21 December 2007

Un artichaut, un élément de culture - The artichoke, a piece of culture

L'autre jour il y avait des artichauts à vendre dans notre petit supermarché local. Personne ne semblait vouloir les acheter. Quoiqu'il en soit, n'étant moi-même pas un très grand fan d'artichaut (j'aime bien les feuilles mais pas le cœur d'artichaut !), je me suis demandée pourquoi en acheter mais finalement je l'ai quand même fait puisque je me suis dit que je pouvais introduire ce plat à John (au cas où il ne le connaissait pas encore) et puisque je savais plus ou moins comment les préparer parce que ma mère les a souvent préparés à la maison (après un ou deux coups de fils à ma mere la cuisson s’est bien passée).

John n’était pas très enthousiaste à l'idée de manger des artichauts lorsque je lui ai proposé ce plat pour midi, mais nous avons quand même tenté l'aventure et finalement il a bien aimé (les feuilles et le cœur !). Pour moi en revanche, j'ai de nouveau eu confirmation que je n'aime toujours pas le cœur ! Un pas de plus dans l'introduction de la culture française dans le couple.

The other day there were some artichokes for sale at our small local supermarket. Nobody seemed to want to buy them. Given that I am not a big fan of artichokes myself - I like the leaves but not the heart - I wondered whether I really wanted to buy any, but in the end I decided to give it a try since it was a good opportunity to introduce this new dish to John (in case he hadn’t had it before) and since I knew more or less how to cook it - with one or two calls to my mother, it all went well.

Initially, John wasn’t very enthusiastic about eating them when I suggested them for lunch, but in the end we decided to give them a try and as it turned out, he actually liked them (both the leaves and the heart!). As for me, I decided that I still don’t like the heart!

One step further in introducing French culture in the household!

10 November 2007

Akko - 'Akká - Acre - Saint-Jean-d'Acre

Although we've been here for over a year and a half now, we hadn't really taken the time to get to know the walled city north of the bay of Haifa. This is due in part to the fact that whenever we take the half-hour ride north around the bay, we are generally bound for the holiest spot for Baha'is, the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, just beyond Acre, so this historic, unique and vibrant Arab town rather misses out on the attention it deserves.

Of course, I am speaking only for us two - many of our friends have been often, and our failure to go until today may simply be down to nothing more than a penchant for Saturday morning lethargy.

Though a mere 15 miles from Haifa and surrounded by Israeli new towns, to enter Acre is to leave the Jewish Isreal behind and submerge oneself in an Arab world; and not a solely Muslim one. We are assured by our sherut (minibus service taxi) driver that Christian and Muslim Arabs get on well together, and this is evidenced by the fact that he, a Muslim, is driving with the taxi firm of a very reputable local Christian.

Akko to the Jews, 'Akká to the Arabs, Acre in English, and Saint-Jean-d'Acre to the crusaders, this city has one of the longest histories in the region. The pleasant, waterfront restaurant where we take our lunch bears the settlement's famous Alexandrian Greek name: Ptolomais. But it first appears even earlier in history, 1500 B.C., listed as Aak by the Egyptians in tribute lists.

Over the centuries it played host to the struggles between various would-be occupiers of this region, until it became, for four hundred years, a quiet backwater of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, famous only for being the remotest prison available to which to send the worst of the Empire's criminals, and for the foul stench that pervaded it. It was to 'Akká as prison-city that Bahá'u'lláh was sent in 1868, in the Ottoman and Qájár Persian authorities' (clearly vain) hope that he would perish unremembered and the teachings he espoused would lose their influence and fade away.

So what should you see here? Well, the Turkish baths offer a rather short but atmospheric and informative trip back to vibrant eighteenth- and nineteenth-century 'Akká social life (free entry, but don't forget a wallet full of shekels and some valid ID for the mandatory headsets); the al-Jazzar Mosque is certainly worth a visit and cheap at a quarter of the price of the baths; and there's the Ottoman citadel--originally built as a Crusader fortress--where Baháh'u'lláh was imprisoned for two years upon his arrival in Acre, and Jewish Zionist resistence fighters were held and executed during the British mandate period. Other significant excavation work is now taking place there on earlier periods in the complex's history.

18 October 2007

Turning 30 / Avoir ses 30 ans

So, finally my turn came. By pure coincidence, my thirtieth was a 'back to the roots' moment, as we found ourselves staying at the parental home for a short fortnight's holiday in Britain, and on the night I was surrounded by my oldest friends (and some of their new friends).

Alors, c'est enfin mon tour. Par pur hasard, mon trentième anniversaire a été un 'retour aux sources', puisque on s'est retrouvés chez mes parents pour un bref séjour de deux semaines en Grande Bretagne, et le jour même j'étais entourré de mes plus vieux amis (et quelques nouveaux amis à eux) :

And because neither Natascha nor Mum appear on these photos, here's one of them in Cambridge the day before.

Et puisque ni Natascha ni ma mere n'apparaissent sur ces photos, en voici une d'elles la veille à Cambridge :

28 July 2007

I finally did it - Je l'ai enfin fait

Ca fait déjà depuis quelques mois que je cherche, que j’observe, que je lis, que j’etudies, que je recule puis avance (dans les recherches), que je tourne en rond, que je me dis que si je veux le faire, il faut que je le fasse, sinon je ne le ferai jamais, que je regrette (de ne pas l’avoir fait), et enfin, aujourd’hui, je l’ai fait.

Voila… j’ai fabriqué un livre. Ah. Vous vous attendiez à autre chose? Desolée. Il s’agit de livres, rien d’autre.

It has been several months that I scearched, observed, read, studied, took a step forward and then a step backward (in my findings), that I turned round in circles, that I told myself "just dot it", that I had to do it otherwise I would never do it, that I regretted (for not doing it) and today I finally did it.

I made a book. What? What did you think I was talking about? Sorry. It's all about books. Nothing else.

When you start a new project, it has to be messy!

La créativité en ébullition

Ok, so the book is missing a cover...one thing at a time. I was so exhausted after this first try!

Hum, alors, il lui manque une couverture…une chose à la fois ! J’étais trop fatiguée pour continuer après ce premier grand effort !

To be continued...

A suivre...

07 June 2007

Sambal Olek

Hier j'ai enfin fait une chose que je voulais faire depuis des mois: faire mon propre sambal. Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais j'avais cette envie de le faire moi-même, plutôt que de l’acheter. J'ai suivi une recette que ma mère m'avait envoyé mais je dois dire que je l’ai modifié un peu à la fin parce que le résultat final ne ressemblait pas à ce que l’image que j’avais en tête. Maintenant il faut voir si c’est mangeable…Une chose est sûre ! C'est super pimenté !

22 May 2007

En Mai, fais ce qui te plait

It has been more than a month since we posted something here. Is anybody still checking this blog?!?!

April and beginning of May has been quite busy with our voluntary work (not that it usually isn't).

We took some days off beginning of May to get a chance to explore Israel a bit. It was fun. We went up north (Jordan River Valley park and Safed) to and then we went down south, although not all the way south - "just" to the Dead Sea and Massada. Both these places were great places to visit. We got quite fascinated by the history of Massada and as for the Dead Sea, we had the typical swim (or should we say “flot”) and the mud bath.

Since that, we had the opportunity to go to two other new places: Dor beach and Sachne. We enjoyed both and we look forward to exploring more part of Israel soon!!

Ca fait plus d’un mois qu’on n’a rien écrit ici. Est-ce- que quelqu’un lit encore ce blog ?!?!

Le mois d’avril et le début du mois de mai ont été assez chargé pour nous (non pas que d’habitude ça soit calme à notre travail). Quoiqu’il en soit, nous avons pris quelques jours de conge début mai pour pouvoir aller explorer le pays un peu. Nous sommes allés au nord (le parc de la vallée du fleuve Jourdain et à Safed) puis nous sommes allés au sud à la mer morte et à Massada. Ces deux endroits valaient vraiment le coût d’y aller. L’histoire et la visite de Massada nous ont fasciné, et en ce qui concerne la mer morte, nous avons fait l’incontournable “baignade” puis le “bain” de boue.

Depuis, nous avons également pu aller à deux nouveaux endroits que nous n’avions pas encore visités: Dor beach et Sachne. Nous avons aimé les deux endroits et on espère pouvoir bientôt repartir explorer les alentours !

The Jordan River Park - le parc de la vallée du fleuve Jourdain

Our first barbecue for this year - Notre premier barbecue de l'année

John and a peacock.

Once a Van Kanten (my mum's maiden name), always a Van Kanten. This runs in the family!
C'est de famille.

Our room in Safed. Notre chambre à Safed.

Nice breakfast! Le petit-déjeuner.

Safed. Watch your step. Attention à la marche.

Browsing. J'ai rien acheter.

Street art. Quite impressive if you ask me. Pas mal, non ?

At the Candle shop. Amazin stuff, hilarious stuff, all made from waxe.

Le magasin de bougies.

People in the street. Des gens dans la rue

Massada. Photos courtesy of Taban and Michael.

Impressive. Impressionnant.

We walked all this, starting at the green patch you can hardly notice at the top of the photo.

On a marché tout ça (depuis le bout de vert qu’on remarque à peine sur la photo.

A date with the moon. Rendez-vous avec la lune.

The Dead Sea. La mer morte.

La mer recule de jour en jour. Attention, danger de noyade !

La photo typique. On ne pouvait pas y échapper :-) . Photo courtesy of Taban and Michael.

Le produit de beauté typique. Là non plus on ne pouvait pas y échapper !

Dor Beach. On passe maintenant à Dor Beach :

Nice view. Jolie Vue.

Sachne. Et puis Sachne :

Le retour dans le sherut.

03 April 2007

Pessah - pesach - pessa'h - passover - a year later - un an après

It is Passover period again. Amazing how time flies. A year ago, Passover started on our wedding anniversary so we were unable to go to the restaurant we wanted to eat at to celebrate it. This year Passover started last night ( the Jewish calendar is similar to the Bahá’í calendar in that the days begin at sunset on the previous day) and this year's wedding anniversary we will be able to use public transportation (Passover finishes on Monday 9 April after sunset).

A few days ago, we noticed new items on the letterboxes at the entrance of our building. We presume it was in celebration of Passover. Note that our letterbox doesn't have one, which is fair enough because our neighbours know that we are Bahá’ís and that we don't celebrate Passover. Note also - although you might never have known this because we never mentioned it but - it was decided (by the committee that takes care of the building, or our neighbours?) that is was time to have our names on the letterboxes! So they decided to write ours: PILGR [new line] IMS. Which is totally cute.We remain nevertheless the ones who are living in the Deamers’ flat (they are the couple who used to live in our flat a very, very long time ago).

22 March 2007

Naw-Rúz - New Year

The Bahá’í New Year (Naw-Rúz in Farsi) celebrates the new year (obviously!) and the end of the Bahá’í Fast.

The Bahá’í calendar is as follows: 19 months of 19 days. That makes 361 days. I know. The remaining days to make it up to 365 are called the 'intercalary days' or Ayyam-i-Há (in Farsi). The intercalary days are a time to prepare for the month of the Fast which always starts on the 2nd of March, they are also a period of the year when you give presents to your loved ones and you show hospitality to others. It is a joyful period and there are usually a lot of potluck dinners going on here!

The Fast is a period where you enrich yourself spiritually.

In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States in 1936, we read that:

"The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. It essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desired."

Now, back to the New Year. The Bahá’ís entered the year 164 on the 21st of March. 164 because the Bahá’í calendar started at the time of the Báb – He created the calendar, and the year 1 coincides with the year his mission began, in 1844. It is all a bit more complicated or should I say detailed than what I have just written, but in any case it gives you a bit of an idea…

Happy New Year to you all!!!