How to Turn Conflict-Zone Living into a Video Game

Welcome to the first Packing Lust post of 2014! I'm so excited to get back to posting after a nice, long, good-for-the-soul holiday break. Let me set the scene for you. It was mid December, and Charming and I were looking forward to our family's visit with warm anticipation.  We decorated. Charming made a star-shaped tree topper out of aluminum foil whose star shape would later be called into question.2

Morgan (BFF, land lady, and co-owner of the cafe downstairs) did an AMAZING job decorating the restaurant, turning its already warm atmosphere into a festive tribute to the season.


And then, as if perfectly timed, it started snowing. How quaint. I took this picture with plans to show you what I assumed would be a light, pre-Christmas dusting.Dusting

But then it kept on snowing.


And snowing.


And snowing. Until we were completely snowed in. Except for Jelly, who is an unstoppable canine force.


The power was out for days. Propane was running dangerously low. Charming was fielding calls from freezing employees who didn't have a way to heat their homes, but who were more concerned about the run-off flooding Gaza and displacing thousands. I spent a day downstairs with Morgan and Saleh complaining about how cold I was. They let me sit in the spot closest to the fire, piled blankets on my shoulders, and put their dog in my lap. I went out at one point and got into a life-or-death snowball fight with strange men. I survived and promised Charming (and myself) I wouldn't leave again during the storm.

The roads out of town were closed. My vision of greeting my family at the airport wouldn't come true.

When they landed at Ben Gurion Airport, they had to  make their own way to a hotel in the city. Little did we know, Tel Aviv was sunny and practically balmy.


As soon as it was remotely possible, we got into a 4-wheel drive vehicle and headed for the beach. Getting out of town was like leaving the wreckage of a zombie-desolated city. Cars were sliding all over the road.  At one point, I left the safety of the Jeep to make a mad dash over ice for an ATM. Armed with cash, a first aid kit, extra water and blankets, we started our journey to the coast, neither of us sure if the roads would be open or passable.

We made it. It took twice as long as normal, but once we were out of the treacherous hills, it was an easy trip. It was so great to finally see my family and enjoy a Tel Aviv coastal sunset.


I should note now that this isn't my entire family. My dad and two more siblings weren't able to make it for this trip. Maybe next time.  We had such a wonderful time with our smart, funny, loving, and very patient and gracious family. We made sure their trip included lots of good food, starting on our first night together in Tel Aviv.


The next day it was back to Ramallah, where the snow was melting.


Charming outdid himself with his breakfast spreads. We ate.


And ate.


And ate.


and ate.


And went all around both Israel and Palestine, including an emotional visit to Hebron. Very few people were around, except for the TIPH observers. (Temporary International Presence in Hebron).


The family were good sports the whole time, turning the challenges of 3rd-world living into levels 1-5 of a video game. Level one being getting through passport control, and level five being a moment in Hebron when, upset Charming hadn't tipped them enough for their (unrequested) services, a huge gang of boys surrounded our vehicle and tried to trap us in the parking lot they had lead us to by closing the gates. We escaped our would-be captors by a very narrow opening. Perhaps our good luck was due to all the holiness, including a trip to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Here they are stooping low to go in the door that was made small to protect the Church of the Nativity from marauders on horseback, and presumably, tall people.


We took them out to Ein Kenya, which is a beautiful spot of nature near Ramallah, and home of Juthour Arboretum.  We got our exercise, and my mom, brother, and sister managed to hang out looking like models for sunglasses and active wear.




We went to Jericho and on down to catch a view of the Dead Sea.


The trip gave me the opportunity to do some Gensplaining. I love pretending to know what I'm talking about.


Prince Charming got to do some tour-guiding as well. It was a pleasure when our visitors were so open-minded, curious, and eager to talk about the joys and challenges of the region.


Seriously, family, your visit and wonderful mindset rocked and made every minute fun.

I thank all three of you for being intrepid & adventurous,


positive and resilient in the face of obstacles and setbacks,


and extremely stylish and radiantly attractive.


I was so sad when you packed up to leave.


We love you!