Thursday, September 25, 2008

The New Dog -- An Overdue Update

It's been a few weeks since "Sid" joined my home. I thought his name was "Zeke" because that's what the shelter told me, but when I went to pick him up and they handed me his vaccination records from the previous owner we noticed that right at the top it said "Sid." We called him "Zeke" a few times but he would not respond, so I called him "Sid" and he started obeying all the basic commands. Poor doggie -- I'm sure he was completely confused while he was in the shelter and everyone kept calling him Zeke. The lady who runs the shelter has so many dogs running around, so I can't really blame her for not keeping all their names straight.

My wonderful sister, Connie, drove with me to Oklahoma to pick him up. You know, on the map, Oklahoma doesn't really look too far away... but, believe me, it is VERY, VERY, VERY far away and I NEVER need to go there again. It was about 18 hours each way from my house and we drove straight there, picked up Sid, got back in the car and drove back... Well, not all the way back, because my sister lives near Denver so we only drove as far back as her house (that was about 11 hours each way) and then I stayed there for two nights.

The first thing I thought when I saw Sid was "oh my gosh -- he's so dang huge!!!" He's only a year old and he weighs 20 lbs more than Claire (who is three years old). He stank, of course, from being in the shelter, and he looked really sad and confused. He jumped into the back of the Jeep and layed down right away. I think he was happy to be getting out of the shelter and would have gone with anyone. Claire wouldn't get near him, so he laid at the very back of the Jeep and Claire laid as close to the front of the Jeep as she could and kept her eyes on him and occassionally growled. As the hours and hours passed, as we drove back to Colorado, we noticed that Sid and Claire were slowly inching closer and closer to each other and by the time we reached my sister's house they were practically spooning and making out. Since then, they've become best friends and you can't separate them.

At my sister's house they played a lot in her huge back yard and, apparently, both ate a lot of grass. The morning we were to head back to Salt Lake City, I was awakened by the unmistakeable sound of a dog in the pre-gag stages of an incredibly large vomit. I jumped out of bed and flipped on the lights and found Sid with his head under my bed in full gag reflex mode. I grabbed his collar to head for the back door really fast, but I couldn't budge him -- he's 90 lbs of dead weight -- so he just vomited a huge pile of dog food and grass right under the bed. Then, he got up, walked three feet, and vomitted another huge pile of the stuff under a weight bench. I was freaked out and was sure I had made the worst decision to adopt another giant dog. But, within about 30 minutes, I'd gotten over it and was in love with him again. So, we loaded up and headed across the Wyoming wilderness on our way home. Somewhere in the middle of Wyoming, 35 miles from the nearest rest stop or ghost town, going 95 miles an hour because I was so sick and tired of being in that car, I heard that unmistakeable sound of a dog preparing to vomit. I looked in the rearview mirror to see Claire in gag reflex mode. I knew I could do nothing, so I just had to let her barf. Sid was laying down on his giant dog bed and Claire just let it fly all over his back side. I yelled "STAY!!!!" at both of them and Sid just sat there, looking like the Sphinx, stuck in a motionless pose staring into the rearview mirror making perfect eye contact with me, as if to say "What the HELL just happened to me!!!???!!!???" But, Claire did not obey and jumped into the front passenger seat and stared out the front window as if she was carsick and knew that sitting in the front was going to cure her. We drove 35 miles to the next town where I pulled into the first gas station to clean them up. Sid, bless his heart, did not move one bit until I had wiped Claire's vomit off his butt, then he jumped out and stood right by me until I had thoroughly wiped him down with wet paper towels. I was so tired and so grossed out by the whole experience that I almost left the both of them right there in that little Wyoming town, but I knew I'd have a guilty conscience for the rest of eternity and would probably burn in hell. So, I loaded them back up, choked back my tears, and drove the rest of the way to Salt Lake City. I was so happy to get home, but as I looked at my two giant dogs laying on my living room floor, I wondered to myself what on earth I was thinking!!! My house certainly did not seem big enough for two huge dogs! I'd completely thrown out of balance mine and Claire's comfortable routine that we'd worked three years to get into perfect harmony and rythym. What would become of my well-manicured lawn!?!?!?! I was having the worst buyer's remorse imaginable, so I got in bed and pulled the covers over my head and prayed that I would wake up feeling charity for my new dog. When the next morning came, I still didn't feel much charity, but I gave him a bath and that made him not so annoying. I was ashamed of myself for being such a wimp and not wanting this new dog that I had been so excited about adopting!!! The second day at home was a little bit better, but I still kept secretly hoping that maybe he'd runaway or something... But, by the third day, I was head over heals in love with my new doggie and the bond has only grown stronger since! Now, I couldn't imagine my home without this new big, clumsy one-year-old 90-lb Ridgeback named Sid. And, I think if he weren't here, Claire would sink into a deep dark depression.

So, it's ended up being a really, really good thing for us. He's sweet and practically perfect. He hasn't had one single accident in the house. He sits and lays down and stays and comes -- all the basic commands. He gives big sloppy kisses to those he loves and giant warm hugs whenever I come home, no matter if I've been gone 30 minutes or five days. His face turned from sad and confused to extremely happy within the first day of being here in his new home, and it's been permanently happy ever since. He's huge, as I've said, but he still wants to be my little lap dog. He lays his giant head in my lap and then will slowly put one giant paw at a time up on my lap to see if I'll actually let him try to get on my lap -- I only let him sit on me if I'm on the floor. When I'm working, he lays at my feet, but sometimes stands right next to me and rests his chin on the edge of my desk and watches me work. Claire prefers to lay in her dog bed in the living room while I work, but Sid prefers to stay right by me... Claire comes in to check on him and me a few times a day and will always give me a lick on the arm and then will give Sid several licks on the mouth before going back to her favorite spot.

I'm really happy with my decision to adopt Sid. It seems it was meant to be! And, for any of you thinking about adopting a second dog (or even a first or third) -- just remember that you may regret your decision for the first few days or even weeks, but give yourself time to adjust and you'll eventually be so happy to have your new companion sharing your home and giving you all the unconditional love that animals are only capable of giving!

My Ecuador Family

I just got back from Ecuador two days ago. I went for five whole days... not long, I know, but, I was missing my little family down there, so I took a quick trip down to check on them. They're doing great and here are some photos so you can see the faces of the Ecuadorians who have my heart. From left to right: Jean Carlos (11), Dany Ruben (8), and Abrahim (12). In this next photo you see the mom, Liliam. She and I have been close friends since I was a missionary in Ecuador. We're the same age, so when I was a missionary she helped us out a lot and we've been in touch ever since and that's been about 20 years!!! When I was a missionary, her mom cooked lunch for us everyday so I got to know the family pretty well. After my mission, Liliam eventually got married and had these three wonderful boys, but then ended up divorced after a long spell of tragic abuse. Fortunately, she's been able to create a stable home for the boys and is truly one of the most amazing people I know.

While I was there we spent a couple of days at their house fixing some plumbing problems and just catching up with each other. Then, the five of us went to a beach resort town for three days and nights and had a little vacation together. It was a blast and I miss them terribly, but I'm going back to spend Christmas with them!

Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm adopting!

The other day I woke up and decided it was time to adopt another kid! Claire wants to be a big sister. She wants someone to boss around that won't embarrass me when she does -- the neighbors are getting really tired of her bossing around their dogs and cats; though, all the neighbors tell me what a good and pretty dog she is... So, I got online and started looking for abandoned Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the western U.S. and I came across "Zeke" (this picture is Zeke -- I know he looks almost identical to Claire, but if you look closely, you can tell Zeke is a boy).

He's one year old and was dropped off at a shelter by a military family who can't keep him on the base where they are assigned. Word has it that they are very distraught (and I'm sure they are -- I would freak out if I had to give up a pet -- I have a hard time forgiving myself when I have one fewer fish in my backyard pond due to a hungry raccoon or bird carrying them off). So, bad news for them is good news for me. As our cabby in Cairo would say, "It's my lucky."

The only downside of this whole adoption situation is that Zeke is in Oklahoma and the shelter doesn't deliver to Utah! There were no Ridgebacks available for adoption in Utah or anywhere closer that I could find -- well, not any quite as regal-looking as Zeke. So, I'm driving to my sister's house (Connie) in Colorado on Thursday and then on Friday she is riding with me to Oklahoma to pick him up (I love my sister -- well, I actually love all four of them). We're taking Claire, too, so they can bond in the back seat on the way home. I'm sure it will be a fun-filled slobbery road trip! Anyone want to come along??? I'm renting a big SUV for the trip because I don't think my little car would be very comfortable for two large dogs on such a long drive.

For those of you who are wondering why on earth I would get another large dog when my house is rather small, I can only say -- Hey, I pay my own bills, so mind yer business!

I'll be passing out cigars later. Congratulations to me!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Doggies Love Cool Whip!

Last night I left for about an hour to have dinner at a great Middle Eastern restaurant up the street that I eat at about 20 times a week because it's so dang good. When I got home, Claire was running around in circles acting unusually excited to see me (she's never very excited when I get home, especially if I've only been gone for an hour). I figured it was because she was so happy that my friend, Stacee, just moved into the mother-in-law apartment and she just wanted to thank me for renting it to a girl (Claire really can't stand men) -- she kept running from the living room, through the kitchen, down the back stairs and to Stacee's door, back and forth at warp speed. I was just standing in the kitchen laughing.

Finally, I walked into the living room and saw a giant tub of cool whip torn apart on the floor. It was empty, so there was no sticky mess (thank goodness). Then, I thought to myself, "Where did she get a tub of cool whip? I haven't had cool whip in the house since last Thanksgiving!" So, I screamed at her (as I always do when I find trash on the living room floor -- which doesn't happen very often now that she's almost three years old, and that's 21 in dog years and she should know better by now). She took off down the stairs again and I chased her with the empty container. I met Stacee downstairs and she just looked at me and said, "I'm so sorry! I was cleaning out the freezer and just put a tub of frozen cool whip in the trash and was about to take it to the dumpster, but Claire must have got it!"

So, my dog downed an entire large tub of frozen cool whip -- it must have taken her the entire hour I was gone to lick it clean -- and then she was on an intense sugar high for about an hour, running around like a crazy fool. I was sure she'd vomit, but she never did (lucky for her and me) -- she just collapsed on the floor once the sugar wore off.

My friend, Liz, said that maybe instead of getting upset, I should have asked Claire if she wanted some pumpkin pie to go with it. Which may have cured her since we recently watched HURL! on G4 -- our new favorite game show where five guys eat as much food as they can and then get on spinning carnival rides and whoever doesn't throw up for the longest time wins $1,000 -- and on that episode thay had to eat pumpkin pie and cool whip until they hurled. New episodes are on Sunday nights (if you're in Utah and have Comcast it's Channel 136 or on Dish it's somewhere around Channel 360) -- don't miss it!

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 2008: Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Amsterdam

Salama (that means "hello" in every country we've been to so far, except for in Amsterdam, where in the Red Light district they say "allo" -- Nona doesn't want you to know we actually went to that part of Amsterdam, but we told her that if she doesn't pipe down she has to go back to her room right now... we intend to be very truthful throughout this entire update).
We're safe and sound in the middle of Jordan, somewhere near Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Haven't heard any gunfire... so far. Actually, we are in some town called Wasu Madi (not much of a town -- I saw forty camels and goat wearing a coat -- the goat was obviously in charge of the herd), very near Petra. Backing up a bit... we left SLC on time, the flight was uneventful, other than the mean lady sitting next to me that wouldn't let me put the armrest down (she loved me and wanted to snuggle, but she was a mean ol' drunk) and she put her blanket over her head and sat up straight the entire way across the Atlantic. We arrived in Amsterdam on time -- Lori Sawyer Jenson (my good friend) met us at the hotel and took us into the city where we went to the Red Light District, but the whole city seemed like a BIG Red Light District to Eli (we made him close his eyes the entire time). We didn't have a lot of time, so we scurried through the Anne Frank House -- Krishelle thought it was an Open House so she placed offer for $80k US, but they didn't accept because the dollar is really weak right now. Seriously though, it was really neat and we spent a whole hour there, which we now think was actually a really good/fair amount of time seeing as how we spent all of 27 minutes in the Egyptian Museum before we got bored (seven of those minutes were us just standing around so we wouldn't look so bad to the taxi driver who just drove us an hour to get there). So, after the Anne Frank House we flew to Egypt and landed at 2 a.m. local time. Egyptians, we have learned from first-hand experience, to put it nicely, get what they want when they want it, always at your expense. It first started with a pack of them on the airplane that, even though seats were assigned (like they are on most every plane across the free world) they chose to rush into the plane and sit where they wanted.... this, as you can imagine, was what instigated many fights and arguments before the plane even took off -- we sat and watched, as if it was part of the in-flight entertainment ("Battle of the Egyptians") -- the flight attendants tried to referee, but they eventually gave up and it was every man, woman, Egyptian, and child for themselves. This entertainment didn't cost us anything financially, other than arriving to Cairo an hour late and then waiting two more hours to get our bags. At that point, it wasn't very entertaining anymore as the sun was beginning to rise. After an interesting hassle at check-in, which took another two hours and I even used my strongest assertive voice (which, I think, to Egyptians is sweet-talk), we got settled into a very nice hotel with a great view of the Giza pyramids... unbelievable view. Then, we spent the whole day with Sayed our "English-speaking" guide who later confessed that he speaks English 50-50, which was extremely generous. We nodded and smiled a lot and told him we speak Arabic 0-100, so he was much better off than us. At one point, while we walked to the Sphinx, he told us he would be waiting for us at "Kentucky Down" which after looking around a while we figured it must mean the Kentucky Fried Chicken across the street. Now, for the Panic Attack of 2008. At the pyramids, which are VERY huge and beautiful, we had the opportunity to go inside through a little shaft (Bridgette -- this is the equivalent of a slanted "shute"). In the biggest pyramid the shute goes upwards for a long, long, long, long way, so Sayed told us to pay the lesser amount and go in the smaller pyramid shute so we don't have to climb so far. Plus, the shute is really small and you're totally hunched over the entire way, one at a time, single file and it's dark, damp, hot, and really steep. That sounded like a great idea. Nona, of course, was already climbing in the shute before the rest of us even got instructions. Then, Eli, being the gentleman that he is, noticed how steep and dark and cramped and deep it was, so he told Nona to stop so he good be chivalrous and go first -- planning to act as a safety net for Nona should things go sour. You go down backwards like a ladder, because it's just that steep. So, Nona gets out of the way, and Eli enters, then Nona, then me, then Krishelle, and we start the descent. About 8 meters down (mind you, we are the only ones in the shute -- it wasn't at all crowded at the pyramids for some reason), one of us made a joke about "what if those guys up there close the metal door at the top of the shaft and leave us in here to cook for eternity”), then Eli said "I gotta get outta here." We all laughed and kept climbing down, but realized that we were stacking up on Eli who had stopped in his tracks and said, "No! Seriously! I gotta get outta here!" He then, pushed Nona out of the way, and climbed over me and Krishelle and shot out the top of the shaft faster than light! We all stood stunned not knowing what to do or say -- maybe make fun of him or climb out ourselves.... like, maybe he saw a ghost or something. But, for those of you who know Nona well, we were not about to leave until she had completed the entire journey. So, the remaining three of us went to the very bottom and then climbed back out and are glad we did, even though there's NOTHING to see in there. When we got back out, Eli was still shaking and breathing hard and has spent the last two days trying to convince us that he really is clinically claustrophobic and not just chicken. We love Eli. For a little distraction for Eli, Nona climbed on a live camel and took a ride and that calmed down Eli because we were all in amazement wondering how we would ever explain that the last time we saw Nona she was headed into the desert on the back of a running camel. (For those of you who don't know Nona, she is my 77 year-old adventure-loving mother). Other than managing through a near-fatal panic attack, we did all climb up part of the pyramids on the outside and that was kind of scary, too, but with a fabulous view of Cairo. And, after Nona proved that giant, slobbering, stinky camels are nothing to be afraid of, we all climbed on one and took a ride. It was a blast.... and a rip-off (again, Egyptians always get what they want, when they want it, at your expense).

The Sphinx. While the pyramids were just as big as expected, the Sphinx seemed rather small; however, we didn't let that stop us from asking it all the questions we dreamed up on the long plane ride over... like "what's your favorite color" to which the Sphinx answered, "dirty brown." Eli told it that was rather convenient, as everything was dirty brown. Then, Eli asked it, "What's your favorite bird?" To which the Sphinx answered, "Pigeons." Which was also rather convenient because there were pigeons roosting all over its face. We're trying to convince Krishelle to cut off her nose and tattoo tiny black pigeons all over her face so she can come back to the US and tell everyone "it's the latest style from Egypt, it's called 'The Sphinx'." After the Sphinx we went to the Egyptian museum, but we already talked about that... it was HUGE and really neat, but we're really not museum people and everything that is really cool from the museum is already on tour somewhere in the US. So, we went back to the hotel and went swimming under the shadows of the pyramids. This morning, we left Cairo and headed for the airport in a hair-raising white-knuckle taxi ride through rush-hour traffic to the airport. Apparently, 22 million people live in Cairo and they were all on the road this morning driving 90 miles an hour directly at each other. The only reason they don't crash is because they are all honking at each other constantly. We think Cairo is the noisiest city on the planet... probably in the universe. The Cairo airport was a little disorganized and a lot scary, but we made our flight and we'll leave at that for now. We landed in Amman, Jordan earlier today, rented a car, and drove a few hours to Petra (where we are now). We LOVE Jordan... it's calm and beautiful (if you're a desert-lover like we are right now). To be completely honest, we LOVE Egypt, too, and are really excited to finish the bulk of our trip there after Jordan and Israel. We're having a blast and we promise to not put Eli in any confined spaces for the rest of the trip, at least not until we can get him some good medication (which shouldn't be hard because there are pharmacies everywhere open all night).For family -- we are all healthy, happy, and very safe. The food is great. No worries! We're having a blast, as usual, and laughing most of the day every day (when it's not too hot).
Love you all! Will Whittle and Nona and Eli and Krishelle

Hello from Israel (barely alive). Not that we're sick or anything, unless sick and tired of the harassment we got trying to get across the border from Jordan to Israel counts, where the four of us are solely responsible for detaining an entire busload of Israelis. There were machine guns involved, but none of them, thankfully, ever fired at us. We'll get to that in a minute... So, last time we wrote, we were somewhere in southern Jordan. Now, we're in Jerusalem and it is a small miracle -- but, hey, this IS THE PLACE where miracles happen, right??? Our last day in Jordan we went to Petra -- that place from Indiana Jones' last crusade. It was amazing! It was a really LONG hot walk through something that looked a lot like the Narrows at Zions, but it was worth it. Nona wouldn't even consider getting on a horse to get to the main attraction, even when the horse "was free and you only have to tip the horse." So, we got to the main attraction after walking through the barren desert gorges for an hour, sat there, looked at a slobbering camel drinking a bottle of water with a bunch of German tourists oo-ing and awing at it, then we immediately decided it was time to leave, even though we think there was a lot more to see further down the canyon -- we'll buy a picture book later, we decided unanimously, and started the long hot trek back out of the gorge. Nona made it out without ever having to mount a horse, but when we got to the tourist shops she found the first bit of shade and sat there until we left. She's fine and so are we. We drove ourselves back to Amman and turned in our rental car and got screamed at by the police for reasons we're still unsure of... At this point, it was time to head to Jerusalem. As the crow flies, it's really just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away -- looked that way on the map, too... but, as the taxi drives, you need a day, at least. We agreed on a price ahead of time (thank goodness, because if we hadn't, we'd be coming home now flat broke). To make a long story short, the border crossing we needed to go through was closed, so we ended up somewhere near Syria at a much scarier border where no one spoke English and no signs were in English. The taxi got us to the border and dropped us off. Another guy in a taxi yelled something at us in Arabic and threw our bags in his trunk and started on the long journey through a VERY frightening security process, that we don't have time to detail right now.... but, if I were to create a process flowchart in Visio or some other software, it would fill pages and pages. In the middle of the security process, we had to get on a packed bus to drive 20 feet to the next armed security stop where our passports were checked for a fifth time, at which point our four passports were confiscated by a very frustrated military guy who stormed off the bus yelling something in Arabic. We had no idea what was going on until he returned with a "contact police" stamp in our passports and the bus backed up and turned around and called us to the front. We were horrified and pushed Nona first through a crowd of angry people (no other tourists in sight) because she's the sweetest -- that didn't help and she tripped over someone's duffle bag. About 10 minutes later, having been rushed through a bunch of machine gun-toting operated documentation processes which we still don't fully understand (but we think we got a discount because of the rush), we were shuffling back down the aisle of the angry bus... Anyway, we finally got through customs and immigration (several gray hairs later) and took a two-hour taxi ride through the middle of the night to Jerusalem to our hotel where we haven't dared to leave since (just kidding). Now, for the reason of our trip... We've been in Jerusalem and it's absolutely AMAZING! Quickly, we've been to the Garden Tomb, Gethsemane, Temple Mount, Wailing Wall, Via Dolorosa, multiple churches, synagogues and mosques, and BYU Jerusalem (which was air-conditioned). We'll tell you in detail about all the places when we get back, but we loved all of them. There's a different kind of peaceful feeling here -- like great things really did take place here or something. In the midst of all the religious sites, you have to navigate through a herd of persistent shopkeepers who seem to have every intention of ripping off the tourists and will follow you for streets to do it. For example, a nativity carving at one shop started at $170 US, but we eventually found that you can buy the same exact thing for $10 at the same shop, if you go a day later and tell them you found it for $20 down the street. Don't worry -- we haven't been super gullible... But, as the shopkeepers will tell you as they're trying to convince you that $170 is reasonable, "money she comes, money she goes... free to look." We're trying to convince them that money often goes faster than she comes. Okay -- since Uncle Will is on this trip, we haven't passed too many pharmacies without stopping in just to see what might be available (nothing too good, unfortunately). Though, Krishelle is working on an invention for a pill that will actually give you the cold shakes (it's so hot here!!!). In addition to this new pharmaceutical idea which we know would make us billionaires, Eli has come up with a few more practical ideas... Idea 1: "The Last Supper Character Restaurant" -- where all the staff dress like a character from the Bible. Idea 2: At night, the Old City turns into a water park for all the tourists because all the shops are closed and you realize how steep and winding most of the streets really are... plus, that would clean up the city nicely for each new day. Idea 3: A foot-washing stand -- just like they did in Bible days, but our gimmick is that ever third customer gets a lollipop. We have more investor ideas for you, if anyone's interested in "money changers" and "oil lamps" where three out of ten are actually filled with oil (luck o' the draw).We're off to Haifa and Galilee in the morning. Really, this place is amazing. We love it. We're totally safe... it would be helpful to speak Arabic or Hebrew here (note for next time). We saw a Jewish orchestra and choir perform last night and are going to an Israeli Jazz ensemble tonight. It's all incredible!!! We love you very much and wish you were all here with us!!! Drop us a line when you can.
Krishelle, Eli, Nona, Will

Hello everybody! So, we're back in Egypt and we want to tell you how we got here.... but first... Last time we sent an update, we were finishing off our last hours in the Holy City. If you recall, we probably freaked you all out with the horror of the border crossing from Jordan to Israel -- and, rightfully so, because we were scared to ever cross a border again ourselves -- thinking we were probably going to spend the rest of our lives in Israel just to avoid it. About an hour after we sent our last update we went to a Jazz concert at BYU Jerusalem (artists from an Israeli music school performed and they were amazing). We met a bunch of the volunteers and Nona started talking to one of them, and someone got on the subject of her maiden name, which then led to a domino effect of strange coincidences that ultimately connected Nona with one of the volunteers at the center who happened to be her long-lost first cousin from Idaho who she hadn't seen in 40 years, but they instantly recognized each other and broke into tears. It was serendipitous. We also spent some time with a couple of the visiting students (Mike Hansen from SLC and Allison Smith from Brawley) who happened to be there this semester. In the middle of our middle-eastern adventure, it was very nice to see some familiar faces! Next morning, we rented a car and drove to the Dead Sea. It was hot, dead, and amazing. Lots of tourists from around the world rubbing mud all over their bodies -- some not so covered as others, and no one covered as thoroughly as Eli who covered himself from head to toe, except for his white swim trunks which glistened in the sun. Nona even got into the action and floated around on her back with her straw hat shielding her face from the scorching sun -- we have great pictures. You've probably heard all about how well you float in the Dead Sea because of all the salt, but that is an understatement -- you are like a buoy on top of the water and it’s really hard to get your legs back under you once you have started floating, so often as you are trying to stand up you just go into a barrel roll and you can't stop... so you paddle around until one of your friends or family members helps you work it out and you get up and out. It was awesome. Next, we drove to the Sea of Galilee, where Eli immediately walked into the water (though, not ON the water) and took a big gulp and said, "it doesn't taste quite as salty as the Dead Sea." We looked at him a little stumped and he said, "I decided to take a gulp of every body of water we visit over here." This was despite the signs at the Dead Sea that said to consult a lifeguard immediately if you ingested the water. I have CIPRO in my bag in case anyone gets sick, but so far we're all fine (even Eli who has been drinking from rivers and lakes). The area was really beautiful and it was great to see it. Then, we drove to Haifa where we spent the night. It was much more beautiful than expected and actually felt like a bit of a vacation from our "vacation." It was clean, green, cool, right on the Mediterranean and had the most amazing landscape and views imaginable. The Bahia faith has one of their main temples there and the grounds were spectacular -- our hotel was very close to it and the beds in the hotel were very close to each other, as well as to the walls -- it was almost like being in a genie's bottle with wall-to-wall low beds and three other genie's besides yourself in the little bottle. This was not good for us because we stayed up almost all night telling 1st) ghost stories, and then 2nd) stories that ended up being mainly about poop. No surprise in this family! We finally got to sleep with our guts hurting from the laughter. We woke up 12 minutes later and got ready for the day. We tried to put gas in the car but couldn't figure it out because all the pumps and instructions were in Hebrew, which we hadn't learned to read by that point -- we could only speak it. At the point of getting back in the car and taking our chances on fumes, someone helped us fill up, suspiciously requiring our passports to do so. We only needed a half tank and it was a small/compact car, and it cost $70 US (God Bless America). After that, we drove to a Mediterranean beach where Eli took another gulp, five seconds before we pointed out the giant dead fish, rotting dead turtle, and piles of human waste all sitting peacefully at the tide line -- this was all very near a porcelain toilet that was also sitting at the high-tide line. Strangely, his foot disease, which most everyone on this email distribution has tried to help him cure for the better part of 12 months, seems to be healing quite nicely in the last two days. If we have to narrow it down to one of the Seas he drank from, we'd have to say it's from Galilee, a bottle of which Nona has been carrying around in her suitcase as if it's the elixir of life (she's also got an olive branch she pilfered from the Garden of Gethsemane and a ziplock bag of mud from the bottom of the Dead Sea to go with the frankensense and myrh she bought in the Holy Land). We love Nona and are glad she's picking up these rare commodities along the way, because we secretly want it but are too proud to carry it around... plus we're not sure any of it can legally make it through customs. After Haifa, we drove to Tel Aviv. This was the point at which we decided -- go west to Tel Aviv or go east to the Jordanian border. It was unanimous -- we decided to each pay a small fortune and fly from Tel Aviv to Amman (20 minutes on HUGE empty aircraft) rather than repeat the experience detailed in our last email (no more border crossings for us!). Also, we learned that you can pay a fee to the Hilton Hotel and they will do some shady biz and get you through customs and immigration and security at record speed, no questions asked. That was the best money we've ever spent and it was Nona's decision entirely to do it -- the Hilton people hadn't even finished their sales pitch when Nona said, "We'll take it all" with a hand wave, and threw her credit card at them. Apparently, the border crossing was scarier for her than she let on. Thank you, Nona (we'll pay you back later). Tel Aviv was BEAUTIFUL and relaxing. The beaches are AMAZING! The people are wonderful. Our hotel overlooked the Mediterranean and had it's own private beach. We ate an amazing restaurant overlooking the Sea -- Middle-Eastern seafood (lots of olives, hummus, fish eggs, pita bread, labna, taboulleh, white fish, calamari -- and, Eli's steak, medium well). It was delicious. We left the Hilton in Tel Aviv at 5:30 a.m., got to Amman, Jordan a couple of hours later, had a long layover and flew back to Cairo. Now we're here in Cairo and having a fantastic time. We've decided we LOVE Cairo and have decided to spend the last few days of our trip here. There is so much to do and see and the people are great!!! Even though they tend to lie a little bit from time to time, like today when a man told us he was a rich doctor and then led us three blocks out of our way and directly into his souvenir shop where his helpers slammed the door behind us, forced us to sit down, tried to make us drink forty varieties of herbal tea (we didn't drink any), and sell us a bunch of junk. Eli and I got up to leave, but the door was closed and had no handle, so Eli panicked (flashback to the pyramid episode) and said, "How do I get outta here???!!!!" All the while Nona sat peacefully looking at the piles of paintings they were showing, saying, "They're all beautiful, but I'm not buying anything." We eventually escaped and ran for our lives, even though we don't dare cross the streets by ourselves and there's no way we can possibly explain it, other than referring you to a hyped-up top-level version of Frogger where there are no lanes and no system and people everywhere. We eventually made it to the Egyptian museum, which, yes, we had already been there once (for those of you who read our first email), but we had to go again because Mike Hansen from BYU Jerusalem told us that all the really cool stuff was on the 2nd floor, which we were too lazy to see our first time because there were stairs involved. This time we made it to the 2nd floor and spent five times as long as we did on our first visit, despite how hot it was, because the mummies were actually pretty cool and some of those rooms had A/C, so we lingered longer and we also got to see a bunch of King Tut stuff. It was really neat -- actually better than what we've seen on tour in the US. So, we're happy we went back for an encore. After the museum, we went to the souq (big outdoor crazy crowded hot smelly market). We spent all our money there buying about 50 of the same thing that we'll have to show you when we get back, if we get them back because they'll never fit in our luggage. Every guy hit on Krishelle, including the one who when he saw Krishelle pass by his shop a second time said, "WELCOME BACK EGYPTIAN CAT!" Because, the first time he saw her he said, "Your eyes so pretty, the boys so lucky!" Nona stole a papyrus calendar. Or so we thought. Eli put her up to it. We were positive she didn't buy it, but when we got back to the hotel and were looking at our purchases, she pulled out the calendar and I asked where she got it and she said, "I swiped it -- diabetics do crazy things." She said it completely straight-faced and about put ME into diabetic coma (and I'm not even diabetic!). Come to find out, the shopkeeper's mother loved Nona so much that she had her son chase Nona down and give her the calendar for free, at which point Eli convinced her to play a trick on me... it freaked me out -- I thought Nona had lost her mind! She had me going -- they all did -- and, they're going to get it!!! We're having a blast! Cairo is awesome! Just a few days left and we'll be back... See you soon. Love you!!! Krishelle, Eli, Nona, Uncle Will

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Claire's Winter Suit

My nice puppy, Claire, gets very cold -- she's a Rhodesian Ridgeback and was not bred for cold climates -- so, I found this snowsuit online. I thought it was a good idea. She absolutely hates it. Shortly after I made her wear it, she pulled a bottle of doggie aspirin out of her travel bag, chewed the lid off, and ingested about 75 pills -- I think this was a suicide attempt. Fortunately, she survived... my living room carpet did not.