Fuji-san: caves of lava and ice

September 12, 2011

Where were we?  First we climbed Fuji-san in the dark, walked around the summit, descended down its slopes of scree, and spent the night at a vacation cabin, Tozawa, on the shore of Kawaguchiko.  The adventure continues…

But first, a word or two about the local fruit suppliers.  Everywhere we drove near Fuji-san sold fruit.  Peaches (もも, momo).  Grapes (ぶどう, budou).  Mushrooms (きのこ, kinoko).   Other local specialties from the mountain whose kanji and hiragana I didn’t recognize.  A favorite rhyme about peaches and plums in Japan:

すもももももももものうち

(A Japanese plum is a kind of peach, a peach is also a peach; both Japanese plum and peach are kinds of peaches.)

Yet, nowhere in these verdant prefectures did I see a single peach tree or grape vine, much less an orchard or a vineyard, despite abundant greenery and rich volcanic soil. Where do they grow those gigantic, dulcet, coral, iconic peaches so icon of the islands in Japan? Continue reading

Nikko: Toshogu Shrine

September 7, 2011

The Uchida family took me to a World Heritage Site outside of Utsunomiya, by the town of Nikko (日光, “sunshine” or “sunlight”).  Toshogu is the most ornate shrine in Japan and also contains the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu.  We drove through the gorgeous Tochigi Prefecture, passing rice fields, orchards, and tall mountains to the north, reveling all the while in the dry clear air.

Continue reading

New England visit

A few shots from exploring Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York with a strong emphasis on water.

Sailboats on the Charles from the Red Line
Community Boating holds a race off the Longfellow Bridge

Dewey, Cheetham & Howe offices
Not quite sailboat related, but still entertaining.

What a cute window display
Her dress matches the coral-print fabric in the store

Anderson Bridge
The Charles River as seen from the Anderson Bridge

Photographing sunflowers
Sunflowers at the Copley Square market

Reflected light
Reflected light on Destiny

Sailing on Destiny
Sailing on Destiny

Through the bimini
View through the bimini

Stern Marge
Marge on the stern

Fireboat plume
Fireboat plume

Steering Destiny
Steering Destiny

Kaycee snoozes
Kaycee snoozing

Sound Structure
Sound structure

More here.

The Desert Speaks

We really had no idea what was in store for us when we pulled up at the auto dealership in Tel Aviv. Something about borrowing “Jeep-type vehicles” had been floating around, but we certainly weren’t expecting almost new 4x4s in the form of Mitsubishi Hunters (also known as the Magnum or Triton) and Pajeros (Desert edition). With cruise control. Plenty of power. Sufficient air conditioning. Amazing suspensions. Petrol costs covered by a generous donor. Sweet!

An eternity passed as we packed the vehicles, rearranged who was in what truck, and eventually set off for points south and hot. Shortly out of Tel Aviv, we passed this incredible cement plant on the way down to the desert. You’d hardly ever see anything industrial this colorful in the US.

Nesher Cement Factory

Dust devils followed us down the highway as we passed farms, vineyards, and fields of corn.

Dust Devil

Our first stop was Midreshet Sde Boker, a kibbutz on the Negev Desert. David Ben-Gurion retired here after serving as Israel’s first prime minister. His intent: to live out his dream of being a desert pioneer; farming the land and making the desert green. The kibbutzniks, however, told him to just write his memoirs instead of trying to till the land.

The tombs for Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula overlook a vast wadi (dry riverbed; equivalent to an arroyo in Spanish), Tsin Valley. Ben-Gurion had hoped the Negev would be the future of Israel and would bloom as settlers moved to and developed the desert. Some portions of the arid expanses have been given over to agriculture, irrigating with wastewater recovered from Tel Aviv, but at present, there are only a few hundred thousand living in the desert. The lack of residents allows for the preservation of the incredible beauty of this area.

Holding Hands

Tsin Valley

Looking out at the Negev

Our caravan of 4x4s then turned off the main highway and plunged into the Tsin Valley. I’d driven down terrible dirt and gravel roads in New Mexico in my Camry, but nothing could compare to rumbling over rocks, creek beds, and sandstone slabs with ease as we followed the 4×4 track to the Ein Akev oasis.

Ein Akev

Fed by a spring half-way up a waterfall, the pool at Ein Akev was effectively bottomless as we plunged into its bluegreen depths. It’s astounding at how abruptly its cool, dark water ends and dry desert rock begins.

Jumping into Ein Akev

While we were in the pool, an ibex came by to watch us. We returned to the top of the valley, and Kim was euphoric to be driving the Hunter we had commandeered.

Kim takes on the terrain

Back on the highway, we continued further south as a waxing gibbous moon rose above the desert.

Moonrise on Route 40

Numerous signs warned us that camels would be alongside the road, but I wasn’t really expecting an entire herd.

Negev Camels

We soon arrived at the town of Mitzpe Ramon (Roman Lookout), a poor desert enclave with a majestic view of Makhtesh Ramon. Makhtesh Ramon is the remnant of a mountain that was once encrusted with harder rocks surrounding softer assemblages. Water began eroding the mountain, revealing layer upon layer of clay from an ancient ocean floor. Small volcanoes left mounds of basalt on top of limestone formations, leaving the floor of the makhtesh dappled with browns, beige, and white.

Makhtesh Ramon

The road we took into the makhtesh had a few warnings.

Dangerous Curves

Again, we diverged from the paved road and set out into the gathering darkness along a 4×4 track toward our campsite. There was some discussion about where the group had stayed during previous years. While we were waiting for Mustafa to confirm our camp’s location, an impromptu dance party began on top of the other Hunter.

Dancing in the moonlight

4x4 sunset

After making dinner and establishing a gigantic bonfire of forklift pallets (“It has to be visible from SPACE!” demanded Ben), Kim, Eric, and I decided to hike up the mountain overlooking our camp (the one in the shot of the three vehicles). The moon had risen a few degrees, so the desert was mostly bathed in soft light. Our path, being on the northwestern edge of the ridge, was shaded from the moon, so our climb was softly illuminated by starlight and photons reflected from the sun to the moon to the valley below.

The first part of the hike mostly involved walking up a gentle sandy slope, which gave way to a steeper hill covered in sharp rocks. We pressed onward until we reached an almost vertical cliff made out of the desert stone that composed the final few dozen feet of the ridge. Rather than go around the ridge and look for a shoulder with less of a slope, I opted to scramble straight up the cliff face. The rough rocks made it easy to boulder straight up the cracks in the stone, though the occasional rock did dislodge and tumble off into the darkness.

I pulled myself up onto the lip of the ridge and almost fell off the cliff in shock at the brightness of the moonlight and the starkness of the other side of the ridge. The eastern flank of the ridge was one long slab of hard sandstone at a 45˚ angle from the desert floor that descended for hundreds of feet down toward the other side of the valley. I was reminded of Vasquez Rocks in the Mojave, jutting out at an acute angle from the ground, perfect for filming scenes from Star Trek.

At the top of the ridge we encountered six or so other instructors who’d taken the easy way up: along the shoulder and back of the ridge. They, alas, didn’t appreciate our hardcore tale of freeclimbing in the dark. The way down was much easier as we passed a mysterious pipeline under construction alongside high voltage wires strung between towers, transformers humming incessantly in the otherwise quiet night.

The next morning we awoke as the sun rose over the desert. MEET graciously provided us sleeping bags but not bedrolls, so, operating under the assumption that a corrugated plastic floor would be more comfortable than a rocky desert one, I’d slept in the bed of one of the Hunters. Better than the beds at the hostel in Carmel!

As the day brightened, we looked at the ridge we’d climbed, which looked a lot more impressive in the darkness than it did in the daylight. Turns out it rises about 250′ from the desert floor, but what it lacked in elevation it made up in the last cliff’s being all but straight up.

We climbed this mountain

We cleaned up camp and set out for the day.

Cleaning up camp

Even Domo-kun was ready for a day of four-wheeling about the desert.

Domo-kun wants to go driving!

We crossed the makhtesh and came across Nabatean ruins along the former spice trade route. This former khan, or inn, along the route was once two stories and was a rest stop of sorts for traders and their camels bringing frankincense and myrrh through the Middle East. The Nabateans were known for their secrecy and understanding of the desert—they were the ones who built Petra in Jordan, and even managed to develop terraced agriculture here in the incredibly arid climate of the Negev.

Nabatean ruins

Our next sojourn off the paved road took us to the edge of an IDF firing range. We all stopped as the tour guide put a call into the military to check if we could use the road. While we waited for them to ring him back, it became rapidly apparent that it was imperative for everyone to pose with the amazing sign we had encountered.

Danger! Photography ahead

The “all clear” came through and we set off, passing mountains that looked like basaltic syrup on top of vanilla limestone, something you could buy at the store in the ice cream section of the numerous convenience stores across the country.

Mountain

Continuing onward along a dry riverbed in the firing range, we saw Mustafa’s Pajero in our review window one moment, then he was gone. Where was he? We stopped to see if he would catch up. No sign of his truck. And the other 4x4s had disappeared as well. Eric and Ben climbed a hill and scanned the horizon, looking for any evidence of Mustafa or the trucks that’d been in front of us. Mustafa was behind us to the south! The other trucks hadn’t waited, but we could see them further up to the north. Fantastic. I turned the Hunter around and we rumbled back along the wadi to find Mustafa et al. changing a rather ripped tire.

Changing a tire

Their wrench wasn’t up to the task, so we loaned them ours and gunned it back along the wadi. Just after spying the other vehicles, we saw a rather intimidating-looking sign.

Danger Mines!

Of course, more photos were obtained.

We climbed up a very horrible patch of “road” (I use this term generously) studded with terribly sharp rocks and big ruts and parked behind the other Hunter, the contents of which were also changing a tire that had seen better days. The manual, of course, was in Hebrew, which didn’t help many of them all that much.

Punctured tire

The road wound up along more wadis up the side of a ridge, but lost the sharp rocks characteristic of the lower track through the firing range/minefield.

4x4 trail

We emerged to a saddleback with the ridges of the makhtesh rippling off into the distance above basaltic volcano leftovers.

Ridges

Along with the basaltic hills, various folds in the clay of the ancient sea floor poked up at the border of the makhtesh.

Sedimentary folds

After enjoying the overlook and the incredible vista of the makhtesh, we started back toward Tel Aviv, pausing to grill lunch at Mitzpe Ramon amid a stray cat and a very deserted sculpture park overlooking the makhtesh and an abandoned housing development.

We arrived back in Jerusalem covered in a layer of thick desert dust, ready to take on our final week of teaching at MEET. The title of this post comes from the Hebrew words for “desert” (המדבר) and “speaks” (מדבר) are only one letter apart. There’s something about the dry, clean, solitary landscape that’s refreshing for the soul.

North: Akko, Haifa, Nazareth

Bright and early Friday morning the instructors rolled out of bed and loaded into the vans for a tour of the northern areas: Akko/Acre, Haifa, Nazareth, and the Galilee. Our first stop was along Route 6 to pick up our tour guide, recommended by the fellow who showed us around Old Jaffa the other weekend.  We then proceeded to drive across the rolling hills of the north toward the Lebanese border.

Lebanese Border

While we were taking in the view and learning about the history of the conflict with Lebanon and the Bedouins, several IDF vehicles pulled up, some with machine gun turrets. Just business as usual around here.  Strange to think that some of our students could be doing this in a year or two. They asked us not to take photos of them, so we complied (they were armed!).

Cow jam

On the way back from the lookout, we encountered a traffic jam. Ben managed to capture the moment, complete with my driving the van surrounded by cows.

South from the border with Lebanon

We then retraced our steps and headed toward the sea to the coastal border with Lebanon at a place called Rosh HaNikra, the only non-sandy bit of coastline in the area. The coast was just as warm as Jerusalem, but strikingly more humid.

Rosh Hanikra rocks

Rosh HaNikra has these incredible white cliffs studded with bits of flint. We took a cable car down the cliff to an old railbed that once ran along the coast.

A tunnel had been dug to accommodate the train through the cliffs, and apparently in this process a number of natural grottoes had been discovered, extending far back into the cliffs.

Reflecting blue sea; illuminated red rocks

Inside the grottoes

Looking out from a grotto

Inside the grottoes it was much cooler, but still incredibly humid. The caves were packed with other tourists snapping photos of the turquoise green water rushing in and out of the clefts in the rock. Think Carlsbad Caverns meets the Mediterranean.  I’d love to try kayaking through here at low tide, or even SCUBA diving here!

Flint embedded in the cliffs

Elephant Rock

We emerged from the grottoes to see waves crashing against the cliffs in the strong daylight.

Proto Grottoes

Smaller grottoes inhabited by pigeons could be seen forming in the cliff faces.

Strange fruit at Rosh HaNikra

We took the cable car back up the cliff and encountered a fruit vendor selling lychee, passion fruit, figs, and a very strange tropical fruit that looked more like a fish than a fruit. It had a texture like aloe, bright magenta pulp, and big black seeds. The folks at the local kibbutz who grow these fruits pollinate them by hand at night.

Jezzar Pasha Mosque

Our next stop was the ancient town of Akko/Acre (inhabited for approximately 10,000 years), including the beautiful Mosque of Jezzar Pasha built by the Ottoman Empire there. While putting on scarves and coverups before entering the mosque, I asked the attendant if I needed something to cover my knees since I was wearing shorts. He pointed at the scarves and skirts, responding, “These are only for ladies, not for men.” I guess the short hair signals “MALE” despite the other visual and auditory clues I provide?  Amusement aside, this is the first time I’ve passed as male since I was once bundled head to toe in ski gear in elementary school.

The mosque was beautiful: calligraphy, marble, granite, stained glass, and a gorgeous dome. Outside, the gardens were blooming with plumeria, hibiscus, and roses.

Change in Acco

Octopus

We continued on through Akko, seeing graffiti (perhaps Paul the Octopus?) and blue doors (to ward off evil spirits, as is common in areas once inhabited by the Greeks) everywhere.

Driving into Akko was pure madness.  The narrow streets are hardly wide enough to deal with one car, much less our huge van and whatever other lunatic hurdling past us at maximum warp in the opposite direction.  The heat was starting to get to me, so I was quite exhausted by the time we rolled into town and I was faced with navigating through a number of hairy situations on blind 90˚ turns in the middle of the Old City as we tried to find parking for both vehicles.  When we finally found a spot and I had pulled in the mirrors, Talya remarked, “you’re such a calm driver!”

Palace ruins in Acco

At the waterfront, we saw the remnants of a palace that used to have a chamber for sea water to flow under its floors.

Cliff Jumping 1

Cliff Jumping 2

Cliff Jumping 3

Cliff Jumping 4

Further down the wharf we encountered boys jumping off the wall (30 or 40 feet high and almost 30 feet wide; survived bombardment by Napoleon’s armies) into the sea. I had half a mind to join them, but the tour guide kept saying, “yela! yela!” (let’s go, let’s go!) so I moseyed onward.

Baha'i Gardens

We drove back south to Haifa to see the Baha’i Gardens that take up most of the slant height of Mount Carmel.

Haifa from the Baha'i Gardens

Haifa is a blue collar port city with Druze, Muslims, Christians, and Jews living side by side. There’s even a Google office here!

Engagement photo shoot

She matches the petunias

A photographer was in the garden with a couple, taking what I can only assume were engagement shots. Her dress was stunning: backless with sheer fabric studded with gemstones. Amazing. She blended in perfectly among the petunias. If I had been the photographer, I’d have waited for later in the summer when the light was lower to do the shots.

Templar's Church, Mount Carmel

Back up Mount Carmel (where the prophet Elijah once squared off against a pagan prophet) we saw a church built by Templars at the end of the Crusades.

View from the Baha'i Gardens on Mount Carmel

We returned to the Baha’i Gardens, but this time from above (900′ higher). The view, as usual, was incredible. The large white building in the center left is used for storing flour shipped in from the rest of the world.

Sunset from French Carmel

We drove further down to Carmel on the coast and went to the beach as the sun was setting. I waded out into the water to enjoy the last minutes of daylight as Orbital’s “Halcyon + On + On” wafted over the waves from the beach restaurant.

Sunrise from Carmel

In the morning I was treated to this view of pink-tinged clouds rising above houses on top of the cliff near our youth hostel.

Mary

We left for Nazareth and went to the Basilica of the Annunciation. A statue of Mary was surrounded by a labyrinth with Platonic solids in its corners.

Ceiling

The church itself was built in the 1960s, but managed to be very tasteful and architecturally interesting.  Several grottoes were preserved to the side of the church, including one known as “The Virgin’s Kitchen”.

Inside the Basilica

Built to resemble a lily (representing Mary’s purity), the church had two levels, the lower one encompassing a grotto.  Inside the lower level, a mass was being conducted in Spanish.

Upstairs at the Basilica

The upper level had an opening (to the left in this image) down to the lower level and the grotto as well as numerous mosaic murals commemorating the angel Gabriel’s telling Mary the good news, and of the Madonna and Child. I walked past a tour group from Spain standing beneath the Spanish mosaic and singing hymns. The artistic styles were all very different, yet it was beautiful to see such interesting variations on a theme.

Madonna and Child from Japan

Japan

Madonna and Gabriel from the Philippines

Philippines

Madonna from Nazareth

Nazareth

Mural from Thailand

Thailand

After leaving Nazareth, getting stuck in some awful traffic, and navigating the highways of the north, we met up with the rest of the group at the Jordan River for an afternoon of kayaking. The Galilee/Golan was less humid than the coast, but was it ever hot. Eric and I commandeered an inflatable kayak and began to paddle down the gentle river, passing by banks filled with families grilling food, smoking hookah, and listening to music. We joined swimmers in splashing one another and even discovered a rope swing. The cold river water was quite the delightful shock as we took turns jumping into the river. Running the rapids resulted in a few splashes, and we even decided to take one backwards in the kayak. Totally worth the three hour drive home.

This week we have a day away from MEET due to it being the Ninth of Av.  We’re taking this as an opportunity to catch up on work, sleep, and cooking.  Last night I made a chicken-lemon-cilantro stew with tomato and vegetables (based on this recipe).  While the store had neither salsa nor lime juice, I think the stew turned out pretty well: not very heavy, and with plenty of flavor.

Tomorrow our students are participating in MEET’s “Apprentice” program: they get to help a startup develop business plans.  Yohanan, MEET alum extraordinaire and MEET’s transportation coordinator, has opened a juice bar with MEET’s student relations manager Mustafa and the two want to double their revenue.  Our students tomorrow get to come with suggestions on how to increase the customer base for the juice stand, and we’re really looking forward to seeing what ideas they generate.

Students arrive tomorrow!

Our lectures are prepared, our labs are tested, but we’ll still have to check our classrooms for cats tomorrow. Twenty-nine year 2 (Y2) students arrive tomorrow, and we’ll get to introduce them to the wonders of software engineering as well as abstraction and modularity. (And no, I haven’t been having dreams about model-view-controller, why do you ask?)

But! Before my life becomes all IM client all the time, here are some more images from around Jerusalem taken during the last week.

Parking

I’ve driven about 80% of the time we’ve been here, and it’s actually a lot of fun. Aside from no right turn on red, it’s like driving in Boston, except you’re a lot more likely to get cut off by someone driving at warp factor nine. One of these days, Eric and I are going to take the standard transmission van out and try to refresh our memories on how to use a clutch. Adventures in transporting eight or so people from point A to point B aside, here are some images of the stunning parking jobs we’ve witnessed in the last few weeks.

Parking: you're doing it right

You see some pretty epic parking jobs around here, namely this sedan neatly positioned under a staircase in the Old City. How did they do this? Three hundred-point turn? Your guess is as good as mine.

Parking: you're doing it wrong (or right)

Mr. Timmons is just as befuddled as I am at this parking job at Mount Scopus.

Cats

Tiny cat investigates

Remember Tiny Cat who hid in the classroom? I finally got a photo of him, scared to death. Unfortunately, you can’t see his adorable white-tipped tail.

Around Hebrew University

Taking notes

We spent a lot of last week preparing for the students’ arrival. Domo-kun couldn’t wait to take notes.

As part of the teaching workshops, we got to teach anything we wanted for five minutes. I did my usual instruction on how to tie a bowline knot. Justin taught us all about vampires. I’ll give you a hint as to which presentation made it on to YouTube.

Working outside

Eventually we became bored of working in the lab known as the Aquarium and migrated out under the trees on the lawn. Thank you, Hebrew University, for having such lovely, shade-providing arboreal specimens as well as strong outdoor wireless!

In Search of Food

Since I haven’t eaten gluten in over a year, getting proper nourishment around here is a bit of a challenge since almost everything is made of wheat. I know you’re about to say, “try the hummus!”, but you are most certainly incorrect: that stuff is like spackle and turns one’s stomach into concrete. We maintain our rating on the stock of Middle East Hummus Producers Unlimited as a STRONG SELL. Put your NIS toward raw materials instead.

Things here on Mount Scopus shut down on Friday afternoon, and don’t generally reopen until Saturday night at the earliest, though usually it’s Sunday morning when most businesses resume commerce. Thus, everyone does their shopping early on Friday afternoon, so by the time I make it to the grocery store on Sunday it’s like a Soviet supermarket with nothing left on the shelves. Since prepared food doesn’t do much for me, I’m generally good about buying my own food and cooking for myself. The vendors at the Damascus gate have great prices on fruits and vegetables, and Mahane Yehuda’s sellers have good prices on Swiss chard and peaches, though the dried fruits and nuts are a bit expensive. Too bad I haven’t found a source of gluten-free bread yet.

Domo-kun and a pita full of falafel

Domo-kun tried some falafel and chips in pita bread. Verdict? “Domo domo domo…”

Wedding celebration

Last night we decided to head out for dinner, heading vaguely for a schwarma place that George recommended in East Jerusalem. After a long and slightly exciting stroll down Wadi Al-Jos (horses! no sidewalks! accosted by street kids who punched Ben!), we found the place to be closed, so we decided to press on to the next street, where we encountered a wedding celebration. The groom was lifted onto another man’s shoulders while another man played the bagpipes. Everyone was dancing, chanting, and clapping. Fireworks kept being set off further down the street. We later passed the women of the wedding party, hanging out in front of a building further down the street and watching the men dance. The groom, however, did not look like he was particularly enjoying the merriment.

We, on the other hand, promptly discovered the nearby wonders of Azzahra Hotel and Restaurant, and did we ever enjoy that experience. Reasonably priced menu for an upscale place (dishes starting around $14), great service, lovely atmosphere (huge windows surrounded by trees and ivy), and tremendous lamb dishes. Kim and Larisa reported the pizza to be amazing. Our rating on this establishment is a STRONG BUY.

Finally, you’ve reached the end of this installment with a dose of this week’s questions. Respond via email or comment if you so choose, and thanks for reading!

  1. What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten in the last week?
  2. What made you laugh the hardest in the past few days?
  3. Anything particularly awesome you’ve seen on the roads?

Massachusetts Meanderings

Before jetting off to Tel Aviv for six or so weeks, I spent a few days wandering Boston and surrounding environs, catching up with old friends, installing window flashing, and trying not to wilt in the (high for me) humidity.

I landed around 11 am on Tuesday, and was picked up by a friend from high school who’d graduated from MIT two years ago. She’s out in the suburbs, building a tiny house—a Weebee—on a flatbed trailer. We raided Home Depot for window-installing supplies (they told us it’d take a half day), then proceeded back to the construction site. It only took an hour to install the window, which looked pretty slick!

Building the Weebee

The surrounding trees and neighborhood were amazingly lush and verdant.  While California is lovely and dry and windswept, I was suddenly struck by how properly like summer it felt to be in the middle of Massachusett’s humidity in June.

Back yard

The highlight of Wednesday was dessert at Oishii in Boston, which was a gigantic sphere of frozen coconut milk containing coffee mouse, doused in chocolate, resting on top of a bed of yuzu ice cream and wreathed with blackberries. Fantastic.

Thursday I caught up with a number of fantastic friends, wound up at dinner with 20 more, and returned to the co-op at which I used to live. The illustrious Adele even gave me lavender caramels, which alas did not survive well the trip to Jerusalem.

Early on Friday morning, I drove out to Hampton, New Hampshire to visit my sophomore year roommate and her mother at a cabin owned by an uncle. The cabin has the dubious distinction of being across a bay from the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. Great place to build your summer cottage!

Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant

I didn’t get to go swimming, but it felt great to walk through the icy water of the Atlantic as we passed legions of New Englanders wearing very little. New Hampshire doesn’t have a helmet law, so you see lots of folks riding their motorcycles without head protection.

Live free and die

I then drove down to Wellesley in hopes of meeting with my undergraduate advisor, but he’d gone home so I drove a friend to the train station then continued on to my cousin’s house for dinner. I saw my grandmother’s cousin who emigrated from Poland seventy or so years ago, discovered how amazing salmon can be when combined with these planks, and played with my youngest cousin who was about to turn six. I didn’t know I had this family until seven years ago; it’s great to be able to choose to spend time with people you’re related to, rather than having them forced upon you.

Larisa and I met on Saturday morning to work on our prototype instant messenger client for MEET, then I returned back to pika for the evening meal. Sunday saw Geoff and I wandering Somerville, then driving up to Rockport and Newburyport, and getting back to Cambridge just in time for a MEET dinner.

On Monday, I met up with Katrine and Sarah to go sailing, but MIT’s sailing pavilion didn’t open until too late! I did get a photo of the new Lynx catboats moored by Memorial Drive.

Catboats at MIT

Kim and I, dripping with sweat, then loaded five suitcases into a taxi and sped off to Logan Airport for the first leg of our journey toward Jerusalem. Domo-kun (どもーくん) decided to join us, as well.

Preparing to depart

The next post will be about Jerusalem! Stay tuned…