Monday, September 27, 2010

Mish mish

Man, it’s just too warm here. The last few days there’s been no spotting of wind blowing through the lack of trees….Lord, please bring us some cold weather. But!! we did receive a couple of fans the other day and it has literally changed our lives.

The stepping stones program started last week and it has been very interesting. These special needs kids are in dire need of love and attention, but when you have 23 of them in a room all looking at you and wanting the same thing, it gets a little overwhelming. Plus they only speak Arabic so I am quick to return the awkward stare and then it just gets weird. I think that’s been the hardest part, not knowing the language very well, I mean knowing the word “tomorrow in apricots” in Arabic doesn't get me far with them, just another look. The children range from very low functioning to high functioning so it makes for some interesting classes and challenges. For example, we have this girl named Hiba who’s parents thought that she was mentally gone or rebellious the first 10 years of her life, when the only problem was that she was hearing impaired…so she is very high functioning.

This is Hiba


Then we have this girl Yazmine……..she’s crazy. She doesn’t have an off switch and it always feels like there are 5 of her. Say we are doing an activity and you just saw her, the next thing you know some kid is jumping off of the table, throwing things at the wall and then going through your purse in a matter of 30 seconds, guess who it is…… Yazmine!!!!! So we need 2 of us just to keep an eye on her.

This is Yazmine…….You should have seen how long it took us to get her to sit still to take a picture


Then there is this one boy, oh how he makes my heart…..attack the rest of my body. we were outside the other day playing follow the leader, and all of a sudden his just starts running, have you ever seen Forest Gump? yeah a little like that, he ran outside the gate, into the street and then boom…don’t worry he didn’t get hit he just disappeared. We later found him in the Olive trees! He also hits anyone who comes close to him so i make sure to wear my armor.

Here he is!!!!! 


So its a struggle to find a balance between the two but all that to say i am enjoying the randomness of this job. It’s growing me in patience, courage and love. I know that the Lord has placed me here for a purpose and day to day I am beginning to rest in that. I can see the kids changing too, which is what fuels me to keep going, they are learning to stand in lines, wait turns and to work together. They are still crazy though. And more then ever we could still use your prayers

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The kids we’re working with can learn something from our new pets:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It’s Messy

Our first month here has been incredibly eye opening.  What I knew of this place from the news in America and what life is actually life are two radically different things.  And the more I get to know the people here, and learn of the nature of the conflict, the more it becomes apparent that the story being told is very one sided. 

Before we came, we heard from a lot of Americans, christian and not, how Israel is being threatened and how it’s appalling that some countries are pulling out their support for Israel.  Some more outspoken people would elaborate: “There’s no such thing as Palestine,” or “They don’t deserve any of it, Israel should get rid of them all.”  We’ve heard talk from a more “christian” point of view, pulling scripture about blessing Abraham’s seed and such, “Isreal is God’s chosen people, and it’s our Christain Duty to support them.”  

On the news, we saw Hamas, the radical militant Palestinian political party attacking nearby Israeli towns with missiles and bombs.  Then we hear about the Israeli  military response.  To be sure, there is error on both sides, but it’s becoming pretty clear that Palestinians don’t have much of a right to… anything, let alone getting their story out.

We’ve been living in Palestine for the last month, and since we’ve been here, we haven’t really had the chance to do any of the touristy things.  Our situation gives us a unique opportunity to experience Palestine and its people in way that most of the people who come to this country don’t.  It’s getting to the point where, locally, we are known.  We are the foreigners, the Americans.  And it’s great.  They are soooooo happy to have us.  They greet us anytime they see us.  They always want to know about how we like it here, how we are adjusting, how our relationship is, how our family is, what our names are, how our programs are doing, etc, etc.  We get invited to people’s houses for dinner.  We are forced to take cookies.  We hear about their hardships in their living situation.  Their economy is nearly sabotaged by Israel, their land is taken, they have no rights… it’s very reminiscent of segregation in the south back the 50’s. 

But wait, I thought all muslims and arabs wanted to kill me.  They are emotionless killing machines…  Well, if that’s the case, then they’re failing miserably with us.  Not only are we still alive, but we find we enjoy their company! 

Even if you believe that it is our Christian duty to support Israel, the chosen people, does that mean you support them to do whatever they want?  If it leads to oppression, do you still support them?  If it comes to imprisonment, do you still support them?  If it eventually turns to genocide and ethnic cleansing what then?  Does God still maintain that you are only blessed if you bless the chosen.   When I read the scriptures I see God who is much more concerned with our compassion for the broken than with who owns what land.

It’s messy, there’s no doubt about that.  Israel has taken to building settlements in the West Bank, which basically means the military moves into town with a few trailers full of civilians and kicks out whichever unlucky Palestinian happens to own it at the time.  Then they slowly start building and expanding, eating up more land, displacing more families, and all of the sudden we have Palestinian Territory dotted thoroughly with Israeli settlements, making the definition of boundaries nearly impossible.  Very messy.

But there is hope here.  For every news story reporting the violence of militant radicals (from both sides), what you don’t hear are the stories of Palestinian leaders and citizens (young ones at that) gathering in peace and insisting on and participating in non-violent responses.  To say that arabs are murderous suicide bombers or that Israelis are land hungry mercenaries is like calling all americans KKK members, or worse, NASCAR fans.  And lets be honest, in our country, we definitely have our nuts that we wish wouldn’t gain attention and we wish that the rest of the world wouldn’t associate them with our country.  It happens in America, it happens everywhere else too.

Really what we’re seeing is that most people here, on both sides, are sick of it.  They don’t want to fight, they don’t want to live under occupation, they’re done fighting about land.  And interestingly enough, the people that feel this way are the average ones who are directly affected by it.  Meanwhile, the folks who make the calls (as well as the big bucks) go back to their big comfy homes at night, unaffected by it all.  How convenient.

It’s sad too.  We hear stories of how it used to be.  When there was no wall.  When people could come and go as they pleased.  When Israelis and Palestinians lived and worked together.  And Bethlehem and Jerusalem were both glorious, bustling cities, rich in history and culture and enjoyed by all.  Unfortunately so much has changed.

One of the most intriguing conversations we’ve entered into here is the life of a Palestinian Christian.  If you’re into prayer, pray for these people.  They are in a very unstable, but at the same time potentially powerful situation.  They live in constant tension.  In Palestine, the division is largely Christian or Muslim and while there is no real outward fighting between the two, there definitely is no willingness to interact much.  Then there is the tension they face in living under military occupation, one that greatly oppresses them.  How do you live in a godly manner under such circumstances?  Answers are easy in theory, but walking the walk in the face imprisonment is not easy.  Even more is their tension with Jewish culture.  Much in the way that America is taught to believe stereotypes about Arabs, so many jews are taught to believe about Palestinians.  Being in a place of disdain and unwant, how do you really love your neighbor.  Yet, these people are seeking to treat their oppressors (who, by the way, are all teenagers with guns) the way Jesus would.  It’s tough, and fascinating.

Please, please don’t write these people off.  It is unfortunate they have to share a country with some people who are nut jobs and can find no other solution than violence, but we’ve been there too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Listening vs. Hearing

We’ve been running programs here for a week now.  I’ve had several sessions with different kids at different schools and it feels great to be actually doing what I came here to do.  As hard/awkward as this transition has been, I feel like I’m right at home once I start working with kids.  It’s great.

One school I work with is called the Jerusalem School.  It’s run by an American mission, so a lot of the teachers are Americans who commit to teaching a few years over here.  The nice thing about this place is that the kids learn English from a young age and so facilitating initiatives with them is not much different from back in the states.  At this school we work with 7-12 graders (not all at the same time) so it’s nice to have the opportunity to work with older kids.  Yesterday, the focus of our session was “Listening.”  Apparently, it’s a cultural thing here to talk over each other.  Everyone talks over everyone else and expects to be heard, but of course they aren’t and then people get frustrated.  And it’s interesting, because after this happens over and over, you’d think that they’d realize it might be more productive to take turns talking and listening.  But they don’t.  It’s weird.  Anyway, yesterday we spent some time flushing out what it means to be a good listener and what that looks like and of course all these high schoolers are looking at my like I think they’re in 1st grade.  I have them do an initial activity that turns out pretty well.  We discussed the difference between listening and hearing and I felt like it really sunk in.  Then I set them up for one more challenge and chaos ensues!! I had them all blindfolded and they were all (literally every one of them) shouting over each other trying to explain what they should do.  So, of course, as a good facilitator, I let them.  This went on for a few minutes, everyone yelling, nothing happening, people getting frustrated, until finally one guys shouts to another girl “shut the hell up!”  This girl (still blindfolded) hurls her fist through the air and clocks him square in the chest, hard.  So myself and the teachers stop everything and I make them keep their blindfolds on.  I ask them to tell me, by raising their hands, what the problem is.  Immediately they all start talking again.  I wait for them to quiet down again and explain to them I have to treat them like 1st graders because they are acting like them and tell them that they can only speak if they raise their hands and I come by and tap their shoulder.  So they all stood in the circle, blindfolded with their hands up and I walked buy, picked a guy to share his thoughts and I kid you not, the MOMENT he began talking, so did four other kids.  So we went through this several times, I let them try again and ultimately they failed.  BUT as is often the case in these things, success of course isn’t really about completing a task as much as learning from it.  Although the actual activity itself was…horrendous, the debrief was SO GOOD.  It’s what we do this for, to hear kids admit what they did didn’t work and to not blame it on someone else.  They knew why it didn’t work, they knew how to do it better, they apologized for disrespecting others… that’s success.   I guess the real test will come next week when we see if the actually remember and apply what they learned… I’ll keep you posted.

The other school we’re working with is run by German Lutherans.  They came a long time ago and set up a school to give Palestinian students opportunities to learn and grow (and even leave and study outside of Palestine eventually) that they wouldn’t have in the public school system.  This school is a little bit tougher.  We’re working exclusively with 6th graders and their english isn’t that great.  Not bad on them for sure, more bad on me for not knowing their native language.  But it does make my position a little more difficult.  Saleem is my other half, he’s a local, and he comes along and does translation, which is super helpful, and he’s kinda learning the ropes on the whole experiential ed thing.  While it’s good to have him translate, it’s still hard to facilitate because I can’t understand and be a part of the kids process, there’s so much that gets lost in there.  Kind of a bummer.  The interesting thing about this school, though, is that starting in 6th grade, they split the kids based on their behavior/motivation/intelligence.  Section A are the rowdy kids that no one really wants to deal with, Section C are the kids that are gonna run the world someday, and section B are the inbetweeners.  I know there are pros and cons to this and I don’t know how I feel about it and I don’t know the school’s philosophy on it, but there you have it.

At any rate, this process of experiential education is paying off big here.  It’s cool to see and even cooler to be a part of.  And these kids are so sweet.  Little gems. 

Oh and Char’s program is almost up and going too.  I went with her to one of the homes the other day and the kids there make my heart so happy.  I’ll make her get on a write something about it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

you know you are not in Santa Cruz when……..

1. A man who empties garbage bins only empties half and then burns the rest on the side of the road.

2. kids will stop in the middle of the road, finish their drink and then toss their trash in the street…..

3. you want to pick up trash and there is no where to put it……

4.  people let there animals poop everywhere…..did i mention everywhere. No one carries their little plastic baggies…

5. you see, not 1……but two Hummers in Bethlehem

6. people serve you food with a cigarette in their hand…..and then blow it in your face….

7.  you walk away from a farmers market only spending $7….but its because $7 gets you a whole basket of veggies here.

8. They’re are no trees….so tree hugger is a foreign concept

9.  the best coffee shop is a Stars and bucks

10. Re-cycling? i think not

11.  taking a taxi is easier then walking 2 blocks

12.  people take a full day to rest and all the stores close

13. there is not a Mexican restaurant to be found

14. dressed up is dressed down and high heels are the common footwear worn by….women!!!!!!

15.  people walk their sheep

16.  you know you need to change your diet when your poop is big enough to merit a full flush….

17.  Pedestrians don’t have the right of way, they of course get the honk..honk….honk (read blog about honk language)

18.  shorts are a, sorry but no showing off the skin here.

19.  you’ve lived in a place for almost a month but have never seen someone running or even in workout clothes.

20. Frozen yogurt is not apart of your daily diet

We LOVE you Santa Cruz and all you amazing people who live there!!!!

I like clouds…. a lot

We’ve almost here for a full month!! It is crazy, on one hand this past month has gone kind of quick, it seems like we rolled in only a week ago… on the other hand, it seems like it has dragged by painfully slow.  When we look at the larger time scale, our return flight home seems sooo far away, and there is plenty that we miss about home to remind us of that.

Coffee, simple drip coffee, it just doesn’t exist here. It’s either instant, or this weird gritty spicy stuff, which apparently is pretty high class, but doesn’t really taste very good… at all.

Grass and trees, oh I’ve always known I enjoyed a little greenspace, but never realized how much I loved till there is none :(  We did however, spend today in Jerusalem and spent an hour or so at a park!  With grass! and Trees!  Oh it felt so right to lay on the grass in the shade of the trees and get that itchy prickly feeling all over your exposed skin while you’re slapping at flies and gnats cause they tickle when they walk on you.

Hot showers.  I’ve only taken a handful of showers since I got here, and they’ve all been cold.  Not that it’s completely horrible because it’s generally pretty stinking hot outside, however, it’s still nice to have some sort of heat when your washing up.


Not having stupid checkpoints.  I used to get relatively annoyed driving into California from another state and you had to stop at those agricultural checkpoints… well these are way different cause they’re staffed by 18 yr old Israelis with guns, texting their significant other on their cell phone.  They make life really, really, really, inconvenient.

Fruit!  Or rather, affordable fruit.  Fruit in the west bank is not cheap.  What you can get is small and expensive.  So you have to go into Jerusalem to get fruit.  Which means you have to go through the check points, and then pay so much for parking that you can’t buy fruit anymore and then your whole trip was in vain, except you can cruise by the park, with grass, and trees.  That helps. 

Weather.  Stinking hot and not a cloud in the sky.  Everyday.  All day…. that’s not entirely true.  We actually had a partly cloudy day a few days ago, that was such a treat, it had been three weeks since I’d seen a cloud.  I didn’t realize how much I like them. 

But from what I understand, this whole process is pretty normal.  And we are adjusting, albeit difficult sometimes.  We can’t wait for the cold to come.  Right now it’s hard to imagine ending your day and your clothes ARE’NT stiffened with your dry sweat. 

Oh and the other day I had my first Shawerma, and kike, both great foods. I like the food.  I really like the food here.  Even if we end up coming away from this totally burned out on the area, I have a feeling I’m gonna miss the food. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not in Kansas anymore…

So the other day we were walking to work and we saw this garbage truck pull up in front of us.  There was this dumpster on the corner and presumably they were going to empty it.  As we watched, they emptied HALF of the dumpster into their truck, put it back, spilling a bunch of trash in the process, then lit the trash on the ground on fire, and then drove away leaving a half full (or empty depending on how you look at it) dumpster and a pile of burning trash

The end.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Even in Bethlehem…

So we’ve spent our first two and a half weeks here working pretty hard.  We got in late at night and the next day hit the ground running: meetings, programming, planning, office work and manual labor.  10-12 hour days.  In the blazing heat.  But it looks like some consistency is right around the corner.  Programs officially start on Tuesday!! At least my program does.  Our CEO was in town for the past three weeks and while he’s here I guess everybody pulls super long days, but he left yesterday and now things’ll calm down a bit, which is OARSOME!!!

You saw pictures of the tire wall/composting toilet we were building… well we’ve been doing lots of other beautification projects to our leadership center and while it’s a long ways from being finished, it’s finally usable.  Check out our plastic grass, fire pit, more walls for the bathroom , and the grand staircase leading to… nowhere right now.


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Pretty sweet huh?  Eventually those stairs will lead to a sweet garden…someday.

Since these past couple of weeks have been so focused on preparation… there were some scouting trips necessary.  Tough job.  One of the programs here caters to Christian Palestinian college students at Bethlehem Bible College and new this year… We actually got the program in their course listing so students can take it for credit! Sick!  The idea behind the program is to challenge Palestinian Christians to truly live out there faith by loving their enemies/muslim neighbors.  Christians and Muslims here are pretty separate and they like to keep it that way, but our program encourages students to rethink how their faith should shape their life, especially within the culture they live. Super Cool!  I’m not in charge of this program, but I do assist the technical side of adventures.  We use adventure rec to help teach some of this stuff and my job is setting all the anchors and ropes and what have you.  So last week, we took a trip to the world’s oldest continually inhabited monastery!  WOW!

This place is called Mar Saba (look it up on wikipedia or google it) and this monastery is built into the cliffs overlooking the Kidron Valley (that’s right THE Kidron Valley).  One of the parts of our program has the students going out near the monastery and rappelling down a “wadi” (a dried up waterfall) and then hiking out past the monastery.  So we hiked out there so I could see what it looked like and how I could set up anchors and did some rappelling and shot a promo for Paidia while we were at it.

P9070117 Looking down Kidron (by the way, that river is totally nasty, all sewage and pollution from Jerusalem)

Me filming Erich, our CEO

Oh Yeah


Really skinny picture, the wadi we descended

Good Stuff.  A couple of years ago, one of the first times they were out doing this, some of the monks came over to the group that was rappelling this thing and were very concerned.  All throughout these canyons are these little caves called “monastic cells.”  These were little dwellings carved into the rock that the old school monks all had to get even more away from the world.  Apparently about two thirds of the way up this wadi, there was a cell that belonged to pretty prominent saint, I don’t remember his name though.  The monks thought that Erich and the group were trying to destroy or vandalize this cell which they revered so much.  After clearing up the misunderstanding, Erich found out that no one had actually been to this particular cell for centuries because the waterfall that forms every winter had washed out the trail that was carved into the cliff.  These monks expressed that it was nigh a life dream of theirs to visit this cell so… a week later, Erich came back and hooked them all up helped the access this cell where they brought all these candles and incense and did all sorts of praying inside. 

Two years later, Erich finally had the pictures of the monks rappelling printed and one of the objectives of our trip out there was to gift them the pictures.  We were pretty blessed to be granted entrance seeing as how technically you aren’t allowed in if you aren’t Greek Orthodox or if you are a woman (sadly, Char had to wait outside).  At any rate, we were granted access and got to take a look inside.

That little door in the wall down there is the entrance.

The main courtyard, that domed building there is where the tomb of Saint Savva (the greek saint for whom the place is named) was originally buried.

They were growing lots of basil plants inside, smelled GREAT.  Check out all the little rooms carved into the rock.

We got to go into their main church too, but no pictures.  It was fun chatting with the monks though and hearing some stories.

The weekend finally hit and it was great to have a day off.  So we decided to head to the Church of the Nativity, where apparently Jesus was born.  We picked the wrong day.  Today was a huge holiday for Jews and Arabs and they city was CRAZY.  It’s the Jewish new year and the end of Ramadan for the Muslims and there were people everywhere.  So don’t really have any pictures of the church, not postworthy anyway, but we plan on going back when there’s less people around.  What we did see was kind of disappointing though.  There was this huge church erected over the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born, and the actual spot was marked with this silver star (you can wikipedia this stuff too) which believed to be the exact spot where Mary gave birth… and there were all these people crowding around it and kissing it and… it was kind weird.  I was sitting there watching and thinking that I’d much rather see the actual stable or inn or something more humble than an ornate church…And maybe stuff like that can’t stand the test of time, but I definitely didn’t feel prompted to fawn over a silver star set in marble… 

We didn’t stay for very long because it was packed and it was really hot and we decided that we’d rather not brave the crowds so we headed home.  But of course you can’t go home without your super-mocha-frappa-happiness.  That’s right, even in Bethlehem:

I never realized it was actually run by TWO guys.

This is a long one, so I’ll leave you with a fun picture.  Our CEO is letting us use his vespa since he’s not in the country anymore.  Use your imagination to see the two of us on there… together… so much love!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

I am now… a MAN!!

That’s right!  You heard it here first! I am a man, according to Palestine?  I drove!!  I drove for the first time last night in this little red car all around the streets of Bethlehem!  It’s actually kind of fun driving around with no rules!  You cruise around under the assumption that EVERYONE is going to hit you… and it all works out.  We took a couple of people home into Bethlehem (we live in Bet Sahour) and it was all good until we had to navigate our way back without anyone in the car who knew where they were going.  A little scary? sure.  But a good experience.  We ended up driving through Bethlehem’s old city, where the “streets” are actually alleys that are only inches wider than the car.  I felt like Indiana Jones. 

Actually I don’t think driving is what cinched my manhood here…  There’s a lot of other factors that I don’t think I’m going to meet.  I had it explained to me the other night that I will never win myself a bride here because “my house is empty.”  Let me explain.  Apparently in this culture, it is customary for the guy/groom to take full financial responsibility for all that getting married entails.  First off, a guy shouldn’t even consider marriage (nor would a woman consider marrying a guy) unless he has his act together.  And by that I mean, a house (paid off), fully furnished, a yard, a car, and a steady job.  On top of the that, he is responsible for paying for the wedding, and in this culture, skimping on the wedding is a big no no.  The wedding industry is huge here.  Extravagant parties.  Finally, I was informed by my chocolate/sugar/fast food/candy-loving Palestinian co-worker that I was missing one crucial element.  He patted is rather substantial gut and told me “you see, a man without a belly is like… a house without furniture.  It’s just not comfy.”  Well, fortunately for me I already won myself a wife, the best one out there. 

This last week has been really busy, we’ve been working 12 hour days, mixed office work and manual labor.  We’ve been doing a big push on our “Leadership Center” which is where out high ropes course is and we’ll be running a lot of programs (once/if it’s ready).  The space used to be an outdoor restaurant, but after the second intifada here, the soldiers came through and trashed the place and owner left it.  So it was in pretty bad shape.  But They’ve done a lot of work to it.  The high ropes course is pretty cool:


It’s the only one in the Israel area and on of a few in the  middle east.  Needless to say, it attracted a lot of attention around the neighborhood and when they first erected it, they had problems with locals breaking in and stealing ropes and hardware right off the course.  Yup, kids climbing right up to the top of those forty foot poles to steal… whatever.  Safety’s not a big thing here. 

Char and I have been working on a “special” project this last week.  We’re in the process of building a composting toilet at the center.  Also cool: we’re building the walls out of tires, dirt, trash and cement.  There’s tons of trash and tires here, all over the roads and fields, what a cool way to do something with it.  Char mentioned the process earlier, here are some pics

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So you can see the progression: after we built the wall, chicken wire, trash, cement.  Check out to see how the pro’s  do it. 

With all these long days, it’s been pretty tiring.  I was excited to come to this part of the world thinking that Arabic coffee would be pretty big… well apparently that’s outdated here.  Nobody uses coffee makers here.  Apparently all the rage is… instant coffee… nooooo!  This is what the cool kids drink:


That’s right.  Oh Nescafe… how you defeat me.

Admittedly not the worst instant coffee I’ve ever had.  But this stuff is big enough that’s it’s the regular on restaurant menus.  You don’t just order a cup of coffee here.   Oh no.  “I would like a cup of Nescafe please.”

By the by, we took an afternoon walk over to the Shepherd’s Field, where is supposed that the shepherds were visited by the angel and told of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (up on the hill there).  As it turns out, this field is where the Catholics think the Shepherds were informed.  And just across the valley, there’s another Shepherd’s Field where the Greek Orthodox church believes was the actual site.  Maybe they’re both wrong.  Maybe it actually happened in our living room!  Either way, it was kinda cool.  There was this excavation site that I’m not sure we were supposed to be in, but there were all these caves and underground passageways were people used to live (which is perfect because while it felt like 120 outside, it felt like 60 in these caves).  There were all these little individual rooms carved into the rock, and then this big meeting room:


That was pretty cool.  Then there was this fancy shmancy chapel thing on the site (which building extravagant, luxurious structures to remember a field is a discussion in and of itself) that we went and checked out:

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And on the inside they had these little alcoves in the walls with murals portraying the story:

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I tried to do this picture composite thing… you get the idea:



There’s lots of other fun stuff we’re learning here, especially more about the conflict, which has been really eye opening.  But I’ll leave it at that for now. OH and the other night we went to a birthday part/going away party for people we didn’t really know and had all sorts of fun cultural crossings.

I don’t feel like typing any more now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


As life picks up and days get long it seems like this gets less, but we will fight for our right to blog!!! the last couple of days have been packed with randomness, from the office, to schools, to stuffing trash into tires, mixing cement, eating too much pita, going to church while trying to communicate with people from Norway, Ireland, England and Locals, By the time we leave we will be good at sign language and waving our arms, we’ve been swimming, to goodbye parties for people we don’t really know, and last but not least trying to sleep…which, praise the Lord, is getting better as the heat gets drop kicked out of here.

Drew and I have been working on a very “green” and stinky project. Paidia got an idea from this organization called Earthships, where they take materials that this world can’t break down and turns them into masterpieces. But because there isn’t a lot of money on Paidia’s side we had to be creative. Drew and I have been stuffing tires full of old tiles and dirt, after they are nice and stuffed they get stacked on top of one another. So when stuffing and stacking were done we stapled chicken wire all around them and filled the empty spots full of trash, now let me tell you something about trash here, its abundant and gross, people throw dead animals, bras, underwear, shoes, moldiness and more all over the place. Drew and I put gloves on and headed out to the land of nastiness, but at least the streets are a little cleaner since we finished, the best part was when a guy drove by and gave us this strange look that went something like, “i put that trash there for a reason, who the heck do these Americans think that they are…..” not throwing trash or picking it up its a very foreign concept here. So we got the tires stuffed, stacked, chicken wired and surrounded by trash, after that we mixed cement and placed it all over the masterpiece, which is on its way to being a compost toilet where the decomposed poop will be used for the garden, i don’t think the idea of eating peoples poop sits very well with me…..what do you think?   (we’ll put up pictures later)

Drew and I are in a good place as far as growth, learning to communicate better and learning more about what’s really going on over here. We could use your prayers as home sickness kicks in and the Visa situation plays its self out. We love you all and thought you should know that we saw a Hummer in Bethlehem…

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

this land is your land, this land is my land

So drew and I visited the Shepherd's field (the catholic one), where its believed the Shepherd's first saw the star. It was crazy going under ground into these caves seeing stone carved seats, tables, stairs, cubbyholes where i think they slept, and windows. Our first thought was, of course they would build their houses underground because it's so much cooler, who ever thought to build their houses right out in the open, where there's no trees and the sun is way to close to this land.... so, especially today, we took our time down there (drew got lots of pictures). But as we continued to roam this place it was obvious that it was claimed by someone. Everything was in a specific language with symbolism that is predominate in a specific religion, my mind didn't like this so much. This doesn't belong to anyone, it belongs to the Lord. Then i began thinking about the conflict here, over the land, it doesn't belong to anyone but the Lord and if we are applying what the Lord has asked then loving Him and loving others would be our first focus.

It's so evident that in all things people are claiming something, taking ownership, and making sure everyone else knows it, but nothing belongs to us, so stop all this power play and craziness and just love one another. Can you imagine what this place would be like if people were unified in God and we simply just loved and served one another? Of course we all have different opinions and beliefs, even people of the same religion have different opinions, but these are not meant to cause disunity but rather conversations, growth and teach-ability.

Our focus is so off and is so selfish, my focus is off and selfish. I think about how I feel when I'm around people with different morals and standards and as much as I'd love to think that i love them the way God calls me to, i don't. The differences always cause a barrier between the person and me. I remember how i used to think about drinking, if i found out that anyone was okay with drinking I'd immediately shut down and cut off any potential friendship that could have happened, of course i feel differently now, but i allowed disunity to happen over such a ridiculous thing. So walking around Shepherd's Field was thought provoking and overwhelming, and i had to pee, so painful as well. I was also thinking, is this how the Lord would have wanted this story portrayed? is He happy about all this? What if the story is all wrong and we are stuck in what we think happened, and stuck in the tradition of things...I'm in a good place but if anyone has any comments or wisdom on this matter please share. Pictures and Drew's mind will arrive shortly

Taking Turns and Horn Talk

It’s so… fun  to see how different people live.  Char and I are starting to get more sleep as our bodies continue to adjust.  It’s about time.  Having more sleep puts us in better moods to appreciate the differences we run into.  Here’s a couple:

There is no such thing as a line.  Nobody takes turns.  No order.  This is kinda hard to get used to.  When we go to the store, it generally ends up taking longer than anticipated.  There’ll be a customer at the counter, with all their stuff, doing their thing, paying their money… so of course I’ll stand in line a few feet behind so as to give them their space and wait patiently.  While I am responsibly waiting patiently, another customer will slide up to the counter, right next to the guy who’s already there and throw their stuff down.  And then another! And remember that few feet of space? Surprise! No more space.  Someone else slides in there and reaches oh so far over the others to throw their stuff on the counter too.  Apparently, if you aren’t jockeying for position, they assume you aren’t ready to check out.  Fair enough.  So I start jockeying.  But let’s face it.  It makes me really uncomfortable and I’m not really trying hard enough, and they can sense that.  So BAM BAM BAM three more people appear out of nowhere between me and the counter! Maybe if I fart…

Char talked about all the honking around here…  We had it explained to us that it is actually a second language.  They communicate (rather effectively) through honks!  In the states, you only the honk if you really screw up or make someone angry.  Here, you get the quick HONK:here I come, don’t stand in front of me.  The quick HONK-HONK: hey how’s it going? The rapid HONK-HONK-HONK-HONK-HONK: the taxi asking if you’d like his services.  The more personable HONK-HOOOOOOOOONK: Hey good friend! I haven’t seen you in a long time!  How have you been? How’s your mother?  Let’s stop right now for a quick chat and then we’ll make plans to get together for a more extended period of time…   Those are the only ones I’ve learned so far.  Of course there’s the universal deep bellowing HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK: (insert choice expletive).

Nonetheless, we love pita bread.