Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Sometimes what I think about myself isn’t very accurate. Sometimes I think I’m not bothered by things when I really am. Like all the calls I’ve been getting from Creepy Guy. I mean, I knew it was bothering me, I just didn’t realize how much until I was sitting by the landline phone yesterday and jumped when it rang. And then I refused to pick it up…even though I was sitting right there.

Rachel’s 2-year check-up

We finally took Rachel into the doctor today. It’s been quite a while since she’s had a check-up, considering her last check-up was on July 21, 2008. We just hadn’t been satisfied with the pediatricians we’ve met here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baby Pool

With only 28 days until our baby is due, I thought it would be a good time to open up a baby pool. Not that we have any cool prizes or anything, but maybe* we’ll pick something  up (ie: random piece of tourist hud) for the winner at the Khan.

Feel free to leave a guess about Miriam’s arrival in a comment:
  • Date
  • Time
  • Length
  • Weight
Our estimated due date is October 27th.**

I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew’s guess. When Rachel was born he made up the birth announcement in advance and his filler text was almost spot on. Seriously. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with this time!

* We reserve the right to renege on a prize if we forget, which is likely.
**Also, anyone who guesses too far into November will be shunned for an indeterminate amount of time.

It's all your fault I screen my phone calls

I just input the first number, of many, I'm sure, to the "screen list" on my phone. And in the last two minutes I've had two missed calls from this number. Make that four.

This is definitely a feature I like.

To make a long story short (because I think we've had enough long stories recently)...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cairo Zoo

“What are we going to do today, Mommy?” Rachel asked while climbing onto our bed. “Where are we going?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.

It’s not like we do something thrilling everyday. Sometimes we don’t even leave the house. I don’t know what she was expecting, really.

“Why don’t we go to the Z-O-O today?” Andrew spelled.

“I guess we could do that,” I said, “We’ve been meaning to take her for a while. She’d probably like that. And you know that when you spell Z-O-O it doesn’t do much to disguise the word. I don’t think she even knows what a zoo is, anyway.”

“Yeah! I do! Zoos has lions and ‘nakes!” Rachel said defensively.

Andrew reminded me that there is a 5-minute zoo show on her Little People DVD. I forgot. Oops.

And that is how we decided to go to the zoo.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hairy fruit, hairy Daddy, hairy birds

Someone needs to follow this girl around with a tape recorder. Seriously. She's a hoot.

We had pancakes for dinner to celebrate National Pancake Day, complete with real maple syrup, whipped cream, and fruit. If Andrew was in your family, you'd celebrate the holiday, too. He even has Rachel trained--she was jumping up and down with joy when we told her it was Pancake Day.

Andrew made the pancakes and put me in charge of the fruit. While I was preparing the fruit Rachel was hovering, which is not at all unusual. She's usually hovering around me. Ideally (at least by her ideals) she'd be physically touching me every minute of every day.

I was peeling kiwi fruit, a rare treat for us since it is usually too expensive to buy but was super on sale at Seoudi Market today, and Rachel was especially curious about it.


Last week Rachel had to use the potty during sacrament meeting, so I took her out and into the little bathroom in the hallway. The first thing she did was pull a chin-up on the sink so she could check out the soap.

“Nothin’ purple soap here!” she exclaimed, “Just ‘reen soap. I don’t like ‘reen soap.”

I told her how cool green soap was and after that failed I tried the mean-mom method and said that it didn’t matter if she didn’t like it because I wasn’t going to take her upstairs to use the purple soap.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flashback Friday: There was a great big moose

Rachel and I were reading Colours the other day, a Canadian book showing colourful Canadian things, like a red Mountie jacket, for example. For the colour yellow, the author/illustrator, Marc Tetro, chose to draw a moose with yellow antlers, even though moose don’t really have yellow antlers. I guess he gets artistic license.

When I asked Rachel what the picture was she told me it was a deer. I told her that it wasn’t a deer—it was a moose. She asked me what a moose was, so I told her it was kind of a like a deer, only bigger, and its antlers were special because they were all filled in, like a spork instead of a fork. Then she asked me if I had ever seen a moose.

I was able to tell her that I have, and on more than one occasion.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In which Rachel invents the sleepover

Yesterday Rachel found a toy that has been buried at the bottom of the toy box for a while. It’s technically a door-hanging, I think, and she got it from Grandma—it’s a little pink pillow with a fluffy handle that came with the movie Sleeping Beauty. Rachel uses it as both a pillow and a purse. It’s precious to her.

When she found it she started making big plans for a celebratory event.

“I want to go to have a party!” she declared, “Everyone eats cake, plays with my toys, goes outsides, and brings a pillow!”

“What are you going to do with the pillows?” I asked.

“Sleep with them! It’s a sleep-party. We all bring pillows and sleep!”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not good for bearing sons

Our landlord was supposed to come by last night at around 8:00 PM  to fix our satellite, again. We haven’t had television for a while now; I can’t remember when it stopped working, exactly, and we haven’t bothered to get it fixed because we don’t watch all that much TV.

Still, it’s nice to have it working, so we mentioned it to Hatim when he stopped by the night before to pick up our rent money.

He was surprised that Rachel was still awake; she’s usually already in bed when he stops by. That’s because he has this habit of stopping by really, really late at night.

Snippets from this week’s FHE

It was my turn for the Family Home Evening lesson last night. I pulled out the nursery manual and prepared to teach the lesson on eternal families.

We began by describing the temple and what makes it beautiful. Rachel pointed out the flowers and then to angel Moroni.

“Jesus died on temple,” she said.

“Jesus died on the cross,” I told her, “That’s angel Moroni.”

“Angel Moroni like cross,” she said.

After failing to understand what she was trying to say we decided to move on. I pointed out the spire.

“Ooh, spire!” she said, excited to have a new word. “Spire is tiny like pyramid,” she added, drawing a big triangle with her arms.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Settling of contents

A pair of green shorts has been at the bottom of our laundry basket for a few weeks now. Somehow they just never made it into the washing machine—it was always too full by the time I got to the bottom. The shorts belong to Andrew and he decided that since I seemed incapable of washing them, he’d do it. So he put a load of darks in.

All the more power to him.

We’re not very good at separating our clothes into loads here. Our washing machine cycle takes upwards of three hours to run, so I’m not keen on separating darks, colors, and whites. We just do two loads a week—darks and lights. (Probably we will end up doing more once we’re into cloth diapers full time).
This is where we run into issues.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quarter of a Century

Andrew’s so old that we didn’t even have enough candles for his cake this year! Most boxes come with 24 and this year Andrew reached the big 2-5. He’s so old.

Happy Birthday to me!

I had plans of pampering him for his birthday, but I’m coming down with a cold and woke up feeling awful yesterday so instead of me pampering him, he ended up putting me back to bed and tidying up the house before the Home Teachers came over. Then he played with Rachel and did homework all day while I pretended to be alive.

Gee, Happy Birthday, Andrew!

Why I nap

Last night I had trouble falling asleep because my list of things I had to worry about before I let myself fall asleep has become far too long. We just realized that this baby is coming in like five weeks.

We have to figure out how to move another person into our home. Clean out a drawer or two, somewhere (?), to put all her hud, which is currently piled in her crib, which probably won’t work out too well once she’s here since she needs a place to sleep, even though most of her sleeping will likely be done in our bed because—let’s face it—I’m a little lazy, especially in the middle of the night, and don’t like getting out of bed to get the baby. And I like cuddling newborns.

I have to get a list of stuff that we need/want to Karen so that she can decide what she has room for in her suitcase (whatever doesn’t fit, Brother Tueller can bring for us). It’s hard to remember what I’ll need for such a little person. How many onesies and burp cloths did I go through per day with Rachel? Will I need more diapers?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flashback Friday: Busing in Russia

The first few weeks of school in Russia, my host dad picked me up from the school to drive me home. If I wasn't teaching evening classes I'd meet Alosha after kindergarten in the afternoon and we'd wait together. If I had to teach evening classes Sasha would make a special trip out to pick me up, which was very nice of him.

My host family lived on the right bank of the Voronezh river in the northern outskirts of Voronezh on Ulitsa Morozova--a fitting name for a street in Russia, Frost Street. The school and all the other teachers lived on the left bank. I'm trying to remember the address of our school, but it's just not coming to me--Dimitrova was an oft used bus stop, but I think the one closest to the school, at least for me, was Ostuzheva, although I could be way off. I'm pretty sure the school was somewhere between Ostuzheva and Dimitrova. Either way, everyone else seemed to live within walking distance or a couple of bus stops away from the school.

I, on the other hand, lived a dedicated bus ride away. If I missed the bus there wasn't any other option (like walking) to get home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Suqs and Ramadan Lamps

We ventured out to the Ataba metro station today to look for some books that might be applicable to Andrew’s research. One of his professors had told him that there was a book store there called Ezbekiyya; little did we know, we’d walk up the stairs from the metro and immediately stumble into a  whole book suq, disheveled enough to be considered a librarian’s worst nightmare (or paradise, considering how many treasures must be hidden there).

Magazines from 1987 alongside magazines from 2009. Psychology books with general fiction. French, English, Swedish, whatever…

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We're communicating!

I just breathed one of the biggest sighs of relief of my life. Sometimes things that Rachel says don't really make sense and they can be quite perplexing, like the time we heard her saying, "Daddy kill you." Life really couldn't move on until we had figured out that what she was really saying was, "Daddy carry you." The few minutes it took us to figure that one out were a little freakish.

Lately she's been saying something else worrisome, but not anything that we felt we had to figure out right away.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Now something that doesn't make me cringe

Rachel went to bed last night without screaming, not even a little bit. She spent all of yesterday morning screaming so I guess it was fair that she didn't spend the entire evening screaming. And this morning we could hear our upstairs neighbour screaming for about an hour straight. We weren't bothered one bit by his noise. In fact, we were like, "Hey! It's not ours for once!"

Lately she's been begging me to do her hair, which is kind of polar opposite to what I'm used to. We went to the Houses' house last week and Bekah did Rachel's hair in braids and it's been in braids every day since then. "Where are my braids, Mommy?" she'll ask, "Put my hair in braids!" And if I happen to snag a knot while brushing or braiding she somewhat calmly says, "Ow! That hurt! But I can't move my head. Bekah said I can't move my head." It really does take a village to raise a child because I haven't been able to communicate that to her.

Rachel and I were playing catch yesterday--in the house because we do things like that when I don't feel like walking all the way to the church to play in the backyard. She made a terrific catch from all the way across the room, even after I told Andrew, "There's no way she's catching this one..." But she did and then she said, "Ooh! I caught it...with my little hands!"

She's been in such a good mood today, which has been nice. I think she's finally unwinding enough from our Israel trip that she's a normal person again. Or at least getting there. Andrew suggested that we take off to the Red Sea for Eid-al Fitr but I told him that I just couldn't go anywhere. He was a little bummed because Ramadan ends and eid begins on his birthday, so we had the weekend and we could go and relax. But I really just can't go. Life is just getting back to normal and I'm feeling so pregnant. I don't want to go through all the work to pack up all our stuff, go all the way out there, and then have to restart Rachel's "schedule" when we get home.

He was understanding. I told him I'd still make him a cake. Just to take the edge off shooting down his idea.

But now that he's technically off of school until the beginning of October it almost seems a waste to not go anywhere or do anything. That, however, is back onto the topic that is making me cringe. Still, it does make going somewhere sound appealing.

It’s iftar somewhere…

Egypt has this magical way of doing whatever it wants whenever it wants regardless of what consequences it might have.

For example, the end of daylight savings was magically moved to Friday, August 21st this year, which happens to correspond precisely with the first day of Ramadan 1430—or the 22nd of August, 2009. The idea is that they’ll get to iftar just that much sooner, I guess. The irony is that the fasting schedule follows the rising and setting of the sun, not what hour the clock reads so technically putting the clocks back an hour does nothing to bring iftar sooner.

But, hey, it’s iftar somewhere, right?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Interrupted sleep

Early this morning the very bizarre dream I was having was interrupted by the sound of tweeting birds. I lifted my head off the pillow and squinted at the clock. Still early.

Not knowing why I heard birds, but realizing my bladder was particularly full, I got out of bed to use the bathroom, thinking all the while about what a good night's rest I had had. Usually I feel like I'm sleeping on a spit:

Sleep for an hour. Get up, use the bathroom. Fall asleep on my left side. Sleep for an hour. Leg cramp--get up, stretch it. Use the bathroom. Fall asleep on my right side. Sleep for an hour. Rachel wakes up crying. Get up, make sure she's alright. Use the bathroom. Fall asleep on my left side. Sleep for an hour. Another leg cramp. Get up, stretch it out, and use the bathroom (because if I don't I'll probably just wake up in another hour). Try to coax Miriam back to sleep. Fail. Stay awake while she kicks my innards to death. Finally fall asleep....Wake up with Rachel two inches from my nose. Lift her onto the bed and drop her on Andrew. Inform him that I'm sleeping in and he's helping her get breakfast. Go back to sleep for an hour.

My nights have been...restless...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

She's using numbers and stuff

Andrew was cleaning up some of Rachel's playthings and she was adamantly asking him not to.

He picked up a little pink broom and she said, "No, not my sweep-it!"

Then he tried picking up her teddy bear, but she stopped him with, "That's my tebby bear!"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Petra (August 26)

Almost immediately after arriving in Eilat I looked with longing across the tiny Gulf of Aqaba to the gigantic Great Arab Revolt flag over in Jordanian Aqaba. Only a mile or two away from our hostel lay the great country of Jordan—my first Middle Eastern experience. When we were in Aqaba over three years ago I looked over to the glitzy lights of the Eilat resorts wondering what Israel was like, but because of the tense political situation (resulting in war a week later), we couldn’t ever make it across the Jordan river to Israel/Palestine.

Flashback Friday: September 11th

I woke up rather early on September 11, 2001. High school started at 7:45 AM but I had to be to school even earlier for a ballroom practice; ballroom team was during first period and it wasn't unusual for us to be asked to arrive either a half hour to an hour before school started. My friend Andrea was going to pick me up on her way to school even though I lived close enough to walk; usually I would be all ready to go and would run out of the house and hop into her car. This morning, however, she jumped out of her car and ran up to our house.

"A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!" she gasped, "Turn on the radio!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Patrick’s last few days in Cairo (Sept. 4-7)

Truthfully we didn’t do very much during Patrick’s last few days here. We lazed around the house all day on Friday after church and most of the day Saturday…maybe even all the day. Our Israel trip was exhausting for everybody.

Furthermore, we went from what felt like a nice, temperate climate—one that had me wishing for a sweater some evenings—to…this. Heat and sand and dust and smog. Being in Cairo is exhausting.

Sitting around got boring after a while, even if we weren’t feeling quite up to doing much yet. Or maybe I was the only one who was feeling that way. I can never tell.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Rachel Quotes

Handing me a book: "Read at me, Mommy!"

Feeling Miriam kick: "Oooh, Miriam's poppin' in there!"

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

33 weeks

We had a marathon of a doctor appointment on Sunday. Since we’re supposed to be going to the doctor every two weeks now and it had been five weeks since our last appointment, I’m not surprised. Plus, it’s Egypt and anything can happen, right? Especially when your appointment is scheduled for 8:30 PM.

First we waited and waited and waited. And then we got called in, asked the doctor some questions, and I got put on the examination table.

Unfortunately both OB/GYNs were in that day and the other one had the only Doppler the clinic has. So after Dr. Tarek measured my fundal height and took my blood pressure he just covered up my stomach with the sheet and left me waiting on the table behind the curtain all alone while he chit-chatted with Andrew about our vacation and repeatedly called the nurses to nag about the Doppler.

I felt a little awkward and wasn’t sure if I was supposed to resurface or not, so I just stayed put. Pay no attention to the pregnant lady behind the curtain…it’s not like the appointment is for her, anyway.

Oh, wait, yes, yes it is.

Finally, Dr. Tarek came back to tell me that he was going to send us in to have an ultrasound, anyway, since it had been a while since the last one, so he didn’t need to find the heart beat since we’d see it beating on the ultrasound.

Also, he thought I needed blood drawn to test my hemoglobin levels so that I can get on an iron supplement if needed.

Also, I had +1 sugar in my urine and he wanted to know when I ate dinner. We had just eaten at Lucielle’s and I got a Fanta with my meal instead of water; he said that in that case, he wasn’t worried about the sugar.We’ll see in two weeks.

He wrote up some papers, handed them to the nurse and she ushered us back into the waiting room to wait while she made an appointment with the technician.

The ultrasound went well. Miriam appeared to be sleeping the whole time. She was covering her face with her hands and we couldn’t get her to move them, but we got a nice shot of the top of her head, which the technician printed out for us. I’m not sure why. It just looks like a big circle and isn’t really endearing…

She kept saying “Thank God” about everything, which were my sentiments, exactly.

“The brain looks fine, thank God, and there are no abnormalities that I can see in her organs, thank God. Her lungs are showing signs of maturity, thank God, so she’ll be ready to breathe when she’s born. She’s a normal size, thank God, completely average.”

Everything is still looking fine and we are indeed grateful for that. Having heard bad news at an ultrasound, we definitely agree with thanking God that our baby appears to be completely healthy.

After the ultrasound we had to wait again to see Dr. Tarek. We talked over the results with him, he wrote on our pregnancy card, and asked if we had any questions.

“Yes,” I said, “Do I need to take that hemoglobin test, or…”

He told me that he’d call me if I needed to start on a supplement, which didn’t exactly answer my question but is exactly how they work here. In the States if they tell you they are going to tell you the results of your test they call you regardless of whether the result is positive or negative. Here no news really is good news. If you don’t hear anything you can assume that nothing is wrong.

Or, like me, assume that something got lost.

We tried paying for our visit, but the receptionist kept asking me if I needed lab work done. I thought, because of Dr. Tarek’s answer to my question about the hemoglobin test, that maybe it was an extra test they would do on my urine…even though I was pretty sure they usually draw blood to test iron levels. Anyway, turns out I did need a lab test but they had lost my paperwork and hadn’t arranged for one yet.

So we were sent back to the waiting room once again. And then I had my blood drawn and got to watch as it was labeled "Nancy Hiss," thus the reason I'm worried no news means something has gotten lost. And then we paid for the appointment and went home. We didn’t get home until after 10:00 PM.

Patrick was about ready to send out a search and rescue party. At least we had taken Rachel with us so he was only home alone, not home with Rachel!

Anyway, we’re 33 weeks along now and Miriam is still alive and kicking, ever kicking. I was feeling pretty good in Israel, but now that we’re back in Cairo I’m always exhausted again…like I get out of bed after 10:00 AM, drag myself off the couch to make lunch, and then I’m all worn out and ready for naptime.

I think it’s a combination of the oppressive heat and poor air quality. That, or Cairo just brings out the worst in me.

And here are a few shots of the bump, for those who want to see.

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The first is at the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias and the second is at Capernaum. They’re a week old already but I figure I’m about the same size still. I haven’t shattered any zippers lately, so…

Road tripping from Nazareth to Cairo (Sept. 3)

Deep down inside we were a little worried about getting all the way from Nazareth to Cairo in one day. Most of our concerns revolved around catching our 4:30 bus from Taba to Cairo, so we phoned a few cheap hotels in Eilat just to make sure there were rooms open for us as a backup.

20090908 - 001We left Nazareth bright and early. Because Rachel was still sick and grumpy I sat in the backseat and Joseph navigated. We still got lost and confused a few times, which made me feel much more comfortable with my navigating skills. We missed the road we were supposed to take so took a little windy side road marked “scenic.” It followed along the West Bank fence (the wall hasn’t made it that far north yet) for most of the way. It was definitely scenic, though. The mountains were covered in trees—pine trees, even. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any of those.

Our first stop was Qumran, which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We watched a multimedia presentation about life in the Qumran area when the scrolls were written; it was a very religious community. They suggested that John the Baptist may have lived there for some time.

We didn’t stay very long because it was hot and we were pressed for time, but we enjoyed what we saw.

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You can see the Dead Sea from the hills of Qumran, and that’s exactly where we were headed next. We stopped near Ein Gedi to use a free public beach. The changing rooms and restrooms were on a pay-per-use basis and we were running low on shekels so we took turns changing as discretely as possible in the car.

Later we were shown that discretion is overrated when you can just rip off your clothes and change right on the beach. Silly us. We didn’t realize flashing was so welcome in Israel. Yikes!

The beach wasn’t anything compared to the one we went to in Jordan, although this one was at least free and lifeguarded. Andrew got yelled at by the lifeguard for going too far out with Rachel, even though he was still standing on the bottom still. It’s not like if he dropped her she would sink, right? I mean, we’re in the Dea Sea.

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We still had fun, though the beach was small and rocky and the weather was hot, hot, hot. 45 degrees hot.

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Someone brought their dog to the beach and he bounded straight in like he had been waiting to jump in the water all day. After swimming a few yards out he turned around and hightailed it back to shore and didn’t get back in; I’m not sure he was expecting all that salt. Rachel wasn’t either. She also preferred to stay close to shore.

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We did get a little floating in before rinsing off and hitting the road again. Patrick described the water a “oily” and Rachel described it as “too salty” and “a little bit scary.” Mostly, it’s just a cool feeling to float so effortlessly, I think.

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Our last stop before Eilat was Masada, a fortress on top of a plateau. We only used the facilities at the visitor’s center, though because it was too expensive for us to rationalize a quick trip through; we were still hoping to make it across the border in time to catch our bus.

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There was a big model of the citadel in the middle of the visitor’s center that we walked around. There were stairs leading down so you could walk next to it but all the little doorways were barricaded with clothes racks and things. We pushed them aside and went down, anyway, which is when we happened upon this happy little mannequin:

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The last stretch of the Negev desert was fairly boring to drive through. To keep ourselves entertained we looked for wild camels, or at least camels wandering around in the desert without people around—I’m not really sure if they were wild or not; funny road signs; and interesting Israeli art—they seriously stick random statues and things in the middle of the desert, which is kind of nice.

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Although I tried, I was never able to take a picture of my favorite warning sign, kind of like this one. It warned travelers that the area was “firing zone” and there was to be no stopping or trespassing. Brian Regan’s voice started echoing in my mind. “Uh, shouldn’t that read: Road Closed?”

We made it to Eilat, turned in our rental car (we used Budget because they didn’t have any minimum rental time), and made it through the Israeli side of the border in record time. Israel apparently doesn’t care about Qur’ans or passport stamps on the way out of the country, so we breezed through.

Getting into Egypt, however, was a little tricky since Andrew and I were still avoiding getting stamps in our passports. Egypt has this way of acting like no one has ever tried to enter their country before and border crossings are always a little confusing.

This time the head guy was sure that we had to get a stamp in our passport, otherwise they’d have no record of us ever coming through the port. We told him that was kind of the idea…we needed to not have a record in our passport about coming into the Taba port. He ended up pulling Andrew into his office for 45 minutes where Andrew debated with him about the legality of it all. Considering there is an official form for it, it’s pretty much legal.

Luckily, the head guy’s peons were all on Andrew’s side and we remembered that Egypt is off of daylight savings (for the time being, anyway, since it’s Ramadan) which meant that we had an extra hour to waste getting across the border. A very good thing, considering we made it to the bus stop only 20 minutes before the bus left.

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It was also lucky for us that Rachel’s fever had broken and she was perfectly healthy when we crossed the border. Egypt has you fill out these silly cards at the border asking if you have any flu symptoms; I don’t know what would have happened if Rachel had still had a fever, although they did have a quarantine desk set up in a corner.

Would she have had to sit there until she got better? That doesn’t sound helpful.

Anyway, we caught the bus, which was so wonderful because after traveling around for so long I was ready to go home. My temper was short and I was beginning to need some personal space (beginning…hahaha…personal space was well overdue and I was getting snappy). We made it home by 11:30 PM. We left Nazareth at 6:30 AM. Not bad considering all the stops we had to make, and the bus ride, though crowded, wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

As soon as iftar started people got up and started passing around dates and drinks and fruit and things, and then they all settled down to eat. Rachel slept most of the way; she was still recuperating, I guess, since she usually isn’t a good sleeper.

Now I just have to write about what we did with Patrick for his last few days in Cairo…and then I won’t be writing about touristy things for a while because I don’t plan on doing anything touristy for at least several weeks after the baby is born!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Busy Biblical Day (Sept. 2)

There is surprisingly little to do in Nazareth, at least from what we could see. It seems to be a rather modern, industrialized city, which is fine. The place we stayed was lovely and there is plenty to do around Nazareth, just not in Nazareth.

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We did visit the Church of the Annunciation, which was built in the late 1960s over the older Byzantine and Crusader-era churches. According to Roman Catholic tradition, the grotto in the bottom of the church is Mary’s childhood home, where the angel came to her with the news that she was bearing the Christ child. Greek Orthodox tradition contradicts this.

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Again, I think it’s interesting, but I don’t really think it matters if we know the exact location all of these events took place. I guess I’m not a very good pilgrim, which is too bad since that is basically what we did today.

The church is decorated with depictions of the Madonna and Child, donated by different nations. It was interesting to see how different interpretations there were, ranging from the very traditional to the most abstract.


We were kind of shocked to see the pieces donated by the United States and Canada. They were among the most interpretive. At least in the American one there is an easily visible person, although Mary looks a bit like the Tin Man to me. I’m still not sure I’ve quite figured out the Canadian one. I think that big circle is a halo…

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We also visited the Church of St. Joseph, which is basically next door to the Church of the Annunciation, and marks the spot of Joseph’s carpentry shop.

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From Nazareth we drove to Tiberias for a quick stop at the Sea of Galilee. The beach was covered with razor wire, like most things in Israel. I don’t know how covering a beach with sharp stuff is going to protect anybody from anything, but it did dissuade us from swimming…

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Rachel was still a bit feverish but was well enough to run around and splash in the puddles created by a statue/fountain thing that we found. She didn’t run around for long before she was completely tired out, though, and wanted nothing but to be held for the rest of the day.

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Patrick tried to slowly walk into the sea but he slipped and landed with a plop in knee-deep water. At least he landed on his feet. A little school of fish surrounded him and started pulling on his leg hairs.

20090906 - 02320090906 - 020Notice the razor wire. Silly paranoid Israelis…20090906 - 021

Tiberias was a difficult city to navigate. It wasn’t very well marked and once you were off the freeway it was kind of like “Welcome to Tiberias! Good luck!” We followed a UPS guy around for a while and he ended up making a stop right by the visitor/information center, which was helpful because it meant we could grab a map. Even then we were kind of hopeless; we got lost getting out of Tiberias, too.

Navigating the main roads in Israel is much easier, though, and we find out about things we wouldn’t have known about if we hadn’t been driving. On our way to Tabgha we saw a tourist sign announcing that the “Jesus Boat” would be on our next right. So we pulled of in Ginosar to investigate and ended up being glad that we did. It was a really neat thing to see.

It dates back to the time of Christ and is the oldest boat ever found in freshwater. We went on a guided tour, since there isn’t any other kind, and had a sweet old man as our guide. He was pretty hilarious; he kept asking questions and then answering them without waiting for us to respond. It sounded more like he was muttering to himself than like he was giving a tour. Still, we learned a lot.

It smelled funny.

The first thing I noticed when we walked in the room was the stench.

“Boy, it smells in here!” I whispered to Andrew.

I was almost ready to pass out it was so overwhelming. He agreed that it smelled a bit funny but mostly blamed my pregnancy nose.

Come to find out, it had to sit in a boiling pool of wax and chemicals for a decade before it was ready to see dry land. That explained the smell much better than my pregnancy nose.

It smelled funny.

We visited the museum there as well, but it was pretty lame, so we quickly moved on to Tabgha.

Tabgha is where the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes—a church built over a stone where tradition holds the actual multiplication took place—is located.

20090906 - 027 It apparently happened on that rock

It is also where Jesus appeared to his disciples again, his third appearance after his resurrection. The Church of the Primacy of Peter supposedly marks this exact location, though we didn’t visit that church.

We were getting pretty hungry by this time in the day and had plans to eat our lunch at the Church of Multiplication, but there didn’t seem to be any good spots for picnicking so we decided to press on until we got to the Mount of the Beatitudes.

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We decided to stop at Capernaum on our way there so that we’d be sure to be very hungry when we actually got around to eating.

Capernaum is most famous for being the hometown of a few of the apostles (Andrew and Matthew), perhaps most notably Peter. It’s also where Jesus began his ministry. There is an excavation site that is believed to be Peter’s actual house. Rachel was very interested to know why Peter lived in a hole. We tried explaining to her that mostly all that is left of his house was the foundation and that once upon a time it wasn’t that deep underground. I’m not sure how much of that she understood; she was quite puzzled about it all afternoon.

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The synagogue at Capernaum is one of the oldest in the world and is likely where Jesus delivered some of his sermons, like the one found in John 6.

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From Capernaum we continued on to the Mount of the Beatitudes. The church was closed when we got there so we decided to just have lunch on some rocks on the hillside, under some trees. Rachel napped in the car while we ate and when she woke up I fed her and Andrew sneaked off to read the Sermon on the Mount while overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

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While I was feeding Rachel I heard a chirping sound and looked over my shoulder only to find myself face to face not with a bird, as I was expecting, but with a cute, green chameleon. It was fun to watch him walk around for a bit; chameleons have really weird feet.

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We took a few pictures but Rachel wasn’t feeling very well still and didn’t cooperate very well. When Andrew asked her to smile she could barely lift her head off my shoulder before collapsing again.

From there we headed to Mount Tabor, also know as the Mount of Transfiguration. It was quite the drive, up dozens of switchbacks on a road wide enough for only one lane of traffic, to the Church of Transfiguration, but it sure was beautiful.

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Neocats singing in the Church of Transfiguration at Mt. Tabor

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Rachel was a little more alert because we gave her another dose of medicine at the Mount of Beatitudes, so her fever had gone back down and her headache had subsided. Poor thing kept telling us that everything was “too bright,” and that everything on her body hurt. Her head hurt, her arms hurt, her fingers hurt, her knees hurt, her back hurt, even her hair hurt (apparently). A simple fever and pain reducer took care of all of that.

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We didn’t stay long because I wanted to get back to the apartment to let poor, little Rachel rest. No one really argued about leaving, either; we’d all seen our fill of churches and ruins.

When we pulled up at the apartment we noticed that Andrew had just missed squishing yet another chameleon. Joseph declared this day “The Day of Chameleons,” and with good reason—I don’t think I’ve ever come across a wild chameleon in my life and we’d just come across two in the same day.

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When I tried to take a turn holding him, he wouldn’t walk onto my arm. Patrick’s backpack was much more interesting.

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Andrew’s probably happy about that because he gets a little squeamish around animals like snakes and fish and lizards and bees and…I’ll stop before I embarrass him. He was just as happy to not have to touch as he was that he didn’t run it over.

A few weeks ago when we were walking to church we came across a squished lizard in the middle of the road. It was all bloated and oozing bodily fluids. Andrew just about lost his breakfast.

I had completely forgotten about this on Saturday when I walked into the women’s bathroom at the Jerusalem Center and found a squished, dried lizard, no bigger than my little finger. I picked it up in a tissue to show to Andrew, thinking (for some odd reason) that he would think it was neat or cute or I don’t know what. Instead of being interested in it, though, he kind of surprised me by saying,

“Oh, gross! Get rid of it! You know how I feel about squished lizards!”

“I do?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “Remember when…”

And then he reminded me about how poorly he reacted to seeing the dead lizard in the middle of the road. Oops. I forgot. Dead lizards are worse than live lizards, apparently because Andrew was very happy that he didn’t squish this one.

The line, “You know how I feel about squished lizards!” is almost as good as the time I cried to Andrew in a pregnancy-fit, “You don’t even have a cervix!” (Long story short, he was making fun of me for gasping and jumping after a very hard punch from Miriam, who seems to aim rather low, unlike Rachel who was more of a rib-baby).

When we were all rested from our whirlwind New Testament tour, we went out souvenir shopping for the last time. Things were a lot cheaper in Nazareth than in other places.

Andrew and I went in one shop and started bartering with the owner over a nativity piece. He kept going down in price, but not low enough for us. Then Patrick ran over and said that the guy next door said that he’d give us anything in the store for 50% off. The guy we had been haggling with quickly matched that deal, so we bought our things from him and headed over to Patrick’s store to wait.

While we were standing there, Andrew looked up to the very top of the shelf where he saw the bust of a man.

“Does that look like Joseph Smith to you?” he asked me, pointing to the bust.

“You know, it kind of does,” I told him.

“I don’t know,” he said, “It’s probably just Beethoven or something.”

It still looked like Joseph Smith to me, so I asked the owner, Kameel.

“Who is that a carving of?”

“That,” he said, reaching up and pulling it down for us to have a better look and then pronouncing every syllable very carefully, “Is Joseph Smith.”

Patrick totally looks like him…

“No way!” Andrew and I said at once, laughing.

“Did I say it wrong?” Kameel asked, worried.

“No, you said it right…it’s just…we’re Mormons.”

“You are?!” he asked, “I haven’t seen any Mormons in a while. Last year I had one come to my store…from Jordan, studying Arabic with BYU. They asked me to make this statue, so I did, and a few extras.”

It was too funny. Who’d have thought we’d find a Joseph Smith bust at a random shop in Israel. There were three left in his store, so we all bought one…kind of an impulse buy, but we’d have regretted it if we didn’t. Andrew’s really excited to put it in his office one day.


I’m excited for the day that Andrew has an office…one day…