One other brief thing I wrote in my journal while in Istanbul that I knew a few of you who read this would appreciate…

Sitting alone on a wooden bench on the last day of February, palaces and ornate mosques and beautiful ancient churches and thousands of years of history behind me.  Clusters of frail trees just beginning to blossom with tiny pink flowers line the Bosphorus before me, and grimy fishing boats bob up and down in the water, knotted piles of fishing nets scattered here and there; across the strait, I see the Asian side of Istanbul, the minarets of its many mosques rising up out of the haze that rests over the city.  I’m sitting here quietly, alternating between watching the fishermen and reading Anne of Green Gables (yes, again); and though I really do know that Anne is not a real person, I still find myself feeling like she’d experience a “queer thrill” knowing that she’s sharing this particular moment with me.

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I have, however, come across one quote that I find myself disagreeing with.  As Anne is reaching the wise age of 13, she observes:

“That’s the worst of growing up, and I’m beginning to realize it.  The things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.”

My kindle tells me that many previous readers have highlighted this quote, and I guess I can understand why.  But I’ve found myself thinking exactly the opposite so many times in the last few days.  If ten-year-old Hannah could look into the future and see 22-year-old Hannah, she would be so excited to reach these days of hiking in the Middle East for a living and setting off to Istanbul on a whim and finding my wallet a mess of 6 different currencies and keeping in touch with close friends on 5 different continents.  I don’t think she could have dreamed of a future more enticing than that (unless it also happened to include a marriage to Orlando Bloom.  That may have been the cherry on top for my middle school self).  Of course it doesn’t feel glamorous at every moment.  Of course every waking second isn’t an exhilarating adventure.  But when I think about where I am and what I’m doing and how deeply these things satisfy the shimmering castles in the clouds I constructed as a child, never really believing that I would see them realized… I feel pretty blessed.

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Because I am now approaching the six-month mark of my time in Israel (a multiple of three, the magic number of consecutive months my tourist visa allows me to stay in the country), I took off last Wednesday for a couple of days in Istanbul.  I kept a journal of random thoughts as I explored, so I now present to you: an incredibly stream of consciousness trip report on a pretty amazing city.  Supplemented by occasional photographic documentation, etc.

Bullet points from my journal entry labeled “Thoughts from Turkey”:

– It seems the ubiquitous cat trend that pervades the Middle East hasn’t skipped Turkey

– Cats here, however, are much fatter than the bony rodents that reside in Israeli dumpsters

– Cats here are probably fatter because people (locals, not just stupid tourists!) actually take bags of cat food, throw it on the sidewalk, and watch the creatures fight it out.  Amusing, I guess, but…unexpected.  People in Israel pretty much just ignore the cats and laugh at the tourists who find them so fascinating…

I didn’t get a picture of the cat-feeding, but I did get this picture of a cat drinking from a tombstone…

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– Initial thoughts on Turkish language: a lot of cognates with Arabic that are easy to identify when written; when spoken, however, sounds a lot more Slavic to me.  So I understand nothing.  And, from what Wikipedia tells me, it’s structurally pretty different from both the Semitic and Slavic language families

– Yes, I spent my first night in Istanbul reading Wikipedia articles about various topic related to Turkey.  I tried going out and walking by the water for a bit, but came back after being harassed by three different men, one of whom would not stop following me and asking for a kiss (apparently one of the only English words he knew, since “Leave me alone or I’ll call the police” had no visible effect)

-“How do you say leave me alone in _______________ language” seems to be a thing I Google a lot

– the Middle East is rapidly making a feminist out of me

– the man-hating kind of feminist

– Wikipedia really is a pretty great resource.

– You meet all kinds of strange people in hostels.  Always.  (Though, I must say, Israel does attract a special brand of weirdo that you don’t really find anywhere else.)  In this hostel, so far, I’ve been told:

– “Climate change and pollution are poisoning our water, and because of that we are becoming poisoned and black on the inside; our souls are becoming black, and that is why our society is crumbling.  We are bad on the inside.”

– “Hey, we heard Constantinople is a good place to go in Turkey.  Do you know how to get there?”  Ok.  You don’t have to be an expert on a place before you get there, and there’s something to be said for learning from experience, but do at least a little research first.  Also, thanks to these goofballs, I had this song stuck in my head all day:

– “We don’t need young people today studying about politics and religion in other people’s countries.  We have enough of our own problems in each of our countries.  We need young people in labs, curing cancer and HIV.  That’s the only thing we need this generation doing to help people.  We need them in the labs.”  To be fair, after totally invalidating every life choice I’ve made in the last five years, this woman was actually quite friendly and helpful for the rest of my stay.

– “…” I never saw this woman awake.  I arrived to my room and she was sleeping.  I left for the day and she was still sleeping.  I got back in the evening and she was already asleep.  No idea what, if anything, she actually did in Istanbul.

– For more on the varieties of oddness you find at hostels…http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/07/12-types-of-people-youll-find-in-every.html (number 4 in this article looks REMARKABLY like this crazy Slovakian guy who camped out at the inn in Nazareth for a few weeks and tried to warn me and the other employees that Obama had some dictatorial connection to 666 and was slowly taking over the world with a robot army.  I am not at all kidding, and neither was he.  And the smell description is also incredibly accurate…)

– Aslan means lion in Turkish!  Maybe I knew this already?

– Ok, the Basilica Cisterns.  A photo for you:

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Those of you who really know me will understand from this picture how much I’m already loving Istanbul at this point.  I love dark, creepy places underground.  Especially when there’s water.  This is awesome.

– Two more pictures, this time from the Hagia Sophia:

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This is an image of Mary and Jesus next to Arabic calligraphy featuring the words “Muhammad, peace be upon him”

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A mosaic depicting the emperor kneeling down at Jesus’s feet

Again, for those of you who know anything about my interests…a taste of how much I’m loving this city.  Interfaith interactions and religion and politics…there’s so much in this city.  So interesting.

– Not impressed by the muezzin at the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque.  I think our own muezzin at the White Mosque in Nazareth is much better.  Not that I’m really qualified to make that assessment

– Oh my gosh, seriously, a public service announcement to all Middle Eastern men: IT IS NOT OK TO TOUCH MY BODY UNLESS I SAY IT IS.  I repeat: DO NOT TOUCH A WOMAN UNLESS YOU A) KNOW HER AND B) ARE INVITED TO DO SO.  I don’t care how blonde she is or what an obvious tourist she is or how incapable she may be of reacting against you or how randy you’re feeling at that particular moment – YOU  HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT.  NEGATIVE RIGHT.  I haven’t been to a Middle Eastern country yet that has positively surprised me by not making me want to emasculate all the nation’s males.  I hoped you would be different, Turkey, but alas… Aside from infuriating me, though, it’s also sad; because at what point does something in their society or general surroundings make them think it’s ok?  I mean, when I see baby boys being toted around in the market, clawing at the edges of their mothers’ headscarves and flashing toothless grins at passersby, literally all I can think is “How sad that this adorable infant will most likely grow up to be a disgusting creep like the guy behind me reaching for my butt right now.”  And I know that isn’t fair, but… I guess that instinctive reaction is my own form of PTSD or something.  Moving on.

– Oh, and one more note to Middle Eastern “men”: button up your shirts.  You’re gross.

– I really don’t like being an angry person.  Sorry.

– But actually, I think that is one of the most difficult things about the Middle East for me.  I feel like I have to be a complete jerk to half the people I encounter in the streets (the male half, to be clear) just to protect myself.  I can’t make eye contact, I can’t respond to any of their cute or silly or stupid little opening lines, I can’t laugh at their jokes; I have to simply walk straight past, staring ahead, not smiling and totally ignoring them.  And I know they’re used to it and it doesn’t hurt their feelings.  That’s the problem.  I’m the one whose feelings hurt after these (non-)interactions.  I hate having to be that rude, standoffish person in public day after day.  It’s exhausting and saddening.

– On a lighter note: ice cream!  So, in Turkey, they put some kind of resin in their ice cream that makes it stretchy and a little bit chewy and sort of taffy-like.  One byproduct of this unusual texture is that the vendors can play all kinds of ridiculous pranks on their customers:

 

I had to go through a similar process to get my ice cream, though thankfully not quite as prolonged as what that poor little girl had to endure.

– Thoughts on the Topkapi Palace: pleasantly not Disney World-esque.  Maybe that’s because it’s the off season.  Maybe the rain helped.  I think a big part of it was that everything was kind of rough and bumpy, all the paths cobblestone instead of smoothly paved asphalt (though if I were a mother pushing a baby stroller, I clearly would have harbored less positive feelings toward this authenticity).  As I poked around and explored, though, I could actually imagine I was a sultan, walking across the palace balcony through the drizzle, staring out across the hazy Bosphorus and deciding the fate of the Ottoman Empire (haha.  Feel free to laugh at my ridiculousness.  I am.)  Even the bathrooms added to the realism; whereas most very nice tourist attractions have disgusting dark pits of bathrooms, these were truly palatial, with gold-framed artwork and well-lit vanity mirrors and a delightful but not overpowering scent.  (Though, to be honest, any bathroom in Turkey that had traditional sit-down toilets felt more or less palatial to me…).  Overall, loved the palace a lot more than I thought I would.

– My bargaining skills really aren’t too bad.  While purchasing the one souvenir I bought in the Grand Bazaar, I managed to talk the guy down from 25 lira to 10 and was quite proud of the accomplishment.  Granted, the friendly, shaggy vendor wearing a woven poncho and smoking something hand-rolled was most definitely high – the bubble wrap he used to package my purchase still reeks of marijuana – but I don’t think that necessarily would have made him more prone to lower his prices.  Plus, I had already talked many of the other, decidedly non-hippy vendors in the area down to about the same price.

– Bargaining is one of the only times I feel glad to be a blonde female.

– And what was I bargaining for?  Well.  One of my very favorite things about Istanbul was the abundance of lamp shops.  Which sounds super random.  But they were beautiful.  And half the pictures I took were pictures of lamp shops.  I couldn’t actually buy a lamp (for a number of reasons – budget + fitting it in my backpack on the airplane + where would I put it), but I wanted a little reminder of those shops and decided to buy a candle holder thing from one of them.

Seriously, though, so beautiful…

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March 3, 2014 · 10:01 pm

Does it make me cool that, in the cell phone contacts I’ve accumulated since arriving, I have the numbers of an Italian mother superior, a local imam, a Palestinian bodybuilder, a PBS documentary producer, the head of security for the neighboring village, and an organic goat farmer?  I kind of feel like it does.

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January 28, 2014 · 2:46 pm

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Also, my sister visited me!  Many adventures were had, I was sad to see her go, and I am currently working on a convincing argument for the many sociology programs available at the universities here in Israel.

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Here for the Holidays

I decided not to write this on the holiday itself as a “Merry Christmas, everyone!” post; I was afraid that, if my post came out of the midst of my roiling Christmas Day emotions, it would sound too melancholy, depressed, or bitter.  Because celebrating Christmas in another country is hard.  I’ve only done it twice, but this is the pattern I’ve noticed: as December rolls around and the temperatures are still in the 70s, I decide I need to take matters into my own hands and to create the Christmas spirit that isn’t being poured down my throat like it would be in America.  So I go on a crafting frenzy, snipping away at little triangles of folded paper until I have enough snowflakes to coat every wall in my house.  Probably twice.  I actually bake things, attempting to replicate my mom’s recipes with the ingredients available in Israel.  I succeed greatly with some recipes.  I throw a lot of rock-hard cookie-ish blobs in the trash.  I secretly access Pandora, tricking my computer into thinking I’m in the United States so that I can listen to Christmas music in the background of everything I’m doing.

And then, about a week before the 25th, I start to wonder if I’ve taken entirely the wrong approach.  Maybe it would’ve been better to let myself forget Christmas a little bit.  Maybe I should’ve just let it slide by like any other day.  Because my paper snowflakes can’t compare to the red and green and gold tablecloth we always put out in December, or the ribbon angel that’s hung on the back of our door for every Christmas I can remember.  My cookies – despite my jubilant pride over the ones that actually turn out – are nothing like my mom’s or brother’s, and I’m nowhere near confident enough to attempt our Christmas morning chocolate chip coffee cake.  And stupid Pandora will NOT stop playing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”  None of these things really assault me that terribly, but each further reminds me of the real problem: I will be spending Christmas 5,000 miles from everyone who really knows and loves me.  And that’s just hard.  And it tends to make me temporarily forget the happy, exciting, fun moments of the last few months and to focus on all the sad ones: every time I felt lonely or directionless or needed a hug and didn’t have someone to hug me.  Because those moments will exist here and there when living abroad, regardless of how satisfied I may be with my overall experience.

But there are other moments, too, that appear during Christmastime abroad.  Little patches of cozy Christmas warmth that, though entirely removed and distinct from the traditional warm and fuzzies of the American holiday season, still make me smile and shake my head in wonder and gratitude for this place and time in life.  Like… watching the annual Christmas parade march through the streets of downtown Nazareth, my body being jostled back and forth by the families trying to get a better view, the countless tiny children in full Santa costumes on their fathers’ shoulders shrieking as their eyes light up with excitement, “Baba Noel!  Baba Noel!  Mama, huwwa ha’ee’ee???  (Santa Clause!  Santa Clause!  Mama, is he real???)”  It doesn’t matter how many men of varying height, complexion, hair color, and jolliness they saw dressed in the red suit and white beard; every time, the same elated cry.

Or watching the Rudolph Christmas special late one night with a volunteer from Taiwan and a Muslim coworker from Nazareth, pausing every few minutes to explain the plot and suddenly realizing how many complete absurdities I had apparently overlooked for years.  The stop motion animation that I have absorbed with nonjudgmental adoration every year as a child, when seen through fresh (adult) eyes and actually explained plot-point by plot-point, is surprisingly ridiculous.  Nevertheless, the process of discovering this at least makes for a warm evening of togetherness and laughter.

Or sitting at the inn two nights before Christmas with Yafit as the maintenance man and the electrician, both called in to work late in the evening, try to fix the hot water that rarely functions quite right in this atmospheric but somewhat decrepit part of town.  Yafit suggests I put on some background music for the big, drafty reception hall; as I cue up an arbitrary version of “Silent Night,” I notice an irregular echo and realize that, in the middle of a frustrated text to his wife to tell her he won’t be home for dinner, the electrician has absentmindedly begun to sing along in Arabic.  In the midst of a chaotic evening of inexplicable malfunctions and disgruntled guests, he fiddles with wires and murmurs, “Silent night.  Holy night.  All is calm; all is bright.”

Or dropping off to sleep after working the late night shift on Christmas Eve and realizing that, over the course of the day, I’ve been wished a sincere and heartfelt “Merry Christmas!” by four Jewish friends and five Muslim friends, usually accompanied by a big hug, while one of my Arab Christian coworkers even came back after her shift was done, running through the dark streets of the old market with a tray full of food so that she could share her family’s Christmas dinner with me.

Bittersweet is a pretty wonderful word; and, though perhaps a little melodramatic, the inherent contrast in the adjective more or less aptly describes the foreign Christmas experience for me.  But it was just a light, passing bittersweetness.  Not that 70% or 80% cocoa stuff – just the concentration of a normal dark chocolate.  (I’m sorry.  I know that was terrible.)  Because, as I woke up on December 26 and stared out my window at the city Jesus would inhabit for most of His life, I was comfortable moving past the holiday with minimal pomp and simply continuing my life.  I wanted to think that the removal from the traditions and ceremonies surrounding the holiday allowed me to focus more clearly on the birth of my Savior, but I’m not sure it did.  As I set out into the days following the holiday, however, I felt that the simultaneous bitterness and sweetness of Christmas in Nazareth had helped me instead to focus on characterizing each little moment with an appreciation of the sweetness of this place and time He’s given me, regardless of a bit of bitterness here and there.

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So, I’ve been slowly and lazily working on a few posts for a while, and I’ll finish them up soon – hopefully – but, for now, I’ve decided to put them on the back-burner and to write up a quick something about the current state of Nazareth.  Because I really have no idea what’s going on in this city right now.

This is what I’ve gathered so far from observation and from the variety of hurried, muddled, inevitably biased explanations I’ve been given by a variety of friends here [disclaimer: I’ve mostly left out my own political analyses, since I’m not particularly qualified to be making them]:

When I arrived in Nazareth in September, I found the city entirely plastered with posters of people’s faces, framed by catchphrases like “Now is her time,” or “Leadership creates change.”  Nothing too different from the States; it seems that, all the world over, these are the telltale indications of election season.  At night, pairs of neon red Arabic letters glowed from the tops of hundreds of houses scattered across the city – I would later puzzle out that each pair of letters represented the initials of a political party – and the same campaign songs played over and over from the raucous rallies taking place startlingly close to my window.

From what I could piece together from the conversations floating around me at work, there were two main contenders: the incumbent, Ramiz Jaraisy, a Christian who’d been mayor for 20 years; and Ali Salam, a Muslim and the figurehead of his own, new party.  Commentators tried to portray the rivalry as one that fell along religious divides, I was told; but I was simultaneously reassured that the general population – or, at least my young Muslim friend who was volunteering for Salam’s campaign and did most of the explaining, didn’t view the elections as a religious matter.  And I didn’t see how it could be, if in this city of 70% Muslims and 30% Christians, a Christian – the incumbent, no less – was seen as equally matched with his Muslim rival.

October 22, election day, arrived with a foreseeably drawn atmosphere of baited breath descending on the city.  I worked that night, waiting for the clamor of fireworks that would inevitably be set off by the winning party when the results were finalized.  Fireworks accompany every major event in Nazareth (as well as most minor events).  But the skies remained dark, and the city went to bed with no results.  The next morning, the cook told me the whole city was walking on eggshells, still unsure who the mayor would be.

For several days after the election, I was pretty unclear on what exactly was happening.  First I heard that Jaraisy had won; then, someone on the radio said that Salam had won.  Then many people started to tell me that Salam had won, and that it had been a matter of 22 votes.  Walking into town, I saw young boys in the streets, joyously running out in front of cars and shaking their giant Salam posters in front of the windshields before stumbling out of the way of traffic.

Then, apparently, Jaraisy contested the outcome, claiming fraud and miscount.  He took the matter to the court, and they suspended the results.  According to a friend, this was problematic for Salam as he had already slaughtered hundreds of sheep for the celebratory banquet he had been planning.

The court did not reach a quick decision; after about a week, I asked one of my friends why he had stopped talking about the elections.  “I’ve decided I just can’t care anymore,” he told me.  “They keep playing with my heart and emotions, and I can’t handle the stress anymore.”

But it was clear that he and the rest of the city maintained a quietly vested interest in the eventual outcome.  When the subject did come up, people from both sides shook their heads and warned that, were Jaraisy to regain power, he would swiftly become Nazareth’s first assassination.

Fast forward about three months.  A few days ago, the court apparently announced that they were recommending a revote.  I wasn’t aware of this (the terrible news coverage of this whole matter is an issue I can’t even begin to address right now), but I was aware of the sudden appearance of big poster boards zip-tied to every tree, pole, and bench in the Mary’s Well Square; the by turns clever and bitter statements sharpied on them accusing Jaraisy of ruining the city and demanding his graceful withdrawal.

Two days later, I woke up to my apartment-mate’s phone ringing and her loud cursing as she dug through her bag to find it.  I heard her leave the apartment to walk to breakfast, and five minutes later I rolled out of bed and followed.  As I sat down with her, she said that our manager had called, recommending that she not offer our inn’s free city tour this morning.  “All the stores will be closed because that Christian guy is mayor again, she said, and she’s afraid it isn’t safe to be out in the city today.”

After talking to one of the cleaning ladies, I gathered that the court had revoked its previous recommendation for a revote, declaring Jaraisy the winner by nine votes.

Nazareth was almost terrifyingly silent that day; our vegetable delivery guy arrived early, quickly placing the bags in the kitchen and mumbling to the staff that the supermarket was already closed for the day.  Every storefront was closed up, and the streets were empty; the only detectable movement was the mounting stir rising from the hundred or so people gathered around the posters at Mary’s Well.  At first, I heard that the stores had all closed because they were afraid of the violence that may erupt from the disgruntled supporters of Salam; later, however, I heard that they had done so in solidarity, a kind of citywide strike against Jaraisy.  The one cafe-owner in all the city who chose to remain open, incidentally our manager’s sister, apparently received a visit from some of Salam’s “people,” threatening her and trying to intimidate her into closing.  (My source for this story was a pretty staunch supporter of Jaraisy, though, so I’m just a touch skeptical.)

The next day (this last Friday), as I was walking down into town after my run in neighboring Nazareth Ilit, I slowly became aware of the extraordinary number of cars pouring out of Nazareth; and, as I began to enter town, of the abnormally high presence of vans marked with a big, black UN.  I uncharacteristically found myself fearing the worst – some kind of mob or violence, or even the assassination so many had predicted.  But, upon finding two friends waiting at an overcrowded bus stop, I discovered that the entire main street was being closed down at 2:30 for protests.

I went out that evening to observe these “protests.”  Purple flags supporting Salam were everywhere, and the song about the keffiyeh that I’d heard over and over from his rallies throughout September and October was being blasted from the speakers of every parked car in the Mary’s Well area.  Countless people milled through the impassable street, stopping to chat with shop owners and friends they bumped into – fathers and sons, groups of older women, packs of teenage boys.  The whole thing had an almost carnival-like atmosphere.  Many of the conversations floating around me were political; but many were also typical chatter, asking after the health of one another’s relatives and gossiping about mutual acquaintances.

Since then…I don’t really know what’s been happening, officially.  I don’t know if these protesters are just making noise to express their discontent, or if they actually expect to influence the court’s decision.  Or if they even can, legally.

This morning, at breakfast, I asked one of the staff if she knew anything about any developments.  She just rolled her eyes and clicked her tongue.  “Who’s the mayor?  Do you know?  I don’t know!  You know what they need to do?  They need to bring in a Jew and put him in charge.  That’s the only way they’ll fix this.  It won’t happen, but that’s my opinion.”

I never really expected to hear that.

SO.  Sorry for the lengthy post on Nazarene politics, but this is by far the most interesting local election I’ve ever witnessed!  With competition coming from the contentious municipalities of Huntingdon, PA, and Middlebury, VT, the weight of that honor is questionable, but still…

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As some of you may have read in the news (at least, my parents have…), this has been one of the wildest winters in recent Middle Eastern history.  Jerusalem and Amman both have feet of snow, Egypt got its first snow in what’s rumored to be over 100 years, and even Nazareth saw a few flurries.  Above are a few pictures taken out my window over the last few weeks.  They’re all fairly similar…and all pretty surreal.  I can literally see the weather roll down the hill over the city of Nazareth.  It’s beautiful.

First, a story from today.  Today, I walked the first part of the Jesus Trail with an American guy.  I don’t remember the last time I didn’t want to do something that badly.  It was sleeting and freezing pretty much the whole time, and the last few days of raining and snowing and sleeting and freezing had transformed the entire trail into thick, squishy, impassable mud that sticks to your shoes and makes your feet heavy.  But once I got past my discomfort, it was an ok day.  It was bearable in that ohmygoshican’tbelievehowmiserableiamthisisactuallykindoffun way.  After several hours, we finally arrived in Cana.  Walking through the narrow streets, drenched and coated in reddish mud, we got a lot of stares.  The few brave souls that were actually out in the weather either muttered something in Arabic about crazy foreigners or utilized their limited English skills to shake their fingers at us, informing us that we were, “Very.  Wet.” We came to the guesthouse where the hiker would be spending the night.  Dripping from every part of our bodies, we knocked on the door; Sammy, the owner, opened the door, stared at me, and just laughed.  After dancing through his living room in an attempt to avoid getting mud all over the carpets and furniture, drinking a giant mug of hot tea, and slowly trying to uncurl my stiff fingers from around the cup, I got ready to leave and take the bus back to Nazareth.  Before I could leave, though, Sammy insisted on reclothing me for the journey home.  He brought out a giant pair of pleated dockers, tennis socks, and his wife’s pink crocs.  Thus arrayed, I set off on my journey home, shuffling through the rain in a pair of 50-year-old-man dress pants 10 sizes too big for me, a pair of baby pink shoes 4 sizes too small for me, and my muddy raincoat.  I think I got even more stares leaving the village than I did entering it.  I knew, though, that there was no way he’d let me turn him down.

Middle Eastern hospitality, once again!

And secondly, an interesting fact: in order to fight off the health risks of the cold weather, a common Russian remedy is apparently red wine served hot with black pepper and honey.  At least, according to Vladi, the Russian maintenance guy.

It tastes a little weird for me.  And I also suspect it’s just an excuse to drink wine.  But…I’m not going to complain.

Anyway, dear reader, wherever you are – whether snowy Pennsylvania, frigid Vermont, crazily unpredictable Middle East, or elsewhere – I hope you’re warmer than I am.  Cause now I’m closing my computer and heading back to my post, huddled under my blanket, as close to the heater as I can get without creating a fire hazard.

Much love!

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