May 31, 2011

Two funny stories for you.

There were plenty of funny things on this trip, but i'm just going to share the two that I think are the best.

1. While waiting in line at Masada I made friends with a group of tourists from Kenya. It was mostly women, only three men including their pastor who was leading the trip. They were great. So loud and funny and happy. They taught me some cool words and told me all about how beautiful their country was.

They asked about where I was from and I explained that I was from a state in the western USA and it looked a lot like Israel (it really does, a lot alike). They had no idea that there was a desert in the US and were quite amazed. One lady stopped me and said "You can't be from the desert!" I said "Yeah i guess i'm kinda too white" (i was very pale. we weren't even out of winter yet!) And she said, "No, you are too fat!"

Um. Yeah.

I don't know what they were talking about. I totally see a resemblance :-)

The American in me wanted to be offended and defend myself and tell her how much weight i've lost...but I decided to let my Kenyon roots come out and I just laughed. They were all large women so I figured I was in good company. And it makes sense. In Africa the people who live in the desert are thin. There is no food in their desert. I come from a very well stocked desert :-)

2. I wanted to get my butt-head brother a keffiyeh from Israel. We were at a shop that our guide always goes to and he had some. He taught us how to wear them and gave us a good deal. I bought one and didn't think about it again...until I hit airport security.

Real quick I'm going to give you a rundown of Israeli airport security:

* All cars, taxis, buses and trucks go through a preliminary security checkpoint before entering the airport compound. Armed guards spot-check the vehicles by looking into cars, taxis and boarding buses, exchanging a few words with the driver and passengers.

* Armed security personnel stationed at the terminal entrances keep a close watch on those who enter the buildings. If someone arouses their suspicion or looks nervous, they may strike up a conversation to further assess the person's intent. Plainclothes armed personnel patrol the area outside the building, and hidden surveillance cameras operate at all times.

* Inside the building, both uniformed and plainclothes security officers are on constant patrol.

* Departing passengers are personally questioned by security agents even before arriving at the check-in desk. This interview can last as little as five minutes, or as long as an hour if a passenger is selected for additional screening. Luggage and body searches may be conducted. After the search, bags are placed through an X-ray machine before passengers proceed to the check-in counters. All that said, El Al and Ben Gurion airport has for a long time realised that the person is more important than their bags. Therefore, occasionally, if security have assessed a person as a low risk, they will pass them straight through to the check-in desks, bypassing the main x-ray machines. Note that hand baggage is always x-rayed later on.

* After check-in, checked baggage is put in a pressure chamber to trigger any possible explosive devices. Passengers continue through to personal security and passport control, as in other airports. Before passing through the metal detectors and placing hand baggage through the X-ray machine, passports are re-checked and additional questions may be asked. Before boarding the aircraft, passports and boarding passes are checked once again.

* Security procedures for incoming flights are not as stringent, but passengers may be questioned by passport control depending on country of origin, or countries visited prior to arrival in Israel. Passengers who have recently visited countries at war with Israel (all Arab countries except Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania and Qatar) may be subject to further questioning

They also had dogs all over sniffing the luggage.

It really was amazing. And a little nerve-wracking. But I was actually quite grateful for it. It keeps people safe. And they were quick, efficient and polite (unlike any American airport i've been too).
Our group was moving through pretty smoothly...until it was my turn to go through my bad with an agent. She asked me tons of questions and opened all of the compartments in my bag. Then she saw the keffiyeh and stopped. She starting grilling me about it. "Where did you buy this? Who did you buy it from? Why did you buy this? Why did you buy this particular one? Why did you buy this color? Is there a reason you picked this color? Why didn't you pick a different color?"

I was getting more and more nervous was realizing that I obviously picked the wrong color keffiyeh...

I stuttered out my answers and the agent finally realized that I was just a stupid tourist. As I was closing my bag back up I asked her if the colors meant anything. She laughed and said that they certainly do, but not to me (me = katie) so don't worry about it. I just said thank you and moved on. I asked others in my group but no one could explain.

The day i got home I googled it...

Turns out that I bought my brother a terrorist keffiyeh...

Good job Kate.

- Update -

I was told that my brother might get shot if i left the pic of him on here. So i took it down. Instead I will include a small image of the colors so that you will know which not to buy when you are in Israel.

May 26, 2011

Old City shopping

The markets in Jerusalem were amazing. Such an interesting microcosm of people and cultures and food and stuff.

We spent most of our market time in the Muslim/Arab quarter of the Old City. It was bright, loud, crazy crowded and there was a very strong mix of smells. If you know me, you know I don't handle crowds of people very i was done pretty quick. But it was very interesting.

In the Arab quarter they love to haggle, I didn't notice it as much in the Jewish quarter though. I do not like to haggle. Just tell me how much you want and I'll pay it. This is why I always take my mom to buy cars :-)

This video is hilarious. I was totally this man.

I was in love with the spice shops. They were beautiful and smelled amazing.

One thing that I thought was interesting were all the shops selling bras and underwear. Right out in the alley, big tables stacked with really bright, funky bras and undies. And all the shoppers were Muslim...I loved the idea that all of these Muslim women covered head to toe...were wearing insane undies under it all.

Another interesting thing was that there were IDF soldiers everywhere. They are in every section of the Old City. And they all carried fully automatic machine guns. On our first trip into the market I got ahead of the group and turned around quickly to find them. I slammed right into a soldier. He was very nice, asked if I was okay...but after i walked away, I realized that I had slammed into his machine gun. Little freaky.
There used to be safety issues in the Old City but a few years ago they installed over 300 cameras around the city. Between the cameras and the soldiers, crime has gone way down. But it's still...tense. When the man leading our group was there two years ago he saw an ultra orthodox Jew stabbed by an Arab shopkeeper. Like I said, tense.

I loved Jerusalem, but it really feels like it's about to combust.

Roley took us back to the market just before sundown on Shabbat. It was crazy.
The buses in this photo are lined to get people home before Shabbat. Hundreds of people waited in line for each one.

A thousand Jews hurring through the market grabbing last minute items for the sabbath. They of course buy all sorts of things, but everyone buys hallah and flowers for Shabbat.

Man selling hallah and other breads.

Here is a video of them selling bread. It was so loud. All the shopkeepers were yelling like this.

Fish shop. He was clearing out his remaining stock for cheap so he could get closed and home before sundown.

So much produce. Israel grows everything you can think of. Very rich soil.

And then, all of a sudden, everyone is gone and you know Shabbat has begun.

May 24, 2011

Ya'll ready for this?

Get ready for a marathon of Israel images. If you couldn't care less...come back next week.

These photos are from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. It is a gorgeous basilica built in 1969, overtop of the ruins of several other ancient churches...which were in turn built around the traditional childhood home of Mary (mother of Christ) and the place where the annunciation took place. It's the cave you see in the picture below.
(shrine built around the original grotto)

(ruins of Crusader and Byzantine churches)

It (like almost every site in Israel) is considered traditional. No one really knows where these things happened. I just tried to feel the spirit of the place and enjoy the absolute grandeur and beauty of the buildings.

I loved the stain-glass in this basilica.

It also had a beautiful roof.

A cool thing they did here was to have mosaics of Mary and Jesus created by countries all over the world. There are hundreds of them. All very unique and beautiful...expect ours.

Seriously. The one from America is by far the ugliest.
Very strange and alien-ish.

My favorite one was from Japan. I think it's beautiful.

There was a lovely statue of Mary outside as well.

Okay. That was just to ease you into things. Tomorrow i bring out the big guns...which all the soldiers there carried. And which i heard while standing at the Syrian border. Just saying.

May 20, 2011


I'm home from Israel. I know that you all have been pining away for me while i was gone.

It's okay now. I'm here. Stop crying. Seriously. Stop.

My brain is completely fried from 11 days of nonstop running and no sleep. And I have finally experienced jetlag. It's awesome.

So for now you get this.

A teaser pic of Jerusalem:

And the this sad information:

The night i got back to snowed. Snowed. On May 19th. I went from hot, hot, hot in the snow.

You have permission to feel sorry for me now.

Good night.

May 4, 2011

May The 4th Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day my friends. I hope that you are each celebrating for all you are worth :-)

Here are some awesome things I found to help you get in the holiday spirit.

Hot-air ballon. Tell me that wouldn't terrify you if you saw it descending out of the clouds!

Propaganda poster.

Cupcakes. Of course.

And my personal favorite:

May 2, 2011

It's Just a Flesh Wound

Preface: I live in the high desert. Turns out it's high...and dry. And right now, cold. And those things mixed together equal bloody noses.

Feel free to stop now if you are squeamish...but it's a pretty funny story.

The other night I fell victim to one of the aforementioned bloody noses.

I ran to the sink but managed to gush quite a bit before shoving a tissue up my nose.

Bunny (my MOM'S dumb cat) likes to be in the middle of everything and jumped up on the counter to see what the fuss was all about.

Before I could stop her she reached out and stuck her paw right in the puddle of blood in the sink.


I tried to grab her but was holding a tissue to my nose with one hand and was a bit distracted... what with losing so much blood and all.

She got away.

And she licked it!!!

The bloodlust took over and she attacked.

"It's got fangs!"

End result:

Kidding. No fuzzy bunny attack.

But there were little bloody footprints all over my counter and carpet...

Dumb cat.