Friday, August 28, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #21 – differences – vacation vs. real life, Israeli kids vs. American kids, rapids vs. lazy rivers, crabs vs. frogs

The drive up north from where we live is one of my favorite things about Israel. We get to Jerusalem and then head straight toward the Dead Sea. Just before we drive into the Dead Sea we make a left and then we drive north along the Jordan River. The drive is magnificent. Desert turns to farmland turns to lush greenery. For most of the drive you see right into Jordan on your right. If you make the wrong turn onto the 98 instead of the 92 you can drive almost into Jordan on the road to Hamat Geder. On the last stretch of the drive, where you are looking at mountains in Lebanon to your left and mountains in Syria to your right, my kids said the super thickly tree lined roads reminded them of Maryland. It was really something unreal.

The North has everything (even Halva at breakfast) – but there’s no ice coffee.
The hotel is a blast. My friend told me all about it including (but I forgot) the part about inappropriate statues. The kids reminded me. “Why are there so many butts showing?” My mom asked how I like it – I love it! The shower is hot and technically unlimited (though I’ve yet to shower alone) and I get a new towel EVERY DAY. The Israeli breakfast has so many food groups represented I eat something akin to breakfast, lunch, and, at the least, a snack all in one sitting. Did I mention the obstetrician has yet to make me stand on a scale?

A choice of Tiyulim (hikes).
There are three choices of hike when you go to Nahal Senir (the Hatzbani River). The first is not really a hike – you just hang out in a wading pool of the Senir River, complete with waterfall. Did I mention the wading pool is a cool 17° C (about 63°F)? The kids did not mind and were doing something reminiscent of the Maniac dance from Flashdance under the ice cold waterfall. We started out there but then headed out on choice two – the half-hour intermediate hike. In the trail map they mention it is not an easy hike – suitable for those 6 years of age and older. They fail to qualify that last piece. Allow me. It is suitable for Israeli born and raised children 6 years of age and older. I saw them. They were doing it. Soft spoiled American children should be at least 8 years old. The intermediate hike takes you (and whoever you are carrying) over tree roots and slippery rocks into shallow but rocky fish-filled parts of the Hatzbani River. It is breath-taking. Lush and green in every direction. Note: when carrying a six year old on your shoulders across a rocky riverbed beware of low hanging tree branches overhead that will tangle the hair of said six year old! There were tons of people hiking. At some point you meet up with the icy cold Dan River (between you and me, I did not feel a difference in temperature between the two). It was a leisurely hike with several stops to empty sand and rocks from shoes, to snack on pita, to try catching little fish in baseball hats using crumbs of leftover pita as bait, and some stops just to take it all in. Two hours into the half-hour intermediate hike we were faced with a choice – continue down the river (that would be hike choice three, the advanced hike) or turn back toward the entrance (we called this the “let’s get ice cream” hike). Hmm…

Kayaking a.k.a. White Water Rafting.
When Bob and I honeymooned here 11 years ago we took a white water rafting trip down the Jordan River. Just to be clear, there are no white water rapids on the Jordan River. It’s more like the lazy river ride at any Jersey shore water park. In fact I think Bob had to use the paddle to get us going a few times. Fast forward to now – the same ride on the same river but they call it kayaking (actually, there are signs boasting “kayaakim” in the Hebrew). There were some size issues for us to take out the family raft – Rosie was too small, I was, in essence, too big. So Bob took the big kids on the kayaakim. 2 hours later they came back brimming with excitement. There had been a giant crab holding up its claws getting ready to fight. There was an encounter with a mean turtle. Oh, and Asher fell in the river.

quote of the day: "It's just a scorpion, Barbara."

How much nature is too much nature?
For dinner we visited an amazing local restaurant - Dag al ha Dan (literally, Fish on the Dan). This restaurant is built ON the Dan River. Some kids came prepared – in water shoes, they were playing in the river streams running through the restaurant. Somehow, thank Gd, my kids did not see them. While we were waiting for our seats an unfortunate misunderstanding about the distribution of toys and gumballs from a 2 shekel gumball machine made it necessary for me to sit in on a large rock next to our car in the gravelly parking lot with my fiercest warrior child Becky. It’s been my experience that surprise animal appearances stop tantrums and it’s also been my experience that Becky – a keen observer of detail – notices little creatures scurrying across the floor before anyone else. In any case, in the middle of a tantrum the cries went from naggy to frantic and she was as close to the top of my head as possible. A crab had scurried out from under our rock and was heading across the ground toward our car. Using the crab as leverage (we can go in to the restaurant and away from the crab if we can just stop crying now), we made our way into the restaurant.

Dinner was great and the atmosphere incredibly rustic – there are pits with open flames lighting your path everywhere and wooden plank bridges with no railings to cross the river. As we made our way back to the car we joked about the crab. Not wanting to take any chances, Becky climbed back on top of the rock. And then we heard it – a noise coming up right behind her leg. She never saw – she flew across the parking lot in a screaming fit of fear right up into Bob’s arms – but the rest of us got a great view of a nice sized frog who’d just been climbing up the rock to say hello.

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