Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shaka From Haifa, Isreal

Do you know what Shaka means? It means to hang lose or be cool, but that is Hawaiian and we are in Israel where they speak Hebrew. Well, this week my brother and I went to surf camp by Billabong. It was hosted at a small shack called the Haifa Surf Club about 5 minute walk from our apartment.
This was not in our original plans, but Mom and Dad checked the price and compared to camps in the US it was about the same.  We'd be going for 5 days, 8:30 - 13:30 (they use a 24 hour clock...13:30 is the same as our 1:30PM).  Each day we would surf two times and do activities on land and learn a lot of stuff. 

Each day we had to bring a bag full of sunscreen, a towel, change of clothes, water, and a snack. If we forgot anything we could not surf until our parents were called and the items delivered. 

The kid are just starting their summer breaks here.  High school age kids started last week. Middle School followed next.  And elementary age will be out by July 1.  So we were lucky our group only had about 10-12 kids.  And I met a 11 year old girl named Maya who spoke a little bit of English. Maya's family travels a lot and has lived in the United States, including California. Her Mom was very happy for Maya to have someone to practice English with.  When the coaches spoke in Hebrew she would translate. It was her first time surfing too, but she gets to go for three weeks and we are only doing one.  She was very nice and I hope we remain friends.
I was also lucky as many of the coaches spoke English as well.  Our coach was named Itay.  He was very nice.  Itay loves to flip me off my surfboard and I helped him out with English verb tenses - past, present, and future.  We've invited Itay to come to California and surf the cold waters.  He would really like to come see the Mavericks Surf Contest in Half Moon Bay.

Have you wondered how to stand up on a surf board?  You start out laying on the board.  When you see a wave ready to break you paddle with cupped hands.  Then you put your right foot next to your hip, put your hands next to your chest, and jump up.  For me it is my right foot because I am right handed, that's called a "normal" stance.  Left handed people like my Dad put their left foot forward and that is called "goofy" stance.   Make sure to keep your knees bent it will help you stay balanced.  Its hard and you have to practice. I can ride a wave all the way to shore. 

Back at the club we have these things called balance boards where we put a plastic cylinder under the board and you use the board like a surf board.  They also made us do exercises each morning to warm-up.  This included running down the board walk.  Coach K at Golden Hills School would be so proud of me running on summer break.

In the morning before warm-ups we learned about the sea.  Do you have questions like what causes high tide and low tide or what is that white foamy stuff on the water? Surf Club answers many of your questions but I will answer those two. High tide is caused by the gravity on the moon. When the moon is closer to the earth the the water rises up due to the pull.  The sun is farther away so while there is an attraction to the Earth to keep it going around it it is not enough to cause tides.  The white on the water you see is called a rip current. It is caused when the water rushing back out into the sea and the water going to shore clash. Sometimes this can be dangerous! 

My favorite part was... of course surfing. I highly recommend it if you have a chance, especially in Haifa, Israel where the water is warm and the awesome coaches at Surf Club Haifa.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Masada and The Lowest Place on Earth

Yesterday we woke up, packed up, and ate breakfast.  They had the normal stuff like cereal, yogurt, and pastries.  But they also had salads, fish, cheeses, and meat.  All items would have been prepared in advance because it was Shabbat, so no pancakes, waffles, or scrambled eggs.  Next we sent the boys to get our rental car. We met up with Lily's family and caravan-ed to a place hot and dry. 

Can you guess? Judaean Desert
After about 30 minutes and several check points, as we were driving through the West Bank, we came to a sign that said "Sea Level."
On the other side was a camel. Wait, what is a CAMEL doing here?! I begged Mom and Dad to let us take a picture with it. When we got out we motioned to Lily's family. Soon we were all out staring in awe. A man tapped Dad's shoulder. "40 shekels for a ride", he said gruffly. I begged dad to let me ride. He said yes. 40 shekels is about $11 US Dollars.  I hopped on the camel's saddle. Alec got on too.  The man's son who was probably my age led the camel around.  We posed with the camel and rode in a circle. After we were done I peeked at some of the souvenirs we could buy. I saw a charming piece of wood that was carved into a camel. We bought it and one other thing.
We got back on the road and 40 minutes later we arrived at  Masada, where there was a building that had a tram that led way up to a huge cliff. Did you know why it was so famous?  Originally it was built by King Herod and had several palaces, two giant bath houses, store rooms for grains, wine, fish, etc..  Later when the Romans attacked Jerusalem many fled to this mountain top for safety.  They held out for quite a while eating things they found in the stores from King Herod's time and using the water that still flowed into the cisterns.  But the Romans would follow and built strong catapults that launched heavy boulders.  They also built a ramp and tried to burn the gates. When the Jews realized they would not win they had a meeting. They decided to kill their wives, children, and even themselves rather than become slaves of the Romans. 

After a quick lunch at the bottom of the tram we were off, but not before an ibex came by to say hi, right there on the deck with everyone eating.
Next we went to the DEAD SEA, actually the Mineral Beach at the Dead Sea  The Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth at 1401ft below sea level. There we floated in the salt water.  Yes, we floated because a normal ocean is only 4-6% salt, but this is over 34%.  So we not only floated but had to make sure we did not get a drop of water in our eyes.  And this is also why nothing can live in it.  Then we covered ourselves in mud from the Sea. Why with mud you ask? Well, some say that the mud is good for your skin.  In fact King Herod who built Masada above used it as the world's first ever health spa.

After our spa treatment we drove back to Lily's house and had a wonderful home-cooked dinner.  The adults ate a lot of things I wouldn't but Lily's Mom made me bow tie pasta and for dessert (not desert) a very yummy chocolate caramel pie.  

It was a great weekend and we are very grateful for Lilly and her family hosting us.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Early on Friday morning (because that is when the weekend starts in Israel) we drove to our friends' home.  They live is a small town just outside of the city of Jerusalem.  When we got to their house their "shy" daughter Lily hid while everyone else was introduced.  I sure hoped she would start talking because she is the same age and lived in Folsom for 4 years, so I knew she could speak English. We caravan-ed to Jerusalem.
We all met up at the Jaffa Gate to the Old City and their Mom, who is a guide, got a taxi driver to take us all to the the top of the Mount of Olives.  The Mount of Olives is a hill where people say many pieces of Jesus' life took place there.  For example one church is shaped like a tear drop because that is where Jesus cried because he predicted the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed.
There is also the Church of All Nations
 with the garden called Gethsemane where they say Jesus talked to his followers and slept the night before he died.  The garden has really old olive trees that date back almost 1000 years and all come from the same parent plant.
Also on the Mount of Olives there is one of the biggest cemeteries I have ever seen.  The story is that when judgement day comes it will start there, so many people are buried there.  It is believed there are over 150,000 graves.  But many of the grave markers were destroyed when Jordan, which sits beside Israel, took it over during the mid 1900's.  But today they are rebuilding.  Instead of laying flowers on the graves when people visit they lay small stones.  This goes back to when they use to cover graves with stones to keep animals out.  Each year people would visit and replenish the stones to keep their ancestors bodies safe, so the tradition continues.
Next we walked up a lot of stairs and we went to the City of David.  Remember David...the statue in Florence, the boy who slayed Goliath, in Israel he would become king.  After some ice cream we changed and walked down, down underground.  Where were we heading?  My foot hit something cold and ice-y.  It was water.  It was actually the ancient water system called Hezekiah's Tunnel that gave the old city of Jerusalem it's water.  It was dark except for our flashlights.  We walked for about 20 minutes, but in the dark it felt like an hour.  

Then we walked back up to the city of David by the Stepped Road and Drainage Canal.  This is the place where the Jewish people tried to hide in the sewers when the Romans came and they broke open the road every few feet and pulled them out and either killed them or enslaved them (Remember the arch back in Rome the slaves were forced to build at the Forum?).
Next we went to the Western Wall or Wailing Wall which is the most sacred place in the Jewish religion.  Did you know the wall is separated into two areas to pray.  One for women and one for men. The women's area is smaller because in ancient times women were not allowed to read the scripture.
Next we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the holiest place for Christians.  It looked small on the outside, but was huge on the inside.  Some people believe it is the place where Jesus was crucified,
 and buried.
The church is divided up and has many little alters, so many religions can have a place to pray.

After wandering through the markets we said goodbye to our hosts and went to our hotel.  We couldn't order much from the menu because it was the Jewish Shabbat and therefore only Kosher items were we had a salad, fruit, and drinks.  There is also a Shabbat elevator that stops on every floor because you are not supposed to do any work on Shabbat, including pushing an elevator button.

We learned a lot of history today, but because it was so hot my favorite part was walking through the water system.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tide Pooling on the Mediterranean Sea

Dad worked really late last night, but today he didn't have to go to work until noon.  So we decided to do something as a family in the morning before he left.  Instead of going to the beach and building sandcastles we walked north from our apartment and went exploring.
The shoreline is different there.  Instead of nice warm sand there were rock outcroppings.  Perfect we thought for tide pooling.  We wore our shoes that could get wet...our Keens.  We quickly found out the rocks were slippery when Alec fell.  There was slippery moss on the rocks.
It took us a little while to find something interesting.
The first thing we found was a small rock pool with three snails.  We picked them up and they climbed all over our hands.  They stuck on our hands pretty well with their foot.  Did you know they have a foot?
The next thing was found by my Mom.  It was a crab.  In fact it was a Mediterranean Shore Crab. Did you know they can walk forwards, backwards, and sideways?  This along with their flat shape allows them to hide quickly in the rocks.
Next Dad found a pool full of shrimp.  These shrimp were somewhat yellow, but mostly clear.  We think it is related to a shrimp I have at home in my fish tank in my room.  It is called a ghost shrimp.  When I stuck my hands in the pool they did what shrimp always do...they started cleaning my fingers by nibbling at the dead skin.  Shrimp pedicure anyone?  It felt really neat.
I am looking forward to visiting the tide pools again before we leave the Mediterranean Sea.  By the way do you know the difference between an ocean and a sea? A sea is smaller and surrounded mostly by land.

Take a look at a map and you will see...Ha! Ha!  Get it...see a sea.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My First Week In Israel

After arriving very tired in the middle of the night I've now had nearly one week in Israel and have found many differences and similarities to the United States.

First I am going to tell you about my apartment. It is like my house because right next to our room is a bathroom. It is the same at home. Also Mom and Dad's room is right next to mine. The differences is that Alec and I have to share a room. "Also we have a teeny tiny kitchen with a teeny tiny washer, a teeny tiny dryer, a teeny tiny sink, a teeny tiny dishwasher, a teeny tiny refrigerator, and a teeny tiny stove" said by my Mom. At home we have a lovely view of the Sierra I have a view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Now moving along, literally, I will talk about the driving.  No I am not parents are driving. Here you have to be 17 to drive. The stoplights are very different. The colors go from green to yellow to red like in the U.S, but also yellow again going back to green. Israelis use their horns a lot, especially if you are not on the gas when the yellow light is turning to green. That makes the streets very, very, very loud.

Now that you know about driving in Israel I can tell you about the stops we made on our first drives around town. First the grocery store. There is not much choice in Israel's grocery stores and they are much smaller.  Where you can buy like 20 different kinds of pancake syrup in the grocery store closest to your home in the U.S. here there is only one.  Peanut Butter, you can get creamy or crunchy, but no choices of Skippy, Jiff, Low Fat, Salt Free, and so on.  Also if you wanted a frozen meal to heat up at home it will be very expensive.  But if you are good at cooking from scratch, like my Mom is, then you will buy the basics for a cheaper price, and make your own meals.

A few days ago we also drove to see the movie Maleficent. The movie theater is very different from California's. First of all there is a lot of security. Before we entered the parking garage a man looked in our windows and checked the trunk of our car. Then they used metal detectors when we entered the building to ensure we had no weapons. Also when we purchased our tickets we had to pick our seats as they we have assigned seating. Also we had to buy 3D glasses. If we bring them back we will get a cheaper ticket next time. The movie was in English with Hebrew subtitles.  It took Dad a while to read through the schedule and figure that out as they have many different versions to pick from...not just 3D or 2D.  Also after the movie we had to exit a different door so that we could not sneak and watch another movie for free.

And of course they speak another language here called Hebrew and it is a lot different from ours. One they read and write right to left.  In English we are left to right.  Yes that means if you read a book you start at the back.  Two there are no vowels letters.  And three there are two sets of numbers. A feminine and masculine set.  We are trying to learn to speak Hebrew and it is very hard.  So far I only know...

Hello/Good Bye - Shalom (pronounced sha-lowm)
Thank You - Toda (pronounced toe-da)
How you are doing? - Manishma (pronounced ma-knee-shma)
1 (Feminine) - Ahat (pronounced ah hot)
2 (Feminine) - Shtayim (pronounced sh-time)
3 (Feminine) - Shalosh (pronounced like it is written)

Arabic is another language that is spoken here.  Most signs are written in Hebrew and Arabic and street signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

Another different thing is my dad works Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. His weekend is Friday and Saturday to recognize the Jewish and Muslim holy days.
My favorite thing of all is the Beach. The water is so clear that you can see little fish and shells. The water is so warm and the sand is just perfect for making sand castles.
So far I love Israel. (-:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Words I Learned In Italy

Today is the beginning of a long month in Israel. Mom is making us do school work. For my writing today I'll be sharing some of the words I learned in Italy with you. 

Thank you is grazie and your welcome is prego

Yes is si and no is no

If you are driving to fast on the road the polizia or police will give you a biglietto or ticket. 

Sometimes if an area is closed off the polizia will tell you non entrare or do not enter. 

Pane means bread. And it is best with olio or olive oil.

Acqua means water. I liked acqua frizzante or water with bubbles.

Chin Chin! Or cheers.

I like to bere or drink acqua and mangire or eat pane. 

Do you like to mangire a mela or apple? 

My Dad is a uomini or man and my Mom is a donna or woman. 

I am a ragazza or girl and my brother is a ragazzo or boy. 

Sometimes at a gelato shop, or gelateria, they have uno or due or tre flavors. Translated 1 or 2 or 3 flavors. 

Mom makes me get a piccolo or small. 

Now that you know these words you can go to Italy. Wait there is one more. Caio or Goodbye. 

Caio Italia!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Home of the Gods

This morning got breakfast at our hotel again, got a van and went to the Rome airport.  Once we checked in and past security Aegean Air was nice enough to let us all in the lounge, even though Dad again was only supposed to have one guest.

Aegean Air is much better than the US airlines.  Our flight was only one hour and thirty minutes and we got fruit-flavored candies before take-off and a small meal during the flight.  Next we landed in Athens, Greece and had a ten hour layover.  And did you know Athens is named after the Godess of Wisdom Athena.  Since our layover was so long we decided to take a tour.  Especially because I am a huge Greek Mythology fan after reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
We left the airport with only our carry-ons and met our driver named Fotis.  Fotis is a very nice man who likes to share his love for his family (wife and three daughters) and his country.  First we dropped us off at a large hill and we walked up.  He had dropped us at the Acropolis and we walked up and saw the Parthenon, and several other temples.They are rebuilding the Parthenon right now to ensure it lasts another 2500 years.  The view from up there was amazing...we could see the whole city of Athens and many of the other places we would visit.
After about an hour we met Fotis and he took Alec and I into the market and purchased drinks.  They have a lot of fruit drinks in Greece.  In fact instead of decorative trees along their sidewalks they have citrus trees, like oranges.  Next we saw the Acropolis Museum.  We started upstairs and watched a video that told us about all the details of the Acroplis, including the layout, sculptures, and how it has changed over time including as a Catholic church, Muslim mosque, and it's destruction by war and looters.
We finished and perfect timing we were able to go see the hourly changing of the guard in front of their Parliament. The guards wore long tassles on their hats and boots.  They were wearing the traditional uniforms that looked a little like dresses with tights.  We were allowed to take pictures with the guards, BUT DO NOT TOUCH OR SALUTE.
 Next Fotis took us to a traditional Greek restaurant named Fagopoteion.  Alec and I still were able to order pasta...mine plain and Alec with meatballs.  Mom and Dad had the more traditional meals with Greek salad, beer, wine, gyros, and more.  It was yummy, including the ice cream for dessert and baklava.  We must be starting to blend in because the people that worked at the restaurant thought we were from the EU and not America.  
Next we made quick stops at the Temple of Zeus (King of the Gods) and the stadium for the first modern Olympic Games.  The torch still starts at this stadium for every Olympics and then travels to the host city by runner, plane, car, boat...and when it was in Russia even by spaceship.  They still run a marathon here every year that starts in Marathon, Greece.  Sunset was coming, so Fotis drove us to the highest point in the city called Lykavittos Hill for the view and pictures.  As we started to get our pictures taken we heard a rustle in the bushes.  It was a wild turtle.  Alec was very happy...he loves turtles.
One quick drive through the Plaka area with restaurants and shops for the tourists and we headed off to the airport.  Fotis told us to always call him for recommendations in Greece because a lot of restaurants only open for the busy season and then close down and there food is not that fresh. We were all very emotional saying good only 8 hours Fotis had become a very good friend who we hope to come back and visit some day.  He helped us cross the streets, opened the doors, bought us drinks and gifts.  I hope I see him again.

Mom's Comment: We again downloaded the FREE Rick Steve's Audion Guides for the kids' to listen too versus paying for the audio guides offered at the sites...this time Athens