The one place I shouldn’t go, the one place I loved dearly

” ANY place, but that city . . . it’s such a crazy place.” The text from my east coast cousin read. She was trying hard to convince me to take my vacation elsewhere, but THIS, the craziness, the busyness, is exactly my type of place. After all I’ve been to Cairo, I told her. Like the craziest place in Africa. Not many Egyptians take their vacation there either. Oh and I went back there after my first visit. Perhaps crazy cities like that and me go extremely well together. That of course doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome for this vacation, but a girl can dream. After all I’ve been mistaken many times for a New Yorker while in the Middle East and if not this, then I don’t know what else is a sure proof that New York and I will get along just fine.

I wrote the above entry for my blog right before I left, yet I didn’t get to blogging it. I came back from NYC yesterday, and survived what some would call crazy and busy city. I call it a perfect fit for a girl who loves city life and skyscrapers. I may or may not blog about some adventures in the coming days, but for now, here’s a shot that is gracing my iPad lock screen at the moment.

Miss you New York, Yuliya

A Jacket, Luke, and Memories

Do you remember the time you gave me your jacket when I was really cold miss Yuliya? Do you still have it?  To my great relief the kids haven’t forgotten me and Luke even recalled the memory on Har Zsafotiim (or something like that), one of my favorite hikes in Israel just above the Red Sea.  Luke was incredibly light and for as many hikes that he did with the group, I carried him on my shoulders for part of the way, sharing him with my two friends, Jeremy and David.  That day the bus dropped us off for an impromptu hike and after scaling a few climbs to the top of reddish hills, we reached a breathtaking view on Israel’s southern border, with Eilat spreading at the bottom and the impressive red mountains of Jordan covered in pink haze rising just above.  It was incredibly windy at the top and I wrapped my tennis jacket around Luke who sat down near one of the trail marks.  Luke smiled hard as he usually did and his smile is one of the most precious ever.  

No, I don’t still have the jacket. My roommate borrowed it and accidentally left it in Jordan, but Luke remembered the incident and his smile makes up for the loss.  

The past week have been filled with much reminiscing and fun times with the kids.  I’m so thankful to have visited them a few times in the past five years that they live in Dallas, but more so for those times in Israel where we met.  For the warm summer nights around moshav where we played on the streets till dinner time, the bus rides across deserts, the walks around the Sea of Galilee, and the many hikes with kids on my shoulders.

The next time around in Texas

Day three in Texas and I’m loving it.  And no I haven’t picked “y’all” yet, l’m sure my Houston friend Whitney is highly disappointed.  Neither have I seen any hats or cowboy boots around, maybe I haven’t got to the heart of Texan land yet.  On the other note, here’s a list of things to bring for your next trip to the South:  

… T-shirts!!! It’s warm, or warmer. The ones I brought just in case, happen to be my main wardrobe, which may or may not match.
… Flip flops and NOT boots. The later are much more comfortable to travel (except when you’re going through security), but simply don’t match the weather forecast.
… Band aids. You never know when you’ll need to take a walk and then cover up some blisters after the fact.
… Sunscreen and NOT an umbrella. Oh did I mention that the weather forecast lied, it definitely hasn’t rained or thunder-stormed yet.
… E-books. Space savers and back pain savers.
… Books in paper version for those times when all the electronic devices have to be turned off.
… A smile, for those times you need a stranger to put your luggage in the overhead bin. 
… Toms.  Best way to make an impression, if you want one that is. 
… Anything that has an “i” in front of it ( especially the iPad).  You’ll always be a hit on the plane. It’s also a great conversation starter and the kids will loooove you.

And if I happen to pick up any new suggestions in the next day and a half, I’ll make sure to let you know.  

A photo with my favorite Bolen kid

A journey into the past

Once upon a time I lived and studied in the Middle East, namely in Israel. About once a month my professor Todd would explore some beaten path in Israel and thankfully I was on his good list and he brought me along quite often. The day always started with disciphering maps. Todd would bring modern maps, maps made by the early explores to Palestine and often even books. After matching up what we could, we would take his friend’s land rover to the biblical sites, either through the lush green hills of Judah, or the barren lands of Negev with outbursts of red poopeyes. We drove along the rushing current of the Jordan with cattle grazing at its banks, through valleys blooming with yellow wild flowers, and once even ventured toward the border of Lebanon. Those days out exploring were some of the most memorable ones. Often the trips were accompanied by visits to the local markets, talks to the Arabs we met along the way, short hikes, and even some climbing on ancient ruins. Oh and it wouldn’t be complete without some occasional pranks by my friend Jeremy.

Those trips were also the most educational. After walking along many dirt paths, hiking up hills, I could connect the sites and the stories together much better. On top of that there’s usually just four of us out exploring and I could ask my professor whatever question I had. I believe he still didn’t get back to me on the two different Kedeshes in Galilee, I guess he owes me another trip ;). Besides the prolonged walks along ancient sites and new insights, there were also visits to the ancient cities missed by many like Debir or Libnah, or often simply not accessible like Samaria or Mizpah. Those sites/tels were hard to get to (we may or may not have moved some road blocks along the way), and often to get out of. One time the Israelis kept us waiting for two hours before letting us cross into Jezreel Valley. Apparently our reason for wanting to see the place where Joseph was sold into slavery wasn’t a strong one, out of all people they should have been first to understand. But most days ended on happy notes.

I was always amazed at how much of Israel we were able to see in one day and learned to love it even more. Although I hardly kept any written record of our trips, they’re so fresh in my memory as if they were yesterday!

A photo from one of our trips. Starting from the left, my professor Todd Bolen, Jeremy, Daniel and yours truly in Aijalon!

“We write to taste life twice . . .”

“We write to taste life twice.” I often see this quote on Target journals and it never fails to inspire me. Because truly that’s what writing does, it makes one relieve events, fun memories, occasions one never wants to forget. Although I’ve been getting busier with weddings and engagement posts, I still want my blog to be a place which collects memories, simple days out with my sisters, my adventures, discoveries and strolls around town. Narrowing it to just a small window in my life would not do justice to me and my readers, and so I hope that you will get to look through many different windows and travel through wide and narrow alleys of my life.

The past weekend I spent with my three friends, who are lovely, sweet, and just too fun to be around. We were hoping to make this a bigger trip to include many others, but it turned out to be amazing even with just the four of us. After my night of packing I spent half the day driving with my friends to San Diego and sharing in many fun adventures. I’m still laughing about our hotel room which we switched in the middle of the night, because the noise made it unbarrable to sleep. Our hat search experience. Spontaneous shopping. Walking through a wet and slippery tunnel into a cave. The things we complained about and so many more. At the end of the day I am so thankful for friends like Maria, who have ideas to drive to San Diego for a weekend, for friends like Olesya, who make it happen and have enough mile points for anything in your life, for friends like Natasha who have birthdays on trips and on top of that treat you to a nice dinner. Can’t wait till our Portland trip for Olesya and Borya’s wedding.

Thank you Olesya for the lovely pictures!

My beautiful friends!

By far my favorite place in San Diego, I can taken in this view any time!

That was one of the sweetest moments on the trip

Yours truly once again. Than you Olesya for capturing a few photos of me, I love them!

The End!

Back to . . .

. . . life! I was sitting in the back of the car watching the telephone polls string for miles in front of us and my friend Maria said, “I can’t believe San Diego is over!” Sigh . . . I am totally with her. Waking up in my room this morning was bitter sweet. I missed San Diego. The comfy hotel bed. Sand between my feet. Ocean waves and skyscrapers as a backdrop for our lunch and dinner outings. On the other hand, I’m totally grateful. Grateful for my sweet friends. For a time off. For fun memories. And for how close San Diego is. Happy Monday Internet!