Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Israel - 16 April 06

It is 4:26 pm in Tel Aviv. I sit in the Ben Gurion 2000 wing of the Ben Gurion airport. The 2000 wing was supposed to be opened in 2000, but actually has only been open for a year. Airport construction, it seems, is the same in every country—expensive, slow, and delayed.

Friday – we took off early for Jerusalem. We are Guy, me, four Israelis, and four Kiwis. Our guide was a Kiwi who has lived in Israel for something like eight years. He knew a lot about Israel. He took us on a walk to see the major sites of Christian and Jewish interest. We saw a lot. It seemed as though the historical places were stacked on top of each other. On that day, Good Friday, I visited or saw the Mercy Gate, Gethsemane, the burial place of Mary, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Condemnation, some of the stations on the Way of the Cross, the Holy Church of the Sepulcher, in which I saw where Jesus was crucified, wrapped in cloths, and placed in his tomb from where he ascended to Heaven. I also saw the West Wall, the Tower of David, and some of the Armenian Quarter. There are quarters in the Old City for the Armenians, Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We saw the Dome of the Rock from where, it is said, Mohammed ascended to Heaven with the Angel Gabriel. We didn’t go inside.

What I remember about the Muslim Quarter is a plethora of shops. I almost bought a shirt with an F-16 on it. Above and below the jet were printed the words: Don’t worry America, Israel is behind you. I thought this was particularly sad, but funny as well.

I stayed up later that night than Guy because he didn’t get home the night before until 4:30 am. For only getting three hours of sleep the night before he did really well.

Saturday – we didn’t leave as early as yesterday, but we did just as much. We drove through Jerusalem, past Ramallah, to Jericho and the Dead Sea. We went to Masada first. It was hot and very clear. I hiked up, but most of the group took the tram. The hike was a workout and I could feel my lack of cardiovascular strength. My performance during the hike was exceptionally sad given that I started the climb at -412m altitude, the lowest point in the world. The top was awesome. We took a lot of pictures. I will never forget the view of the desert plateau sweeping down to the Dead Sea and seeing Jordan on the horizon. I hiked down as well. We went to the sea and I rubbed mineral mud on my skin and went into the water. The mud and the water made my skin so smooth. You can float in nearly any position. I didn’t get a picture of me floating, but I have a great one of Guy and me with mud on each other right before we went in.

We had a big meal at the house of some women from the States, but they had been living in Jericho for a number of years now. They had even learned Hebrew. I was freaking impressed. Other than that, it was a weird feeling being there at the house. I was trying to figure out what they were doing in Jericho the whole time I was there. They are really a couple of hippies. It took two hours to get home last night.

This morning Guy went to work. I slept in. Guy’s mom cooked for me. We talked some. I checked email and wrote some. Guy dropped me off here a couple hours ago. I got groped, felt up, and searched multiple times by El Al again. I board my flight in 40 minutes to start my long, cramped and arduous journey back to Colorado. Let the travel begin.

*Given the length of this entry I will have to write any reactions to it in another blog.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Israel - 12 April 06

Last night we went out for a drink. It was nice to get another taste of the Tel Aviv nightlife. We also went to a burger joint. It was hopping at 1 am when we left. What a life it would be to work there every night. No thank you.

Tonight is the Seder meal and I will meet Guy’s grandparents.

I could have left here on the 13th, well, even as I write that I realize that is tomorrow and it would be too soon. I will miss being with my family on Easter, heck, I just miss them. I wouldn’t have liked doing what Guy did (he studied abroad for all of his undergraduate years). That must have been so tough. I only know what 3.5 months is like, just over a quarter of a year, and that is enough.

Kate is so close I can almost, or can, picture driving up the street and hiking up those steps. I will be bounding actually. I want to be there now. I feel like my heart has already gone home and it’s just waiting for my body.

It is lame how much I wrote “I miss home”, or something of the sort, in my journal. If I read the previous day’s entry before writing I probably wouldn’t have mentioned how much I missed people from home in every entry. Alas, I did not and that is why there is so much lame, sappy missing going on.

One more thing, I could have done what Guy did. You know, study abroad for all those years. If I went abroad for my studies as a freshman I wouldn't have anything to make me reluctant of doing so. Now I am engaged, things are a little different, so I wouldn't leave the US unless Kate could come with. I promise you if she could, we would be gone for a while.

Monday, January 29, 2007

War Breeds Road Rage, And Much More

Here is the most recent comment on my blog, or the only one not left by Rachel:

"And you wonder WHY we're hated there? Note: the horn was fake and added later. Nobody looked up or at the humvee. Not the guy picking his nose, not anyone else including the child, nobody in the cars..."

First, I don't wonder why we're hated there. I know some like us, but whether this video is a fake or not, it doesn't take much to realize why we are hated in Iraq by some.

Second, I suppose this video could be fake, but to make a point, I never once thought to myself while watching it, or pondering it later on, there is no way that happens over in Iraq. We are corrupted by war and conflict. When we find ourselves in the turmoil of our age we do things, mean things, that we never thought we would do. War doesn't make people courteous. If it did, every country would have their own overseas occupation going on.

A video on YouTube is not proof that something happened. In this case, I am guilty of believing it is, but I don't feel guilty for believing what I saw on that video is entirely possible given the circumstances of our presence and prolonged occupation of Iraq.

Baghdad Blitz

I first watched this almost unbelievable footage from a Humvee driving through the streets of Baghdad on Andrew Sullivan's blog today. He presumes the crazy driving is necessary to avoid ambushes and attacks. I think that has to be accurate. If it is necessary to drive like that because we are so vulnerable over there than we definitely aren't making any friends on the road.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Israel - 11 April 06

We did go to the beach again. The weather was great and so was throwing the Frisbee in the warm Mediterranean. We lay in the sun for a long time and watched an old man throw three different types of boomerangs. He is so good at getting them to come right back to him. He doesn’t have to take more than five steps away from where he stood, when he threw the boomerang, in order to catch it.

We went to a wedding party last night. It was fun, but awkward and a bit long at the end of the night. The groom, an Israeli, met the Belgian bride while they were both on vacation in Thailand. They were married in Cyprus because she is not a Jew. Guy told me that only Jews can get married in Israel. The bride and groom have the same birthday and they will now celebrate their anniversary on the same date.

Guy is at work again, but he will be home shortly. I emailed Kate, the parents and Aaron this morning. I perused The Guardian online and took a quick look at US news sites to get the top stories from over there.

As much fun as I am having over here I am still wildly anticipating my trip home. I will have to be patient once my long journey starts this Sunday.

There aren’t too many more awkward situations than attending a wedding where you only know one guest. I did a lot of standing around, tried to explain to people who the hell I was and why I am such good friends with an Israeli who I met swimming at the University of Wyoming. People stared blankly at me with intermittent, confused blinks. I would give another unsuccessful explanation.

“So you live in London?” “Where is Wyoming?” “Why were you swimming?” “How do you know the bride?” “How do you know the groom?”

More awkward explanation. More blank stares. Quickly trying to get out of the situation I would look over their stares and pretend like I saw a friend off in the distance. I would smile, wave and politely excuse myself so that I may go to…I don’t know…John, and catch up with him. I would slip in a, “but it was nice to talk with you” before I ran away.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Israel - 10 April 06

Didn’t write yesterday, it was a long day. Nazareth and Haifa were our destinations yesterday. We went to sleep right after Crash last night. It was a social masterpiece.
Alright, we drove to Nazareth. We found a good parking spot and walked up to the Church of the Annunciation. We ran into a Palm Sunday parade and many Arab Christians which was something great to see. We walked around the church and took some pictures. On a tip Guy received we went to a restaurant for great hummus and kebab. We also had 15 plates of salads with good pita bread and falafel. We had to leave Nazareth after the meal to make it to the Baha'i Gardens in time for our tour. It took a long time to find the right entrance but it was worth it. The gardens were so beautiful. What a view of the Mediterranean too. The gardens are symmetrical in design. I took a lot of pictures. The drive back to Tel Aviv was also pretty, down the coast we went as the sun set on the Med.

Guy took me to his gym last night. We shot some hoops and lifted before we got in a hot tub. Guy had to work some today, but that is fine. I have had some time to read emails this morning. I don’t know what we will do this afternoon. We might go to the beach again. I have loved my time here, but I get more excited to go home as everyday passes. I can’t believe I am going home to Colorado. In one week I will be at Heathrow waiting to take off to Chicago and then to sweet, delicious Colorado.

A horrible stereotype exists in parts of the West. There are some ignorant Westerners that assume an Arab must be a terrorist of some sort, or at least that they are not tolerant of Christianity in any way, shape, or form. I have never believed this to be true, but when I saw a Palm Sunday parade with no Westerner or white in it I choked up and wished that every Westerner that ever had the previously described stereotype could have seen what I did that day. In the heart of the Middle East, in a land of turmoil, in Nazareth on Palm Sunday and amid a flood of believers I felt God, and the beauty of our worship, and saw Jesus making all things new.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Israel - 8 April 06

We did go out until 4 am. A very loud club with lots of people. We went to a burger joint, also full, at 3 am, but it was very good. We woke up at noon and had a great lunch from Rosy. She is a great cook and a very nice hostess. It was a beautiful day so we headed to the beach. Lots of people there. Shallow water, great for throwing the Frisbee around. The water was warm, warmer than the Pacific. There were too many guys in Speedos and euro trunks. We got back and cleaned up before Guy’s grandparents came for dinner. Guy’s sister and husband came over with their two daughters.

We are going north tomorrow and are just watching a movie tonight, an illegal copy of Crash on DVD. I miss Kate and the family a lot right now. You always miss the things you love the most when you get closer to seeing them. At least this is true for me.

I forgot how short most of these Israel entries are. I didn’t have much time to write during this trip. We were always gone, going somewhere, eating or sleeping, but I had to write down the day's events. I rightly judged then, that if I read these few lines in the future, that the words would be enough to bring back the moment.

Crash was enjoyable. I understand why it won an Oscar. I don’t understand why everyone was so surprised.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

London - Israel - 7 April 06

Long overnight flight to Tel Aviv. A lot of frisking at airport. Guy picked me up and we drove to the apartment. Ate some. Took a long nap. Ate some more. Took the dog for a walk. Watched a little TV. Laughed. Talked. Spoke with his parents. Had a great dinner. Watched some Israeli TV. Might go out tonight, pretty exhausted though.

I love how I started this entry…fourteen sentences, ten of them incomplete. Though there are just three words, sometimes one, in between periods they ignite memories of a trip that I will not soon forget. I know what we ate. I know where I slept. I can walk the same route we took the dog on. I only thought there would be very little interest in reading my London entries, but that isn’t why they are up here. This blog has become a journey for me, a record of my life and a source of good writing exercise. I knew when starting this blog that people would choose to diligently read it, or they would not. The ones that read this now are the people that have been reading this from the beginning. I thank you for reading. I know at times none of this will be interesting to you and only meaningful to the author, but regardless of whether you like it or not, I hope that something on this blog makes you feel like you are on a journey, or that it has helped you start your own.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Monday, January 22, 2007

Time Out

Luckily I have only had to endure two of these days. Wake up at 6:20, drive an hour and ten minutes into Denver, work for four, drive an hour back, have lunch, relax for 30 minutes and then work at Starbucks from 3 to 10:45. And by the time I get home my productivity has evaporated with the 11 or so hours I have already worked, thus, the lame amount of blogs I have been putting up in the last couple of weeks. I commend those that have a schedule like this every day and still manage to keep the blog going. For me, it just doesn't work. I want to write so much more than days like today allow.

I should find more time to blog starting tomorrow because my hours are slightly less at Starbucks. In the meantime, please direct yourself to Mr. Boeke's new blogs on his trip through Mexico, Just Coffee and great music of 2006.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

London - 2 April 06

“A man who is tired of London, is tired of life.” – Samuel Johnson.

Descending into the cavernous Canary Wharf station. This was the first tube station designed with the 2012 London Olympics in mind. There is such a thing as a beautiful tube station.Green Park in late March.

After nearly three months here I know this quote from Johnson is true for me. I have four days left here before I fly to Israel. It has been a fast 11.5 weeks thus far. I don’t expect the last two to go any slower.

The whole purpose of this entry was to get that Samuel Johnson quote in the journal before it slipped my mind.

This is the Swiss Re Tower in London. Designed by Norman Foster, this tower was visible everyday as I rode into the center of London. A phallic symbol it is, thus it acquires some interesting nicknames such as the "Gherkin."

I spent a lot of those last days in London running around and getting pictures of buildings and other locations that I didn’t have a picture of yet. I hadn’t gone out of my way to take pictures of MI6, the flowers at Green Park, the Lloyds building in the City, The Gherkin or Swiss Re Tower, and Canary Wharf. I have included some of these pictures.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Come Apple With Me

I hope sometime in the near or distant future I will get a laptop. Although I have always had a PC, I am leaning toward a Mac right now. For anyone else in the computer market, or just curious about the PC v. Mac matchup, here is an interesting article on one of Microsoft's answers to the simplicity of the Mac OS. After reading it I feel much more hesitant about buying a Windows based PC that will soon automatically come with Windows Vista.

London - 26 Mar 06

I sit in the “Canonicus Residentarius II” seat in the St. Paul’s Cathedral choir stalls. The music hasn’t begun and I am taking this time to write that each week that I have come to St. Paul’s this thirty minute recital has been the thirty most peaceful minutes of my week. It took me a few weeks to get here after arriving, but I have come here every Sunday I could since then. I have been coming for months now. I feel unworthy. In fact, it is an oddity, this building; it can be simultaneously humbling, intimidating, warm, and welcoming. In my experience many churches can give their visitors these feelings, but I find St. Paul’s giving them all to me during one visit.

Matteo Imbruno, the organist for today’s recital, is playing the "Ballo del Granduca" by Sweelinck right now. It sounds like wedding music at times, but then it dips into different sounds that wouldn’t bode well for a wedding.

“In Domo Domini Domus Dei Nostri” is written under the southern section of the organ. The wooden statues on the frontispiece of the organ need a good dusting.

My thoughts do turn toward home these last few weeks in London. Collin Moore, I miss that kid. God has blessed Aaron and I with a renewed strength, faith, and understanding in our friendship. I see the path back to where we once stood as friends, now we can move forward. Although we had some hard months, probably years, I partly believe those were necessary for our friendship and where I think God wants to take it. We now understand each other in a way that we didn’t before.

I can't wait to see other friends as well. God has blessed me with this semester in London, but He has most certainly blessed me with a great home, family and friends to come back to.
I suspect that Canonicus, and the letters to follow mean something significant. I have three reasons to believe this. 1) It is Latin. 2) The average person doesn’t know what it means. 3) A few minutes after I wrote this entry from that seat I was asked to move to any other seat in the cathedral because I couldn’t sit in that one. I looked up Canonicus and I found out it is the name of a Narragansett leader who yielded Rhode Island to Roger Williams in 1636. Just a hunch, but I doubt that the seat I was sitting in was named after that Canonicus.

As far as the second string of Latin, I think it means “In the Lord God’s House we are one” or “This is the Lord God’s House”. I don’t know Latin, so it could be something completely different.

God did a lot of healing through very long emails I exchanged with Aaron while I was in London. I remember sitting their in the choir stalls and praying for thirty minutes. I would run down the list of every friend I could think of and pray for them, or a specific area of their life. The 7,000 pipe organ is a good soundtrack for prayers. When the music stopped, the praying stopped, but sometimes it continued as I walked home, or if I walked through the empty streets in the City. I would drop a pound or two in the offering box on the way out and take my time walking down the giant steps of that magnificent church.

Picture: The empty streets of the City of London on a Sunday. The City is different from London. Central London is primarily composed of two areas: Westminster (Big Ben, Parliament, and other government buildings) and the City of London, small by comparison to Westminster, is the primary financial district (banks, trading, all sorts of economic firms).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

JROD's Music

There is this guy, Jarrod, who I work with at Starbucks. He is in a band with himself and he has a pretty good sound. This isn't a pity link to his MySpace. If I thought he was crap, I wouldn't put this on my blog. He is pretty talented. Give a listen here.

He also paints and has put up some paintings in the Starbucks on South Hover. Stop by and check them out.

Monday, January 15, 2007

London - 24 Mar 06

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to record the top 10 movies and singles in the UK while I am here, at least once. So, here they are, the top ten UK films:

1. Pink Panther
2. V for Vendetta
3. The Hills Have Eyes
4. Chicken Little
5. Syriana
6. Date Movie
7. Walk the Line
8. Lucky Number Slevin
9. Big Momma’s House 2
10. Tsotsi.

And the top ten singles are:

1. No Tomorrow – Orson
2. It’s Chico Time – Chics…or something like that
3. Pump It – Black Eyed Peas
4. Beep – Pussycat Dolls
5. Put Your Records On – Corinne Bailey Rae
6. Whole Lotta History – Girls Aloud
7. Red Dress – Sugababes
8. Touch the Sky – Kanye West
9. Sorry – Madonna
10. Thunder in My Heart Again – Meck ft. Leo Sayer

I might add that I have only seen one film on the movie list, Syriana. It was good. As far as the songs go, I know the sound of two of them by name even though I know all of them have been played on the radio while within earshot. I would like to get some of them even though they may not be amazing songs, they might bring back a little of London for some time to come.

As you can see Brits like some crappy movies and music too. The Hills Have Eyes? Big Momma’s House 2? Freaking BEEP? Yes, they have taste, but sometimes their distaste, just like the distaste of Americans, is how they are known. I did give a listen to every one of those songs when I got home. I ended up not getting one of them. They are all not in my taste. Some songs like Madonna’s “Sorry” bring me instantly back to say, a McDonalds, any McDonalds in London was playing that song five times a day. The music listed above doesn’t bring back the London I love at all. It brings back the fabrication, the Americanization of a wonderfully British city, and that is something I won’t mind revisiting.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Britain Responds

Yeah, Britain doesn't follow suit. Could Tony Blair's days as Bush's lapdog be over?

Fanning the Flames

The President wants to throw more gasoline on the fire. Meanwhile, "back on Earth", this looks like a bad idea. The Guardian on the call.


Coming to America, David Beckham?

London - 22 Mar 06

I am back, and starting where I left off with those London blogs. I wrote this one a couple days after Kate left and I summarize the week with her.

Wednesday: Kate and I got up early for my religion class. Class ran until 12 and it took forever to pass, the time that is. Kate sat downstairs in the café to study some. We went to The Ultimate Burger for lunch. It was excellent, our second favorite meal of the trip I think. We then went to the British Museum and whisked through there seeing as much as possible. Kate really liked it and I am glad we got to go there together. The London Eye was next. At $25 a ticket we paid more than a dollar a minute to ride all the way up and all the way down. It was worth it. It was sort of a hazy day, but at least it was sunny. We got some great pictures and Kate really wanted to see London from the air.

We walked to Westminster next and took a tour of the Abbey. After that it was back to Leicester Square for Wagamama again. We showed up in time to beat the big crowds. We headed home and packed for the Paris trip next.

Thursday: A trip on the Eurostar from Waterloo to Gare du Nord in Paris took 2.5 hours. The train seemed like it was reaching speeds of 150 mph through the French countryside. The Chunnel portion of the track only takes about fifteen minutes. Paris was cold and dirty, and very confusing at first. It took us some time to get some money and buy a ticket on the Metro, but we found our hotel near a street that we named the Rue de la Poo. This street was covered in dog poop and seriously, some of the poo looked like it had come from dog’s owners instead.

I had a bit of a breakdown when I saw the room because I envisioned something much nicer. I would have spent another $100 to improve the room at a drop of a hat. I got over the room and headed to the Opera House for the bus. We rode the bus to the Champs Elysees and got off there. We walked around and saw the Arc de Triomphe, the Renault F1 Store, Louis Vuitton, and most importantly, the McDonalds and the pattiseries. We eventually found ourselves at Trocadero for an awesome view of the Eiffel Tower. We stood around under the Tower figuring out what to do for a while. We decided to eat at Champ de Mars for €6.50 cokes. The place wasn’t that bad, except for the cokes. Now, all the way up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was sort of a scary ride, and the top is so high. It was one heck of a view though. The open top platform was extremely windy and cold. Our stay at the top wasn’t long. We had a very cold walk back to the Metro station.

The perfect end to the day was trying to sleep in a European double bed with Kate.

Friday: First to McDonalds for breakfast, then to the Louvre. My thoughts on the Louvre: great works of art and all that, but its potential drowns in the sea of people and a building that is too large. It was great and all, but that is because I am not an art nerd. If I cared about seeing everything I would really hate that museum; too big, mazy, crowded, and noisy. We walked to Pont Neuf and had great pizza by Notre Dame. The church was magnificent and free which was shocking to me after being confronted with all the entrance fees for cathedrals in England. I was pleasantly surprised by the freebie. We went back to the Champs Elysees and accomplished some eating and shopping before catching the train back to London. We were happy to return on St. Patrick’s Day to thousands of drunken Londoners singing to strangers on the Tube. It was marvelous.

Saturday: Buckingham Palace, we missed the changing of the guard, but we did get to see the lone guard and Kate got a picture with him. We bought some good pastries and found our way to the National Gallery for some shopping in their great store. We then had Mexican food in London. It was not horrible, but I wouldn’t recommend it to others. St. Paul’s was next and it was just as good a view from the top of the dome at is was from the Eye. This might have been due to the clarity of the day, but it was simply awesome.

We crossed Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. We really enjoyed this day. We had a chocolate cake for dinner that tasted sort of fishy. We packed Kate’s bags for tomorrow’s flight.

Sunday: It was a tearful goodbye due to us reminding one another throughout the week, by simply being around each other, that we are so blessed to have one another, and to love each other as much as we do. It was quiet and lonely coming back to Muswell Hill. I miss Kate’s laughs and her face underneath mine with those beautiful eyes in squinted lids looking up at me. God has blessed it.

Paris is romanticized so much in prose, poetry, movies, and all forms of fiction that it could not possibly live up to the hype. It didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Paris, but it is still a massive city with loads of traffic and trash. What I saw of Paris before I went wasn’t what I saw of Paris while I was there. That’s all.

I remember being so excited to return to London after being gone a day and a half. To return to the Tube after riding on the Metro for a couple days was a relief. The Metro works, but it doesn’t work like the original.

Kate and I did as much as possible while she was here. I felt pretty humbled by the places we got to see and the things we got to do because Kate and I didn’t have to wait until we were 60 to see this part of the world. A lot of people will have to wait half a century to see London and Paris together, and some never will. Hey, look at me, I am rubbing it in. Sorry.

The goodbye was hard. I watched Kate until I could not see her over crowds or through walls. I finished reading In Cold Blood as the Piccadilly line took me from one end of suburban London to another; back home to Muswell Hill and a quiet house, all alone in London.
Picture: From the top of the dome of St. Paul's toward the front of the church.
Picture: Kate in the crazy traffic of Paris.