Monday, August 30, 2010

Circumcision revisited

Here's for all the people (me included, in the beginning) who made the "oh, but he'll be so embarrassed in front of his friends" argument when we decided not to circumcise our boy: Circumcision Rates Falling Fast In U.S. Actually, no, it will be the uncircumcised kids the same age as Amir who are in the minority in the US (although probably not in Utah, but odds are, we don't stay here). 

Being in the majority, of course, is not the point. The point is not to be obsessed with being like everyone else, because what everyone else is doing shifts so often, there's no point.

Also I now consider myself an "intactivist."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our return to living

Ever since we returned, I'm feeling quite averse to blogging. Chalk it up to my real life carrying forward, the life that was put on hold for four months while I trekked through that wide and dark abyss called Cairo.

The last week has been great, minus my coming down with a killer sore throat the past few days. Maybe it's viral or maybe it's the incredibly dry air I'm getting used to. I think I've used 3.2 tubes of cherry Chapstick since we've been back.

I've never eaten more Campbell's condensed tomato soup in my life. I think I've downed at least 6 cans in 7 days. A combination of missing it while in Egypt/sore throat/the fact our thermostat is set to 68 and we have no control over may be the culprit of the sudden tomato soup addiction.

I'm enjoying a nice steamy bowl now, in fact.

The last week has been busy: moving, birthday-partying, yard-saling, job-interviewing. I'm finally feeling a bit settled. We have WIC vouchers and our clothes are put away.

Thursday night, I held an impromptu gathering for Tim's birthday and our homecoming. Ironically, the only real friend of Tim's at the party was Gordon (Jason and Sarah showed up later on, so I'm not counting them). I think it was mostly a party for Theodore, as his lovely friends Alice and Eliza stopped by until past their bedtimes. The three of them were quite funny together.

On Friday, I went to a job interview with a company that produces educational materials. I thought the interview went fairly well, I was required to take a test of sorts about editing and current events, which I think I aced. It's a full-time position though, and I'm not sure if we can arrange childcare. Or if I even want to work full-time. Damn health insurance.

On Saturday, we held a (sort-of) impromptu yard sale. We made about a hundred bucks selling our junk. What a novel idea yard-saling is! We got bored around 11 so left most of the junk outside with a jar that said "take whatever you want, small donation requested" type of thing. We gathered about 5 dollars that way, and then a little later went to retrieve the jar and junk to bring it in for the night. Tim went out and there was a lady and her teenage son perusing. He peered over at them and the lady suddenly grabbed our jar of money and put it back on the ground and scolded her son for putting it in her bag. Tim walked away as to not make them feel embarrassed, only to return to a stolen jar of money. I guess he should have stuck around and called them out on it. It probably only had a few bucks in it anyways, and he said they looked a little down on their luck. We probably would have just given it to them had they asked for money. Pathetic stealing a few dollars... if there was even that much in it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home again, home again...

jiggidy jig.

We're back.

It's great.

People keep asking me what I miss about Egypt.

I tell them nothing,


Except maybe my nice laundry line. I liked that.

We are living in a basement, but we like to think of it as a cabin. It's very cold down here, but the upstairs tenants control the thermostat. So, we're back to wearing sweatshirts and wool socks. Not as soon as we had expected.

Jet lag is still taking over our lives, our schedule is all out of whack. Last night, we took a trip to SLC for Shapenote singing and Analiesa visiting, which landed us home at 10:30 and straight into bed. For the first time since we got back we woke up at a semi-reasonable hour. Though it was still dark out. And we did not have power. The only flashlight we could find was the one with a handcrank from our emergency kit.

It was an interesting morning.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We will resume our regularly-scheduled blogging after we conquer jet lag. Until then:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The cool kids on the bus

Tim and I have been thinking seriously about homeschooling. It was a concept I always knew existed, but I thought it was for the religious-right-anti-government Libertarian polygamists. It wasn't until I read articles in Mothering magazine shortly after having Amir that I discovered that liberal hippie parents homeschool too. I like the idea of unschooling the most, a method that involves teaching children through day-to-day experiences rather than sitting down for formal lessons every day. On the Natural Child Project website, I like this thought: "The traditional curriculum is based on the assumption that children must be pursued by knowledge because they will never pursue it themselves." That is the pure basis for unschooling. It doesn't mean the parent isn't there to guide and teach; it's actually the exact opposite. Rather than using a strict and set curriculum, putting a textbook in front of the child to read, you must actively engage in observing what subjects your child is steering towards and then think of what to teach them based on those experiences you observe. For instance (and not like we are actually doing this, because of course he doesn't understand yet), Amir is suddenly fascinated with wheels. From that fascination, there is a myriad of things to teach: geometry about circles, algebra, pi=3.14..., radius and circumference, auto-mechanics, energy. And the idea is because it's his interest first, he will hopefully take an interest in learning about these things.

Back to our discussion at Petra: some of the other students we were talking with seemed pretty opposed to homeschooling, for "socialization" purposes. And at first I thought the same. But how often do you actually socialize in elementary school? You are forced to sit in your desk, if you even think about talking and heaven forbid whisper something to your neighbor, you may receive a demerit or have your star moved to the sad face column. You must be quiet in the hallways, there is silent lunch sometimes even. Recesses are shorter and shorter these days. And as far as my own elementary school experience, I definitely did not make friends and become socialized. Elementary school was brutal, I had few friends and was often left alone to play. I was kind of quirky though, so it's understandable. I had a huge mop of curly red hair, I loved to read and was a total bookworm, and I had the whole Mormon thing to contend with. A lot of the girls in my grade wore Kelly's Kids monogrammed dresses and had perfect straight blonde hair, and were Presbyterian. I always wanted to be those girls. And they all turned into identical sorority-loving elementary-ed majors at local colleges in South Carolina. Jealousy over. Let's be honest here: my life is so much cooler.

Which brings me to the cool kids on the bus title: like my elementary school, students on this trip are still playing the exclusion card with the nerdy/uncool kids. There is a select group of cool people, they sit together in the front of the bus, eat together, hang out together during free time, etc. and the uncool kids best not try to encroach. It has come to the point that uncool people are booed to the back of the bus if they try to sit up front and then get rejected. It's CRAZY and SO FRUSTRATING. There are enough seats on the bus for some people to get their own seats, and so they get on the bus and everyone claims their own seats. Then the stragglers get on the bus, and don't care where they sit really, but people will really look at them like the seat is completely taken. Unless one of the stragglers is a cool kid, they will get a seat no problem. Tim and I attempted to sit up front, mostly because my two friends are up front and I wanted someone to talk with (they are cool as well, but mostly they are up front because of pregnancy-induced carsickness and the other is married to the teacher). As I tried to sit down, one of the ULTRA-COOL kids started freaking out and told me I couldn't sit there. Not wanting to be immature and stoop to their level, I simply moved to the back with Tim. And you know what, we've had a great time back there with the uncool kids. Because actually, they are really cool, and they don't complain about having an antsy baby reach over the seat and pull their hair. End tirade.

Back to homeschooling:

Another opposition to homeschooling is the statement that teachers are trained in teaching and so must be better equipped to teach our children because they know more about the subjects at hand. Teachers are trained in classroom MANAGEMENT, with a little subject matter thrown in. And seriously, I was smarter than my 5th-grade teachers when I was IN 5th-grade. I'm pretty sure I can teach my kids what I learned up until college. I'd have to brush up on my calculus (or perhaps send them to a community college when they are a little older to take courses/Independent Study online courses) but I think I could teach it. Same with all the Physics/Chemistry I learned in high school.

Finally, I think my kid is awesome. He's only 11 months and he's already so awesome to hang out with. And I know he'll probably only get cooler and more fun to hang out with, so why send him away all day starting when he's 6?

But alas, situations change, life gets in the way, we'll see if our aspirations pan out.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 13: The Golan Heights

Today we explored to tip top of Israel, including the Golan Heights, a highly disputed tract of land between Syria and Israel.

Our first stop that I remember was a partially reconstructed Jewish village that was a nice slice of old-timey life.


Ancient synagogue

Then we went to a famous falaffel place where Amir got to drive a bus.

Amir lets allows a passenger onto the bus.

One of my favorite Amir faces.

Then we took a nice hike on Mt. Hermon to Banias falls which flows from one of the sources of the Jordan.. We didn't take any pictures, but here's what I'll look like in the future when I return.

We then hiked around Tel Dan where we drank spring water from another source of the Jordan, saw an ancient gate that Abraham probably used and waded in a very cold pool. We took no pictures here either, but here's one from our friend Sean McGrath.

Amir uses Huraches to protect his feet.
Then back to the hotel for plums, playgrounds and philosophical discussions.
Amir meets Abicus (it rhymes better with his real name)
In front of the Sea of Galilee

Overall another very full but fulfilling day.

PS We've heard that some of you are getting bored with our day by day travels. It's only 3 more days. Deal with it.

Plum delicious

Steering wheel

I think our baby has a future as a bus driver:

Friday, August 13, 2010

The greatest type of news

While at the small visitor's center awaiting our boat ride, I received this email from Casey, of the FriendLEEs:

"Melissa's water just broke (3:00am MST), so we're going to have a baby today :)

Contractions haven't really started yet, so Melissa is going back to sleep and hopefully they'll pick up in the next few hours.

Wish us luck -- we wish you were here (seriously)"

AHHHHHHHHH! was pretty much my reaction. I really sincerely worried and prayed for Melissa and little Flaxseed all afternoon. I wanted to be there with her, for her, and I just hoped to everything that contractions started and everything went well. I kind of floated around all day, hoping that we would find internet again soon.

But.... there was no way of knowing since we were completely the way across the globe at the moment. It was actually kind of funny because the computer I was checking my email at was circa 1989 and the space bar was broken so I responded with something like: "greatcan'twaittohearmorekeepusupdatednospacebar.timandcait"

Later in the afternoon, after hacking into the hotel's internet, we received this: "Everything went great -- Melissa is unbelievable. I won't write any of the sweet details cause Melissa will want to, but I gotta say it again: Melissa is the bomb."

Melissa, from the bottom of our hearts, we have to say: you rock. Way to bring little Zarathustra into the world.

Weirdly, Tim and I have felt a void in our life since hearing about the arrival. Last night in bed, he looked at me and somberly said: "I feel like we have another child that we haven't met yet." And seeing the pictures of his squishy baby face made me all fluttery inside in a kind of excited but kind of empty way like I need to see him and hold him to know he is real. You may deem this creepy, but then again you probably don't love anyone the way we love them.

One day when I have time, energy, and the emotional capacity to think clearly I will blog about how much I hate missing important and meaningful events... and how I would much more rather have been with our friends in Provo the past few days than in the Galilee. Traveling for four months kind of sucks sometimes like this.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 12: The Galilee

We loved Nazareth. It was a nice, quaint little town, especially compared to the hustle and bustle of Cairo. We talked with some nice Palestinian-Israeli-Arab-Christians (how's that for a minority?!) and enjoyed our stay at the convent. I was actually sad to leave, though leaving means one day closer to being moved into our little basement apartment near Center Street. Mmmmmmm.

But! I love the Galilee!! Sure it's much hotter, 100 times more humid, and 200 meters below sea level.... but it has a sweet LDS church building and a SEA! A sea that is actually more like a lake and really warm when you swim in it! But it's great! I thought Jerusalem was cool, but I really like this part of Israel. The landscape is stunning. Mountains, hills, GREEN, water. It's beautiful.

We celebrated our journey to the Galilee with a boat ride, a replica of a boat Jesus may or may not have sailed in.

We also went to some churches and finally to the baptismal site of Jesus, where hoards of evangelicals purchase expensive white robes at the gift shop and walk down into the designated site one at a time to be baptized. Amir also wanted to be baptized but he had to settle with playing with the nibbling fish (which he absolutely loved).

Days 10 and 11: Nazareth

Upon leaving Jerusalem, we headed towards Nazareth. After a few stops, including a tel at Megiddo and a 1st century Nazarene village, we checked into our hotel. And by hotel, I mean convent. For the next two nights, we had the opportunity to stay in the Sisters of Nazareth Convent.

They are a French group of sisters started in the 19th century sometime. They did not plan on coming to Nazareth when they chose the name, but eventually they did for some reason they told us but I can't remember. They built a convent and school, and they a few decades later realized they had built over an ancient house and the ruins were excavated. The first night we were there one of the sisters gave us a tour underneath the building. It was cool, and Amir loved the ancient stairs. Besides the ancient ruins though, the actual rooms of the convent were SPOTLESS. It was the cleanest bathroom I have ever set foot in. I actually felt ok letting Amir play in the toilet. It was THAT clean. The rooms were really simple, but beautiful. It was probably my favorite place we've stayed. The meals were simple and European, not the extravagent buffets of the more tourist-y places we've been. Bread, soup, veggies, meat, and fruit. Prepared simply, but carefully.

After we checked in to the convent for our stay, Tim and Amir crashed for a while and I went out to see the churches around the area. Right next to the convent was the Church of the Annunciation. Sadly we did not take any pictures of the Church, but it was the grandest we've seen (I took Tim and Amir there later after they woke up... it was that cool, it deserved another visit). The Church itself had mosaics depicting the annunciation/the virgin Mary from different countries. I liked the Japanese virgin the best.

Here's us as the holy family, pretty close resemblance, no?

The second morning in Nazareth was spent at ancient mosaics. Amir mostly examined the rocks and dirt. Maybe he has a future as a soil scientist? We can only hope.

The mosaic above is of an Amazon woman. Did you know Amazon literally means "without breasts"? Apparently it's because the warrior women of whenever used to cut off their right breasts so they could use a bow and arrow more effectively? Hm.

After the mosaics, we headed to a natural spring swimming hole type deal. There were some impressive waterfalls. There was one inside of a little cave, it was a coveted spot so there was a small line to get in but no one was behind us as we ventured in. Behind the waterfall there was a small space just big enough for two. Tim and I both made it through the waterfall, which was so powerful it felt like you would die when you stuck your head under. No joke, I've never felt so close to drowning in my life, it was bizarre! Tim is nervous about water and drowning, so I'm surprised he made it through so effortlessly. Tim exited the waterfall first, then I followed him but I kept losing my footing in the intense rushing water so I kept backing into the space behind. Finally I just pushed through and grabbed what I thought was his arm and dragged myself out. My swimsuit had completely fallen down and my breasts were exposed - I kind of knew this but wanted to get out alive and then worry about adjusting. Since I thought it was just my husband I was grasping and no one else was in the little cave, I figured I was fine. But actually, Tim had already exited since there was another man waiting and I actually was grasping his arm and flashing him my milkjugs. Lovely, eh? Good thing I'm used to nursing in public, and he was probably European, so it didn't matter too much. We laughed awkwardly and I ran after Tim. Amir had a great time in the swimming hole, and then a great time in the grass. Some Israelis picnicking behind us gave us some of their food and Coke. It was a nice gesture, but mostly they liked our baby and probably felt bad we were feeding him old PB sandwiches and yogurt that had been sitting in a hot bus overnight (who knew hot yogurt tasted so yummy?)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Days 7, 8, 9: Church, Bethlehem, West Jerusalem

The past few days have been uneventful at best, boring at worst. We had Church at the Jerusalem Center on Saturday; I was anticipating a sappy, EFY-esque testimony meeting since it was the JC students' last Sabbath, but it actually was not that at all (of course I missed a majority of it chasing the babe around). Tim and I attended the Spanish Sabbath School class, even though he is morally opposed to speaking another language even if you know it because it makes you look pretentious (I disagree, to some extent... but if I was fluent in another language I would be speaking it all the time... I'd be one of THOSE returned missionaries).

After Church, we had a few hours before lunch since it was Fast Saturday. We hung out a lot, Amir slept, and actually I can't really remember what else happened. It's all running together now.

Sunday we went to Bethlehem. We crossed into the West Bank without even being checked, though we did have to drive a roundabout way since they would not let us in at the Bethlehem checkpoint. I don't see the point of spending $100-million on a wall that tears apart the community but fail to check a huge bus at checkpoints. First on teh agenda in Bethlehem was a lecture by a human rights activist and a Palestinian member of the Church (who is the Relief Society president in the Jerusalem Branch). It was interesting, especially to hear about Sahar's adventures in trying to attend Church. Now she is employed with the UN, so she can get across, but before she would often sneak across the border and was sometimes shot at and was caught one time and almost arrested. Even though it should be only a 10-minute drive, it can be impossible to travel. There are a few LDS families in the Palestine, but they can't attend Church due to political reasons. It's really unfortunate.

We went to the Church near where Jesus was supposedly born. I was expecting a quaint little manger, but was greeted by another gaudy, dark Orthodox Church. Bleh.

After our little tourist site, we went to Sahar's sister's house, where a fire had broken out a few days before and destroyed everything (and this was apparently a month or so after her husband died). She had a toddler who evidently had stuck something in the gas canister, which later exploded. They aren't sure if that is exactly what happened, just speculation. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the place was a mess. The BYU students spent a few hours cleaning up the mess, and made a huge difference. Amir and I stayed on the bus and napped... I did not want him exposed to the chemicals they were using to clean. We wouldn't have been much help anyways. But Tim came back very dirty, so he must have worked hard for both of us.

The next day (today) was a free day. We went to the Rockefeller Museum which was cool and worth a free visit. We also walked to West Jerusalem to two fancy hotels, the American Colony Hotel and the Olive Tree Hotel. The former was really an American Colony, a commune of sorts built by religious wealthy families in 1900s, maybe? The latter was built around an olive tree where David was said to have played the harp in its shade. Both were fancy shmancy and neat to walk around in. We also explored some ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem. I wish we could have stayed longer, met people. I'm so fascinated by ultra-orthodox Jews.

Tomorrow we leave Jerusalem early in the morning and head north...

Sunday, August 8, 2010


If Egypt was what I was expecting, Jerusalem is the exact opposite. Unlike Egypt, where I tried to go in with an open mind, I went into Israel with pretty strong preconceived notions of what it would be like, but there were two sets of notions: one was a peaceful city of religious pilgrimage based on my religious upbringing and the other was a city torn up by racial and religious strife based on my political upbringing. The second belief turned out to be mostly true, mostly because it was vague. I have been continuously intellectually stimulated in my time here in Jerusalem and fascinated by the multiple social, religious and political currents running through the area and how the effect the daily lives of residents of the area.

When it comes to my spiritual expectations for the Holy Land, however, I have to admit that I have been mostly disappointed. That mainly has to do with my political expectations being fulfilled. My overall impression of Jerusalem has been that of a rotted tree of religious piety. Instead of peace I have found endless bickering over land and bricks, bickering escalating to murder and marauding in several cases. All the major religions here in Jerusalem, Christians, Jews and Muslims claim to be religions of peace, but none of them are able to do anything realistic to bring peace to this area that they revere as sacred. Instead they fight over the drippings of spirituality that trickle from this overused fountain.

Three places I have been impressed by:
The temple mount, including the wailing wall. I felt that some sincere devotion and reverent admiration prevailed in this area.
The garden tomb. Even though I understand that this probably wasn't where Christ was buried, it is still a beautiful, tranquil place where I witnessed true worship, as opposed to the gaudy, gloomy and often petty Tomb of the Holy Sepulchral.
The Jerusalem Center. Most of all. This center is a beautiful place and lived up to all my expectations. Everyone here is kind and sincere. It also has a beautiful view looking down upon the city, where in contemplation of its lost potential I have felt most akin to Christ than in any other moment.

Friday, August 6, 2010

11 Months

At 11 months, Amir (he-hem, Atticus) likes:

- The Wailing Wall
- Hanging out in the mei tai on mom's back
- Breastfeeding in the shower
- Climbing any and all stairs he can find
- Dirt, rocks, sand
- Jerusalem Center food
- Toothbrushes
- Fountains
- Roaming in the grass at the Jerusalem Center
- Falling asleep on the bus
- Crawling on glass floors
- Attention!
- Our tour guide, Maher

and he dislikes:

- The BUS - I can see him in 40 years sitting in a therapist's office recalling early childhood memories of a bus and how they have scarred him for life
- Being taken away from previously mentioned dirt/rocks/sand
- Diaper changes
- The dividing wall between Israel and the West Bank
- Certain ultra-right settlers that took us on a tour

Day 6: Mount of Olives

Today was long. There was Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, and a dungeon. There was walking around the Old City and haggling for pants. There was much walking down and uphill. There was much, much too much exhaustion.

There was even a Palestinian-person-traffic-jam we were involved in just at the moment the two of us thought we would collapse from the exhaustion. We should have realized that millions of people would want to leave the city at the exact same time at the exact gate that leads to our apartment. Friday prayers.... psht.

There was a jaunt at the dividing wall. The $100-million wall that cuts off families, farmland, and prevents sons from visiting their elderly mothers.

There was a protest by Israeli Jews, fighting against the demolition of Arab homes to build more Jewish settlements.

There was also the Wailing Wall. Wow. The Wailing Wall at sundown on the Shabbat. I've never had more fun people watching or joining in on religious rituals. I stuck my own little prayer into the wall. I'm not sure the protocol on Wailing Wall prayers... is it like a birthday wish that won't come true if you tell? I'm not telling for now. Maybe one day.

All in all, I would consider it a full day.

Can't wait for my own Shabbat tomorrow. I think I will never appreciate the concept of "day of rest" more.

Church of Pater Noster - they had the Lord's Prayer in hundreds of languages all over the walls.

Gethsemane, huge olive tree.

Jaffa Gate, complete with bullet-holes from the 1967 war.