Archive for March, 2012

To Bethlehem and back

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Now that my time in Tel Aviv is winding down, I’m starting to realize all of the things I haven’t done yet. One thing on the bucket list was to go to Bethlehem. I had planned to drive, but realized at the last minute that my car insurance doesn’t extend into the West Bank. Rather than take a chance, I booked a trip through a tour company.

The town of Bethlehem is an Arab town with crowded, winding streets. Our Israeli tour guide can’t go into the West Bank (like my car), so we got handed off to another guide, and then later transferred again into small vans that could navigate the tiny streets. I wanted to take photos of the separation barrier wall because it is covered with graffiti-style art promoting peace, but it’s not a good idea to whip out a camera at any Israeli checkpoint.

The tour wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I had hoped to stroll around and hit some of the gift shops for kitschy gifts, but the tour was more rigid – only one stop for souvenirs and the prices were outrageous. I even sneaked across the street to look at another shop and their prices were the same, so I came home empty-handed. ($19.99 for a Baby Jesus snow globe???)

Anyway, I did get to go the Church of the Nativity, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. If you have any desire to go, by all means go with a guide who can get you down in the tiny grotto without waiting in line. It’s so small that only a handful of people can be there at a time – the line for the public had about a thousand people in it – they may still be there waiting.

So I saw “the exact spot” where Jesus was born and the location of the manger, down in this grotto below the church. The church itself is divided into Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic – the Greek Orthodox section is extremely ornate, and they were holding their afternoon mass when we were there.

Church of the Nativity Mass

Artist sketching Dome of the Rock











The tour also went to the Old City and Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, so I re-visited some spots like the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Sepulcher.

In small world fashion, there was a guy on my tour who had worked in the Embassy in Warsaw with a guy I went to A-100 with!

This was a pretty good week; my manager was away at a conference, so I was left to my own devices.

Last Sunday morning, I took Flavie back to the vet for her titer test; the vet was pleased to see some hair re-growth. We think the combination of hypoallergenic food and Feliway (an aerosol calming agent) may be doing the trick.

Sunday night I went with some friends to a nice restaurant to celebrate Diane’s birthday.

On Wednesday night, we all took a shuttle to the DCM’s house to listen to a professor from Ben Gurion University talk about Iran – interesting. For all the news, Iran doesn’t really seem to be a big topic on the streets here in Tel Aviv.

Street in Old City














This morning I had breakfast with Petit across the street from the beach, then got a manicure and pedicure – not a bad way to spend a rather chilly Sunday!

Selling Jerusalem bread

Old City cat

Not so fast

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Making sushi last week

I guess Mother Nature wasn’t quite ready for spring, because we had another few days of very windy and wet weather last week – hopefully it’s over!

Here’s a photo from the sushi party last week – it was during the Purim holiday, when you are supposed to wear costumes. Our host, Ray, was in a pink too-too!

Last Sunday, my pleasant walk down the beach to Jaffa turned into two hours of wandering around lost, trying to find a place that frames pictures. I finally found it, thanks to the help of a local staff friend who called to give me directions.

Last weekend, rockets started coming out of Gaza – which don’t come anywhere near Tel Aviv – but on Monday I had to work on getting an emergency message out for travelers.

I am in the process of getting my medical clearance to go to Pakistan; as part of that,  I wanted to have a colonoscopy. Not the most pleasant procedure, but my results were normal. Luckily, the medical care here in Israel is very good. I did the test last Wednesday morning, then took the rest of the day off to recover. I spent part of the time up at Rob’s watching a movie with his kitties.

Thursday night I went to the Thai House with Petit and Katie – a good girls’ night out.

Friday night, my manager Juan and I went to Hotel Montefiore for drinks after work – a good way to unwind!



Spring has sprung!

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

It looks like the chilly wet weather may be behind us – the weather has been amazing this last week! People are coming back to the beach, and while still a bit “air-ish,” it is sunny and gorgeous.

This was a long week for me, but did have some nice highlights.

Last Sunday night, I went to a dinner at Kimberlee’s apartment. Kim works at USAID, so I visited with my friends from there and met a few new folks. Turns out Kim is a great cook, so we have a mini feast with salmon, roasted chicken and salads – delicious!

Friday night I went to Ben and Jen’s for a sushi dinner. We had lessons in rolling sushi, and stuffed them with veggies, tuna and chicken – the best part, of course, was enjoying the fruits of our labor!

And last night I went to a fun party at Petit and Howie’s to celebrate Petit getting her green card! Lots of fun.

Thursday afternoon we had Consular Leadership activities that I was in charge of. Everything turned out fine, despite all of my worrying and fretting!

I’m on cat duty this week for both Rob and Diane, so I’m making the rounds. I took a movie up to Rob’s yesterday (“Master and Commander”) and his big black cat sat on my lap for most of it. Then I got Diane’s kitty and brought her down to play for the day – she is so cute, although Flavie doesn’t seem to share my opinion!

Liz came over from Jerusalem and spent the night last night. We just had a nice breakfast together at Miztada. Now I’m off for a nice walk down the beach to Jaffa to enjoy this beautiful weather!

Auntie Em!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Crippen Family 2012

This photo was taken while John was in Mountain Home for the Presidents’ Day weekend – everyone looks healthy and happy – wish I could have been there!

The weather here in Tel Aviv has been crazy this week. One day I went out for lunch with my two co-workers, Juan and Jacob, and thought I might blow away! The wind coming off the ocean has been gale-force! Coupled with chilly temps and rain, it’s not been enjoyable – it was even snowing in Jerusalem this week!

The weather has been so unpleasant that our group ended up canceling our weekend trip to the Dead Sea; somehow the thought of camping in a Bedouin tent lost its appeal in this cold damp weather!

Not much of note happened this week. I did see this interesting TED talk about introverts. I’ve always scored right in the middle between being an introvert and an extrovert on tests that measure such things, but the older I get, the more I think I am an introvert…the more I want to stay home instead of going out to parties (like tonight). Or am I just lazy? Click for a very interesting (and short) talk by Susan Cain on the power of introverts.

I’ve also started subscribing to this blog and always find it thought-provoking – especially this entry that I saw this week.

And as long as we are linking…here is one more. I am helping plan our Consular Leadership Day. One element of the day will be this video. It’s a talk by an Israeli man who mountain bikes for a hobby. He convinced a local juvenile detention center to let him take some of the boys out for bike rides. The story is  very moving, and has some beautiful photography taken in Israel. Click here to hear his story.

Stray bar