Archive for January, 2012

And the walls came tumbling down

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Tree of Life Mosaic, Jericho










Saturday I went with an Embassy group to Jericho, located in the West Bank east of Jerusalem and near the Dead Sea. First we saw the ruins of Hisham’s Palace, where they uncovered a beautiful mosaic, The Tree of Life. The stones are so small it looks like tapestry. I especially liked this shot of the groundskeeper mopping:

Hashim's Palace, Jericho














From there we took a cable car ride up Temptation Mountain to a Greek monastery built into the side of the mountain – it had a beautiful view of the Dead Sea. (The cable car went right through the front yards of several houses – I can’t imagine walking out of my house and having a cable car go by!)

Cable car in your front yard









Blue door, Greek Monastery, Jericho















After lunch, we went to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the mountain caves.

It was a fun day and I got to go to some places I hadn’t been before – plus, it was a nice group of folks.

Today my neighbor Diane called with a spur of the minute idea to drive to Ein Hod to eat at an Arab restaurant, so off we went with another girl. The restaurant was typical Arab where they bring you a million different dishes, but this was the best one I have been to – everything was fresh and you could taste the difference. No menu, “just whatever Mamma cooked today.” And sure enough, out of the kitchen came Mamma with her apron. We also had a great view of the Mediterranean off in the distance, as well as the sad view of the fire-ravaged Carmel Mountain to the east.

Diana and neighbor Diane, showing off the eggplant















We stopped at the bottom of the hill at Kibbutz Ein Hod where there’s a funky artist colony, where we poked around for a while in the gallery and shops.

Bookstore, Ein Hod










Cat, Ein Hod



























The rest of the week was pretty low key. We had a reception at the DCM’s house on Thursday night to meet diplomats from other Embassies. It was fun to talk to folks who do what we do but for other countries.

I spent one morning at the airport to assist a teenage girl return back to the U.S. Helping American citizens is one of the most interesting parts of my job – it was great to talk to her mom on the phone and hear her relief that her daughter was OK and on her way back home.

I started a distance learning Urdu language class this week; you study on your own and have a phone session with an FSI instructor once a week. My goal is just to leave some basic words and phrases since I won’t get language training for my next job. It’s kind of fun knowing there won’t be a test at the end!

On a lighter note, I came across this graphic last week and it keeps popping into my mind – it just makes me giggle:

by Jessica Hagy


Winter in Tel Aviv

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

January Ocean


The weather here has been windy, chilly and rainy a lot this week, alternated with bright sunny days. Today the wind and rain made for a beautiful ocean filled with whitecaps.


Today was my last outing with my photography class. We bundled up and finished right about the time it started raining. We walked around one of the first Tel Aviv neighborhoods, Neve Tzedek (Oasis of the Righteous), where we saw great old buildings, outdoor art and several cats.

Photography Class









Yard Art in Neve Tzedek















Monday was a holiday, so we were off work – I spent the day reading and watching Australian Open tennis.

Friday was a pretty day, so my boss Juan and I walked up to the market so he could buy pomegranates. We stopped on the way back and ate lunch at a sidewalk cafe.

Last night I went to Ben and Jen’s for a chili supper – fun!

Here’s a photo of Flavia looking suspiciously at the kitten who was visiting us last Sunday.

Flavie and Fizzgig


Nobody here but us chickens

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

So this was Week One without John here – we’ve talked daily except for Tuesday when my Vonage connections went kapoot. Luckily I still had an internet connection, so I emailed John photographs of all of the mysterious modems and other boxes with cables going in and out! He was able to review the photos and email me back with a solution – whew!

For this first week, at least, I’ve sort of enjoyed just staying home. I’m trying to hit the gym every morning to walk on the treadmill, and I’ve signed up for an on-line yoga class. Keep your fingers crossed that I will keep it up!

Yesterday morning I went for breakfast with Petit and Howie – we dodged the rain and walked up to Benedict’s where we had a leisurely breakfast. So many folks like Petit and Howie are checking in on me to be sure everything is ok – it’s nice.

Neighbors Bill and Diane went to Petra this weekend, so I was able to steal the kitten and bring her down to visit – she’s just so darn cute (although loud!).

Those of you who have known me for a long time know my good friend Mike who lives in San Antonio. He and his partner Wayne have been together for 27 years (how is that possible? We’re not that old, are we???), and on December 28, ¬†they were able to legally tie the knot during their annual trip to NYC for the holidays. I’m so thrilled for them and my only regret is that I wasn’t there to celebrate with them. But I’m celebrating from Tel Aviv – here’s a toast to two beautiful people who I am glad to have in my life and happy to call friends! Read more about it on Mike’s blog.

MIke and Wayne on their wedding day


Hasta la vista!

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Friday was a very sad day for John and me – he left Tel Aviv to go back to the States for training, then he will go on to Pakistan from there. We made it a normal work day, had dinner one last time together at Whitehall, then he set off to the airport. Here’s John with our two favorite waitresses, Liat and Joanna.

Our favorite waitresses, Liat and Joanna










He made it to DC just fine and is settled into his apartment in Crystal City. Class starts Monday.

While we do not like being apart, it is exciting to think that our new adventure is beginning.

And, while saying goodbye is not fun, we have had so many kind gestures made on our behalf the last few weeks.

Thursday night was our last book club, and we were surprised when our core group presented John with a nice bottle of wine, flowers and a card signed by everyone – so sweet! Perhaps the best thing about book club is knowing that one of the members is taking it over so that John’s hard work can continue!

Last book club in Tel Aviv











Also, we were very happy and honored this week when the Deputy Chief of Mission and his wife had us over for a dinner party to say goodbye to John. We thought we were going for a casual dinner with them, but we had a lovely dinner for ten instead! John and Tom, the DCM, have worked together very well and sometimes eerily know the same obscure references to books. Tom’s wife Eden has made us feel welcome since we arrived – they are just a great couple, and we feel lucky to get to serve with them.

Last Monday, we took advantage of the holiday and drove to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It was a dreary, rainy day, and while the museum is not exactly uplifting, it was well-done and we were glad that we went. On the way out of town, we stopped to say ‘bye to Dave.

This morning I took Flavie back to the vet – for several months now, she has been losing hair, poor girl. We ran blood tests back in October and then again today – the vet suspects hyperthyroidism. We’ll know more when the results come back – if that is the case, there are some treatments available for it, thank goodness.

Happy new year!

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Photo from photography class

Like Christmas, New Year’s Eve is sort of a non-event here since Jews celebrate the Jewish new year in September. It was a low-key night for us; our friend Dave came from Jerusalem and we went with him to a small gathering of Jerusalem folks for a little while upstairs in our building.

I also had a nice long conversation with Mary back in Little Rock yesterday – great to hear her voice and get caught up.

The big news of the week was our pack-out. We spent last Monday getting organized for the movers to come on Thursday. We pretty much sent everything in the apartment except for my clothes, a couple of rugs and linens for the guest room. The Embassy brought us a “welcome kit,” which has very basic dishes, pans, linens, iron, TV, etc. – I’ll live with these things until I leave. The strangest part is not having any art on the wall. It will be weird, but it’s also kind of fun – at least for now. I’m sure it will grow old after a few weeks!

Friday was admin day in ACS, so we didn’t see clients. It’s a great day for getting caught up on those things you don’t normally have time to do. ACS also has a great tradition of having breakfast together on admin days – they bring salads, baked eggs, hummus, bourekas (stuffed phyllo dough pastries) and all kinds of yummy things to eat. Baked eggs taste and look like boiled eggs, but they are put in the oven and the oven is turned on low heat before Shabbat begins; they cook all night and are taken out of the oven the next morning – all of this can be accomplished without violating the rules about turning on electricity. (In our building, we have a Shabbat elevator. On Shabbat, it goes on auto-pilot and stops on each floor, so our Jewish neighbors don’t have to push the button.)

Here’s some of the ACS gang taken during our outreach trip a few weeks ago: Gaby, Johnny, Marjatta, Juan, Efraim our warden, and Nadia.

ACS Crew during outreach to Bet Shemesh










We were sad to lose our second kitty yesterday – her parents returned from their vacation, so we had to give her back. What a cutie – she really made us laugh with her kitten antics. Even Flavie put up with her – aside from a few hissing matches, Flavie ran from her or tried to ignore her. Luckily, Bill and Diane have granted us visitation rights to see her!

Fizzgig, our temporary cat