August 2009


Today was Joanna’s first birthday. Every first parent has probably experienced this, but we can hardly believe she’s been a part of our lives for an entire year. Our lives have changed so much. We can’t even begin to list all the joys we’ve experienced with her. As many of you know, she’s a very expressive girl. Tonight she figured out how to “smile” for the camera.

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I think we have 15 pictures like this! Every time Brandon held up the camera she posed. As soon as the flash went, she started laughing and clapping. We did manage to capture one real smile. Like I said, we can’t begin to list the joys.

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Today was also Brandon’s first day of school.

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He had 3 classes today. Monday – Thursday he has 2 or 3 classes each day. Friday – Sunday is either open or he has a 1 to 4 day field study. We’re attempting to divide our days into 3rds. For two 3rds Brandon will be gone, either to class or studying. The other 3rd is for family. Today he had class in the morning, was home in the afternoon and had class again tonight. He promised he’d write a bit about his classes, so that will be coming soon. Homework comes first of course. 🙂

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matt. 22:37-38)

We met the Blystra’s today. Keith and Laura are originally from Michigan, grew up CRC, studied at Calvin, taught at Ontario Christian in California and were married by George DeJong. George led the trip Brandon went on last summer. Keith is hoping to lead trips with That the World May Know ministries and they are planning to be here 2-5 years. Their daughter Maryanne turned 1 on August 5. It appears that God has even provided us with friends. God is so good!

This morning I went to church with Laura while Brandon and Keith had orientation. The service was great and the congregation is very welcoming. After the service, they had a potluck, so I got to know a few more people in the congregation. Many of them actually live near us, and the moms meet in a park around the corner quite frequently. They also have a Time for Tots on Tuesday mornings where Joanna can “play” with other kids.

Brandon met some more people at orientation today too. The Blystra’s live around one corner and another couple lives just up our street, and another guy in the program lives in our apartment complex. Yeah for friends! Tonight we had dinner at JUC and tomorrow afternoon we’ll be going on a tour of the Old City. We meant to take a picture at the school today (sorry mom). We’ll do that tomorrow.

Repair #1 – Vacuum Cleaner

Here’s the nice Hoover that was provided for us…

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…which we only got to work after rigging up our homemade bag…

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out of packing tape and plastic grocery sacks. 🙂 We have been unsuccessful in finding American vacuum bags in Israel. And yes, we even had Darla looking for them. Good news is we’ve only had to re-tape the bag once. Don’t worry, vacuum bags are already in the mail, courtesy of Mom Van Marel.

Repair #2 – Trissim

The “blinds” in Israel were new to us. They are called trissims and they look like this (granted these are really dirty but I haven’t gotten to the windows yet).

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They are plastic slats that fit together to form a tight seal when they are closed. You open and close them by pulling on a 1 inch wide cord. You can see this on the right side of the window. It extends below the window sill a bit. When the trissim opens it rolls into the rectangular box above the window. Since we arrived, the trissim on the door didn’t work, but yesterday the window trissim got stuck. Time to call Darla.

Today the repair man came. (Oddly enough he’s an Orthodox Jew from New Jersey who made allyah here about 30 years ago. We find there are lots of people who speak English that made allyah from the US. I’ll have to post on alllyah another time.) This is what he found in the box…

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…a bunch of rocks. If you can’t tell that’s a small garbage can half full of concrete rock chunks. He thought they may have gotten in there during remodeling. Darla says nothing has been remodeled in here for 30 years. We’re hoping this doesn’t mean our wall is falling apart. 😉 Now we have two functioning trissims that both unfortunately need cleaning.

On a fun note, here’s Joanna swinging at the park.

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Yesterday we walked to the Old City. We didn’t have a particular destination but thought we would venture in to see what we see. It was very crowded and strangely modern inside ancient walls. Not much to report on that yet since it was mostly looking around, but here’s a pic of Joanna and I near Jaffa gate.

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Today we finally got on the campus of JUC. There’s one gated entrance to the campus and they give all students and their spouses keys. We had a tour of the building and Brandon was able to understand a bit more about how his classes would be. Diane, the secretary, also said that we can drink the tap water so that will save a ton. Darla had advised us to buy bottled water which was adding up very quickly. We learned that there is another couple here for the year who live around the corner from us. They have a daughter that turned 1 at the beginning of August. They have a very dutch last name and went to Calvin College. We’ll be meeting them this weekend!

We accomplished two major things — internet, access to cash — and learned very quickly that everything takes longer in Israel. Darla said if you can get 3 things done in a day you’ve accomplished something.

Internet. Step 1 – rent the modem from the cable company. Step 2 – pick a service provider. Step 3 – stay on the phone for 1 1/2 hours until the service provider can get your internet hooked up. And again we give thanks to Darla for coaching us through that one.

Access to Cash. Until recently it was impossible for foreigners to get cash without a major fee from credit card companies. Now, money changers are willing to take personal dollar checks and give you shekels in return. First you need to find a money changer that trusts you, or in our case trusts your friend. Darla took me to the money changer she uses at 11 am. He was out when we arrived but we were told he’d be back in 1/2 hour. Darla said, “1/2 hour in Israel can be tomorrow.” And sure enough, a little over an hour later her returned. He was a bit hesitant to deal with me, but Darla assured him she’d track me down herself if the check didn’t clear. Actually she threatened to send Oz across the hall for us. He’s known to be an ex-cop and still volunteers for the Israeli border patrol. So 1 1/2 hours after I left for the money changer, I returned with our shekels.

Now for the fun part. We went exploring today and found ourselves in Amsterdam.

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Actually, this is the Montefiore Windmill which stands just above the oldest Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City. Unfortunately the museum was closed, but we enjoyed the little Dutch treat. We can see the windmill from our apartment and it often reminds me of OC. (PS – Joanna is indeed wearing only a diaper in this picture. We had just come from the fountain and she got a bit wetter than we anticipated. Unfortunately we had forgotten to take an extra set of clothes. Ah well. It was fun!)

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Yesterday, Saturday, we decided to scout out the parks nearby to see if there was a swing for Joanna. Directly across the street is a small park but it is for older kids and unfortuantely has no swing. We walked about 10 minutes to another park and found a fountain along the way. There were several kids playing in it and it was a very hot day. “Why not?” we said, and in a manner of minutes Joanna had her first experience playing in the fountain. I’m certain it won’t be her last. She had tons of fun splashing with the other kids. It was a great place to cool off.  Oh, and the park does indeed have a swing. 🙂

Today we decided to visit the Baptist church. We estimated it would take 45-60 minutes to get there. It did take 45 minutes and we arrived in plenty of time to cool off in the airconditioning before the service. There were about 50 people worshipping there, and 6 kids. Joanna was by far the youngest and no nusery. If you know Joanna, that’s not a good thing. I spent most of the service in the narthex. We’re still not sure if we’ll go there again. It’s quite a walk and without nusery seems a bit difficult, expecially when Brandon will be gone frequently for field trips on the weekends. However, it was good to fellowship with other believers and here how they have come to live in Israel. Many of them are involved in mission work of some sort and all were very welcoming.

Several of you have asked for our address. We love getting mail, however please hold off on packages. We’ve been told taxes on packages can be as high as $100 depending on what’s inside. We hope to get more details on this soon and will post a follow up. Here’s the address:
Rehov Ein Rogel #14/32
Jerusalem 93543  Israel

Also, we’ve made a video of our apartment and I’ll be putting it on facebook soon. If I figure out how to put it on the blog, I’ll do that too.  Shalom

So what’s so unique about Fridays in Israel? It’s the start of Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. Normally we hear all kinds of horns honking, calls to prayer, traffic and city noise all day long…not to mention the really loud outdoor concert that happens in the park across the valley from us every evening. Just before supper this evening however, everything got really still. Now it’s perfectly quiet. You would think that we’re back in Orange City. 

Like our neighbors Darla and Oz, nearly everyone in Israel is preparing for Shabbat. Today is a day of preparation, few work. It’s similar to our Saturday. We walked to a nearby shopping district today (Emek Refraim) and all kinds of people were out. They even have an outdoor market and kids carnival every Friday. Shabbat begins at dusk when you see 3 stars in the sky. First they go to worship at synagogue, they they come home for a really nice meal.

A note about grapes: always try a grape before buying the bunch. The first day we shopped for food, we bought grapes. Everyone said how good the grapes were here so we chose a container of red grapes. Fruits and veggies must be washed with soap and water before eating them and I didn’t know if it was ok to sample, so I didn’t bother to try one in the store. Quickly we realized I should have. Not only were they seeded grapes but they tasted fermented almost like wine. Hmmm…is this what they meant by good grapes? Determined to find seedless grapes, we stopped in a new grocery store today when we were on Emek Refraim. I ventured over to a man who looked like he might work there and asked if he spoke English. He did, sort of. After trying to explain seedless grapes with gestures he finally got he ahah look and brought me a green grape. Sure enough, it was seedless and just in case you’re wondering it’s ok to sample the grapes in Israel. P.S. The grapes are really good here.

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