important spots, name them and then color them. They all took to it and searched dilligently for the different spots of interest. It was just so amazing to see THE tomb. To see the Skull Hill of Golgatha. I can't even describe in words how blessed I feel to be in this part of the world right now! History here--in all it's religious and secular aspects--is so tangible!!
The rest of the Sabbath day was spent at home. The kids wrote in their journals about the day and things they've done and learned this week. They're writings and pictures are so insightful. I just love these kids. Claire wrote about how it's so funny to have church on Saturday now, and she has deduced that maybe there's a different church day in every country! :D Andrew drew a great rendering of the Garden Tomb and the Old City Wall. Josh wrote about how fascinating everything is and how cool it is that he gets to see it! At family scripture time, we read about Jesus being crucified and laid in the tomb, and it just brought so much more meaning!
Today being our 'weekend' day, we started it out as most weekend days. The kids got up and watched cartoons while Dev and I took turns exercising. This is a glorious place to run! the sun is up early, the day today was warm, there is a little park with a jogging trail near our house--I ran for awhile, then put myself through my taekwondo paces. It felt SOOOOO good!!! After that, we took the kids and went grocery shopping at a local supermarket. I find that it's easier to take the kids grocery shopping now. Maybe it's because I'm with them ALL the time, so I'm used to their presence, or maybe they're just growing up... but it's better. They're much more helpful. Since the local supermarket is pretty small, it's also hard to lose them...and since everything's in Hebrew, and there's not much that's imported, there's less temptation for the kids to throw junk into the cart! :D We had a great time and hopefully we have everything we need now for the next week or so...
When we got home, poor Devin was dying for a haircut, so he left to find a barber while the kids and I chilled at home (I'm in the middle of a really good book that I'm having a hard time putting down). Andrew wasn't feeling very well, either. He told me he had a really bad tummy-ache. He was in the bathroom for a VERY long time, and after he got out, he said, "Mom, I think I may have had a diorama!" It was almost impossible for me to keep a straight face on that one, and tears streamed down my face as I tried to keep myself as serious as possible. Poor kid. He had a diorama. I wonder if maybe I should have corrected him and said 'diarrhea' is the word he wanted, but it was just so cute!!
When he got home, though, it was time for an adventure!!
Claire shows the depth of the water...
We decided that our first family adventure at Jerusalem would be the City of David and the Hezekiah's Tunnel!! So, that's where we went! We found the place without too much problem--the GPS usually gets us fairly close. I didn't know that The City of David was a National Park!! Soo cool! We looked at some of the signs, and it said that in some places of the tunnels, the water level is up to 70cm--that's thigh high on me. We weren't sure about that one. We brought our water shoes, but not our swimsuits! We talked to the lady at the ticket counter and she said it would probably be fine, but that we'd probably want to carry Peter for some of the way. I think we were a little hesitant at first, but finally, we figured since we took the time to get there, and it was a hot sunny day, we should just do it! So, we bought the tickets and walked to the entrance of the tunnel!
We popped on our water shoes and got ready for some fun! At first, the tunnel was a well-lit cave of sorts. The kids were pretty happy about that. Then, at one point, there was a guy selling flashlights. There was a sign that said that watershoes and flashlight were required in the tunnel. So, we bought everyone a flashlight--a super cool little keyring that has City of David and a harp on it--and got ready for more adventure! Just a little ways more, and we entered the real tunnel: complete with almost waist deep water gushing down! Oh my. Devin carried Peter, Josh plunged in, and I was left with a terrified Andrew and Claire. I grabbed their hands and sort of dragged them--kicking and screaming--into the water! After about 15 feet, we went up some stairs of sorts and the water stayed at a pretty steady 5-6 inches for the rest of the way. Now, the kids LOVED it!! They smiled and giggle and shone their little flashlights all around. We saw mini stalagmites and cool cave formations that happen with limestone (found out later that we were right in guessing it was limestone...we're so awesome...) and trudged through the narrow tunnels where sometimes we all had to duck and sort of crabwalk through! We had an absolute ball!!! On a scale of 1-5 stars, it gets 6!! Pretty much the best outing ever!
We ended at the Pool of Siloam (the pool where Jesus told the blind man to go wash and he got his sight back--the very one!) and the kids played in the water and had an absolute ball. We couldn't get Peter and Andrew to get out! We talked to a guy in a shop just above the pool for awhile. Josh got a little Widow's Mite coin and a special box made from Olive Wood to keep it in. Claire bought a beautiful shawl. Andrew bought a lovely bracelet to give to Claire--SO SWEET!!!! He touches my heart every day. Such a sweet and thoughtful boy. The little shop owner told me that he considered my sons as men and he loved them--that they were gentle, intelligent, well-educated boys. I agree. He knew just the right thing to say to a mom! :) But, hey, I agree, so what can I say? :)
We left the shop and walked out, past a pool that was part of Solomon's Gardens, and rode a shuttle back up to the entrance. We were going to see a 3-D movie about the City of David, but it was closed for the day--and that was when I realized that it was almost 5pm! Ha! Whew! What a day! So, we drove ourselves home and the kids ate ice cream while Devin and I made hamburgers for dinner. Of course, the kids all had to do a quick shower--not sure how clean the water was in the tunnels..... :) It was such an awesome experience!! And tonight, for scripture time, we read the account of when Jesus put the clay on the blind man's eyes and told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, which he did and regained his sight. The kids were wide-eyed as we read this, since they had BEEN there! Hooray! Soo amazing! Then we read a little about Hezekiah's Tunnel--how he was king during the time of Isaiah and used the tunnels to keep the water away from his enemies (the Assyrians--whom we just finished studying about). The kids were spellbound as we read about the man who built the tunnels we had walked through and enjoyed today. Hands-on learning is so powerful.
And now, that book I can't put down is calling my name.
We made it to Israel! It IS different from Jordan—I don’t know why I’m surprised, since every city is different from another, but I’m still a little shocked for some reason. It’s very beautiful! We have an apartment on the third floor, which, while it’s sad not to have the ‘yard’ (ha ha ha ha—or should I say sidewalk?), I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE having a view and sunshine spilling in the windows in the day!! It’s glorious and beautiful! We have a large balcony and we can stand out and look over the city and watch the birds flying over all the trees and buildings, and it’s a beautiful thing. Feels like I can breathe! The apartment itself is rather small, but it’s better than a hotel and without all of our junk, we fit rather nicely. We’re gearing up for some good times exploring and learning in Jerusalem!
How was our trip here, you might ask? Oh my. I felt like I had been beaten up and left for dead by the time we got through the border crossing. The Jordan side was quick and simple. We got through all the checkpoints, no problem. It wasn’t busy, the guards were nice, and we just drove right through. The Israel side, however, has issues. I had heard that it was tough and frustrating. I had heard that they often made you take all your luggage out of your car and separated you from each other, but I had NO IDEA what we were getting ourselves into. I really wish someone would have sat me down and explained what was going to happen at the border so I could have been more prepared. I would have done things MUCH differently.
Let me expound a little. Since we’re going to be here for 5 weeks, and we have 4 kids and we Homeschool, it’s important to have, well, a pretty decent amount of stuff. We have to have our books and some project stuff for school—even though I DID keep it to a bare minimum. It’s important to have the printer and laptops, and since we knew they were only giving us a welcome kit for one (they were VERY adamant about that—not a lot of friendly customer service at the consulate here…) we knew we’d need blankets, pillows, some kitchen supplies (a big cooking pot, plates, bowls, silverware, and my crockpot since I KNOW that most days we’ll be gone all afternoon). Now, those of you whom have crossed over the King Hussein/Allenby bridge border crossing into Israel are probably cringing at my list. Along with those things, of course, we have all the clothes. Plus, we let the kids pack their own bags full of their favorite things so that they would have some of the comforts of home since we’d be away for a fairly substantial length of time.
We packed everything in the car and it was a little tight, but it fit perfectly, and we were off. We dropped of The Birds (still no names) to some friends, and we drove to the border. Well, we didn’t exactly drive to the border. Devin, for some reason, didn’t know that the border had 2 names but it was the same thing. He just tried to find the border on the GPS, and it took us to the baptism site by the Dead Sea. Doh. In my defense, I did say “Look, there’s the King Hussein Bridge, isn’t that where we’re going?” and he said, “No, it’s the Allenby Bridge.” For future reference—it’s the same thing. So, we had to make a U-turn and get to the road, but we made it. As I said before, the Jordan side was easy. Then came the fun part. We get to the first Israeli checkpoint and the guy comes out and takes our passports and car info and tells us to wait. So, we wait. Wait #1. About ½ hour later, he tells us that the wife and kids are going to be taken by taxi to the terminal (‘terminal’ is a word that instills fear and loathing in my heart—just thought I’d mention that), along with all our bags. Devin would stay with the car while it was being inspected. Ok, I sort of expected this, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. However, as we unpacked the car and tossed everything into the back of the ‘taxi’ (a big van), the driver was laughing, telling us that he’d worked there for 7 years and had NEVER seen anyone with so much luggage come over the border. That should have sent up some warning flags right there.
Well, we stuffed that van full, then the kids and I were off to the terminal while Devin got to sit back and wait. The driver stopped and we started to unload onto this island between a car dropoff and bus dropoff area. Some of the security guys came over to help, and I’m sure they were making all sorts of comments to each other. Grateful I don’t speak Arabic well, not Hebrew. After we pulled all our junk out of the van, the guys started to leave and come back with giant black trash bags. I imagined it was because it’s easier to put all your stuff on a cart if it’s bagged than in a blob of a pile. So naïve. After most of our stuff was bagged, they started hauling away the carts bogged down with our stuff (think the ‘smart carts’ that you use at airports). We had like 5 of them. I wanted to take a picture, but the guys standing around with machine guns may not have liked that, so I didn’t. He he he. So, I’m standing off to the side of this big wad of people walking through the terminal, the guys took our passports to put the baggage stickers on them and I’m still not realizing what’s going on. Eventually, as I’m standing there and the kids are asking me what’s going on (don’t ask me that again—I just don’t know!!!!), I look over and it dawns on me that they’re taking the luggage—ALL the luggage—and running it through the belts like when you drop off your checked bags at the airport. Everything we brought with us is going to go through the machines and I have to go through passport control (lots of times) before I can get to the bags.
This was not what I had anticipated. I think I expected to be dropped off, then stand and wait for Devin to come so we could load the car back up. I had no idea that I was going to have to be the one putting all our stuff through the belts while trying to keep the kids from running people over with their suitcases or being run over by busses. We stood and waited for about 45 minutes (after the 45 minutes of ‘packing’ our things up to ready them for processing), so I looked over our ‘necessities’ and wondered if I’d ever see any of it again! Ha! Most of our stuff was packed in pathetic excuses for trashbags that I knew would rip apart first chance. I felt very lost, confused, and completely out of control of this situation. All I could do was hug my kids as they wandered past and tell them that I had no idea how long this was going to take, nor what was going to happen…just pray!
The guys finally brought our passports back and started to put the big long white stickers (just like baggage claim!) on ALL of our stuff (they said we had 40 pieces! Take that! We win!) and they turned me around and told me to go to the first passport control. Then, they said that was it. No, it wasn’t. I went to the first passport control (some very nice people let me go to the front of the line), then we walked through another big room where we had to go through security (just like the airport—except they didn’t make us take off our shoes. I don’t think I would have anyway, that floor was NASTY!!!) and another passport control. Here, we had to take a bathroom break. That always makes me nervous when I’m by myself, as we have to separate and all the little boys are by themselves. I’m grateful Josh is getting older and more responsible. He was a great help to me!
At this point, we wandered into yet another room that said passport control. Good grief!! How many passport controls are there? (I think the total came to 4…just inside this one building…altogether, though, I believe there were 10 or 11 from the first Jordanian checkpoint to the last Israeli checkpoint. Good gravy.) I wasn’t sure which one to go to, since most everything was written in Hebrew and Arabic. While I can sort of make out Arabic script, I still don’t know what it actually means. Finally, someone waved me over and we stood in another control line. The lady was quite nice, actually, which was a breath of fresh air. She actually smiled at the kids and didn’t glare at Andrew when he held up his dinosaur pillowpet and roared at her. He he. She gave us our passport stamps (well, sort of. We got DIP id papers in our passports instead of stamps because we’re going to be here for so long and on specific orders.) and we were ushered through another line. We got into another room, and it was full of people sitting on chairs. Were we supposed to sit on chairs, too? We wandered around the back for a bit, then finally decided to just push our way through to the front and ask someone. We found another passport checkpoint and I asked her if this was where we were to find our luggage. She said, “Give me your passports.” There was no friendly smile on that face. Ok, then. However, it WAS where our luggage was, so we were ok. Some signs in English might be nice there. I saw more than one foreign lady in tears here at this point. Seriously. I’m SOOOO glad that I had anticipated the worst—even though it was MUCH worse than even I had anticipated—still, I was ready for bad things to happen, so I didn’t break down and cry or feel despair. I’m grateful for that. I was able to stay strong and keep track of the kids—and they were serious troopers. They stayed by me almost the whole time, and I only had 2 break downs! Hooray! Success!
Anyway, we got to the luggage area, and that place was a free-for-all. Oh my. One of the security guys attached himself to us and helped us SO much. We had to wander up and down all the belts looking for stuff. We found the big bags fairly quickly, then we had to find all the trashbags full of stuff…then there was all the random stuff that fell out of the trash bags: books, laundry soap, barbies, pillows, blankets, plates… The best was the laundry soap (yes, I brought laundry soap—and in my defense, I’m glad I did because we have some serious laundry issues today, and everything’s closed because it’s Passover here) because someone somewhere decided to open it, and not quite close it…and there was laundry soap ALL over the floor! You could see people slipping all the time. Doh. We had quite a few issues with liquids. Much of our cleaners and things that we brought were left half open and pouring out by the time we found them. Our veggie wash is totally empty, and we had just refilled it before we left. Ah, well. Spoils of war, I guess.
Finding all the bags was a real feat, let me tell you! The big kids were very helpful, finding bags and dragging them over. Andrew just followed me around, and Peter tried to follow me around, but he got pushed around a lot (there were a LOT of people there, and most of them were NOT nice—lots of ladies kept pushing my kids over. I was NOT pleased! My mother bear instincts kept trying to take over and I wanted to push them back and ask them how they liked it, but I didn’t…) so he was in tears. I ended up carrying him around with me while I searched through the bags—climbing over bags and bars and platforms to get everything that was ours. I’m glad I’m in pretty good shape! Ha! FINALLY, Devin walked in (the back way), but he had to go back through all the passport controls and get his passport ‘stamped’. We finally found everything, and stood off to the side waiting for Devin to return so we could get out. Once we left the building, we had to push our carts all through this mass of people—especially these ladies who had these giant containers of water just hanging out all over the place at random. I couldn’t see where I was going, so I was just going through to follow Devin and avoid hitting people, when I rammed into a pile of water containers. The lady glared at me, so I yelled back at her telling her that Hello! I can’t see! Get your water out of my way! I don’t think she understood me, but she huffily moved her water out of my way. Whatever. Stupid water jugs. Josh tried to avoid all the water jugs, too, and ended up toppling his whole cart over into a ditch. Everyone stood around and watched him struggle. All these men standing around just watching. I ran over and helped him pick stuff up—so all these men stood around watching a woman and a child work to pick up a whole bunch of heavy bags. These are real men, let me tell you. Grr. Who does that??
We finally packed everything in the car, and drove away feeling like we’d honestly just survived a war. We were all exhausted. All told, we spent over 3 hours at the crossing. Oh my. We were able to find our house quickly and easily. I saw the Dome of the Rock as we drove over a hill. So cool! We got here and unpacked and realized that we’re missing a few things. So, we have to go back to that terminal and see if it’s still there. I sure hope so. One of the bags is Josh’s—full of his fun things like books and stuff.
So, that’s our story. I wish I would have known all of this beforehand. I would have packed differently. Very differently. But, at least now I’m more prepared for future crossings. The first time is always the worst, right? Maybe not. Regardless, I’m just happy to be here and plan to make the most of our stay!
Oh, and by the way, Happy Easter from Jerusalem! J
Who Am I?
As a Stay At Home Mom of 4 wonderful children, I have the amazing opportunity not only to home school them, but to do so in many different places! I am married to the most amazingly wonderful (and handsome) man in the whole world! Together, we seek out, every day, that Joy in the Journey that makes life exciting!
by Dan Brown
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I loved this book. I'm a sucker for fairy tales/fantasy. This was so well written! I can't wait to read all the rest of her books!
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