Monday, January 2


We're in Israel! Did ya know my life online began when I did my study abroad with BYU Jerusalem back in 1997? It’s true! I regularly sent my family these horribly long emails so they could share in my adventures and so I’d have a record of it all.

This time it's Ryan, me and Jake (almost 5 months old now). And I'm our tour guide! Talk about overwhelming after the month we’ve had! Luckily, I know my man. Ryan's a wanderer, he loves to drive the countryside and get a feel for the land -- not visit every archeological site and museum with a scholar. Phew! Navigate, I can do that . . . or not so much.

We arrived January 1st around 2pm and made our way north to Haifa. First of all, the airport was an unrecognizable upgrade to the podunk digs I flew into in 1997! Our plan was to do some quick overview stops to vantage points on Mt. Carmel (Elijah's face-off with the priests of Baal), Megiddo (Armageddon), and Mt. Tabor (Mt of Transfiguration). This plan would have worked a lot better had the map download we did to our GPS worked! We quickly learned that we do not speak or recognize Hebrew writing! And by 5pm we were also in a downpour as darkness descended. So we were driving blind. We stopped and got our bearings at one point and miraculously made it to our accommodations.

We're staying at a small family moshav (a cooperative agricultural community) called Bar Bakfar near Nazareth. It's small and simple, but very friendly and they spoiled us with a great breakfast featuring different local cheeses, spreads, fresh baked breads, omelets, and the best fresh lemonade we've ever had!

Because of a day full of rain, we decided to do the Golan Heights above the Galilee. We made a full loop around the Sea of Galilee in one day as we hit all these sites.

We hiked around Banias, or Caesarea Philippi, to see the waterfall - one of three headwaters for the Jordan River. It was here that the record of Mark in the Gospels says Jesus asked Peter to tell him who he thought He was. Most Christians venerate this spot because they believe Christ told Peter that Peter was the "Rock" the church would be built upon. However, us Latter-day Saints believe the Savior was teaching them about how He was the rock and a belief in him is the foundation of our faith. I hope I stated that right. It was also near Banias that a woman was healed from some sort of blood issue by touching the Savior in a crowd.

Next we made our way to Nimrod's Fortress. It was built by locals in the 12th century to defend against incoming Crusaders. I sat in the car and fed Jake while people watching and Ryan climbed to his heart's content. The rain was coming down hard and most of the time I couldn't see the fortress right in front of me. Once the clouds passed, the fortress provides beautiful sweeping views of the valleys below. Next we made our way toward Gamla but got there after last admissions. These site hours are tricky during the winter. Along the way we stopped in Qasrin for some snacks and also saw a lot of Israeli military training bases and exercise grounds. Ryan was pretty pleased with himself for spotting the wall built along the Israel-Syria border.

We circled around the Sea of Galilee and found ourselves at Yardenit as the last visiting busload groups finished up their baptisms. I was curious to see what Ryan thought of it but he enjoyed it for what it was. One group was from the States and the other from Indonesia. Ryan stationed himself and Jake near the Indonesians because they brought their own musicians.

Asians love babies and young kids! This might be a theme of the week . . .

Ryan got a kick out of this jar of honey in the souvenir shop.

The restaurant we wanted to eat at in Tiberias didn't open until 7pm so we had to go with plan B. We headed up to Korazim to the Vered HaGalil restaurant that was recommended in our guidebook.

Jake was happy to be out of his carseat although he's been a fabulous traveller! Gotta love a baby who takes a pacifier or is just as happy sucking on his fingers and has newly discovered he can bat at a toy with those appendages!

Once we got back to our place and sorted through all our fun pictures, we got a kick out of a conversation reminiscing over where we were 20, 15, 10, and 5 years ago. Such a blast!

20 years ago . . .
Ryan - junior in high school (that's about all he disclosed)
Tracie - freshman in high school, crushes on boys, athletic trainer for basketball/wrestling/gymnastics

15 years ago . . .
Ryan - post-mission working/schooling in New Hampshire, six months from moving to BYU
Tracie - arriving in Israel with BYU Study Abroad!

10 years ago . . .
Ryan - decided to stay in DC post-internship and find job, apply for Masters programs
Tracie - living, working in DC, single and tired of it but a couple months shy of meeting Ryan

5 years ago . . .
Ryan - waiting for new job to begin at EDS, end of job hunt after a surprise lay-off when company was bought out
Tracie - working in DC and not balancing being a wife, mother of 2, and full-time working gal very well

And now, we're always pinching ourselves! Four kids, a job abroad Ryan is really enjoying, and lots of opportunities to travel. Don't worry, it's still real life - we have household plumbing and car issues to drain the bank.