Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Q & A

I thought it would be fun to do a little Q & A session.
Is there anything you want to know about our life in Israel?
Ask away. I'll answer the questions on Friday and get them posted.
See you then!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Things I miss in the USA

Stores I miss:

  • Target - awesome stuff at great prices!
  • Wal-Mart - convenience, convenience, convenience! Oh, to go to one place and be able to buy everything I could ever need or want.
  • Old Navy - cute stuff and cheap to boot!
  • Payless!!! I had to have my Mom and Dad bring me shoes from the USA from Payless! Shoes are very expensive here! And I'm cheap!

Restaraunts I miss:

  • Taco Bueno. Enough said.
  • Chili's. I would love to have some chips and salsa right now.
  • Starbucks. And no, it's not because I worked there. A Chai Tea Latte sounds delicious right now as I listen to the rain/sleet hitting the windows of our Tel Aviv apartment. (I bet you're really crying for me!)

Food I miss:

  • Mexican food
  • Huge jugs of salsa (though this one is really more for Brent)
  • Mexican food
  • Canned anything
  • Refrigerated cinnamon rolls
  • Mexican food
  • Chips: Doritos (Nacho Flavor), Frito's, Ruffles, Cheetos (the "Cheetos" they have here are funky!!!!)
  • Mixes: brownie, cake, cookie, cornbread, anything.
  • Mexican food

Activities I miss:

  • Driving my CRV. I'm not sure I will remember how to drive when we get home!
  • Driving to the supermarket - it makes getting your groceries home a lot easier.
  • Driving to a restaurant. Although the walk back makes me feel better about what I just ate.
  • Driving to the movies. Who wants to walk home after watching an intense movie that drains you of all your energy.
  • Driving to congregation. No good reason for this one.
  • Driving, well, ANYWHERE! You get the picture.

But, despite all these things, I am so happy to be living in Israel for this season of our lives! The only thing that would make it better is to have all our family and friends here!! (We can help you find a good deal on a plane ticket!)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Brent

Yesterday was Brent's birthday! We had a nice, relaxing, Ulpan-free day!
I thought I would share with you how we celebrated Brent's birthday in the Promised Land.
Thursday night we went out to dinner to celebrate his birth and I took him to eat at an Asian restaurant; we wanted something different for a change. I forgot to take the camera that night so here is a picture of the sign from the next day.

Friday morning we slept in. I got up and made biscuits and eggs with Velveeta (brought to us from the USA) and Starbucks coffee (also brought to us from the USA). Then we enjoyed a quiet morning; Brent reading a book "Genesis 1948" and I surfed the web and played a computer game. Then we each enjoyed nice, long, HOT showers!
After getting cleaned up we took a Taxi to a different restaurant, Wawi, where our friend Imri Works. Imri wanted to treat us to lunch for Brent's birthday. Here is a picture of the outside of the restaurant. (oh, and the taxi that took us there)
And a closer picture of the restaurant.
Here is what Imri fed us. First course, chips, or what we would call french fries. Condiments offered with them, ketchup and mayonnaise.
Then Imri grilled up some kosher sausage for us. I think he called it chorizo or something. Oh, and he kept calling this a Mexican restaurant. Anyway, that was served on a bed of strange lettuce with pickles on the side. (First picture Imri cooking)
Then came our "roll". More like a burrito, but, heh, they are new to this whole "Mexican food" thing. It had guacamole and pico de gallo in it and cooked onions and this spicy "kabob" meat in it. It was very big and really good. Oh and it was in an actual tortilla, also a new thing to Israel.

Here is a picture of the menu. It's in Hebrew.

Imri was really hyper because he had worked all night the night before and then had to come in again on this day, so excuse the crazed look in his eye! We absolutely love Imri!!

That was our lunch. More details to follow. I have to go finish my homework now!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Good News

I know you have all been on pins and needles, worrying, fretting, not being able to sleep wondering if Brent and Tonya have hot water. No? Really? Well, OK.
Seriously, though, we are blessed, once again, to have hot water! Yea! The plumber came back today and had to replace some vital part that was completely rusted out and there was no way we were going to have hot water unless this part was replaced. He replaced it. Thank you Mr. Plumber. Hot showers all around!
Thanks for hanging in there with us through the drama!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Small Annoyance

OK, so, as you know, the water is running again. (see previous post)
However, we do NOT have hot water. People, do you realize how important hot water is? It is absolutely essential for a shower. I cannot take a cold shower. It is impossible. I am not capable of doing so. I would rather eat dirt than take a cold shower! I would rather pet a cat and rub both my eyes and lick my hands and suffer the horrible allergic reactions, than take a cold shower. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration but you get the point.
We had been having a bit of trouble with the hot water heater before the water ever stopped flowing. See, you have to flip a switch to turn on the water heater in order to have hot water. Usually it takes about an hour to heat the water. There is even a handy-dandy timer on the switch so you can set it so that you have hot water in the morning.
Well, after the plumbers, my new best friends, left yesterday I flipped the switch to start the process of heating the water. FOUR HOURS LATER we still did not have a DROP of hot water! WHAT??????
Well, this was getting serious. I was at the end of my third day without a shower and there was no way for me to go one more hour!! So, I called my sweet friend Kirsten who lives just a few blocks from me and asked if I could come use her shower! She kindly obliged. But I had to wait that "one more hour" because she had to flip her switch to heat her water. Don't worry, I didn't die, nor did Brent from the smell of me though it was close, people!
I finally got my hot shower.
The plumber (a.k.a. my new best friend) was supposed to come today and fix the heater.
He did not show up.
We aren't best friends anymore.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Do you realize how spoiled we are with running water? Brent and I were without this wonderful convenience for about 26 hours.
Here are things I take for granted about turning a nob and having water:
1. Taking showers. Who doesn't love a good long hot shower?!
2. Flushing the toilet...this one was not fun!!! And the toilets don't work here like they do back in the USA where you can just pour some water in the tank and it flushes.
3. Washing my hands. Good thing I had some hand sanitizer. (And no, I did not pet any cats!)
4. Doing the dishes. Not my favorite thing but things start to pile pretty high - even in 26 hours.
5. Washing our clothes. Brent actually went to start a load yesterday and this is how he discovered we did not have any water. I'm making up for lost time tonight.
This is a somewhat short list but these are pretty major chores for a person to not be able to accomplish in any given day. Can you think of any other things we take for granted when it comes to running H2O?
Thankfully, some plumbers came today and got the problem fixed, making themselves at home in our apartment while doing so. I think we are best friends now.
p.s. I LOVE running water!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tel Aviv Port

Yesterday afternoon Brent and I walked down to the Tel Aviv Port. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and we had to be outside! You see, we had a cold front come through Israel the last week or so and it has been abnormally chilly. I think everyone in the city was out yesterday enjoying the warmer weather.
I took the camera along so I could share some scenes we were able to enjoy. The pictures aren't the best because our camera is somewhat broken. We have one of the digital cameras that does not have a view finder, just a screen. The screen no long works well. So I was taking pictures without knowing exactly what was in them. I think you will enjoy regardless.
Here is some of what we saw.

The water was so clear and beautiful. This is an old port which is not used as a port today. Now it's full of restaurants and shops.

The deck along this area looks like rolling waves! It's really cool and in the bottom right corner of this picture is a little girl, rolling down the wooden wave on her skate board.

You can see in this picture what a big area this really is. The entire port area is probably around a 1/2 mile long, lined with shops and restaurants with tons of outdoor seating. Every one's food looked so delicious...I almost grabbed a roll off one table as we passed by.

This was a special sight! A wedding! The four white pillars with the white fabric draped over is a huppah! The building to the right is where the reception was, which we later peeked in on and saw people dancing and eating and having fun. If you look close you can see the bride and groom right in the middle of the huppah. It's a pretty public place to get married but they were blessed with an amazingly beautiful day and a stunning view of the sea. As you can tell, they had quite a few extra guests...people here are not shy about stopping and staring!

This little cutie, with the ball, was having a blast with her daddy. Just moments before I took this picture they were tossing the ball back and forth. I love seeing all the families here. There are so many children it makes my heart happy.

This little guy really, really wanted a balloon. He ran in and out of the mass of balloons more times than I could count. I did take one picture where all you could see where his little legs sticking out of the balloons. What a hoot.

Brent and I agreed that this would be a great place to come and read on a beautiful day like this. I think the whole city may have been at the port this day.

This is just some algae or something growing in the water. It may be a silly picture but I loved how bright the green was and how clear the water was and how cool the ripples of the sand look.
Of course there were tons of people out sailing. This boat caught my eye because it looked like the whole thing was covered in pure silver the way it glistened in the sun.

The sun was sparkling in the water like diamonds. I just love that!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour. It's better in real life....when do you want to come visit us?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Musical Interlude

We had an amazing treat in class today! One of our fellow classmates from Russia, Janah, plays the violin. She is currently studying at a university in Tel Aviv and is very accomplished on her instrument. She is even going to be in a concert in New York soon.
She brings her violin to class some days because she goes to the university after we are done at the Ulpan. Today was one of those days.
Sarah, our teacher, asked Jana during one of our breaks, if she would be willing to play for us in class. She agreed. So at 10:30 this morning as we all wandered back into class, Sarah begins to teach then stops and says that Jana has agreed to play something for us today.
So, Jana arose from her chair, opened her case, pulled out her violin and knocked our socks off!! She began by playing a piece by Bach, whom she said she loves. It was a beautiful piece and she played it wonderfully! I started crying it was so beautiful! I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face. I clenched my jaw and furrowed my brow to try to make them stop! Brent was overwhelmed as well, though let me be clear that he did not cry! He is the man after all!
When she completed the first song she then explained that she would play another song that was composed by a Spanish composer. It too was splendid!
During all of this, the teacher from the class next door peaked into our class to see where that beautiful sound was coming from. At the next break she asked our teacher, Sarah, if Jana could come play a piece for their class once that break was over. Of course Sarah was proud to share her talented student and agreed. The other teacher then comes into our classroom as we are chatting and asks Jana if she would come play for her class. She says they heard the beautiful music and were so distracted by it they could not continue what they were doing, but stopped and listened through the wall. Jana agreed and played a short tune for them as well.
It was a fun break from having our brains pureed for a few minutes!! She is truly talented and I think we have talked her into giving a short concert for us at the end of our course.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Momentary Alzheimer's

I am allergic to cats. Sometimes I forget this. Not a good idea!!
There is a sweet cat that hangs out outside our Ulpan. Yesterday, as I was waiting for Brent to exit the building after class, I lured the kitty over to pet it and make friends. I was successful. I pet the kitty.
Brent exits the Ulpan, we walk home, I don't wash my hands. I know, Mom, you taught me to wash my hands. You were and continue to be a great example of this discipline. I should know better. But apparently I don't. Sorry. Do you still love me? More importantly, will you still claim me?
Back to the story, I pick up a pretzel and eat it. I make some lunch. I stick my finger in my eye. Before I could finish my sandwich my eye began to swell and itch. Tears began to gush from my eye like Niagara falls. Then as I was in the middle of my sandwich it felt as if that sweet little cat had used the back of my throat to sharpen it's claws! I could hardly swallow the bite that was in my mouth. I couldn't even talk to tell Brent what agony I was in. He did, however, notice as I grabbed my throat and began to thrash in pain and saw the river that flowed from my left eye and began to fill the room. OK, so I'm being a bit dramatic, but people, IT HURT!
Brent brought me a Benadryl, I choked it down past the sandpaper in my ravaged throat and about an hour later all was well, although I did not look so good. Good thing he loves me!
So, what's the moral of this story?
If you are allergic to cats, or anything for that matter, DON'T TOUCH THEM. But if you have momentary Alzheimer's and extend your hand and make contact, WASH YOUR HANDS.....BEFORE you eat something with those hands or stick your finger in your eye! Lesson learned, I hope!
Have a good, allergy free week!!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Unexplained Tears

I'm sitting here on this beautiful Friday morning in Tel Aviv crying my eyes out. "Why?", you ask? I'm not really sure. But here is what I can tell you. I just finished watching an Israeli live newscast of the President of the United States visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem (which, by the way we are only about an hour away from...weird...and cool) and I cried through the entire broadcast. I know that every time I have visited this expansive and amazing complex I cry at some point. You, see, not only is there the main museum, also present is the Hall of Remembrance, The Children's Memorial, The Row of the Righteous Gentiles, many statues and carvings and much more. It is a very impressive and somewhat overwhelming place to visit.
Bush was there just a few minutes ago. I watched him finish his tour of the main museum by entering the Hall of Names, where there are about 600 pictures of Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. This is also the place where there are volumes and volumes of forms memorializing those who perished in this horrific event. You can also search for your family in the computer data base or record the name of someone who has not yet been identified.
Then I watched him enter the Hall of Remembrance where on the floor are the names of the extermination camps. There is also a stone slab under which there are ashes buried of those killed in the camps. Upon this stone Bush laid a wreath honoring the victims. It was a beautiful ceremony; a girls choir sang, a Rabbi prayed and Bush looked truly touched.
Then I saw him exit the Children's Memorial. This place is usually where I cry. Inside it is dark except for the light of candles reflected on hundreds of mirrors giving the effect of thousands and thousands of lights. These candles flickering in the dark represent the lives of the almost two million children brutally murdered. At that time, Bush said how he had been deeply impacted by his visit to Yad Vashem. I can only hope so.
So, does this explain why I cried my eyes out as I watched our President come face to face with this incomprehensible atrocity? No. Maybe as the day goes on God will help me figure it out. I just hope and pray that the impact our President feels right now, coming face to face with this event in our not so distant human history, will stay with him.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


We met Aaron two years ago in the McDonald's in Tel Aviv. He heard us speaking English and saw our Oklahoma shirts and asked us where we were from. Thus began our friendship.
Aaron is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, were Brent went to college, so the two had much to reminisce about. At that time Aaron was only temporarily in the country. Since then, he has immigrated. He joined the military and earned his way into the elite Golani brigade. (The picture is of the symbol of Golani.) Aaron is very passionate about Israel and serving her. He is also passionate about being the first person from his family to make Aliyah (to immigrate) to Israel. He is the only one from his family to return to the land and will be the patriarch of his family line in Israel. What an honor.
Aaron began his service with the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in November. After a couple months of what we would call "boot camp" the soldiers are inducted into the army with a special ceremony. Aaron invited us to his military induction ceremony which was a huge honor for us as a sort of family away from home.
So, last week on Thursday Brent and I caught the train to Binyamina, which by train was only about an hour North from Tel Aviv. We got off the train in Binyamina and wondered how we would get from there to the base. We saw some soldiers and asked them. One of which quickly ushered us just outside the train station to a bus which looked more like a tour bus than a public bus. He said, "Get on the bus." Brent asks, "How much is it?" The soldier says, "Free." OoooK. So, we got on. Nobody said anything to us as we did, they didn't even blink an eye; no security, no checking our bags, asking questions. Nothing. There were several other soldiers on the bus and one other civilian. Slowly the bus began to fill up with more soldiers and more civilians. Then the bus driver closed the door and off we went. We drove about ten minutes and arrived at the base. The gates were opened and we drove right through!!! We were astonished! You can't even get into the MALL without someone giving you a pat-down practically!
So we get off the bus and find Aaron. We got to just hang out with him for about an hour, then the commander of his unite spoke to all the family and friends (all in Hebrew....didn't get much of it, kinda tuned out, turned my brain off, was too tired). Then we all walked over to the stadium for the amazing ceremony (again, all in Hebrew but still really cool). There were songs, readings from the Torah, speeches, the National Anthem and I'm sure other stuff I missed out on because of the language. Then came the fun part! Each soldier walks to the front and receives a gun and a Torah. As Aaron said, "What I fight with and what I fight for." But what was really special to witness was Aaron's commander honoring him in a special way.
Each soldier has a tag that is on his arm. On the tag is the picture of the tree from the photograph above; it is the Golani symbol. I believe they have to earn that tag and had just received them that morning. Well, Aaron's commander comes to stand in front of him and removes Aaron's tag. Then he proceeds to remove his own tag from his shirt and puts it on Aaron's shirt. His commander had received that same tag from his commander. This is a very high honor and Aaron was on cloud nine!! What an amazing thing for this new immigrant to achieve.
Aaron, way to go! We are SO proud of you!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Another New Look, and other things

So, this is the third look I have tried out for this blog. Not sure if I like it. What do you think? The problem is there really aren't a whole lot of options unless you know that Html stuff. (what does Html stand for anyway?)
Other than that there is much I need to catch you up on. Below are preview pictures of what is to come in this next week.