A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)

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The Space Between

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As we roamed Madrid we found ourselves living in the space between when one thing ends and something new is about to begin.

Our great adventure, conceived over lunch in a neighborhood restaurant two years earlier, planned in great detail for nearly a year — and lived for the previous ten months — was coming quickly to an end.

Endings, no matter the circumstances, always come as a surprise to me.  Where did the time go?

It seems like just yesterday we were wandering through Old Town Quito, wondering if we’d made some kind of crazy mistake by taking this trip.

Now, home was on the horizon: We’d be touching down at Washington Dulles airport in less than 48 hours.  The fantasy we had been living would end; “normal” life would begin again.

On one level, we all knew it was time to head home.  We were road weary and ready to experience the pleasure of a familiar place.

But I know my wife, and something was troubling Dani deeply.

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June 24, 2009   8 Comments

Cris & Pablo

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Our friend Cris was Conor’s third-grade teacher, imported from Spain, to teach in the Spanish immersion program in Montgomery County, MD, public schools.

She was one of several excellent teachers from Spain to come to our community. At a time when many Americans were focused inward, our children had the tremendous benefit of being in the classroom each day with gifted teachers from a different country, a different culture.

We met Pablo in Washington too, when he was doing important research on child labor issues in third-world countries.

More important for our story, Cris and Pablo met in Washington – and when they returned to their native Spain they settled in Madrid.

Little did we know that one day we would turn up on their doorstep, be treated like family, and shown a side of life in Madrid off the tourist trail.

On our first night in Madrid Cris and Pablo took us to a tapas restaurant in a residential neighborhood not far from Plaza del Sol. Pablo spoke to the waiter, then asked if we would like to try to some dishes unique to Spain.

I was pretty sure I knew what that was code for.

In ten months of travel I had been very cautious with food. I didn’t eat any insect or “unusual” animal parts. But with just a few days till we returned to the United States, I figured what the heck.

The waiter brought several small plates to the table. There were a few items I could not identify. I decided not to ask any questions. I stole a glance at Dani and we dug in.

Fortunately, Pablo had ordered the wine as well.

As the evening was winding down and we were about to head back to our hotel, Pablo asked: “Did you enjoy the tripe?”

“I did,” I said.

“And I will remember it fondly if you don’t tell me what it was.”

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June 22, 2009   1 Comment

ADIP: Madrid, Spain

A Day in Pictures
Madrid, Spain

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After three and a half months in Greater Asia, Madrid was familiar, welcoming – and a bit of a relief. It’s Europe. Like home, only different.

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Our friend Gail turned us on to an absolute must in Madrid – churros and chocolate. I had lost twenty pounds in Asia (much needed) – I could see that wasn’t happening in Spain!

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On the day we arrived the government announced that unemployment in Spain had reached 17% – but as we walked around Madrid, the city felt full of positive energy. The cafe culture was in full swing everywhere we roamed.

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Also apparent: We were back in a Catholic country. Not since South America had we seen such ubiquitous religious iconography.

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Not to mention the occasional fallen angel. I suppose even good girls stray from time to time.

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After a day exploring Madrid, our only regret was the short amount of time we would be there.

Home was beckoning, and Spain was marked for a return visit.

Our pictures from Madrid are here.

June 19, 2009   1 Comment

Our Time In Israel

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Israel proved to be one of the most interesting and rewarding stops on our round the world trip.

Even in the short time we spent there, it shifted our world view, giving us a much more informed context for understanding a country and a region that is so easily misunderstood.

It is a fascinating place, where visitors can easily immerse themselves in ancient history, religious philosophy and the roots of Western civilization.

Our report and recommendations on travel to Israel is posted here.

June 17, 2009   3 Comments

Hail, Caesarea

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I doubt he knows this, but Mr. Thurber, my 9th grade Latin teacher, made quite an impression on me.

His language lessons were built around the history of the Roman Empire, fascinating stories of personalities and conflicts that were larger than life.  They instilled in me a love of history and an appreciation for Roman civilization.

When I learned that the ancient Roman port of Caesarea was just ten miles from the Haberman house, I knew we had to visit.

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In 22 BCE Herod the Great he began construction of a deep sea harbor at Caesarea, where he built storerooms, markets, wide roads, baths, temples to Rome and Augustus, and public buildings. The ruins remain.

Every five years the city hosted major sports competitions, gladiator games, and theatrical productions.  The amphitheater still hosts regular concerts by major national and international performers.

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More recently, the port has become an upscale shopping and dining destination.  It is also home to the annual Caesarea Jazz Festival.

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Today, Caesarea is the only locality in Israel managed by a private organization rather than a municipal government.

The Caesarea Development Corporation manages municipal services while marketing a real-estate development, managing the nearby industrial park, and running Israel’s only golf course – designed by Pete Dye, no less.

More pictures from Caesarea are here.

June 15, 2009   2 Comments

Swimming in Salt

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The Dead Sea is dying.

Recently the Dead Sea has been shrinking about three feet per year because Jordan has been diverting water from the river that feeds the sea from the north.

The picture below marks the spot where the sea shore was in 1985.

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Most scientists believe the Dead Sea will never disappear entirely because the evaporation of water slows down as surface area decreases and salinity increases.

And if nothing else, the Dead Sea is salty. Swimming in it is an odd sensation; it’s simply impossible to sink.

We stopped in at Ein Gedi, near the lowest point of land on earth (1,385 feet below sea level) to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits the salty water and mud have provided since King Herod’s day.

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June 12, 2009   3 Comments

Death or Glory

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Masada stands at the eastern edge of the Judean Desert on an isolated plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.  Today, this nearly impenetrable fortress is an imposing symbol of Israeli resolve.

According to Josephus, a first century Jewish Roman historian, Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt.

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About 100 years later at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War against the Roman Empire, a group of Jewish extremists called the Sicarii stormed the the Roman garrison at Masada and took control of the fortress.

The Romans decided not to take this act of war lying down.  The Roman governor brought a legion to Masada and laid siege to it. After about three months of fighting, the Romans finally breached a wall with a battering ram.

When they entered the fortress, however, the Romans discovered that the 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings on fire and committed mass suicide rather than face certain capture, defeat, slavery or execution by their enemies.

Only two women and five children survived.

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June 10, 2009   1 Comment

The Epicenter of History

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In Jerusalem’s Old City, Christian pilgrims visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located on the site where the faithful believe Jesus was crucified, then resurrected.

Nearby, pious Jews gather at the Western Wall of Temple Mount, whose foundation, according to Jewish tradition, was built by King Solomon.  Many Jews believe The Wall is near the spot God gathered the dust He used to create Adam.

A few hundred yards away is The Dome of the Rock, the oldest Islamic building in the  world and the third holiest site in Islam.  Muslims believe that from this spot Muhammad ascended to heaven on the back of his horse, before returning to earth to record his vision.

Is it possible to pack more historic, cultural and religious significance into an area less than a square mile?

I am not a particularly religious person, but my skin tingled as I walked the cobblestone streets of a city whose sites that have been fought over for centuries.  A place that stands at the heart of so many of the great conflicts of human history.

It is impossible to visit Jerusalem’s Old City and not be moved.

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June 8, 2009   3 Comments

Life on the Mediterranean

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My friend Martha and I worked together in the 80s at a video editing facility. She was my only married friend back then, with a real house and even a dog.

She stood by me as my Maid of Honor (guess that’d really be “Matron,” though the word has bad connotations) when Craig and I married.

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Years later, we both found ourselves with baby daughters in our arms.  Imagine my dismay when my friend and her husband and the baby that matched mine moved to Israel.

I just couldn’t understand how she could choose a such dangerous country in which raise her daughter.

I had all the images in my mind from the news: teen boys, faces partially obscured by scarves, throwing rocks at cars; rockets shot into the desert; barbed wire; mourners following caskets; bombed buses and blown up cafes.

And the political situation, age old.  I pictured Arafat.  I pictured Rabin.  Broken treaties, broken hearts, dusty and sad.

How could she voluntarily move to a place of such endless and historic conflict?

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June 5, 2009   5 Comments

In The Holy Land

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Martha asked:  “Have you heard of Armageddon?  This plain, this mountain to our right is Megiddio.  It’s where the battle is supposed to be fought.”

She mentioned the final showdown between God and Satan as casually as one might mention a Red Sox — Yankees weekend series.  But then, Martha’s not a New Testament kind of girl.

We had come to Israel to visit Martha and her family (Michael, Gerry, Ellie and Nati), our long time friends and one-time neighbors.  Mike and Martha had made aliyah, not once, but twice in the past fifteen years.

The second time they returned to Israel was difficult for us to understand.  Our children had become good friends, and it was difficult for us as non-Jews to understand the cultural and religious importance of living there.

As we planned our RTW, we resolved to visit the Habermans in Israel, making it a non-negotiable stop on the itinerary.

And now, here we were, looking at the place many Christians believe the end will begin.

“See way over there?” Martha asked.  She was pointing at what looked like some villas and townhomes in the distance.  “A real estate developer is selling homes and condos to people who want to be close by when Armageddon begins.”

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June 3, 2009   1 Comment

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