Journal in the Land of the Holy One
December, 2003
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Only a few days until Christmas! 
The sounds of Zababdeh:
3:00 AM, Rooster (3 sec.)
3:00 AM, Dogs (5 sec.)
4:45 AM, Muslim prayer (40 sec.)
6:00 AM, Church bells (40 sec.)
7:30 AM, National Anthem (40 sec.)
The Latin Church young adults dressed the part at their Christmas bazaar. 

Friday, 12/5/03: We shared breakfast this morning with Fr. Firas and his family. It was tasty scrambled eggs with greens and flatbread.  Afterwards, Marthame and Fr. Firas went to the Melkite church to complete his interview for the film, to take a tour of the church grounds, and to just catch up on the latest news.  Elizabeth went back home to work.  Seems that's mostly what we're doing these days: filming, packing, working!

Saturday, 12/6/03: This evening, we made a few visits, knowing that there are many many people we want to see, and not that many days left. First stop was a family which was among the first to reach out to us and welcome us in Zababdeh. The mother works at the school and four of their five sons study there was well. The father works as a farmer and laborer when there are jobs. He used to work in the hotels in Jerusalem, but not anymore.  We played with the boys and chatted, drinking coffee and eating chocolate wafer sweets (ubiquitous in Palestine, they are corrugated biscuity layers filled with chocolate or sometimes lemon creamy sugary filling).  From there, we went to see another friend, who works as a taxi driver, and his family.  Their baby daughter just got her first tooth, so they were busy making and delivering plates of hot sinooneh, to friends and relatives. Sinooneh comes from the word for tooth (sin), and it is traditional to celebrate a baby's first one with this sweet made with whole grains of wheat, anise, sugar, raisins, walnuts and topped with candy bits. Baby's grandmother is from Zababdeh but lives in Zarqa, Jordan. She and another of her daughters were returning there the next day. We'd gotten to know them on previous visits and even stayed with them for a couple nights in Zarqa, so it was very nice to see them and celebrate teeth with them. 

Sunday, 12/7/03, the 2nd Sunday of Advent: We worshiped in the Latin church today. Marthame filmed much of it for a segment we are doing about Mughannam, a young man who is very involved in the young adult ministry and also teaches religion at the school.  During the announcements Fr. Aktham reminded the congregation that we are leaving soon.  He gave an affectionate and warm pre-farewell farewell. We will really miss this place. After church, we and Veronique, the French volunteer, went home with Mughannam for lunch and to interview him.  He is an eloquent, faithful, and thoughtful young man, a good "spokesman" for Zababdeh.  His little cousins (triplets in first grade) were as cute as you can imagine. After a delicious lunch and a fruitful interview, we went home, straight to the computer. In the evening Deacon Imad, the seminarian doing his training in Zababdeh this year, came over for a visit. We chatted and watched TV and drank tea and coffee, showing him snippets of the film.

Monday, 12/8/03:  Elizabeth went to the school to drop off some papers and pick up some empty boxes from the school snack shop. The couple who run it are dear friends, whom we used to see every day when we were teaching. But now we haven't seem them for a while. It was great to munch on a hummus sandwich, sip hot tea, and chat.  Then it was back home, with a mountain of boxes to fill. There is always more than you think.... Marthame worked on editing and fixing the misbehaving computer (sometimes it seems as though the equipment is conspiring against us!) and then went to choir practice in the evening to do some more filming.  Mughannam, in addition to everything else, is helping the youth prepare some hymns for Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, 12/10/03: We have had several warm sunny days, drying up the mud and warming up the land.  So after lunch today we went for a walk, something we haven't done in ages. Up into the hills, walking through fresh green vegetation, bright and tender having just emerged, coaxed out by the rain and sun. White winter crocuses were blooming everywhere. As we passed by olive trees, we took time to glean any left behind by harvesters in October and November. There is just enough time to prepare and salt them so they'll be ready before we leave. On the top of the hill, we sat and absorbed the peacefulness and natural beauty of this place.  After a little qailoolie (nap) in the shade, we headed home, relaxed and calm. In the evening we did an interview for the weekly Catholic Views show for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota (you can download it, though it's a big file; listen to it by streaming audio, or just read the transcript).

Friday, 12/12/03: After Marthame vanquished the dishes, we went out this morning to visit some people. First, we went to say thank you to a neighbor who had dropped off some oil, olives, and dried mlukhiyye (tasty local greens). We chatted a bit, drank some coffee, and admired her lovely Christmas tree. Then we went next door, where little Julia and George are often playing with their grandfather on the front stoop, and where we have stopped many a time on our way to or from town to chat and drink coffee. We stepped inside and sat with them, watched George blow bubbles and Julia draw pictures. After a bit (and of course coffee), we went to see Im Nabil.  Living alone at 80 in perhaps Zababdeh's oldest stone house (with Samaritan mason work and decoration), she always astonishes us with her sharp mind, fantastic English, and interesting stories. She lived in Baghdad for several decades (in fact was married in one of the Presbyterian churches there) and then lived and worked many years in Jordan.  In spite of our best attempts to refuse, she gave us msakhan to take home.  We went back home, ate until our bellies were full, and worked. In the evening a good friend who's just gotten in town from Ramallah (four and a half hours on the road and at checkpoints) came by for a visit.

Saturday, 12/13/03: Marthame went to Jenin to settle accounts today, hoping to finish everything in one fell swoop.  However, the false idols of Middle Eastern bureaucracy were conspiring against him.  The deposit - which we put down on the cellphone so we wouldn't skip town with a hefty bill - can't be taken until the last bill is paid, but the last bill won't be printed until the 15th of the month and won't make it to Jenin until around the 23rd of the month.  Then it'll take a few days for the funds to be released.  Aagh.  This after four trips to Jenin and many assurances that we'd be able to withdraw the funds sooner.  Even with the road to town open on a fairly regular basis, nothing is reliable.  We had lunch with Fr. To'mie and his family after he got back from worship at the church in Burqin. He knew to invite us because they were having msakhan, one of our local favorites!  Doesn't matter that we had it yesterday, either.  His granddaughters are in town, so they (and thus we) are surrounded by cute baby girls everywhere.  We took a break from work this afternoon to sit on the balcony and appreciate our view of the fields, with farmers busy working and our neighbor's sheep and goats baa-ing in their pen. 

Sunday, 12/14/03, the 3rd Sunday of Advent: We slept a little later, put on our best duds, and made our way to the Melkite Church. George Haddad, the new Bishop of Haifa came for the first time today. Lots of nice vestments and the Melkite community turned out for his appearance, as did the Latin sisters, priest, and council and orthodox priest as the service took place later in the morning to accommodate the Bishop's schedule.  In the Eastern tradition, it was a long, nice service, followed by coffee on the newly cemented grounds.  Fr. Firas poured the cement in honor of the Bishop's visit (a small step towards replacing the winter muds that currently surround the church) and in hopeful anticipation that funds would soon arrive to pay for it.  We then went off for our third msakhan lunch in a row at Fr. Firas's parent's home.  Firas' mother told us that she made it especially for us, because she knows how much we like it.  True, but now that we've completed our trifecta, there's no need for more. While we were drinking our post-meal coffee, Elizabeth's mom called the cellphone to ask if we'd heard the news. Saddam's been captured. Still on the phone, Elizabeth stuck her head back into the sitting room and announced in Arabic, "samakuu saddam." Which kinda means "Saddam's fish." She corrected herself ("masakuu saddam"), but she still took some ribbing for the slip, including from her loving husband.  No one had heard the news, and some went to the other room to turn on Al-Jazeera.  Marthame joined the clergy as they made their way towards the Haddad household.  Living in a lovely compound on the outskirts of Jenin, the Haddad family is a well-to-do family that's family business is smithing (Haddad means "Smith").  They worship at the Latin Church in Jenin, but they are Melkites by history.  It was the first time in several decades that a bishop from their church had visited them, not since the death of their cousin who had changed the scoring of Arabic liturgical music from a Western left-to-right to the more Eastern right-to-left.  Fr. Firas has performed three baptisms for them this year, and the family has clearly appreciated his ministry and presence in the area.  On the way to visit them, two tanks stood in our way.  A three car procession (one Israeli-plated, one Palestinian-plated, and one with diplomatic plates) of clergy drew attention, but thankfully not fire, from the soldiers.  They were kind enough to raise the tank turret so that we could pass under and let us through coming and going.  In the evening, we stopped by to visit the Latin Church Bazaar, run by the youth group to raise funds for their annual activities.

Monday, 12/15/03: We are being berated by everyone in town to make sure that we visit them before we leave.  Numerically, it's impossible, and we plan to stay at home Christmas evening (our last night in Zababdeh) and have anyone and everyone to stop by and say farewell.  In the meantime, however, we are taking full advantage of the hospitality to help take care of our meals.  Today it was lunch with Im Maher, where we had koosa mahshi (stuffed squash) and waraq dawaali (stuffed grape leaves). Then it was back to our fun-filled days of computering, editing, and packing.  So much to do...

Tuesday 12/16/03:  The town was abuzz with the student elections up at the Arab American University.  Many of Zababdeh's Christian community go to school there, and so there is a significant Christian population (perhaps 10%) among the student body.  At universities, student government is made of the same political parties as Palestinian society.  21 seats were up for vote.  People were on edge, excited and anxious all day.  So far, Fatah (the PLO) has not captured a majority at any of the Palestinian universities, and there was a sense that this spelled a further radicalization (and perhaps marginalization) of the Palestinian public.  AAUJ was the last institution to hold student elections.  Late in the evening, the results came in: Fatah took a simple majority of 11 seats.  The Islamic block (Jihad and Hamas) took 8, and the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and PFLP (Popular Front) took one each.  There were big celebrations in town as a result, most Christians belonging to Fatah or D/PFLP.  Cars were coming and going, horns were honking all over town.  In the absence of any true democracy (both under the Israeli military occupation and as subjects of a Palestinian Authority which has little ability or desire to hold elections), this will have to do.

Wednesday, 12/17/03:  The best news we've heard in three and a half years: Anis got his visa!  Anis had received a full four-year scholarship to study at North Park University in Chicago.  All of his paperwork was submitted on time, and he received his I-20 from Immigration in due course.  Following his interview at the American Consulate in East Jerusalem, however, his paperwork was shipped off to Homeland Security for further security checks.  This measure was instituted after September 11th, particularly put in place because the 9/11 attackers all entered the US on student visas.  As the fall semester approached, we and others tried to contact Congress members or others who may be able to expedite his application, as is common practice for visa applications. The response was that Homeland Security is a hermetically sealed process, and senators/representatives or others have no sway. We'd just have to wait. Besides, he's a low security risk, which means he's a lotwer priority for getting through the system (a bit baffling and enfuriating to hear: so if he were a high security risk he'd get his visa sooner?!?!?).  Freshman orientation came and went, classes began, and no word. Eventually, Anis started to audit class at the nearby AAUJ, and we too started to lose hope that he would be able to take advantage of his good fortune to win the scholarship. The fall semester came and went.  But today we are so happily surprised. ilhamdulillah! Thank God. 

Friday, 12/19/03:  Today our most recent piece was published in the National Catholic Reporter.

Saturday, 12/20/03: This morning Elizabeth dropped by the Anglican clinic to have her ear infection looked at. Suffering from these nasty things about 3 or 4 times a year, in addition hearing poorly to begin with, she's taken to declaring that all she wants for Christmas is 2 new ears. New prescription in hand, she made her way from the clinic to the school, where preparations were being made for the staff Christmas/New Year's luncheon.  Of course, it was mansaf, rice and meat topped with almonds and yogurt sauce (all of which is prepared in truly enormous pots). Delicious as usual.  Fr. Aktham took a moment to thank us, and give us farewell presents: Elizabeth got a hand-embroidered dress, which she slipped on over her clothes.  People joked that if she wore that when we arrive in the States, security wouldn't let us enter the country. And Fr. Aktham has arranged for Marthame to get an 'oud, the traditional big-bellied Arab stringed instrument that he has coveted for so long. For the past couple of weeks, Elizabeth has been baking up a storm, making little zip-lock baggies of American style cookies (chocolate chip, sugar, butter, peanut butter, ginger, cinnamon brown sugar, banana) and candy. We wanted something small to share with the teachers and others who had welcomed us so. In the evening, good friends came and we had lots of fun with Lulu, the youngest child.  Also, today we were again published in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.

Sunday, 12/21/03, the 4th Sunday of Advent: Elizabeth went to the Latin Church this morning long enough to get some final footage of one of our film subjects.  She then joined Marthame at the Orthodox service.  Today, immediately after Mass, was a remembrance service for a church member who passed away a year ago. Afterwards, as usual, family members handed out sweets (including coconut macaroons and whole wheat grains cooked with sugar and anise and topped with sugar coated almonds).  Also, youth were handing out baklava in celebration of the Fatah victory at the University elections.

Monday, 12/22/03: Work work work. Can't believe we're leaving so soon!!!! News arrived that Rev. David Owens of First Congregational Wilmette passed away from cancer.  Four years ago that congregation started a relationship with the Latin parish in Zababdeh.  A couple months before we arrived, David visited Zababdeh with a large group of youth and adults from First Congregational. The visit was a powerful experience for the Wilmette group as well as the youth in Zababdeh. (And they also brought our printer and guitar to Zababdeh for us.)  We were sad to hear of his death, but gave thanks for his passion for life and ministry.

Tuesday, 12/23/03: Unfortunately, we were too tired to go to school this morning for the last day of exams. We managed to be up and decent enough to share lunch with wonderful people whom we will miss dearly.  We ate tasty malfouf (stuffed cabbage leaves) and spaghetti casserole. Then Marthame hustled off to help set up for the evening's activities at the Latin church hall. At Latin mass tonight David Owens was remembered. After mass was a large party. There were Christmas carols and dances, and finally a Christmas pageant, another original by Fr. Aktham. High school and college students essentially played themselves - young Christians living in a time of brutal occupation. As such they one by one beg two soldiers (enthusiastically played by high school boys) to pass a checkpoint in order to pray at church on Christmas.  Because they are Christian and it is Christmas, they are eventually let through. But not all intend to pray - some to party, to drink, to play cards instead.  Those get reprimanded by a heavenly voice, and find themselves in darkness as those who choose a path of faithfulness are rewarded.  The morality tale reinforces that being Christian is more than just having "Christian" printed on your ID - more than getting a day off or special treatment on Easter and Christmas.  Elizabeth stayed for the event but, still sick, slipped home right after, skipping the ongoing visiting and festivities. Later in the evening, a few visitors came by - including some former students, now at AAUJ.  It was very nice to see them, especially now that we don't have to tell them to be quiet and pay attention in class. 

Wednesday, 12/24/03: Christmas Eve always has excitement in the air. We went first to pray at early evening mass in the Melkite church, where the small flock had gathered to celebrate the Incarnation. Afterwards, we, as well as a number of the Melkite worshippers, headed to the Latin church for their late service. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 12/25/03: Merry Christmas! This morning we worshiped with the Orthodox faithful in Zababdeh, shared lunch with good friends, and then spent the rest of the day at home, as friends and neighbors came by to wish us good-bye. It was a good way to accomplish the hard task of saying farewell to a whole village. As the evening progressed, our driver for tomorrow morning called to tell us about another suicide bombing. He apologized that because of the bombing, he could not take us from Zababdeh across the Green Line and to the Jordanian border: "Because of the bombing they'll close the checkpoint. I'll be able to get out because I have Israeli citizenship [he's from Nazareth], but they won't let me back in to be with my wife and baby son." So we were faced with a real question of how to get out tomorrow.  Marthame made a flurry of calls, and found a driver - another Palestinian Israeli living in the West Bank, but one willing to take the risk of not getting back home again. That solved (or as solved as we'd get tonight) we went on enjoying the evening with our visitors. Fr. Aktham, Deacon Imad, and the French teacher Veronique were our final visitors, and we shared a lovely time of warm fuzzies, appreciation, laughs, encouragement (and some deserved berating for not sharing lunch with them and the sisters today). After some last minute packing (including finding space for a number of farewell gifts brought by people today), we collapsed at a very late, small hour.

Friday, 12/26/03: This morning we left Zababdeh for good. A Zababdeh taxi driver picked us up early this morning. Our landlady and Veronique, the school's French volunteer teacher, helped us load our luggage and fifteen boxes of stuff into the taxi.  After quite a little workout, we along with Veronique were finally off for the long last ride to Jalame. Once in the town of Jalame, we transferred all our things to the taxi of the Palestinian Israeli willing to try and take us across the border.  At the border, the soldiers made us remove all the boxes and open them for inspection.  Their metal detectors were so sensitive that even clothing zippers and snaps set them off, so they had to go through everything, which took a lot of time. We were very thankful that the overcast day didn't break out in rain, as all our things were set out in cardboard boxes on the pavement.  After everything was cleared, we had the problem of a driver to solve. The soldiers confirmed that they would not let this man back into the West Bank if he left.  Since his home and family is in the West Bank, understandably, he did not want to leave. So we had a problem. He called a cousin who was in Muqeible, the closest town past the Green Line, and he agreed to come to the border and drive us to the Afula post office (to send the boxes) and to the bridge (to enter Jordan). When he arrived, however, the soldiers told him he could not walk the several meters across the border to get to us and the van. And they would not let Marthame drive it across because they said he does not have an Israeli license.  At one point, Marthame suggested we push the van across the border to the new driver.  You can't win for losing!  Eventually they relented and allowed our driver's cousin to walk up to them at the border and the few feet across to meet us and drive us away. He took us first to the post office in nearby Afula to ship our many boxes and Marthame's guitar. The post office was a comedy of errors, being checked and not checked by security as we lugged all the boxes into the little office (crowded since it was the verge of Shabbat and the office would close early at 12:00).  We filled out forms, then were told they were the wrong forms, then discovered that some of the boxes were too heavy, then that they wouldn't take credit cards (in spite of the VISA signs all over the place). With a lot of patience, a lot of help from Veronique, and the purchase of a pack of packing tape nearby, we finally got everything off and then we were off to the Sheikh Hussein bridge to enter Jordan.  Fortunately, our morning's luck did not follow us, and the process was smooth at the border, and soon we were in the bus crossing the Jordan River. Marthame breathed a huge sigh of relief once we were out of Israel, and smiled a huge grin as he saw a tumbleweed roll by on the Jordanian side. We had been assured by every travel agent we talked to that we would be able to rent a car at the bridge.  Since we were going straight to Petra, and then to the airport with lots of luggage, rental was the only reasonable plan. To be sure the office was open, Elizabeth went to ask the guys at information at customs.  A friendly round man named Mohammed went through the usual questions (where are you from, how come you speak Arabic so well? how can I help you?) Elizabeth chatted with him, eventually getting around to car rental, mentioning that we were going return it at the airport. "Yes, there is National Rent-a-Car here, but I think you need to return the cars here.  Let me call."  He picked up the phone and said "Alo Nasser? Kul 'am wintum bikheer!" Meaning, "Hello Nasser? Merry Christmas!" After a chat, the man informed Elizabeth that yes, all cars are supposed to be returned to the bridge, but we should go talk to Nasser; he might make special arrangement for us since we were Christians like him. Elizabeth thanked him and we headed off to get our bags x-rayed and then to Nasser the car renter.  We found the small National office and greeted Nasser.  We explained our predicament: we need to return the car to the airport. Since it is Friday, we cannot get to Amman in time to rent from the airport or from other offices there. We can't afford what it would cost to take a taxi to Petra and really don't want to stay in Amman tonight. As we were all pondering our fate, Marthame noticed a letter on his desk addressed to a Baptist church in Alabama. "Would you like us to post that for you once we arrive in the States? It will get there much faster." Nasser gratefully handed over the letter and then proceeded to make a very special arrangement for us, whereby we could leave the car in the parking lot at the airport (keys in the ashtray) and his cousin would come and pick it up and take it to the bridge later. We were immensely relieved and thankful. Soon we were all breathing a sigh of relief and cruising down the long, long road toward the ancient lost city of Petra.  After about four hours on the road, the three of us checked into our hotel, Veronique opting for sleep since we had worn her out with all of the lifting and moving and stress of border crossings.  The two of us shelled out a few extra dinars for the hotel dinner.  As we feasted, we looked up and saw...Jonathan!  The Arab American University teacher and dear friend of ours who has been stuck in Amman for some time now.  He and another teacher from the University were refused re-entry to Israel because they work at the University in Jenin.  We have missed him greatly and had tentatively planned to meet up in Jordan, but hadn't confirmed anything.  We heard more of his news and then made plans to meet in the morning and wander the ruins together.

Saturday, 12/27/03:  We packed our lunches for the day, then the four of us walked to the entrance gate for Petra.  Periodic students at Birzeit University, we showed our student IDs at the park ticket counter.  Jonathan presented his teacher ID from the AAUJ.  Veronique had no such ID, but the ticket seller made it clear he would take just about any old ID as a student ID, so Veronique found the closest thing she had: a library card from the French Cultural Center in Jerusalem.  He shrugged and gave us our discounted tickets, and we began the long and glorious hike.  We had gotten a late start, so there was no way we would get all the way to the monastery today.  No problem.  We would simply take our time today and head out again tomorrow.  We walked the long, dusty roads of the ancient Nabatean city, fascinated by the smallest little turn in the road and the carvings and niches along the way.  Little did we know how unimpressive all that would be by comparison.  We turned a bend in the siq (the narrow crevice carved deep into the earth, more astonishing than anything we saw in our visit to Zion National Park), the magnificent Treasury opened up before us. An immense structure carved out of the harsh rock face, this served as the entrance to the final resting place of the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones movie of the same name.  We made it only a little further past the Treasury, stopping to admire the coliseum and wandering around in some of the nooks and crannies in the stone mountainsides along the main stretch, which afforded magnificent views seemingly only for us.  We ate a European backpacker-style lunch and sang songs and improvised (audio - 15 sec.) in the echoes of these man-made caves.  We made it back to the hotel before sunset, eating ravenously in the nearby town of Wadi Mousa.  We tried to use the sauna that made our hotel such a pleasing thought in the first place, but discovered that they required an additional five dinars (around $8) a piece!  Oh, well.  We'll make good use of the room's tub.__

Sunday, 12/28/03:  We have one more day here in Petra, and so we made the most of it, picking up Jonathan (who was staying at a different hotel nearby) in the morning before packing up the car for our drive back to Amman later on.  We passed through the first half of Petra with little thought for what we had already seen yesterday.  Again, it reminded us strongly of an earlier trip to Zion National Park, where we wandered the vast crevices carved into the rock.  This time, we weren't up to our chests in water, but it was no less wondrous.  We had an early breakfast overlooking the amphitheater, the place which had so caught our eye yesterday.  We then eagerly looked forward to Jonathan's favorite part of the site, the collanaded road, which led us toward the the long ascent to the Monastery, a place of worship for the Byzantines, which had once been a Nabatean temple.  Just out of sight of the town of Wadi Mousa, the structures lay "undiscovered" for centuries after their abandonment, though it is likely that the Bedouin made good use of the manmade caves.  Though less-detailed than the Treasury, the Monastery is no less impressive.  We tried to climb to the top to sit in its cupola.  Jonathan had done this on a previous visit, and we had seen postcards of people sitting in the cupola, so we thought little of it.  But we were shouted down by the first park security guard we had seen.  We were disappointed, but made the most of the extra time not spent on the cupola by wandering up to a few high peaks to view the vast desert that lay beyond and catching a bit of a nap before making our way back down.  The paths of Petra are dotted with Bedouin women selling trinkets and Bedouin men offering rides on camels, donkeys, and horses.  When Jordan turned this place into a national site, they reached an agreement with the Bedouin living there, that they would have to relocate to offsite housing but could still graze their animals and would have exclusive rights to sell on the premises.  Beats the settlement Israel offered the Jahallin Bedouin, some of whom were given shipping containers to live in, which were eventually replaced by buildings to which they were never given the keys.  After a long good day in the ruins, we piled into the car, squeezed in by the bags, and began the long drive back to Amman.  About 100 miles outside of Amman, we heard a nasty noise: flat tire.  We pulled over in the middle of the desert, 18-wheelers whizzing past us in the dark, and unpacked our full trunk in order to get at the baby spare tire and jack kindly provided by our friend Nasser.  While Jonathan and Marthame wouldn't make the team at Indy, they did a relatively fast job of getting the tire replaced.  We got back on the road, not sure whether baby spares were good up to fifty miles an hour or for fifty miles distance.  We decided and hoped it was the former, and proceeded as such, having dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Amman and dumping our remaining dinars and shekels off on Jonathan and Veronique.  We then checked Veronique and Jonathan into their hotel, where we took a quick nap before taking off for the airport, desperately hoping that the baby spare would hold out at least to the airport.  And thank God, it did; we arrived around 1 AM, in plenty of time to leave our rental car and check in for our early morning flight.  Since the two days ran together, it hardly seems appropriate to put a break in between them, but here goes:

Monday, 12/29/03:  We had an interesting time getting through the initial security checks, being told that the olive oil and olives we were bringing from Zababdeh were not allowed by Lufthansa - more because of the mess than anything else.  We spoke with the security chief, who promised to get someone from the airlines to explain their policy to us.  When no such person materialized, he let us pass with this advice: "When you get up to the gate, you'll have to go through security again.  Tell them Lufthansa said it was OK.  Also, put the bottles in bags from the Duty Free shops so they look like something you bought there."  We did the latter but didn't need to do the former and got through just fine.  We changed planes two more times, arriving in Lubbock a good twenty four hours later and a good forty hours after we had last seen a bed.  We were met by Elizabeth's mother and brother, who were as relieved as we were to be back. They gathered us and our things and took us home where hearty stew and warm beds awaited us. ilhamdillah as-salaame. Thank God for our safe arrival.

Tuesday, 12/30/03:  It is a good day to rest.

Wednesday, 12/31/03: Today is the seventh day of Christmas, and the day we explored our Christmas stockings hung on the mantle with care. Acting as president pro-tem of the Santa, Elizabeth distributed the stockings and generally kept the peace. No dancers dancing or partridges in pear trees, but loving goodies and good times.  Tomorrow we'll get to the stuff under the tree. At night, we were relieved to see New York safely bring in 2004. And then we rang in our new year quietly but joyfully. Happy New Year! May 2004 bring peace and justice around the world.

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