Saturday, August 29, 2015

First week of school and more

We had a great beginning of the week. We had wanted to go to the zoo but couldn’t get it worked out, so we went to the really cool Sorek cave instead. They have some of the coolest stalactites and stalagmites and columns and other wild formations of any cave I have ever seen. It really feels like you are walking in a different world. 

Inside the Sorek Cave
 We had a great time. Then we came out and looked down on the valley and I showed the kids where Samson grew up and had some of his battles.

Looking down on the Sorek Valley where Samson's stories played out

Then we went down to that very valley and went grocery shopping. Great place, great selection, great prices. It was a good day.

We spent that night making sure that everyone had everything they needed for school. Everyone seemed excited and a little nervous.
The first day of school went well. We got everyone up, had a great breakfast, and an outstanding scripture study. Everyone got ready quickly and we were ahead of schedule. I tried to enjoy it, knowing it was probably the last time that would happen. They caught the taxi with no problem, and from what we heard, everyone got where they needed to go without problem. Everyone but Sabrina seemed to have a great day at school. Sabrina felt like her teacher was a bit strict and harsh (I thought the same thing after meeting her at the orientation). But she largely felt good about it. 

The kids on the long haul up 7 flights as they go to school

The kids getting in the taxi on their way to school
Meanwhile we got together with all the new folks here (Tana Hunter, the nursing teacher, and Phil and Jennifer Allred, the other couple here to teach Old Testament and New Testament), and the Heiners, and we all went shopping and had lunch. We had a very pleasant time, and I was again impressed with what wonderful people we are here with. Later that night we all got together at the Heiners, who made dinner for all of us and put together a very nice Family Home Evening. The camaraderie is high.
Early the next day, even before the kids left for school, I left with David Whitchurch and Phil Allred for the Galilee so that we could get Phil ready to do field trips there. We had a great time together. The first day we did Akko (a crusader site), Nazareth, Mt Arbel (an incredible overlook for the Sea of Galilee), and passed by a few other sites. 

The Church of the Annunciation at Nazareth
We went to the new excavations of a First Century synagogue at Magdala. Because I am an archaeologist the team working there stopped their work and came over and showed us around what they have been excavating and told us all sorts of great stuff about it. This is a really great site because it is hard to imagine that the Savior would not have gone to a synagogue right next to the waters of Galilee. We learned a lot and had a nice time together. 

The synagogue at Magdala

Fresco from the Synagogue at Magdala

We checked into our rooms at Ein Gev, the wonderful little place right on the shores of Galilee that I love so much. I calculate I have lived almost two months of my life there so far, and I love it! 

The Sea of Galilee

We went to bed fairly early, got up early the next morning and headed off to Hatzor, Tel Dan, Caesarea Phillipi (going to some parts of that we haven’t gone to before), Har Bin Tal, and Hippos. 

A watchtower at Hatzor from which a watchman would have seen the Assyrian army coming to scatter Israel

The high place at Tel Dan where Jereboam built a golden calf

the walls of Tel Dan

The falls at Caesarea Phillip (also known as Banias)

The headwaters of the Jordan at Tel Dan

We had lunch in a little Druze village where people spoke little English, and I felt very happy that I was able to help us get around with my broken Hebrew. We again went to bed tired and got up early.

On the way home we went to Capernaum, Sepphoris, Mount Tabor, and Bet Sha’an. All of these are impressive and important sites, and we had a good and informative time there. I really enjoyed it.

A mosaic at Sepphoris, known as the Mona Lisa of the Galilee

Mt. Tabor

I did get home in time to have dinner with my family. I hated being gone during such a crucial time for school. I had made time each day talk with them about how their classes were going, etc. Sabrina seems to have gotten to the point where she feels pretty good about her teacher. On the whole I feel like things are going pretty well for them. This evening I played soccer with Sabrina and some games with Jacob.

While I was gone, Julianne has been getting all the ladies together and doing all sorts of fun stuff. She seems to be really enjoying herself and to be really helpful for the new ladies here. We have been really enjoying our time with all of them.
Finally I had a day with no meetings and no trips. I finished my syllabus, worked on stuff for my field trip committee, worked on the power point for my first evening with the students, and got a few articles proof read. It was a great, productive day! The kids got home early since they only go for half a day on Fridays (this is because most of Israel shuts down half way through Friday so that everyone can be ready for Sabbath at sundown). So, in the later afternoon I quit working and played with my kids. I ended up largely playing with Sabrina. She was a nurse who saved my life, and then we played star wars and saved a few planets.

Sabbath (Saturday) has been great. This morning Julianne, Tashara and I all gave talks in Sacrament Meeting. I felt like they all went pretty well. We only had Sacrament Meeting today, and then the members got together for a little pot-luck lunch. It was a great time. We had so much fun visiting with people, catching up with the few old members and getting to know some new ones. A new little family moved in just this week. They have three girls, ages 8, 5, and 3. The eight year old is in Jacob’s class at school, and it is wonderful that they can all make some friends together. All in all I think we all had a marvelous time getting to know each other better. Then we had some great family time together also.

During this next week the students will arrive, and things will kick into high gear. How busy it all can get. Every now and then I have to pinch myself, and remember how rare it is to really get to be where we are and do what we are doing. I hope my kids can enjoy these memories for the rest of their lives. How blessed we are!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Getting to Jerusalem

Whoa, what a trip it has been. Getting ready to get here was crazy! 

We spent a lot of time packing. Sometimes that went well and sometimes not so well. In the end we ended up with a lot of luggage, even three extra bags. We had about 1200 pounds of luggage. Crazy! We also got our house all fixed up and packed away. That was a lot of work. And we tried to clean a lot. The night before we left Lisa Earl came and spent hours and hours with Julianne just cleaning our house. The next day, in the hours before we left, she came again, along with about ten other women from our ward, and they cleaned and cleaned. The place was looking great by the time they were done! We are so grateful for that.

The family together for the last time in a while, just moments before we left

I was not sure how we would fit everything in and how it would all work out, but we finally got everything in. I moved things from bag to bag, repacked several, made sure we had the right travel clothes and the right clothes in carry-ons in case our luggage didn’t make it to our destination right away. Each bag had to be fifty pounds or less. Every single bag weighed between 48 and 50 pounds. As we loaded the truck Hannah and Keegan, our upstairs renters, came by and started to move in. We dropped by my parents’ house to say goodbye. It was a bit sad. My dad is doing well enough I really think I will see him again, but I know there is a small chance I won’t. I put it out of my mind, and it tried to creep back during the flight but I again put it out, and haven’t let myself think about it again until right now. We will pray for him and my mom.

BJ drove their truck up, all the way full of luggage. The Sorensons drove up half the family, which was so very nice of them. It was hard to say goodbye to BJ. I think it would have been easier for him and us if he was leaving, but if felt weird for us to leave him behind. I will surely miss him. Julianne got emotional saying goodbye, and that got him emotional. I haven’t seen him emotional like that before. It was hard to leave him. It will be good for him, but there is so much I wish we could do with him this first year he is at school.

BJ saying goodbye to Jacob at the airport
It took us a while to get all checked in, but we made it. Good thing the bags weighed the right amount. One of them said 51 pounds when we first set it down, but then it went to 50. Close one!

Checking in at the airport

Security did not go as well as would be ideal. Julianne went through first, followed by Tashara, then the younger ones. That way they would be there to help the younger ones. Alexia followed them. Meanwhile Kaleb and I were busy getting out all four laptops and a few tablets. All seemed to go well until the very last bag. In that bag I had my big scriptures, and on top of them an ear-phone splitter that I had plugged into itself. On the x-ray it looked like a black mass with wires coming in and out of it. That made them suspicious. So they had to look at it. When they saw what it was they weren’t worried (one worker even told me the scriptures were the only kind of sword they let through there), but protocol said they had to swab everything down and put it through their analysis machine. Something about my brand new scripture bag set off the machine. So we had to take everything out of the bag and go through it all thoroughly, and I had to get the very, very full pat down. Fun stuff, but we made it through okay.

As we started to board the woman who checked us on the plane told us, after the last one started down the ramp, that we had too many bags. As others kept going by and getting on we showed her that we didn’t. We went in a few circles until we figured out that she was counting Jacob’s little turtle pack as a bag. So we stuffed it in another carry-on, and all was well. I think that most of us were asleep before the plane took off and didn’t wake up until it was landing. Sadly, that was only about four hours of sleep.

We were excited to be in NYC and see Julianne’s brother’s family. David moved from a few blocks from us to New Hampshire about two years ago, and we hadn’t seen them for a year. He came to pick us up at the airport, and then took us to a place they were staying about half an hour away. It was so good to see all of them again. In particular it was good to see their severely handicapped boy, Tanner, who has developed a lot in the last few years. He could talk a little, and clearly understands things more. I was really touched when he told me thank you for helping to carry him and his wagon a bit. A year ago he wouldn’t have recognized that I was doing something for him, much less have been able to express it. It is exciting to see him progress, and such a relief for everyone that he can tell us what he wants and needs at least a little bit. That was the best part of the whole trip.

Tanner in his wagon

After they fed us breakfast we all packed up and went to the subways. With only a few miscues due to well intentioned people giving us directions, we ended up at Battery Park, where we caught the ferry and went out to Liberty Island and saw the Statue of Liberty. We had already gotten tickets to go inside, but couldn’t go up too far. Still, it was very cool to see it and go inside. The kids have always wanted to do this, and now we did. As cool as it was, it was even better to be with David’s family.

Jacob with Tyler in the NYC subway
the Statue of Liberty as we approached

From there we took subways and got to the Empire State Building. It was getting late enough I wasn’t sure we would be able to do everything we wanted to. But there was no line at all at the Empire State Building. We went up to the observatory deck, which was very cool. Everyone loved seeing all the places we had been before, been that day, and where we were about to go. It really was great!

Our family (-BJ) looking from Liberty Island towards NYC

The Empire State Building

view from atop the Empire State Building
From there we walked to Bryant Park, next to the New York Public Library. We got some good old street vendor hot dogs and had a nice picnic. Then we walked to the Lego Store, which is what our kids had really, really wanted to do. It was exciting. By the time that was over we had already spent more about 13 hours in New York, and it was time to go. So we took the subway back to David’s place, repacked bags, somehow fitting new lego purchases inside and then David took us to the airport. Somehow we got slated for TSA precheck, and whizzed through security. Much better than last time.

at the NYC Lego store

But when we tried to check onto the plane, even when I had put two small bags inside bigger ones so that we wouldn’t have to worry, a stewardess still told us we had too many bags. Another stewardess just offered to check some of our bags on, and we did that and it all worked out. Everyone was so exhausted I thought this would be the easiest flight ever. It almost was.

Most everyone slept for pretty much the entire flight. Jacob and Sabrina, between whom I sat, fell asleep right away, long before we took off, and slept for 9 hours. I woke them up about 1.5 hours before we landed so that they would be able to go to sleep again later that night. Julianne slept about that same amount, and was so out of it that when I needed her help I couldn’t get it. The row in front of me, Alexia, Tashara, and Kaleb, slept most of the flight. I wish they had slept all of it. Just a little ways into the flight Alexia turned to me and gave me bad news. Her brand new retainer had been set on the tray of food she had eaten, and then had been taken by the stewardess and whisked away. That meant that I would spend over three hours of the flight going through every tray of eaten food and every garbage on the plane looking for the retainer. For the last few hours the stewardesses helped also. We all searched and searched, but we never found it. Very frustrating! My shirt and pants were sticky with food by the time I was done, and still no retainer. Other than that, it was a very peaceful flight.

Getting off went fairly well. We got all our bags no problem, and with only a few miscues found our ride. David Whitchurch had come to pick us up along with Sami, one of the security guards. We loaded all the luggage into a van and then off to the Jerusalem Center we went. 

The family at the entrance to the JC

We got there just as the pizza they had ordered arrived. Eran, the director, was waiting for us with a plate of fruit and the pizza. We had a nice, quiet little dinner and then he gave us ice cream. When that was all over we came down to our new apartment, to find the luggage all there and ready for us. The new apartment is wonderful! We also love how it opens to our own little playground. We really like it, and I think everyone was very excited about it and our new place and how the rooms would work and how well taken care of we had been. They did everything just right to make it a perfect night and homecoming for us. Everyone was as happy as could be. We unloaded a few suitcases, but were pretty tired by then, so everyone went to bed.

the JC, where we live on the very bottom floor (8 flights down)
The view from our apartment balcony (of the Dome of the Rock, or Temple Mount)

The living room of our apartment
The dining room of our apartment

The next morning several people were up at 4 am, but I got some back to sleep a bit. Then everyone really fell asleep, and we missed our 9 am shopping appointment. By 10 am I woke everyone up, and then we went shopping. I had forgotten how small the aisles are, how high the prices are, how hard it is to figure out what you are getting, etc., etc. It was a bit stressful, but we got what we needed and made it back in time to have some lunch. Then we met with the staff to go over what to do in case of fire, earthquake, etc. Julianne and I also met with administrators to establish how things would work for kids here in the Center, but it wasn’t anything new to us.

We did more unpacking, visited with each other and read and had fun with each other, and suddenly another day had passed.

During the night I was up with several kids who woke at 2 and couldn’t sleep for a long time. By 6 am or so they fell asleep and again I got things done in the morning while they all slept. When they finally awoke we went to the pita factory and got fresh warm pita, a family favorite. We did some more grocery shopping, and set up phones, and just took care of various bits of business overall. Mostly it was a day of settling in, and everyone is feeling pretty at home and happy.

shopping at the Shuq

Wednesday was Kaleb’s birthday. We had a nice breakfast. We sang and did presents. Then we got ready to go to the beach. We had set up with the only other family in the branch that we knew would have kids to meet them and go together. The Fellows family were so fun. Suzanne Fellows and their younger two children, Louisa (age 13) and Nick (age 15) traveled with us to the Tel Aviv area. They were a lot of fun, and the weather was great! The waves were just enough that we could body surf a bit, but no one got hurt. We caught a few good waves, dug in the sand a bit, and played Frisbee. The Mediterranean is so warm and wonderful. We had a great time, and I think it was a great birthday celebration for Kaleb.

a turtle sculpture made at the beach
With the Fellows at the Mediterranean
We came back, showered, relaxed just a bit, and then went to the Fellows’ apartment. James Fellows is the Branch President, and when she saw him Julianne was surprised to realize he had been in her freshman ward and had been part of a group that had done things with her friends. We all visited and had a great time together. We had pizza and Sister Fellows had made a great cake. We sang, visited, the kids played video games, and we had a great evening. It was all wonderful, and then it was time to go. We got home, and I think we had the first good night’s rest yet. Some people woke up a bit early, but not terribly early. Most of them I had to wake up. We are starting to adjust.

Thursday morning we got ready and went to the Anglican School for orientation. As good as it was before, I think things are even better now. I think they have made efforts to improve and it has been paying off. We met the teachers for the younger two, and they seem like they will be great! The kids got a feel for how to get around the school. The older kids got a few things settled with their schedules, but not all of it yet. We had a lunch at their cafeteria, and then found out that we had to pay $15 for the parking we had been instructed to use. Interesting. But all in all it seems like it will be a good school year.

We finished settling in, and spent the night playing games. Another good night’s sleep, though a few people still wake up a bit at night. The next day the older three went to school to do assessment tests, while I took a nap and played with the younger kids and started to work. When the older ones got home we watched a movie, and then went for a walk to the little stores down the street, where we got treats and bought a few school supplies. Then we played games again together. I believe we were the only ones in the building last night. It is kind of nice to have the run of the place. We have been having a good time. Tonight we called BJ and talked with him for quite a while. I have emailed, texted, etc. him a few times before, but this was the first long talk we have been able to have.

Last night was the best sleep yet. This morning we had church (yes we have it on Saturday’s here). I was sad to see that no one I knew from the branch from last time was here. There are a few still left here, I hear, but they couldn’t make it in today. Still, it was a wonderful meeting and we had a wonderful time. It was great to be able to again have that view during sacrament meeting and again look at the places I am thinking of during the sacrament. It was a blessed day. 

the auditorium where we have church

Afterwards I enjoyed visiting with a number of people. Then we had some great times together as a family. We also skyped with BJ and showed him our apartment and talked to him about how things are going for him. He is just a few days away from moving into his new apartment. I think he will love that and it will be just the change he needs.

All in all it has been a wonderful first week here, and we are feeling pretty settled in and happy to be here! We are blessed beyond measure. And I can feel our family coming even closer together.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Family Reunion

Most of last week was taken up in doing a great family reunion. On Thursday we got together at a park and had some fun games wrapped inside of bubbles and bumping into each other. 

Bubble Soccer
More Bubble Soccer

Jaker in the Bubble
Then we went to a little lake and did some swimming and paddle boarding and other fun things. It was a very fun day and all the kids had a lot of fun with each other. 

On Friday we went to the Young Family Farm and saw their prize horses, their castle, and a lot of other animals. It was very fun. We then went to Leon’s church and played volleyball, basketball, and a lot of other games, and had a great lunch.
petting the show horses

Kaleb the Knight at the castle

A barrel swing at the farm

BJ in the Coffin at the western village of the farm

Then we went up into the canyon and we played Frisbee golf and went on little hikes, even up to a waterfall. We also played bacci ball. Mostly we just visited and had a good time. 

Eating in Payson Canyon

On Saturday we did baptisms for the dead, then got together at our house where we played card games, water games, volleyball and water-balloon volleyball and had lunch. Then we went up into the canyon where my Grandpa had herded sheep and cattle as a 10 year old. We told some family stories and did a little hike, and played Frisbee and games and visited and had dinner. By the end of the week we were very exhausted, but we had such a great time. 

Water Volleyball

More Water Volleyball

Conference at the University of Sydney

It was so, so, so many hours of flying, but we got to Sydney, Australia, with little of note happening. I slept enough I was reasonably fresh when we got there, which was good since I had just over an hour from when we checked in before the conference started.

My dining hall

The conference is really delightful. It is a small group, all dedicated to studying the same general topic (children in Antiquity), and in the end our papers will make a handbook for children in antiquity. We each have half an hour to present our ideas and then ten minutes for questions and discussions. We usually take more time than that on those discussions. Then we have breaks and lunches where the discussion continues as well. And all the people here are so good. They are great in their fields, and they are wonderful, kind people.

That first evening we also had a small reception at the university’s museum, which had a collection in it on children in antiquity. They have a wonderful, delightful little collection there, and again I so enjoyed visiting with everyone. What a marvelous time.

A Lego Pompeii at the museum. I knew my kids would love it.

The university is quite enjoyable. It is a mix of modern buildings and older buildings, many of which are designed to look older than they are. Many are intentionally modeled after old buildings at Oxford. I loved the atmosphere of the place, and found so many friendly people who showed me around and told me about all sorts of things. This is a friendly, open place and I am with friendly, open people.

Wednesday was full of more good lectures. I had a hard time staying awake in the afternoon, but largely I am doing well with the whole Jet Lag thing, and am really enjoying the conference. The lectures started early and went late on that day. There was really pretty much nothing of the day but lectures. I have gotten hooked on a little local treat called lamingtons. Very tasty.

Thursday went splendidly well. Paul and I met quite early to make sure we had meshed our presentation together well and would be all ready. We left for the building where we are holding the meetings early because it was starting to rain, but we still had time to finish everything. We were the third lecture, and I felt like it went very well. We had a lot of questions afterwards and a lot of enthusiasm about our paper. I think many people found it quite intriguing. I was very satisfied with how it went.

There were more good papers that day. Then we went to a museum together, and together we had a very nice dinner in a historic part of Sydney. I was also able to go on a short walk and see the famous Opera House and bridge. I will miss seeing these people I have done the conference with, they were delightful and I feel they are friends already.

The Opera House
The Bridge
The next day was the day Paul and I had set aside for finishing up business and then seeing some things. But it was pouring rain and was only 50 degrees. I had brought my snorkel equipment and wet suit, but it was not good enough weather for any kind of snorkeling. 

The beach where I should have gone snorkeling

So we went on a ferry ride to Manly, and walked around and saw some wonderful beaches and trails and scenery. Just the ferry ride was delightful, even in the rain and rough water, because it gave us a different view of Sydney.

Manly Beach

When that was over we just worked on finishing several things up. I spent the rest of the evening working. The next day I woke up early, packed, and off we went. The flights were okay, but very long. I had several kinds of delays, so I got home three hours later than I thought I would. I was so very tired (I didn’t sleep well on the plane), my rear was so very sore, and I was hungry. But seeing the family woke me up. They were thrilled with the treats and gifts I brought home. 

We had a lot of fun together. I went with Julianne to visit a few people, and finally I was able to get the sleep that I so badly needed. I am glad to be home.

Now we have four weeks to get ready to move to Jerusalem. Better get going!