Thursday, December 22, 2005


This morning at the Jaffa Gate, they were distributing free Christmas trees to those individuals who would present some form of ID. One of my colleagues from the Armenian Patriarchate and I went down there just before 10am to get as many trees as our ID's would allow. We came back with 4, two of which are now gracing the entrance to the Patriarchal office.

It was great fun, putting up the decorations that have been used from year to year, to bring a little holiday cheer to our work environment. As we strung the garlands and hung the gold and red balls, bells, and bows, we hummed carols and smiled. Santa Claus is coming to town...Oh, Christmas Tree!...

Monday, December 19, 2005


Christmas day, December 25, is just around the corner, although for the Armenian Orthodox Church, the birth of Christ is celebrated on January 6. In Jerusalem, however, because of the adherence to the Julian calendar, this holy day is observed on January 19, the day after "Bethlehem Day." So, I get to celebrate three times.

Today, after a morning of standing in line at the post office, finishing up some work, and missing lunch, I had a yen for chocolate. My co-worker and I have the same soft spot for the brown yumminess, preferably Cadbury's, and because we're really hungry, the Dairy Milk Whole Nut kind. So I went to down to the convenience market across from the Monastery, but it was closed. Undaunted, I headed toward the Jaffa Gate, and at the little market there, lo and behold, 200 gram bars of exactly what we wanted. I bought two bars and headed back to the office. According to the packaging, that is, Chocolate Familiar con Leche con Avellanas; Chocolate de Leite Familiar com Avelas ); Huishoudmelkchocolade met Hazelnoten; Sokolata Galaktos Oikiakes Chreseos me Phountoukia. In Armenian, it's doorm gaghinov.

On the way, something drew me down the stairs of the Armenian Tavern. Actually, it was the menu board outside, on which were listed available sandwiches. A-a-ah, basturma, "The Armenian cured beef called basturma may be the most powerfully flavored cold cut in the world, less a foodstuff than a force of nature, with a bit of the chewy translucence of first-rate Italian bresaola, a ripe, almost gamy back taste, and then -- pow! -- the onslaught of the seasoning, a caustic, bright-red slurry of hot pepper, fenugreek and a truly heroic amount of garlic that hits the palate with all the subtle elegance of a detonated land mine. Jonathan Gold (LA Weekly)". For 15 shekels (about $3), I bought a sandwich and, munching with gusto, I walked back slowly to savor it before climbing up the 32 stairs to the office.

Licking my chops, I came in and immediately sat down at the computer to write about this adventure, washing it down with a fresh cup of coffee and a piece of the delicious chocolate with whole nuts. This is as close to perfect as it gets for now!!! :-)

Saturday, December 10, 2005


It's been a while since my last post, and it was only last night that I saw two large cats lurking around in the vicinity of my quarters, but they took off when they saw me. So, for now, no more cat stories.

For several days now, I have been mulling over my research strategy for counting the stairs in the St. James Convent. The study has to employ mixed methods, both quantitative and qualitative, the former to express the numbers of stairs that exist here ("lots" just doesn't do it), and the latter to express one's physical reaction to going up and down, up and down ("huffing and puffing" just doesn't say it).

So, there will have to be a problem statement, research questions, a literature review, and some expansion on the methods, and, of course, findings and a conclusion. I am envisioning bar graphs, pie charts, and maybe an evidential picture or two.

If this topic interests you, or not, tune in for more soon. I'm off with my notebook and pencil to collect the data.


I'm back!...Here are my first field notes (gathered on 11 December 2005). Ironically, every time I start to count, someone meets me and says hello. I lose count and have to start over. So tune in later...

Thursday, December 01, 2005


For the past two months I have been a participant observer in the Armenian Orthodox Monastery of St. James, where besides the religious and lay community, there is a large cat population. When I first arrived, there were a few large cats in evidence, and a few furtive kittens. But what really struck me was seeing the latter scurry behind the flower pots near my neighbors' apartment.

At first I thought the neighbors had taken to growing forks along with the plants. But when I asked about the mysterious implants, I was told that they have been put there to keep the kittens from sitting on the warm soil and using the pots as little litter boxes. It's pretty amazing that the same forks are still there two months later, which speaks to the creative use and longevity of plastic products.

As concerns the cats, I have watched their numbers grow, with one feline regiment at the ready in the early morning next to the garbage dumpster, looking for tender morsels of leftovers to fill their tummies. A reconnaissance detail hangs around the priests' dining room side entrance to check out what's on today's menu. And another detail goes around the monastery compound spreading the word, it seems.

In the main, they are not domesticated felines. They do appear to have interbred and their offspring have very interesting markings, as evidence of their lineage.

Recently, I learned that the cat population was being relocated to Tantur, where they will be able to roam freely, and multiply to their heart's content. Their proliferation within the Monastery has ebbed significantly, at least until the next mating season.