Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just finished my midterm exam

So I kind of disappeared for a while. The modern Hebrew class is very intensive, 25 hours of class in a week. It's 5 hours of class each day then around 1-3 hours of homework. But just doing the homework isn't enough to pass the class you have to study for several hours beyond the homework if you want to be able to actually speak the language. Learning a new language after the age of 10 is supposed to be harder. Almost everyday after class I have a huge headache. I think it's because my brain is trying to categorize the new words I learn each day. My throat is also sore because Hebrew has some guttural sounds that we don't have in English. So after class I have a snack take a short break and read a little in an English book then start homework. I do almost the same things everyday it seems. So that means I don't have anything too interesting to post lately. This is going to be more about everyday things.

School is quite stressful right now so you have to find humor somewhere in the day. I get a kick out of the misspellings on the packages in the store. In the school store they sell ralling stamps (rolling stamps) for kids. When we first got here Claire bought a pillow that said it was hiege quality. So anytime we see something misspelled we just say its another hiege quality product made in Israel.

I made spaghetti I think this was last week. I've made it before but this time was the first time I used gluten free pasta and I didn't fix the recipe correctly for that. The sauce is olive oil, green peppers and garlic. I didn't think about the fact that this pasta wouldn't absorb the oil like normal pasta so it turned out a little too oily. I think I should mention we do have flatware other than the maroon ones in the pictures. I just noticed that the food looks better in the pictures on the maroon flatware.

Claire made pasta and meatballs. The meatballs were made with the help of a packet of spices. The instructions on how to make them were of course in Hebrew but there are pictures as well. Claire was cooking while I was doing my homework and I asked how she knew what to do. She said she was following the pictures. Since she is in the Hebrew level above me she knew what half the words in the directions were. Just for fun she started reading off the directions and came across the word for egg which we know. This surprised her and she exclaimed "There's an egg in this?" We had a good laugh about that one. So cooking using just the pictures is not a good idea.

Claire and I made chicken in a bag! I still don't understand how the bag doesn't melt in the oven. It actually came out pretty good and it was nice to have meat. The oven belongs to our Israeli roommate.

As I mentioned in my last post there are a lot of cats living in the student village. Below our balcony there is a garden that the cats like to hang out in. These two kittens were napping under the tree while there mother was off somewhere else. They have another sibling but that kitten was under one of the bushes.

I've named a few of the cats if they are distinctive enough that I can't think of a name quickly. This is Smokey Jones. He likes to pick on the kittens I think because he doesn't have any family in the student village but he keeps trying to join other families and getting chased off.

Claire named this one Angler after the Angler fish because of the white tip of his tail.

These are the twins we've been watching them grow up since we got here in June. I love watching the kittens play fight in the garden. We aren't allowed to keep pets in the student village so a lot of students adopt one or more of the cats. Its fun to watch people feeding the cats some people sneak over like they don't want anyone to see them feeding the cats. The garden always has several paper plates of food and bowls of milk and water.

Ever since I got here in June the weather has been the same everyday. Sunny and hot once or twice it was cloudy but other than that its been the same. So imagine my surprise when two mornings this week we woke up to fog on the Mount Scopus. The fog didn't last for long but I have the picture here to prove it!

Back in the botanical garden Claire pointed this tree out to me. The branches are covered with these sharp thorns they are really strong you can't break them easily. The trunk also has spikes on it. The leaves are strangely small looking.

Here is what the entire tree looks like. I have no idea what kind of tree this is.

The tree across the path looks similar but its covered with blossoms so I'm not sure if they are the same tree or not. Does anyone know what kind of tree this is?

If anyone is interested my roommate Claire also keeps a blog. You can follow her blog to get a different view on life here. Since we live together and are both in the Bible and the Ancient Near East degree plan we tend to do things together so you might end up reading about the same things just different perspectives. Her blog can be found here:

Questions from the last post:
Uncle Joe- I live on the third floor of my building the picture of the dove was taken from my bedroom window. I had English breakfast tea with the eggs and chocolate rolls. I think I had coke zero with the chicken, high class yes?

Nikki-Yes we had enough room in the freezer for the chickens.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chicken and Eggs

I know some of you are going to find this one amusing. Claire and I went to the grocery store yesterday. They were having a sale. If you bought 150NIS worth of groceries you got a good deal on meat. We got 3 whole chickens, half of a fourth one, and about 2lbs of ground beef for 60NIS. Meat is expensive here normally just the 2lbs of ground beef would have cost 60NIS. The chicken was so fresh it still had some feathers on it. :)

Now for the amusing part neither one of us had ever cooked a whole chicken before. Claire had to call her mother for instructions. Notice they give you the chicken with the neck still attached. I had never seen a chicken with the neck still attached like this. Claire and I weren't sure if you could eat the neck or not so she cut it off. It turns out you can eat the neck so we will know for next time.

Here we have the chicken cooking in our oven. Its a real oven just very small we had to convert the temperature to Celsius. The pot is thin enough that the chicken would cook through it. We don't have any baking pans currently.

The finished product Claire used a chicken seasoning mix. The chicken was wonderful. It was nice to have meat again.

I think I mentioned in my food post how fresh the eggs are here. I decided to show you. Also notice the pastries. They look like cinnamon rolls when you first look at them but its better than that. They are chocolate rolls! And yes that is a spork!

I forgot to include this in the food post. As you might be able to tell from the logo these are Doritos. These are just plain corn chips, we don't have this kind in the United States. This is slightly larger than the lunch size sold in America I think it's 70 grams of chips. This is the largest bag of chips they sell in Israel. I'm not sure if chips aren't as popular here or if its difficult to make kosher chips.

I managed to get this picture out my window yesterday while the chicken was cooking. The mourning doves here look almost exactly the same as they do back home. I've been trying to get pictures of the wild life but the birds aren't being cooperative. I'm also going to try to get some pictures up of the cats that live in the student village.

I also wanted to mention that starting after sundown on August 10 it is the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a Muslim fasting holiday. The Muslim calendar is lunar so the dates of their holidays change every year. During Ramadan Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset this includes no drinking, no eating and no marital relations for the entire month. Muslims pray more often during this month asking for forgiveness of sins. The fasting teaches patience.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Not So Secret Garden

Way back in one of my first posts I told you about the Botanical Garden on campus. I have now had more time to explore it. I don't know anything about the plants in these pictures. So this post won't be as detailed as the others. I was just taking pictures for artistic value. I hope you enjoy them.

This is the most interesting plant I've discovered in the garden. It's fuzzy to the touch.

This is my second favorite plant in the garden. I think it's some kind of cactus. I like the color.

These are more tombs hidden in the garden. I'm not sure if the ossuaries are still inside or not.

The sign on this structure is unfortunately in Hebrew so I don't know what this is or how old it is but it looks cool.

A sitting area towards the end of the garden.

And this is the amazing view from the sitting area. Once the weather cools down a bit this would be a good place to study.

A shady pathway with a stone bridge.

This waterfall is on the left side of the stone bridge.

The pond on the other side of the bridge. Lots of students sit on the bench and throw bread at the fish.

One of the many pathways.

Another pathway through the garden.

This one was taken back at the dorm I've been trying to get a picture of these birds forever but they are usually camera shy. I got this one in the morning, I think it was from the kitchen window. These are crows they are gray and black instead of just black. There calls are louder and far more annoying than the crows at home.

From the last post:
I took the last post title from the movie Ice Age 2: The meltdown, specifically its from the song the vultures sing. Those were some good guesses though. In the last post I forgot to list tahini one of the major ingredients of hummus, its made from sesame seeds.

Uncle Joe- Falafel I linked to the wikipedia entry which tells you how to pronounce it. All the food packaging here says its kosher. You never just assume something is kosher.

Mom- The goat yogurt is in a drink bottle but you eat it with a spoon. Yogurt here is thin and more liquid like than in the states.

Nikki-Anything that has to be refrigerated we buy towards the end of our trip to the market. We took a cab to the market and I think it took around 15-20 minutes to get there depending on the traffic. In the future we are going to figure out how to take the city bus there. I would call our fridge medium sized. There are three of us in the apartment and we each have our own shelf then the very bottom shelf we share. So far we have had room for everything.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Food! Glorious Food!

Bonus points if you can tell me the movie I took the post title from. :) I will give the correct answer in my next post. Claire and I went to the open air market this past Friday morning so now it's time for the post on food.

First off I'd like to talk about the grocery store. There is a security guard at the door that checks your bag as you go in. If you want to use a shopping cart you have to pay 5 NIS. I have my own cloth shopping bags that I use to avoid having to use the shopping cart. In Israel there is no Wal-mart equivalent you cannot find everything at one store. For example if you want to buy makeup, over the counter medicine, vitamins or sunblock you have to go to the pharmacy you can't find those items at the grocery store. The grocery store is smaller than the stores in America and they run out of some of there items. They do not restock the store every night so sometimes the particular item your looking for isn't in stock and might not be for days. Hummus is one of the biggest items here. Hummus is made from chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Hummus has its own section and there are lots of options to choose from. You can buy hummus by the kilo. Hummus can be eaten with just about everything. When my roommate asked one Israeli is there anything you wouldn't eat hummus with they replied cheese. The picture above is my favorite brand of hummus. It's really good on sandwiches. Before I forget to mention it all the food in the grocery store follows the Kosher food laws. I haven't figured out all of the Kosher laws yet so I don't know what makes food kosher or not. The food here is really fresh no preservatives are used in anything. This takes some getting used to a loaf of bread if not placed in the fridge can go bad in less than a week. They don't have any of the brands of bread we have back home. I think all the bread comes from local bakeries you can't always find the same kind every trip.

Of course I have to show you every college students best friend....Ramen!There are many different kinds of Ramen but I decided to show just one.

Here we have a local brand of cinnamon toast crunch.

Any cereal that is made by General Mills in the United States has Nestle on it here. This one is to show you they have product placement here too. Shrek is on everything in the grocery store from cereal,ketchup and bags of rice. The toy that came in this box was Puss in Boots you have to color the figure in yourself. This would not go over well in the states. To head off the questions No I have not colored him in yet and yes I am going to try to get the set.

To the right we have the fast food of Israel. This is a falafel. The little ball on top is a falafel it's basically fried hummus with a few herbs in it. You start with pita bread put hummus inside add falafel balls then a salad mix, pickles, and french fries. This is what I like in mine anyway. The french fries are not traditionally part of the falafel but I don't care they are so good. It comes in a little wax paper pocket for an extra refined dining experience. The price of falafel varies depending on where you buy it. On french hill it's 10 NIS. The best falafel in Jerusalem is the stand just inside Damascus gate and there it is only 7 NIS. All the guide books agreed Damascus gate falafel is the best. So far I agreed with them.

Now for the market the best time to go is early Friday morning it's the most crowded then but you get the true market experience. Everyone is trying to get their shopping done before Shabbat starts.
Almost everyone that goes to the market has one of these two wheeled shopping carts to carry their purchases. If you don't already have one you can buy one at the market. It works great for carrying everything but it can be tricky weaving through the crowds.

Here is the covered section of the market. Claire and I arrived a little after eight in the morning so the crowds weren't there yet. As it gets busier vendors start yelling their prices for different items. Most of them are family businesses so you will hear little boys yelling prices at the top of their lungs. Everything in the market is priced very cheap so you do not haggle for price here. It is somewhat difficult if you do not speak Hebrew many of the vendors do not know English numbers to tell you the price of something. Lucky for me Claire already knows some Hebrew so she could tell me the prices of things.

This is the uncovered section of the market. We had to watch out for delivery trucks driving through the crowds honking at the shoppers to get out of the way.

This is from one of the spice vendors shops. They are lined with bags like this and containers filled with fresh spices sold by weight. If you are looking for specific spices it helps if you look up the Hebrew name for the spice before going to the market. Be prepared though sometimes the name the dictionary gives you is not the name that they commonly use.

The bakery vendors are a treat to see as well. ;) Here are the cookies I purchased. They were also selling pastries but the pastries had bumblebees flying around them so I decided it was just going to be cookies for me. The white cookies are marsh-mellow like in taste and very sweet. The rest of the cookies are not very sweet at all. The two stick ones and the giant round one are short bread cookies. The heart shaped ones remind me of the texture of cinnamon rolls just dried out but they just had sugar on them. The ones with swirls are chocolate and shortbread. The dark ones are chocolate. The identical ones on opposite sides of the plate are filled with fig and dusted on the top with flour. All these cookies just cost 10 NIS or about $2.50.

Okay you can't really tell what I took a picture of here. This is a health food store. This entire shelf is full of gluten free products. I was surprised they had some selection so I took a picture to share.

Goat yogurt bought at the health food store. This is made from goats in a local village outside Jerusalem. It's very fresh and the best brand of goat yogurt I've had so far.

These are figs Claire bought in the market. I had never seen a fig before. I had previously only encountered figs as cookie filling. So if you ever wondered what figs look like here you go.

Here we have my first attempt at cooking here in Israel. Claire helped by chopping up almost everything. This is Ethiopian Vegetable stew I got the recipe from the Israel cookbook I got in the old city a few weeks ago. Like most recipes for this country it starts off with chopping up onions and garlic and sauteing them. The onions here are super fresh cutting into them they burn your eyes. It feels like you got acid in your eyes they burn so bad. I guess I've never seen a fresh onion in the United States. The stew contains onion, garlic, carrots,potatoes, half a head of cabbage turmeric(which makes it yellow), and a few other spices.

Questions from the last post:
Amanda- I know you didn't have a question. I just wanted to say the history here is amazing. Everywhere I go there is a story about what is in the location now and all the things that used to be in the same place. I'm looking forward to exploring everything.

Uncle Joe- To me the Dead Sea smelled like salt but more intense than the ocean. It's similar smelling to brine. There was no smell of dead or decaying things like I was expecting. I let the sandals I wore in the Dead Sea to air dry and salt crystals were left behind they still feel slimy I'm going to have to wash them off.

Mom- I'm not sure where King Herod's servants got the wood for the baths. Masada is in the middle of the desert with no trees. It was probably brought in from far away at great expense. There was no water in any of the cisterns at Masada. Water is scarce in Israel so they have likely prevented water from staying in the cisterns. According to our tour guide that day the next big war in the Middle East is going to be fought over water rights. I would recommend the sunrise walk up Masada for anyone that is physically fit enough. The sight of the sun rising over the Dead Sea was breath taking. Plus you can tour Masada before the heat of the day hits.