Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 148: Jordan

Let me start by saying this - I found out yesterday that my apartment has heated floors. A lot of other awesome and important things happened this week, and I plan to write about a lot of them, but I feel that if you learn nothing else about what I've been up to lately, you should know that my apartment has heated floors. My apartment in Jerusalem, where most buildings don't even have central heating, has heated floors. This is a geeky reference, but I feel like my apartment is a bit of a TARDIS - it's not necessarily bigger on the inside, but I feel like I'm surprised that I live here every time I open the front door.

My trip to Jordan with Sara was really, really great. We left last Sunday on a bus to Eilat, where we walked through the border crossing (did you know it costs 90.5 NIS to leave Israel if you go through the Rabin crossing?) and caught a cab to what turned out to be a pretty sketchy hostel in Aqaba. We spent Sunday evening wandering around downtown Aqaba, ate dinner at a falafel place and had some of what is now my second favorite dessert food, kanafeh (my favorite dessert is and will always be tiramisu). Kanafeh is two layers of phyllo dough around a filling of sweet cheese, topped with chopped pistachios and drenched in a simple sugar syrup. It sounds a little strange but it tastes amazing, and I plan to learn how to make it sometime this winter.

Monday we broke my only vacation rule (something that happened several times this past week) and woke up early so that we could get a cab out to Wadi Rum, where we were meeting up with our Bedouin guide Radi. Our cab driver, feeling the early hour, decided to stop for coffee before we left Aqaba, and he must have noticed how sleepy we looked because he kept offering us coffee and tea and despite the fact that we both said no several times, he still came back to the car with a cup of tea for each of us.

We met up with Radi at the entrance to Wadi Rum, and he drove us first to his sister's house in Wadi Rum village, where we were served more tea (this became a theme very quickly), and then we headed out into the wadi. Wadi is basically the Arabic word for valley, though it often implies that the valley contains some sort of dried out riverbed. Wadi Rum is the largest wadi in Jordan, and consists mainly of red sandstone mountains that have been carved into beautiful shapes by the wind. We spent the morning hiking and scrambling up to the Burdah Rock Bridge, which looks pretty much exactly like the arches in Arches National Park, but sturdier.

Monday night Radi's cousin joined us for dinner - he brought his oud, and the two of them played and sang for a while. Sara and I also took the opportunity to spend some time stargazing, which was incredibly beautiful - there is zero ambient light in Wadi Rum, so you can see what looks like a million stars. There were a ton of shooting stars, which I now realize was the end of the Geminid meteor shower, and we were in the perfect place to see them. We spent the night in a Bedouin tent in the dessert, curled up under some of the best blankets I've ever used, and then got up early on Tuesday for another climb - this time, we climbed Jabal Umm ad Dami, which is the highest mountain in Jordan. This sounds really impressive, until you learn that it only took an hour to climb, and it's only 1854 meters tall (compare that with the highest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley, at 6194 meters). Still, it was a beautiful view and well worth the climb.

Tuesday afternoon saw us heading back to Aqaba, where we met up with Sara's friend Sandra, and checked in to the Bedouin Moon Village on the south beach of Aqaba, where we stayed for the rest of our vacation. Tuesday and Wednesday consisted mainly of lounging - in bed, on the beach, by the pool... As Sara puts it, we were growing freckles, and it was wonderful.

Wednesday afternoon contained an attempt at snorkeling. Sandra decided not to go in the water at all - this should have been my first clue that things weren't going to work out well. We walked to the end of a pier, looked out over the water, and our guide told us to jump in. It turns out that diving right in really isn't a good strategy for snorkeling, because my body was not having it - I, having never been snorkeling before, was not really able to adjust to the limited quantity of oxygen I was getting in conjunction with the waves that kept crashing over my head. Sara, being much braver than I, actually swam out to the shipwreck with our guide, only to find that the wind had stirred up the water which had stirred up the dirt which meant that they couldn't actually see anything. All in all, not really a success, but a good attempt.

Thursday was pretty uneventful - we crossed back over the border into Israel, Sara managed to get another three-month tourist visa, and we spent most of the day on the bus from Eilat back to Jerusalem, where it was cold and rainy. Friday morning we returned to Women of the Wall, but I'm saving that for another post, because as always I am processing.

So that's that. Hannukah is over, Rosh Chodesh is over, and tomorrow I am headed back to school. We have four weeks of class left before the semester break, and only one day off, which is pretty strange for us... I guess my time here can't all be spent wandering around the desert. :)

Stay warm!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 135: Hebron (well, H2, at any rate), Tel Aviv, and Jordan

The Friday before yesterday, I went on a Breaking the Silence tour of Hebron. I've been trying to write this pretty much since then, but it hasn't gone very well. I had a lot of thoughts about being in Hebron, most of which went something like "this sucks. Israel is doing bad things to people in order to protect a population of 500 extremists and that sucks." Wash, rinse, and repeat. I don't know enough about Hebron to give an explanation of the situation - it's complex, like most things in Israel, and it's bloody and I just don't want to get it wrong. So instead, I will quote Encounter Point
"People on the left and the right see it all clearly. Everything's obvious to them. They have slogans, which they write on stickers and place on cars. But if, like me, your position is a full page, how can you make it fit on a sticker? Who will read it?"
I went to Tel Aviv yesterday for a human rights rally sponsored by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) with Sara, Sharon and Yonatan. Sharon works for HaMoked (The Center for the Defense of the Individual) so that was the group we marched with, but the options seemed limitless - there were feminists, vegetarians, anti-fascists, Arab rights organizations, LGBT groups, and on and on. Ironically, the anarchists had the best organized chants of anyone we ran into - I couldn't tell you what they were saying, but they did it loudly and with conviction. It was a beautiful day to be outside, and was a great way to spend the first day of vacation.

I'm leaving tomorrow for a trip to Jordan with Sara - we're heading to Aqaba and Wadi Rum, where we will do some hiking and some lying on the beach and some star-gazing. I'm really excited to go on a vacation, and to leave Israel, and to spend a few days outside in the sun. I will come back with some new pictures and stories and things to say - but for now, I'm going to make some latkes and enjoy the second night of hanukkah with Miriam and Sara.

Have a wonderful week!
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