Monday, June 8, 2009
The last two weeks have been busy with getting settled back into our condo in Holland, visiting with Brad's family briefly, and visiting friends. It's been a pretty smooth transition although we are definitely adjusting to American life. Now, we are just seeking what God has next for us and we hope to take the next couple of months to discern that. We will keep you posted on our future plans and thank you for all of your support throughout this year. You are all a blessing!
Brad, Shallon, Denyon, and Little G2
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Well, after nearly nine months of living here in Jerusalem and my mommy always getting to write on the blog, she finally let me do my first entry. I have some exciting news (I think!) to share with you. My mommy and daddy tell me that I’m going to be a big brother! I’m not exactly sure what that means but they seem very excited about it. They keep asking me if I want a brother or a sister and I just tell them whichever one they say last to me. I don’t want them to really know what I want. They showed me these cool pictures of the baby in my mommy’s tummy so I thought I would share one of them with you too (see below). This little baby already has arms and legs…just like me! I bet I can kick and throw a ball better though! I am excited to meet my little brother or sister around November 11. My mommy seems to be the same to me except sometimes she is tired and sometimes daddy says I have to leave her alone in the bathroom because she is feeling sick. I don’t like it when mommy gets sick but she says it’s okay and not to worry. I’ll keep you posted and in the meantime, if you have any tips for how to be a good big brother, please let me know! Have a great day!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The drive was about 3 ½ hours long, so once we arrived, we checked into our cozy villa about a mile from the coast, ate lunch, and headed to the beach. We went to a less crowded, but no less beautiful, beach called Coral Reserve Beach. There, you could rent snorkeling equipment and snorkel right off the beach. This was great since obviously one of us had to stay with Denyon. He’s pretty advanced but he’s not quite ready to snorkel. The Red Sea has some of the best visibility for snorkeling of all the salt bodies of water in the world due to three things: 1. Higher salt content than most (3.9% versus 3.1% in other major salt bodies). 2. Slightly cooler temperatures. 3. When the fish die, instead of floating to the top and contaminating the water, they sink to the bottom so the visibility is not impaired. So because of the great visibility, the snorkeling is amazing! It was one of those times I’d wish I’d had one of the cheap underwater disposable cameras. There were so many beautiful fish, colors, and coral. We were able to snorkel there both on Wednesday and Friday and both days were spectacular.
On Thursday, we crossed the Jordanian border and headed to the site of Petra. It’s hard to describe this phenomenal place but it’s a Nabataean city that originated over 2000 years ago. The Nabataeans were ancient Arab tribes that came from the Arabian Peninsula. The city was taken over by the Roman Empire in 106 AD, but the Nabataeans left impressive structures behind. The rock there is sandstone in what seems as though all colors of the rainbow. The light of the sun also changes the colors throughout the day. The buildings are carved out of the sandstone, so basically the builders start with a huge slab of natural rock structure, and cut away to make whatever building they are trying to construct. It is so impressive and really pictures don’t even do it justice. Although in southern Jordan and usually very hot this time of year, it was ironically very cold. We were not dressed prepared for that so we bought a couple scarves/blankets in order to keep Denyon and myself warm. Brad just had to tough it out (it did eventually warm up a bit)!
We arrived back in Eilat in ample time to have a delicious dinner at a place highly recommended by the owner of our villa. It was called the Gulf Restaurant and we had delicious fried calamari. Even Denyon liked it! It’s always so fun having new foods from different places when you travel.
Friday was another day in Eilat enjoying the Red Sea. This time, the bulk of our day was spent at the Underwater Observatory and Aquarium Park. It was fascinating and Denyon was beside himself at knowing which exhibit he wanted to see. He wanted to go in and out of exhibits and up and down ramps and stairs. We couldn’t keep up! The park included a couple different aquarium exhibits with rare marine species, all types of fish, and coral. It also housed a shark and sting ray pool, turtle pool, children’s play area, small snorkel area, and the coolest underwater observatory. This was a large building built right in the middle of the sea that you could go down underwater and see the fish live! There are some amazing coral reefs where the structure is located so the marine life was incredible. Here Brad was able to get some pictures so it does capture some of the Red Sea’s beauty.
Of note at the shark tank is a funny story. The sharks were going to be fed so dozens of people were packed in to see. There was a bridge over the tank that you could stand on and look down below to see the sharks being fed. We were standing there and Denyon was in the backpack on Brad's back. He then requested a snack, so I handed him his cheerios container. It has a flip lid that he can open and close, which I had opened. He closed it then and got frustrated so I opened it again. He closed it again, got frustrated, and this time threw it down and the container spilled open and a large portion of the contents went into the tank! There were signs in numerous places in the park that read, "Do not feed us. Your food is not digestible for us!" Brad told me to quickly put the container away so that we didn't get kicked out for not following the rules! Denyon just thought the sharks needed a little snack!
We then went to the beach again, and surprisingly ran into some friends from the school. They have three children so Denyon enjoyed playing with them, and it gave both of us couples a little bit more room to relax because the kids kept each other entertained. They are the same family that we ran into at the Garden Tomb Easter service. Katie and I had said we’d wanted to organize a play date…God orchestrated two! We had a wonderful time on the beach with them, and then had another amazing dinner. This time at a place known for its steaks and we both had one of the best we’d ever had. Yum!
Saturday, we left Eilat and visited two spots on the way home. First, we stopped at Timna, which is a reserve in the desert in the southern part of Israel which houses ancient copper mines. The climbing was incredible and we found some great rocks. Another place of interest there is a replica of the Tabernacle of Moses’ time. The guide there was so nice and actually knows some of the people we know from West Michigan that lead trips there. It was great to talk with her and remember how small the world is.
Second, we went to Mizpe Ramon and saw (as well as drove thru) the largest natural geological depression in the world, called "Mahktesh Ramon." Many are probably thinking of the Grand Canyon but that is a canyon and not a depression formed from years of earth silting away. We basically drove through the depression, and then made our way to the top where we could look out into the depression from above. It was beautiful and well worth the stop. The drive home was lengthy but these two stops helped pass the time and allowed us to enjoy some areas we hadn’t driven through previously. Hopefully the pictures captured the beauty!
We were all very tired upon our return and enjoyed long naps the next day. The trip was very relaxing and a great break for Brad before the big push of the last two weeks of the semester. It’s hard to believe we’ve only got another month here. The time has flown and we feel so blessed to have experienced so many wonderful trips including this one. We have created a lifetime of memories!
Have a blessed day!
Brad, Shallon, and Denyon
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Although we were quite exhausted after a wonderful week with my parents, we couldn't miss out on celebrating Easter at the Garden Tomb...one of two possible locations for the burial and resurrection of Christ in Jerusalem. The day was beautiful with bright sun, a light breeze, and warm air. The service was held outside in the beautiful garden and nearly 1000 people were in attendance. The celebration consisted of almost all singing with a small message near the end. It was amazing to worship and celebrate the resurrection with so many other Christians in the place where perhaps the first Easter was celebrated! Denyon even enjoyed the morning seeing as though the floor was a bed of rocks! We also sat with some friends from the school who have three children so they all kept each other occupied. It was well worth waking up for and probably our favorite Easter celebration yet. We feel blessed to have been part of such an incredible experience. We hope that you all had a wonderful Easter celebration as well!
Happy Easter with love,
Brad, Shallon and Denyon
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
We spent Friday driving to the region via a different route that took us through the Gilboa mountain range. Along the way, we stopped at the Beit Alfa Synagogue which has the oldest and most well-preserved floor mosaic in the country. It was beautiful. We drove up and along the mountain range, and upon reaching the top, there was an old military watch tower that you could climb and see for miles towards the Jezreel Valley, the Carmel Mountain range, and even to beautiful Mt. Hermon (which is snow-capped this time of year). This mountain range is where the biblical story of the battle between Saul and Johnathon took place. We enjoyed some hiking while on the mountain as well.
We then left the Gilboa mountain range and drove around and to the top of Mt. Tabor on our way to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. Traditionally, Mt. Tabor is where the transfiguration story of Jesus is located, although many scholars (and the up and coming scholar--Brad Gray) believe this actually took place on Mt. Hermon. Still, the view was amazing and we were coming down just as the sun was setting. We arrived at our hotel to enjoy a nice room and an amazing buffet dinner.
Saturday we spent the day in the northernmost part of Galilee. We began our day at Tel Dan which has the largest Solomonic style gate in Israel and also a city gate from the time of the Canaanite period--almost 4000 years old and it still stands to its original height of seven meters! The ancient site is only part of the attraction as the whole place is a beautiful nature reserve. We enjoyed the beautiful hikes and Denyon loved it too. Anytime we'd get him out of the backpack he loved hiking along, with his main interests being picking up rocks. The Dan Spring is one of the main sources that flows into the Jordan River, and with the recent rains, it was flowing abundantly. There is even a natural kids wading pool (that was absolutely freezing!) that Denyon loved splashing in! He just loves any kind of water.
From Dan we went to the Banias Falls and the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi. The falls were amazing and were extremely powerful. Just standing on the lookout you could feel the cool mist from the water bursting forth. It was great. We enjoyed some great hiking again and the weather couldn't have been better. And again, Denyon enjoyed picking up rocks and throwing them into the Banias Spring. It's definitely one of his favorite pasttimes.
Once again, as every night, we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. The food is so great at the hotel where we always stay so it's always a highlight.
Sunday, we spent the day at a place called Hamat Gader. It's a small family park with the main attraction being natural hot springs. We spent the morning letting Denyon enjoy his way through a children's petting zoo with turtles, bunnies, a fawn, a goat, and his favorite--little chicks. We even got a picture of him kissing one of the chicks! It was so sweet and brought back memories of how each year my dad would hatch chicks for his classroom and we'd get to have them at home with us. They're so cute!
The place also had an extensive alligator farm in which Denyon walked through repeatedly saying, "Chomp! Chomp!" He loved it. He also saw an ostrich, baboons, kangaroos, and racoons. And to top it off we saw a parrot show where we saw the birds ride tricycles, roller skate, and even ride a bike on a tightrope! It was great and it enthralled us all.
After eating lunch, we spent a couple hours enjoying the hot springs. The water felt great and wasn't too warm for Denyon. There was one small pool that was shallow enough that Denyon could stand in. It had low benches all around the water so he liked to sit on those and look for little rocks. In the same pool, were mini waterfalls that you could sit under which Brad and I particularly enjoyed. It was a relaxing and very enjoyable day!
Monday, we spent the majority of our day at Gamla. This city is located on the north eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and was home to the group known as the zealots. It has one of the most ancient synagogues in the country. We first hiked back to the Gamla Waterfall which is the highest fall in Israel. It was beautiful and neither of us had seen it before. After lunch, we explored the ancient site and pushed our way through the overgrown path. We were literally walking through beautiful flowers even though we were on the path. The place was just bursting with life and it was great. I will admit I had a bit of a headache after the hike due to the pollen that was stirred up and probably all over our clothes. Although beautiful, it didn't due much for my allergies! Denyon even had his first taste of how flowers do not taste good...he thought he'd try one and see!
The last place we visited was the site of Kursi. This is traditionally the site of Jesus' miracle of the demoniac and the pigs drowning in the sea. Today, stands beautiful remains of a church from about the 4th-5th century A.D. It was a small site but definitely worth seeing. And Denyon had one more opportunity before his long slumber in the car back to Jerusalem to pick up rocks.
Overall, I think it was one of, if not our favorite, trip. The weather was beautiful and the scenery even better. We just had such an enjoyable time as a family and really cherished this amazing opportunity to just go to Galilee for the weekend. It's hard to believe that our time here is soon coming to a close. We had enjoyed our time here so much and are so grateful to have had another amazing mini-vacation!
Until next time, Shalom!
Brad, Shallon, and Denyon
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible ~ This class is an investigation of various aspects of life in ancient times (society, social and personal identity, forms of subsistence, economy, art forms, religious expression and the like) to help understand biblical life and customs more accurately. My professor for this class is Paul Wright, who I had for “Physical Settings” and “Ancient Egypt and the Biblical World” in the first semester, and who I greatly enjoy as a teacher.. This class is hands down my favorite class this semester.
The Parables of Jesus and Rabbinic Meshalim ~ This class is an analysis of the genre of parables within the social, cultural, literary and religious context of Rabbinic Judaism. This course emphasizes the context of Jesus’ parables by comparing them to the Rabbinic Meshalim (parables). Essentially, we look at parables of Jesus and then look at classical rabbinic literature to see if there are helpful connections that shed light on the teachings of Jesus. This class is taught by Rabbi Moshe, who I had for “Classical Rabbinic Literature” in the first semester. Rabbi Moshe has to be one of the greatest guys I have ever met. I love the guy! And his classes are outstanding. By the way, Shallon is auditing this class.
Biblical Archaeology II ~ This class is a survey of the results of the archaeological investigations of the Persian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods in the land of the Bible; emphasis is placed upon relating archaeological findings to historical records such as those of the Bible. This class is a continuation of “Biblical Archaeology I” from the first semester with the same professor, Gaby Barkay, teaching this class as well. Gaby is a brilliant archaeologist and teacher. I have greatly enjoyed him both semesters. And Shallon is auditing this class as well.
History of the Second Temple Period ~ This class focuses on the historical, cultural and religious development of the Jewish people in the land of the Bible during the Persian, Hellenistic and early Roman periods. Focus is given on the historical framework of the period, the development of religious ideas and institutions, and the seminal influences which shaped early Judaism and Christianity. This class is taught by Yigael Levin, who I did not have last semester, but he is a brilliant man and I am enjoying him a lot.
Historical Geography of the Land of the Bible During the Old Testament Period ~ This class on the study of the historical geography of the land of the Bible as represented in
ancient texts (the Bible as well as Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Canaanite sources). Emphasis is placed on the interrelationship of history and geography during the Bronze and Iron Ages, including settlement, economic, military, and communication factors in ancient Israel. This class is taught by the legendary Anson Rainey. Although the class feels a big “dry” at times, it is an honor and privilege to learn under this great scholar.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Friday morning we headed down to Ein Gedi (an oasis in the desert near the Dead Sea) and began our “date” hiking in Wadi Arogot. We had hoped to do a little bit of a different hike than what we did, but due to the warning of flash floods, we weren’t able to do the particular hike we’d planned. Instead, we did the most difficult climb we’ve done here in Israel and climbed a total of 1470 feet. It was rough, rocky, slippery terrain and it gave us quite a workout. We definitely could not have done this one with Denyon on our backs so it worked out great that we climbed this mountain just the two of us. The view from the top was amazing with the Dead Sea and the country of Jordan in one direction and the desert everywhere else you could see. After coming back down, we hiked back to a hidden waterfall where we refreshed ourselves in the cool waters of the natural spring and waterfall. It was great!
After that, we hiked through another wadi called Salvadora. It’s named this because at the end of the hike there is an El Salvadora tree that is from South America. It’s the only one in Israel and no one really knows how it got there. It is a massive tree and definitely looks out of place in the desert. Brad had been there previously and wanted me to be able to see it. I’m glad I did.
We then made our way to the Masada guest house where we were staying. We enjoyed the best shower we’ve had here in Israel (you see…our shower in our apartment sometimes has no hot water and the pressure is very weak so we’ve learned to appreciate a really nice shower). The price of the room was worth just the shower! We had a delicious dinner and enjoyed a relaxing evening just the two of us.
The next morning we had big plans to enjoy a day of relaxation and rejuvenation at the Ein Gedi Spa. We were planning on getting a massage, bathing in the hot springs, covering ourselves in Dead Sea mud—the whole bit! Little did we know nature had something different planned for us. On our way to the spa, about one mile from the spa, we were held up by a major flash flood through Wadi Hever. See, in the desert, when it rains in Jerusalem and the hill country, about once a year or every few years, all of the wadi’s (dry riverbeds essentially) flood. It is something you can’t really imagine without seeing because the majority of the time everything is completely dry in the desert. The water was rushing forcefully across the road and there was no way to pass. We missed the beginning of the flash flood by maybe 3-5 minutes because there were only a few cars stopped ahead of us. So for the next two hours, we walked along the raging flood and saw nature’s power at its best. It was so cool to see the water surging from the wadi. It was so powerful. It was easy for us to understand now why flash floods are the number one killer in the desert. It could take you away so quickly if you were caught in the bottom of the wadi! In addition, as we looked north along the Dead Sea, we could see evidence of three or four other wadis also flooding at the same time because there were lines of brown into the Dead Sea from the water flooding into the Sea. We’ve uploaded one of our videos of the flood to the internet and you can view it at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4217776326350396833.
Needless to say, we never made it to the spa. Had we been on the other side of the flood, we would have been stuck between two floods for probably the rest of the day and possibly overnight. The whole weekend Jerusalem was getting hammered with thunderstorms so the floods were not likely to let up for hours and hours. In order to get back home, we had to take the long-cut through the desert and the shephelah…a trek that was almost triple the time it would’ve taken us on typical route.
On our way home, we experienced rain in the desert…another enigma. That just doesn’t happen very often. We also stopped at a site called the stalactite cave which was incredible. As a child, I grew up in southern Indiana where we frequently went to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky on school field trips where the same sort of formation occurs. The phenomenon of limestone stalactite and stalagmite caves is quite incredible and this cave was no exception. Brad had never seen anything like it and I was equally impressed.
We did make it home at about the same time as we’d planned, we just weren’t quite as relaxed as we thought we’d be. All in all, it was a fabulous weekend and we were so grateful to experience something that most people in the world have never seen. Many Israelis have never even experienced a flash flood so we were pretty fortunate. To top off the weekend, we went out to eat at a delicious restaurant that has amazing wings and the best hamburgers we’ve had in Israel. A good hamburger is hard to come by here so Brad, Shantra, and I had no problem downing the whole burger! It was a delicious way to top off and incredible weekend!
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Well, the big day has arrived! Denyon is walking! Before today, he was only taking a few steps toward us, but wasn’t brave enough to really take off. We knew that he was capable of doing it if he wanted to and today he finally decided it was time. It happened just like that and all of a sudden he decided to walk through our entire apartment. I quickly grabbed the video camera so we captured this special moment. He walked from his room, to the living room, and back again to his room! It was so cool and we’re so proud of him. He was pretty excited himself too. We hope you enjoy watching this special moment by copying this link into your internet browser: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3523911448225821001 (until we can get it figured out, the video is in low resolution). Have a great day!
Shallon & Brad
We spent about a day and a half touring around Jerusalem. Among the sites we visited were the Western Wall and the Western Wall tunnels, the Temple Mount, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus), The Pools of Bethesda (John 5), and St. Anne’s Church. We also did some shopping through the Old City and the family found many treasures for our friends and family back home.
We also spent about three days touring through the region of Galilee. We visited the triangle cities where Jesus did the majority of his ministry in Chorazin, Capernaum, and Bethsaida. In addition we summated Mt. Arbel (which was a little bit of a challenge but we knew they could do it). We saw the Ancient Galilee boat at the museum at our hotel (as well as did a little shopping there). We were able to experience the beautiful Jordan River and among our family’s favorite experiences was listening to Brad recite the entire Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) on top of what could have been the location for this event. It was very powerful! Upon leaving the Galilee region, we visited the large Decapolis city of Bet Shan—one of the largest excavations in Israel.
We also spent a day visiting the site of Masada—the remains of Herod’s palace in the middle of the Judean desert. Everyone was particularly happy to experience the 70 degree weather since coming from the well-below freezing temperatures in Michigan! We then headed to the beautiful oasis of Ein Gedi where we hiked to numerous waterfalls. GPa and Denyon had a great time splashing in the pools of spring water as well. We ended that day with a quick “float” in the Dead Sea—something that just has to be experienced firsthand.
In addition to the above, we enjoyed lots of delicious meals, great conversations, tired feet and minds, playtime with Denyon, and more. It was a great visit and we are so grateful they were all able to come. It definitely was extremely special for us and we are pretty certain they felt the same (although they didn’t realize how hilly the terrain would be---something their feet weren’t expecting)! We are so blessed to have family like them and bless God for such an amazing visit. Thanks for coming Mom and Dad, Doug and Valerie! We miss you already!
Brad, Shallon, and Denyon
Sunday, January 11, 2009
We flew in to Thessaloniki, Greece on Saturday December 27. The flight went smoothly and we had no trouble getting our rental car. Despite having horrible windshield wipers (which turned out to be pretty scary driving through rain and snow in the mountains on our way down to southern Greece), the car was great. Since everything was in Greek and it took us driving around for about 45 minutes before even finding the street signs on the sides of the buildings (instead of on the street corners like here in Israel and the US), it took us at least an hour once we got into town to find our hotel. Talk about stressful for Brad driving in extremely congested traffic on very narrow streets and me trying to give directions reading a map in Greek! Even if we wanted to pull over to look at the map together it was nearly impossible because the streets were so crowded there was no where to pull over or park (one night we looked for a spot for an hour for dinner, then gave up and went back to our hotel and walked the distance to eat). That scenario was repeated several times on the trip but we always did eventually end up where we needed to be. Nevertheless—very frustrating.
We spent one day in Thessaloniki and visited two museums---a Christian Byzantine museum and an Archaeological museum. Both were excellent and free because we went on a Sunday! The ancient sites consisted of an agora including a theater, roman palace complex, large archway, and several large churches. The weather was very cold so it was nice to be able to be inside the museums…especially for Denyon’s sake. We thought we’d miss out on snow for the winter but Thessaloniki gave us a little bit of it and also lots of Christmas décor!
We drove to Philippi for the day and had a great time. In the course of the day there were probably less than a dozen people at the site. The site is very large and includes a large palace area, several temples, a large agora, a theater that is very well in tact, residential dwellings, and even remains of the old roman road which would have most likely been the road that Paul traveled along during his tours. The acropolis of the city offered a magnificent view of the surrounding areas and we had a great time climbing to the top. The weather got into the 50s in the afternoon so it was perfect for climbing. Once on top, we even got to climb part way up into an old watchtower that allowed you to see for miles. The sky was clear blue that day so it was an amazing view. This day was one of our favorites. It was also very meaningful because our church Mars Hill in Grand Rapids just finished a year long series on the book of Philippians. What an experience to go there and see remains of what Paul must have seen!
We had one travel day where we drove from northern Greece to southern Greece where we would end up just outside of Korinthos (present day Corinth). The scenery was absolutely amazing and we did some amazing detours on the way. First, we took a scenic path to and partially up the base of Mt. Olympus. The area was completely snow-covered and was a winter wonderland. It was one of the most beautiful things either of us had ever seen. We did not go to the top of the mountain because the road conditions did not seem safe enough to us. We didn’t want to risk being stuck in the middle of no where…especially with Denyon. We captured some of the beauty in our pictures although it’s one of those places that pictures don’t quite do justice. After Mt. Olympus, we continued on heading towards Delphi. In order to get there, we had to go around and through a mountain range and actually drove through a snow storm in the mountains. It was incredible. The mountains were snow covered and the view amazing.
We did arrive at Delphi but only 30 minutes before the main site closed. We quickly visited and saw the large temple to Apollo and theater. There was another section of the site that was open another couple hours so we did stroll around the temple to Athena and roman gymnasium area. Delphi is in the mountains so again the view was amazing and we had come down enough from where we were that it was bright and sunny and probably mid-40s as opposed to a snow storm.
After Delphi we continued our way towards Korinthos and arrived at our hotel in the small town of Loutraki, just about 3 km north of Korinthos. Here, we actually found our hotel and a place to eat, all within 30 minutes (this was somewhat of a record because all during our trip we had trouble finding our hotel and a good place—or a place—to eat dinner!). The hotel was one block from the sea and although way to cold for swimming, it did make for some nice pictures in the morning. We got in pretty late and left in the morning to head out to find the ancient site of Corinth.
You would think that such a large site like Corinth would be easy to find and well marked, but that was not the case. Finding the site was quite an adventure and although we left the hotel by about 8:30 a.m., we didn’t get to the site until almost 10:30 a.m. even though it was only maybe 15 km away from our hotel! It was very hard to remain patient in these kinds of moments. The site itself including a museum including the remains found from the city, the lower city including a large agora (marketplace), several temples including a large Apollo temple, a large palace complex with an exquisite fountain system, a theater, and our favorite part—the acropolis.
As with many of these sites, they are not just from one period in time. What remains on the acropolis today is largely from the medieval period and little from the time of Paul. That being said, this was probably our favorite site on the entire trip. We drove part of the way up and then hiked through the ancient city gate and up the rest of the way. On top were extensive medieval walls surrounding the entire city including a large Hellenistic tower and monumental gates. We felt like we were in some medieval movie just waiting for the battle to begin. There were even openings in the walls where archers could release their arrows from the small opening. We followed a path that went all the way around the city and kept us away from pretty much all other visitors. When looking at the site from below, it was like a large castle. It is amazing what previous civilizations were able to build in order to sustain themselves and stay protected. And we also had a great view of the lower city of Corinth from the top.
Just as we were getting ready to leave Korinthos and head to Athens, and thinking that the day had gone pretty smooth, I noticed the stroller wasn’t riding quite so smoothly. Since the weather was cold, we tried to keep Denyon in our stroller as much as possible. It has a cover so we can keep him enclosed and wrapped up to stay warm. We have taken the stroller everywhere…ancient sites, dirt roads, in the woods, etc. If it’s too rough of a climb or there are no good paths, then we use our hiking backpack to carry Denyon. However, at this particular moment, we were on the smooth asphalt in the parking lot and I looked down and our tire was completely flat! Why not? We looked more closely and I had actually run over a tiny nail in the road. We didn’t know what to do so we thought we’d go into the town and try to find some place that could repair the tire. We knew we had to get it fixed otherwise the remaining three days (what turned out to be six) and the airport would be very difficult and somewhat miserable. We were unsuccessful finding a place in Korinthos and only wasted about an hour. So, we headed into Athens, only to have difficulty finding our hotel and a place to eat again. This was also New Year’s Eve but we were too exhausted to stay up and celebrate. We figured when we woke up in the morning around 7 a.m., the ball would be dropping in Times Square and we could celebrate it then. Sure enough, as I was getting dressed in the morning, Dick Clarks’ Rockin’ New Year’s Eve celebration was in full swing!
Despite being New Year’s Day, we figured the main sites in Athens would still be open. We assumed it would be like closing Disney World on New Year’s Day. We assumed wrong and pretty much everything was closed! We then wished we had stayed up and celebrated since we could have just slept in. It turned out to be a somewhat relaxing day and we did get to climb the areopogus…aka Mars Hill, see Hadrian’s Arch, the temple of Olympian Zeus, and climb a hill just opposite of the acropolis where we were able to take some amazing photos of the Parthenon. Probably our best pics of our time in Athens came from atop that hill. It was a beautiful clear blue day unlike the other days in Athens which were cloudy and overcast. The other bright spot of the day was that we actually found a tire repair shop a couple blocks from out hotel. They insisted that they only fix car tires, and Brad insisted that they please help us fix ours (it’s similar to a mountain bike tire) and eventually they repaired it free of charge. It was amazing!
So, our last day of the trip, Friday we tried to pack in the sites seeing the acropolis and lower city of ancient Athens, the Roman Forum, the ancient agora, Hadrian’s Library, the National Archaeological Museum, and even made it to the Piraeus port. We had a complete and full day and even ended it by eating that the Hard Rock Café. We even bought some wings to take to the airport because our flight was at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning…we figured we’d need the food. We did need the food but not for the airport.
We had already checked out of our hotel earlier in the day, but our car was parked outside of our hotel. We needed to rearrange some bags to get them ready for the plane, but the backpack carrier in our check-in luggage, etc. So we pulled out our bags---right in front of our hotel in the bright lights. Just before we were ready, we needed to change Denyon and I was just getting the last of our carry on bags in order. Brad was changing Denyon in the trunk and I turned to put something in Brad’s carry on bag. It was only about 10 seconds and I looked down and my bag was gone! This was the bag that included my purse, wallet, keys, both our cell phones, our Ipods, my eye glasses, Denyon and my passports, Denyon’s blanket and “Mr. Froggy”—pretty much everything that we had that had any value. Brad went tearing down the streets to see if he could find anyone but nothing. This guy must have been a professional…it happened so fast. Looking back, both of us can vaguely remember someone walking sort-of close, but that’s it. And this all happened Friday night after the US Embassy had already closed.
So, we spent the rest of the evening calling to cancel credit cards, change our flight, called the embassy (which they told us they couldn’t do anything until Monday when they reopened), etc. So we were stuck in Athens at least another three days! It was awful and the worst feeling. We were all so ready to come home. Luckily, Brad had his passport on him and he did have a little cash and one credit card that I didn’t have so we didn’t have to cancel. Saturday we did absolutely nothing (other than file a police report) and just relaxed. It felt like a bad dream.
On Sunday morning, just as we were heading to breakfast, we got a call from Brad’s parents. They gave us the number of a couple in Athens who offered to come and pick us up. This couple was the parents of Cindi’s (Brad’s mom) roommate from college’s daughter-in-law’s best friend! Did you follow that? Anyways, they came and got us and allowed us to stay in a suite at a college in Athens that they direct. They are a missionary couple who previously lived in Athens for five years, then Russia for 17, and just moved back to Athens. They were absolutely a God-send and made our last two days so much more bearable. It was wonderful to be around people that cared, have home cooked food, and a nice place to stay. We don’t know what we would’ve done without their rescue!
Fortunately, on Monday when the embassy opened, we were able to get in with no problems and have our passports reissued. We had scheduled our flight for Tuesday morning at 1:30 a.m. so we would be going home. What a relief. Our flight went well, other than none of us really slept much. Denyon only slept about 5 hours over the course of the evening when he’s used to getting nearly 12 and Brad and I got less than an hour. All we wanted to do when we got to our apartment at 5:30 a.m. was go to sleep. But, that did not happen.
We had emailed our landlord and asked her to leave a key for us in the mailbox. She said she would do so, but she did not. So, we were locked out! The only thing we could think to do was to wake our neighbor who was in charge of the building. We thought that perhaps she’d have a key to our apartment. We felt awful for waking her (and her two young children) and she didn’t have a key either. Because our phones were stolen too, we didn’t have our landlord’s number and we tried to find it via old emails, but that was unsuccessful too. Just as we were getting ready to go to a friend’s house in the neighborhood to see if we could crash on the couch, Brad had an idea. The back balconies from our neighbors and ours are close and he thought perhaps he could either jump the distance or climb over. Turns out he was right so he climbed over and opened our back door. The main lock is broken so we just use a bike lock for which we know the combination. We then passed Denyon over (we were careful), passed a few bags over, then I climbed over. It definitely could have been a scene from a movie. But we could now at least sleep in our own beds. The problem now was that we were locked into our apartment because you also have to unlock the door with a key from the inside. Later, our landlord came over with what she thought was the right key and it wasn’t. So we had to call a locksmith and pay for a new lock! What a mess.
So, overall, we were able to see some amazing things and beautiful scenery. It is always incredible to see places of the Bible so for that we are very grateful. But despite that, I’m not sure we’ll be disappointed if we never return to Athens. Bless God we were all safe and we are back to Israel safely (by the way, the conflict in the Gaza strip has not affected us at all and here in Jerusalem we don’t hear, see, or even know anything is taking place…we are too far from the conflict). What happened is one of those things that we just don’t understand and know is a result of a broken world. We are blessed that we are unharmed and have the means to replace what we needed to. Thank you always for your love and support as we continue our journey here! This was just another part of the adventure!
Happy New Year to all!
Shallon, Brad, and Denyon
The culmination of the class was an eight-day field study to Egypt at the end of the semester (December 6-14). It was a remarkable trip. We got to do many things that I did not do on my only other trip to Egypt (April 2007). So a lot of what I saw was new to me. Even the things I got to see again, they made so much more sense to me. I didn’t know anything about anything the first time I went to Egypt. But having been to Egypt and then having an entire semester learning about Egypt, this return trip was unbelievably rewarding. The pieces of a giant puzzle began falling together rather quickly. Now, since it is hard to describe everything I saw and did in Egypt, I have included many pictures of my trip in the picture slide show entitled, “Field Study to Egypt.” It should give you a good idea of how much I experienced in just over a week. Enjoy!