June 11, 2010

My Last Four Days Spent on Israeli Ground.

I can't believe I'm already on my way home from Israel. It's unfathomable how quickly 21 days go by. I'm actually so excited to be coming home. To be honest, this is probably the first vacation I've been on where I'm actually excited to come home. Normally, I get pretty depressed during the last few days, (even on my 4-day vacation in Calgary! Haha) I am ridiculous. I only feel this way because this trip was less of a vacation and more of a life-changing/informative/educational/Biblical experience! I'm not complaining or anything, really, it was just different from any other trip I've been on before. I'm also excited to give out all of the gifts I bought for people! Seriously, I bought sooo many gifts that I even had to buy an extra suitcase! And last but not least...I miss my family and friends.

So our last four days of vacationing and relaxing with family friends has come to an end. On Sunday the Wee family and I said goodbye to everyone on the tour, it wasn't sad at all since I'll be seeing alot of them at church in Abbotsford this next Sunday! (Yay!!) All in all, there were alot of hugs and kisses between the 51 of us. After the airport we got a car and drove through Tel Aviv to a chinese restaurant where they have some family friends. This was an interesting lunch for me, since Charmaine and I could only speak English, so we couldn't understand anything that was going on. I'm glad forks and knives are an option though, since I'm not so smooth with the chopsticks.

[Traffic on the way to the airport. Ohh boy]

[Sayin' goodbye to our big purple bus]

We then visited more family friends, involving more food...and then we headed to another family friend's place where we stayed the night. They were the nicest Jewish couple in the world. They're also fascinating cooks. The Mrs' owns a chocolate store, so she baked the most amazing chocolate cake I've ever tasted. Like, wow. That night Charmaine and I watched Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, AGAIN. Seriously, best movie ever.
[Wonderful people]

[Moushe's house]


[The best dessert on this planet]

The next day we all headed out to the Sea of Galilee where we went boating! It was my first time ever going boating, which is pretty sad since I'm a born and raised country girl. But it was the coolest experience ever, and amazingly relaxing. We parked the boat out in the middle of the sea (it's actually a tiny body of water, you can see land all around you still), and then just swam in the cool water. After swimming I sat in the very tip of the boat where you can just lay and tan. Honestly, if I had my IPod of country tunes with me, that would have been pure bliss. The waves suddenly started to pick up, so we brought the boat back onto the shore and then hauled out the jetskis. Seriously, jetskiing on the Sea of Galilee. Who does that?! That's definitely something you don't do or hear of, everyday. That evening we met up with some more family friends and enjoyed a three course meal with wine. It was so amazing. I've definitely let myself go when it comes to food... I hate to admit that.. haha.

[Lovin' the tractor!]

[All set for the waters]

[Swimming in the Sea of Galilee!]

[Guy was a natural wakesurfer, that's for sure]

[Bring on the jetski's!]

The next day us women visited a little herb shop and then went to a little local mall. This is where I bought some more Bamba (remember those puffy peanut butter snacks?), 3 pairs of earrings, and my new carry-on suitcase! (I figure this was a good investment since it'll come in handy on my trek to Germany this fall)
That evening we went to a Wine Exhibition. It was so cool! It was in this little outdoor park, and when you first enter through the gates they hand you a wine glass and then you can go to as many booths as you want and try as many wines as you want. My favorite was this delicious sparkling red wine. It's funny because before this Israel trip I never liked red wine, but now I love it. Whoops! Anyway, at this exhibition there were also booths with chocolate, bread, cheese, olives, and dips. I bought this amazing garlic dip that you dip your bread in.
[Adorable children]

[Gettin' our food on. Haha]

[At the Herb shop. It smelt absolutely glorious!]

[Rosebuds, anyone?]

[The wine exhibition!]

[At the chocolate shop. Do I stand out at all?]

Our last day in Israel was smooth and relaxing, which was just what we needed. I tried Chrysthanthemum tea for the first time; it was AMAZING. So I brought three teabags home with me. Hee hee.

[Mediterranean sunset]


[We went to see the Wee's old house from when they lived in Israel a few years ago]

My Israeli airport experience was not a fun one; it was a gong show. Security there absolutely did not believe that I was traveling with the Wee family, they thought that we were all just pretending or something. But really, I can see where they're coming from, since the Wee's are asian, and I am far from it; I am tall, blonde, and white. Haha. So they pulled me aside and started drilling me with questions. There were probably a good 20 or 25 they had me answer, it was pretty nuts. Then with my check-in luggage, they opened it and inspected EVERYTHING with this rod thingy with a piece of white cloth on the end, which they put under some kind of a black light after going through all my things. They opened my two jars of garlic dip too! Gahhhh. Do I look like some kind of drug lord? That luggage part took about half an hour. They then made me put all my stuff back in my bag myself, and zip everything up myself. (How is this fair?) Then as I lugged my bag to the counter to check it in, I had three security guards surrounding me the whole way there, just to make sure I wasn't going to do anything crazy. THREE. Everytime we'd walk through some security check point, the Wee family could just walk right by, but I had to get pulled into a closed off room and get inspected some more, and get my carry-on bag checked more than enough times again. Everywhere I'd look I could see security guards watching me like hawks. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was being treated like some kind of criminal. I was so aggravated, like, I couldn't wait to get on my flight and go back to good-ol'-be-treated-like-a-normal-person Canada. I swore to myself that I would kiss the ground as soon as I landed on Canadian soil. (I broke that promise...) But yeah, I can't be too angry about this Israeli airport experience since I know what the guards were all thinking "a young, Canadian, blonde girl appears to be traveling by herself and is especially vulnerable to accepting strange gifts from handsome Israeli men. SHE IS A THREAT."
After we entered into the terminal area safe and sound, we hung out in the business lounge (FREE FOOD AND WIRELESS!). What was pretty cool was that in this lounge, as I was walking by this group of guys, they started talking about Confusion Corner in Winnipeg and (in my head) I was like "what the hey!! That's so awesome!" What are the chances?

So after going crazy at the Duty Free store, we boarded the plane of my fastest flight ever. Seriously, it was over 11 hours but it felt like 2 hours. I took major advantaged of my personal TV screen, watching The Time Traveler's Wife, 3 episodes of Modern Family, The Hangover, Dear John (of course), and Valentine's Day. I listened to my favorite country artists like Gloriana, George Strait, and Miranda Lambert on repeat, did alot of creative journal writing, and played over 2 rounds of Solitaire on my IPod, losing EACH of them. What is wrong with me?

[James Franco? Thank you, Gucci!]

[What else do you do on an 11 hour flight?]

[Sneezing? Look at my nails!! Haha so disgustingly awesome!]

[Mmmm...that's what I call gourmet]

[Fluffy fluffy white clouds]

June 6, 2010

Day Fourteen: Last Day of the Tour!

We checked out of our hotel in Eilat early in the morning and on our way back to Tel Aviv, we stopped at Timna Park Nature Reserve. Here we got to enter a replica of the tabernacle. Some people on the tour were brought to tears...the only thing that was brought upon me was sweat. It was so hot standing inside of there that I could barely pay attention to what the tour guide was saying. Forgive me.

[Solomon's Pillars]

[That is probably the coolest thing I've ever seen]

[The Tabernacle]

[Inside the Tabernacle, was the Holy of Holies!]

We then got to fill our own sand bottles! We were given tiny little bottles and all gathered around different colors of sand and filled them. And to seal the bottle off, we used clay! Mine looked like a version of the German flag (unintentional, of course). To be honest, I didn't keep mine. I was actually so unhappy with it that I gave it away. I have this issue...I think it's called perfectionism. I don't like creating things unless they turn out like I want them to. I hadn't filled my bottle high enough with sand, so the different layers of colors got all mixed up. I feel like a fool admitting that, sigh.
[Filling our bottles with sand]

[Sealing it off with clay! Messy business]

[My sand bottle. Check out how long my nails are!]

When we arrived back at our same hotel in Tel Aviv, we swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the very first time. So it's official folks, I have swam in EVERY single body of water in Israel: Med, Dead, Red, and Galilee. (hooray!!) I'd call that an accomplishment! After some some sever evaluating and critiquing, I'm gonna have to say that the Mediterranean Sea is my ultimate favorite body of water. It's the only one with white sand, warm water, and waves. It's glorious I tell you.
[Tel Aviv in the evening, a very clean and modern city]

[The tour guide said that a suicide bomber once stayed inside there. Crazy!]

[Tel Aviv overlookin' the Mediterranean Sea]

It felt sort of strange returning back to this hotel. A few weeks ago I had no idea this trip would've gone by this fast. I just couldn't believe that today was finally here. Anyway, this hotel, the Alexander, was definitely my favorite. Like I said 20 blog entries ago, it has a kitchen, family room, two bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a dining room. It's the perfect hotel to stay at on your first and last days in Israel.

Tonight we had a farewell dinner for our tour group at a chinese restaurant in Tel Aviv. It was soooo much fun and I'm really glad we ended things like this. The food was amazing, and the fellowship was even better. After we finished eating there was a mic set up, so whoever wanted to could have their chance to say something to the group. After alot of nudging and "Jenni" chants, I walked myself up to the front. All I know is that I'm terrible at improv speaking. And I was so nervous. I'm glad I did it though. I'm glad I went up there. I don't even remember what I said exactly...I said thank you to the Wee family for adopting me as one of their daughters, I told Charmaine that I loved her for being my best friend and for inviting me on this trip even when we "barely" knew each other, and I told the group thank you for being wonderful aunties and uncles, mom's and dad's, and grandma's and grandpa's to me. Yes, it was something like that.
I took so many photos from this night. I went around the tables and took photos of each couple; don't worry, I'm not going to post them all. Haha.

[Wonderful people]

[They sure know how to party ;) ]


[Living proof that I DID say a speech. I know there's people out there who'd never believe it.]

But seriously, I fell in love with everyone on this tour. I know in previous entries I've tried to describe how thankful I am for being surrounded by people like them, but it's still just indescribable. You don't know how encouraging it is to hear "You're going to be such a blessing to this world." or  "God is going to do amazing things with you, Jenny." I just feel like they all have so much faith in me, and to let them down would be like letting the world down. I know with full confidence that we were all meant to cross paths and place little footprints on each others hearts; amazing how that works.
[Bob and I. He is my absolute favorite]

[Sitting on some random moped outside Haha]

Tomorrow the Wee family and I will be dropping everyone off at the airport, and sending them away to Canada! But the four of us will be staying four more days, livin' like the locals! I'm praying that this will be an opportunity to just chill and relax. Hmm...sounds good to me!

June 5, 2010

Day Thirteen: Jordan & The Siq

Today we crossed yet another border, the border to Jordan! It was kind of funny, because I had no idea I was even going to Jordan on this trip. Apparently I didn't read the itinerary very thoroughly... This border was pretty slack; for example, the officers all sang Happy Birthday to Margaret. Hahah. You'd never see that in Canada! After crossing, we hopped on our new bus, with our new bus driver, new tour guide, AND new security guard. I fell in love with this guy. He wasn't your typical security guard, you know, never-smiling, HUGE kind of guy. This guy was super tall, super skinny, super smiley, and whistled constantly to his IPod. I felt like I was famous or of royalty with this guy around. I mean, everytime I'd stop to take a photo, he would also stop and look quickly in all directions, as if he was expecting to see a cross-air across between my eyes. Whatever, I didn't mind it. And all of the safety and security made me feel kind of reckless, like I could do anything just knowing he would save me!
No worries, I didn't do anything crazy...hee hee.

[Welcome to Jordan!!]

[A magnet I found in the gift shop, haha]

[Beaded hats]

[Looks better on Bob. HA]

[A pub dedicated to one of my favorite TV shows! Boy, was I ever pumped!]
[The landscape of Jordan (not too different from Israel...]

[A sign for the Women's bathroom]

[One of our security guards]

[I have no idea who these men are. I bet you my Dad would know...]

After driving through Petra, we made it to the Siq! It's apparently one of the world's seven wonders! Who knew? Charmaine and I made a pact to visit each of the natural world wonders AND the man-made world wonders. It can be done, I have faith.
The Siq is quite similar to the Grand Canyon. Just like how the Grand Canyon was formed by a river, so was the Siq, except the Siq is much narrower. I honestly cannot believe that that used to be a river! I mean, the cliffs around us were soooo high. It was actually amazing, one of the coolest things I've seen...ever.
[Carriage rides in the Siq!]

[So many people]

[It's getting narrower and narrower]


Bedouin Shepherds still live there, as there are tunnels and caves leading inside of these cliffs. Seeing the the Al Khazneh temple was definitely amazing. But before we even knew how close we were to seeing the temple, our tour guide stopped us all in our tracks and said, "OK, everyone get in single file line and follow me." So all 50 of us did what we were told and followed close behind, wondering what was going on. The tour guide points up behind us, at this rock way up at the top of the cliff and says "Look! Can you see the elephant inside of the rock?" So we were all squinting and trying to find this weird elephant formation. Before we all got too frustrated at this, the Mr. Tour Guide said "Just kidding, TURN AROUND." So we all turn around and as if we were a choir being led by a conductor, we all let out a simultaneous "WOOOOOW!" It was the temple!! The Al Khazneh!! It's a temple built into the side of a cliff. It's where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed! So now I've been to two Indiana Jones filiming locations, one here and one in Hawaii! Yeah, I'm a fan.
[See! I told you!]

[Our very first glimpse of the temple!!]

[Absolutely breathtaking. I wish we could have gone inside]

[What a cutie]

[I fell in love]

[What a classy camel, he prefers bottled to tap]

The hike to this temple was the longest we've done this whole tour, which is sad, considering it was probably only 45 minutes one way. Haha. So unfortunately, these buffet dinners aren't going anywhere but our thighs. And hips...

[Homes of the Bedouin Shepherds]

[This is a book written by a New Zealand woman who traveled to Jordan and ended up marrying a shepherd. All it took was a "hey, wanna sleep in my tent tonight?"]

[Water erosion does amazing things!]

[This is where Henna comes from!]


When we got back to the hotel in Eilat, a shower was essential for all of us, as we were all covered in sand. (Not a good feeling). Itching for an evening of relaxation and sanity, a bunch of us met in the lobby to socialize with a bottle of wine. Charmaine and I sat down for a total of two seconds and total of two sips of wine before agreeing to babysit our tour guides' two daughters. Two hours later, I pinned a mental note to the inner walls of my brain: Never. Have. Children.
It was absolutely exhausting!! But you know what, after thinking about the situational effects, anybody would find these two hours exhausting for these two reasons: 1) I spent the whole day under the hot desert sun, sweating and hiking. and 2) These two girls barely speak English. (They're Hebrew, remember?)
So maybe one day, having children will be in the itinerary...as long as they speak my language. Haha.

[My camel photo reminded me of my moose photo, so I decided to put them together. Wow, what a combo!]