Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Israel Tour 2008 - Part 2

Tel Aviv from Joppa
This is Part 2 of my account of our tour to Israel with The National Christian Choir.  This entry begins with our stay in Tel Aviv.  To start at the beginning, click here.  All my Israel pictures and videos are in the photo gallery under Vacations and Trips, then 2008 Israel.

Day 1 - Tel Aviv

We stayed at the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv.  It was overall a very nice hotel.  When dad and I arrived in our room, we thought it was funny just how small the room was.  It was small.  It barely had enough room to fit the (single!) king bed, a desk, a night stand, and a dresser, and you didn't have much spare room to walk around.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Everything is finger food

Cara is forever our high-maintenance child.  The other day, we were eating dinner.  I forget if it was spaghetti or what, but I'm sure whatever it was she was making a mess of it.  Even though she has a fork and uses it, halfway through dinner she'll put the fork down and use her hands, whether it's spaghetti, corn, or mashed potatoes.  Anyway, she started using potatoes as hand lotion or something again, then sticking her face in her plate to eat whatever it was.  Beth said, "Cara, use your fork.  You're not a horse!"  To which Cara immediately yelled, "NEIGHHHH!!!"  Zing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Oh Toodles!"

On the show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, there's a thing called "toodles" that always provides the gang with four "mouse-ka-tools" that they use to solve a particular problem or get out of a jam.  To get their mouse-ka-tools, they always have to say "Oh, Toodles!"  For example, if Mickey had to reach something way up high, they'd yell "Oh, Toodles!" and toodles would come along, and Mickey would ask you which mouse-ka-tool would help him reach whatever.

Recently I was playing with the girls outside.  They like to have me take their ball and kick it really high in the air, then they chase it.  One time I kicked Anna's ball and it got caught in a tree.  As I was thinking of how to get it down, Anna yelled, "Oh, Toodles!"  So we pretended Toodles came along, and I got a pole from the garage and was able to get the ball down.  Then Cara yelled, "Oh toe-does!"  Anna quickly corrected her with, "No!  We don't need Toodles anymore!"

Now they like to take turns doing this, where one will say "Oh Toodles!" (or Toe-Does in Cara's case), and the other one will say, "No, we don't need Toodles!" Then they both have a good laugh.

Israel Tour 2008 - Part 1

Well, I've finally gathered enough energy and time to sit down and try to start writing about The National Christian Choir's tour to Israel that dad and I participated in a few weeks ago.  I called this "Part 1" because I'm sure it will take a few entries to talk about the whole trip.  How many parts will there be?  I don't know - depends how much I write and how interrupted I get, I guess.  As many as it takes to tell you about the whole trip.  I'll include pictures with my stories, but remember that all the pictures and videos from the trip are already up in the photo gallery, under Vacations and Trips, 2008 Israel.

If you're wondering what took me so long to start writing, some kind of nasty bug had been making the rounds in our group of 300 the whole trip.  I managed to avoid catching it until literally the very last afternoon, just in time for our short 4-hour night before being awake for over 24 hours as we made our way home.  It took two weeks for me to get over whatever that was.  It was a nasty bug.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Israel pictures are up

I've finished uploading the pictures and videos from the trip to Israel in our photo gallery, under Vacations and Trips, 2008 Israel.  While there are some nice pictures, they don't do justice to the scenery in some places.  The videos dad took may give a little more depth - just know that his camera saves them in AVI format, which means large files - don't try to download them over dialup!

A week after getting back, I'm still sick!  My eyes have even turned scary monster red.  Good news is I'm slowly but surely feeling a little better with each passing day.  Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Back home

Sea of Galilee
Well, we've been back from Israel since Thursday afternoon.  I got sick on the last afternoon of the last day - just in time for the short 4 hour night before getting up at 1am to start the long journey home.  We figured by the time we got home, if we didn't sleep on the plane (and I couldn't), that 4 hours of sleep was all we got in the previous 36 hours or so.  I'm sure that didn't help.  I'm still sick and very tired from not being able to sleep through the night, but I think my sleep schedule is slowly getting back to normal.

I didn't have time until tonight to go through all my pictures.  I merged mine with my dad's pictures and videos and categorized them generally by location. I'll post an announcement when the pictures and videos are finally uploaded, which could take a little while.

In the coming days, as I have time, I will also try to sit down and describe each place we visited and give my impressions.  Overall, the trip was wonderful.  Very busy schedule, and I've never felt like such a tourist, but it was great hearing all the information the guide had to offer at each place, reminding us of the stories that occurred here and there.  The ~80 National Christian Choir members that made the trip were joined by about another 80 or so singers from around the country.  And another group of non-singers toured with us - about 300 people in all.

My overall impression - Israel really is a beautiful country.  I was struck by the diverse terrain.  They had just about every kind of terrain except maybe rainforest and ice.  There are big mountains, small mountains, high cliffs, rolling, rocky hills and fields, valleys, deserts, lush areas, palm trees, the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, which is really a large lake.  Most of the towns were built on the tops or on the sides of the hills.  Very picturesque.  It was really neat to see all the terrain, so that when the Bible says that so-and-so walked from here to there, I actually will have a mental picture of what that walk must have been like.  And really, the country is so full of hills, valleys, mountains, and deserts, that I can say that walking from one city to another in that region was probably never an easy journey.

The Israeli dad and I sat next to on the flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv said he was happy we were coming and would see that the country isn't what the media portrays.  It really wasn't scary - it was quite peaceful.  People were just living their lives - Muslims, Jews, and Christians.  Children would be running home after school all by themselves.  I really didn't see an unusual number of soldiers everywhere - only on the Temple Mount and at the checkpoints at Israeli/Palestinian borders.  Israeli helicopters and jets did fly over frequently, though, going who knows where.

If I had to pick a couple favorite locations - I really liked Joppa.  It was a quaint little town that still has a Biblical feel to it, and it's right on the Mediterranean.  I could see it being a very relaxing place to live.  I also liked Ceasarea - again right on the Sea, but what I liked was seeing the ruins of King Herod's palace and imagining from the guide's description what a magnificent place that would have been to live.  The waves would have literally been crashing against the palace itself.  Finally, I was very impressed with Masada.  It's a fortress that was built by King Herod on top of an isolated, almost 1,000 foot high plateau in the middle of the Judean Desert by the Dead Sea.  The view was great, and it was amazing to see that they had built and carved a little city way up there.  The story of Masada is quite dramatic, and on the top, you can still see the remnants of the Roman army's camps where they laid seige to Masada, as well as the ramp they built to batter down the walls.  Very impressive.

Well, like I said, as I have time, I will try to go through and describe what we did each day, using some of the pictures I'll be posting soon.  Right now it's time to try to sleep again.  Thanks so much, mom, dad, and Beth, for letting me take this trip.  It was very special.