Monday, July 30, 2007

Day 6 - Masada

What? You thought I was done? This was a long trip!
Sunday morning began for many at 3a.m. (okay, techincally? Most didn't go to sleep so Saturday just continued for them). The busses departed and took them to the base of Masada where they began climbing. The rest of us, I like to think the sane of us, left at the more normal time of 8 a.m. for the drive to the base where we took a cable car to the top.
Masada was the site of another of King Herod's fortresses. It was also the site where a group of about a 1000 Jewish zealots took refuge when the Romans captured Jerusalem around 70 BCE. Roman soldiers laid siege to the fortress and the zealots were forced to make a choice. If they were captured they would become slaves. Needless to say, we've been touchy about the slavery thing since Egypt.
What's amazing to me is the decision they finally made. Historians say that 9 men decided the fate of the rest, killing themselves and their families to avoid slavery. Only three people survived, a woman and her children who hid. When the Romans finally captured the fortress they discovered what had occurred and what they lost.
In the cable car on the way down I had the following conversation:
Woman: Oh, I see you're from Seattle. We're from Bellevue!
Me: I teach in Bellevue.
The conversation went from there. Needless to say, the world got just a little bit smaller that morning.
After Masada we took the bus to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the planet. The salt content is so high there, nothing can live and everything floats. The water was amazingly warm, and felt wonderful for the first few minutes. Then it began to tingle. Then it found several cuts in some unfortunate places and it began to burn like the fires of Hell.
That's when I ran for the showers.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

And she's down...

Or maybe we should name this my very own "I Love Lucy" moment, in honor of Jill. I should start out by making an admission. I joined a gym. I'm at the point where I have to do something to get my rear in gear in the fall, and this is it. So I went down today to meet with a trainer, and then to use the elliptical machine for a little bit. Now, graceful I am not, but I usually can make it through such a routine without any grevious bodily harm.
Today was not that kind of day.
Actually, I got through the taking measurements of my body without too much embarrassement. Even had fun on the elliptical. I didn't go flying off the back, or pull any muscles. When I finished, I dismounted to go get some disinfectant and paper towels to clean off the handles with.
I should have stayed on the machine.
Genuises that they are when it comes to design, the gym has about a half a foot high silver box that runs the length of the room, in between the ellipticals and the stairclimbers. I'm pretty sure it covers the wires so people don't trip. Maybe they figure that seeing as how it's big and silver, people will see it better, and remember to step over it.
Not me.
Two steps and I was down, bashing my knee on the box and my hand on the floor. And being asked if I was okay by a woman on the stairclimber who looked to be in better shape than me.
I'm not embarrassed. No, not at all...


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 5

Finally, we had a chance to relax a bit. Shabbat in Jerusalem is a bit like Sunday in a coal mining town. Nothing's open except for synagogues. Since it was Shabbat, and there was nothing planned for the day, we decided to sleep in before going down to breakfast. Afterward we headed out to the hotel pool, where we relaxed for a few hours. After 4 days of running around non-stop, it was wonderful to have a day to ourselves.
(Brianne, me and Natalie in Ein Kerem)
In the afternoon we decided to try to explore a bit, and took a cab into an area of town called Ein Kerem. We wandered a bit, before grabbing a snack at one of the few cafes open and willing to use the stove. Since I wasn't that hungry, I grabbed some sorbet, but the others wanted something more substantial.
Like this pizza (which was awesome, by the way). It's one thing to be stuck on a bus with 39 other people, trying to get to know your fellow travelers. It's another to share pizza and laughs. We talked about all sorts of topics over our mid afternoon snack, before calling the cab for our return ride to the hotel.
After Havdalah, the ceremony to close Shabbat, a group of us made our way into Jerusalem and the famous Ben Yehuda street in search of a very late dinner. Those of you who are close to me will understand the problem when I tell you that by the time we got into town, it was around 9:30. Needless to say I took charge, finding us a great little restaurant off a side street. Good food, several rounds of two truths and a lie, as well as various stories, made for a very fun evening. As for the truths and lies? Let's just say stories about kissing girls, living in a brothel, cop visits colored the dinner conversation. We'll leave it at that.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 4

(my roommate Brianne and I at the lookout on Mt. Scopus)
Once we arrived in Jerusalem, our first stop was a lookout on Mt. Scopus. From this vantage point we could look out over the entire city. It truly is an awe inspiring sight, when you can take it all in at once. There is a law there about using the same stone in all their buildings, so to see this city rising around you, a sea of beige stone...there are few words to truly describe the feeling that comes with it.
The next morning took us to the Davidson Visitors' Center, an archeological excavation site at the Southern Wall of the 2nd Temple. The size of the stones used to build the walls and the temple are enormous, most definitely leaving you with one simple question: How the heck did they build this thing?? (That's our guide, Mony, in front of the remnants of some of the stones that were pushed down when the Romans destroyed the temple.)
I know I use the word amazing a lot, but it just blows me away that so much of this history is still left standing, over 2000 years later. It's especially hard to imagine when the oldest piece of history around here is only about 100 years old, give or take a decade. This is what would be left of the stone road beneath, if you were to remove the stones (seen above). Can you imagine what might have happened if someone had been caught under the falling r0cks? Yikes!


Friday, July 20, 2007


And the winner of a copy of Dating4Demons is...Jill Monroe!!! Jill, please email me with an address where I can mail the book, and I'll get it out to you.
For the rest of you...more contests to come, so stay tuned!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

I have a spot...

Let me repeat...I have a spot. On my tooth.
A spot. A cavity. I never have cavities! And I certainly don't often hear to them referred to as a spot, as if it were something a little bit of Spray & Wash might take care of.
The fact that my dentist called it a spot had the entire office laughing about it. They've decided that is what they will call them from now on.
As if by calling it a spot, it is somehow easier to accept.
Yeah, and the drill they'll use will only hurt a little...


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day 3...

Well, you've waited long enough. So here you go, day 3...
We started off our day a little later than day two. We didn't have breakfast until 7:15! Wahoo! A note here: the breakfasts were amazing, and especially the first few days in the North. They had everything you could imagine. Israeli salad, eggs, croissants, challah, halavah, fruit (OMG the fruit!)...the list goes on.
After breakfast we left for Tiberias, a town about an hour south of where we'd stayed. There we visited a school who receives help from the Jewish Agency for Israel (or JAFI). The visit was made even more special because of the number of teachers in our group. It seemed everywhere I turned, I met another teacher. We joined the kids for their last day of school, their equivalent of field day. After their performance, and playing a few games, we went around to the other side of the school where we helped to plant trees. Planting trees in Israel is kind of the thing to do, especially in a country where vegetation can be so hard to come by. Just as we went to leave, a few of the boys started asking some of our group for their autographs. They were very persistant.
Sadly, mine was not asked for, no matter how much I tried to insist that one day I'd be a famous author.
From Tiberias we moved on to a town called Zichron Ya'acov, for lunch at a winery. Oh, my, goodness. This was one of the best lunches we had. One thing I noticed was that food was often served tapas style, small plates of each item to share with the whole table. We enjoyed more Israeli salad, hummus (I think I almost turned into a chick pea), vegetable lasagna, pizza and other items I can't possibly remember. In answer to the inevitable One of my friends asked if we ever actually ate Israeli food...and the answer is, not really. We had Israeli breakfast, and falafel. But between the Bedouin dinner, the Brazilian dinner and the Italian lunch, I'm not sure where the Israeli food really came in.
There's still time to enter the contest to win Dating4Demons!! Comment now!

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Monday, July 16, 2007

What I'm reading now...

And it's that time again. Time to open my bookshelves and give you a peak at what I've read, what I'm reading and what's on deck. Make sure to read everything very carefully, because there is a special surprise in this post for one lucky winner.
What I've read:
  • Red Handed by Gena Showalter. This is the start of her YA Alien Huntress series, and it's proving to be just as engaging and fast paced as her adult novels.
  • Dating4Demons by Serena Robar. Fun, funky and a fantastic finish to her Vampire Sorority series. Plus, we finally get a peak into Piper's brain. Even better, I have an extra copy of this book. One lucky blog winner will get this copy. All you have to do is post a comment on any post between now and noon on Thursday. I'll draw names from those who post.
  • Soul Song by Marjorie Liu. This was a great addition to her Dirk & Steele series. It's hard to keep creating interesting and new story lines when you have a continuing series like this, but Marjorie pulls it off seemlessly.

My attention issues are coming out to play, because I'm currently in the middle of three books (not including the craft book I'm reading). They include:

  • Shadow Hawk by Jill Shalvis
  • Simon Says by Lori Foster
  • In Darkness Reborn by Alexis Morgan

And next up on deck are:

  • Wired by Liz Maverick, part of the new SHOMI line from Dorchester
  • Chasing Stanley by Deirdre Martin, part of her hockey series

So...what are you reading? Anything fun?

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A break from our regularly scheduled program...

Here's the thing about writing...most writers know just how to avoid it. Yup, there's the dirty secret. We can find a million and one things to do instead of write. We can do laundry, vacuum, make dinner, run But the thing of it is, sometimes that procrastination time is just what we need. We can use that time doing mindless nothing to think about what really matters...the story.
Of course, while some of us our proud of our procrastinatory abilities (okay, is that even a word?), others of us wish we weren't so darn good at it. We wish we had greater discipline, or at the very least the ability to glue our butts into our seats temporarily.
In my efforts to procrastinate this week, I'm finally reading a much referred to craft book, Writing the Breakout Novel. I know, I know, you're shocked and appalled at me. Oh well. Still, the timing couldn't be better. Even as I'm finishing off my current WiP, I've begun thinking about my next novel, one that I'm hoping I can make bigger, better, name it, I hope I can do it. I've started asking myself the hard questions, the ones whose answers scare the pants off me...but the ones that need to be asked. I'm hoping to find those answers over the next several months, as I begin to develop my premise, my plot and my characters. The current goal is to finish TMI by the end of August, in just enough time for the start of the new school year. While at the same time continuing to pull together my random thoughts for the next book.
Oooh boy, who says I don't know how to have fun?

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The Golan Heights

After Sfat we spent the afternoon up in the Golan Heights. We traveled by jeep up into the Heights, where one of the guides proceeded to tell us about the history of the area, including the Hula Swamps. The Swamps are what have helped to make the northern part of the country so fruitful.
The jeeps then took us down to a launch area off the Jordan River, where we had the option of taking either a kayak or a raft down the river. One of the other gals and I took a kayak and made our way, mostly turning in circles. Let's just say I'm not the best kayaker.
Dinner was another party, this time Brazilian-style, which meant meat. And lots of it.
Apparently Israel doesn't have a ton of vegetarians. Let's just say the Dairy meals were my favorite.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

And you thought the birthplace of Kabbalah was Madonna's house...

I know, I know, I'm a bad blogger. In my defense, I've been trying to take care of a myriad of little life things, not to mention getting back into my writing (can we say 100 pages to go?). But, enough with the excuses, and back to the virtual tour.
On our second day (okay, technically our first full day), our buses took us down to the city of Sfat, or Safed as some spell it. Sfat is known as the birthplace of Kabbalah and the seat of Jewish Mysticism. Contrary to popular belief, it is not Madonna's house. Along with Kabbalah, Sfat is also known for it's candles and it's galleries. The most famous candle shop, Safed Candles, creates beautiful (and fun) works of art, like this candle here. I had to fight to not go completely crazy in this store. The prices were fantastic, and c'mon! They made candles shaped like tiny books!
We also visited a few of the galleries, where I managed to buy three gorgeous watercolor prints. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait to see them, because they are at the framers' right now.
The streets in town are very narrow, so thankfully we split up to go off on our own, which meant easy access to moving out of the way of on-coming groups.
The energy in Sfat is very calming; until you have to duck out of the way of a tour group. But standing on the cobblestone streets, covered up so as not to offend the sensibilities of the many Orthodox Jews in the town, you can almost understand why the rabbis came to Sfat when they were looking for a mystical center.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What you've all been waiting for...

I know you're all sitting there, desperately waiting for more updates from my trip. I know you want photos, and you can finally stop hitting refresh on your web browsers, because your prayers have been answered...

After two red-eye flights in a row, and maybe about 4 hours of sleep?, we finally arrived at Ben Gurion airport. From there, it was another 2 hour drive north to the site of our "Bedouin-style dinner". Yes, folks, this is me after both flights, shower-less, and starving. Thankfully, those plates you see in front of me are filled with food, including hummus (something you'll be hearing a lot more about). This one definitely qualified as one of the better meals we had.

Our entertainment for the night included a flute soloist, as well as a fire dance. Let me tell you, when he called up of the gals from New York and started swinging the chains of flame around her? I was sure we'd have our first casualty. Thankfully, she stayed real still.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

My first proposal...

Sadly, I can't take it seriously, but it at least lays out for you just how much in the minority this little woman from Seattle was on her trip.
Standing at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, waiting among the throng desperate to get their luggage. Bag after bag came off the belt, and began to stack up next to my fellow passengers. I soon noticed, even more than I had at the airport in New York, that I was alone in my single-bag carrying ways. Yes, ladies and gentleman, I managed to live out of one suitcase for 10 days, without having to rewear more than one or two shirts, and that was because it was at night, and I hadn't sweated all day in them.
All around me passengers pulled off two to three bags each, stacking them along side their carry-on bags and purses.
That's when it happened. A fellow traveler, I believe from NY, took one look at my lone bag and promptly propsed marriage.
Obviously his criteria aren't that great, and for more than one reason I turned him down flat. But still, it counts, right??


The Mutt Bus...

Yes, that's what we called ourselves. Every other community seemed to have their own bus. Detroit...Chicago...New York had 2! Boston. You name it, they had their own, with maybe a few scragglers sneaking on to round things out. But not bus 5. No, we were the mutt bus, made up all the participants from the West Coast, along with a couple other communities, just for the heck of it.

We represented:

  • Seattle (actually, I represented the entire state)

  • San Francisco

  • East Bay/Oakland

  • San Diego

  • L.A.

  • Arizona

  • Dallas, TX.

  • and for some reason Washington D.C., but they fit right in with the rest of us

It's probably what made our bus so cool, and so much fun to be a part of. We didn't really have any cliquish-ness, because no one knew one another to start with. There wasn't any of that one-up-manship that comes with being stuck on a bus with 40 people from your hometown.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Potty party...

Obviously Israel was ill-prepared for 300 American visitors, all guzzling water and in desperate need of the bathroom. Especially when approximately 200 of those 300 were women. It was clearly too much for them to keep the bathrooms well-stocked with the necessary toilet paper. Most of the time we were forced to resort to paper towel, which to be honest and fair was about as smooth as the toilet paper...which is to say not at all.
And it didn't help if the men had toilet paper. Most of the bathrooms became unisex as soon as our buses pulled into the lot, depleting their resources as well.
The best part of coming home? An endless supply of toilet paper that I don't have to share with 200 other females.

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How missions are a lot like Conference...

I discovered a few things while traveling through Israel on a Young Leadership Mission. I discovered it's a lot like going to a writer's conference. The biggest difference is, of course, that many of my fellow traveler's weren't writers. But here are a few things they had in common:

  • Buffets. Yes, the bain or pleasure of any conference. Depending on how far away you are from the food stations, you may be in for a long wait, but if you're lucky? The quality of the food will make up for it (and yes, we had our own version of conference chicken).

  • People. Suddenly, in the space of a few days, you have eight new best friends from all over the country. If you're lucky? You keep in contact with a few regularly, and others less frequently. Not to mention the sheer numbers. I spend 9 days traveling with 300 people.

  • Activities. Missions, like conferences, have an agenda and a time table. Sleep is at a premium and you do what they say when they say it. Of course, if you don't like the plan, you can choose not to participate, just like if you skip workshops.

The trip was an amazing whirlwind, and too much for one post. Check back over the next week, as I'll be adding tidbits of my trip frequently. I'll also be including pictures, once I can get them uploaded to my machine.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Drive by blogging...

There is nothing more amazing to me than Friday night Shabbat Services in Jerusalem, at the Western Wall. I had chills, ladies and gentelman. There is something intense about that place, something that calls to the very soul of a human, regardless of religion. The wall literally brings tears to my eyes when I see it. When I'm up close and personal, touching the stones that have sat there for thousands of years. You don't think of the bastard who built it, or the number of times the temple there was destroyed. Instead, you think of all the people who have been there before, and will come after you...slipping their prayers into the cracks in the wall, just waiting to receive them.

I promise, pictures and stories later. But for now, Shalom to you all...I'm off to party :)

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