Sunday, May 19, 2013

World's Biggest Dinosaurs roam the desert near Palm Springs

Windmills on the way to Palm Springs.

Dinosaurs roam the desert near Palm Springs, CA.
ROAR: Inside the belly of a Brontosaurus.

World's Biggest Dinosaurs!

The World's Biggest Dinosaurs Museum features real looking robotic and static dinosaurs.
Traveling eastbound on the 10 Freeway from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, CA you'll find hundreds of windmills, the Moranga Casino, the Cabazon Outlet Mall -- and dinosaurs! The World's Biggest Dinosaur Museum is little more than a pit stop, but its hard not to be enthralled by the Brontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex that roam roadside. The museum is open year-round for a modest price, and dinosaur structures are pretty amazing, but be warned: The site is used to to teach anti-Darwinism and also "teaches facts" about creationism. We skipped the bible lesson and hit the road instead.

The Living Desert: Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA features animals and plants that thrive in hot desert conditions.

The Mojave Garden.
G-Scale Model Train Exhibit.

Waiting to ride the Carousel.

Serene and her Papi.

Alex's favorite animal is a lion.

 The explorers!
Alex and Serene loved the zoo.

The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA (neighbor to Palm Springs) features animals and plants native to hot desert regions worldwide including jaguar, giraffe, meerkat, cheetah and two dozen other species. The zoo and its gardens are open daily, but hours in the summer are shorten due to excessive heat. There is a carousel, a G-scale model train exhibit, a wildlife show, as well as numerous other perks (like camel rides) that are offered at special times. For hikers, the park offers more than 1,080 acres of undisturbed Sonoran desert to take in for a casual stroll or a strenuous hike through a boulder field.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Universal Studios: Transformers

For an anniversary, most couples celebrate with a romantic dinner and a weekend away from the kids. We went a non-traditional route and snuck away to Universal Studios to take in the big kid rides while our children were at school to celebrate our 10 years of marriage. On an early weekday morning, before the summer rush, we were able to ride several rides (multiple times) without any wait-time. Our favorite: Transformers!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Views from Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

Sunset toward Tel Aviv - Jaffa.

The beautiful Alayon Valley.

The Latrun Monastery.

Serene's tree -- a gift for my daughter when she was born, planted at the Fred Segal Friendship Library at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. See post:

Few things are harder for me as a mother than to leave my kids at home, while I fly off to some place far away. The greater the distance between us -- and the more number of days away -- the harder the goodbye. One of the few things that eases the empty heart is going to places I love. No where is that more true than my home away from home at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the "Oasis of Peace."  My extended family and friends who live in this special village established by Palestinians and Jews who have made a determined effort to live, work and educate their children together set an example for not only the Middle East, but the world. They are proof that people embroiled in a long-standing, bitter conflict can still find ways to respect and understand each other. My work takes me here a few times each year, and as much as I miss my own children, I hope that my small efforts lend its way toward a more peaceful future for them, the children at the "Oasis of Peace" and all those in Israel-Palestine.

Friday, May 10, 2013

On the road to Jericho, Palestine

On the road to Jericho -- mama & baby camel.

Baby Camel!

Downtown Jericho.

Downtown Jericho.

Lunch in Jericho.


Making bread.

A few years ago, a colleague and I started making multiple trips to Israel-Palestine and Jordan. During one of those first trips, a rental car agency warned us to be very careful driving at night as camels tend to wander onto the roads. I grew up in the Midwest so I know the damage a deer can do to vehicle. I didn't want to imagine what a camel could do. We diligently went on "camel watch" each time we took to the roads after dark. But, we never saw a camel. During our most recent trip to the region, we finally got to see camels roaming the roads. We've never been more excited to see a mother and her calf wondering along the roadside near Jericho.

The city of Jericho may be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth. Archaeologists have unearthed remains dating back 11,000 years. Today, Jericho is located in the West Bank, Palestine some 850 feet below sea level not far from the banks of the Dead Sea. Its Jericho Cable Car whizzes tourists to the Mount of Temptation in just five minutes. From there its just a short walk to an ancient monastery chiseled in the mountain side. A great place for lunch -- the people are friendly, the food is delicious and nothing beats the desserts!

Mudding it Up at the Dead Sea

Covered in Mud at the Dead Sea.


View from the Beach.
That's me -- impossible to drown in the Dead Sea.
The shores of the Dead Sea are nearly 1400 feet below sea level making it the lowest elevation on land on earth. It is also one of the world's saltiest bodies of water. Its salinity makes it impossible for any life forms to flourish, as well as easily possible to float. It is 8 times saltier than the ocean. The Dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years where tourists slather on mud from its banks and bob freely in the waves.

Climbing Masada -- The Snake Trail

Masada is an ancient fortification overlooking the Dead Sea dating back to between 31-37 BC. During the siege of Masada by Roman Troops, more than 960 Jews committed mass suicide rather than fall at the hands of a Roman invasion. Its cliffs are 1300 feet high. Its takes about 45 minutes to hike the Snake Trail straight up or less than 5 minutes by cable car. Sunrise brings the coolest weather and the best light for photos. At 6am, just as the sun was rising, I hiked straight up its Snake Trail -- more than 700 steps, so that I could always claim to have conquered it one step at a time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Arafat's Tomb in Palestine

Built next to the compound where he had his headquarters for many years, this mausoleum contains the tomb of Yasser Arafat, a mosque and a garden surrounded by water. An honor guard stands at his tomb, the water symbolizes a journey since it was his desire to be buried in Jerusalem. A laser beam points to Jerusalem from the top of the minaret. (See:

From Palestine to Mahmoud Darwish

The people of Palestine built the Mahmoud Darwish Museum. No foreign donations were accepted.

Memorial to Mahmoud Darwish where he is buried.

The Mahmoud Darwish Museum is part of the cultural center of Ramallah.
An outdoor theater at the museum seats more than 500 persons.

The Mahmoud Darwish Museum opened in 2012.

Steps leading up to the museum.
Perhaps no one is more loved by the Palestinian people than Mahmoud Darwish. Buried in Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) was Palestine's National Poet. An author and a poet, Darwish's literary works are cherished at the Mahmoud Darwish Museum (Al-Biryeh Garden). In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile.