Washingtonians - Past and Present

Well, this past weekend we got the official email inviting my husband to the August 2nd Jr. Officer class.  I'm going to repeat what he said to me when he went to Washington for his Oral Assessment "When I thought about not passing I got nervous.  And then I thought about passing...and I got more nervous."  We are both thrilled, but we also feel a bit more of the reality of it.  Which is good, I think.  We have both been trying to remember the ways in which it will be hard.  Just trying to keep our expectations in check and our joy jumping at a reasonable rate :)

But, YAY!

I digress.  The reason for this post is to ask anyone who lives or has lived in DC about apartment stuffs. We'd like to live in the District...but that's all I know.   I have sent an email to the corporate housing people in the area so we'll see what's available, but I don't think it's in the District.  Another option is to stay at a hotel for the first little bit until we find a place.  So, my questions are the following:

1) What neighborhoods in DC are "good" to live in?  How do you find apartments in those neighborhoods?

2) What hotels would be good to stay in for a few days?

3) Does anyone know anyone with an apartment for rent? Any good buildings? 1, 2 bedrooms?

4) Since we don't know how long we'll be in DC, will it be easier just to stay in the Corporate Housing?  Is it even possible to sign a rental agreement elsewhere without knowing how long we'll be there for?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.  THANKS!


"It Looks Like You're Wearing Red Chaps"

...is what my husband said to me after our first night in Eilat when I changed for bed.  Despite a rather red lower half, I did a pretty good job on the sunscreen everywhere else and emerged from this weekend looking only slightly sunkissed on the nose and cheeks.   That's a pretty big accomplishment for me. 

We are home and our little 'cation was just wonderful.   Firstly, thanks to all you well-wishers who sympathized with our hostel situation and gave me permission treat myself to my own toilet in the future.  I think I will take you up on that.

Secondly, snorkeling is rad.  We spent the first two days just snorkeling in the Red Sea at Coral Beach National Park and reading under the shade of our thatch shelter.

I think we decided that Eilat is a little bit like Las Vegas meets Miami Beach.  It has the hotel culture of Las Vegas...and a little bit of the tackiness, but also the wild young beach scene of Miami.  At least from what I've seen in the movies.  We were glad to find the more removed, natural sights of Eilat and just chill during what was a VERY hot weekend.  We ate great food, walked a state fair-esque boulevard one night (complete with fire roasted corn on the cob and fake tattoo stands), and toured the Sea World of Israel.  It was a very relaxing get away that has put us in the right frame of mind to get rid of all of our stuff and say our last goodbyes.  
(Pic of the sweet Rare Fish Aquarium we went to)


A Decision of Great Import

"Ahh, that's more like it" says myself in fresh white sheets I didn't have to put on the bed, sitting under a fluffy matching white comforter.

Our trip to Eilat has started off with a wee bit of adventure.  We weren't initially going to go to Eilat, so when we decided to go I wanted the trip to be super high on fun but VERY low on cost.   We decided to stay at an uber cheap hostel with a shared bathroom and shower.  That's fine, we've done that before.  But when we got there it appeared to be part homeless shelter, with mattresses and scattered bedding decorating the courtyard, and the promised "Air Conditioning" was pretty much non existent.  Ewe.  I just cringed a bit when I read that.  I'm not really a "fancy" traveler, but at 104 degrees yesterday...I was feeling like I needed a little somethin' to make it through the night.

But no bother, we got exactly what we paid for so we dropped our bags and headed for Coral Beach.  I went camera-less yesterday (and Chapstick-less - which really shows my desire to go swimming and get out of our room if you know me) so I'll post some pics tonight as we are headed back.  The beach was lovely, but I didn't remember being such a snorkel wimp last time we did this across the bay in Aqaba.  After a few initial panics, rearing my head above the water with my snorkel equipment to make sure there were no sharks, I was just fine and we spend a lovely afternoon snorkeling around the reef.

Just last week when The Husband and I were recounting the things we were looking forward to at home, but bemoaning the fact that all those restaurants were going help us add a good 15 pounds, I said "But I am looking forward to just one meal at one of those ridiculous meaty, western-ish steak and fries places back home".  Say it and it shall come to pass.  After swimming and a long bus ride without lunch we were starving and we came across "Casa Do Brazil" ... a Brazilian steakhouse and churrascaria.  Enter angelic choir.

When we got back to our hostel the hotness in the room had exploded, but it was another kind of explosion that really tipped the scales.  We had, in what must unfortunately be our latent colonialist tendencies, downloaded "Lawrence of Arabia" before we left and we settled in to our respective bunk beds to watch it in the sweltering room.  About halfway through I stopped the movie, turned to Max and said "...I don't know if I can sleep here."  The kicker came for my husband when he realized that our proximity to the shared bathroom made everything audible through the wall.  And someone was sick, my friends.  The kicker came for me when, out of necessity I had to use said bathroom and almost lost my Brazilian appetizers.  End grossness.

So The Husband, being the dear husband he is, started searching for a new hotel within our price range that would be suitable for the next two nights.  It was a little hard for me to articulate why I wanted to leave the hostel so bad.  I hear our Mom's saying "Really?  It was gross.  That's why."  But I've stayed in gross places before.  I think it was a combination of my expectation of a relaxing weekend (I painted my toenails hot pink before we left if that tells you my expectations) and the realization that our days of sleeping in the same room are numbered with Italy's separation ahead of us.  Or maybe somewhere this year I started to feel like a grown-up with an employed husband and without my permission my standards have been raised.

So we paid 8 bucks for a days use and took off down the street at 11:30 with our packs to find the new hotel.  But not before stepping over a dirty wanderer asleep in front of the gates.

Our new hotel was a very short walk and after a quick shower we finished Lawrence of Arabia and now all is right with the world.


Goodbye Finals, Hello Eilat!

I just submitted my last final for what has been my hardest semester.  Hooray is a giant understatement, but anyway, Hooray.  Only two semesters left.  

To celebrate our respective survivals from school and to best honor the money I made teaching extra English classes I didn't want to teach this semester, The Husband and I are headed south to Eilat this weekend.  Eilat is part of the "trifecta of snorkel" located on the red sea - its partners in trifectedness are Taba in Egypt and Aquaba in Jordan.  They all share a pretty tiny cove of "world class" snorkeling.
So, we are trekking it thought the Desert (of the 40 years fame) hot, sweaty bus style.  Our plan is pretty much 1) Eat 2) Snorkel 3) Read 4) Eat Again.  We may try our hand at SNUBA, basically SCUBA with training wheels, but we're not sure how much we'll trust the fine establishment that runs it.   


I Have Nothing to Say

"London's 2012 Olympic committee unveiled their mascots today and frankly...they're weird. The one-eyed creatures, Wenlock and Mandeville, were introduced at a children's playground, and it's hard not to imagine there weren't a few nervous tears at first sight (especially given their slightly aggressive poses in this picture--even if they are channeling Usain Bolt). Their names come from towns in England: Much Wenlock is a village in Shropshire which hosted an early forerunner to the modern Olympic Games, and Stoke Mandeville is a town in Buckinghamshire where the Paralympic games began. And their origin story (do mascots need an origin story?) is that they are creatures made from the last two drops of steel used to build the Olympic stadium."

Janel Nanos, May 19, 2009.  
Intelligent Travel Blog (National Geographic Traveler), retrieved May 20, 2009

An Armenian Wedding

Last week my husband and I attended the Armenian wedding of one of my friends here in Jerusalem.  The wedding was held in St. Stephen's Basillica in Jerusalem and I wish I had brought my camera because it was a BEAUTIFUL church.  The arches are constructed from alternating red and white stones - quite a stunning look in a giant grey stoned church.

The ceremony was quite fascinating to me.  I know little about the Armenian church and even less about how big formal weddings work.  Here are a few notes I jotted down in my notebook about the ceremony:

-Bride and groom walked 1/2 way down the isle and 4 robed and hooded priests met them there.  They asked them questions in Armenian to which I assume the bride and groom answered in the affirmative.

-The robed and hooded priests (black robes with pointy hoods pull down over their foreheads - red capes with golden embroidery) faced the couple and read/chanted/sang scripture for a while, then turned and faced the back of the church and read/chanted/sang for a while in intervals.  It was wild

-At one point the priests put gold chains with crosses over the bride and groom's respective foreheads.  They leaned together touching crosses and foreheads for a good portion of the ceremony.

-The couple drank something out of the same cup before passing it to the best man and bridesmaid behind them. 

-After the ceremony they greeted everyone in the courtyard and we ate tiny, mostly fried delicacies.

Did I mention that a few groups of tourists wandered into the church during the wedding?  Well, they did.  Shamelessly.  Some of them even posed in the nave to the side of the couple and took pictures with the newlyweds-in-process in the background.

It really brings up a very common and sticky conundrum here in Jeruselem - that crossroads between a good photograph and someone's religious demonstrations.  I've only been tsked once for taking a pic of someone's religiosity in the Holy Sepulcher, but for the most part I avoid it...or do it from far away.

Sure sometimes those moments would make for a great picture, but someone's wedding for crying out loud?!      

(Picture care of Sahar - thanks!)


The Stealth Muhajiba

Muhajiba: One Who Wears the Hijab

I had one of my most, if not THE most embarrassing moments of all my days in the Middle East today.

My work has changed locations and now sweet Hakam picks me up and drops me off as we both travel the same direction at the same time.  ("For Nothing" she always says while shaking her head when I try to thank her.)

Today she was a little late when I saw her car pull into the pickup area by my house, her round face beaming and hand waving in front of her, I jogged over to the car.  I pulled the front car door open and just as it reached the half-way point I saw a tiny hand covered in a black glove reach out and pull the door firmly shut.  When I stooped to look into the car's window there was a woman sitting in the passengers seat, dressed in a heavy black burqa.  The burqa is the most comprehensive of muslim body coverings going from the top of the head to the wrists and the toes - leaving only a small slit for the eyes.  They are not very common in the Levant (Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon) but much more so in the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Yemen etc.)  This woman had also chosen to wear an almost opaque black veil over her eyes and black gloves.

That's right, I hadn't seen the woman sitting in the car because her burqa blended in with the car upholstery.

I was mortified.  I got in the backseat and apologized profusely, but neither of them were bothered by the incident in the least.  In fact, in a jovial mix of Arabic and English they make jokes about it with sweeping hand gestures and carried on about all kinds of things until we dropped her off in the middle of town.

When we dropped her friend off Hakam simply said "She is very religious.  Very religious."  But not so much so that I offended her honor and modesty.  Pfew.      



The Little Things Matter




.blogspot is an Indian man and aspiring writer.   I can't be held accountable for anything you read on his website...



Official New Blog Address

Google, as ever, was very efficient in accepting and changing our new blog name.  Like I said, you will be redirected from our old website and all of the content has been saved, BUT the new blog is called

The World That We Live In

And our new blog address is 


So, over the next little while update your blog lists and your bookmarks and join us as we navigate the foreign service.  

The World That We Live In: New Blog Name

Dear all,

Don't panic.  I have decided to change our blog name and look since we won't be "Brooke and Max in Jerusalem" for very much longer. Also, I'm trying to fade out our personal identification with the blog...I don't want Max to get the beat down on the first day of A-100 for giving away state secrets.

I am not quite ready with the graphic design portion yet, but hopefully by the end of the day the blog name will be changed to "The World That We Live In".  Referring to the world that Max and I inhabit as married to each other persons, my world of bookmaking, and the greater world we will hopefully be exploring over the next decade or so.  The address will also change, BUT google will redirect you to our new blog if you go to the old blog, brookemaxinjerusalem.blogspot.com.

I'm reticent to give the new blog address just yet in case something should go wrong in the verification process.  SO stay tuned and hopefully by the end of today I will be able to post all the details and give you the new links.

This is just a heads up  



Enter Dick Van Dyke

It looks like not only will Max and I be sleeping in separate beds like the black and white couples of yesteryear, but we'll be in different houses in Italy.  But don't worry, the houses are probably close to each other.

We were given the option of staying with 3 or 4 other teachers in a self-serve apartment in Milan or the teeny tiny medieval village of Camerino in separate home stays with real live Italians.  Milan is far away from both our airport and our weekend plans.  We made plans to stay with some friends of my bookbinding teacher who live just south of Umbria in Ascoli Piceno and make paper and books for a living.  We contacted them a few months ago and they offered to let us come and stay in what they termed the "rustic guesthouse" on their farm.  We, in turn, offered to take care of goats or chickens or whatever.  They haven't taken us up on the offer of husbandry yet, but we would really do it in return for their generosity. Not that we know how to take care of goats or chickens - but I'm only second generation non-farmer, that has to count for something.

The idea of a sweaty city with one great piece of art we'd already seen, all the modern Europe you could hope for, and several single party animals just didn't jive with us.  Camerino is small, secluded, rural, and mucho authentico.  And we will get to stay with local families, albeit not our own family...  Kind of ironic.

Max has had visions of throwing rocks at my window in the evenings to ask if he can take me on a walk - with our host parent's permission of course.  We'll be in class together all day, take walks together in the evenings, and talk via can and string telephone strung over the cobblestone lane separating our houses.

Sometimes it feels like a hilarious adventure and other times it sounds like jr. high summer camp from Hell, but in Heaven.  I'll let you know which it turns out to be.    
(More pics so you don't feel too bad for us)
To you, the unbelievably kind who offered to let us crash at your respective places of residence if things didn't pan out - THANK YOU.  MBC, Hannah, Sowards, and Goodwins - you'll always have a room with us wherever our future home may be.  Really.


Revisiting Our Favorites

That exploded bean picture was a little too gross for me, so here are some pics from our most recent trip to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and the Western Wall.
And the following picture is for our Mombly's (Moms - respectively).  We're healthy, happy, and doing fine.


Of Beans

A good crock pot bean cooking tip gone too far...


On Being a Foreigner

 Bethlehem, 2010

 I was listening to Rick Steve's travel podcast today (as I often do at the Gym - nerd alert) and he was interviewing David Sedaris, Essayist and writer, about his experiences living as an American in Paris and Tokyo.  (I know, Rick Steves and David Sedaris- together!)  Sedaris said something that really resonated with me towards the beginning of the interview.

"I like all the things you don't know when you are in another country.  You watch the other people and you do what they do.  And it makes you more observant"

He articulated my sentiments almost exactly as Max and I stare down the barrel of a very new and very foreign lifestyle.  Like Sedaris, I like being a foreigner.  I like the things I don't know.  There are endless opportunities to observe, learn, delve deeper, and understand more.  He goes on to say that when, out of necessity,  you notice the way people interact with one another on the street you start to notice the funny things written on their t-shirts or "the wooden leg on that man".  

One of my duties as a writing tutor in college was to teach a speed reading class once a month or so.  One of the tricks of speed reading is to follow the line of type from left to right with your opposite hand (the left one for righties and the right one for lefties).  The unfamiliar nature of this action causes your brain to focus more on the words and thus you can comprehend more of the information whizzing through your brain - at least that's the premise.  Being a foreigner is a bit like that for me.  I appreciate more and definitely notice more when everything is new and unusual.  

To be sure, being an American in Israel is hardly being a foreigner.  When my biggest issue here is the lack of chili powder, I know exactly how my "foreignness" stacks up.  But Shuwoyeh, Shuwoyeh as they say in Arabic.  Little by little.  Today I am without chili powder and next year I may in Ghana without clean water.   ...At which point I hope I will remember this post and I hope I won't be too mad at anyone who reminds me that I wrote it.      

(*No News on the Separate-House-Fiasco yet)


Panic at the...Student Dorm

I got this email today from the coordinator of the summer camp Max and I are planning on teaching for in Italy: 

"I will most probably be able to place both you and Maxwell together at Camerino.  You will be with separate host families though."

I'm sorry,...what?  You will probably be able to put us in the same city but we certainly won't be living in the same house?  I've been in a panic since I read this.  That's pretty much a deal breaker for us and I think that would be a standard reaction for any married persons.  I think perhaps they are used to dealing with party animal 20 somethings, not old fuddy marrieds like us.  

To compound the panic the following things are true: 

1.  We have to be out of our apartment by June 6th. 
2.  We have NON-REFUNDABLE tickets home from Rome on the 27th of June.  

Ahhhh, what to do with 3 weeks and no house and no money?  I've been tossing and turning in my bed thinking of scenarios that pieced together weeks in different places with friends in Europe or the Middle East or in cheap hostels until our flight leaves on the 27th, but I can't quite work it out in my head yet.  This isn't to say that things won't work out with Teaching English.  We really hope it does.  She may email us tomorrow and say that they can put both of us up in the same place and all will be well (almost - we still have to spend the first training week in gender separated dorms...lame but barely bearable...maybe).  

So, if we can't get a place together, which seems like a totally reasonable request to me, we are open to suggestions...in fact we are begging for them!   


To Feel Two Things at Once

Well, we only have about a month left here in Jerusalem and as the days pass by I become more and more conflicted about the whole thing.  We are very much looking forward to seeing our families and driving to the store to get exactly what we need when we need it...but I am sad about many things I will leave here.  
I'm sad about the friendships, I mean REAL, lasting friendships that will be made harder by living across the world.  I told Max the other night "I feel like I'm finally learning how to really invest in people!"  It sounds like perhaps I am a sociopath when I write it down like that, but I have never been good at getting close to people and creating lasting friendships outside of a few.  I feel like this small community of members of our church and fellow students we have made friends with in the student village have really become our family.  It has felt much easier for me to form strong relationships very quickly.  Helping and being helped in a place and time where everyone needs a lot of it has really hastened the process.  For whatever reason it is has been harder for me to help others and certainly much harder to accept help back home in America.  
On the topic of things that are different back home - I have really enjoyed the slower pace of life here.  It takes me three times as long to do laundry and go grocery shopping, twice as long to cook dinner, and many times longer to do all of the regular things I did back home.  At first it annoyed me, but I have come to really enjoy the slower pace of life here.  I spend more time cooking food and so less time is wasted pointlessly surfing the internet (but to be sure, I still do that...).  There is something more deliberate in my day to day activities here that I hope I can maintain when I go home.  There are many good habits I have developed that I hope stick around once we reach the US of A.  

Any thoughts on transitional times?    

But we are eagerly awaiting bacon bleu cheeseburgers as well as visiting with our family and friends.  Home is home.  So we'll see the last four museums on our list  (Yad Vashem, The Bible Lands Museum, The Rockefeller Musuem, and The Islamic Museum of Art) and call it a year.  Well, almost a year.  Both of us feel like we'll be back to Jerusalem in the years to come and it's nice to know it's not goodbye forever.  

...and it's not even goodbye for another month anyway!  Get ahold of yourself Stoneman.