Sunday, February 27, 2011

Golden Crown, Nazareth Israel

Well, it has been 10 days since I came back from my trip and I am just now getting to the photos.  I have realized in the past half hour that I am not a photographer.  Now, don't misunderstand me, I have taken some amazing photos, BUT not of the things that I can still see in my minds eye.  There is so much I want to show and to share, and sadly I don't have the pictures to do so.  Therefore, I am going to show you a compilation of those that I did take as well as those that were taken by my fellow travelers and some that I had to regretfully copy from the Internet.  I think that the best part of these photos is that there is a story to tell.

This is a view of the hotel from the main road that runs behind it.   This was taken by Brad S.

These are random photos from outside the the hotel back.  You can't see this from the road that the first picture was taken from, but this is where the pool is located.  Since it is 'winter' the pool and courtyard was not open, but those with 3rd floor rooms were able to walk out and take these photos.  Thanks to Lisa M, Brad S and Kurt H for these shots.

I was able to get to the courtyard by going through Lisa's room, these are the photos I took looking out over the valley.  It is all farm land.  If you look closely you will see the road in which the first photo was taken from.

These are all photos I took off the Internet.  The first one is the hall that I walked down to get to my room.  I was on the 5th floor which is also the main floor.  My first impression is that this place looked like a castle; which is rather fitting as all the rooms and halls were given royalty names.  For instance the floor my room was in was called "The Little Prince".  I took a photo of this for my sister as that is the name of her favorite book.
This is the reception counter as soon as you enter the hotel.  Talk about making a great first impression. 

This is a great view of the dinner room.  The meals that we were there for were all buffet style.  The food was AMAZING.  I think I may have shared that a time or two in the previous posts.

And finally, the random shots that always seem to make it into a person's photo book, but really don't tell the story of what it is that was seen.  Enjoy them regardless!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Watering my Lawn

Have you ever felt that life isn't fair?  Sure, we all have.  I think that is one of the first things a child learns; well at least growing up in my family it was.  It is funny how quickly we learn the truth about those who have and those who have not.  The life isn't fair "pill" is not easy to swallow as a child, but our parents and loved ones shoved it down our throats in such rapid succession that it became just another piece of candy.  Then you grow up.  Oh boy, you thought life wasn't fair as a child?!  I mean little Jane had the better Barbie doll, her bedspread had ruffles, they got to go on vacations, their car didn't have rust on it, etc, etc.  As an adult the have and have not in life takes on an entirely different dimension of epic proportions, but what do you do?  Simple - you buy it!   After all Jane is a Jones, and you have to keep up with her.  However, now it isn't a stupid Barbie; it's a Lexus, a home, fancy clothes, computers, TVs, phones, fitness centers, etc etc.  Until one day you look at what you have amassed only to realize the grass is STILL greener on her side of the fence.  So you wonder: what is she watering her lawn with?  and why is my credit destroyed? 

The default answer - life isn't fair.

Don't you just hate it when those nasty little "pills" your parents shoved down your throat come back to bite you in the butt?!  Why can't life be fair?  Why can't I have a nice lawn?  Why can't I have a FB status with 20 comments all praising me for my perfection as a person and a mother?  Why can't I have happiness? The only true answer is - BECAUSE HAPPINESS ISN'T IN THE BOUGHT THINGS OF LIFE & FAIRNESS COMES FROM KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE!

So, as I sit here thinking about the many ways people manipulate themselves to make others see them the way they want to be seen, I am happy to know that I have all that I have and all that I don't have because my happiness comes from above and from with in.  And also, thankful for the underderstanding that sadness is ok, as long as it isn't an excuse for something else.

With that, I am glad to have gotten this off my chest as it has been eating away at me all day.  I think I will go water my lawn; after all, it is a very lush shade of contentment.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Road of LIfe

They say that the road of life is paved with good intentions; which, in retrospect, accounts for all the potholes.  Here is about 2:30 on a Monday morning, and I'm just now getting back to this blog.  I have so much to share about the trip to Israel and yet, I haven't begun to explain it all.  My devotions this year have been focusing on "My Decade of Destiny"; this being the decade where I put God and His plans first in my life, that of course is after I recognize and accept what they are.  The truth of the matter is that I don't know.  Well, maybe I do and maybe I don't.  The easy and obvious goals are the same for everyone, it is the not so easy/obvious ones that I struggle with.  Yet the Lord has told us to bring it to Him; "Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." -Malachi 3:10 However, it is this ominous "it" that I am struggling with.  The "it" in the scripture above is based on our tithe, and instantly most think of monetary tithes, but we are to give Him back at least 10% of what He has so aptly given to us; in everything. What gift, pray tell, has He given me?  Oh, I know, but where and how am I to use it?  How do I test the Lord in this? 

This is where I stand at this moment, and frankly so many moments like this one.  Stuck between a place where I know what I have and yet, don't know how to use it.  I wonder what would have happened should Picasso had done the same thing, or Edison, Flemming, Biro, Mother Teresa, John Wesley, and the list goes on and on.  Now don't get me wrong, I don't even consider myself in the ranks of anyone quite so, well, so famous, but each of these people took what they were gifted, talented to do, and used it.  Where would we be with out the beauty of art, the light bulb, penicillin, a ball pint pen, a beautiful example of extreme selfless love, or a planter of churches, etc?  Oh, I'm sure the world would have gone on, it has a way of doing that, but what potholes would these individuals contributions had made, had they not "tested" the Lord in what they did?  Again, I'm not comparing myself, merely wondering, what, if anything, would I contribute, if I gave 10% of my gift back?

So, I think I will spend this day forging ahead, using my gift in a non traditional manner, but in a manner in which I do know how.  Could this be my one and only purpose?  Nah, I doubt it highly, but know that this is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it; while giving what I do know to do, the best of my ability and by working for Him.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jerusalem - Going the Distance

Nothing amazes me more than the realization of distance.  This can be applied to almost anything; however, in this case I am speaking geographically. For instance, I am staying in Nazareth, where we all know, Jesus lived His boyhood years.  Today we took a tour to Jerusalem, this was nearly two hours from Nazareth by bus and we even took Route 6 which is Israel's equivalent to the autobahn. Think about this, in modern time this took us two hours, I cannot even begin to understand the amount of time that it took in Biblical times.  Nevertheless, here is the journey:
A random sign along the way to Jerusalem.

The trip started out about 815am.  For those who don't know; the country of Israel is divided.  There are places that are controlled by the Jews, the Arabs and the Palestinians. In order to get to Jerusalem we had to drive through a military check point in Samaria; as this is an area that is controlled by the Palestinians.  (Yes the men were in full military gear, machine guns and all.)   There are walls erected around the areas which do and do not belong to the Israelis.  This in itself was unfathomable to me.  In America we take for granted the ability to drive from state to state, to basically do as we please, with the only hindrance being a toll or two should that be the route taken.  However, the division of "states" in Israel is as blatantly defined as is the difference between night and day.  The tour guide thoroughly explained these definitions and accepted them as any other day to day goings on.  Once we reached our destination, we first toured around in New Jerusalem; the tour took us to all the government buildings and such, then went to the Old City; this is the city from Biblical times.

A view driving up to the entrance of the Old City
The steps that we had to climb to get to the Old City.
We were presented the opportunity to see Bethlehem, but there was one major catch; this being that the tour guide and driver were not allowed in the city, as it was now under the control of the Palestinians.  However, we were able to drive up to an area that had been used as a battle strategy point, complete with bunkers and trenches, to look into the valley where Bethlehem could be seen.  This trip, by bus, as well as the walking, took another half an hour.
The city of Bethlehem in the distance under the rays of sunshine.  This blessed me in more than one way.

Biblical Journey:
1) "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary" (Luke 1:26-27 NIV)
2) "So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem to the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child." (Luke 2: 4-6 NIV)
3) "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him (Jesus) to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord." (Luke 2:22 NIV)

It is honestly humbling to see how we take things for granted.  Not the act of taking things for granted, but the fact that we do.  I guess what I mean, is that for Mary and Joseph, and then Jesus, life was first about the journey then the destination.  Each of these travels (journeys) took time, took planning, and took faith in that the destination would be reached.  How so in life.  Every day, we take journeys, some as short as to and from work, others on vacation, others simply to town, but in each, the destination has a purpose and in each the experience leaves a mark on you and you on it.

I hope to follow this up in the next few nights with information about the time in the Old City.  I also hope to share about my trip in general.  In other words, stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cultures Combined

Today I trained so much I thought I was going to loose my voice and my mind.  I do not think that my mind has ever been so thoroughly picked.  Now granted, this is the whole reason I am here, but I must admit it is not at all exactly what I was thinking.  This is NOT  a bad thing.  In fact, I had this immense fear that I was going to be sitting alone a bored senseless during the times that I was not training as I am not a programmer.  I am not one of those people who fix and/or create the applications, rather just teach the folks how to use them.  However, my miss conceptions have been greatly disproved.  I love this!  I have had the opportunity to help brainstorm new concepts with the developers, I have had the opportunity to test out and new features and also help people get to a place where they can actually begin to own and manage their processes because the systems they are receiving will afford them the ability to.  Now work has consumed at least 12 hours per day and we will be working at least Friday (Saturday to me).  This is something I was prepared for, but I have been all but promised a day in Jerusalem on Saturday (Sunday for me).  The down side to this is the fact that Saturday is the day places are closed.  We will see how this all turns out, because I am thinking that a day in Jerusalem, regardless will be fantastic.  In fact, as I was training the Maintenance Manager today on his applications and part generation, he was explaining to me how he felt the last time he went there.  Being a native Israeli, he had not been there in 20 years, but recently went 6 months ago.  He told me how just being in the city made him feel "different." I can only imagine.  He said that it is a special place and that I will really love the place.  I don't doubt his judgement in this regard one bit.

After work, I got to meet some additional members of the launch team.  In all there are 8 of now and 4 more will be joining us.  These are people from all over the world, both born and now currently located due to their jobs.  I cannot begin to describe how mazing each person is.  I laughed so hard to night I thought I was going to cry!  It also made me realize how much I don't know.  In truth, it is rather pathetic that people from other countries know more about the politics in my country than I do; then don't even get me started on world politics.  I have also never been so amazed at how much others can speak on the entertainment (movies and music)of America, where I must really confess I hadn't even heard of half of the movie titles.  In a way I felt like an outside looking in, but know that there are things that I know that perhaps they do not. Just because I could not contribute to the conversation as much as some others of the team (note, this was not the first launch these members have been on, therefore there relationships have grown over the years) I was able to give some feedback, not much but some.  After all, we can't all be the center or life of the conversation. :)

I am excited to say the least to see where the balance of this pre-launch week then next week's launch goes.  I hope that through it all, I continue to make proud the one who has given me my strengths and abilities.  After all, I am to be in this world, but not of it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This View

There isn't much time this morning before the work day begins; a humble reminder to the reason in which I am here.  However, I can't help but to marvel at the beauty outside my hotel room.  It may not seem like much.  A road; some construction; homes; people going on about their daily lives; yet I think in all of that is the beauty.  How often do you wake up to think man what a day, I have this to do, or that to do, and the single focus is in the  completion of the tasks at hand?  But here I am, finished with my tasks and out there are those finished with theirs, and through all the differences I see the similarities.  We are all a people.  We are all wonderfully made.  We were/are all made for a purpose.  Not a single task driven person, was created without the expressed want of a God that loves.  Oh, there are times when humanness wins out, but at this moment, it all comes into a greater degree of focus.  Don't get me wrong, we are all human, its that it all started here, or in this general vicinity, and as such, I can't help but be awestruck by the complete and wholly amazing awesomeness of it all.

I read in my devotional yesterday about worry.  Yes, this does seem like a leap in subject matter, but give me a minute.  (Note, the following are paraphrases from the devotional out of The Purpose Driven Life.)
Why do we worry?  Because we try to do what only God can do.  We try to control the uncontrollable, explain the unexplainable, do the undoable, stop the unstoppable, fix the unfixable and then we are messed up.  ONLY GOD IS IN CONTROL!  The Bible says that it is ok to set goals (tasks). But when you set those goals that might guide your direction then live one day at a time.  If you decide to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, you'll miss out on what God wants you to do today.

So as I set out today, to complete my task of training my new friends on the use of the new DB system, I'm going to give this days worries to God.  I'm going to let Him direct my thoughts, actions and goals.  In the end, this day will be what it was designed to be the minute the alarm went off and I began the tasks at hand.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nazareth, Israel - Day 1

Ok, so maybe this is day 2, but seriously the first one doesn't count.  After all, it consisted of flying in, checking in, getting a rental, driving 1hr 30min to the hotel, checking in, unpacking, showering, grabbing some real food, and going to bed.  But, I doubt that really matters.  Here's the good stuff!

Note:  when setting your alarm clock for a work week in the middle east: 1) be conscious of the time change as the phone does not automatically adjust itself.  2) make sure you include Sunday, as work is not Monday - Friday, but rather Sunday - Thursday (with fingers crossed!). 3) you set the tone to be something so annoying that despite jet lag you still wake up with more than 15 minutes to go until you need to leave for breakfast.

I woke up late today.  Yes, this happens, but all was well, we just arrived at the plant, umm, fashionably late.  Really, I don't know if the time is hard set, but I loathe tardiness - mom, don't choke reading this - and therefore, felt like a complete dolt that I put the schedule behind.  I'd like to say it was because the hotel room is really comfortable and the bed was soft, but alas, not so much.  However, what is spectacular, and super amazing are the views from the hotel.  Perfection.  I love the architecture.  Everything, save for the mosques, has straight, clean lines.  It is awesome, especially for those, who like me, like everything to have straight, clean lines.  It all looks so organized!  But outside the architecture, the landscape.  I don't have words, and I know I have yet to really see anything.  Here are a couple from my room and one from the side of the hotel looking to the, ah well, I have no idea the direction, but I was looking out!

The hotel is in Nazareth, the plant is in Nazareth Illit.  I did not know this, but, the Arabs and Jews all live in together, but in well defined areas, thus the two sections of Nazareth.  All the signs are in both Hebrew and Arabic and believe it or not English.  Yeah for me...since my Hebrew consists of "Shalom"  (thank you VBS circa 1980 something.)  Anyway, the trip to the plant was wicked fun.  No seriously!  The roads through the village of Nazareth Illit are barely wide enough for one car, let alone two and it is all up a large hill (small mountain) and back down it.  Think of a seres of alley ways in New York, that pretty much sums it up.  The people drive like crazed maniacs (yes the words are synonymous, but the emphasis was needed).  I thought I was going to loose my life once when a semi can into our lane, but surprisingly, accident avoided, probably because our rental is no bigger than a golf cart with doors.

After work, we had a much less eventful drive, but I must share my amazement at a semi driver who, on a steep incline, parallel parked, in reverse up the incline, a double trailer. (Did I mention the severely narrow streets?)  It was quite something.   I got to go to a mall.  This was so much fun, except for the no one speaking English part, but what did I expect, right?!  I wish I had had more to spend, but the prices, well, sadly, they are vary comparable to the US.  Oh, another thing, and don't laugh, but did you know that the currency is the shekel? I thought it was only called this in the Bible.  I think I am learning more than I am teaching.  But still, it was fun to look around and see everything.  Then, dinner and catching you all up.

A Trip to Remember

This post is a day late in the making as I was simply too tired to do much of anything but plug this computer in and call home last night when we finally landed and arrived at the hotel.  This trip began at 130pm Friday 02.04.11 and ended roughly 24 hours later; add to that the 7 time zone changes and nearly 7000 miles of land covered, relatively speaking that is.  Anyway...

I don't know how many of you reading this have ever flown before, but there is QUITE a difference between flying domestically and internationally, and I am not talking about the aircraft!  The main thing is the time.  Seriously, 12 hours sitting with the seat "reclined" (yes, this term is applied loosely as there isn't a scant bit of difference between it and the "full upright position"), with nary a bit of legroom, not only gives you a numb butt, but also, tingly toes. Follows is a chronology of sorts, compliments of my in flight travel guide!

  1. Ft. Wayne to Detroit - this was a 25 minute flight, in which it took longer to get to the airport and wait in the terminal than it did to fly. This is considered a  non-event.  Except for the chatty Cathy that was sitting next to me, which by the way, was on his way to an interview in another state that his now boss didn't know about.  Well, duh, who interviews for another company and parades the info in front of their current employer.  Sheesh...
  2. Detroit to Atlanta - this flight was roughly 1hr 30 min in which I began to read a rather good book, but again, this was a non event.  Also, note, just because a National food chain, (aka TGI Fridays) is in an airport does not in any way, shape or form mean it will be good.)  I love their green bean fries (thanks to Erin M.), but these were HORRID!  Plus side - no expense to me.
  3. Atlanta to Tel Aviv - This folks was an event!  I mean after all, I'm flying over an ocean here.  (No lame jokes need to be applied.)
    • Boarding to take off - 1hr 15 min - apparently someone got sick upon boarding.  I think they enjoyed too much of the nasty airport food, or something like that! 
    • Take off until the time I woke up!  Yes, I fell asleep.  Come on, it was nearly midnight - definately past my bedtime, when we took off. This picture was taken about 3200 miles into the trip.
    • I began reading that same book again and when I stopped, or dozed off again, whichever, occurred...I looked at the monitor again, and now I can say I've been to France, never mind that it was only from a 37,000+ foot view. Yes, I know this doesn't count!  This was roughly 4300 miles into the trip.
    • I found it difficult to concentrate on much going forward as I couldn't wait to see where the plane was going next.  I kind of felt like a kid at Christmas with each newly generated map, it was like counting down the days!  It was around this time that I started to watch Eat, Pray, Love to pass the time.  If ever there was a waste of talent this movie was it.  I give it a 2 out of 5 stars for well, everything BUT the locations.
    • This brings me to the near end of my trip.  One of the most fun aspects of watching the maps was finding all the names of places I've heard of, but never knew, geographically, where they were located. I tried to get photos of the plane's "location" near landing, but all electronic devices, or as the captain stated "anything that has an on/off switch", had to be shut off.(I kind of didn't listen, completely...oops!  This accounts for the blurriness.)
    • Deplaning wasn't bad; actually it went really fast.  Showing my passport was smooth.  By the way, when in a foreign country for work, you are not really working, you are there to attend "a series of meetings."  Trust me on this one, you will thank me for it in the future, should you find yourself in the position to need the advice.  Next was customs, easy breezy, I simply walked right through!  
    • The BEST part, save for the tired American in the photo, was finally, being here! (Apparently I looked worse, much worse, than I felt...eek...don't judge the photo, just enjoy the background!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Great Expectations

Ok, so this is my version of the story, not Charles Dickens, though he did write a good book by the same title!  In six short hours I will be at the airport anxiously awaiting the first of my flights to a distant land.  A distant, far away land...ok, so I'm letting story books get me carried away.  To be truthful, this is like a dream come true.  I mean, would an opportunity like this ever really come my way, ever, on its own?  I don't know.  All I know is that I love the fact that my company gave me this opportunity and all I had to do was love what I do and do it with all that I am.  I have a wonderful job.  I love what I do.  I love making a difference.  Who would have thought that me; a spare parts loving, excel spreadsheet making, database junkie would get this chance!  But, here I am in awe and reveling in this surreal moment.

But, this ever decreasing six short hours will go by fast, because I have yet to pack.  I have yet to buy the things I will need for the trip, yes a procrastinator, at least in this regard.  I still need to go get my hair cut, especially since it has been over three months since I have.  Not that I am one to be diligent with the upkeep of my hair.  I never was one for all that froo froo girlie stuff, but I think this time deserves the extra little something something!  However, I do have an empty camera card, a fully charged battery, new books on my Kindle, and the battery on that charged up, also a phone, which will only be good for everything BUT its phoneness (unless I want to may mad crazy charges - which I don't) ready to go.

So with that, I think I will start getting ready for this magnanimous trip.  I can't wait to share my experiences.  Yes, this is for work, but I think the experiences will trip over themselves regardless.