Sunday, July 30, 2006

In The Wake

Tracie and I had a great trip all around Alberta this week. We went to see my sister's family for a couple of days. Eric and Ryker are looking really great! They are so much fun to play with.

We brought Ryker a couple of presents and he loved all of them. He has so many toys already, I was worried that they would just get mixed in with the rest.

After staying with Jackie and Glen for a few days, we went down to Raymond for Tracie's Cousin's baby's birthday party. We stayed in Raymond for a few days and had a really good visit with Tracie's grandparents. We showed them a good portion of the photos and they wanted to hear all about our trip.

We picked raspberries, choke cherries, and apples at their house. It was a pretty big job, and there is still plenty of picking left to do. I'm sure that we could get at least three times the amount that we did, if we were to go again.

Kelcey was sad to see us go, but we assured her that we would be passing through again in a little while when we go to Cardston to see Tracie's other grandparents.

-Gary Milner

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jump!


Jump!
Originally uploaded by Jackie Hutch.
Gary and Tracie are up visiting and it is very fun to have them here. Gary loves taking photos and also posing for photos. He is a very great photographer, I think he's making me look bad. However, he has been doing it for about 7 years now and I've been trying to encourage him to go pro. Which just means get paid for doing it. I suppose he's somewhat of a semi pro because he does get a few pennies for his photos on I-Stock.

Tracie and I were discussing the importance of making decisions. We both find it highly irritating when people are indecisive. Well, not necessarily irritating, but frustrating. It's even frustrating to myself when I'm having a hard time making a decision because it's a waste of time deciding. I'm just glad my husband pointed it out to me because I would be wasting a lot more time on decisions than need be if it weren't for him explaining this to me. The sooner you make a decision the quicker you see the outcome which can be very rewarding if you are making good quick decisions. I think the reason it takes people so long to make them is because they are afraid to fail, afraid to make the wrong choice. But you can't succeed if you don't try. I think people need to be more in tune with there instincts and try relying on them a bit more.

Thanks for listening, and have a great day.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Floating in the Dead Sea


Floating in the Dead Sea
Originally uploaded by Bob Milner.

Jane and I couldn't walk on the water at the sea of galilee but as you can see I had partial success at the dead sea. Jane on the other hand only had as much faith as a grain of mustard seed which may be enough faith to move mountains but is not enough to walk on water.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cousin's Kids

I had dinner with my parents, an aunt and uncle and a cousin. I took a series of pictures of my cousins kids. I can see why my sister likes taking pictures of kids so much.

The two girls were very nice and very friendly. I consider myself to be pretty scary to little children, but they didn't seem to be very afraid. They were happy to play with me and give me hugs.

-Gary

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back in Medicine Hat

We made it back to Medicine Hat early yesterday morning. It hasn't really changed all that much, which is great because it is all so familiar to me.

I rode a bike across the city with my sister-in-law Becky. It was a really good time. I haven't seen so many pickup trucks with one or more dogs in the back in a long time and don't get me started on all the mullets!

It's awesome! Hillbillies everywhere!

I feel so at home.

Megan and Dann's daughter Eva is cuter than ever. She is almost three now and can talk. She warmed up to Tracie and me right away. Later in the evening when I got to their house, Eva had a blanket over her head, pretending to be a ghost chasing Tracie. Eva has a great imagination.

It is so good to be home.

-Gary

G'day Canada!


Welcome Home
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
After a very long couple of flights, we're back in Canadia. It's only been one day but so far things are really good.

My parents picked us up at close to one am after our Air Canada flight was delayed by about an hour and a half and we drove straight to Medicine Hat sine they both had to work the next day. Thanks mom and dad.

After sleeping in most of the day, I finally woke up around 3pm to my sweet little niece yelling "Open the door". She wasn't talking at all when I left so it's very fun to have complete conversations with her. I took her on a long walk this afternoon and we saw beavers and spiders and a train, and she didn't stop talking the whole way.

I went and saw my sister Megan's new kitchen since they won the $50,000 dream kitchen makeover. It looks stunning. I'm so happy for them. They showed me the video that Chat 6 & 3 made and it showed the whole process which was really good.

My first impressions are this:

-Canadians don't think they have accents but they do. Thick ones. They sound wonderful to me. Comfortable and relaxed...every last one.

-The sun stays out late. It was around 8 or 9 pm when I went for a walk and the sun was still way up in the sky. I had forgotten that. It felt like mid afternoon. The sun in Sydney was fully set at 5 pm during winter, and even in summer 8 was about the latest it stayed out.

-Sandflies suck. I already knew that but I had mostly forgotten about them.

-Driving back on the right side of the road will take a bit of getting used to.

-Everything else seems about as I remembered it. It doesn't even feel like a year has passed. I feel like I just went on vacation for2 weeks and came back.

-I'm very tired, but it's nothing the right drugs won't fix ;)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Damascus Gate

We decided to stay in Jerusalem for the rest of our time here, and it has been very fun. Yesterday we went to the old city and walked all around the outside of it. It was a big walk, and very hot. We had taken water with us, and it was a life saver. We had planned to walk through Hezakia's Tunnel... but we didn't really know how to find it. Under the political circumstances, I wasn't sure how safe it would be to walk through there anyway. We have taken lots of pictures--there are lots of good photo opportunities here!
Yesterday, we saw the Church of All Nations, and it's right next to the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Mount of Olives. It was the Arab Sabbath, and there were lots of police at all the Gates to the old city. We walked back to our hotel through the Arab section and a lady warned me to watch my bag because it wasn't completely safe where we were. She said some people in that section were drug addicts, so please watch my bag. I had bought a little T-shirt for Ryker and it was just hanging on my arm.

When we came to the Damascus Gate there was some interesting "goings on". There were huge crowds of Arabs trying to enter the old city about 1 p.m. to go to church. I was told that anyone entering must show ID and no one under 45 years old is allowed to enter on Friday unless they live inside. There was a bit of confrontation across the street of Damascus gate... there were loads of police and two police riding large horses and the horses had helmets to protect their eyes and faces. Some people were shouting insults to the police and there were lots of news media people taking photos. I wanted to but just didn't feel comfortable doing so. Now I wish I would have. Dad was very curious and wanted to stay and watch up close, but I was anxious to put some distance between me and the friction.

We have been enjoying all the food here in Israel. There are lots of fancy restaurants, and we have been trying a few of them.

We have also had a really pleasant time walking everywhere here.Today we went to the Museum of Israel. It is Saturday, and it is the Jewish Sabbath. Practically everything shuts down on the Sabbath. We walked there. It was about a 40 minute walk, and although it was hot, there was a nice breeze. And you take in so much more when you walk rather than taking taxis. We have only the best to say about the museum. It is huge. There were so many things to look at, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, a huge part of the museum had Peruvian artifacts. There was too much to even remember. We forgot to visit the "Bread" Display, and we were planning to see it for sure. By the time we left the museum, we were beat and we were very happy to pay a high price for a taxi and get home!

We're really enjoying ourselves... the news today is that Tiberias was bombed. That's very unsettling. Makes me wonder if Jerusalem will be next! Hopefully everything will be okay till Sunday when we fly out at 10:40 a.m. on EL AL (Delta).

I'm A Fan of Your Work

Tracie and I went down to Tokyo to do some souvenir shopping. I saw a department store with these fans hanging and went in to take a photo and was quickly accosted by the photo nazi who made it clear there wasn't to be any picture taking inside the store. It's a good thing too, because I was actually casing the fan department for a robbery.

We didn't find much by way of souvenirs but we did find a few good postcards. We've been slowly writing to people for the last few hours. Unfortunately we will see all the people in Canada that we are writing to before they get the cards.

Our time in Japan has just flown by. It is weird how I feel that we've been here a long time, but a really short time just the same. I'm excited to be coming home.

I really can't wait to show everyone my photos, although I should probably choose a bunch of photos to show rather than just go through them all. Several thousand is to many to show.

-Gary Milner

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pachinko

To play pachinko, you insert money into the machine and you get small steel balls. You turn a know on the lower right hand side which shoots the balls rapidly into the machine, much in the manner of a pinball machine only rapidly with multiple balls.

The balls drop through a series of pegs and you score points when the little metal balls pass through certain gates. It is a form of gambling, but winnings are paid off in more little metal balls, not money. You trade the balls for prizes such as cigarettes, lighers or small toys. Although it is illegal, there are usually rooms close by that will purchase the prizes for cash.

Wikipedia says that no pachinco parlor without a cash payout window has ever been documented, so while it is illegal, it is at least tacitly tolerated.

It is a lot like the game Plinko on the Price is Right, only slot machine sized with much more Las Vegas style.

-Gary Milner

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bombs From Lebanon

Hello everyone,
We came to Jerusalem today. We took a bus to Tiberias and then another bus to Jerusalem. We had lunch at the Central Bus Station and took a taxi to our previous hotel. Luckily they had room for us.

We walked to the old city and had a leisurely good time. It's quite a little cooler here in Jerusalem than Ein Gev. I saw the weather and it said 27 today here in Jerusalem.

We were shocked to hear that there were bombs from Lebanon in Safed or Safet :( however you spell it... I'm not sure if that was today or yesterday, but we were there yesterday afternoon about 1 or 2 p.m. and it is only 20 miles from the Lebanon border. Our Tour Guide was talking to all the soldiers and shopkeepers, but we had no idea what he was saying since we only speak English. He spoke to us about how bad the situation was since 7 soldiers had died, but I really didn't have any idea of the implications.

Love Mom

This time it's personal

We were in a real nice mountain top town called Sayfed yesterday and sometime after we left, the town got hit by Katusha rockets which killed and injured some people. This time it's personal. We were twenty miles from the Lebonon border at that time but now were back down south in Jerusalem. On the way to Jerusalem we saw tanks going north on flatbed semi's. There is lots of soldiers leaving Jerusalem and we assume that they are going up to the border as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Climbing Mt Fuji

It isn't every day that you get to complete a lifelong dream. Yesterday was one of those days for me. We climbed to the top of Mt Fuji. It was one of the best hikes I have ever done and also one of the most difficult.

It was different from what I expected it to be like. There was a lot less snow for one thing. They say that there is snow on the top all year round, but from what you see in most photos of the mountain, or at least in the photos I've seen, I expected to be walking on snow for most of the way up. In fact, there was very little snow at all, and even then only in the most protected part of the mountain.

People make a big deal of it being very cold on the mountain, but Tracie and I got by with jogging pants, sweat shirts and hoodies. I would have like a toque, but my hat and hood were good enough. Gloves would have been nice, but only for holding onto the guide rope. My hands did get a little cold at the very top, but pockets are more than enough to keep them warm.

I knew Fujisan is a volcano, but I guess I was expecting it to be different from what it was. Maybe more like a regular mountain. The lava rocks were a pain to walk in because it was really loose gravel all the way up.

The crater at the top caught me completely off guard. I expected there to just be a peak or dome at the top. Every photo there is of it, shows a traditional cone shape with a somewhat flat top. I guess I just didn't connect that with a crater.

After doing a search of mountains that I have climbed. Mt. Fuji is at least 2700feet higher than anything else I have ever climbed. In fact, this climb starts higher than a lot of mountains in the Kananaskis.

The whole time going up, I was think about all the times I have seen photos of it and contemplated climbing it myself. It is something that I never thought I would be able to do for several reasons. I never really expected to come to Japan and it seems that I heard once that you weren't allowed to climb it. Having climbed it, I feel very accomplished, and although it was very hard work, I would love to do it again.

There are several routes to the top of Fujisan, and some are a lot easier than others. We took the difficult one that would be impossible for a lot of people. Make sure which one you choose is the best for you. One other thing, give yourself enough time to climb it. It took us 4 hours and 45 minutes. We were going a little faster than a lot of the other people. It wouldn't be unreasonable to do it in closer to 6 hours. We had heard that you could make it down in an hour and a half, but that must have been a different route. It took us 2 hours 15 minutes and we were absolutely cruising. We couldn't have gone much faster and to do it in less than 2 hours would be amazing, not to mention somewhat dangerous.

If you don't give yourself enough time, you'll miss the last bus back to the train station like we did. We ended up calling a cab which cost us 11,000 yen, which is $110. Don't miss the bus!

Fushimi Inari Shrine

We went to see the Fushimi Inari Shrine two days ago. It was pretty amazing. One of the most incredible things there are the thousands upon thousands of arches That form a tunnel to near the top of the mountain. Almost the entire path is covered by these gates taht were purchased by both companies and individuals (at great expense) in the hope of incurring the blessings of the gods.

There is no dout that this giant shrine was incredibly expensive, not just to build, but to maintain. Many of the arches are in need of repair. As we were walking around, I couldn't help but wonder if something like this could actually be feasibly build because of the great expense it would occur. Parts of it definatly look like they are privatly owned, and although it would be possible for one family to put it together, it would take a lifetime or two or if they actually are privately owned, several generations must have built thir home and yards bit by bit over the decades that pass.

This is definatly something that people should see if they come to Japan, especially because it seems so much different than other historic sites which can blend together after seeing more than a few of them.

-Gary

Tiberius

Yesterday, July 12, we headed for Tiberius with full intention of renting a car which we had reserved by internet, to tour with overnight and while we were waiting for a bus to Tiberius a car signalled, slowed and pulled over and then drove away. We figured out after he left that he was actually offering us a ride. Then when the next car came along, Dad put up his thumb and a couple from Paris pulled over and gave us a ride to Tiberius. That was a godsend, because it was dreadfully hot waiting for the bus, and who knows when it would have actually come... we had already been waiting 10 to 15 minutes when we got the idea of hitching a ride! We had a really interesting visit. The wife only spoke French--Tracie you could have had a good visit with her!

Anyway we got dropped off at the Tourist Center which hadn't yet opened even though the hours indicated that it should have opened half an hour earlier. Just as we were discovering the Car Rental Place, a Taxi driver accosted us and insisted that we ditch the rental car and come with him, so that we could have a guide. We had a super fun day in his air conditioned taxi. We visited Mount Tabor, the Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha (the loaves and fishes), and Safet or Zafet, depending where it is written, which is a city of artists. There was a lot of interesting stuff to see there and we really enjoyed ourselves.

There were huge tour buses travelling through the skinniest streets imaginable and it was unthinkable for them to even try, but they seemed to manage without scraping the sides of their bus... although there were many scrapes on the buildings and you could see evidence of many mishaps. Passersbys always directed when we were watching.

After lunch, the driver offered to take us to the Golan Heights Vineyard and Winery. I wasn't interested, but Dad consented. Luckily for us, the Winery wasn't taking tours so we went to the Olive Oil Factory next door. We watched an informative and entertaining video about how olive oil is produced and the by products of olives such as soap. After sampling the various scents of olive oils we bought a bottle of our favourite.

The churches and gardens at all the stops are beautifully kept and we are having a wonderful time. In some ways we wish we were here with an LDS tour group, but it is very nice to have the places all to ourselves, as was the case at all our stops today!

Shalom Elechem.
Love Mom

Sea of Galilee

As luck would have it, we met a girl, Georgia, from New Zealand
yesterday who has been travelling in Israel for the past 5 1/2 weeks
with her mom and brother. We mentioned that we'd like to see more
around the Sea of Galilee but we didn't have a car. We had a really
interesting visit with her for nearly an hour, and this morning we met
her and her mom, Christine Bell, at breakfast and they invited us to
join them while they toured entirely around the lake stopping at a few
of the holy sites and praying.

We gladly accepted their invitation, and for three hours had a wonderful visit and tour. Christine had been living in Canada with her children in Redwater, an hour north of Edmonton, studying the bible, so she knew a lot of interesting stuff to share with us. We had a very good time, and around noon when it was getting quite hot we came back to the Holiday Resort Kibbutz and Dad and I went to the Fish Restaurant for lunch. We haven't gotten up the nerve to order the St. Peter's fish--it's a full fish, head on... but maybe tonight we'll buy one to share. We're very sceptical about whether we will like it, but we think we should definitely give it a try!
-Jane

The truth this time

We went on a private tour today around Galilee today. We saw magnificent scenery today and many revered holy sites such as the mount of beatitudes. Perhaps the most interesting place we went was to was the city of Zefat which is very ancient and now home to a colony of artists. Zefat is near the lebonese border. We saw helecopters heading towards lebenon while we were there and some fighter jets yesterday heading north directly over the sea of Galilee. While we were eating some delicious swarma's in a little cafe in Zefat two tired soldiers came in and told what was happening at the border. Jane and I couldn't understand because all the talk was in Hebrew but our driver told us that seven young israeli soldiers had been killed between yesterday and today and everyone in the cafe was very visably upset. We also saw lots of military traffic on the road heading north. We weren,t able to go to one our promised destinations today because the driver said it was too hot there,meaning that it wasn't safe to go there. I'm going to stop now and Jane and I are going to go jump in the sea of Galilee.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Istockphoto Update

Selling stock photos is going gangbusters for me. Let me just give you an update on how things are working out.

  1. April : 4 Downloads 4 uploads
  2. May : 7 Downloads 25 uploads
  3. June : 30 downloads 14 uploads
  4. as of July 11 : 17 downloads 24 uploads
I averaged one download per day in June, and I'm beating that by 70% so far this month. The best thing is that the stock photos I've uploaded this month are better than the ones I had last month and they've only been approved for a few of the first 11 days this month. I'm averaging 39.7 cents per download since the start. The web designers and their low res downloads are killing my average. I need print designers to get cracking to bring the average price up a bit more.

I was reading the istockphoto forums and someone, some sort of wine snob, was complaining that 99.9% of the photos with people drinking wine show them holding the glass by the bowl, not the stem. There were a few useful comments, and I'm sure that over the next few days a hundred or more wine shots will show up with the people holding the stem, but it quickly turned in to a jokefest about the photographers drinking straight from the bottle or box. The point I'm trying to make is that with a little research before the photos are taken, the photos become much more valuable. What winery wants to show hillbillies not holding the glass propperly? It is the same with everything else too.

Tracie has helped me a lot in this manner. My best sellers are her dressed in her nursing scrubs. The first batch were fine, but they were just a woman wearing scrubs. The next batch are even better though because Tracie helped me with the poses and props, because she actually knows what nurses do, while I don't really know. I'm sure the new ones will far out pace the old ones over the next few weeks.

If you are a designer that needs cheap stock photos, check out istockphoto.com. There might even be a link in my ads on the left hand side from time to time.

-Gary

Monday, July 10, 2006

Kibutznicks

Hello everyone,

Today we woke early and went for breakfast at the En Gev Holiday Resort Restaurant (Bed and Breakfast) and what a yummy breakfast it was! The food here has been super! We love just about everything!!

After breakfast we went to the real Kibutz for a half hour train tour all around with explanations in various languages. That was interesting. At the end of the tour we saw the Kibutzniks docked and unloading their fish from an ancient boat with an ancient mechanical conveyor. It had a bunch of scoops on the conveyor and the fish (mostly sardines) were scooped up and carried to the top of the dock where they were dumped into crates and a layer of ice was added by someone with a scoop shovel.

There were about three young boys fishing in the dock area and there were lots of big catfish that they were chumming. It turned out that the boat had caught three big catfish in their nets, and they gave them to the boys. The boys took them home in a big garbage bag. They showed their prizes to us and I took pics. I'll have to download them later.

After that we got to squeeze in on a boatride on the Sea of Galilee. It was a youth group who had been attending boarding school (at least that's what I understood--only two of them spoke English) and they were really partying! They played loud music and danced! It was a great part of the "Israeli Experience"!

-Jane

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tricycle

A four year old boy was killed by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima while riding this tricycle. The dad thought that his son was too small to by buried all alone. The father decided to put his grave in the backyard, and buried his son with the tricycle so that he could continue to enjoy it.

40 years later the father dug up his son to move him to the family plot. The tricycle was donated to the museum.

There were hundreds of stories and artifacts about the people living in Hiroshima. There were lots of things in the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima that I didn't feel comfortable photographing. This is one story about the love of a father for his son that I really like.

-Gary

Hiroshima

Saturday morning, we got everything ready for our rail trip around Japan. We really didn't want to carry all of our stuff around the countryside, and the only plan we could come up with was to rent a bed in a dorm room at the hostel to put our stuff on while we were gone. That would have been a tad expensive, but worth it in the end. We asked the desk girl and she said that we could keep our bags in the office for 100yen/bag/day. Totally worth it. When she found out that we wanted to stay there when we get back, she gave us a discount on storing our stuff too!

We pack our day-packs and headed to the train station. Now everyone speaks a little English here in Japan and along with having specialized jobs, it is pretty easy to get by not knowing Japanese. For example at the train station we just had to say, “Hiroshima soon” and the ticket seller really didn't need to speak much more to get our tickets ready.

We had to transfer trains about halfway between Tokyo and Hiroshima and that gave me a little stress because the only thing recognizable on the tickets were the departure and arrival times and the seat number. I was worried that we wouldn't know where to get off and switch trains. The solution to that turned out to be simple, just watch the clock and get off when the ticket declared we were arriving at the proper station. That little trick is coming in handy.

In Hiroshima we went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It is a very good museum. In one of the buildings they have displays that deal with historical facts about the bombing along with models depicting Hiroshima before and after the bombing. In the other portions of the building there are artifacts from the bombing. People's clothes, lunch boxes, belts, watches stopped at 8:15, roof tiles and a myriad of other things.

The best part of the museum was that for the most part, it examined the bombing from the point of view of the individual, not from the point of view of a city or group or country. It told the personal stories of people that were involved in a very moving way. Beside every artifact was the owner's story.

Entry to the museum costs 50 yen, which is about 50 cents. There is a free exhibit in the basement. In the 60's someone had the idea to get survivors to do artwork about their memories of the event. There are now over 3000 works. Every year they pick a theme to display and show 50-60 works. Underneath each work is the artist's explanation and story. This year's theme is family.

Adjacent to that there is a photo exhibit. Tragically many photos and news articles were destroyed by censors, first the Japanese to prevent panic and then to hinder research about the bomb by the Americans. Second, during the occupation, the Americans censored what was to be printed in the news in order to hid the true destructive power of the bomb. Several photographers hid their negatives until the occupation ended.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, is one of the best museum's I have been to by far if only for how much it affects you.

After leaving the museum we still had no place to stay for the night, so we went searching. We found a great hotel, called the Parkside Hotel. We enjoyed the hotel. There were kimonos laid out on the bed for us along with slippers. Hopefully they expected the kimonos to leave the hotel, because Tracie really wanted to keep hers.

We went out after finding the hotel to get something to eat. We found a little cafe where you order at a vending machine that prints a little ticket with your order on it. You give your ticket to one of the staff. From what we could figure out, Tracie ordered only half a meal. The first guy couldn't explain it well enough and so they had a pow wow in the back and the only girl in the entire place was elected to deal with us foreign devils. Thankfully we had figured out what they wanted us to do and so we just pointed at one of the pictures on the vending machine, and paid another 300 yen. Weird. It seems to me that if you only want half a meal or just soup or what ever you should be allowed or should have to order more after. Even if it is very weird to do so.

The next morning we finished our tour of the museum and left our bags in the lockers there during a trip to Miyajima island about 30 minutes away by train and then ferry. It was nice, but we didn't really understand what we were seeing, but it was nice and there will be good pictures.

I asked Tracie if she thought that she was learning anything about Japan or just getting a better vibe of what Japan is like. I think that I am not really learning much about Japan but am really improving what my impression of Japan is. There may be nicer parks or gardens than what I have seen, but before I got here I thought that they were all virtually perfect. Finding out otherwise was somewhat disappointing, truth be told. So far I haven't seen proof of the hotels that are basically drawers a la Kramer, but there hasn't been definitive proof against them either. That's one belief about Japan that I plan on keeping until I learn for myself that they aren't real.

We had a great day at the island exploring and trying new things. On our hike up the mountain a short way, we found a little creek with a nice waterfall and went wading in the water. Short on time we didn't go to the top of the mountain. We made it back just in time to collect our bags from the museum lockers and to make it to the Hiroshima train station and have supper.

Tracie called a hostel in Kyoto to book the last two beds. Most of the hostels with internet booking seemed to be full tonight. We called the sister hostel to the one we stayed in, in Tokyo but all they had were female dorms left but they gave us the number of a hostel down the street from them. Now we are aboard the train on our way. We have to make a transfer in about 45 minutes but it is a lot easier than we might have thought before our ride to Hiroshima.

-Gary

Our trip to the dead sea and jerico

We were befriended by a guy that works at the Jerusalem Tower where we have been staying. His name is Samir and he is a Palistinian so he wanted to show us East Jerusalem and take us to Jerico. We hadn''t been planning to go there but we thought this would be a good oppurtunity. He lives on the east slope of the mount of olives with his parents.His parents are wealthy so they had a mansion of a house that looked like a million dollars . There was a knockout view from his house of the valley leading to the dead sea. Ironicaly the neighborhood around his house was quite unkempt. He was embarrassed by that. He was a very polite and cordial host and gave us mint tea to drink which seems to be a palistinian national drink. I'll tell about the dead sea and Jerico later because people are waiting to use this computer.

Camel Train to Ein Gev

Today, Sunday, we left Jerusalem and took a bus to Tiberius, and then another bus to Ein Gev. It was very nice to see the countryside. There was beautiful scenery most of the way!

The bus system is great, and it was exciting to manage on our own without a tour or tour guide. The second bus ride driver dropped us at the wrong stop in Ein Gev, but we got some help from the real kibbutz--they gave us a ride the one mile back to the Holiday Kibbutz.

The weather is unbelievably hot, but the fellow who gave us the ride back the mile to the Holiday Kibbutz said it is the normal temperature. Luckily for us, this hotel is wonderfully airconditioned, and it has cold water for the taking, and a little fridge in the room. Not like our previous three star hotel located right in the center of Jerusalem. The location was the best thing about that room, and the desk clerk who wanted to be our tour guide. He was very nice!!

We're still enjoying ourselves, but we're getting very tired. We have to have an afternoon nap every day, and we are up very early in the morning. That's okay!

-Jane

Friday, July 07, 2006

Going To Market

Tokyo is nice. It is a lot like Hong Kong, only cleaner, more organized and seems as if laws are more strictly enforce here. There are also significantly more bicycles here. That's one thing that surprised me about Hong Kong, there were a lot less bikes than I had imagined there to be.

This morning Tracie and I headed down to see the imperial palace and walk around downtown. We went to the Sony showroom and looked around at their various products. I saw a camera that played MP3's and came to the conclusion that a lot of the inventions that I have in my head actually get built in Japan but never make it to north america. Anything that has memory and micro chips should be able to play mp3s.

Tracie pointed a phone/mouse to use with your computer with skype or other voip company. She really was impressed with it.

We also walked down to the world's largest fish market to buy some whale blubber, but by then it was already pushing 1:00pm and so the market had mostly been shut down and everything that wasn't already gone was being put away.

We went to the park beside the fish market where another one of my preconceived notions was dashed. It cost 300yen each to get in, and they were really in desperate need of a lawn mower. For my whole life I thought that every single park/garden in Japan was so meticulously maintained that they had people cutting the grass with scissors to attain the highest level of perfection.

-Gary

The West Bank

Today we went to the West Bank. What an adventure!!! You can't imagine. We went to East Jerusalem with the hotel desk clerk. He was very nice and we felt quite safe until he let us out and said he would park and meet us at the entrance to the Church of the Nativity. We had culture shock to the max while we waited, being accosted by many Palestinian sales people and beggars.
I am downloading some pictures now, but it is very slow. We are going out to the Dead Sea with the desk clerk tomorrow and we are really looking forward to it. WE'll also go to Masada and Jericho etc. WE'll keep you informed.
TTYL.
Love Mom
P.S. I found some very small nativities for $3.50 US.

-Jane

Dome of the Rock

We are enjoying our trip. We are tired. We arrived in Jerusalem July 4th about 2:30 and we went exploring the old city. Came home about 5:30 and slept until 10 and went out. Things are exciting here on Ben Yehuda street.
Today we did lots of touring beginning just after breakfast at our hotel at 7. We saw everything we had on our agenda, and it was lots. Someone volunteered to be our guide and for $20 he spent a couple of hours with us. That was pretty good. We saw Schindler's grave, the St Peter's of Galapagos church/shrine etc. WE went through the Damascus gate and walked through the old city through all four quadrants. A couple of shop owners took us up onto the rooftop to view the Dome of the Rock and other sites. I took lots of pictures too... too many, and I won't know what they are of when I get home.
We are enjoying ourselves and wish we had more energy. It's cool here at night, and hot in the days. I got a sunburn on the face and shoulders, but it looks good on me.

-Jane

Thursday, July 06, 2006

We're Parked on the Second Level of the Itchy Lot

Tokyo has the flattest cars in the entire world. No one knows why. I'm sure it will spawn a government study.

Tracie and I made it to Tokyo just fine. The flight to Singapore was good and so was the flight here. Finding the hostel was a bit of an ordeal. It was nice in Singapore that we had already been there once. It is a lot easier if you know where you are going. The worst thing about finding our hostel is that Tracie and I seem to work at different speeds, and Tracie likes to go a lot faster than I do. I find that it takes me a little longer than her to get my bearings in such a crowded city not to mention the sensory overload.

I just can't see people in uniforms of differing importance levels fast enough. I'm amazed at how many people seem to speak enough English for us to get by. It seems that most of the numbers are written the same as back home, or at least in both systems so we can at least see how much things cost even if we don't know what they are.

We went to the national museum earlier and didn't even see the whole thing. The place is huge. Their stuff is old too. They had heaps of stuff that was over 3000 years old. Interesting stuff.

I also played a little pachenko. I don't really know what happened, but towards the end, something good must have happened only for me to screw it up. Tracie only told me after that I had drawn the attention of three other seemingly hardcore players that were sitting near me. I wish I would have had more help I could have won some small prizes with my ball bearings. I guess I'll explain pachenko a litttle later.

-Gary

Monday, July 03, 2006

Farewell to the Land Down Under


Gorgeous Day
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
Well this is it. I can't believe a year has gone by already. The sun will set in a few hours and that will be my last sunset here in Australia. It's pouring rain in Sydney today which only adds to my sense of gloom.

I may have a heart attack from all the anxiety. Or at least an ulcer.

Goodbye for now Australia. I'll miss you.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canda Day


Go The Swans !
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
Happy Canada day to all you Canadians out there. July 1st is over now in Sydney but it must just be begining for those of you back home.

I wore red and white today to honour the occasion. Although most Canada days for me have been spent with my family in the tiny town of Raymond, Alberta, this year that was obviously out of the question. Instead Gary and I went for a stroll in the city during the day and then saw a brilliant game of footy at the Sydney Cricket Grounds in the evening. No fireworks but a great day none the less.

July first is the anniversary of our engagement as well as Gary's sister Jackie's wedding anniversary. It must be three years now for them I think. Happy anniversary guys.

In other news a black cat crossed my path on my way home from work two days ago. It was night time and as I was walking past the race course it just darted out from the bushes right in front of me. I'm not usually very superstitious but I really felt an impending sense of doom at the time and I've been waiting for the axe to drop ever since. Which for me begs the question - how soon after the black cat crosses your path until the bad luck comes? or better yet how long before any bad luck that comes your way is just considered random bad luck and can no longer be attributed to the cat ?

Well I'm off to bed. It's my last day of work in the land down under in the morning.

Tracie