Wednesday, January 31


We have been trying to get the word out about our future plans. If you haven't heard, we are going to be staying in the Bethlehem area for the near future. We will finish up at the House of Hope somewhere around June 20, return to the US for a month or two (Thanks Bishops) and then returning to start our new lives here. Here are some more details about what we will be doing.

The company that I (jason) will be working for is called Paidia International Development. It is an experiential learning organization that is focused on children and youth in the Bethlehem area (Check out the website for details on the organization). Our focus is the development of young people, focusing on social, moral, emotional, and metnal growth. We hope to use the model of Recreation-Education-Moblization to create change in this community by helping future community leaders.

My role will be quite large in this organization, as I will be one of two full time staff members (the other is the Director). My first focus will be developing curriculum and programs for the 7-13 year old age group. As we move toward our launch, I will also train local employees to facilitate, oversee the technical aspects of the climbing wall and (eventually) the high ropes course.

Within a year, the current director is hoping to relocate to the States to focus on development (fund raising) this will mean that I will become the director of the Middle East program, overseeing the entire operation in Bethlehem. So long as I prove my mettle in the next year.

This is an incredibly exciting opportunity, and it fits very nicely with many of the vision I have for the future. It will also give us an opportunity to stay in the area longer, thus allowing us further build relationships and share the gospel. Once Sarah and I have been able to process our thoughts on this front, we also want to share our ideas with you, for your comments and critiques.

In the two weeks that we spent seriously considering the idea of staying here. God opened up many opportunities for ministry. We met a man who has converted from Islam and who lives quite close to the House of Hope, already in the last month I felt like we have been able to become friends, and I hope to encourage he and other muslim converts who are unable to engage fully in the Christian community in Bethlehem for a variety of reasons.

About two weeks ago, the director of the choir that Sarah sings in offered her the use of 8 violins, some children sized, if there was some way she could use them. The day before, she had mentioned to me the idea of teaching music in one of the refugee camps that we had visited (and now have connections in, including a music teacher). The violins were going to be used to (get this) teach lessons to children in refugee camps, but the woman who had brought them was unable to stay in the country, and wanted them to be put to a good use. Don't know for sure that anything will come of this, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Basically, God is opening door after door in this area. Sarah and spent some time crying together last night, after I officially committed to the position at Paidia. Knowing that we miss and love all of you, but we are also incredibly excited to see what the future brings. Please keep us in your prayers.

Thursday, January 18

What went wrong. Pt 2

After successfully arriving in Petra, we ended up at a restaurant that happened to know the phone number for the hostel at which we had reservations. He called the hostel and our host came to pick us up in his car. It was great because they didn't try to charge us or hustle us for anything else that we would have had to pay for.

The Arctic Hostel:
The hostel was a great place except for one fact. It was cold. I don't mean wear-a-long-sleeve-shirt-and-pull-up-the-covers cold. I mean two-pairs-of-socks-four-shirts-long-underwear-hat-and-gloves cold. Oh yeah, we had 3 blankets each. I do not think that I am exaggerating when I say that it was less than 40 degrees in our room when I went to bed the first night. The first time I went upstairs to try to go to bed, I erupted into a coughing fit because the cold air hit my lungs so harshly. I had to go back downstairs and warm up by the one furnace they had on in the building.

Eventually, the room warmed up slightly (maybe 50 degrees) enough that I was able to sleep, although Hannah and Sarah did not sleep very well that night. Apparently, that's what you get for 7jd per night. The thing is, if I go to Petra again, I'll stay there, just not in winter.

Lunch in Jerusalem:
Ok, so we had a few more capers in Amman, including paying at least 5 times what we should have to get from Petra to Amman (not really an interesting story, as by that time our spirits were broken and didn't really even put up a fight), and a cab driver who tried to tell us his meter was broken. The only other interesting problem actually occurred after we returned to Palestine.

Sarah, Hannah, and I decided to spend the day in the Old City. We wanted to see the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Garden Tomb. For lunch, we decided to stop and sit down for some falafel sandwiches and hummus. We ordered our sandwiches and hummus, and the proprietor of the restaurant brought out a bowl of falafel balls, a basket of bread, and 6 or 7 bowls of various salads to put on our sandwiches (we presumed). As we were eating, we were joking about how if we were in Jordan, they would charge us for each individual sandwich topping and then act offended by our surprise. Then the bill came out.

If we go out for falafels in Bethlehem, they usually cost 3 shekels each. If we go in Jerusalem they are 5 or 6. We expected to pay 8-10 each because the place was kind of nice and we got to sit down. The bill was 135 shekels (about $30). I was surprised by the high total, and so I asked the manager to explain the bill (it was written in Arabic). The dirty dog had charged us for each sandwich topping (including two we didn't even want) and basically just wanted to rip us off because we were foreigners. He feigned offense as I told him exactly what I thought about his method of doing business. Because my Arabic is still fairly rudimentary, the only insult I could muster was that he was "a very bad man, and not clever." I debated whether to use the few Arabic curse words that I do know, but I decided that wouldn't help. Then I put the money on the table and stormed out. (I spit on his doorstep for good measure).

The thing was, I was in Palestine. I didn't expect a Palestinian to try to take advantage of me that way. It really was the first time that it had happened here. I suppose that I have learned some valuable lessons from all this, but for now, I think I'm just going to sulk.

Tuesday, January 16

What went wrong.

Prefacing statement #1: Sorry we haven't posted in a while. In addition to my (Jason) laziness, our blog hosts ( have been confusing me by changing up their offerings every other day. As savvy as I am when it comes to technology, I won't try to explain in (to avoid confusing you, you see).

Prefacing statement #2: Notice the title of this blog is not question. It is a statement. My job is to tell about our Christmas Vacation from the negative perspective. This should be a long post.

From Aqaba to Petra:
When we arrived in Aqaba in southern Jordan, we were expecting to be able to catch a taxi to the bus station and a bus to Petra, as it says we can do it our handy-dandy guidebook. Unfortunately, the night before it had snowed in the Jordanian desert (for the first time since 2002 or 2003, depending on who you asked). Therefore, the highway was closed and the buses weren't able to come from Petra to Aqaba in order to take all of us weary travellers back to Petra.

The local taxi drivers immediately seized this as an opportunity to rip us off. Many surrounded us, and began to kindly explain that they had a (brother, uncle, nephew, cousin) who (lived, worked, travelled through) Petra and told them that the buses would not be running until (that afternoon, that evening, tomorrow, 2009) and they would gladly take us for (50JD, 45JD, 30JD, ok ok, 25JD but I'll spend that much on gas). As much as we appreciated their help, we were not really prepared to spend that much to get to Petra, so we waited.

I was the only one of the five of us (Hannah, Sarah and I met up with two nice Danish ladies and we were sticking together) who spoke enough Arabic to find out what was going on. So as I queried the locals, the taxi drivers kept pouncing on Sarah and Hannah, trying to get them to agree to take a taxi.

Finally, a man agreed to take us in his bus to Petra for 5jd each. This is a higher than usual price, but I agreed because I was weary and not being careful. (Don't let this happen to you). The taxi drivers all started telling us that this was a bad man and that he wouldn't take us to Petra. In order to pre-empt such a move by him, we refused to pay him until we reached our destination. This resulted in much shouting and probably some cursing in Arabic, I really don't know very many Arabic curse words, so they were coming from him.

We drove for about 3 hours, sometimes through the snow, sometimes on the shoulder, sometimes on the wrong side of the road (better to get around the 18-wheelers stuck on our side of the road), sometimes on the shoulder of the wrong side of the road (better to avoid oncoming traffic). Eventually we arrived in Ma'an, which is not the same thing as Petra, nor is it even that close. The bus driver told us to get off, get on the bus for Petra, which was already full to overflowing. He asked me to pay him, and the bus driver would take me to Petra for free. I obstinately refused, citing the fact that he had promised to take us to Petra and did not. In fact, I refused so obstinately, that a crowd gathered to watch the shouting match, and a policeman came to find out what all the trouble was about. Eventually, after I had confirmed that the bus was indeed going to Petra, we paid the man and prepared to leave.

Unfortunately, the other people on the bus knew what had gone down, and that the bus drivers were getting enough money from the foreigners to pay for the whole trip for everyone in the bus. They refused to pay the driver, all disembarked, and left us sitting on the bus, 5jd poorer, waiting for the bus to refill with people. To make an extremely long story slightly less long, we left the bus station 3 times, only to return each time. We changed buses twice until we finally ended up on a bus that took us to Petra.

Since this story is already extremely long, you'll have to check back later in the week to hear the other stories of woe, otherwise, the scle won't accomplish anything today.

Saturday, January 6

our christmas holiday

i feel like a lot of things have happened since i last wrote. lots of stories and adventures, but i will try to not make this too long.

so we started our trip by going from jerusalem to eilat for a night. jason and i took hannah to our favorite spot--the ethiopian restaurant. it wasn't as fun as the last time, but the food was good. and there was one guy who remembered us from last time and started singing us the raffi/usher song that they played over and over for us. unfortunately, they had lost the cd, so hannah didn't get in on the dance party action. oh well. the trip from jerusalem to eilat was so smooth and was probably the first time that jason and i were in charge of getting somewhere and it went how we planned it, which was a nice change from our usual traveling style of never knowing where we are or how we're really supposed to get how we want to go.

next we crossed over to jordan and went to petra. now there is a long story of how we got from aquaba to wadi musa, the village right outside petra, but i'm writing the good things about our trip and jason will write the bad things. so i'll leave that story for him. anyway, when we finally got to wadi musa, we had a pretty good time at the hostel, even though it was freezing cold (probably literally). and petra was amazing. there are no words to explain how magnificent and beautiful this place was. it is crazy to think that it was all carved out about 2000 years ago and is still so well preserved today. it was probably the most beautiful place i have ever seen.

treasury with sunlight

the treasury

Jason in Monestary

the monastery, with jason in the doorway

Sarah and Jason 2

me and jason. the rocks are not painted.

we got to do plenty of hiking while we were there. there were stairs everywhere that led up and up and up to more caves and more tombs and hidden little places. the views from the top were worth the climb though. and i think my favorite part of the whole time there was my thirty-minute nap that i got to take on the top of a mountain with the sun shining down on me. it was heaven. also my lifelong dream (or a passing thought from earlier in the morning) of getting to ride a camel came true.

Sarah on top of mountain

me on top of the mountain, right before my nap.

Jason, Hannah, and Sarah on camels

riding the camels.

so after two days in petra, we headed to amman for new year's eve to spend a few days with the vila's. it was really good to see them again and we had such a fun time. their kids are great. about five minutes after we got there i showed charlie, the seven-year-old, some shekles (or chuckles as he liked to call them) and immediately was able to buy his friendship for 1.20 NIS. he was my buddy for the next three days.

new years eve was not terribly exciting. we spent more time walking around and taking cabs trying to find a pub than we did at the pub that dave had told us about. we finally found this english pub and got there at 11:45, stayed for a pint, did the countdown, and were back at the vila's by 12:30, asleep maybe five minutes later. talk about getting old.

while in amman, we took a day trip to madaba and saw some of the oldest mosaics in the world. in one of the churches, there is a mosaic that has the oldest map of jerusalem in it. there are tons and tons of mosaics in different churches and stuff. jason and hannah are now huge fans of mosaics. i thought they were cool, but i'm not quite as excited as they are about them.

bethlehem mosaic

bethlehem on the mosaic map.

mosaic map

the mosaic map in madaba.

madaba museum

the madaba museum.

one more highlight (so much for keeping this short) was that we took the boys to pizza hut so dave and susan could have a date night. real pizza hut. like in america. with real cheese, pepperoni that was pretty stinking good even if it's all-beef, real pizza sauce. we all stuffed ourselves and i know i enjoyed every bit of it. i even got a i-ate-way-too-much-greesy-pizza stomach ache afterwards. what a taste of home.

with the vila kids

jason, henry, sarah, charlie, hannah, and samuel

so now we're back in bethlehem. it actually felt like coming home, which is a feeling that i can't decide if i'm glad about or not. the kids come back next wednesday, so we have a few days to take it easy and hopefully get some rest before we go back to work.