They Say It's Your Birthday

Well, it was. And what a birthday it was!

Max really spoiled me and I had perhaps my best birthday ever. We decided to make a last minute mini-trip up to Nazareth. We rented the tiniest car Budget offered and took a lovely drive up north along the coast and then inland to Nazareth. Driving in Israel is a little insane - crazy driving is something that Israelis and Arabs alike enjoy. But to be fair, it's better than Amman and MUCH better than Cairo, city of eminent-death-by-vehicle.

Anyway, we saw some of the sights of Nazareth including the Church of the Annunciation, largest church in the Middle East and supposed sight where the Angel appeared to Mary to tell her of her impending pregnancy. My favorite part of the church were the representations of Mary sent in from all over the world. They had images made of tiles, stone, and paintings from Thailand, China, Scotland, India, Spain, Canada - you name it.

Do you want to know what the United States' contribution looks like?

And why wouldn't it?  This is clearly the most naturally interpretation of Mary... I'm being snarky, but I actually liked it in a crazy-art kind of way.  There is some quotation next to it from something Catholic, I think,  that talks about Mary appearing with a dress like "shook foil".  On a world wide scale I think of America as fairly traditional, so this avant-garde-ness really surprised me.   

But the best part was really our trip to the top of Mount Tabor, where the transfiguration of Jesus in the New Testament happened.  We spent some time in the church at the very top and then snooped around the ruins.  We also caught the most amazing sunset I've seen in my 26 years of life.  It took up the whole sky and drifted down across the Jezreel Valley.  We ate pizza with bacon later that night and all was right with the world.

Mount Tabor from a distance, the view from the top of the Jezreel Valley

Church on Top of Mount Tabor

Here we are on the top of Mount Tabor

Me, doing exactly what I do each time we take a trip  - read the guidebook

A little Video, ignore my gasps. It was that breathtaking!


When in Rome

Ok, here is a little bit more info about our potential Italy gig.  I started applying for things back when I thought we'd be here through the summer and then come back to Israel.  I wanted to travel, make a little bit of money, and get out of our expensive apartment for a few months. 

In my internet searching I came across an English Instruction Summer Camp that takes place in various cities in Italy.  It is a Drama/Singing/Dancing/Crafting camp for Italian youth with very little "classroom instruction" time.  In the morning you do a little bit of grammar and typical "English Teacher" stuff, and then in the afternoon you work on crafts or sports with the kids.  You also practice a short play that will be performed for everyone at the end of the two week period.  Each "play practice" has a grammar goal and a vocabulary focus - it's very neat.  The whole thing is really play" oriented.  The kids ages 6 to 14 as I understand it. 

So I just started emailing this nice woman and a couple of passport photos and applications later - we have a job offer!  Our circumstances have changed a bit since we are coming home, but we can still do the camp for at least 2 weeks (the length of one session) and maybe 4 and get home July 10th at the latest.  So we are still coming home, but if we decide to do this we might come home a few weeks later than we had planned. 

Of course living in Italy while someone else pays for your housing and food is sweeeet, but the best part is that they will pay us.  Both Max and I will be employed so we will make enough to cover our plane tickets home and have some living money when we get home.  This way we won't have to be such mooches:)

So there it is.  We are still deciding if the timing will work out for us, but it's so nice to know that if we are on board, there is something waiting for us.   

We have decided not to apply for Scotland, but if you want to spend 2 weeks to a month in Scotland this summer while managing a hostel in the boondocks you should check out this website.  No pay, but free room. 


We Got Into Italy!!!

I hope we can juggle things well enough to make this work, but both of us were accepted to be English Teachers in Italy this summer! For money!  

Re: Video Upload Problem

What a batch of sugar cookies won't do for your blogger rage!


A Little Night Music Revisited

Max has been practicing with the Jerusalem Acapella Choir once a week for about 4 months now. At least he thinks that's what they are called - the entire rehearsal and most of the songs are in Hebrew. It's done wonders for his Hebrew (he tells me) but it also makes things exciting when he's not sure if the concert is at 6:30 or 7:30 for example. I'm not leading up to a cute lost-in-translation story, I just think it's amazing that he sticks right with it along side genuine Israeli Hebrew speakers.

The choir has about 18 people and they sing mostly ancient choral music, hymns, Jewish songs, and an occasional English/American tune. Last week they had their first concert and it was just wonderful. It was fun for me to see him in his rehearsal before, chatting away with his new friends, as well as on stage again. He remarked that has been since High School that he has sung with a formal choir in a concert (8 years - yowza).

The Man to Max's Right (your left) is Eli (eh-li), the nice Man who gives Max a ride home every week so he doesn't have to endure the long bus ride. The man to the right of Eli is Ofer (oh-FEHR) and he invited us to an amazing Rosh Hashanna dinner at his house a few months ago - there were 7 courses at least. The man to Max's Left (your right) is Amnon, and I don't know much about him except for he kind of looks like Deep Roy. There are women in the choir, just not in the pictures.

The concert was on the evening of December 7th, and I had my first "embarrassed-of-my-gobs-of-technology" moment. I wanted to take pictures of Max close up so I needed my regular lens as well as my zoom lens. And we couldn't let this occasion go by without video taping the event, could we? So the video camera came too...and the tripod. You can't have a sharp super-zoom without a sturdy tripod. I staked out a place in the back of the concert where I wouldn't bother anyone, but as I started to unfold my studio away from home I became so self-conscious! Isn't this something that 30 something Dad's do at their 7 year old's first soccer game? I tried to own it as much as possible, and I don't regret bringing everything because I got great film on top of a few good pictures, but I was glad when I could hide my abundance of image capturing devices and their accompanying equipment. (And you thought I was gadgety before, Aunt Mary!)

Minor embarrassment aside, the concert was great and Max was wonderful. I'm so proud of him for joining this choir - they importance of doing something you love can't be overstated, I think. I have attached a video of a Hebrew Song (...I don't know it's name ) and an English Song (Ride the Chariot) for your listening pleasure. The quality is pretty poor, but you get the idea.

Actually, I am having some uploading problems and instead of pulling my hair out, I'm going to go into my kitchen and make sugar cookies. Hopefully I can post the videos later.


What I've Been Making Part II

I was especially proud of the head band on my little black book (the red and orange stitching on the top of the spine).  I have never quite made one I like because they are a bit tricky, but I was pretty pleased with this one.  The brown book was my first experiment with a glued-in spine on leather and I was pleased with it also.  I've made some notes about what I'll improve on next time because I'd really like to work with leather more.  I've been trying to convince Max that that's why we definitely need to go to Morocco as soon as possible - for the leather. That's  a good reason, right?

Anyway I finished my paper at the crack of 2:00 AM the other night and I still liked it when I was done.  That's something.  The title ended up being "National Consciousness and Conflict: Exploring Archive as Identity in the Middle East".  When I sat down to write I found that I had research coming out my ears.  I narrowed my topic to the Middle East and talked almost exclusively about Palestinians and Jews.  That seemed appropriate considering the circumstances.  I have actually been thinking more and more about doing a Thesis instead of a portfolio at the end of my coursework.  I think this type of thing is something I could fill oodles of pages with.  We'll see.


What I've Been Making...

I'm posting this so that when I finish my 15 page research paper (it's all in my head at this point...don't worry) I will have to post the pictures of the books I've been making.  AND I will feel such public pressure to create more that I'll get right to work after my this paper is due on Tuesday night.

In case you were wondering, my paper is about "Archive as Political Tool" or something to that effect.  I'm writing about Archives as symbols of national or cultural identity and how that leads them to become tools of politics.  I'm also writing about Archives in Wartime - how they are often purposefully destroyed as a symbol of the new minority's oppression.  I'm really lucky in that I've been able to do a few first hand interviews and visit the places I'm talking about.

I'll be talking about Palestinian libraries over the last 100 years or so, specifically the Khalidi library (which I've been keeping a secret for reasons that can't be revealed yet), the Jewish National Library and sundry Jewish libraries, The Iraq National library, and the destruction of libraries in Kosovo during the '90's conflict. 

So, pretty much this wasn't "getting off track", this post was a good thinking exercise for my paper.  But I have made two books since I've been here and a few more will hopefully be born this week and the next.

...So I've been making a paper at this point 


My First Wee Christmas Moment

I spent yesterday evening in the Old City with some dear friends.  The three of us strolled down a not-too-crowded, not-too-pushy Christian Quarter road looking at Arabian coin earrings, beautiful scarves, various trinkets...and Christmas decorations!  That's right.  Someone told Apple (not her real name) about a Christmas shop in the old city and it was as advertised, right down to the miniature santa costumes for children.

I'll post pictures of our tiny Christmas tree tonight after Max and I decorate it, but I had a sweet little moment on the bus on my way home.  I took the Arab bus home from Damascus gate and I ended up sitting by a little Palestinian boy, maybe 10 years old.  I always get a little nervous in these situations because I don't want to sully anyone's purity by my wanton Westernness, so I try to be pretty cautious.

I was looking straight ahead when out of the corner of my eye I saw the tall tip of my Christmas Tree that was sticking out of the bag start to wobble back and forth.  I didn't think a lot of it until it happened again, the top moving faster back and forth.  When I looked down the third time I saw the little boy next to me quickly retracting his hand after flicking the top of the Christmas tree with this index finger.  He had a little mischievous look on his face and my Christmas heart soared.  I showed him the Christmas lights and how the rest of the branches could unfolded to make the tree fuller.  I didn't know how appropriate it was to flaunt my cheap Christmas tree around on the Arab bus so I tried to keep it fairly discreet.  He kept leaning over at points in the journey and flicking it before shoving his hand back onto his lap.  

My young amigo almost ruined the moment when he tried to get a little fresh with my knee after flicking the top of the tree one time, but a quick and fierce "la-ah" took care of that.  It wouldn't be Jerusalem without 10 year olds mildly harassing you, I guess.    

I came home to find that my dear Grandmother had sent me a package with a jingle bell door hangar and Christmas candy.  Max and I are going to decorate the Christmas tree tonight and listen to Sting's steamy Christmas album.  What could be better?          


For My Mother - Who Loves Corn

We're Back, In A Big Way

After a near death flu experience, we're back.

And we have great news!

Max just learned yesterday that he has been put on the registrar for the State Department!  My little brother actually read the letter to us over the phone and we couldn't have imagined a better way to find out, Matt.  This means he passed all the background checks, medical checks, and final suitability panel.  It means we almost have a job!  After he is put on the list, depending on where he is on said list, he will be invited to an A-100 training class in D.C.  The class lasts about 7 weeks and then we ship off to...wherever.

It's all a matter of timing at this point.  Max's score is pretty high and with an Arabic language bonus we feel like he has good odds of getting invited to a class soon.  However, he has committed to this foundation that has paid a hefty sum for him to be here in Jerusalem.  So the plan now is to finish the school year, come home to Utah in July and spend a bit of time with our family before heading out to an A-100 class in the fall.  That would be ideal, but we aren't really sure when the class will be after we get home, or how to secure a spot.  Once you're on the list you wait for an invite, and then you wait anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months until the class actually begins.  Max will talk to the HR rep today and see what information he can gather, but we are hoping to put our names on a "hold" list for about 6 months or so.  Maybe in May or June we will "un-hold" and hope that we get invited to the next class in D.C.   

But we are pretty sure that our plans are to come home this summer!  Max will have a year of graduate school under his belt and hopefully the State Department can send him back after a few tours to finish it - at their expense :) 

We must have known good news was coming because we celebrated before learning of this at the local Elvis Diner.  Yes, an American Elvis diner in Abu Gosh - between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  We had Cheeseburgers and Chocolate Milkshakes.  And I even got a take home mug!  It was initially going to serve as our Thanksgiving away from home (can you believe i didn't even cook!) but celebration of more Foreign Service steps accomplished seems like a good reason too.