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".