A few weeks ago I went on an amazing trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I've pretty much told everyone who reads this blog about it by now, but I thought I maybe should put something about it on here anyway. The reason it's taken me so long? The internet here is SO SLOW that adding one photo to the blog takes so long that the thought of uploading them makes me invariably think of something far more productive I could be doing with my time.
Anyway, the trip was great. Highlights of Jerusalem included the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jesus' burial site), wandering the Old City, and a very informative visit to the US Consulate. Less awesome was the fact that I was horribly nauseous the whole day.
Bethlehem was even more amazing. We were shown around by a wonderful cabbie named Murad who also took us to his house for lunch. We saw a lot of awesome street art as well as where Jesus was born. Many photos were taken. I think I'll just do a picture post eventually with photos and captions for you.
Anyway, moving on. The weekend after that trip we stayed in Nablus. There was an awesome Halloween themed library day (we made the cutest crafts) but little else of note. Classes are going well. I'm no longer teaching at An-Najah University, however. My attendance was down to one person so we added him to Megan's class and I get to teach English to TYO staff members instead. This is actually a lot of fun since mostly it's just me getting to know them.
Currently we are on the tail end of our week long break so I did some traveling with Lila and Megan and am now back in Nablus. Tommy went to Jordan so was not a part of our escapades.
We went back to Jerusalem first so that we could explore more (without me being nauseous and Megan having a cold like last time). I spent money shopping for souvenirs...and stuff for me. Getting to Jerusalem this time was kind of funny because the soldier that boarded the bus at the checkpoint (making sure all the Palestinians had their permits to enter the city) was SO CONFUSED by the three American women on the Arab bus. He kept looking at the visa stamp, then at the picture page, then at us, then at the stamp, then at the front of the passport, then at us. Obviously we got through, but he could not figure out what we were doing there, poor boy.
We also met up with two cool chicks in Jerusalem that Lila and Tommy met last time we were there. We had burgers for dinner and went to a cool waffle place for desert with them. It was lots of fun. Other highlights of the trip included having a gay Arab in the Old City make jewelry for us. Okay, so he didn't TELL us he was gay, but we all knew. I felt bad for him as he's going to be in the closet his whole life. Also, it was fun to see how far the prices would drop when we would talk about how we live and work in Nablus with refugee kids. I got some great stuff.
After Jerusalem we had a brief time in Tel Aviv. It was much the same as my last visit though we had a very American night where we went to a bar the US embassy people all hang out at and ate nachos, drank beer, and watched the Patriots destroy the Rams (they weren't playing the Packer game, but at least I got to keep an eye on the score). The next day we went to the Carmel market, spent a couple hours at the beach then wandered around Old Jaffa where we met a French artist with the coolest gallery. Seriously cool artwork.
After Tel Aviv we went to Haifa where we were so happy to be staying for more than one night as schlepping our bags around was getting real old. Haifa is a beautiful beach town renowned for the stunning Baha'i gardens there. Our first night we basically just got to the hostel and crashed. The next day we went to the beach where a Scottish-Israeli guy fell in love with Lila and introduced us to his cousin who's a lifeguard. We hung out with them as they were really cool. Also, it was the lifeguards birthday so they invited us out to his party and bought us drinks. The Scottish-Israeli guy--whose name is Barrie--engaged Megan and I in a very satisfying debate about Middle East politics in general and the Israel-Palestine issue in particular. It was a lot of fun, and we were all still friends at the end (the way a debate should be).
There was more beaching the next day (which also happened to be Halloween). Barrie was gone to Tel Aviv, but his cousin (the lifeguard whose name is Manny) taught us how to paddle board, which was super fun. I managed to be pretty good at it. Lila was the best, but she's a jock from SoCal so that's not surprising. We were also introduced to a wonderful tuna sandwich recommended by Manny at a beachside place where we also met a bunch of old men spending their retirement as beach bums. After the beach we tried to go to the Baha'i gardens but it was too late and they were closed so we went the next morning (they are pretty dang stunning). We then had a very brief beach visit where we said goodbye to our new friends and headed back to Nablus.
Shalabi, a Samaritan from the village here, picked us up and took us back. We made a brief stop at his house so he could introduce us to his family and show us this fruit thing he did on the ceiling. I don't know how else to explain that one, sorry. Eventually I'll have a picture.
Some of the funniest parts of the trip were us trying not to tell people that we worked in the West Bank. There were a couple of conversations that went something like this:
Person: So how long are you in Israel?
Us: We leave Thursday.
Person: You should stay longer!
Us: Well, we have to be back at work on Sunday.
Person: Oh? Where do you work?
So yeah, a blog post. Pictures will happen someday, I promise. Seriously though, the internet is SLOW guys.