Eid Mubarak to the Muslim world! Today is the end of Ramadan, when a holy month of fasting ends with a grand feast and fireworks, and everyone wears new clothes! View a slideshow of Muslims celebrating Eid al Fitr in various ways around the world here.
We hiked to Mass yesterday evening for the first time since we got back from the States. We were very happily surprised to meet two of our favorite local families at Mass; one the Armenian family who taught us about Armenian pizza and the proper way to handle scissors among Armenians, and an absolutely lovely family where the wife is descended from first-century Holy Land Christians and the husband, who owns a print shop, is a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Both ladies are members of my ladies’ Bible study group, which is currently on hiatus while our usual hostess is visiting family in Mexico for the summer. We all sat down to dinner in our hotel-church’s restaurant after Mass, and the three adorable preteen daughters of our friends amused themselves with a popular game similar to Scattergories, in which everyone has a grid with spaces for plants, objects, places, food, etc., and a letter is called out and the first person to fill all their categories wins. It took me a while to realize what they were doing, because they were playing in Arabic! When Rodolfo and I took interest in their game and told them we both played it as kids, they began to play in English. While I was incredibly impressed by the vast scope of their English vocabularies (I’m not sure I could play even half as well in Spanish, and I’m at least twice their age!), they all got hung up trying to think of a plant that begins with a “z,” so they asked me for one. “How about a zinnia?” I asked. They all gave me blank looks. “What’s a zinnia?” I tried to explain that it’s a type of flower, but since there are so many different typical colors and shapes, I couldn’t explain it very well. Even the adults, who speak wonderful English and have mostly spent extensive time in the U.S. and U.K., had never heard of it. The girls asked me how to spell it and all dutifully copied it onto their sheets. When trying to look up the Arabic word for “zinnia” today, I realized it’s a plant that we only have in the New World, from the Southwestern U.S. to South America. Well, that explains that.
Speaking of regional plants, while in Scandinavia, I was particularly interested in the local “Nordic” berries that only exist in that part of the world. Though my sister lamented the fact that we were too late in the season for the cloudberries she fell in love with while studying abroad in Finland last summer, we still had plenty of opportunities to try lingonberries and sea buckthorns (both of which we don’t have in the U.S.), in addition to delicious local strawberries and Nordic berry chocolates and ice cream. I bought some sea buckthorn tea in Sweden, but I didn’t get the chance to try it until I got back to Jerusalem. And now I am wishing I had bought boxes and boxes of it! It’s delicious!
Speaking of tea, those of you who knew us in Austin were probably familiar with our infamous tea collection, with over 100 teas from six continents.
My dear friends of Schoenstatt inherited the tea collection when I moved here. But fans of the tea collection will be happy to know that I have started to build a Tea Collection 2.0 here, which is so far much more modest than the Austin version. But there is still time! Most of the tea comes from swapping on a swap site called Swap-Bot, which is also great for swapping postcards, books, recipes, Artists Trading Cards, and anything under the sun, really. (The oddest thing I ever got from swapping was a pair of WWII-era aviator’s goggles, which earned a place of honor in our Cabinet of Curiosities.) And, as Rodolfo recently discovered, people also swap postage stamps on Swap-Bot. Rodolfo, who has collected stamps since he was a kid, recently got interested in it again. So he joined Swap-Bot! I can count the number of men I’m aware of on Swap-Bot on one hand. But he’s really enjoying swapping stamps with other collectors all over the world! I enjoy helping him organize the stamps; as a graphic designer, I love to see the evolution of design, national attitudes and printing processes unfolding over a few decades worth of stamps. Our newest project is to collect a stamp from every country in the world! Rodolfo also collects a few special subjects, including space and astronomy (of course), sports and Olympics, art, flowers, animals and Popes. So if you have any interesting old stamps lying around, even if they’re still attached to old letters, let us know!
We are gearing up for a trip to Spain this fall in which we will be attempting the Camino Santiago, or Way of St. James, a medieval pilgrims’ trail through northern Spain. In order to qualify as having completed the pilgrimage, you must walk at least 100 kilometers (62 miles) to arrive at the church of St. James in Compostela. So we’re working our way up to that. Our most recent undertaking was a hike to the nearby village of Ein Karem and back, about 8.5 km. This village is famous for being the birthplace of St. John the Baptist, and there is a lovely church commemorating the visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. The hike was beautiful, much of it through the Jerusalem forest, but since Ein Karem is in a valley, the hike home (uphill) was pretty brutal! But we need to get up to at least twice that in one go, so bring it on! Here is a photo of us at the church of the Visitation.
Earlier this week, Rodolfo’s work had a scheduled power outage, so we took the day off to go to Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv! The weather has been beautiful lately! We rented a beach umbrella for 6 shekels and sat on the beach reading and enjoying the beautiful weather.
You might not know that Tel Aviv itself, the de facto capital of Israel and one of its biggest cities, is only about 100 years old. When you look at old maps of the region, there is no Tel Aviv. However, greater Tel Aviv includes, and encompasses, the ancient town of “Yafo,” or “Jaffa,” which is the town from which Jonah left the Holy Land running away from God on the fated journey in which he ended up in the belly of a fish. Jaffa is also one of the only sites in Israel that appears in Greek mythology! (The only other one I’m aware of is Akko, or Acre, which gets its name from the Greek word for “cure,” based on a Greek myth stating that an injured Hercules found curative herbs there when he took refuge there to heal his battle wounds.) Read more about the Jaffa myth here. It includes a naked maiden chained to a rock. Worth a read.
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