Archive for October, 2011


Sunday, October 30th, 2011

The Treasury Building

John and I left Tel Aviv last Saturday afternoon and flew to Eilat, on the Red Sea. From there, we crossed the border into Jordan, and a driver took us to Petra. We checked in the hotel and had a late dinner.

We met our guide the next morning and made our way into Petra, through the winding Siq, a narrow passage through the red rock canyon. At the end of the Siq, we were rewarded with a spectacular look at the Treasury building.

We walked on to the center, poking our heads in caves and tombs along the way and saw more beautiful facades. After lunch, we headed back to the hotel, repeated saying “no thanks” to offers of camels, donkeys and horses to ferry us back uphill.

Since we arrived in Jordan after dark, we had not seen the countryside, so it was fun to see it in daylight on our way back to Israel. It was very mountainous and brown, with a few olive trees and some type of scrub brush here and there. This is Bedouin country, so we saw their tents and camels and herds of goats and sheep – an odd juxtaposition, given that we were speeding past on an excellent highway.

Click for more pictures of Petra.

Back in Tel Aviv, we went to Trivia Night with a group of Embassy employees at the local Irish Pub. I kept score, and John played on a team – lots of fun.

We went to a fun dinner on Wednesday – “Pakistan Night,” hosted by our upstairs neighbor who served in Pakistan on her last tour. She cooked a Pakistani meal for several of us who are heading there next year. It was a lot of fun – she even had a loop of photos from Pakistan projected on the wall.

Last night we went to another nice dinner party and had a delicious meal – Naz is known for her cooking and she didn’t disappoint. Good wine and company, as well!

At the Jordanian border

Walking through the Siq

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

With Howie and Petit

We started off the week at a fun party to celebrate Howie and Petit’s marriage – the party was in Hertzliya in Bruce’s backyard, complete with beautiful flowers and twinkly lights.

I was the social sponsor for a new employee this week, which means I went to his house in Hertzliya on Monday before he arrived to make sure everything was in order, and stocked the fridge. Tuesday I went to the airport to pick him up and take him, his wife, and dog to the new house.

Wednesday night, John and I took the new couple, Dubi and Diedre, out to dinner. The next day was a holiday, so they came to our apartment in the afternoon to use the computer and U.S. phone. Then we met up with Howie and Petit, and we all walked down to the train station for a great tapas dinner at Vicky Cristina – what a neat place and good food.


Love the holiday season

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

John and Natalia, with balloon monkey

This week was filled with more holidays – Monday we were off work for Columbus Day, and Thursday we were off for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Friday was also a quiet day at work because of a bike race that made getting to work difficult, so many stayed home and our appointments with the public were re-scheduled. Don’t know what we are going to do when we have to work a five-day work week again!

Last Sunday, we took Flavie to the vet. She is losing hair – it’s very odd. I’ll take her back in three weeks for another check up and for skin scrapings. Her blood work was fine, which is good.

On Monday, our holiday, John and I went to the dentist for a check-up (all good). In the afternoon, we walked down to Jaffo just to look around. We stopped at the famous Dr. Shakshuka for a snack and cold drink. I think I’ve talked about shakshuka before – it’s eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce – really good. It was too hot for shakshuka, though.

Friday afternoon, John and I volunteered to work at the Ambassador’s Sukkot open house at the residence. John was a big hit at the Kiddie Korner, where he made balloon animals! He really enjoyed himself.

Saturday night, John took me to an excellent restaurant in Neve Tzedek, A Place for Meat. We had great steaks and delicious side dishes. Yummy!

Quiet streets

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Quiet streets of Tel Aviv

From sundown on Friday until sundown yesterday, it was Yom Kippur, a day of atonement. Cars and public transportation were forbidden on the streets and everything was closed – boats were forbidden on the water and all flights suspended. It was great – the streets were instead sprinkled with families out walking, kids playing and folks riding their bikes (John and I included). We could actually hear the ocean waves and birds outside – so peaceful!

Monday night, we had dinner at Whitehall with our friend and co-worker Alon. We had a good meal and it was fun to get to know him better.

Thursday night was book club at our house. It was a big book, which translated into a small crowd, but a good discussion all the same.

One thing that embassies around the world do is to attend trials for Americans who are on trial, or trials for American victims. Tuesday, I attended a session in Jerusalem for Kristine Luken, an American woman who was brutally murdered in Israel while she and her friend/tour guide were out hiking. It was a very moving experience to meet her brother and her friend who survived the attack. It was a small courtroom, and one of the accused was in the courtroom about 10 feet from me (his two co-defendants have already pleaded guilty). Shiver.

After the trial, we attended a memorial service for Kristine and three other people who had died last year, either by a terrorist attack or serving Israel in the army. It was a beautiful venue, high on a hill in the countryside. Our Ambassador, among others, spoke.

Hear the waves

A Year in Tel Aviv

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Cat sleeping on wooden camel in Nazareth

So it’s been exactly a year this week that we arrived in Tel Aviv – it’s gone by so quickly. It’s been a good, busy year.

Yesterday we went on a day trip to Nazareth with Tom, Eden and Emily. It’s a bustling Arab town, where the shop mannequins are dressed in long flowing robes with matching head scarves, with tourist shops surrounding the main sites. There’s also a market, mostly full of things you would buy at a dollar store in the U.S., plus religious items, clothes and fruits and vegetables.

We visited several churches there, including the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Gabriel is said to have visited Mary, and St. Joseph’s Church. In both places, the modern churches were built over old sites and there are places within the churches where you can see excavations of the old, with mosaics, paintings, stairs leading to the crypt (shiver), etc.

We had lunch at a great restaurant, Al-Rida where we ordered lots of different dishes and ate family style while through the open window by our table, we listened to the calls to prayer and church bells ringing. The food was excellent – they used a lot of sauces and spices to kick the typical Arab food up a notch. Eggplant stuffed with cheese and smothered in creamy pesto; fried cheese with onions and peppers; lamb kabobs; tabbouleh; mushrooms stuffed with cheese, almonds and sweet potato and covered in a sauce that tasted like Marsala wine; local sausages; salad with pistachios and oranges; meat-stuffed kubbehs. Add a bottle of wine and we had a feast!

Click for more photos from Nazareth.

We were also celebrating yesterday, because John and I both found out that we got promoted! The promotions come out in one big list, and you don’t know exactly when it will be published. It’s one of those things you try not to think about but then can’t get it out of your head. It doesn’t change our present jobs, it’s just another step up the ladder.

When we got back to Tel Aviv in early evening, we went upstairs to Howie and Petit’s for a small party – it was a nice night to sit out on their balcony and talk. Howard and his two co-workers also got promoted, so it was celebrating all around!

Last Monday night, we attended a reception at the DCM’s house to welcome our new Consul General. It was a fun night, and I met a lot of our wardens from across the country.

John had a big day on Monday – he got to escort the wife of a VIP from the military as she visited various USAID projects. We watch the Armed Forces Network at home, and the military big-wigs and their wives do a lot of public service announcements. This woman and her VIP husband are always on TV, cooking healthy foods, exercising, etc. in their PSAs and we always get a kick out of them. So when they needed a volunteer to escort the ladies, John’s hand shot up!

It was a short week for us since it is the Jewish New Year. The local staff left early on Wednesday, and we were all off on Thursday and Friday. We just relaxed and read. We also watched “Inside Job” about the financial crisis, and caught a couple of older movies on TV.

Sculpture in the garden, Nazareth

One green eye, one blue eye, Nazareth

John and Mrs. VIP