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yummy or yucky?

7 Jun

9 yummy or yuckyHOPE Pilgrimage 2014

June 5 – June 6
Picking up some mom’s role in my life, “the girls” (my two sisters) sent me my yearly poem, not as terrible as mom’s, but close, on my 39th anniversary of ordination. They also gave me mom’s pre-pilgrimage warning, “Don’t ride any of those busses!”

Mom couldn’t come to the airport, but the other “Izzy”did. She was born on the date of my mother’s death and named Isabelle and called Izzy, just like my mom, even though I did not even know her mother and even though her mother did not even know my mother existed, when little Izzy was born. This Izzy came to the airport to see her grandmother off, but, after hugs and photos with her grandma, had an extra hug, from her, and vicariously, from my Izzy, too. Izzy likes stuffed animals, so she asked her grandmother to bring back a stuffed Jesus for her. When she was told that this might not be possible, she said, “Well, then, bring me a stuffed Mary holding Jesus.” I’ll see what we can do for her.

My first “forget” was the ribbons I had cut into 18 in pieces, two for each pilgrim, to be tied to our suitcases for easy identification, when our bags come around the conveyor belt at baggage claim, at least we hope they all show their happy faces and make our faces happy.

It looked like we were going to have our flight from D. C. delayed, and a visit to the gate agent seemed necessary to see if could still make our connection at. D.C. for Dubai. Two pilgrims offered to go as back-up. I said that we could hold off on the threesome, until I found that reinforcements were needed, “Let’s play good cop, bad cop – and terrorist! Oops, not a could choice of a third word at an airport.

For our first prayer together before boarding our first plane, I had pulled off my “Hat’s Off to the Spirit” blog post: the Holy Spirit prepares us, anoints us and sends us, in our meekness and in our weakness.

Flight to Dubai was real long, a long 13+ hours. I thought of a good reason to live in the Middle East: I wouldn’t have to make the flight back to Milford. The extra fee for an aisle seat with no one in front of me, that is, with lots of room for my legs to stretch out, was worth it, but the flight was still long! Especially bad so was the so-called breakfast. I chose the turkey and cheese sandwich over the vegetarian option. Jonah, the son of the daughter of friends of mine, would not have had any hesitation answering the question that is asked often of him at table, “Jonah, yummy or yucky?” The last time I flew to the Holy Land, I was mysteriously bumped up to first class. Now there was a breakfast. Oh, what a difference a curtain can make in an airplane.

On the flight a chatty, chatty, chatty row-mate said, among the many, many, many things he said, that he studied all the religions of the world, and he concluded with, “When it comes down to it, they are all the same,” I was disappointed in myself that I did not have a good 30-second airplane, Pope Francis-type response, to say something about what they say about God is different, and about Jesus in particular, and about what they say about relationship with God is different. Maybe by the next time someone offers that same conclusion about their study I will be ready to do a quick advertisement and recommendation for Catholicism.

From the air on arrival in Dubai we saw what someone said was the tallest building in the world. “Downtown” Dubai looked very small from the air, and totally surrounded by extensive, rough desert. Cutting through the desert was a huge highway, was it four or six lanes, each way. Crying out loud, in the desert, how is that for “a highway for our God?” If only for me and my pilgrims God could cut through to us that way by way of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, possibly using a fourth and fifth lane: the land and the people. May we also find our swift and safe way to God using the same 4, 5 or six lanes.

When I get the email-photo from Christy, I can show you something from the Dubai duty-free store that I could suggest that the people of St. Andrew can give me as a parting, retirement gift.

I was disappointed that I could not get a Dubai Starbucks gift mug for my friend, Paul. The Starbucks was in the other terminal! That was a disappointment for me. What was not a disappointment was the coffee and pastries at the “Costa” coffee counter with Cathy and Judy, enjoying “A” day with kindergarten teacher Michelle: Cathy with the “airplane” figure stenciled in cinnamon on top of the foam in her cappuccino, me with an “apple” custard muffin, and Judy sawing that she was sitting on her “a word that we do not type in polite company.”

We have laughed about how terms like “riding shotgun” and “photo bomb” sound different in the Middle East.

What a treat it was to have our friends Hanan and Ranim (and her fiancé Amer) meet us at the airport when we came out into the welcome area. Ranim is one of the Palestinian 8th grade students who visited us in Milford ten years ago. She is now 23 and graduating from medical school this month in Jordan. She and Amer drove an hour and a half to the airport just to greet us and spend ten minutes in our company before we had to get on the bus and get everyone to the hotel. It was late and we had spent 26 hours on our journey here. My second “forgot” was that I did not think of the gifts that I had in my suitcase for Ranim. But I will see her parents in Beit Jala, so I can leave them with her mom and dad. Hanan, a doctor of another kind, is a professor at the American University of Madaba. Hanan came to Cincinnati last October with the group of educators from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. She will come for dinner with us at the hotel tomorrow night, and take everyone out for hooka afterwards.

My goal on this pilgrimage is to help provide for each pilgrim what each one desires or needs: that place, that photo, that gift. I must remember to tell all of them tomorrow that they can be selfish for two weeks. The group is filled with caretakers. This time can be a time for them to be appropriately selfish for fourteen days.

Provide for each, that picture, gift, place – that is my goal.

Photos Worth Thousands of Memories

7 Jul

 

Photo by Dan Campbell

To say that he has the patience of a fisherman, the eyes of an artist and the precision of a surgeon might be a bit of a Middle Eastern overstatement, but he is a very good photographer. Mark Bowen accompanied the second group of HOPE pilgrim-teachers from Cincinnati to the Holy Land, having also been with the first group in 2010.

Most often Mark is on the lens side of the camera. But once in a while he sets up the picture, turns his camera over to someone else, and is actually in the photo himself, like in this one taken by the café-keeper at Stars and Bucks in Bethlehem.  

He was also coaxed into being in this group photo, taken in Nazareth by our guide Rami on Jen’s camera.

Being himself quite taken by an event or a site, he is even known to have allowed his picture to be taken by someone else with their own camera, like this one by JoAnne at the Jordan River.

On a rare occasion, difficult to imagine but true, he has even “asked” someone else to use “his” camera to take his picture, like this one taken with Archbishop Elias Chacour at Mar Elias School in Nazareth.

Most often, though, people caught Mark, as he so often caught many of us, doing what he did best: taking pictures, and editing and saving and posting pictures, like in this one by JoAnne in Amman, Jordan

 and in this one by JoAnne on the Sea of Galilee

 and in this one by Cindy on the Sea of Galilee

and in this one by JoAnne at the Gloria Hotel in Jerusalem

 and in these two by Father Rob.

All that being shown and said, Mark has done a remarkable service and a remarkably good job of capturing the moments, the people, the emotions and the HOPEs of our Cincinnati teacher-pilgrims and our Palestinian teacher-friends during the HOPE Pilgrimage 2012. Acknowledging Mark’s work on the back end of so many photos and memories, on the front end we all want to express to him our gratitude, appreciation and admiration.

By the way, Mark, “Mom” (Nancy) especially wants you to know how much she loves you, as can be seen on her face (and yours) in this photo of the two of you, taken by JoAnne at the Dome of the Rock.

 

 

 

 

“Stars and Bucks” in Bethlehem

1 Jul

Mark (the photographer) and I (the priest) decided to walk from the Church of the Nativity to our Sancta Maria Hotel. We left the flow of the pilgrims, as they headed toward the bus for the ride home. I told Mark that I wanted to stop at Stars and Bucks. Always anxious to get a shot that other eyes might not see, he eagerly tagged along.  

Our first stop along the way was for twelve pictures (he couldn’t take just one) of a man making falafel at his street-side open restaurant. Amazing how a vat of hot grease and balls of seasoned, crushed garbanzo beans becoming falafel brings joy to a photographer.

Shortly after we rounded the corner Mark shouted out, “Oh no, it is Stars and Bucks.” He saw the sign hanging over the café down the street a bit. He thought I was going to Starbucks, and was teasing him with the name. Would I tease about such a serious matter? 

The shop is on the main road in Bethlehem that leads right to Manger Square and the Nativity Church, the site of the birth of Jesus.

Most tourists and pilgrims zip right past the café in a taxi, or walk up the inclined hill on the opposite side of the street because of the location of the garage where all the giant tour busses have to park. But it was the goal of the walk Mark and I were taking … Stars and Bucks.

As I walked into the café and saw that they had coffee mugs for sale, I gave out my own acclamation in the little town of Bethlehem, “Yes!” I had joy like the shepherds and the angels on Christmas eve in the fields of sheep and shepherds. Well, that may be a bit overdone.

My buddy Paul has a collection of Starbucks mugs (see yesterday’s post), but he does not have, and not many people in the whole world have a coffee mug from Stars and Bucks in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Mark bought two mugs, one for his daughter and her husband. I bought one for Paul, and one for myself. Mark was enjoying the moment so much he agreed to get into a picture, and gave his camera to one of the keepers of the café, who seemed a bit puzzled by the performance being played out in his sleepy shop.

My regrets are that I didn’t sit down for coffee and conversation with the locals, and that I didn’t buy a whole case of the mugs. I could have left a lot of clothes behind to have room for them in my return suitcase. I have something to add to my itinerary the next time.

Photos 2, 3 by Mark Bowen/HOPE. Photos 4, 5, 6 by Waseim/Beit Jala. Photos 1, 8 by Father Rob/Milford. Phot0 7 by Stars and Bucks Café Keeper/Bethlehem, using camera of Mark Bowen/HOPE. Phew! Everybody gets due credit.

Privacy at Amman Starbucks

30 Jun

My friend, Paul, has a collection of Starbucks coffee mugs from places where work has taken him, beginning at Seattle, from the Pike Place Market, where Starbucks started, and continuing throughout China, with names of cities on the mugs that only he at Sunday supper can pronounce – all made in China, of course.

One of my goals on pilgrimage to the Holy Land was to bring back for him a Starbucks mug from somewhere in the Middle East. There are no Starbucks in Israel or in Palestine. So, my best bet was Jordan.

Our pilgrim group was taken to a mall in Amman, Jordan, to kill some time, for we were ahead of schedule, and too early for our next appointment on the itinerary, which was not, believe me, a frequent occurrence for us. The mall was huge. 

And there it was, right inside the entrance: Starbucks.

The mug was easy to buy. My American Express card didn’t care if the purchase were in Jordanian dinars or in U.S. dollars. Plastic is plastic, money is money, and it knew it could add a foreign transaction fee to the statement at the end of the month.

But the taking of a photo was not as easy.

As I came out of the store, delighting in my perfect gift for Paul, and pointed my camera at the English and Arabic sign under which I had just walked, two security guards came at me waving their arms, as if I had just pointed a gun at someone. The best I could understand was that photos were not permitted. They seemed satisfied, when they saw me putting my camera away. But our Jordanian guide, approaching out of nowhere in some sort of rescue operation, was not so satisfied.

For us English-speaking Americans, it always seems that the Arabs are arguing, whenever they are speaking to each other, so fast and animated are their words and the movements of their arms. After a time of watching their argument, I mean, conversation, during which I was feeling more than a bit foreign and uneasy, “Give me your camera,”  insisted the guide. I asked what the problem was. He quickly explained that they said they wanted to protect the privacy of everyone who came into the mall, and that pictures were not allowed. “Give me your camera, and go stand over there.” Apparently, he either won the argument or was refusing to admit that they had won. Maybe he convinced them that he was not taking anyone else’s picture, just mine, and that the store just happened to be behind me.

I was just happy when the whole thing was over.

You already got your mug, Paul. Here is the mug shot that almost got me mugged.