Monday, December 25

christmas in bethlehem

merry christmas! i miss you.

christmas here is funny. it really doesn't seem like christmas. it has been a nice change of pace from the over-materialized christmas' in america. decorations didn't go up until mid-december. people don't do a lot of christmas shopping. carols are not belted out twenty-four hours from every store you pass. but it's been nice.

saturday we got to go to two christmas eve services, even though it was really christmas eve eve. one was at our church in jerusalem and one was at our church in bethlehem. hannah got to come with us (yea for hannah being here!!) and experience both of our churches. while we were at the one in jerusalem, she realized that the pastor of the church is the dad of a guy she met in D.C. this summer and had given me and jason their info and told us we should find the church. we never followed up on that, but God led us there anyway. good thing that He doesn't let us ruin all of his neat little plans.

yesterday, jason, hannah and i made a christmas eve feast for some of the workers and residents at the house of hope. there were about 16 people all together. we made chicken marinated in italian dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rice, salad, pecan pie, apple pie. it was delicious, if i do say so myself. and there was no garlic in the entire meal. that was a rule. it was a really nice time to get to hang out with the blind old ladies, fida and lulu outside of work, and the other guys that live here. we sang christmas carols after we ate, so it felt a little like a christmas feast, but still not too much.

for christmas eve, we went up to manger square. i mean, where else would you go in bethlehem for christmas? we didn't get into the church, because you had to have a ticket to the midnight mass to get in, which sell out about a year in advance. but there were thousands of people out and we met up with some friends from our church in jerusalem, so it was a nice time. it felt more like a big new years eve party than christmas eve though. there was a group from spain performing and they were kind of a bunch of primadonnas and not very good and not very engaging. rumor also has it that they wouldn't let other groups, like local choirs, use their sound system, so there were no choirs singing christmas carols like there were supposed to be. but despite the lack of christmas things, it was a fun evening. we got to hang out with our police friend, tamir (the one who's wedding we crashed) and hang out with john, our favorite shop keeper. it was also nice to just see foreigners in bethlehem and to see the palestinians out having a good time and forgetting for a moment about the situation that they live in. even though most were muslims and don't understand christmas, they were getting joy from the birth of Christ, even if they did not know it.

today hannah and i went to the church of the nativity. while in the area where the manger was, we got to stand in on a mass, which was very nice. it made the visit more contemplative and less about seeing an old building that doesn't move me very much. it was nice to be there more as pilgrims and less as tourists and to just sit and think about the incarnation of our God.
so that sums up our christmas in bethlehem 2006. we were going to go to a dinner at our church in jerusalem, but i'm getting the flu, so we canceled that plan. i think we're having a lord of the rings marathon instead.

i hope that you all had a merry christmas and that the peace of Christ is in your hearts.

Sunday, December 17

baby, it's cold outside

so winter is apparently here. for real this time. everyone told us it was winter after the first rain in september. we put away all the shorts and t-shirts and got out the winter clothes and made the kids wear huge coats everywhere. but it was really like 65* every day. but now, in the middle of december, it has finally gotten cold. and windy. but not rainy. i am glad it's not rainy, but apparently we really need the rain, so i guess it would be ok with me if it started raining too.

since it is cold, it is not so pleasant to go outside in the afternoons. the sun sets by 5:15, so about 4:00 when it starts to go down, the temperature drops significantly. we usually aren't ready to go out with the kids until 3:45, so it doesn't leave much time. plus everyone is sick, including me, so i sure don't want to go out. but there's not much to do inside. legos and playdough can only entertain them for so long. so yesterday i had the great idea to make christmas cookies.

people don't make christmas cookies here. when we tried to explain to the palestinian workers what we were doing, like cutting them out with cookie cutters, icing them, decorating with sprinkles, they didn't really get why. it's sad to me that an entire culture has missed out on the excellent tradition of christmas cookies and hot coco. then again, the majority of the culture is muslim, so they miss out on everything that has to do with christmas....anyway, so my idea was that during nap time, from 1-3, i would make the dough and chill it so it would be ready at 3:30 when we're done with snacks. no problem, right? i found a quick recipe and then headed off to the store.

this is where it started to get way more complicated than i wanted it to. i went to the biggest grocery store in town. or on my street. it's way smaller than IGA. i needed butter, food coloring, powdered sugar, and vanilla. pretty basic ingredients. food coloring and no powdered sugar. so i settled for store-bought icing in jar with hebrew writing that i couldn't read and weird pictures so i had no idea what i was buying. but it turned out ok. so after about 20 min at the store, i got back and started making the dough. it took way longer than i expected because i'm an idiot and can't add and convert cups to milliliters. long story short, i put way too much butter in and ended up having to make a quadruple batch. needless to say, we have a little dough left over in the freezer. finally about 3:01 i finished the dough and stuck it in the fridge.

the cookies turned out to be quite a hit. the kids loved them. they were very curious with every step...rolling out the dough, using the cookie cutters, seeing them come out of the oven, icing them, decorating them. even the boys stayed entertained all afternoon. we only had one christmas tree cookie-cutter that wasn't tiny, so we used that a lot, but then the palestinian workers who didn't get the christmas cookie theme, pulled out all sorts of little cookie-cutters...doves, ducks, stars, hearts, houses. so they weren't exactly christmas cookies, but the kids had a blast doing it. and it successfully took all afternoon, so there was no going outside for us.

on completely different note, jason and i are watching season 2 of 24. we have so far wasted 18 hours of our lives and plan on finishing it tomorrow. jack is my new hero. i want to be him when i grow up.

Tuesday, December 12

Musica Salsa?

Sarah and I had been invited no less than 2 dozen times to go Salsa dancing while at JBU. For one reason or another, we have never gone. Sometimes we were busy, sometimes we were tired, once I decided to propose to her instead of going with a group after the Brady-Herschberger wedding. Anyway, every Monday night, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem there are Salsa dancing lessons available for anyone who wants to come. We have some friends from church who go occasionally and they invited us to join them, so last night we set out.

One thing that I have learned, it is difficult to get around on public transportation when the maps, signs, and other info is in a foreign language. We spent at least 4 hours getting around Jerusalem by bus, taxi, and on foot yesterday, and so by 9pm, when the class commenced we were already tired.

In addition, the friends that we thought would be there were not there, nor was anyone we recognized. Sarah and I sat in the lobby from about 8:45 until 9:00, not saying a word, just watching lots of people come in, not hearing anyone speak English, and starting to wonder if we shouldn't leave right then. In fact, at about 2 minutes until 9, I looked over at Sarah (who was making a face as if someone had just asked her to ingest a slug) and asked if she was feeling like I was, that is, feeling like we should just get up a leave. She said yes, but we both agreed that we would regret it if we did, so we stayed.

Really, it was a great time. There was lady who was teaching the basic basics, just for beginners. She spoke English (as, it seems, do most Israelis). We learned and practiced the basic steps for about 90 minutes, met a few people, promised to come back, and left with an interest in developing our new ability.

Now this story may not seem significant to you, but it is. I am a big wimp, were I there alone, I would have hightailed it out of there. There were no less than 6 times during the day that I had decided I didn't want to go to this place with a bunch of people that didn't know me and make a fool out of myself, and I know Sarah felt the same way. However, because we were both thinking of each other instead of ourselves, we pretended to be excited until we actually were.

By the way: anybody have good suggestions for some Salsa music that I could download, enjoy listening to, and dance to? Muchas Gracias!

Monday, December 4

'tis the season

so i convinced jason to buy a christmas tree for our room. actually, he was quite cooperative and even amused me by acting excited about the idea. so we did today. it's a small one, but it gives our room a little christmas spirit.

also, i don't think i ever put pictures of our couch. so here it is. the pillows were my birthday present from the other workers. it's really comfy, and it's nice to have more than just our beds to sit on.

and here is the view of our room from our doorway.

and in other news....

this was a note for me, jesse, and jason on a bowl of hummus. we had a good laugh. especially when we started asking the kids if they wanted homos for dinner. most said yes, because they say yes to anything we offer--nabil always says yes to a kick in the pants when we offer it to him. but one of the boys, forrest, always wants to have the right answer. he saw how much we were laughing and even though he didn't know what homos meant, he knew the no was the right answer to make us laugh more. so when we asked him, he said "no, no, thank you, i don't want homos, no".

Thursday, November 23

happy thanksgiving!

happy thanksgiving! have a wonderful day, eat lots of food and watch lots of football.

we're acutally going to get to celebrate with some american friends who live here in bethlehem. no football, but lots of food and other americans from the surrounding area.

Tuesday, November 21

fear vs. foolishness

so yesterday, i (sarah) ventured into the market alone. this was a first for me. it's kinda pathetic really. i mean, i have lived here for almost three months and haven't gone shopping by myself. it is kind of intimidating though. for one, it's super crowded. and everyone is speaking gibberish, or at least that's what it sounds like to me. cars are coming from every direction. the "market" is not so much square with booths set up nicely or a shopping center, but rather a couple of streets with shops all around and street vendors everywhere. there's a mix of produce, clothes, toys, souvenirs, dishes, tea, felafel stands, a meat market. people are everywhere. and so are cars. people walk down the middle of the streets and cars try to run them over. there's no "right of way" here. walking around cars is just one big game of chicken.
so anyway, i went to go shopping for some clothes and shoes. i went from about 1 pm till a little after 2. there are shops everywhere. tons to choose from. everywhere has pretty much the same stuff, but you can barter for a better price than the shop next door would give you. i did find one shirt and two pairs of dress shoes, so all in all, it was a successful trip.
a few minutes after i got back, i heard a lot of sirens. i didn't really think too much of it, because we hear sirens here all the time. i think police cars and ambulances just drive around with their lights on, and sometimes sirens just because they can. anyway, at 3:00, auntie bob, an older norweigian lady who is volunteering here, told me that she and her husband had been up near manger square and they saw the israeli army come in to make some arrests and some palestinians ended up getting shot. no one died, but it was still a pretty dangerous situation. not something i would like to be around. manger square is at the opposite end of the market from the house of hope. probably about a block away from where i had been, maybe fifteen minutes before the soldiers came.
people have asked me if i'm scared living here. i don't know how to answer that. so far, i have not been personally affected by any of the violence that has happened in bethelehem or anywhere in the west bank since i have been here. but this is the second time that i could have been around something that has happened. a few weeks ago, the soldiers came to bulldoze a house, and ended up seigeing a hospital right around the corner from the house of hope. this was in the middle of the afternoon and i had been planning to go on a walk with a few of the girls, which i do all the time, but i talked myself out of it. i don't even remember why. but we would have walked past the hospital as it was happening. i mean, they had road blocks up and weren't really letting people walk by, but i would have tried to walk by. when things like this happen, i start to get scared. but i don't want to be.
i am confident that God will protect me while i am here. not protect me in the sense that nothing bad is ever going to happen to me or near me or i'll never get hurt or be in any danger. but protect me in the sense that His hand is on my life and what happens to me is a part of his plan. but on the other hand, i don't want to be foolish and put myself is unnecessarily dangerous situations. i don't think that i was ever in any real danger yesterday. i was home before anything happened. and i'm a smart girl. if i see and israeli jeep, i'm high-tailing it the other direction. if i see a mob of angry arabs throwing rocks, i'm not going to go get myself caught in the crossfire. but if i had been walking by myself, not being able to speak arabic well, i could have not been able to understand what was going on, i could have accidentally ended up somewhere i shouldn't have been. i don't think either of those are a huge possibility, but still. i has gotten me thinking about how to balance trusting God for protection and looking out for myself.
i don't want to be foolish, but i don't want to sit in my room for the next six months because i'm afraid of what might happen. it's a hard thing to figure out. i don't want to live in fear, but i also don't want to live in ignorance to the potential dangers of my surroundings. i want to feel confident enough to go places alone, get involved in activities without jason, not be dependent on others to always escort me around. but i also want to be safe. and that's a hard balance to find. so far i haven't figured it all out. maybe by june i'll know how to handle life here.

Wednesday, November 15

Mine are cuter than yours

EDIT: I just wanted to say that I am very disapointed in you all. I left pictures of myself shaking like a Vegas showgirl, and we only get one comment. One!! Thanks, by the way, Spentsts.

Allright, here's the deal. I was over checking out John and Carol's blog and looking at some pictures of the kids they worked with in Ghana. There were some good lookin' kids on there. Cute as all get-out, as the saying goes. However, I think that the following pictures demonstrate the fact that our kids are cuter. Enjoy.

Shedha and Razan showin' some love

Asma being Asma

No, this is not a child from an island tribe. It's Kais on Halloween.

We're still working on the nose-picking thing.

Yea, I'm pretty sure he knows he's cute at this point.

Ok, so he's 18 and doesn't qualify as a "kid" but he's still cute . . . and gansta.

Feel free to ignore the kid in the middle when evaluting cuteness

Sunday, November 12

Wer goin' tuh the hitchin'

Since we've been in Bethlehem, we've been told that we should go to a Muslim wedding if we get the chance. They are some great parties with dancing, TONS of food, and fun traditions. We were invited to one that took place last Thursday and Friday (by the family of the groom who we had met once) and decided not to pass the opportunity up. We made the right decision.

Thursday night we showed up around 9, and the party had been going for a couple hours already. The makeshift stage that was set up in the groom's neighborhood was full of young men dancing to LOUD Arabic music. The groom was up on someones shoulders, and all the other dancers had formed a circle around him. Then we showed up.

Immediately, Sarah was escorted by some of the ladies to the place where they were gathered (you can read about that at her blog) and Jesse and I were coaxed/pushed onto the dance floor. Some man with a shepherd's crook came over, and made all the dancers except for Jesse, Myself, and our two partners squat down on the ground, while we danced in the middle of the circle they formed. Yes it felt awkward, and yes it was awesome. None of the songs that we danced to had any specific steps that we had to learn, the basic requirements to dance like an Arab man at a wedding are as follows.

1. Extend your arms to the sides, lift them until they are slightly above your head and move your shoulders to the rhythm.

2. Let your chest (rather than your hips) lead your dance.

3. Get really close to the man you are dancing with (this was also a bit awkward for me, but it was fine once I got over my American desire for personal space).

4. Do your best to move with the rhythm, but it is not required.

5. Make a lot of noise, smile, and don't get in the way of whoever is supposed to be the center of attention. (which turned out to be the foreigners for most of the night)

(In order to fully appreciate the video below, be sure that you have the sound on your computer and watch until the end. The end is the best part)

At one point, a song with English words came on over the speakers. Neither Jesse nor I had ever heard this song before, but apparently it was assumed that we would know how to dance to it. ALL of the other guys squatted in a circle around us, and Jesse and I showed them how to dance to the song. I had lost all my feelings of awkwardness or shyness by this point, or I would be repeating the familiar refrain. It helped that most of the guys assumed that whatever I did was right, since it was obviously an American song that we were dancing to.

We ended up spending about 1.5 or 2 hours there that night, and the next both my legs and my shoulders were quite sore. I was worried that there would be more dancing the next night, on the second night of the wedding.

When we showed up on Friday night, the stage was gone, as were most of the people. Apparently the feast and ceremony had been earlier in the day, so we had missed that part. But the family of the groom knew that we would be coming late, so they stuck around and waited for us.

As we sat and visited, they told us that they had prepared 150 kilos of meat and 50 kilos of bread for the wedding feast (in addition to a heck of a lot of rice). They brought a huge platter of mensaf (rice with yogurt, peanuts, and lamb meat) out to us. One that was probably fit for about 8 or 9 Americans to eat (there were 4 people eating).

Let me set the scene. Sami, Jesse, Sarah and I are sitting on plastic chairs in the middle of the room. 10 members of the grooms family are sitting on the bed, on the steps, or on chairs elsewhere in the room, facing us. This enormous platter of food is in front of us, the four of us are eating off the same platter, and all of the family is eyeing us with every bite, looking for hints of whether or not we are enjoying the food. (it was great food by the way). In addition to watching us, the family members are encouraging/directing us to eat more and more and more and more.

One thing that we probably have mentioned before: Arab people are very hospitable, and in Arab culture, it is also polite to refuse hospitality. (e.g. when someone offers you tea, food, or gift, you should refuse a couple of times before relenting). This creates some awkward moments when you really don't want something. . .

On this night, I did not want to eat any more mensaf. I had probably consumed 2 times as much as I eat at a normal meal, mostly very heavy lamb meat and rice, and I was feeling a bit bloated and almost queasy. However, they decided it was a good time to bring out more meat (which Sarah decided to put in front of me). I really was wondering where the best place to go would be, in case I need to eject the contents of my stomach, as I gulped down the last few bites of meat. Mercifully, the lady of the house realized I was bit uncomfortable (I think the gurgling sounds gave me away) and told me I didn't need to eat any more if I didn't want to.

We sat around for a while longer, and the man of the house grabbed my arm and directed me to put on his keffiyeh and his shalwar so we could take some pictures. His wife also gave Sarah one of her robes and a head covering to wear. We posed against the wall while they oohed and awed over us, and while Sami and Jesse took pictures for us.

Despite all my complaining about sore arms, sore legs, awkwardness, and overeating, we had an incredible time. The two nights we spent with this family were some of the most fun nights that we have had since we've been in Bethlehem. Free advice for anyone who lives in an Arab country: go to a Muslim wedding if you get the chance.

Wednesday, November 1

Ethiopians, Soldiers, and Turks

All right. Three more stories from Eilat:

1. While staying at the Shelter (the name of our hostel), a man I did not know came up to me and asked me to play backgammon with him. I told him that I was not very good, and that he would have to remind me of the rules, but that I'd love to play. He said he wasn't very good either and that it would be fun. One of those things was a lie, one was the truth.

Backgammon is popular game in the Arab world, so I can reasonably be expected to lose when playing against an Arab man. Also, the game was invented by the Turks, so I would be even more expected to lose to a Turkish man when playing him. Finally, I have only played the game with Fro 3 times.

Really, I thought that backgammon was a game of luck, but it was as if I was playing chess against Bobby Fischer. Bobby could tell me all the hints and tips he wanted, he could even tell me what moves to make half the time, but he would still destroy me like Tyson destroyed Peter McNeely. However, I am proud to be able to say that I played backgammon with a Turk.

2. We have a guidebook for Israel and the Palestinian Territories that is about 6 years old. This leads us to some places that no longer exist. For example, we tried to find a pub near the hostel section of town in Eilat, but couldn't find it anywhere. Across the street from where we were trying to go, there was a small bar with music blaring out if it. We decided to wander in, and fortune smiled upon us.

It turned out to be a restaurant/bar run by Ethiopian Jews. There was only one other white guy in the place and I think he was the owner or the manager or something. Our first night in the place, we had just eaten dinner, but one of the Ethiopian men literally forced food into our mouths (when I say literally, I mean it. I held the food in his hand, refused to let me take it with my hand, and forced it into my mouth). It was great, but we were so full that there was not way we could eat more than one bite. Sarah couldn't even handle that much. She made me eat most of hers.

The next night, we went back to the same place for dinner. The food was really intense, and it made a very powerful impression on my stomach. I am used to eating Arab food, which is no light fare, and this still felt incredible heavy. It was also bursting with flavor. As we ate, the Ethiopians watched and corrected our eating style, and interrupted us every two or three bites to ask if we liked the food. It was really fun.

After we had finished eating, the music really started cranking, and one particularly gregarious man (the one who had forced food into our mouths the night before) convinced us to get up a dance in the middle of the restaurant with him and some of the other men. So there we were, three white folks from the US, dancing in between the tables at an Ethiopian restaurant to some sort of music that sounded like a mix between Busta Rhymes, Tribal Beats, and Raffi. (Alright, everything will be alright, we can make it/ Alright, everything will be alright, we can make it).

We were there for about 2.5 hours, and we only left because the hostel had a curfew. When we tried to leave, the other patrons of the restaurant tried every trick in the book to keep us there. I ended up arguing with them in the street on our way out, trying to convince them that we really had to leave, or else we would be locked out of our hostel.

As we were arguing, one of the men ran into the bar (I knew where he was going) and came running out with a beer for each of us to walk back to the hostel with. (This is allowed in Israel). Finally, we were able to leave . . . But I am sure we will be back, God willing.

3. One morning, Jesse, Som, and I got up early to hike in the Negev. We took a bus out to the spot where the trail began, but we could not get a bus back after we were finished with the hike. We decided to hitch back. As we were walking, we came across a checkpoint that was manned by Israeli soldiers. They stopped every car heading back to Eilat, and asked if they would give us a ride. They first promised to find a car full of beautiful, single girls, but later we convinced them that we would be happy to ride back with anybody that would give us a ride.

Jesse and Som got a ride fairly early on, but there were only two seats, so I waited with the Soldiers for another 45 minutes or so. They offered me water, coke, sunflower seeds, and cookies. They asked me what music I liked and tried to give me their Ipod to use, and they constantly tried to make sure that I was as comfortable as possible.

At one point, a soldier who was stationed a little bit away from the check point began to sing "Good Morning Beautiful" by Steve Holy, followed by "You'll Be In My Heart." (The Phil Collins song from Tarzan). The other soldiers started making requests, and even put in my request for some Cat Stevens, but apparently, his Ipod was only stocked with cheesy love songs in English.

My perspective and attitude toward Israeli solders (as people) has really been impacted by this encounter. It was the first time I have interacted with soldiers who did not have reason to suspect or be frustrated with me.

The enduring image of this trip may indeed be dancing in the Ethiopian restaurant. I know that I will never get that song out of my head, and I pray that I will be able to return to that place. Israel is quite a unique place. The blend of cultures, religions, and languages makes it so that it would take a long time to grow bored with it. That wasn't a sales pitch, by the way. It's just the way it is.

Monday, October 30

Unique and Refreshing

I could be speaking of many different things when I use those two words together. I could be describing Gold Bond, Heineken, Old Spice, Aquafina, Beaver Lake, the Phoenix Suns, or countless other items. In this instance, I am talking about the last week that Sarah and I spent in Eilat, which is in Southern Israel. We were there for only three days, but there are way too many stories to tell in just one post. So today, I want to describe some of the incredibly interesting people we met and give you an overview of the trip, but there will be more stories to come.

We stayed at a "Christian Youth Hostel" in Eilat that was called The Shelter. This hostel was the location of the first interesting person we met, a Dutch teenager named Tomas. He attempted to provide us with directions to The Shelter over the phone on three separate phone calls. Each time, he assured us it was "easy to find" and that we'd "walk right into it." However, he refused to use street names, addresses, or directions (left, right, north, south, etc). We spent at least an hour walking around Eilat trying to find the place. It was about 3 minutes away from the bus station. If we walked slowly.

Margareta: A 50 something woman who hailed from a small island in between Finland and Sweden. She has Finnish citizenship, but speaks Swedish. Also, she doesn't bathe or shave her legs or armpits.

Tom: A 60 year old man with a beard that would impress Moses. He was a Canadian who now lives as a farmer and missionary in Switzerland. I shared a room with Tom the first night. On more than one occasion, his snoring frightened me so badly that I sat up in bed, expecting that a bulldozer was coming for the hostel. I slept outside the other two nights.

Som: Another Dutchman, Som was traveling in Israel alone. He, Jesse and I went hiking in the Negev desert one morning. This dude was a hiking machine! I am very thankful that we decided on a short hike, 'cause this guy would have worn me ragged. We got to have a lot of neat conversations with Som during the time we were in Eilat and hopefully we will see him again in Bethlehem.

Ismael (not his real name): Ismael is an Arab Israeli Christian who lives in Eilat. He spends his days on an internet site sharing his faith with Arab Muslims who may or may not be able to talk to someone about Jesus in person. Jesse, Sarah, and I sat enraptured to his descriptions of Islam and Christianity, and his strategies for arguing people into the Kingdom (and I mean that in a good way, like how Paul used the scriptures to prove that Jesus was the messiah). Seriously, this man is doing some incredible work. If you have the thought, please pray for the work that this man is doing.

Allright, that's all I have time for today. In the next couple days I will post some other stuff, including my morning spent with Israeli soldiers, the party with the Ethiopian Jews, and playing games with my new Turkish friend.

Wednesday, October 18

Yalla, eat the bread of life.

First off, it finally rained. That's right, after being here a mere 53 days, we got to see the skies open up for the first time. If I understand correctly, we only got the tail end of the lack of rain. I believe the last time it rained was in June. That means it went 4 1/2 months without raining here. Let me tell you something about the roads when it hasn't rained in 4.5 months. They are filthy. Sarah and I went for a walk after the rain on Sunday night, and the roads were so slick that it was like walking on ice. We saw 3 near accidents and 1 tractor-trailer going up a hill at about 5 mph because it couldn't get any traction. Sarah and I also almost fell over 3 or 4 times just walking down the sidewalk. Good times all around.

Bara'a is a new member of the House of Hope family. She is a very tiny, very soft-spoken girl who is living here for the first time. During devotion time on Saturday night, the kids were repeating memory verses. The verse that Hiba was saying was "I am the bread of life." Violet was leading the devotion time and said "Uli . . ." to prompt her to say the bible verse (uli means say).

Bara'a heard this and started to say very softly, "let's go Hiba, eat it, eat the bread of life." (The word for eat is culi). Everytime I hear bara'a saying something, I think of her sitting on the couch with her hands folded, gently encouraging Hiba to eat the bread of life.

Monday was an exciting day. Sarah and I went into the market in Bethlehem and did a good portion of our Christmas shopping. This sets a record for me, as previously the soonest I had started my Christmas shopping was December 18th. I want to talk about some of the cool things we found to buy, but that would ruin the surprise, so I won't.

I don't have a good way to end this post. So I guess I'll just stop writing now. Oh yea, I had a fun morning cleaning poop out of every crack in Ahmad's bedroom. He mad a magnificent work of art to greet me this morning. I love my job.

Thursday, October 12

Mish Ana!

As most people who have worked with groups of children know, you always have a favorite. Sometimes you can try to hide it and pretend you don't, but you always do. My favorite boy at Beit 'Araja is Muhammad. One of the things that he is famous for is his tendency to say "mish ana" (not me) anytime that he misbehaves or thinks that someone might possible think he misbehaved. Sometimes when the house parents sit around after the kids are in bed, we tell the same stories about the same kids over and over again. Muhammad's stories are often the favorite. We have all encountered Muhammad's "mish ana." Here are some of the highlights of his denials.

1: Muhammad is sitting on his bed during naptime. His sheet has a huge hole torn in it. I come in the room and ask in Arabic, "who did this."

All of the boys begin to point and say, "Muhammad, Muhammad."

Muhammad thinks for a moment then says incredulously, "Mish ana, Kais." I look at him with doubt in my eyes. "Mish ana, Eyad." More doubt. "Mish ana, Forest." He rotates through his roommates two or three more times, before he finally says. "Sorry, it was me."

2: Muhammad is on his bicycle in the middle of the road. Jesse is lecturing him about not leaving the playground and about never, ever going into the road. Muhammad starts to click his tongue at Jesse (this is a rude way to say no) and loudly exclaims: "mish ana! Mish ana!" This is despite the fact that he is in the road as he proclaims that it was someone else who ran away.

3. It's nighttime, and I open the door to check on the boys. Muhammad is sitting on the middle of the floor, playing with cars, and he isn't wearing any pants. As soon as I open the door he jumps up, runs to his bed and starts to point at all of the other boys. This time, he just uses body language to say mish ana, as if they are the ones half naked and in the middle of the room.

4. Early one morning, Jesse goes into the boys' bedroom to check on them. They aren't being too loud, but it is before the time to get up. Muhammad, is lounging on Nabil's bed, close to the door. Apparently thinking someone is going to be in trouble, but not overly concerned, lazily throws his arm over his head and nonchalantly points at whoever is on the next bed. Even though he was still half asleep and didn't know if there was trouble or not, he was going to start casting blame.

As an epilogue, he is starting to do this less as he is realizing it does not work. Now, in order to stay out of trouble, he will run to the person. Hug them and say "Sorry, sorry, I love you habibi." (Habibi is a term of endearment, usually used for people younger than you). I'm sure we'll have stories of those attempts later on.

Tuesday, October 3

Samuel, Charlie, and Henry

What a great weekend. This was the first weekend that Sarah and I have had off since we arrived in Bethlehem. The kids all went home on Thursday afternoon and (for the most part) they got back yesterday. We decided to go to Amman, Jordan to visit David and Susan Vila and family to celebrate the occasion.

The first highlight of the trip takes place just past the King Hussein bridge on the Jordan side of the river. I (Jason) got into my first full blown argument in Arabic. There were about 7 cabbies and bus driver (all a bit cranky from lack of water, food, and especially cigarettes) who were trying to convince me that we should ride with them to our destination. Some were being less than truthful with us regarding things such as the distance, the exchange rate, and the usual cost of a ride. We stood outside the checkpoint yelling and gesticulation wildly for about 10-15 minutes before Sarah and I finally got into the cab and left. Needless to say, Sarah did not enjoy this activity nearly as much as I did.

In Amman that afternoon, David and his 4 year old boy, Henry, took us to visit the Temple of Hercules (left, above) and the Roman Theater (right) in downtown Amman. I wish I was a great photographer, so I could show you how impressive the stuff we got to see is, but I guess you'll either have to settle for these pictures or come and see it yourself. Henry is a lot of fun by the way. And tough! He was climbing around like a monkey, and falling down, and just jumping right back up. He and Sarah raced to the top of the Roman theater. Sarah lost.

Saturday, Sarah and I got a bus to Jerash, an ancient Roman city (and part of the Decapolis) less than an hour north of Amman. It contained two theaters, a hippodrome where we got to watch a chariot race (check out our youtube for footage of the chariot race), temples of Zeus and Artemis, and 4 or 5 ancient churches. It was incredible to walk around on streets that are 1800 years old. You just don't get to see things that are that old in the US, I think our understanding of history suffers because of that.

In one of the Jerash theaters there were some primitive telephones. If you whispered into one of the indentations in wall, someone across the theater (around 15-20 meters away) could hear you better than someone standing within a 2 feet of you. (pictures on our album)

Also in this theater, we encountered what may have been one of the oddest combinations ever. Two Jordanian men in traditional dress, playing bagpipes in an ancient Roman city. Oh yeah, and they were playing "Yankee Doodle."

Saturday night, we got to attend church with the Vilas at an The Amman International Church. It was nice to sing in English and hear a sermon in English again. We also met a man by the name of Corey Casey who graduated from JBU in 1999. He is also the cousin of Tara Pianalto and the Brother-in-Law of Amy (Epperson) Casey. Small world we live in, no. So if we know anybody that knows Casey, he says hello.

We capped off the trip with a visit to a cafe. Sarah, Dave, and I enjoyed some Nargileh, while the boys had fun blowing bubbles into their fruit smoothies. Good times were had by all. There are benefits to no longer attending JBU. Someday, Brandon, you'll know how that feels too.

I think that the undisputed highlight of the trip was the Vila family. Dave and Susan were really, really, really hospitable. Samuel, Charlie, and Henry were a lot of fun. Hopefully, I did not corrupt the children so much that Dave and Susan won't let us back, because I would like to see them again soon.

P.S. There are a whole bunch of new pictures on our photo album. Pictures of the kids at Beit 'Araja are on one new album and our pictures from Jerash and Amman are one the other.

Thursday, September 28


One question I have heard a lot since I've been here is "is it what you expected?" I have a very hard time answering that question because I really don't know what I expected. I have discovered, however, that there are some things about the US that I miss more than I thought I would, there are also some things that I miss less than I thought I would. That is as close as I can come to answering the question about expecations, so here's what I think.

Things I miss more than expected:
Singing praise songs in English with the saints
Playing basketball or rugby (or other physical competition)
Old Spice: High Endurance
Our bed (caboose, watch yourself)
Premium coffee
Pastor Dave's sermons
Rain (not a drop since we've been here)

Things I miss less than expected:
Watching sports
My bike (don't tell her I said this)
Daily showers
Having a car available to me
Hamburgers (falafels are a more than adequate replacement)
Changing my clothes everyday
Every weekend off

Things I miss as much as expected:
My friends and family (I really miss them a lot, just as I thought)
Christian Radio


Tuesday, September 26

I'm the Lady!! (How not to get to Tel Aviv)

Some of you may remember and earlier story about Aimaan, one in which he started calling me Uncle Almost, because he could not remember my name. Well, apparently he has a knack for misunderstanding me.

As we were playing futbol in the courtyard at the back of Beit 'Araja, Aimaan kept complaining that the other kids were getting in his way while he was trying to play. I was quite a ways away from him, and I yelled to him "Aimaan! Stop complaining!"

He yelled back, "What did you say, Amu Jason? You're the lady?" He then laughed maniacally and proceeded to yell "Amu Jason's the lady!" for the next forty minutes. In addition, he went to every adult that was working that afternoon and told them that I was the lady. I wish, by the end of the day he was literally hoarse from yelling that I was the lady over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

If you are ever in Bethlehem and want to get a Visa from the Jordanian, do not ask Sarah and I for directions. Here is what we did yesterday.
Taxi from Beit 'Araja to the Wall for 12NIS
Arab bus from the Wall into Jerusalem 7NIS
Egged bus from Jaffa Rd in Jerusalem to the central bus station 11NIS
Egged bus from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan (a suburb of Tel Aviv) 34NIS
(by the way, we also got on the wrong bus, but the driver spoke English well enough and was kind enough to drop us near the Jordanian Embassy, where we were trying to go)

Walk to the Jordanian Embassy
Realize we need a picture for the visa application, walk around Ramat Gan trying to find a place to take it. 50NIS
Walk back to the Jordanian Embassy
Realize we don't have enough shekels on us, walk around Ramat Gan trying to find an ATM machine that accepts our American ATM card.
Walk back to the Jordanian Embassy
Acquire the visas!! (and pay for them, 370NIS)

Get directions to the central bus station from an Arabic speaking security guard.
Get lost.
Get directions from an English speaking banker.
Get lost.
Get directions to the train station from an English speaking security guard.
Find it! But have to ask two more people for directions to the bus station.
Find it! Board the bus for Jerusalem 30NIS

Arrive in Jerusalem, realize we're really not sure how to get back to the Old City to catch and Arab bus. Ask three security, guards in Arabic, one knows how to help us.
Get on the right bus!! Sit in traffic for 80 minutes in order to travel about 10 kilometers. 11NIS
Get on the Arab bus bound for the wall outside of Bethlehem. 7NIS
Take our place into the crush of people trying to get through the checkpoint. Make new friends and enemies.
One of our new friends offers us a ride back to Beit 'Araja in his 30 year old VW Beetle, we gladly accept and arrive safely at home. A mere 8 hours after leaving and only 45 minutes late for work.

Yes it was quite an adventure, and I am leaving out some of the oddities for the sake of brevity (I clearly failed). The point is, we now have our visas and on Thursday we will be visiting Dave and Susan Vila (and family) in Amman! Hopefully, our travel there will be less eventful and less expensive.

Jason and Sarah

Sunday, September 24

September's Letter

Here is a copy of the e-mail we sent out to friends and family yesterday. Please let us know if you would like to be on our mailing list.

Hello friends and family! God bless you all.

Fitting In

We are on the verge of completing our 3rd week with the children and yesterday was the one month anniversary of our arrival in Bethlehem. It would be accurate to say that this adventure now feels like real life. We no longer get confused and think we are on vacation. All the things that accompany normal life (being easily irritated by minor things, not getting enough sleep, taking joy in getting to sleep in, etc) have started to return as well. Praise the Lord!

One of our chief frustrations at this point, is figuring out the culture of the House of Hope. To us, it seems that the communication and conflict resolution styles that are used are sometimes ineffective. This has caused us (especially Jason) to be occasionally discouraged. The children really are wonderful, but (just as in most cases) working and living in an institution can be emotionally tiring.

All 12 of the children who will be living at Beit 'Araja (House of Hope) this school year have now arrived. For those of you who are keeping track, we have seven boys (Forest, Mhamad, Nabil, Kais, Ismael, Ahmed, and Eyad) and five girls (Asma, Shedha, Hiba, Aya, and Razan). Each letter we want to send you pictures and descriptions of one boy and one girl so that you can pray specifically for that child. We believe that prayer for the children can have an incredible impact on their lives, please join us in this vital endeavor.


Ahmed is 11 years old and has lived at Beit 'Araja for around 4 years. His family is from Hebron, and he also has a sister who used to live in the boarding section here. Ahmed enjoys riding bicycles, playing catch, and lots and lots of attention. He does not enjoy school or sitting still for long periods of time. Ahmed has autism and we are working with his family and the doctor to establish the appropriate amount of medication. Since he has been here, he has had a difficult transition and he may have to return home for a time due to behavior issues.

Please Pray:
For the leaders at Beit 'Araja to exercise wisdom in deciding Ahmed's future.
That Ahmed would receive the appropriate medication.
For the teachers and house parents to care for Ahmed in the best possible way.
For Ahmed to know Jesus more completely all the time.

Asma is nine years old and has downs syndrome. This is her second year at Beit 'Araja. She loves to play futbol, ride on the back of bikes, play the "guitar" and sing. She is usually very loving and affectionate and loves to give hugs and snuggle. She can also be very stubborn and throws fits when she does not get her way or feels that she is not getting attention. She can be very mischievous, especially during nap time and early in the morning.

Please pray:
That Asma will know how much we love her, and more importantly how much Jesus loves her.
That she will display her obedient heart more often.
For the workers, that we will praise her for the positive things she does so that mischief will not be her preferred source of attention.

Prayer Requests

We are so thankful for all of your prayers for us over the last few weeks. We know that they are making a difference and ask that you continue to pray for us. Here are some specific request that we have this time around:

Continue to pray for our language acquisition.
Pray for the House of Hope; pray for unity of the workers so that we can effectively minister to the residents and the community around us.
Pray for the children as they go home this weekend (Thursday, Sept. 28) that their visits will go well and that they will not be too homesick when they come back.
Pray that God and people around us will be encouraging to us, and that frustration with Beit 'Araja will not be overwhelming.
Pray for Muslims during Ramadan, that they will be aware of their need for Jesus.

Money Stuff

A financial update: As of our latest calculations, we have raised $10,430 out of a desired $13,627. We trust that God will provide for our financial needs over this year. We are so grateful to all of you who have given us money and we praise God for His provision. If you wish to give financially, send a check to Every Nation Ministries with Bethlehem Ministry on the memo line. The mailing address is PO Box 94564 North Little Rock, AR 72190.

In Christ,
Sarah and Jason

Monday, September 18

story of the week

i think i will start to post my favorite story from each week. this week, there were a lot of funny things that have happened, but one stands out to me.
so saturday morning, i was so excited when i woke up at 7:45 (needing to be to work at 8), because the girls were still asleep/playing quietly. this had never happened before, so i was really excited that the night had gone so well. however, when i went downstairs to the boys flat, i realized that i had finally gotten the easy kids and the boys were the naughty ones. when jason went to get the boys up, he found that they were all up and laughing about something. one of the boys said something about muhammad and kais eating some snacks. jason found kais with crumbs from cookies all over his shirt. he asked where muhammad was, and the kids replied, laughing of course, that he was outside. sure enough, muhammad was out there, talking to some of the guys around, also with crumbs all over his shirt.
so as it turned out, kais and muhammad had gotten up during the early morning and gotten into the zakee (sweet snacks) and had eaten an entire box of wafer cookies. they also made themselves some coffee, by pouring tons of nescaf and sugar into a teapot of cold water. when we found it, we thought it was arabic coffee because it was so thick. the best part was that both of the boys tried to say it wasn't them. when we asked them about it, they just replied "mish ana" (not me) and said it was the other one. this may have worked if they both didn't have smug grins and crumbs all over them. i don't know if they ever actually fessed up to the crime, but they spent the morning walking around with huge grins on their faces, as if they had just accomplished the greatest feat ever.

on another note, guess what i have? the taste of coffee in my mouth. and not nescaf. real coffee. today, jason and i found a drip coffee maker and made some coffee after dinner. it was wonderful. i have gotten used to just drinking tea instead of coffee, because the instant coffee just isn't the same, but i had not realized how much i missed drinking coffee. it was wonderful. so now, we have in our room a coffee pot and can make real coffee whenever we want. finding a coffee pot was not as easy as it might sound, as no one really drinks drip coffee here. we walked all through the market and only saw three. and the market is huge. it probably has litteraly hundreds of shops. so we bought the cheapest one. the hunt took about an hour and half and when we were walking back to beit araja we saw that there were at least three different kinds of coffee pots in a store that is a block down the street. oh well, the adventure was fun. and the main thing is, we have a coffee pot. it was quite the successful day.

Thursday, September 14

An Arab Proverb

Notice that the title of this post is not "An Old Arab Proverb" as most proverbs are considered old. However, I made one up this week. It goes like this "One must watch where he is walking or his baboush may end up covered in someone else's vomit." I happen to know that this proverb is true because Kais (the taller boy, on the left in the picture) discovered it. Kais is not what you would call attentive. It often takes 4 or 5 times of saying his name before he realizes you are talking to him. As we were walking back from Church last Sunday, he had his head firmly in the clouds and was looking every direction instead of in front of him. As a resuly, his eventually had his sandal firmly in a pile of someone's vomit. Just thought you needed to know that.

Please pray for a little boy who lives here named Ahmed. He is having a very difficult time, and is in danger of having to go home. He also has a very rough family life. When you read this, please take a moment to pray for him and if you can remember to do so at other times, please do.

I went to a funeral yesterday of a boy who was killed in Bethlehem by the Israeli Army. If you want to read a description of it, I have posted one here.

more pictures

we put some more pictures on our photo alblum. they are of the house of hope and our living quarters, so you should check them out. ok, that's all for now. i promise that we'll update soon about life.

Thursday, September 7

Uncle Almost and a hint about Arab culture

Here at the House of Hope, all of the house parents are referred to as "Amu _" or "Auntie _" with "_" being the first name. For example I am Amu Jason. (Amu is a term of affection that literally means Uncle, but can be used by children for adults). My name has generated quite a bit of confusion for two reasons: First, it is unfamiliar to Arab people, the name that is Jason in English is Yusoon, in Arabic, not all that close. Second, there is already another volunteer here named Jesse. Half of the children simply think that I am named Jesse, as well as do many adults when I first introduce myself.

Because of this confusion, one of the first boys that I have met here, Aiman, has often resorted to calling me "Amu" without a name attached. When he did that yesterday afternoon, I started to try and get him to remember my name. He looked at me and shouted, "Amu Jesse!"

I said, "no, no, almost . . ."

Before I could finish describing how to pronounce my name, he started jumping up and down and shouting, "Amu Almost! Amu Almost!" A name which Kais also picked up and called me for the rest of the day. I am once again granted with a new name, Uncle Almost. Hopefully they excitement of yesterday's discover will have warn off this afternoon, and the boys will remember my real name. We'll see.

Ahhh yes, a hint about Arab culture has also been promised by the title. Here it is: When you have been invited over to someone's house for a meal, scoop a very small amount of food on your plate, so that when they offer you more, you can say "yes." If you refuse, many will look at you with shock and dismay, as if you had just announced your intention to convert to cannibalism . . . and that you were starting with their children.

Tuesday, September 5

Lullaad Hoon!!!

Yesterday, the children who live in the House of Hope arrived for the semester, at least some of them did. There are actually one 4 boys and 1 girl here now, though eventually there will be 7 boys and 5 girls. Apparently the kids just kind of show up as the semester continues. Welcome to Palestine. It is really nice how laid-back everyone is here.

Both Sarah and I have been progressing in our Arabic, I don't know if we've mentioned this before, but it is a difficult language to learn. Even the native Arabic speakers here tell us that Arabic is more difficult than English. Think about that.

Ok, you can stop thinking about it now.

We've had the chance to visiting a number of families in the last few days. On Saturday we went to Hebron, where we sat on the roof, looked over the city, and drank tea with a Muslim family. One of the brothers from the family lives at the House of Hope part-time. We discussed the different opinions about marriage, adoption, and things of that nature between Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and American Christians. One of brothers, who was about 35 and had 2 wives and 7 children, kept trying to get Sammi to ask us to help him visit America. I have noticed that many Palestinians think that Sarah and I have some sort of sway with the INS, as if we can get people into the country. I try to explain that we do not, but it does not seem to convince anyone.

On Wednesday, Sarah and I have been invited over for Lunch by a family who we met Saturday night. The grandmother speaks some English, though it is difficult to understand her, and our Arabic is not quite at a functioning level. Please pray that we will be able to be friends with this family, despite the language barrier.

Tonight, I am leading the devotion for the children. I have never actually seen anyone lead a devotion here, so I don't know exactly what is expected . . . but maybe that's a good thing. I plan on telling a story about Noah's Ark, finding some coloring pages of the story, and then using stuffed animals to allow the children to act the story out. I'm a bit nervous. Most people probably won't read this before 7pm (or 11am cst) when I give the devotion, but if you do please pray that I at least will not embarras myself too badly.

Thanks all of you for your interest in our lives, by the way. Oh yeah, the title of today's entry means. The Children are Here!!!

Friday, September 1


we finally added some pictures to our photo album. just click on the link to the right. here is a teaser. you should check out the rest.


so i just learned that we have to publish your comments. i thought no one loved us, but there are tons on comments. so thanks. i'll check them more often. so if you write a comment and it doesn't show up, we got it, we just didn't know. but now i do, so i'll publish them. sometimes i think i am not made for the technological age.

Thursday, August 31

the land of abu-bishara

well, we have had quite the adventureous time the last few days. tuesday was jericho and than wednesday and thursday were spent at abu-bishara's farm. jesse has made friends with a family who own some land south of bethlethem and invited us to go with him to have a relaxing evening and stay on this farm. so we said, sure, that sounds great. sammy, one of the palestinians who lives at the house of hope, gave us a ride there. the land is on the top of a hill and extends to one side of the hill, about a hundred acres. abu-bishara's land has been in his family since the 1920's when his grandfather bought it. they have always lived on it, mostly in caves underground (because it is cooler), with limited electricity and water. they have olive trees, grape vines, many fruit trees, and lots of space. however, over the last fifteen years, the israeli government has slowly been building settlements on the land around it and are trying to get the land from him. his land is now completely surrounded by settlements, but he has all the original papers saying he owns the land, and so far has been able to win the court battles. but it is still in the courts, so he is not safe yet. in order to keep the land, abu-bishara must keep it fertile. this year, he planted 650 new olive trees and is planning to plant new grape vines. he has some young men who volunteer their time (mostly from europe) and live there for a few months to a year so that he has help on his farm. we also got to (i guess it was a priveledge) help him with some of the work during our stay. jesse did not tell us we would be working in the hot sun all afternoon, but i guess that is his idea of a relaxing time. it was fun though. we built a wall, watered his olive trees, cut bushes, and other things like that. another thing that abu-bishara does with is land is he has a camp there called "tent of nations: people building bridges". he has three large, bedouin style tents that serve as lodging for people passing through, camp groups, or groups of young people. people from all nations come through and stay with him. sometimes there are children's camps, sometimes there are organized weekends, and sometimes there are people like us who just show up. the program sounds very neat and seems to be a way that is leading towards reconciliation between people groups. besides slaving away in the sun, we also got to enjoy a few meals and many cups of tea with abu-bishara and olli, a german guy volunteering there for the next year. every meal was pretty much the same--pita bread, cucumber tomato salad, grapes, oil and spices. it was very tasty. it was intersting to talk with him about the settlements around his land. he is very proud of his land, and even though it is not the greatest piece of property (it is in the middle of a desert), it is part of his family's history and a very important part of his life. he didn't seem bitter or angry towards the settlers, even though they have made his life very hard, but instead just works harder to keep his land worth something so that he can continue to live there. if you think of it, pray for abu-bishara. pray that he will have the volunteers he needs to keep his crops healthy. pray for rain in the winter so that he will be able to collect water for the summer. pray for tent of nations, that it really will be building bridges between people and that it will break down walls and point towards reconciliation. (p.s. sorry if lots of things are spelled wrong. i was hom-skooled and my parents never taught me to spell and the spell check won't work.)

Wednesday, August 30


well, yesterday was quite an adventure. jason and i were invited to go to jericho with jesse, the other american volunteer here, and fida, a palestinian who is the head house mother, and lulu, another worker here. they were going to visit two of the students, so we said sure, we'll go along.

the day started very early. we had to get a taxi from bethlehem to beit-sahour, which is about ten minutes away, and then a bus from beit-sahour to the bus station in the middle of the town. jesse wasn't sure how long it would take, so to be safe we left at 6:15, to make sure we would catch the jericho bus at 7. we got the the bus station at 6:30, so we had plenty of time to watch the locals. on the street corner near the bus stop, a man had set up a "coffee shop" and all the locals were just sitting around talking and drinking coffee.

the bus finally left about 7:15. now jericho is not that far from bethlethem, but the palestinian busses are not allowed to go through jerusalem, so we had to go around, through the valley of fire. the road was very steep and curvy, probably worse than the road to devils den, for anyone who has been there. and we were in a huge bus with breaks that squealed on every turn. needless to say, this made me more than little nervous. but we made it down into the valley and back up again and arrived at the checkpoint. since the road goes near jerusalem, the israelis wanted to make sure that everyone had permits to go to jericho. an idf (israeli defense force) solider came onto the bus and told everyone we had one minute to get our id's out. he looked about 16 and was carrying a huge gun. that also made me more than little nervous. but we got through the checkpoint without any problems.

we got to jericho about 9 am. jericho is in a valley and is much hotter than bethlehem. it was probably about 95* when we got there. and it only got warmer through the day. our first mission was to find somewhere to eat breakfast.

Ok, now Basaam (this is the correct spelling of the name) takes over. Rather than eat breakfast at restaurant, we decided to buy bread, hummous, cheese, and Bamba (think: Peanut Butter Cheetos) at a grocer's. We walked up and down the streets of Jericho (think: a hotter version of Death Valley) until we came to a place in the sidewalk where it was shaded. We squatted down on our haunches and ate bedouin style (think: all from the same bowl and same cup).

After breakfast we decided to hail a cab, in order to visit Kais, who is a student at the House of Hope, and his family. unfortunately we could not find a large cab and instead we all crammed into a five-seater. Sarah was sitting on my lap with her head out the window, yes we were quite the spectacle. We became even more of a spectacle because we had no idea where we were going. We would drive to neighborhood, the cab driver would ask someone standing by "Wain (where is) Abu-Kais?" or "Tariif (do you know) Abu-Kais?" This continued for approximately 45 minutes, because everyone, even if they had no idea where Abu Kais lived, wanted desperately to help us find him. We drove up and down dirt streets and back alleys, asking children, adults, and anyone we saw if they knew where Abu-Kais lived. Finally, we found their house, but they were not home. After no less then 15 minutes of conversation, two neighbor boys hopped on a bicycle and showed us where the family was for the day. We followed slowly behind, all jammed into the taxi.

For the sake of brevity, which is already lacking, I will skip to the bus ride home. Which was quite eventful indeed. We loaded onto the bus at 3:30pm. We had just polished off our water, and the rest of the bread, hummous, and Bamba from breakfast and we were all feeling quite full and sleepy. We expected that we would arrive in Bethlehem at around 5 o'clock, 5:30 if the traffic was bad. The traffic was bad.

As we were trying to go through Bethany (yes, that Bethany), we were stopped at an Israeli check point. Now, we may not have mentioned this explicitly, but Arabs do not drive like Americans. If there is a space big enough for a car, a car will fill that space. Whenever traffic slows down, a road that is originally designed to be two lanes becomes 3, 4, or even 5 lanes as every driver tries to find the quickest way through. This was exactly what was happening at the checkpoint. Picture in your mind a road that is about 40 feet wide. There are three lines of traffic going one way and three lines going the other way. Directly in front of you is a truck full of goats, to your right and left are very small Opel's with Israeli flags on them. Everywhere there are cars within inches of one another. Honking, honking and more honking. We moved through this area like snails climbing up a pane of glass. It took us 2 hours to move about half a kilometre.

The saving grace of this frustration was the way that everyone on the bus bonded together and made a good time of it. One man from Beit Sahour started asking Jesse and I if we were in Hamas or Hizbullah, and were causing all the problems. A woman who was sitting behind us had four children with her, and the baby girl and I became friends. I will tell more about this in the next letter. But during the trip back, everytime the baby started to cry, her brother would get her to look at me, and if I smiled at her she would stop crying and laugh instead. (Not laugh at me, with me ... I think).

I'm sure you are all tired of reading this now, if there is anyone still reading it, but come back soon for a story about our stay at the farm of Abu-Bishara.

Sarah and Jason

Monday, August 28

some lists--by sarah

things i miss about america:
(in no particular order)
dr. pepper
a variety in my diet
sane drivers
air conditioning
my family
wearing shorts
holding hands
other people speaking english
snack foods
good tasting water

things i love about palestine:
tea or coffee at every meal
the hospitality
new friends
beautiful views
no one is in a hurry
the adventure
walks at night

Sunday, August 27

"A Real Arab"

Yesterday, someone called me a real Arab for the first time. What was due this honor? Was it my impeccable Arabic pronunciation? No. Was it my perceptive grasp of Arab culture? No. It was the fact that I accidentally dropped my trash on the ground. Bethlehem is covered in litter, and so when I was unwrapping and ice cream cone and some of the paper fell to the ground, Fida' (one of the other house mothers) looked at Sarah and said, "Ahh. Now your husband is real Arab." Not sure how I feel about that one.

This afternoon, we went into Jerusalem to see Sarah's aunt, a reporter for the LA Times. While we were there she introduced us to a man named Nabil who, she said, "could get you out of any trouble you could possibly get into." Apparently this is one of those people who know people that I am always hearing about. It's nice to know one, even if I am not planning on getting into trouble myself.

No one wears seatbelts in Bethlehem. In Israel, it is against the law to drive or ride without one, but in Bethlehem, no one wears them. Everytime Sarah or I get into a car with Sammii, one of the other house fathers. He reminds us not to wear them. I think that is a way of enjoying one of the freedoms they do get as Palestinians. Oh yea, and the driving here is crazy. It reminds me of Latin America with an attitude. You should really check it out sometime.

Friday, August 25

Bringing down the hair

Today I have sad news. For today is the last day of the beard of Basaan (that is how I think I would spell my arabic name). Peter, please correct me if I am wrong. I have been told, and have noticed myself, that I do not look much like the Arabs around here. The only Arabs with long beards are Hamas, this is not the look I am going for. I either look like Hamas or an Israeli settler, not exactly the way to build bridges with the people in this neighborhood. So tomorrow, the beard and the hair will be significantly shorter. I will be sure to post pictures when I get the chance.

Well, I am going to play futbol with Aiman, I'll be back later.


Thursday, August 24

The City of Meat

For those of you who do not know, in Arabic the name Bethlehem means the City of Meat. My dreams are fulfilled, all my life I have wanted to live in a city with such a wonderful name. Fortunately, this does not mean that there is meat hanging up all over the city (although the meat section of the market is quite odorific).

Sarah and I have woken up to the call to prayer from a nearby Mosque both mornings. Right now, I wake up just glad to be here and I see the call as a reminder of where I am. By this time next week I'm sure I will be grumbling and rolling over to cover my ears with my pillow.

My Arabic is woefully inadquate. Obviously I did not expect to be able to get around with what I know, but I hope that I will be able to live normal life and get around the city by Christmas time (this way, Hannah will have a competent tour guide when she comes to visit). Many of the employees at the House of Hope speak excellent English, but some speak no English, so I will be forced to learn. Al-humdilallah!

Yesterday, we got to sit down and have tea with a shopkeeper named Adnan. He speaks wonderful English and I believe he wanted to practice on us, he also wanted to sucker us into buying something from his kitschy little shop. It worked. We bought a beautiful rug for about 120 shekels (less than 30 dollars). Hopefully we will have to opportunity to visit him again and build a friendship. He is the first person outside of the House of Hope who we have been able to visit with for any decent period of time. Pray that there will be more.

Ma Salammi,
Jason (for Sarah)

P.S. Once we figure out how to load pictures onto this computer, we will grace you with the view from our balcony and other pictures. Until then, just imagine it as best you can.

Sunday, August 20

we are outta here!

well, tomorrow is the big day. we fly out of tulsa at 10:24 am and arrive in tel aviv at around 2:30 pm on tuesday (6:30 am central time). we would really appriciate your prayers as we are traveling for safety and adjusting to the new culture and all that good stuff. we'll will post again when we get there as soon as we can.

Thursday, August 10

As Promised Grand Canyon Update and Pictures

Since I know that you are all waiting with bated breath to hear how our visit to the Grand Canyon went, I suppose that we can stop keeping y'all in suspense and just let it out. We arrived at the Canyon in the evening of August 1. This was a day later than we had planned because we decided to hang out in Cali with brandon for an extra day. After we set up camp, we went out to the rim and I got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time in my life. Sarah walked me up to the edge of the rim with my eyes closed (as I tried to walk as slowly as possible so I wouldn't go off the edge) when I opened my eyes, it was one of the most magnificent things I had ever seen. It literally (and I don't mean literally the way most people mean, it actually happened) brought tears to my eyes. We got to stick around for the sunset and saw some beautiful views.

There was a rainbow going into the Canyon when we first got there.

After we waited around for a while, the sun started to set behind the rim, and rain started moving in, which created some really interesting views. There will be some more sunset pictures on our photo album as well.

One thing I did not know about the Grand Canyon is that they want to scare the heck out of all of their visitors. In every bookstore they sell a book that is the size of a dictionary and is entitled The Canyon of Death. It contains lots and lots of stories of people dying at Grand Canyon NP in all kinds of horrifyingly painful ways. There are also signs all over the park that tell stories of people who have died or almost died while hiking in the Canyon. I think the purpose is to get people to recognize their limits and take lots of water when they hike. The impact is to keep people on the rim. During our time their we decided to cut our one excursion into the canyone from 7 miles to 5 miles to 3 miles. We could have done 7 not problem.

The last morning, we got up to leave for Ruidoso and we decided to get up really early (4:45am) to see the sun rise over the Canyon. I learned that it is difficult to take good picturs of sun rises, so you'll have to settle for what we got, unless you go there yourself and drag yourself out of bed at 4:45 in the morning.

As you may or may not know. Our 40 days of purposelesness have come to an end. Today is 41 days since we left Siloam and Sarah and I are in my parents' house in Little Rock. In the next couple days we'll let you know about our stay in Austin, TX and provide a bit of a summary of our trip.

Monday, August 7

Apparently it is a little more difficult to find Wireless internet Cafes in Southwest than on the West Coast. Before I post pictures and tell about our Grand Canyon visit. I want to tell you about the fun we had in California.

Avilla Beach is a small beach community about 2.5 hours north of LA. It is a kind of hidden gem of the Pacific Coast, because not a lot of people know about it. While there we had the opportunity to go into the San Luis Obisbo area where we met a couple who was moving into the area from Dallas. Thankful for some good Southern company, we ended up hanging out with Tony and Hannah for the rest of the evening, we went and saw a funk band at a local dive and had a great time. Making new friends is so fun!

After leaving Avilla and heading down to Mission Viejo, we had the chance to hang out with Brandon all weekend. We were having so much fun with him and his friends that we decided to stick around for an extra day, delaying our Grand Canyon visit. The last evening we were there we went to a lake with Brandon and a whole bunch of other people. We rented Kayaks, took them to a relatively private area of the lake and engaged in "Kayak Jousting." This consisted of paddling toward one another at full speed, then dropping our oars and impact and trying to wrestle the other person into the water or into tipping their kayak. My shoulders, back, arms, and chest are all sore now.

Skipping over the Grand Canyon (I'll wait 'til we can show you some pictures) we arrived in Ruidoso, NM on Thursday evening. The scenery on the state highways rivaled any drive we've had so far, and the town is gorgeous. Now I know why every person from West Texas vacations here. I seriously think that I saw more Texas license plates than New Mexico plates.

Beth Miller (Leah’s mom, for those of you who know her) took us out to dinner to Casa Blanca, a great Mexican restaurant that is located in what used to be a huge vacation home. If anybody ever goes there, you should totally order the fried green chilies as an appetizer. Muy Bueno!!

Check back later this week for more updates . . . Including pictures of the Grand Canyon. (cue theme music) . . . (and we're clear).

Friday, August 4

Finally! A Bethlehem Update

This is a copy of an update email we sent this morning. If you would like to be added to our email list, send us an email to let us know to

Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

May this letter find you well and with the Love of God in you. The two of us have been preparing ourselves for Bethlehem, and are looking forward to our departure date with both excitement and a bit of trepidation.

First, to the issue on all of our minds. We have received a lot of phone calls and e-mails from many of you, which we greatly appreciate. In the last few weeks, we have contacted the House of Hope and they have said that the violence in Bethlehem really is not anything to be concerned about. We are still planning on flying out on August 21 and on staying there throughout the school year. While the war between Hizbollah and Israel is causing us some anxiety, we believe that God is still calling us to Bethlehem. Moreover, we have confidence that when God called us to the House of Hope, He knew that this latest development would take place. What has now changed is that we know more than we knew before. If you have any more questions or just want to talk to us, please feel free to give us a call or e-mail.

One thing that we do want to ask, is that when you read or hear about the violence in the Middle East to take time to pray for those who are affected by what is happening. Please also pray that God will work in the hearts of the leaders and the people of the Middle East and bring peace.
As far as our finances are concerned. God has been very faithful and our loved ones have been very generous. Out of the $13,367 that we targeted to raise we have raised $8,940. Over the next 9 months or so we hope to raise the other $4,327. The amount raised however, does not yet include pledges of support, which we will incorporate into our next update. Thank you so very much for your generosity! It makes our trip possible, and it also encourages us in immeasurable ways to know that you are behind us.

We also have a few specific prayer requests that we would like to share with you. If you are willing please include some of these requests when you speak to God about the two of us.
- Please pray for smooth transitions. A lot of things will change such as culture, language, our jobs, and our living conditions.
- Please pray for our families and friends who are staying here. Obviously, with the violence in the region, those who love us are worried about our safety. Please pray that God will comfort and help them feel safe.
- Pray for the students, staff, and volunteers at the House of Hope. Pray that we would all become closer to God and that we would reflect God in our relationships with one another.
- Pray for our relationships with God, that we would regularly take time to develop our relationship with Him. This will likely continue to be difficult as our lives become busier.

Thank you all again for your prayer and financial support. If you know anyone that would be interested in supporting us in prayer or financially, or in being on our e-mail list, please feel free to pass this letter on. Below is our contact information and the information that is needed to give financially.

Jason and Sarah Pollack
Phone (until August 21) 479-549-7753

To Give Money, Please Send To :
Every Nation Ministries
PO Box 94564
North Little Rock, AR 72190
When sending a check, please write Bethlehem Ministry in the memo line so that the money will be used for our ministry.

God Bless,

Jason and Sarah

Monday, July 31

southern california

So we have now made our way down to Southern California. We spent a few days in Avila Beach, which is in the San Luis Obisbo area. We stayed at my Nana's house (this is sarah by the way), which is about a mile from the beach. unfortunately, we missed my nana, but it meant we had the house to ourselves. we spent two days at the beach, just laying around and doing not much of anything. we discovered that my nana had my old boogie board that i got when i was younger, so the first day at the beach was spent riding the waves. on boogie boards, not surf boards, but it was so much fun.

after avila, we headed down to mission viejo, which is in orange county, to visit brandon, a friend from jbu. we also went down to san diego and went the to the beach there. it's been really fun hanging out with brandon and his friends. so fun, in fact, that we decided to stay an extra day instead of heading to the grand canyon. so we'll leave tomorrow morning to go one of the hottest places in the country to go camping. but it will be fun.

today is our 2nd anniversary, so we went down to laguna beach and hung out at the montage, a resort by the ocean. we had a picnic lunch on the cliffs that overlooked the ocean and walked around the resort pretending that we were staying there. it was fun times.

anyway, i don't have much else to say and we haven't taken many pictures lately, so that's about it for now. on to the grand canyon tomorrow, so it'll be a while till we are able to update again. so peace out for now.

Wednesday, July 26

When will I ever see a bear?!

As you may have been able to guess, our time spent in Yosemite National Park did not result in the visual acquisition of any bear, large or small. This causes some sadness in my heart. I have never seen a bear in the wild, and it looks like I will have to wait a good bit before I get that chance.

Despite the lack of bear sightings, Yosemite was an incredible time. Our first two nights, we camped north of Yosemite Valley at the White Wolf campground. We got luck with our campsite. It had a creek running through the back of it, it was seperated from the other campsites by a large rock structure, and it was the largest in the campground. Woo hoo. We also got to build a fridge (out of rocks) in the creek until the park ranger found it and told us to put our stuff in the bear box.

The only seeming downside to the site, was that it happened to be the dwelling place of a young man named Micah. Micah is the five-year-old son of the Campground Host. He first made his presence known by awakening Sarah from her nap in order to tell us that we had to move our tent into the main campground area so that he could create a "backpacing atmosphere" in our campsite. He then tried to destroy our creek-fridge and kick me.

As that day and the next wore on, we got on Micah's good side by feeding him dinner and playing hide and seek with him in the rocks. In the end, we actually felt a bit sad as we left White Wolf Campground, knowing that we would probably not get another chance to see Micah. Unless of course, we do as he requested and come back in 11 years to teach him how to drive. Trust me, you need to meet Micah in order to understand.

The highlight of our Yosemite visit (for jason) was the hike to Lembert Dome. While, by some standards, this was not a particularly grueling nor impressive hike. It kicked our butts and we still made it to the top of Lembert Dome for an incredible view. We actually thought we had reached the top of the dome two times before that, only to see higher peaks in front of us. Those false summits will getcha.

For our last night, we decided to camp down in Yosemite Valley, the tourist trap that it is. While down there, I read that 95% of visitors to Yosemite only go to the Valley. In short, it was crowded. Though because we were there on a Monday it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We got a chance to see most of the necessary sites that one is supposed to see when visiting Yosemite including Yosemite Falls, Half-Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls. We also spent about 45 seconds in the freezing cold river, this way the Pacific Ocean wouldn't feel nearly as cold.

PS Our attempts to upload pictures have failed, due to technical difficulty, but we do have all of the good Yosemite pictures in our photo album, including pictures with Micah and of the best views.

Friday, July 21

I left my calf muscles in San Franciso

We made it California, by the way.

We spent our first full day in California doing absolutely nothing. Sarah and I got to hang out with Andy, Karen, and Nickolas (Sarah's Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin) for the whole day. It was great timing for a break.

On day two, I (jason) accomplished a very coveted tourist achievement. In one day, I saw the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a Redwood Tree all for the first time. This is a feat that has only been acomplished 345, 646, 211 times in the past four years by other tourists to California. Yay for me!

The Golden Gate bridge was quite a thing to see. It was much bigger in person than I thought it was going to be. I couldn't believe how enormous it is, or how hundreds of oblivious, self-absorbed tourists could all exist on the bridge together without pushing someone into the Bay.

After leaving the bridge, we promptly got on the wrong bus, went all the way downtown, got off the bus just as it was about to turn around. Then we walked 8 or 9 blocks to a bus stop, and ended up on a city bus with approximatley 120 people on it at one point. It was a real taste of San Francisco. At one point, I thought there was going to be a gang war between some Elderly Ladies and some surfer kids who didn't want to give up their seats for the ladies. Luckily, the surfers gave up their seats before it got ugly.

On day 3 we decided to go downtown on purpose. We saw Fishermans Wharf and the Cable Cars and all that stuff. But the highlight was the San Francisco Bush Man. Basically, this guy's schtick is to hide behind a bush on the sidewalk and scare people as they walk by. A huge crowd was gathered around him, but most of the people walking didn't seem to notice before they got scared. It was awesome. We'll get some videos of it up as soon as we know how.

Day 4 is the motivation for today's title. We decided, with much vigor to complete a stairway walk through the northern SF Marina Neighborhood, walk Haight street, and climb to the top of Coit Tower, all in one day. While the former and latter walks provided cool views of the city, and the second provided cool views of hippies, our calves wish we had decided differently.

Thanks so much to Karen and Andy for all of their hospitality. We ate great and really enjoyed out time while we were in San Fran. We are currently in Fresno and will be leaving for Yosemite early tomorrow, so we'll be out of touch until next Tuesday or so. Be sure to check out the album for the latest pictures.

Jason and Sarah

Tuesday, July 18

Some catching up to do . . .

The title of this blog is the story of my (Jason's) life.

Of all the cities that we have visited so far on this trip. Portland is the one that I could most see myself living it. It is a very exciting place to be, there are always things going on, you can eat lots of cheap food, I've got friends already living there, and it's full of hippies. What more could you ask for? Did I mention the cheap food?

As my lovely wife as already told you, we did get to see a sand sculpture contest while in Portland, here are some of the entrants:

The king reading a book was my personal favorite. In case you didn't recognize the cover, he is reading "Where the Wild Things Are." The men and women who participated in the sand sculpting event impressed me for two reasons. First, they were very skilled in the art of sand sculpting. Second, I think most of them convinced their workplaces to give them the day off with pay so they could sculpt sand. These folks are clearly skilled both technically and relationally.

P.S. We will post more pictures on our albums this evening. Some from Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.

PPS. I promise at least one picture of Nickolas, the cutest two-year-old I have ever met.

PPPS. It makes us happy when you comment. We feel validated as people.

PPPPS. Thank all of you who have called and asked about our plans and how they fit in with the latest news. Generally speaking, we are still planning on staying the course, if you are interested in talking about it or anything, feel free to give us a ring.

Sunday, July 16

well, we made it down to san francisco. good times. portland was really fun. matt and nicole are great hosts and we had a really good time with them and dave. a few highlights:
-the sand sculpture contest in pioneer square...we didn't get to participate (it was pretty hardcore and you had to actually like have a job or something b/c it was all companies), but it was so cool to watch.
-multnoma falls...the second tallest water fall in the states (i think, don't quote me on that though). we hiked to the top and enjoyed some really great views of the colombia river gorge.
-happy hours...this was my personal favorite thing in the city. every single bar or restaurant has happy hours. and good ones. twice a day!! they'll be from 4-6, and then again from 9-close. and the drinks aren't that good of a deal, but the food is all cheap also. cheap like $2.95 for an eight-inch pizza. can't beat that.
-seeing matt and nicole and dave...friends are so great.
-botchi ball...nicole and i are the real champions and jason and matt totally know that.

so that's a quick rundown of our time in portland. once again, we're not on our computer, so we'll have to post pictures later. our wireless card sometimes just decides not to pick up networks. oh well, what can you do? so tomorrow we're off to explore the city and see all the sites! we'll keep you updated.

Thursday, July 13


First, I do want to apologize for the lack of state-line pictures. As we have gone through the last few states we have either missed the signs, been too tired to stop, or it has been pouring down rain. We did however, get one state line sign, proving, once and for all, that Idaho does exist.

Take that doubters!

We are in Portland now, having spent the last few days in Vancouver and Seattle - two beautiful cities. The one full day we spent in Vancouver we ended up spending most of our time in the parks. One park offered a great view of Vancouver, while the other contained a suspension bridge about 20 meters over the water.

We ate our lunch of Ramen noodles in the picnic area of Lynn Canyon. While we were eating, two older chinese ladies came up and complimented our choice of lunch. Jeff and Jess were great hosts, and the best part of our trip was getting to know them better.

The first thing we did when we got to Seattle was to go down to Pike Place Market and check out the fisheries. It was like a traffic jam down there, except for people instead of cars. Also, it smelled like fish.

Aaron and Dana (well, mostly Dana) served us a great dinner and took us up to a park near their apartment to see a beautiful view of the city. The coolest thing about it, was that you could see the skyline, and behind it was the sound and then the mountains. It was a really cool combination of man-made beauty and natural beautry.

By the way, once we find the cable for the camera, we'll get some pictures of Seattle and Vancouver in the meantime, feel free to peruse the album that we'll set a link to shortly.

Monday, July 10

Bison, Bears, Geyser Safety, and Zidane

It has been five days since we last posted. During that time we've driven about 1300 miles, from Wheatland, WY to Vancouver, BC. We spent three nights at Yellowstone NP and one each in Ellensburg (sp?) Washington and Vancouver. Here are some pictures and details about the last few days.

First, I want to say thank you to the Kirbrides for their hospitality and generosity to us. We really enjoyed the time we spent in Wheatland, especially the times just spent talking with and hanging out with y'all. So thanks a lot.

Yellowstone is a beautiful, beautiful place. Old faithful, the most famous landmark in Yellowstone, is not even half the story. The first view we got once we got inside Yellowstone was this. It's looking back on the Grand Tetons from just inside of Yellowstone.

It is so amazing that God would create a world with such beauty for us to enjoy, and even more amazing that he would give us the ability to appreciate that beauty. His grace to us begins far before he saved us from sin, it began with the act of creation.

The one thing about Yellowstone that really hacked me off was this. Everywhere we went, there were warnings about Bears, tips for avoiding Bears, and signs telling us that Bears were waiting around every corner to eat us. Naturally, this caused me (jason) to anticipate the chance of actually seeing a bear in the wild for the first time. No chance. We did not see any bears, any signs of bears, or even hear any stories of other people that had seen bears while we were there. Bahh. Hopefully we'll get to see one while in Yosemite later in the month. (sarah: not really--we really are hoping never to see a bear outside of a cage in a zoo)

We did get the chance to see tons of Elk, a Moose, and a few Bison while were in the park though. This picture was taken on our way out of Yellowstone on the last morning.

For those of you who don't know this, our camera doesn't exactly "zoom" very well. So we really were about 10-15 ft from this Bison. We couldn't get near as close to the other animals because we were repeatedly warned through signage "not to apprach the wildlife." Also, Sarah would have killed me if the Elk didn't if I tried to sneak up close enough to get a good picture. For those of you who are interested, we are going to try to figure out how to post a slideshow or photo album of the best pictures from our trip.

Speaking of great pictures, this is the subtle and understated warning sign that was posted in the geyster basins which warned us to stay on the boardwalks. You can decide for yourselves what the best part about this picture is. There is just so much to choose from.

The next interesting thing we did after leaving Yellowstone was our stop in Seattle to watch the World Cup final. We found the bar that French World Cup fans were using to follow the cup and joined in cheering on Les Bleu. When the footballer formerly known as the best midfielder in the world decided to sacrifice his team at the altar of himself, the predominantly French patrons of the bar were in agony, with much weeping and gnashing of teeth. One petite French woman asked me repeatedly why he would do such a thing. I tried my best to ignore her, but it failed. Sad day for the French, but there were more than a few happy Italians both in Seattle and later in the day in Vancouver. We saw one man being carried by a couple friends at about 8 o'clock at night. I am convinced that he had probably been drinking since 10 that morning. Oh the thrill of victory.

If we do not get kidnapped by any Canadians, we will be sure to post and let you know about our time in Vancouver in the next couple of days. For now, just know that beautiful city + terrible roads + Canadians makes for an interesting time.

PS. If anyone is trying to call us while we are in Vancouver we have tried to keep the phone off to avoid the outrageous charges for international calls. We'll get back to you as soon as we're back in the Good 'ol U. S. of A.