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.