Archive for the ‘Personal Update’ Category

happy (?) 10 years

November 24, 2009

I’ve recently moved into a new lab which is in the Chemistry building (tho the lab is still part of CS). It’s a very nice spot to work but the building has all kinds of odd quirks such as an indeterminate amount of “ground” floors (e.g. R, LG, G, FAA etc), a coal burning contraption in the bath room and regular alarms announcing gas leaks or fires on such-n-such floor. Anyways I was wondering through this building thinking about nothing much when I realised something kind of mortifying – this is my TENTH year at university. And not just university but at this one particular university and most of those years spent in the same postgrad lab, behind the same desk:

I've been on leve 3 for a long time now

Shortly after this moment of self-startlement, I ran into the “little” sister of a good friend that I studied with. She has finished her degree, held down a job in Joburg and moved back to Cape Town and now working at the university. So that means that younger siblings of my peers are officially more grown up than I am! Anyways the point of all this is that it’s really time for me to get the PhD and move on. I *love* UCT, but its time for new scenery (I definitely learnt that in India this year). So Happy Ten Years Of Higher Education to me! yay.

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Jessy Beatriz

September 25, 2009

After getting back from India I spent an outstanding two months at home in Cape Town. It was great hanging out with my family and friends again after basically five months away. It was a pretty busy time full of good and bad: I agonised over the direction of my PhD, had warm sunny work days at C & A’s, attended the funeral of a very controversial relative, and the 80th birthday of another, drank green tea with S, had D & R’s kitten scald me with hot coffee, hung out with S & little C, took J (intern friend from US) around Cape Town and spent most weekends hanging out with my sisters. But the first and most important event of the 2 months was meeting my first every niece. I missed her birth by, what like week. But its all good because I am rather chuffed that she, like me, is an April baby and I did get to see her the day she was born over Skype (“Look that’s your Tia Ilda in the laptop!”). So here we are meeting for the first time:

first timers

first timers

Yes, we both look a bit confused! Her: “Who is the new face?” Me: “Is she going to barf/cry on me?” I’m not much of a baby person (don’t love ’em, don’t despise ’em) but I did get attached to her very quickly. She has very large ambiguously coloured eyes and silky, silky hair. One of my favourite things about her is her repertoire of sounds: grunting, gurgling, murmuring and her..erm.. burps, which are rather phenomenal and usually lead to much giggling when they emerge from something which looks so like a cherub. So here she is, Jesse Beatriz:

cherub

cherub

a typical absence

September 7, 2009

Well some things in life are unfortunate and come with high probabilities – good TV shows will get canceled, Lindsay Lohan will wear leggings and/or booties, charming politicians will probably disappoint us and new bloggers are likely to lapse on their updates. Even though I hoped to keep this blog going with at least a couple updates each month, I have to face facts and admit that I am in the herd of “lapsers”. I haven’t peeped in 2 months and 2 days! So what has been taking up my time online? Researching XNA game studio and narrative linguistics (for the FiD) and getting through my stupidly large collection of pictures from India. The latter is finally done and I’m trying to get most pics tagged. They can be found on my flickr stream…

sari shop girl

sari shop girl

Heftier things have been taking up my time in real life – I got home from India and met my gorgeous niece and hung out with my gorgeous friends. Then, two months later I came to SeattleĀ  to see Dave (after a way-too-long 5 month separation) to embark on the long-in-the-waiting adventure of house hunting, buying and moving. For all these events I will be putting pictures up on flickr and blogging. I also plan to blog a bit about my MSR India internship and a few snippets from India itself … ok?

Hello?

Anyone there?

Oh well serves me right for making this space so uneventful lately šŸ˜›

you can call me Tia Ilda

April 23, 2009

That’s right folks on 21 April 2009, a very fat, healthy (and hungry!) baby girl was added to our family. I’m an aunt for the first time! Sadly, I was not able to be there as I’m in India for two more weeks or so but I got see her over Skype (if and Skype marketing people are reading – I’m willing to sell my story for a feel good ad campaign ;).

Anyways I’m very happy that everyone is so healthy and well and I can’t wait to meet little Jessie Beatriz in a mere 10 days from now. Malzetov Isabel and James!

my first week in India

March 20, 2009

I am, again, going to rely on e-mail conversations I’ve had for a blog post. Cara mailed me asked me this:

How are you? What is India and where you are living like? How are the people and what are they making you do? to which I responded:

I am fine. India is loud and crowded and colourful, the place where I’m living is sparse and spacious. The people at first glance seem kind of unfriendly in their mannerisms but in actuality turn out to be extremely friendly. The are making me sit in an air conditioned office with free coffee and read lots of papers while I come up with a research project to do.

In general I have had an up and down time settling here and at first was feeling pathetic and lonely. When I arrived I had a weird impression of the place I’m staying as being not that nice. In actuality it is pretty fancy in that it is clean and spacious and has hot water and is also in what is considered a swanky area which is quite boring quiet but just a short walk down the street and you start to reach very alive over crowed streets teaming with auto rickshaws, shops, people, cars and motorbikes. It turns out that someone extended their stay in the place I was supposed to be in so I got put somewhere that is bigger and slightly closer to the office – its a big apartment with three rooms and I’m in one of the rooms. It has its oddities like peeling paint and weird plugs and switches that don’t seem to do anything. For my first two nights there was one other guy staying in one of the other rooms who helped me to order dinner walked me to the office on my first day since I had no idea where it was. But then he moved out and I’ve had the place to myself which has been a bit lonely. At the same time work has been a matter of “Here are all these people doing cool work with access to such and such under-privileged community, read up on their work and come up with project”. The food is *all* spicy *all* the time and I, at first, I was eating that much because there was only so much I could handle. But now I’m getting really into it and, actually, eating vegetarian here is awesome because vegetarian is the rule rather than the exception and they have a huge variety of veggie dishes.

lonely apartment

lonely apartment

Towards the end of the week things got better, the other interns (who have all been here for a while already) are actually very friendly despite seeming a bit unapproachable at first. So where I was holed up alone in my huge apartment in the evenings at first (because I’ve been advised not to walk around along after dark), the latter part of the week was way more social. I was invited to watch the cricket (where I had to shamefully fess up to not following cricket much to the horror, and I do mean horror, of the MSR director) and then I went out to explore a nearby Malleswaram complete with open air market and temples and noise with two new friends from the office. Today I went out with my mentor, Ed, and his wife, Page, who recenly arrived here, we explored the streets some more and got most excellent food. And finally over the weekend I discovered that I had a new roommate. Also I went out to meet with an NGO I might work with and afterward went to CTR (Central Tiffin Room) which is reputed to have the best butter dosa in Bangalore.

flower emporium

flower emporium

saturday garlanding

saturday garlanding

All in all an interesting week!

A Relaxing Blitz

February 27, 2009

After spending almost two months blogging my 11 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land in full, glorious painstaking detail, I take some delight in posting about my trip to Redmond/Seattle in a one normal sized post…

I had fun. I got to hang out with Dave, Fabian and my bunnies a lot. I drank coffee a lot.

Ā 

Victors Coffee, Redmond
Victors Coffee, Redmond

mediative koko

I worked of my PhD a lot but still didn’t finish everything I wanted to. It was autumny when I arrived…

red, red, red

yellows

…but then it snowed a lot in time for Christmas (and in time to just about bring public services to a halt and keep people holed up at home). I bought a pair of awesome boots and gloves which served me very well.

it started gently...

best boots evah

Ā 

back yard blizzard

Dave learned to drive and we got lost many times on the freeways, byways and parkways. We went hunting for cupcakes and home-roasted coffee beans and found some fine specimens in neighbourhoods such as Ballard and Kent.

Cupcake Royale, Ballard

We bought strange, exciting mushrooms, chard and cheese from Pike Place Market. I found the supermarkets totally intimidating at first with all the unfamiliar and super enthusiastic branding and sheer amount of corn based products. People were generally disarmingly friendly. I watched more bad reality TV than I should have and had a seriously bad nightmare that I was one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. I learned a whole new vocabulary where a “biscuit” is more like a muffin, “pancakes” are more like flap jacks and “crepes” are more like pancakes. I miss it muchly am looking forward to the Seattle summer šŸ™‚

a lazy winter

Ā 

pilgrimage day 11 – did I mention that Cairo is the overwhelming city?

January 28, 2009

It is. We had a very touristy day which started with a Mass (ok not so touristy) at a Catholic Church run by priests from the Camboni order (mentioned in day 9.5’s post) – the same order Fr. Chico is in. That was a special last Mass to have as the last since Fr. Chico got to really give us an insight into his life and calling and we got to know this charming man better and understand his no-nonsense, pragmatic, this-is-just-my-path approach to priesthood.

its all a blur

its all a blur

Comboni Order

Comboni Order

Next we went to a Coptic Orthodox church which contains a crypt where the Holy Family are believed to have hid during their flight into Egypt. CopticĀ  Orthodox is the Christian church started in Egypt by St. Mark, who converted thousands of Egyptians and endured horrific torture at the hands of the Romans eventually ending with him being dragged through the streets until his head came off. Coptic Christians were persecuted mercilessly yet the more they were persecuted the more the numbers converting to Christianity became. Today it is Coptic custom to tattoo a Coptic cross (derived from the ankh, which typically represented the “key of life” in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics) on your wrist as a way of showing a lack of fear in openly being Christian. Our guide, Max, is a Coptic Christian and has one of these tattoos. Max also points out that there are a few differences between Coptic and Catholic, one of the big ones being that where Catholics believe in Purgatory, Copts don’t.

where the Holy Family lived for some times

where the Holy Family lived for some times

We are taken to a shop and given lots of time to peruse the touristy wares, in fact a lot of the day centered around us being given lots of opportunity to shop. Next we drove to the pyramid complex of Giza, the streets were jam packed with people celebrating Eid – children running around, riding small Ferris wheels and camels and such. At the pyramids, Max warned us about the persistent hawkers and warned us not to engage them at all and how to say ‘No Thank-you’ in Arabic. We had a very short time at the pyramids, which were amazing but slightly underwhelming (Luisa thought they would be bigger). The hawkers were every bit as insistent as we had been told, sometimes resorting to forcing ‘gifts’ into your hands and then demanding that you pay for them. Despite the warnings, people from our group still got into trouble; I witnessed the amazing sight of Isabel rescuing H and Aunty B by throwing the ‘gifts’ they were given on the floor and leading them firmly away, one at each hand. We saw many ‘amusement camels’ – dressed up to the nines and hired to tourists for short rides and then we drove to the Sphinx which was even more crowded and featured two more pyramids.

slant

slant

pyramid + camela

pyramid + camela

storytelling

storytelling

After this began the shopping part of our day wherein we were taken to various shops all with a hands on approach to turning tourism in tangible economic gain. It was almost like Cairo knew we were only there for a day and knew it had to get as much money out of us as possible! We were taken to a perfume shop, then a papyrus shop and, finally, an Egyptian cotton shop. Of all these, the perfume shop left a lasting impression. I walked in there thinking that there was no way they would get me to smack down money on their counter – I don’t even wear perfume usually! But there I witnessed the most polished, charming and persuasive selling of my life. The place was filled with dainty glass bottles and we were invited to sit in a large wing of the shop by a friendly Armenian lady who took drink orders from us.Ā  Next we were each given pieces of paper with the names of the perfumes she would be showing us and spaces for us to write down how much of each we wanted. “Yeah right” I thought. She then proceeded to tell us that the shop didn’t sell perfumes but rather essences, which perfume companies used. We got to smell pure flower essences such as the Lotus flower essence found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, and Yellow Lavender which was totally different and sweeter than the Purple Lavender. Under the unassuming heading of ‘Blends’ on our pieces of paper were popular blends of the pure flower essences which are completely identical to well-known commercial perfumes like Chanels Chance, and CK’s Eternity. When people starting raising their hands and asking about their personal favourite scents the woman would quickly present a bottle that smelled *exactly* like their perfume, even ones that are not longer being manufactured. She showed an unbelievable knoweledge of the perfume market down to which design houses, bottle design and the years that the perfumes were launched. We learnt that the difference between essences and perfumes is that perfume companies add alcohol to the blends, ensuring that perfume’s scent travels further, dissolving off your skin and making its way into other potential customers’ nostrils and that the perfume expires as some stage whereas pure essence never loses its scent. Next came the spicy essences like sandalwood (good for arthritis), frankincense (good for hay fever), eucalyptus (which literally clears your sinuses amazingly), narwatsu (a sweet vanilla scent) and sweet almond oil (good for moisturising skin and hair). Even the most hardened, tight purse string loosened after all the convincing whiffs and demos. Even Mae, who fell asleep during the demo, bought some for her arthritis. Between the Ladeira women we bought 6 bottles, 2 of which were for me (so very unlike me!).

a row of Portuguese ladies in the essence store

a row of Portuguese ladies in the essence store

just a touch of charm

just a touch of charm

view to another sale

view to another sale

cha-ching

cha-ching

With ourĀ  hedonistic detour behind us, we visited one more church – the Church of the Floating Bible which has a bit of a creepy story. It is built on a spot where a Bible was found floating and open at a passage stating “Oh weep children of Egypt”. By now it was dark and we were told that we should add whatever we had bought to our luggage now. So there we were in the dark street, lots of pedestrians walking past and an air of rush and panic. It was not good, even sweet A cracking and making some peeved comments. Then to finish the day we were taken to a yummy dinner cruise on the Nile which featured entertainment by a scary Bollywood-esque man who dragged unsuspecting guests on the dance floor to do weird synchronised dances with him, a belly dancer and man who spun continously for like 10 mintues while performing visual illusion type tricks. I have a tendency towards car sickeness, so riding on a bus all day, then eating dinner on a boat while watching the dizzying spinning man right before boarding a 7 hour flight was quite a test of my unfortunately delicate system! We ended up at the airport where some of us had a bathroom break in restrooms with no sinks and shared some calming cups of tea. Eventually we boarded our late night flight to Johannesburg looking forward to a tour bus-less existence at home and contemplating our experiences. At Johannesburg we still stuck together drinking coffees until eventually parting with new friends in Cape Town.

spinning man

spinning man

de Nile

de Nile

Tally for the day: 3 churches, 4 shop shop excursions, 5 pyramids, the sphinx, 1 Nile cruise, 1 flight home

pilgrimage day 10 – i don’t understand this day

January 25, 2009

Today we left Israel early in the morning. Frank and Jono drove with us to the Jordan border. Everyone was a bit nervous about this border crossing after V made an announcement that Israeli officials can be blunt and rude with us but we should be compliant – and no smiling. It did dredge up imaginings of being cast out into the desert passport-less and I swear one mama was literally wringing her wrists as we stood in the queue at the plane-less airport-type building at Allenby Bridge. After making it through we stood around in the sun with our bus waiting for a new Jordanian bus and guide. We chatted and discovered from Frank that his sister-in-law had landed in hospital the day before which is why he was pacing around on his phone and didn’t come to dinner with us. We all have a very camaraderie-filled goodbye with Frank and Jono and load onto our new bus, which much less luxurious. Our new guide is named Ammar and he is very apologetic for the bus’ lateness. He then collects all our passports (I really hated this mass collecting and processing of our passports) and went to some other office before returning and handing them back again. At this point a very young, armed Jordanian policeman joined us, apparently standard issue for every tour bus in Jordan, these guys don’t want nothing messing with their fledgling tourism trade. We started by driving out to the Jordan river, there was a bit of a walk to get there. It was very hot and the terrain was beautiful and open. We walk down to the river, which is not nearly as pretty as you might imagine – all green and stagnant looking. Each of us were baptised by Fr. on a pier at the river’s edge, very special. So special actually that some folks started emptying their water bottled to gather some Jordan water as a momento. We also visited a luxe chuch dedicated to the descent of the Holy Spirit during Jesus’ baptism.

*sploosh*

Baptism off the pier at the Jordan River

Jordan River Church

Jordan River Church

Next we visited Mount Nebo from which Moses and Israelites first saw the Promised Land, but where God told Moses that he would die on the mountain before being able to enter. Very bitter-sweet. We had a Mass here and I did the reading which, of course, was filled to a healthy proportion of those hard-to-pronounce Hebrew place names. But at least it was in English, at first it look the monk a while to find the reading in English for me! Looking it up now, I see there was lots we didn’t see at Mount Nebo, such as the amazing modern sculpture of Mose’s staff and the Memorial Church of Moses and, most awesome, the view of the Promised Land. Unfortunately, instead of visiting these we were taken to a shop where disabled people make and sell mosaics. I’m all for supporting this kind of thing but, in retrospect, I am bummed that we missed out on the cool things on Mount Nebo, especially that Promised Land view. We were given a demo on how the mosaics are made and given ample time to wander around their shop (where everything was very expensive but I did buy a wooden doll and a blue/silver ring).

remembering Moses

remembering Moses

Next on the adenga we drive to Madaba were we are taken to a restaurant for a pretty decent lunch. We hear that we are supposed to see a church in Madaba but there is a funeral taking place there so we will come back later.

madaba

madaba

friendly boys

friendly boys

What followed was a lot of driving around the Jordanian countryside with very little indication of where we were going. The lanscape was very different to Israel, instead of lots of small square houses cluttering hills, there were large tracts open land dotted with lavish mansions and a few smaller settlements. I got very hiccupy and car sick and caught only tidbits of Ammar’s discursions such as 75% of Jordan’s population are young, they have no natural resources, they have been trying to grow tourism since 2000 and they see people as their best resource. The bus was getting to me, in fact the 10 days of bus was getting to me; I remember tunring to Isabel and saying “It feels like this is our life now, everyday will be like this: We wake up at 6 or ealier, get loaded onto a bus and driven around and see too many places to remember”. Eventually, the bus stopped at a look out point from which you can see the Dead Sea in the distance and some mountain. I have no idea what was special about the mountain or why we had stopped to look at it. After we spent a couple of minutes checking out the mystery mountain we got back into the bus and drove all the way back through the countryside to Madaba.

dotted with masions

dotted with mansions

mystery mountain

mystery mountain

The bus stopped again and I had a little sit down to recuperate from the bus ride before all of us got led at a great speed through these interesting streets, past shops with lots of gypsy/bohemian style wares to St. George’s church. This was actually interesting, The church was built over an early Byzantine church and a mosaic map covers a large part of the church’s floor. The Madaba map has big chunks missing and which is widely believed to be the earliest map of the Holy Land, you can see Jerusalem, Galilee and the Jordan River on it. We got 5 minutes inside the church which was a bummer because the map was really detailed and fun to look at. Then we were rushed back through the intersting streets and hustled onto the bus. This day made very little sense to me, we spent hours driving, seemingly, with lots of time to kill around the countryside and when we were actually off the bus we were still rushing everywhere and couldn’t look at things properlly. When I got back on the bus people were cranky about this. I muttered to myself “I don’t understand this day” and V #2 turned around to me and said “I dont’ understand this day either” which led to some secretive giggling. I had resorted to sitting at the back of the bus today because of my car sickness and there were lots of laughs šŸ™‚

Arabis want peace / Carpet Land

Arabis want peace / Carpet Land

madaba map showing the Jordan river

madaba map showing the Jordan river

Next, we found ourselves at Jordan airport where the Ladeira’s had to do some frantic repacking before boarding a flight to Egypt. I got to sit next to H and Aunty A, who told me a ponderous and hilarious joke about three old sisters. We arrived in Cairo late at night, all our luggage was mounted onto a mega mountain cart and we were loaded onto a new bus with a fresh, friendly guide named Max who made lots of references to Bafana and the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Max tells us the “Cairo” translates into “the overwhelming city”, which turned out the be a most fitting name. He also spouts off other facts like there are 20 million people living in Cairo and 2 million cars, Giza is actually pronounced “Gee-zaa”, Egypt has 117 pyramids and 94% of its land is uninhabitable. Interesting but folks were way to tired for more learning and were falling asleep left, right and centre, including Mae who was next to me. Cairo was busy, people were preparing for Eid which was the next day and it took us a whole hour to drive to our hotel. Once we got there we had to id our luggage by putting stickers on them and get our room keys. Becuase it was so later we were told we could sleep all the way until 8 the next day – a huge treat! Inside the hotel was overkill with bright lights, live music and middle-aged tourist dancing the waltz (I think). T&W promptly put down their bags and took the the floor without missing a beat, it was like something out of a deoderant ad. After a good while of waiting we finally got to our very fancy rooms where I missed the obvious cue to tip the porter, Luisa felt very ill from the plane food and I had a bath with pursed lips (for fear of drinking any to the hectic Egypt water). *snore*

oh clever, pyramid shaped lamps in a hotel overlooking Giza

oh clever, pyramid shaped lamps in a hotel overlooking Giza

Tally for the day: 2 border crossings, 3 churches, 1 river baptism, 2 mountains – 1 known and 1 mystery, lots of countryside bus, 1 short flight, 1 hotel change

pilgrimage day 9.5 – destination, Jerusalem

January 21, 2009

…After a welcome rest at the Maronite nunnery we had an unusual stop at the Notre Dame hostel, a hotel specifically for pilgrims, which V had mentioned several times. Despite V’s every effort she could not get us a booking there and it was the first time one of her groups was staying only at secular hotels. But we were still going to visit, and were met by a very grand, dignified priest and led into the hostel’s own chapel featuring a very pink Mary statue.Ā  As we entered the chapel, Fr. Chico whispers to me that we were now among the most conservative of priests. In the chapel the dignified priest welcomed us and said how sad it made him that there was no space for one of V’s groups in his hostel. After a short talk we left, climbing the stairs out Fr. Chico whispered to me again that the order of priests here are called the LegionnairesĀ  but a he calls them the Millionaires because they are very rich and feel it is their calling to convert the wealthy. I ask him is he is impressed with them and he said “No, we are not impressed with them” . I ask Fr. Chico about his order; he is from the Cambionnaires which started in Portugal and are dedicated to practicing in Africa and other war-torn and poverty-stricken places. Fr. Chico has no parish but lives in a remote, rural part of Mpumalanga. Next we hauled uphill to a Shroud of Turin museum where we were met by a very lively Irish priest who took us through the museum briefly and told us about some of the shroud’s oddnesses and some of the very convincing evidence from physics, pollen analysis and photography, which suggest that the shroud and its image are not simple cloth and imprint. One of the weirdest things about the shroud is that when photographed you get a negative image and a you get a positive image when you look at the photograph’s negative. There was even a 3D reconstruction of the figure depicted in the shroud using some fancy CG technique, and it really looked like what we think of when we picture Jesus.

Shroud of Turin weirdness

Shroud of Turin weirdness

We loaded onto a bus and were driven somewhere but weren’t told where … oh look we’re at the foot of the Mount of Olives and oh we are taking part in another procession – a Palm Sunday procession. At this point H and Aunty B decided to stay in the bus, they were struggling with bad knees and swollen ankles and it was a good choice. Cynthia would not be held back though, but she really struggled on the walk up. Mae, Tia and I almost lost the group because Mae went back to the bus to fetch her jersey. We had a moment of panic (during which there were some harsh words from me *blush*) as we watched the bus drive away and had no idea where our group was. But, holy-thank-goodness we found the group at an teeny grey dome-shaped building. It was the Dome of the Ascension, which is actually mosque, but is built over the spot where people think Jesus ascended into Heaven. After this we went to Pater Noster (eh? isn’t that a town on South Africa’s coast? No actually it is also the “Our Father…” prayer) the traditional spot where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. There is a church there among very pretty gardens complete with rose bushes. All around the gardens and the church are tiled plaques with the Our Father in all different languages – even found Zulu and Afrikaans!

in the Dome of the Acsension

in the Dome of the Acsension

Our Father in Sotho, Portuguese, Zulu, Creole, Siswati, Afrikaans

Our Father in Sotho, Portuguese, Zulu, Creole, Siswati, Afrikaans

Then we walked up a steep hill where Clive and I took turns kind of pushing Cynthia up the hill. We walked a steep road up to a look out point where we could see Jerusalem and look down the Mount of Olives over the vast cemetaries. The Mount of Olives is hot cemetary property since it’s believed that those buried there will be the first taken up to Heaven. Plots there are very expensive and there are a number of famous people buried there.

Mount of Olives cemetaries

Mount of Olives cemeteries

cemetary ritual

cemetary ritual

Next we properly began the Palm Sunday procession walking a sharp downhill to Dominus Flevit (translated: Jesus wept), a church built over the spot where Jesus wept anticipating his Father’s will. The church was built to resemble a tear drop and on the altar there is a mosaic of a chicken sheltering chicks in its wings (symbolic of Jesus wanting to shelter Jerusalem). And behind the altar was a big window overlooking Jerusalem.

Dominus Flevit

Dominus Flevit

sheltering wings

sheltering wings

After walking around the gardens surrounding the church for a while (and me falling on my butt while walking down the wheelchair ramp) we carried on downhill to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. We saw veeeeery old, chunky olive trees and the Church of all Nations, which we were told has 12 domes, one for each nation that funded its building. But looking it up it seems like more than 12: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Italy, France, Spain, UK, Belguim, Canada, Germany, USA and Australia, each country funding different parts of the church. The church is built on the site of a 12th century Crusader chapel which was later a Byzantine basilica which was detroyed by an earthquake. Now it is an amazing Franciscan church, vast and full of mosaics of complex garden scenes and in tones of deep blue, golds and browns. At this stage there was some confusion, and people didn’t know if they should be in the church or wait outside. Frank disappeared and could be glimpsed once or twice pacing up and down talking in a very concerned way on his phone. After the waiting around, a bit of whinging and some how-the-church-should-operate debate, Frank reappeared and we were led to another part of the garden where a Franciscan monk greeted us. We got to do one of the best things of the whole day – we sat for an hour of silence to pray and meditate on peace for Israel and the world. This was very special thinking about Jesus being in the garden and feeling like one of his disciples trying to focus on prayer and tune out distraction and tireness like they were trying to on the night Jesus was arrested. It was also the perfect rest and calm down after a long day.

Church of All Nations

Church of All Nations

devotion

devotion

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

We thought after this long day we would go rest, but instead of going for dinner and resting at our hotel we went for a special farewell dinner at a different hotel. The farewell was out last day with Frank and Jono who we had all grown fond of (although their fondness for us was debatable). The farewell dinner was a bit strange though since neither Frank nor Jono attended so it seemed a bit…er pointless in terms of bidding them farewell. Another notable feature of the dinner was that Tia got a big birthday cake due to a misunderstanding wherein V believed it was a her birthday when, in fact, it was only her birthday 3 days time. Eventually we were taken back to our hotel, people were tired and ratty but the Portuguese contingency was very dedicated – we still got together for a makeshift Portuguese Mass in honour of Tia in one of their hotel rooms complete with hotel table wine and rolls for the Eucharist. And then it was time to pack in preparation for going to Jordan and then Cairo – we did not get enough sleep …

Tally for the day: 8 chuches, 2 sacred sites, 3 mosques, 1 set of ruins, 2 processions, 2 gardens, 1 nunnery, 1 museum, 1 dinner outĀ  (whoa!)

pilgrimage day 9.0 – destination, Jerusalem

January 15, 2009

It’s a well known adage that life is not about the destination, but the journey. This pilgrimage was about Jesus’ journey, but the destination, where Jesus fulfilled his mission, had equal gravity. Even though we had been in Jerusalem a few days already, day 9 we ‘arrived’, everything after this day felt like a winding down of the pilgrimage. Day 9 was also, fittingly, the harshest single day of the whole trip, but, somehow, I felt full of energy and verve. The day was so ridiculously long that I’m splitting it into two posts (which is saying something becuase the posts so far have been way-too-long-for-blog). Anyways, we woke at 5am and left for a 6am Mass at the Holy Sepulcher. We got our Mass in early at the overbooked Christian epicentre, during its Catholic time-slice. We walked a windy, complicated path through the Old City during a grey pre-dawn to get there. The streets were weirdly quiet compared to their regular buzz and clutter. Once we got inside the empty, echoey church we gathered at it’s focus: the enclosure built around Jesus’ tomb. After a while we entered through a narrow entry to a teeny room, the size of a large elevator, for a Mass which contemplated Jesus’ resurrection from the very spot where we were standing. At the end of Mass, one at a time, we walk-crawled through a low arch into an even teenier room at the middle of the enclosure where there was only a large altar built over the rocks of the tomb. Here we knelt and reached into a hole to touch those scared rocks. By the time we emerged from the enclosure, there were already more pilgrims starting to gather.

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

After a quick breakfast nip back to the hotel, we drove off to the Western Wall (a.k.a. Wailing Wall or Kotel), that site of contentiousness between the Jewish and Muslim. The wall’s history is obviously interesting and the fact that Jews are able to pray there freely is a big deal as it is the only part of the Temple that remains. At the commission in which the Jewish sought free worship at the wall, the following argument was made which I think sums up the wall’s meaning and the Jews desperation to hold onto it:

“Being judged before you today stands a nation that has been deprived of everything that is dear and sacred to it from its emergence in its own land ā€“ the graves of its patriarchs, the graves of its great kings, the graves of its holy prophets and, above all, the site of its glorious Temple. Everything has been taken from it and of all the witnesses to its sanctity, only one vestige remains ā€“ one side of a tiny portion of a wall, which, on one side, borders the place of its former Temple. In front of this bare stone wall, that nation stands under the open sky, in the heat of summer and in the rains of winter, and pours out its heart to its God in heaven.”

There are seperate queues for men and women to enter the site of the wall and very strict rules around maintaining its sanctity. There’s also a seperation at the wall such that there is a part for the touristsĀ  and another for devout (I think Hasidic) Jews. Something else you notice is that, since the wall is so sacred, people do not turn their back on is, so as you leave you walk backwards facing the wall at all times.We got 5 minuts to walk around, and I didn’t walk all the way up and touch wall becuase I thought there wouldn’t be enough time. As we left I instantly regretted it, but Angie, who did touch the wall, did something which really moved me; she saw I was upset, picked up my hand and rubbed it against hers saying ‘Now we both touched the wall’.

rules of sanctity

rules of sanctity

the holiest place

the holiest place

Next we moved onto an even more contested site, the same space is, for Jews, the Temple Mount, where the Temple once stood and, for Muslims, it is where Mohammed ascended into heaven and where he will again appear at final judgement. It is the most holy place for Jews and the third most holy place for Muslims. One thing both agree on is that it is where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. The space is occupied by two important Islamic places of worship theĀ  Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, (as in the rock on which Abraham prepared Isaac for sacrifice). We walked through a make-shift tunnel with heavily armed soldiers posted along it to get to the Temple Mount.

Temple Mount arch

Temple Mount arch

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

We left the Temple Mount and walked through the Muslim quarter to see two things: St. Anne’s which is considered the birthplace of Mary and the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus restored a blind man’s vision. Bizarrely and unexpectedly we were shuffled into a choir formation in St. Annes to sing a hymn becuase the acoustics there are really good. It was odd becuase there was an air of rush, we had to do this thing we didn’t know we were going to do *fast* bacuase there were other groups chomping at the bit for their choral moment. So, it seems, that’s what you do at St. Anne’s, you’re expected to sing; if you ever go, be prepared. At the pools there there was lots of talking by Frank (which I didn’t really process since I was still thinking about the Temple Mount) and a very quick looksee before we had to move onto to the Via Dolorosa.

one of many altars in St. Annes

one of many altars in St. Anne's

We got to do something very special and follow the Via Dolorosa, the way Jesus walked after his condemnation to his cruxifiction. We walked this path carrying a large wooden cross in turns and stopping at each station of the cross to read from the Bible and pray. The streets were narrow and filled with nonplussed shopkeepers who looked like they’ve seen thousands of Via Dolorosa processions. Ultimately we reached a little green door which turned out to be a wierd back entrance to the Holy Sepulchre, where we completed the last five stations and wandered around among the throngs of people. This time we also got to go to the altar above the rock of Calvary and touch that rock.

via dolorossa - the stations

via dolorossa - the stations

walking the via dolorosa

walking the via dolorosa

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

After that people got to rest for a while in the plaza outside the church before walking a good while through the shop-filled lanes to get to a Maronite nunnery where Frank had organised a lunch for us. The nuns there knew him well since he had grown up near the nunnery and spent lots of time there as a boy getting up to mischief such as hiding from his parents in their bell tower. We were led up a long flight of stairs which has very hard on the older folk. We ended up on a rooftop where we got an awesome view of rooftops used as backyards, statellites, domes, churches. Frank dissected the view, pointing out the different religious quarters and landmarks. Lunch was simple, homey and delicious and our table was filled with rollicking good table mates like Tia, Mae, Luisa, Fr. Chico, Caroline and Veronica.

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

rooftop backyard

rooftop backyard

look at this ladys apron

look at this lady's apron

Next, what we did after chilling at the Maronite nunnery…