Monday, January 30, 2012

the weekend post

One of the interesting things about this country is how serious they take 'Sabbath,' or the day of rest. Most everything closes down every Friday around 2 p.m. and does not re-open until 8 p.m. Saturday. Shops, markets, restaurants, stores, busses, post office, all follow these "rules." Granted, not EVERYONE abides to this custom but the majority do. Therefore, you are practically FORCED to rest because you can't run errands, go shopping, or even travel a long distance (unless you are totally physically fit, so... this is not for me). Hence, on Friday we rested the whole day and then had dinner with two very nice couples in their home. They made a great Shabbat dinner and entertained us for the evening.

Since the Sabbath starts on Friday and goes into Saturday, that means Sunday is the first day of the work week. Therefore, our classes started yesterday (Sunday); definitely something to get used to!
Our class time consisted of walking around Jerusalem (mostly our college's backyard and the "old city") for about 5 hours. This is where our professor, Dr. Wright, told us a brief history on the different quarters (remember there are 4 quarters in the old city), we climbed on top of roofs, met trustworthy vendors, and I caught myself a cold:( 

So today I am at home in comfy clothes, sitting by the heater. 
Next post: History of our college (which is amazing, if you ask me) and some pictures of it. 
Hope you all had a great weekend! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

snippets from today

Today we ventured out once again to the "Old City" where we found our college (Jerusalem University College) on Mount Zion. We also walked around the entire Old City which consists of 4 quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Armenian and Christian. The entire city is enclosed with great stone walls that measure out to be almost 2.5 miles around the 4 quarters. The "Western Wall" of the city walls is commonly know as the "Wailing Wall." This section of the wall is believed to have been constructed around 19 BC and is a site for prayer and pilgrimage. I will have a much more extended post of the Old City (including the wailing wall) in a bit.
For now, these are some pictures taken today in our neighborhood and around the Old City. Enjoy! -Natalya
To the left are the city walls of the old city. The last building (not the church) on the right is our college. It is built into Mt. Zion and some of its floors and walls are the mountain, more to come on the college. 
This is the 'Wailing Wall.' Behind the flags, towards the right there is a green divider. This divides the women and the men. We had no idea of this custom, so Vadim went into the women's section and was "politely" asked to leave. I guess it's a big deal, live and learn:)
In addition to having a large space, the men also get indoor quarters which are fully furnished. That's what the husband reported back.

He also walked out with a kippa (little hat as i call it). No, no, he did not embrace Judaism in mere minutes, just being sensitive to the culture. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

our humble abod

So here are some of the promised pictures. This set is of our home that is located on Gideon Street (pronounced gid-OWN) in the neighborhood of Bak'a, Jerusalem. It's a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings, private homes, cafes, shops, and restaurants. All this is within a short, few minute walk from our building. 
Our apartment is slightly different then what we are used to in the States. It has tiled floors through out the house, so slippers come in real handy. Hot running water is regulated manually, meaning we have to flip a switch and wait for a very small boiler to heat the water (usually takes 30-40 minutes for it to get warm). This usually is only done for showers. We also don't have heat, but instead have electric heaters that we turn on when at home. We are blessed with a washer and a clothes line from our window to dry the clothing. I was slightly worried i'd have to wash everything by hand:) 
Other than that, everything is pretty much the same. We are loving the slightly simpler life-style. Even though it seems like more work (walking everywhere, cooking from scratch, etc) it is very rewarding to the body and spirit because you are working harder. It sounds like an oxymoron that working harder = simpler, but it's true. We thank God every single day for allowing us to have such an experience as a young married couple

             Tiny little oven
 I love this window
           Our source of heat

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

lessons learned

Today was a day of learning and exploring. We started the day off early and went to a few stores to buy some essentials since our suitcases still haven't arrived:( We walked many streets, visited a great cafe over looking the "Old City," and learned a few things:

1. Watch where you are going. If you are walking the street and observing the scenery, don't expect road/sidewalk construction to have cones around it like in America. Such assumptions will land you in a knee deep hole filled with mud and water. Not fun.
2. When you order some coffee to go, make sure to ask to see the size of the cup. Getting overjoyed about the low cost of a local latte will leave you disappointed when you discover that you just bought a 2-oz drink for $2.50. Ouch.
3. The best way to learn the city is to get lost in it. Great 3 hours with the husband, great workout, and learned a part of the city. Score!
4. Plumbing systems in other countries are different. When you let water out of the tub, there is a chance it will come back up through a hole in the bathroom floor. Big stinky mess, oops.
5. Don't pack only books into your carry on. When your luggage doesn't arrive for 2 days, you can't wear books.

Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way but good memories, great laugh attacks, unforgettable knowledge are achieved.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

en route and first glance

Ok, so here is my very first post on my very first blog. I feel slightly outdated since blogging has been around for sometime now and I have just caught up with the trend. Nonetheless, traveling is the perfect reason to start blogging, right? To all those professional bloggers, do forgive my newbie ways.
We had a bittersweet flight experience while on our way to Israel. Our first flight got cancelled and the next flight was 3 hours late which made us miss our connection to Brussels. We were threatened with the idea that we would have to stay the night in Philly but then a sweet gate agent put us on a straight flight to Israel that evening (no 11 hour layover in Brussels, score!), didn't charge us for our bags, and put us in a row that no one else was sitting in. We were able to stretch out just like the first classers, without paying for it:) However, upon arrival we discovered that our luggage had other plans and flew somewhere else. So we don't have much with us, but I thank God for a thoughtful husband who bought travel insurance; therefor, we get reimbursed for anything we buy in the mean time. Bitterness turned into sweetness by God's hand!
First impressions:
1. I thought Israel would be run down, dirty, etc. However, it is so modernized and oh-so-pretty! Everything is green and well kept; with gorgeous trees (my slight obsession), great roads and beautiful neighborhoods nestled into mountain sides.
2. Good to know that I speak 2 of the top 3 languages in the country. If someone doesn't speak English, you pull out the Russian and that usually covers you. Wish to conquer 3/3 by May:) Ambitious, huh?
3. Our apartment is really "authentic". I'll explain it later with some pictures, I hope. It is 5 minute walk to a street loaded with markets, restaurants, boutiques, and amazing coffee shops! We stuck our heads into a few of them and they are absolutely charming! So vintage and unique inside with old brick architecture on the outside (pictures to follow in a bit). And the pastries?? they look too good to be eaten, but that of course won't stop us.

I promise to get some pictures out as soon as possible.