Monday, August 31, 2009

Narcoleptic Rachel

Our sleep schedule, which is usually in shambles as it is, has been completely trashed. We simply don’t have one, but that’s what “vacations” are for, right?

I don’t think anyone is getting quite enough sleep. I know I’m not. I haven’t napped in what seems like days, although I’m pretty sure I napped on Saturday. Rachel for sure isn’t getting enough sleep. She’s been going to bed late and waking up early and refusing to nap. We’re both short-tempered.

The other night when we were wrestling Rachel to bed, she started up her usual petitions:

“No! I don’t want B-E-D! I don’t wanna go sleeping! Please! Please! Please! I don’t B-B-E-D! I don’t! Please!”

Then she tacked on the following:

“Take pity on me!”

That? is a line she must have stolen from Rapunzel on the page where the witch listens to the pleas of the young man and “takes pity on him,” letting him take lettuce from her garden to his wife. Rachel seems to have translated this to mean “give me my own way.”

I just about died laughing.

Tonight what she was screaming was mostly incomprehensible, although I think I caught a few leave-door-opens and lie-down-with-me-Mommys. She fell asleep mid-scream.

I would have been in the room with her, trust me, but remember how we’re both grumpy? It just wasn’t working. She had to go to bed on her own tonight so I left her screaming for the whole two minutes it took before she fell asleep.

Had she been standing, she probably would have literally fallen asleep.

That’s the second time today she’s acted slightly narcoleptic. The first time was when we were on the bus from Jerusalem proper to Bethlehem. She was singing in her Dora the Explorer fashion,

“Where are we going? Where are we going? Where are we goi…”

And then she, rather suddenly, fell asleep. Her head flopped over onto my arm and she went limp. She was completely out.

I was in the middle of telling Andrew how she fell asleep mid-song when her head snapped back up and she alertly finished,

“-ing! Where are we going? Where are we going? Bess-le-hent!”

It was all we could do to not bust up on the bus.

One day we’ll let her sleep again for as long as she wants…

Jerusalem, day 2 (Aug. 28)

Our first item of business for Thursday was to buy the boys some kippas/yarmulkes so that they could officially visit the Western Wall. Non-Jews can visit the wall as long as they are appropriately dressed, which for men includes a hat.

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They actually give out disposable paper kippas to people who don’t have them, but we didn’t know that until after we had already purchased real ones. Real ones are cooler, anyway, and much more authentic. Patrick got accosted by a Rabbi on his way to the wall.

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The Rabbi stepped in front of him and said,

“What’s you’re name?”

“Patrick,” Patrick answered truthfully. You don’t lie to a Rabbi.

“What’s your wife’s name?”

“I don’t have one.”

“We will find you one, we will!” the Rabbi assured him, placing his hands on Patrick’s head.

It was all a little awkward, especially when the Rabbi asked for money. Maybe he wasn’t a real Rabbi, even though he claimed to be, because asking for money at the Western Wall is against the rules. Patrick pushed his way past the “Rabbi” and made it to the wall with Andrew and Joseph and the rest of the men on the men’s side who were there to pray.

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From up close you can see just how many prayers have been stuffed into the cracks in the wall. Many people come with prewritten notes or armed with paper and pen so that they can put their supplication directly into the wall…except for on Shabbat, when Jews abstain from writing (perhaps not all Jews, but definitely the more traditional ones; there are signs asking you not to write notes on Shabbat). According to Wikipedia more than a million notes are placed in the wall every year. The notes are collected twice a year and buried at the Mount of Olives.

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The men’s side of the wall is a little more interesting than the women’s side of the wall because Jewish men use more ceremonial clothing than Jewish women. A lot of the men put on the tefillin on their arm and head when they approach the wall.

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I don’t think I saw any of the women doing much of note. They were much more serious about backing away from the wall than the men seemed to be, though. They believe the wall is so holy that you shouldn’t turn your back on it; they all walk away from it backwards. While I was approaching it, a little girl was whining to her mother,

“Do I still have to walk backwards? When can I stop?”

Truthfully, I see her point. Rachel and I were careful to also walk backwards away from the wall and it was kind of tricky. I spent most of my time trying to sneak peeks behind me to make sure I wasn’t going to bump into anybody else or trip on an unexpectedly huge crack instead of continuing to reverence the wall. It seemed like most of the women turned around once they reached the gutter thing in the sidewalk, so we turned around there, too.

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After visiting the Western Wall again, we wound our way over to the Garden of Gethsemane. We explained to Rachel that the atonement happened there, or around there, and she decided that she’d call it Jesus’ Garden (alternatively Jesus’ Park). For the past few days she’s been asking to go back to Jesus’ Garden. Only today did she learn how to say Gethsemane and it’s really understandable only if you know that she’s trying to say that word.

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The garden was a lot smaller than I expected it to be, but the trees were definitely very old. The garden is very close to the Old City; I always pictured the place being farther away and maybe higher up on the hill…but like I said, this garden was incredibly small so it’s possible that in Biblical times it was larger and took up more space up the hill, farther away from the city.

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Poor Rachel spent quite a lot of time in the backpack. We let her out to run around when we could, but Jerusalem is so hilly that having her walk everywhere wasn’t really an option. She got quite sick of it sometimes and would start whining and thrashing around, throwing Andrew off balance.

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From the Garden of Gethsemane we headed up the Mount of Olives. We wanted to visit the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens and various churches on our way to the top. Unfortunately we didn’t find the garden and all the churches were closed so we ended up just walking straight up. It was a tough climb (especially for me, I think, with how I’ve taken to waddling recently) but we all made it to the top somewhat alive. The views we got of the city along the way were amazing. The whole perspective of the city changed dramatically, even after climbing just a few steps higher. The view from the top was especially amazing.

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I can’t tell you how depressing it was to reach the top only to find nothing open. Luckily we were able to find a store to buy some cold water. We had water with us, but by this time in the day it was warm and old tasting, which will do in a pinch, but cold water is ever so much more refreshing. We sat on a bench in the shade in a park and rested for a few minutes. We were definitely overheated.

After fruitlessly haggling with various taxi drivers we decided our only option was to hike back down to the bottom of the Mount of Olives. When we passed the Chapel of the Ascension (which is actually a mosque; I don’t know why all the signs say chapel) on our way back down a car chugged up right in front of it and stopped.

A man ran out and flipped open the hood. The engine was hissing and steaming. It was definitely overheated from its climb, as well. The Mount of Olives is perhaps more accurately described as a Wall of Olives than a Mount. It’s quite steep and since it’s paved and the pavement is well-worn, it’s a slippery climb. I don’t know how cars make it up in the winter. Anyway…the man hit the radiator cap and it flew off like a champagne cork, releasing a geyser of steam that Old Faithful could rival. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

What that car needed was a rest in the park in the shade with some nice cold water.

The hike down was easier than the hike up, but we’re definitely feeling the burn even days later. We were so tired when we reached the bottom that we opted to find a cab to take us to Mount Zion. We didn’t feel like climbing another hill, but we ended up having to since it took us forever to find a taxi, but we found a nice view of the Chapel of All Nations and the Russian Orthodox church.

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On Fridays, which is the Islamic day of worship, security at the Old City, which is already rather hefty, gets quite unbreachable. Al-Aqsa is ranked the third most important mosque, after Mecca and Medina. It’s a smaller mosque across from the more famous Dome of the Rock and Muslims flock to pray there. The pedestrian traffic in the streets of the Old City seem to swell with Muslims shortly after adhan. It’s even more congested on Fridays since that is officially the day of worship.

The worshippers get treated with the same dignity as rioters. Police carry plastic shields around and all the roads are blocked off so no cars can get through. At least, not any cars with Palestinian drivers or passengers.

We grabbed a cab with a Palestinian driver and were forced to drive the most indirect route to Mount Zion while other cars were permitted to take the regular roads. It seems as if the police are purposely making it difficult for Palestinians to get close to the Old City and was quite frustrating for us. Our cab fare ended up being much more than we had expected to pay due to all the detours we were forced to take.

At least we didn’t have to walk there, though, or our legs might have fallen off.

We visited the Church of Dormition, where Mary supposedly is eternally sleeping (she lived out the rest of her days on Mount Zion after Christ’s death, according to tradition). Rachel was upset about visiting a tomb again and was a lot happier when we left to find the Hall of the Last Supper.

Mount Zion is also famous for housing King David’s Tomb. We didn’t visit that tomb (because Rachel doesn’t really like tombs), but we did stop by a statue of King David playing his lyre before heading up to the Coenaculum.

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Since we didn’t know that the Coenaculum was the Hall of the Last Supper it took us a while to find it, even though we were wandering around underneath it while we were looking for it. While we were consulting our guidebook to figure out where it was, we met a man we’ve nicknamed “Surly Jew.” He was surly.

“People with cameras!” he started jovially, “I wonder what people with cameras could be doing here.”

“Taking pictures,” Andrew answered with a smile.

“Pictures of what?” Surly Jew asked, his innocent joviality turning into a sour sneering.

“Well, there are some famous churches and things in this guidebook that we thought we’d take a look at.”

“Oh, let me see that guidebook. Guidebooks should be a guide, right?”

He yanked the book out of Andrew’s hand and looked at the page we had been looking at.

“The Last Supper? I wonder how that got in there…” he wondered too enthusiastically.

“Well, it is in the Bible…” Andrew answered.

“Oh? It’s not in the Bible I read,” he remarked casually before changing the subject. “Have you ever read any of Aesop’s Fables?”

“Yes…” we answered.

“Where are those places? Are those places in your guidebook, too? Are you going to visit them next?”

“Ummm…” we stalled.

“If that story is in your Bible but not in my Bible then somebody’s lying! You’re better off with Aesop…he teaches morals, too, but no one actually believes them. They know they are stories. Lies!”

Surly Jew continued lecturing us for a while before bidding us a good day. It was the most hostile conversation about religion I have ever experienced. Really it was more of a monologue than a dialogue since we didn’t add very much to the conversation. Instead we just listened to him rant about Aesop and the Bible.

Let me tell you, it didn’t feel good to have my faith slighted right in front of my face. He belittled us, insulted our beliefs, and was downright rude. It made me feel very sad.

At the Western Wall there is a sign asking visitors to not offend the worshipers or degrade the holiness of the site. Dress modestly, follow instructions from ushers, don’t make fun, turn off cell phones, and so forth. I think that is a good thing.

Sure, the Western Wall is part of King Herod’s temple. It’s not exactly sacred to me with my religious beliefs, but it is important and since people do find it sacred, the area and those worshipping in it should be treated with respect. I have no problem doing this, but I think, after our run in with Surly Jew and seeing how Friday was made to be such a difficult day for Muslims going to worship at Al-Aqsa, that Christians and Muslims deserve the same respectful treatment from visitors to their sacred sites, not of their faith.

The Catholic churches we visit are not sacred to us, but we still tell Rachel to use a hushed voice so that she doesn’t disturb the people there who are worshipping and expect her to behave the same way she does when we attend our own meetings. The same thing goes for mosques and synagogues and Hindu temples and anywhere else we happen to visit.

I cannot imagine what would have happened if we had ridiculed Jewish scripture or tradition at the Western Wall, not that we would. It was a little upsetting that this man felt he could belittle us for being Christian at a Christian site. The same rules should apply for him there that apply for us at the Western Wall. But maybe that’s just my opinion. Anyway…

20090831 - 026The Coenaculum, which is the name for the kind of room in which the Last Supper took place (and is the name on all the signs), is just one room left over from an old Gothic church, but tradition holds that this is where the Last Supper took place. Sometime in the 15th century, a mihrab was added by Muslim Turks, along with some stained glass windows with Arabic designs. It was interesting to see such a juxtaposition of architecture in such a small room.

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Rachel and I had a nice discussion about the Last Supper while Andrew took pictures of this and that. She wanted to know what they ate at the Last Supper, but I couldn’t tell her exactly…so instead we talked about what they might have eaten as a segue into how Jesus introduced the sacrament to his disciples.

It was one of those precious, quiet conversations where I find myself amazed with what deep, thoughtful answers she comes up with, and where she is bearing her testimony to me as much as I’m bearing mine to her.

We left the Coenaculum after tour groups started pouring in and disturbing the peace and found that we were a surprisingly short walk away from Jaffa Gate, which is the entrance into the Old City closest to where we are staying. Getting home took a lot less time than we had imagined.

Still, it was far too long for Rachel. She zonked out about fifteen minutes before we got home and was bopping around in the backpack so I tied her head to the back of her seat with a scarf. It kind of looks ridiculous, like she’s wearing a blindfold or something, but at least it kept her from getting whiplash!

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There wasn’t much left for us to do since it was the start of Shabbat, so we made dinner and hung out in our apartment for the rest of the evening, getting ready for another long day the next day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jerusalem, day 1 (Aug. 27)

We barely made it to the bus station on time after rushing through our 8 AM breakfast and catching a cab at quarter to nine. Our bus left promptly at 9:00 and we were on our way to Jerusalem.

Although we had assigned seats and were under the impression that the bus was chartered, it still made stops on the way to Jerusalem to pick up more passengers. People were standing in the aisles and sitting on each other’s laps; we were completely full, yet the bus kept stopping for more passengers. It was kind of weird.

Jerusalem was much more of what I expected Israel to be like, at first glance. People dress much more conservatively here than they do at Eilat. Obviously there are more Hasidic Jews here. Many boys and men wear the payot, the yarmulke, and the tzitzit. Some wear long coats and other traditional hats as well. Most women are dressed conservatively, with skirts hitting their mid-calf and shirtsleeves past the elbow. Many women cover their hair, as Jewish law requires that married women do so. Almost everyone here dresses modestly, even the crosswalk signs.

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This was a welcome change from the dress-code at Eilat. We’ve become rather accustomed to being surrounded by modesty and it was quite shocking to see so much bare skin.

We only had to stop once to let police on the bus before entering Jerusalem; no doubt they were looking for Palestinians. It was slightly unnerving to have them walking up and down the aisle with their big guns—their guns here are even bigger (and a whole lot newer) than the guns the police carry around in Egypt. Arriving in the city, though, was amazing.

It’s always a bit of a thrill for me when I see things with my own eyes—things that I learned about in school or read about in books. Jerusalem is a historically rich city—so much has happened here scripturally and politically; it’s no wonder we are so excited to be here.

Getting to our apartment was a bit of a challenge, but once we made it we were good to go. It’s in a nice location, not too far of a walk from the Old City, albeit up a hill…so coming home at the end of the day is always a little tragic for me. It’s a beautiful apartment, though, and we quickly settled in and ran to the store for a few groceries.

Things are so much more expensive here than in Egypt. We’re used to buying spaghetti noodles for a couple of pounds per package—well under a dollar, at any rate. Here most packages were 15 NIS, which is like 4 USD! The cheapest package we could find was 6 NIS, which is still over a dollar, but not too expensive, I guess. We’re spoiled in Egypt when it comes to food prices, although most of the food tastes terrible. I guess there’s a price to be paid for everything.

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When we were completely settled we went to explore the Old City. Rachel quickly turned our Jerusalem adventure into a Dora adventure by asking in a singsong Dora fashion, clapping her hands, and yelling enthusiastically,

“Where’re we going? *clap*clap*clap* Old City! Where’re we going? *clap*clap*clap* Old City! YAY!”

She’s been singing that all week long. She adores the Old City.

We were so late getting there the first day that not a whole lot was open. We headed to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which popular tradition holds to be the place of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

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Unfortunately, it was difficult for us to find any reverence in this church at all. It was teeming with people, making it hot, crowded, and very loud. Poor Rachel was in danger of being trampled to death by tourist groups at every turn. It was a very beautiful of church, though, containing a lot of Christian relics.

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It’s always interesting for me to observe how Catholic and Orthodox people treat relics and things. They are Christians and we are Christians, but we worship in such different ways. There is a flat stone at the entrance of the church called the Stone of Unction, which is apparently where Christ’s body was prepared for burial in the tomb. People were lying on it, rubbing crosses and rosaries and hats and scarves and other trinkets on it, placing their face on it. It was…interesting.

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We touched it, too, but it was clear that the stone did not evoke the same emotions in us that it did in the people surrounding us. Patrick, the funny boy who would later put on a yarmulke and approach the Western Wall like he had done it every day of his life, was apprehensive to touch the stone because he didn’t want to offend anyone.

“You’re Christian,” I told him, “Why would it offend anyone?”

We don’t really do relics…but it is interesting still to see things believed to be from Christ’s time, even though the stone dates from 1810…which is well after Christ’s time. All it really seemed to be to us was a slab of stone. I guess I just don’t understand these things very well. Still, it was interesting to see the kind of thing Christ’s body would have been prepared on.

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Christ’s tomb is also located in the church, at least the tomb that the Catholics and Orthodox believe to be Christ’s tomb. We’re more Garden Tomb people, personally. We didn’t want to wait in line to go into Christ’s tomb here—we would have been in line for hours, and Rachel is afraid of tombs, anyway, she informed us. She’s always telling us all about people who fell in tombs, or, as she says, “toons.”

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We went down into what she considered to be a tomb, anyway. Past the Chapel of Adam, which is underneath the chapel, and directly under Golgotha, actually (the chapel is built against the Rock of Golgotha and is where many believe Adam is buried), is St. Helena’s Chapel and then the Chapel of Inventio Crucis, where St. Helena is said to have found the True Cross.

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After Rachel started adding her screams to the cacophony in the church, we decided it was time to move on. She calmed down once we were in the courtyard.

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We headed to Via Dolorosa and did the stations backwards; since stations 10-14 are at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we just made our way to the beginning from there. About half of Via Dolorosa is in the Muslim quarter, so as we made our way (backwards) through the stations, more and more Ramadan decorations started cropping up.

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While we were walking we heard a tremendous *BOOM!* and almost started looking for a bomb shelter (the paranoia in Israel is quite contagious) but when the Muslims surrounding us started celebrating and eating, we realized that it was only a cannon to officially declare the start of iftar, in addition to the adhan.

We’ve never heard a cannon to start iftar before since Cairo doesn’t use one, so that was kind of exciting.

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The decorations started petering out when we reached the Lion’s Gate, which is where stations 1 and 2 mark the place of Pilate’s judgment of Christ. The Ecce Homo church/archway is there.

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When we got there, though, there wasn’t anything else for us to do but turn back and retrace our steps, following the stations in the right order this time. Not that we know what all the stations are off the top of our heads; Andrew was by far the most well-versed in the stations of the cross from all the time he spent in Rome. We eventually did find a sign that listed them all and although some of them are based on tradition and not scripture, it was neat to see where Christ would have been carrying the cross and walk the path he walked.

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Along our way we saw a UN car. That has nothing to do with Via Dolorosa at all, but we thought it was kind of cool, anyway.

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Having not planned out our day very well, the only other thing we could think of that would be guaranteed to be open was the Western Wall, so we made our way over there.

The Western Wall is made up of the remaining stones of King Herod’s temple, the second temple to be built on that site. It’s just below the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock currently stands and where a third temple will be built before the coming of Christ.

It’s a very sacred site to Jews, who approach the wall to pray, stuffing scrolls of paper with their prayers written on them into cracks in the wall. On Shabbot they wail, which is why it’s also known as the Wailing Wall. I think we’ve walked past this every single day we’ve been here…so we heard them wailing, we’ve seen them stuff their papers in the wall, and we’ve heard the call of the shofar. We even approached the wall ourselves, but that’s another story for another day. We couldn’t go the first time because the boys needed kappas and they hadn’t purchased any at that point.

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It was obviously getting rather late by this time and we were all bushed, so we headed back to our apartment for yet another restless night with Rachel in our bed. Sleeping with a two-year-old is no easy task. I feel like I haven’t gotten a good night’s rest since leaving on this trip!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Meat or Dairy?

Keeping the kitchen kosher seemed easy at first; all we have to do is keep the dairy dishes separate from the meat dishes, and that’s fairly simple. The dairy dishes are white. The meat dishes are grey. They go in separate cupboards and are labeled.

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Once we really got into things, though, we realized that we don’t understand all the ins and outs of what kashrut entails. At best we have a very limited understanding of what kosher means.

Patrick even wondered aloud what you’re supposed to do if you want meat and cheese on the same sandwich. What plate would you use then? The answer I gave him was that they wouldn’t because they don’t mix meat and dairy. Ever.

Not mixing meat and dairy is fairly simple for us, but what about the rest of our food? What about eggs? What about bread?

The manager pointed out a drawer full of plastic plates and utensils left by previous tenants and said we were free to use those as well. We’ve been using those as much as possible so that we don’t contaminate the meat or dairy dishes accidentally.

Plus we can throw those away if we don’t feel like washing dishes, like we didn’t tonight. It’s Shabbat, anyway, so I don’t think we’re supposed to work after sundown, right?

Dolphin Reef

Our next day in Eilat was much better than the first. It’s amazing what a good night’s rest will do for your perspective…although “good night’s rest” is a relative term when there’s a two-year-old in the bed with you.

Andrew, Patrick, and Joseph got up and headed off to Jordan to visit Petra while Rachel and I slept in as late as we could without missing breakfast (which was a wonderful complimentary smorgasbord of pancakes, fruits, and everything else imaginable). We ate three platefuls: one for me, one for Rachel, one for Miriam. Or something like that.

Then Rachel and I left on an adventure to find the Egged bus station to buy tickets to go to Jerusalem. Finding the station was easy, figuring out how to buy tickets was easy. Paying for the tickets, though, was a little tougher than I imagined. For some reason very few places in Eilat seemed to accept Visa card; everything was either MasterCard or American Express.

Eventually I did find an ATM that accepted Visa, but the English side of things was broken which meant that I had to figure things out in Hebrew. I don’t exactly speak Hebrew so I enlisted the help of a guard to get out some money.

With that in hand, Rachel and I made our way back to the bus station to purchase our tickets. It took us 2.5 hours when all was said and done! I was happy to simply have gotten tickets at all since I kept seeing signs that said that any tickets for trips outside of the city should be purchased three days in advance…and we wanted to leave the next morning. Apparently that sign was only joking.

Then I presented our options to Rachel. We could go visit the dolphins or we could go to the aquarium.

“Dolphins are a little bit scary,” Rachel told me hesitantly.

“So you want to go to the aquarium instead?”

“No. I don’t want ‘quarium. I wanna pet the dolphins!”

We hopped in a cab and sped off to Dolphin Reef, which is almost in Egypt. I didn’t think about how far away it was from things until we were already hopelessly far away from the city. I was a little worried about how we would get back into town but pushed that thought from my mind and bought a ticket anyway.

Rachel and I headed off to the dolphin docks right away. They’re floating docks so they moved a lot, which made Rachel nervous until she decided they were like being on a boat. Then she was fine with them. Taking pictures was still tricky for me since I felt like I had to hold Rachel’s hand the whole time. It was neat to be so close to the dolphins, though.

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We were allowed to put our hands and/or feet in the water and let the dolphins swim up to them. Rachel and I had a dolphin swim right under our feet while we were splashing. It came so close we could have touched it, but we didn’t.

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We got to watch the dolphins being fed. I explained to Rachel that the buckets were full of fish and the trainers (or whatever they were) were feeding the fish. For the rest of the afternoon, whenever Rachel wanted the dolphins to come closer she’d tell me that we needed to find them some food, because food makes them come closer.

20090828 - 003 20090828 - 004 20090828 - 005 Another one of Rachel’s favorite parts was looking down at the reef and all the tropical fish. She decided that the striped ones were Nemos (even though they aren’t) and kept asking where Dory was.

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From the dock, Rachel noticed that there was a beach that people were swimming at. I wish the guidebook would have told us that, because I didn’t bring our swimsuits. Besides the snorkeling and scuba diving, which I knew Rachel and I wouldn’t be doing, the book made everything else sound like dry-land activities.

I tucked Rachel’s jumper up so that she could wade in the water a little bit, but we eventually decided to just take it off completely. Rachel was frustrated because I couldn’t go into the water very far with her. I told her I didn’t want to get my clothes wet, but I cinched my pants up past my knees so I could go in a little ways with her.

Always the problem solver, Rachel came up with a suggestion,

“Just get nakey like me, Mommy!”

Good suggestion, but no.

She also didn’t like how rocky the beach was. It was rather rocky and there were sea urchins around. I was glad when she asked to go see the dolphins again.

20090828 - 012 She was so tired that she could hardly keep her head up to look for dolphins, so we decided to call it a day.

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But on the way we spotted an albino peacock so we had to stop and look at it, which lead us to several other peacocks, including a little baby one, and some pretty trees with pink flowers.

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Once we were out of the park, however, our cheery moods dissolved. We were hungry and tired and stranded on a highway. Our choices were to continue standing there, hoping that an empty taxi would drive by…or we could start walking. Rachel wasn’t in a mood to walk and I wasn’t in the mood to carry her, so that left us with the standing-there option. We stood there for a long time, probably over a half hour, while taxi cab after taxi cab drove toward the city, always full of people it had just picked up from the border.

Seriously, we were probably closer to Taba than Eilat. Our situation looked pretty grim. I was trying to stay calm, but Rachel could tell that I was on the verge of tears. My voice gets squeaky when I’m upset.

“Why’s Mommy crying?” she asked me.

“Because we’re stuck here and I don’t know how to get us home,” I told her.

“Oh, no! What’re we going doing?”

“I guess we’ll just ask Heavenly Father to help us find a way home.”

We said a little prayer on the side of the highway and then watched for our miracle, because I expect things like that.

A few taxis drove by without noticing us, but then, finally, a taxi driver going toward the border saw us and honked. He bounced his hand up and down with his fingers bunched up and pointing to the sky. That’s the gesture for “just wait.”

So we waited. Ten minutes later he pulled up along side of us, having dropped off his previous passengers at the border. He was so nice and patient while we attempted to explain where our hostel was. He didn’t even rip us off or anything, just dropped us off, bid us shalom, and went on his way—completely unaware that he was the answer to a somewhat desperate prayer.

The boys weren’t back when we got to the hotel room so we watched Dora together, in Hebrew again, and ate snacks. Then we changed into our swimsuits and left a note telling Daddy that we were going to the beach and asking him to not go eat dinner without us.

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We walked back to our hotel at sunset and while we were slowly making our way to our room, we heard Daddy’s voice. We turned around, and there he was! Rachel ran into his tired, sunburned arms and he twirled her in the air and carried her the rest of the way to our room where she immediately got very hyper playing on Uncle Patrick’s bunk bed. I was so happy to have other people around to play with her again!

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We went out to dinner at the pizza place next to our hostel, Meter Pizza, and then rushed home to pack up our stuff so that we could be ready to bus to Jerusalem the next morning. After my tale of the fabulous breakfast Rachel and I had had that morning, the boys didn’t want to miss out on breakfast before heading off on a long bus ride, thus the rush to be ready the night before.