I was honored to be a part of this month’s issue of 225 Magazine. They asked me to share about our experience living abroad, including our favorite and most challenging part. If you’re interested in reading it, its available online here (and local friends in Baton Rouge can pick up a copy around town!). Do you have any other questions you’d like to know about our decision to move abroad? Let me know, and I will attempt to share them in future posts!
We didn’t really know what to expect before getting to Tel Aviv. We had seen photos of the apartment that we’d be living in, and I searched around on Pinterest trying to find any images that gave me an idea of what it would be like. The fact that its on the Mediterranean coast left me with high hopes…but I really had no clue of the beauty that would unfold before us. Our first full day in town, we took off walking without a map just heading up to the coast. It takes about 10 minutes to get to this spot from our apartment:
Like I mentioned in our last post, we only had a couple of days before Greg’s dad got to town and we took off again. But after that trip, we had two weeks before Greg’s classes started to enjoy our city altogether as a family. It was the perfect introduction to our time living here. We explored neighborhoods, found our favorite bakery in town, bought bicycles, played on playgrounds, and went to the beach more mornings that I can count.
One of our favorite things is how there are cafes on nearly every corner. And the food is absolutely delicious. It’s been hard for us not to want to stop and try them all out! Once Greg started school it got a little easier since we aren’t out and about all day long;)
Once Greg’s classes started a routine quickly set in. He takes a 30 minute bike ride along the coast everyday to get to Tel Aviv University. We spend time altogether in the morning before he leaves, and then its just Remy and me for the rest of the day. It’s been good for me to slow down and enjoy this time with him. We both agree that we couldn’t be in a better city for this season of him studying abroad. It has surprised and delighted us in ways that we didn’t expect, and we’ve been really thankful for our time here so far. We also agree that we didn’t realize how much we would miss our family and friends back home (we knew we’d miss y’all…just didn’t know it would be this much!). Needless to say, Remy’s and my trip back home next week is coming at the perfect time:) A few weeks with those we love and then back to this city that is stealing our hearts every day.
It’s been too long, I know! Since our last post we’ve moved from Amman, Jordan, to Tel Aviv, Israel. Within a few days of our move Granddaddy-boy (Greg’s dad) came over and we took off on a two-week trip all throughout Israel and back to Jordan to see Wadi Rum and Petra. I didn’t even have time to get the last of my Amman photos uploaded to my computer before we left. We’re home now, getting all settled in, and as I look back on these photos they seem like they were forever ago. Isn’t it funny how something so recent can seem so far away? Nonetheless, these photos are bringing me back to the late afternoon where we slowly strolled the streets of Jabal Amman, our favorite neighborhood in the city. It’s one of the oldest areas in town just above the city center and is characterized by its cafes, profusions of staircases and beautiful villas dating back to the 1920-30s.
We decided to have dinner at Sufra, a restaurant that had been recommended to us, and the setting alone made us realize what a gem this is in the city! I had no clue what would be behind this little gate… We got there just before sunset and the light was beautiful. Not to mention the food was absolutely delicious! So much so that we came back a few nights later just for appetizers;) Something that has been really nice both in Jordan and Israel is how accommodating restaurants are when you have a child with you. They adore kids! Back home I sometimes feel like I have to choose a ‘kid-friendly’ spot if we go out to eat but it hasn’t been an issue for us. Maybe its my own insecurities but whatever it is, I’m thankful to take Remy out to try new foods, and I’m thinking I’ll continue to do so even once we’re back stateside. Speaking of which, Remy and I leave for Louisiana in less than two weeks! Yes, we’re just getting settled in to Tel Aviv only to leave…again…but we cannot wait to see so many faces that we love!! I’m returning home for 3 weeks to shoot a special wedding in Savannah, Ga, and to sneak in just enough time with people we’ve missed dearly since moving away. We can’t wait!
The other day when we arrived home from our afternoon walk there was a tray of eggs sitting on the doorstep. A couple of weeks before, I found a lady in town who has free range chickens and was looking to start a business of delivering fresh eggs to those who were interested. You can imagine how excited I was! Farm fresh eggs delivered to my door? That alone felt like a piece of home to me. I hadn’t come around to buying eggs yet simply because I missed having fresh ones straight from the yard. Fast forward to the other day when I saw a new tray of eggs sitting by our door. I grew worried that I mistakenly let her know we wanted them regularly (she had already brought a tray to us the week prior). I texted her to say thank you and to ask how much we owed her and to let her know we won’t be needing it anymore now that we’re moving. Her reply was to simply enjoy and not to worry about the payment. It may have been a simple gesture but it is one of many that deserves my acknowledgment. Kindness has overwhelmed us here in Amman. We’ve been the recipients of it from unlikely strangers, some of whom we now consider friends. During our first week in town, we were introduced through a mutual friend to a family from South Carolina that happen to have two little boys close to Remy’s age. Rachel (the mom) quickly became a saving grace for me. Be it by picking us up for a play date while Greg was in lessons or letting us borrow the pack n play for Remy to use for this entire month. She’s graciously given her time and possessions to us and is someone I now call a friend. It would be easier for her not to invest in me, a short term friendship with little to give to her in return. But she doesn’t think like that. She (and her husband) offer what they can and extend kindness to our little family. That’s been the pattern for us here. Greg regularly comes home with treats from his lesson made by tutor’s mother specifically for Remy and me. Before our trip to the Dead Sea, I put out a message on a local Facebook group looking to rent a carseat, and a sweet lady offered to let me borrow hers. So she emailed me – a complete stranger – directions to her home so we could pick it up on our way out of town. It nearly baffled me that someone would go out of their way for the likes of our needs. And there was the car ride from a mama who knew we’d be hard pressed finding a taxi after leaving the children’s museum one morning. And the gentleman at the fruit market who gives Remy a banana during our daily walk around the neighborhood. And just today, Susan, of whom I’ve only met a few times, picked Remy and me up for story time and then offered to let me run into the grocery while she waited in the car with all the kiddos (getting to the grocery is no easy feat here without a car). I could go on with more examples. Whether great or small, all of the kind gestures shared with us have shaped my views of this city and this season of us living in Amman. If I leave with anything I hope it is the ability to see opportunities for kindness. To give back what we’ve been gifted. It isn’t easy to move to an entirely new city where life appears very differently from an outsider looking in. But as I’ve slowly opened my eyes to all that’s happening around me, I’ve witnessed the beauty that comes from going out of your way to bring a little joy and comfort to others. To invest in another – friends and strangers alike – simply because they deserve to be loved and cared for without an expectation or need for something in return. To slow down my busy schedule and look for ways to serve my neighbor better than I have in the past. I’m learning that kindness is a language that connects us and comforts us when little else does.
PS: It’s interesting to note that eggs typically come by the dozens here, and they aren’t refrigerated. They are just sitting on a shelf in the grocery next to other dry goods. Here’s a great on why the US chills its eggs and most of the world doesn’t. When we had eggs from our yard we didn’t put them in the fridge. At first it was strange but now I don’t think twice about it!
During our weekend at The Dead Sea, we planned a morning visit to Mount Nebo. Its about a 30 minute drive from the sea on a narrow winding road through desert valleys up to the top. According to the book of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended Mt Nebo before his death and was granted a view of the Promised Land, the lands stretching beyond Jordan into Israel. If you visit today, you get to walk a part of history, to witness firsthand the same view that was given to Moses, to gaze at the valleys below where the gospel of Jesus would first be preached to then go forth to all the nations.
We arrived just after they opened, and it was nice to be able to roam the area quietly with only a few other visitors. There’s a long walkway to the entrance that’s marked by a memorial stone.
The remains of a Byzantine church were discovered in 1933, including some of the mosaic floors created from different periods. They were doing construction on the church so we weren’t able to go inside but they have a small museum with artifacts, mosaics and detailed history of the area. The details in the mosaics were absolutely beautiful. A kind gentleman also helped Remy light a prayer candle (though I think Rem was more interested in blowing it out than saying a prayer;) It was quite surreal to walk around the grounds and stand atop the mountain looking down at the valley below. There aren’t words to explain it really. Pope Benedict XVI visited Mt Nebo during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009. He gave an address that’s a beautiful description of this special site, and its far better than anything I could share with you. So I’ll leave you with that and well wishes for the weekend ahead. Enjoy, xoxo