Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who are we and what are we doing here?

Occasionally I get questions from people wondering why on earth we are living in the Middle East, what Tom is studying, where we are going next, and what Tom is planning on doing when he "grows up" (which I'm pretty sure is code for, "What the crap are you doing over there? Are you crazy?").  When I write on this blog I assume that people who are reading it know our situation.  But I've realized there are a number of readers who I've never met, and even those who I do know personally may not know the details of why we're doing all this.  So for those of you who are curious to know the extended version of our story, read on....

Tom knew from the time he was on his mission that he wanted to study the Bible, possibly along with some languages.  So when he started back up at BYU after returning home, he started taking both Modern and Biblical Hebrew classes.  He was hoping to major in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, but BYU was taking way too long making it an official major.  So feeling the pressure to declare a major, he finally decided to major in Classics, eventually finishing both the Greek emphasis and the Latin.  He was also working hard on two minors, Hebrew and Arabic.  Finally, BYU officially brought back the Ancient Near Eastern Studies major, so he convinced his adviser to let him have a double major.  I have to admit, as Tom kept adding more and more layers to his undergraduate degree, I was not always the happiest wife in the world.  I felt like we were going to be in Provo for FOR-E-VER (6 years total, but he always went full-time in the summer, so it was really like 9 years. Seriously people, that's a long time).  But each time he felt the Spirit tell him to add another layer (and I would consequently throw a fit), he would tell me to pray about it.  Each time I did, I usually knew the answer before I was done praying - which sometimes just added to my anger.  Is that bad?  

He eventually added on more languages - Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian, and German.  And yes, I fought him on each one.  But despite my overwhelming desire to throw a tantrum, the Lord was guiding him and I couldn't deny that.

Finally, he had to wave the white flag because BYU sent him a letter saying he had a holy boat load of credits, and he needed to finish things up.  So as his graduation approached he started applying to grad schools.  A few months later, he started getting rejection letters.  It was pretty heartbreaking and stressful. We didn't understand why, and neither did his advisers and professors.  They all thought he would get in.  In the middle of all of that, I started having a very strong feeling that it was happening for a reason and it was because we were supposed to go to Israel.  So he sent in the application and we waited.  I KNEW we were going, but I don't think he was so sure.  Finally, the letter came, he received a partial scholarship, and we started making plans to move overseas!

Here at the Hebrew University of Jersualem his major is Bible in the Ancient Near East.  He will receive his master's this June, which seems so strange to me that you can get a degree in two years.  His first one took FOR-E-VER, remember?  I really thought I would die an old lady there.  But not this time - two years and we're outta here.

He is currently applying to PhD programs, which has been a frustrating task from overseas.  Our parents have helped us get fees in, and forms sent.  We have absolutely no idea where we'll be this fall.  I kind of feel like we're characters in the Roadrunner cartoon running straight off a cliff.  But we have faith (well, most days) that we will land wherever it is we're supposed to be.

As far as what Tom wants to do long-term, he plans on being a professor.  He loves languages... although that doesn't seem to state it strongly enough.  HE REEEEALLY LOVES LANGUAGES - especially those of the ancient variety.  He gets excited about ancient cuneiform the way a child gets excited for ice cream.  He gets giddy, and drools, and jumps up and down squealing like a little girl.

Okay, maybe not, but pretty close.  He has so much info bouncing around that brain of his, I'm not sure how he keeps it all straight.  Maybe I shouldn't get on his case so much when he continually leaves the pita bag open.  I suppose he has other things on his mind.

I'm grateful to be married to a man who is passionate about what he does.  I'm proud that he has the courage to go out on a limb and conquer the unknown.  I'm also very grateful that he works very hard to keep his faith alive.  This field of study can be really hard on believers at times.  But he sticks close to the Lord and asks Him where to go next every step of the way.  

So I guess we'll just wait and see where He takes us next!  Maybe we need some prayers?  Yeah, I'm pretty sure we do.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Grocery Shopping

For months now I've been meaning to write a post about what it's like to grocery shop in Israel.  Much like big cities in the United States, a lot of people here don't own cars, so small regular trips to the local grocery store are a part of daily life.  Here I will list some unique things about my experiences shopping at Israeli stores....

  • Most store entrances are guarded by a security guard.  You have to allow him to rummage through your bag before entering.
  • Bigger grocery stores have shopping carts, but you usually have to put a 5 shekel piece in them.  The worst part about them is they roll very easily to the side.  So if you try to take it outside, it will start rolling away sideways.  So you either have to use every muscle in your body to keep your heavy cart from rolling away, or you have to run.  Or both, depending on the incline.
  • Some grocery stores do not allow you to take your cart to your car.  Think about that one for a minute. 
  • Having children with you can work to your advantage at checkout.  Once the cashiers get to know you and your children, they'll actually smile at you.  It's awesome.
  • Often a store's sale items will be there at the checkout next to the cashier.  They will ALWAYS ask you if you want the items that are displayed.  A couple of times the cashier has literally refused to take no for an answer.  Either in broken English, or 100% Hebrew that I don't understand, they will do everything they can to convince me that I must buy that item.  One time when I was buying a small treat for something, it turned out that if you bought four of them it was a slamming deal.  So naturally the cashier kept trying to talk me into buying the other three.  But I didn't want that many, even if it was a better deal.  Towards the end of her ringing out my items, she finally just grabbed three more treats and rang them through.  I was so annoyed, and Tom heard about it the rest of the day.
  • This idea can also be a good thing.  I often miss sales because I can't read the signs, and if the sale item isn't one of the ones near checkout, the cashier will tell me to go back into the store and get them.  She will wait as long as she needs to, and will not show an ounce of annoyance (which is unusual in and of itself).  She'll actually be glad that you're doing it so you get the best deal... or maybe she's just happy to sit and do nothing for a couple of minutes.
  • But a HUGE drawback to that, is that it is extremely common for people to get in line, or even start to check out, and then they will leave to finish their shopping!  They may even come back two or three times with their hands full of things.  You can easily stand there for a good ten minutes while the person in the middle of checkout is casually walking around the store collecting more items.  There's an awesome story of my friend hunting down a person doing just that, just to give him a piece of her mind.  But that's for another day. 
  • People in front of you like to put their carts in the middle of the walkway so you can't get by.  You can yell, "Slicha!" (excuse me) over and over before they'll move.  But if you are even slightly in someone else's way, they'll physically shove you out of the way with their grocery cart.  I can't quite bring myself to do the same thing.  Maybe one of these days.
  • In the Jerusalem area, virtually all Israeli stores close on Fridays sometime between noon and 2:30 in preparation for the Sabbath.  They also stay closed all day Saturday.
  • Most things come in much smaller containers.  Take powdered sugar, for instance.  It comes in little envelopes that hold not quite one cup, verses the US where you can buy them in 4 pound bags.
  • If you see an item that you love and it's something that's not usually there, stock up!  You may never see it again.
  • You usually have to bag your own stuff, and you'll probably run out of sacks.  When you ask for more, don't be surprised if they show outright annoyance at your request.
  • Grocery stores are called a "Super", pronounced soo-pair.  
  • Their produce is FAN-TASTIC when it's in season.  It's also cheaper than most other foods.
  • There are two types of food that are still a mystery to me after all this time: canned tomatoes and dairy/cheese products.  I feel like there is some secret code I need to crack that nobody is telling me about.  They just don't make sense!  I can't tell you how many times I *think* I'm coming home with tomato sauce, only to find out when I get home that I have purchased diced tomatoes with huge chunks of garlic.  Or I'll buy what I think is cream cheese, only to find out when I get home that it's sour cream.
  • In the states, the "customer is always right."  But here that is not the case.  The clerk/owner/manager is the boss, and they can be as rude to you as they like.
  • If you're brave enough to go shopping on a Friday, they will often offer you free items at checkout - typically bread, cake, newspaper, or alcohol.  If they're out of bread, I'll take cake.  If they're out of both, they reeeeally want me to take the newspaper or alcohol.  I don't read Hebrew, so the paper is no good to me.  And as much as I'd like to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of cheap wine, I'm about as Mormon as they come and I've never had a drink in my life.  But it's hard to convey all that to a persistent cashier who doesn't understand a word I'm saying.

Friday, January 1, 2010


A conversation I had with Joni today:

Joni:  Mom, what are you making?
Me:  Banana muffins.
Joni:  Are they the really super healthy ones?  Because if they are, I don't want any.  I don't want to eat any of the protein or anything like that anymore.

Now that's my kind of resolution! :)

If Jackson could set resolutions they would be:

1) Eat food
2) Play with cars
3) Flirt with girls