(no subject)

I have to post quickly, as I have a lot of work to do, a headache from a bit too much ouzo last night, and an internet full of screaming children driving me to contemplate the various possible ways to stuff them (or myself) into the air conditioning vent.

However, despite all of the above, I'm finding myself extremely content here. Yesterday was the last day of a very successful work week (my team may have found the entrance courtyard of the Middle Bronze Age palace. maybe. well, okay, we certainly found an exterior room with pebble packed floors. tune in next time for the thrilling continuation), and so a group of us (all those who didn't immediately head to Beirut to party) took to the beach. We tried to go see the Eshmoun temple just outside of Sidon, but it apparently has very irregular hours, governed at the whim of its ancient caretaker, and the gates were locked. So we went back to site, and sprawled on the beach below the tell, the beach I look at longingly every day from the top, sweating and sweltering in the dirt. It was quite satisfying to finally jump in. We couldn't swim very far out though, because we were told very firmly by the landowners that three people had just drowned there the day before yesterday due to riptides and rocks. And there definitely were some scary currents and rock action going on. So we kind of splashed about in the shallow areas, not going in past chest height, and lazed on the sand. I took a walk down the length of the beach, and picked up murex shells, and got the shivers. Murex shells, and the purple dye they were used to produce, were what gave the Phoenicians their name, what they and their predecessors were famous for, and standing there below the tell, in the exact spot where some Middle Bronze Age and then Iron Age Levantine stood four thousand years ago, picking up those shells and staring at the same sea, I was transfixed, transported, transcendant, and any other out-of-body adjectives you can think of.

In other news, Uno and ouzo seem to have become the standard evening fare in Sidon. Which is not such a bad deal, generally, except that the competition got so intense last night that we forgot entirely to go out to the Oud concert we'd planned on. Which might have been worth it had I won a single game. ;)

I've also been filling my time with intense political conversation, which I will try to fill in later, as my thoughts become more coherent. Everybody is so deeply enmeshed in politics, interwoven with daily existence to an extent that would be unimaginable in the U.S. It seems like such a luxury now, thinking of home where people are able to shrug off politics, policy and policy makers, and elections without any real risk of their lives being affected dramatically by their apathy. It's unsustainable though, this apathy, and I think that's starting to show. On the other hand, as is seen here, fanatical devotion to a cause, no matter how worthy the cause itself, is equally destructive. Anyway, these are fairly obvious musings, so I will let them go. Everyone else is off at Byblos today, but I stayed back since I've been there and it's not a disaster to miss it again to do all of this work for the Jordan project. So, off to it I go!

Oh, and pictures are coming as soon as I can remember to put them on a pen drive and bring them with me. Tomorrow, insha'allah!
  • Current Music
    screaming bratlings

the shirt before the man...

Which is apparently, when said correctly in German, and German saying about mixing your priorities up. Priorities are an interesting, often amorphous thing, one I've been contemplating a lot as I've wound my way from Jordan to Lebanon, from the desert to the sea, from the Epipaleolithic to the Middle Bronze Age, from extreme recording to an extreme lack thereof, from an atmosphere of relative political neutrality to one of pretty much inescapable political tensions and realities. Given that I romanticize Lebanon so much, the reality is bound to be somewhat disconcerting, and I came in prepared for that. But it's not disappointing in any sense; on the contrary, more and more I feel like this country is one that I would seriously love to spend a long period living in, if only it weren't for the frequent risks to life and limb falling from the sky...Nonetheless, it is both different and the same from the imaginary Lebanon I've built up from a short visit two years ago. So much has changed since then (given that I last visited just after the 2006 war) - I was in Tyre yesterday on our day off, and not only are the roads all rebuilt (they were still bombed out last time), and buildings that I remember as half-collapsed shells are sparkling and new. Streets are alive, vibrant, full of people and laughter and colors. Yes, particularly yellow as far as colors go, and more than a fair share of propanda to go with it, but at the same time, the streets are relaxed, women are walking around in tank tops with other women in hijaab, and they were selling beer on the beach. Even Sidon has made a turn around, and is cleaner (though not really clean, yet), and more relaxed, if slightly less so than Tyre. However, people still speak frankly of their habituation to gun shots and bombs, how they only worry now if the shots are on their street, how they live attached to the news because, despite the carefree and open nature of their lives on normal days, they need to know up to the minute events information, because they often won't leave the house on days that Nasrallah is speaking, for instance, or soemthing of the sort because of the possibility of not making it back. I'm still struck by the paradox of such a tiny, physically beautiful country being the chosen battleground on which all of these surrounding enormous powers fight out their conflicts. Our site is on a hill above the crystal clear blue Mediterranean, and sometimes I'm just awestruck by it, and stand looking from the north, towards Sidon, to the south, towards ancient Sarepta and eventually Tyre, and then to the sea, becoming lost in my romantic daydreaming about the fact that I am standing among the ruins of Phoenicia, and Canaan before it, my eyes looking over the same hills and being drawn to the same sea that eventually launched some of the most famous vessels and voyages of all time. And then something will draw my attention to one of my workmen, Syrian like so many workers around here are, as he tries to explain something to me and we laugh together as I struggle to understand, and can't help noticing the yellow Hizbollah emblem on his hat.

Anyway, this all has very little to do with the post I intended to write, about learning to prioritize the interests of the dig over my own, or vice versa, in the appropriate order, even when I feel that some priorities (ie, interaction with the workers) are in desperate need of reconsideration. But, that will have to wait for another post, and now that I've found a relatively fast internet connection just up the road, that should be sooner than later!

To sum up: I am living in Sidon, on the coast of Lebanon between Beirut and Tyre. It was an ancient Bronze and Iron Age city itself, and there are excavations (ironically, the ones I was supposed to participate in before the director decided not to take Americans) taking place just up the road. We live in the old souk, in a hostel which used to be part of the local Bishopric before it was presented to the current managers family as an exchage; she takes care of the church and the old parochial school, and she can rent the old student's rooms out as hostel space. It's a beautiful old building, even though we have an ant problem and lose electricity on a fairly regular basis (as does most of the city still). The team is made up of lots of cool and interesting people, with incredibly diverse backgrounds and outlooks on archaeology and on life. I think it will be a good season, but it couldn't be more different from where I just came from (desert in Jordan) if they'd specifically tried to make it so. And that goes for the way they run the site as well as living situation. This has its good and less good points, which I'll try to get into as I figure out my thoughts further down the line. But now, back to dinner and perhaps an early night. All other differences aside, it's still freaking hot, dirty, and tiring in this business. But that's partly why I love it. :)
  • Current Music
    Fayrouz, i think...

the difference a goat makes

So, I have a lot to update, but am going to space it out. And it will be a bit inverted, since I'm going to talk about today in this post, as it's still fresh in my mind, and I will talke about last weekend/week tomorrow insha'allah. Stories such as roadtripping to Umm al Jimal near the Syrian border, sunset and beers at an entirely basalt Roman fort overlooking the desert, and the trials and tribulations of applying four times for a visa extension await (fingerprints, HIV test, and photocopy machine hunt included).

So right now it is mid dig break, three days of freedom to wander about and explore the other recesses of Jordan. Two other girls and I decided to road trip down to Petra. The drive was incredible - we went partway down the old King's Highway, the original trek through two of the most dramatic wadis in the country, and then cut over to the Dead Sea Highway, which is just what it sounds like. Amazing views, funny people along the way, I almost killed a chicken, and pics will hopefully come soon. We arrived last night and settled into our hotel, which is apparently still under construction. Half the building is just a skeleton. But the room is fine, if a bit mosquito-y. Oh, and I don't wanna talk about the shower at first, it wasn't nice. But we got it cleaned. So then we cleaned up and headed out on the town, thinking we'd hit up the Cave Bar, a bar inside a Nabatean cave tomb. But, no such luck, we arrived to closed doors, as the place is closed for six months for renovations. Sad! We ended up at the Moevenpick instead, where we embraced our posh sides for the evening (they don't have nargileh. how pretentious can you be? and the table next to us was full of swank Brits talking about having had tea with the Queen, in serious tones. I'm still not convinced it wasn't all a big piss-taking, as they say). We indulged in our stereotypes as well, with the two Americans ordering huge burgers and the Brit ordering fish and chips, and a really bad bottle of red wine. It's very bizarre that this is the way so many people really experience Jordan.

This morning, I decided to go visit Beidha, a Neolithic site about fifteen minute drive away from Petra, and a 1 km hike from Little Petra. So the girls went off to Petra, I drove over and found the trail to Beidha. And proceeded to hike. I think I must have hiked about four km when it occurred to me that there was no way on earth it was any farther, and the landscape was getting increasingly barren and desolate, and it was just me, the chirping insects, and the sheer craggy cliff walls. And lots of sand, of course. Occasionally a small herd of goats ran by, or a donkey wandered past, looking as confused to be there as I was. Finally, a Bedouin tent came into sight, so I climbed up to it, dusted myself off a bit, and found the most beautiful, tiny little old Bedouin woman there. Tiny, wizened face, wrapped up in bright colors, perfect. She took my hand and knew exactly what Beidha was and where it was, and gave me directions in beautiful Arabic (I expected a heavy incomprehensible dialect). Then before I left, she showed me her goat herds. Which I suppose was only polite. (??). So I made my way the extra three km or so back, found the site, and it was pretty cool. They reconstructed the Neolithic houses there, two different architectural styles, and supposedly made conservation-minded walkways for tourism purposes, but it was all a bit weathered, to be honest. And obvioously, not well marked. There was a camel across from the entrance, but that isn't the most obvious indicator.

So I snapped pics, hung out for a bit, wandered around, and then made my way back to the entrance, where I had tea with some of the local Bedouin guys selling it there. Which is when one of them recognized the pickup truck, and started talking to me about other CBRL digs he'd been on, people he knew, and asked me if I knew of this other Neolithic site on top of a nearby mountain. To which I replied that yes, i'd heard of it, but also heard that you can't get there unless you're with the team or someone who knows the way. Silly me. Of course he knew the way. So off we went, and hiked down this little siq (like at petra, but smaller) for about 45 minutes, then climbed straight up for about fifteen minutes (the guy was like a freaking mountain goat, he just scampered straight up sheer boulder faces. I took a little more time, but I made it). And then we arrived at this beautiful Neolithic village, with all of these 6,000 year old stone structures strewn across the flat plateau face and surrounded by craggy mountain walls all around, and the siq below, slicing across three of the sides. It was seriously spectacular. We sat for awhile and I just absorbed the spiritually invigorating-ness of it all, the sheer soulfulness, I took some pictures and looked at the trenches, walls, and stratigraphy (loving these Neolithic walls more and more...)and then we climbed back down. At the base we met up with some of his friends, including an American girl who had met one of these guys last year as a tourist and randomly decided to come back and get married to him this year. They had just slaughtered, butchered, and barbequed a goat, so we all crouched around the dish with bread, communal Bedouin-style, and ate together. And then drank tea together and talked about archaeology, history, life. As one should at the end of such a day. And then I took my Bedouin friend home, and drove back myself. And here I am.

Tomorrow will be lots more driving back to Azraq, with some castle stops along the way. I'll try to make an internet stop feature in there as well.

Until then, masalaama.
  • Current Music
    habibi tunes from the radio

(no subject)

...but i can't seem to escape the tornadoes. Here, they are called "zobaa," and they are basically fast swirly pillars of dust and heat. They spin their way across the desert around site all the time, sometimes in packs, sometimes solo, and usually look pretty cool. However, I have recently learned that it is far less cool to be inside of a zobaa than to watch it from a safe distance. The past few days have been so windy that I have actually been able to wipe layers of dust off of the insides of my eyelids (which is far less amusing than it sounds, if possible) and have kicked up a fair few zobaa. The first one that hit us directly actually came up the drive to the house. Our dig house (white house pictured below somewhere I believe - still having photo uploading difficulties over here) is at the top of a hill, directly at the T-junction of a little road off the main "highway." This particularly ambitious little (relatively) zobaa made its way down the highway, turned up the road, and proceeded to smack into the dig house dead on, while I and four other team members stood outside too flabbergasted (or flummoxed, as I've recently heard from a resident Brit) and a little excited to be "zobaa-ed" (as it's since been dubbed). It basically did no damage other than picking up all of our cardboard boxes filled with cans and bottles, spinning them around about twenty feet in the air, and then dropping them and a nice thick layer of dust back down on us. The second zobaa got me in the car, while offroading from the Qasr Kharaneh (medieval caravanserai where we store our dig gear) and the site, to which I was headed to pick people up. It just whipped through, blinding me for about half a second and throwing another good layer of dust against the (thankfully closed) windows, but I was all excited to report how i'd been drive-by zobaa-ed, when I arrive at site and find everyone huddled together on the ground, having just been much more aggressively visited themselves by the same zobaa, and without the luxury of sheet metal to protect them. Stole my thunder. ;)

We also found a scorpion in our lithics tray the other day. We leave the lithics out to dry in the sun so they can be sorted during lab, and a couple of days ago, one of the other girls was picking them up to take them inside when she noticed an itty-bitty black thing huddling in the corner of the tray. Luckily, our Jordanian colleague was right there, and he promptly stomped the tiny little bugger to scorpion mush. But it was a bit disconcerting, especially since apparently the tiny ones are the ones that kill you the most dead.

We also recently hired local workmen, who all claim to be university students but who all look about fifteen. They're all nice guys, but there's a bit of a weird dynamic since apparently last year at a nearby site (on which some of the girls here worked) one of the older women had an affair and nearly ran off with one of these young Jordanian men, and so they're all pretty much on the lookout for that to happen again. Luckily (?) for me, I kind of bridge the gap between junior and senior team members in their minds (read, potentially available vs very much not), so I usually just get to make fun of the undergrads (simultaneously trying to in them how very, very inappropriate responding to such advances would be). It makes me feel so old to realize that they are the age that I was when I first landed in Tunisia, looking at things with those eyes. And as great a time as I'm having here in Jordan, this is not an immersion experience, it is not challenging in the cultural-boundary sense (intellectually yes, cultural-boundary overcoming, no, but maybe that's all relative? i could be judging too severely), it's a romp in the desert with some rough edges. Anyway, I've also been trying to probe the workmen's minds about the community and archaeology, and basically have received an overwhelming "yes, we love working here in the summer, but really, nobody will care about archaeology if it doesn't bring money." Which i pretty much knew I suppose. So we'll see what other insights/ideas I can get out of them.

In other news, peanut butter is the greatest invention of all time, especially when applied generously to apple slices, and especially when consumed mid-morning after four hours of work.

And a guy just walked in and set up his prayer mat in front of my only exit point. Which means I now must wait till he finished praying to go anywhere, and thus may be late for lab. Ma mafee' mish kela, whatcha gonna do. :)

will try for more photos later, but this weekend we're trying to track down a Bronze Age site called Jawa somewhere out towards Iraq, so I prob wont have fantastic internet again. Until next week then, insha'allah!
  • Current Music
    "Crazy Taxi" computer game music...

ups and downs: unexpected visitors, and the simple joy of water...

This is retrospective, as the internet shut down on me the other day:

This morning we were looted. It's an odd feeling, because one develops such strong moral stances and philosophical opinions about looting in the abstract, or even in the practical, but when it's practical AND personal, all those sophisticated ethics don't change the gut human reaction. Anger, mainly. Not even for the intangible historical value potentially lost forever (and to be honest, in this case it probably wasn't that much as it's so early in the season and the holes weren't that big), but for the damage to something you personally have worked so hard on. Sure, I know in the intellectual sense that a site is not "ours" even if it could really "belong" to anybody in particular (can history be possessed? Different discussion...), but when we got to site and saw those holes in our nice, newly cleaned areas, it felt like somebody had snuck in after school hours and tore up my poster presentation or something. "Those assholes!" was the most commonly heard remark for the first ten minutes or so. Now, in this case, we think we know who did it, and that they are in no way subsistence looters, so that's not the issue. But the point is, it COULD be, and still the emotional RAWR is the same. After we calmed down, took pictures (sorry, I wasn't allowed to), and cleaned up the site, we talked about how it was the guys from the power station most likely, who had come the other day. We talked about how they didn't believe us, how even tho they were there and we told them that this site had nothing to do with material valuables (in a marketable sense in Azraq - there's surely a market for lithics and bone somewhere)they thought we were just those foreigners taking advantage of them, knew when we'd be off, and came back. The holes were half-hearted, too, casual damage, which was almost worse. Sort of a "just checking up on you" kind of thing, no genuine attempt to recover anything. But, it is a learning experience, a challenge in terms of community interaction, and it did no real damage to anything other than our momentary psychological comfort. So, we move on and hope for better things next week.
On the other hand, it is shower day, and shower day is awesome. Although technically, I am staying in the "Azraq Oasis," that name is, you might say, retrospective, and thus misleading in terms of actual water availability. The oasis has been drying up gradually over time, but in the past decade or so it's been much worse ,as a general draught in Jordan has let authorities to divert water from Azraq to the capital. Whereas there was apparently visible groundwater here ten years ago, there are now wide, dry exanses of sand, and we are rationed in our water use. Actually, we have access to a water tank daily, unlike most of the population of Azraq, but, as we are trying to run a socially responsible dig, we choose to ration instead so we don't need to draw on the general water bank. We buy enough bottled water of course for the dig, since dehydration is not pleasant, but we only get showers once every three days. And the water only comes in one temperature pattern: scalding hot for about thirty seconds, and then freezing cold for the rest, and all in a tentative trickle. And let me tell you something, you've never seen stratigraphy like what can accumulate on your arms after one morning in a desert trench , let alone three days. We wash faces and hands regularly, but today was full shower day, and thus, i am happy.

Now, real time:

Today was break day and we drove up to Amman last night, saw the new Indiana Jones as an archaeological group. It was a lot of fun - I must say, I was not happy about the aliens though. That is all I will say about that. But Indy was his fantastic self, and still my role model for most things in life. And the old school cinematography was fun. :) Then we headed out to Madaba, where we stayed in a hotel and spent the next day lounging by the pool with shisha, wandering around looking at sites and mosaics, and chuckling at the earnestness of a new group of Peace Corps volunteers being initiated in the conference room (sorry, Mel ;) ). I will try to write more about this later, but for now, here's another attempt at some photos:

  • Current Music
    splashing in the pool

ancient counting, the smell of burning sand, and the advent of the fruit people

Briefly, a retraction/correction: previously, it was stated that I am staying 56 km from the Iraqi border. That was meant to read 156 km. The editors extend their apologies.

In other news, Joe, the son of one of our specialists, has taken to calling us all by fruit and veggie (and in one case, grain) - inspired nicknames. I, for instance, am now "Pineapple Lady." I think this has something to do with the yellow bandana I had on at the time of naming. It could be worse. Andrew, a redheaded guy, is now "Carrot Man" and Tove, a redheaded girl, was going to be "Carrot Woman" until he remembered it was redundant, and changed her inexplicably to "Rice Lady."

I am at the moment in Amman, at the CBRL, enjoying a brief moment with air conditioning and high speed internet. We're here for several reasons. First, it's our day off, and we ran out of beer at the house. Second, we had to take some of the specialists to the airport as they're leaving today. Third, yesterday, the pickup truck broke. No, I didn't do it. Well, I mostly didn't do it. The little disk in the clutch was worn way down, and I got stuck in some deepish sand out near site and spun the wheels a bit too hard, throwing sand up into the gear box, which then wore the disk the rest of the way down. And man, sand burning under the hood while you try shifting gears all the way back home is not high on my list of pleasant fragrances. Not particularly wanting to push our luck and possibly end up broken down completely in the desert somewhere, we had it brought to Amman for fixing and are going to drive it back tonight. And I am going to just back up out of sandy areas and not force my way through them in the future.

On site, we've only just gotten through the backfill levels from the previous excavations in the 1980s, and are hitting in situ stratigraphic levels now. That means we took off all the old dirt that they'd used to cover up their work, and now we've come down to levels that people were actually living on and using 16,000-20,000 years ago. We'll start digging those tomorrow, and my area looks extremely promising. We've already, just in the unstratified levels, found three notched counting bones -- basically long bones from gazelle, cow, etc, which are notched in increments along the length, probably for counting purposes (although really, who knows? it's the most logical, but who says logic has anything to do with it). Also we found two tapered bone tools, made from gazelle ulna, which Louise (our bone specialist) tells us is a bone she's never seen used for that purpose before. Also a denticulated (decoratively notched) mother of pearl shell, a bunch of shell beads, and of course bags and bags of worked lithics. We also have several hard, compacted surfaces coming up, in our area where the previous excavator recorded hearth features and post holes. It would be pretty awesome to find the remains of a 16,000 year old house.

I also have a new project! I will soon be re-working and expanding the project's community involvement plan - working with both the legal and social aspects of heritage management and community involvement to integrate the archaeological site into public awareness and making it economically sustainable as a resource. This will be fantastic, of course, but really quite complicated. It's much harder to garner interest for sites from this period, which lack much that's visually stimulating unless you know a lot about it. Also, the site shows signs of being constantly driven over by the quarrying trucks, and convincing them that it's worth their while to go around will be interesting. We had a truck from the electric company come roaring up right on site the other day, almost into a trench, and the men in it started yelling and cursing at us because they thought we were hunting for gold. When they realized it was just flint, and that we were permitted, they immediately lost interest and drove off. Collaboration is tough with attitudes and deeply rooted impressions like that. But, fortunately in many ways, the site is not far from one of the Desert Castles, which is on a not infrequent tourist route, so it may be possible to tie it into that. Anyway, I'm psyched, and will let you know more as I meet with people this week.

Okay, let's see if I can upload a few pics:

  • Current Music
    it's a library, shhhh

Alive! I sunburn, therefore I am...

I have to admit, in an unabashedly undeserved and gloating way, that I'm feeling pretty badass these days. I got to Jordan last Thursday with no problems, and since then have been driving half the dig team around in this ancient old red pickup truck (manual, what what. AND it's been three years since I drove one), off-roading through the desert with the occasional pitstop to run up and down a dune, change a flat tire or two in the middle of nowhere with limited available tools, and pick up some 20,000 + year old stone tools. The sun is not merciful to my England-bleached skin, and I think I may have a layer of dirt permanently caked to my body, more thoroughly than seems right, but it feels great to hurt and sweat a little bit again. It was a long, slow, rainy winter. I'm missing all my friends everywhere, as usual, but I'm pretty sure there's almost nowhere else I'd rather be at the moment, unless it were a slightly later site where people had figured out how to make pottery already and left us a little more architecture to work with. I did get in a very heated conversation with one other girl here which at the time pissed me off a bit, but actually then it triggered this whole really amazing brainstorming stream (sitting on the roof of the dig house while everybody napped this afternoon, furiously free-writing and guzzling mint tea)and I think I'm on to a couple of things...I will have to write more, and more coherently, in the next few days, since this internet is insanely slow and the network is clogged by the entire teenage male population of Azraq downloading porn and playing online games. I have tons of photos, too, which I will try to get uploaded this weekend when we drive back to 'Amman. Living in such close quarters with ten other people constantly is going to take some getting used to again, but so far it's been more a good roller coaster than a bad. So briefly: Azraq is two streets in the middle of a truck stop on the trucking route between Iraq and Saudi (we're 56 km from the former, 82 km from the latter), they don't always understand my Egyptian Arabic but I'm picking up more local language everyday (and think I want to go to Damascus for a bit to learn Arabic properly), the dig house is fantastic, only two people to a room, a cook, a roof to sit on facing the basalt Black Desert, people are generally awesome, and I'm slowly but surely developing an appreciation for lithics. I actually got to do bone today, which was a blast, hope to keep that up, and have been working more with the Total Station/GIS, which is also good as I want to do more with landscapes. Waking up at 3:30 am to be onsite by 5 am (half an hour drive) sucks, but desert sunrises are beautiful. Oh, and of course the camels make me endlessly happy. It's a totally different Jordan from the one I experienced the last time through, and I have some disjointed thoughts on that note, but they'll wait for this weekend. Till then, keep in touch, and masalaama!

  • Current Music
    soundtrack from some soccer computer game next to me

had we but world enough and time...

ok, so finally here's the israel/palestine pics from spring break:

israeli/Egypt border, Taba/Eilat. We spent a long time waiting in line trying to figure these deer out. still not a clue. suggestions are welcome:

assorted scenes of easter craziness in jerusalem, including assembled ethiopians at the Coptic patriarchal seat, a parade of koreans dressed as jesus and co., and mass hysteria at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus was supposedly crucified, altho this is debated among theologians and scholars alike. anyway, the stone slab people are laying all their stuff on is supposedly the slab jesus was laid out on after crucifixion), and general crowdedness in the old city:

now here's me at the Western Wall (last standing wall of the temple complex of King Solomon, pretty much the holiest place in Judaism)...actually at it at it,view from a distance, and then in front of it, and then a Jewish quarter street scene and a shopfront in the Cardo, this long market street that has been excavated down to the byzantine and roman levels and now is being revived for its original use at the original streetlevel:

aaaand then we went to bethlehem. there were more pilgrims. this time from india, mostly, for some reason, altho we were on the bus with a bunch of philipinos who then proceeded to take our picture at the separation barrier with them. as a great fan of irony, i really wish i had that picture, but unfortunately, i don't. so here are some separation barrier pics, then some bethlehem pics, mostly at the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was supposedly born. The one with the kneeling person under the altar is supposedly the literal birthplace of Jesus, and right behind that was the manger itself, which is the white-shrouded deal in the next pic. oh and then there's the weirdo bunny rabbit setup they had going on, and the city center:

hmmm and then we went to the dead sea. that mud we've got all over us is all mineral-rich and supposedly miraculously good and healing, etc. we had quite and adventure getting here, and actually ended up at a random semi-private campsite, but nobody cared, and it turned out quite fun, even tho all we had to eat for the day was a bag of easter candy and we ended up having to hitchhike back. so here i am doing the typical floating while reading spiel, and then there's jessie floating/flying, and then some beach shots, and some shots of the bushes we changed in, and the cool mud and my foot (sorry, i refuse to post bikini pics,so u don't get to see me covered in mud. i know ur disappointed.), and waiting at the bus stop for the bus that never came....:

ok, so then we went back to j-town and went to the temple mount, where we hung out in front of the dome of the rock but weren't allowed in. it was the most peaceful place in the whole city, even in the two hours allotted for us tourists (only muslims are allowed up there otherwise). here's some pics of the dome, and some kids playing round the mount:

and, just for kicks, here's me with one of our, as you can see, fabulously varied and plentiful meals. actually, we just bought the bagel. and the bagel guy felt so bad for us that he gave us a free falafel balll and a free packet of zataar. then the falafel ball tasted like fish so we threw it away and the wind blew all the zataar away. sigh. this was a pretty standard lunch. yaaay impoverished backpacking....:

and here's a few random pics of riding at the pyramids, out with the interns, etc, just cuz :)

oh, and we took a tour of the Desert Development Center (DDC) where jessie works. aren't we cute. and doesnt it not look like egypt.....those are Swiss cows, and Australian pine trees....and grass.....weeeeird. the last two shots are where they grow the tons of forests of little baby pine trees which they water from a canal from the nile, next pic:

ok that's enough playing around for now. :) enjoy!
  • Current Music
    the humming my head...

now or never

spring break photo time!! woohoo!

this trip was crazy, and long, and complicated, so i'm gonna do this sort of photo-album instead of entry + photos, with some short captions with each, so you can just scan the photos if you want and don't have to read a really long rendition of all the absurdities that the trip entailed. and if you do want, leave me a note and i'll expand any stories. :)

ok, so we started out taking a 7-hour bus from Cairo to St. Katherine's monastery, at the foot of Mt. Sinai. We arrived late in the evening, and proceed to climb the mountain right then and there, arriving at the top around 10 pm or so. We slept in this bedouin guy's cafeteria cuz it was effing freezing and we couldn't afford enough blankets to sleep outside. then at 4 am we got up and watched the sunrise from the summit. us and five million other tourists, most of whom rode camels up just in time for the sunrise, but some of whom were savvy-er backpackers than us and actually had sleeping bags. This is the top of the mountain, from night when we got there into sunrise, with me wrapped in a blanket (cooooold!!) and in front of the cliffs, etc:

here are some shots of all the people/backpackers/bedouins/one really intense japanese religious group singing hallelujah songs who were all at the summit with us:

ok, now lots of pics of rocks and mountainous crags and such that we encountered on the way down. The way up we took the camel path (dirt road up the far side of the mt from the monastery) plus 750 steps to the summit, and it was dark, but on the way down then next day we went down the full Steps of Repentance - 3750 big stone steps that some monk carved out to repent for lord knows what. anyway, they were much more fun down in the daylight than (i imagine) up in the dark:

ok i suppose that's enough rocks for you to look at...it was pretty cool tho. next, we hung out at st. katherine's monastery, where there's supposedly a descendent of the original burning bush. i wasn't too impressed and i was too tired to fake it, so i don't have any photos worth posting of that. but next we climbed on a bus to Dahab, where we spent a couple of days snorkeling, horseback riding, and lazing on the beach gazing across the Red Sea at Saudi Arabia. Here you see me on a windy day, the Blue Hole where we snorkeled and where I only after discovered there are lots of scary sharks and current-related diver deaths, a camel that jessie befriended, us on horseback, tucker and a shisha as we lazed on the beach. there are better pics from here, but i havent stolen them from catherine yet:

so after that loveliness, we proceeded to cross the border from Taba (Egypt) into Eilat (Israel) where we hoped to just sort of scamper across the city to the border with Aqaba (Jordan). This was our route to avoid the Ferry of Death, as Jessie referred so eloquently to the direct Egypt-Jordan ferry that has a tendency to sink mid-transit....however, we got held up at the Israeli border for 8 hours (ok, let's be honest. I got stamped immediately. my friends got held up for 8 hours. you can't say the Israelis pretend not to profile...) So we ended up homeless in Eilat for the night, which we spent sleeping on this beach (if you want a long, elaborate rant on my feelings about this decision,and the long version of the story, feel free to drop me a line):

eilat had a wierd quasi-westernized mock-americanized thing going on too....:

ok, so moving on, we ended up in Wadi Rum the next day - which is this big valley/desert in southern jordan with all kinds of fun rock formations and sandy dune-y-ness, and we rode horses through it for a few hours. It's where TE Lawrence hung out and thus where much of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, and pretty spectacular. again, pics dont really do justice. must steal better ones from catherine soon, but here's an idea of me on my 4 1/2 yr old recently gelded psycho horse (it was a blast - i have never seen scenery go by that fast, but he totally blistered up both my hands) and some of the valley prettiness:

neeeext, we headed north to Petra - an ancient Nabatean city and series of tombs carved out of the living rock in this natural canyon - not actually a canyon in the sense that we think of them, like carved out of rock by water over millenia, but actually these rocks were wrenched apart by earthquakes and such tectonic shiftings. then people moved in and noticed the pretty rocks (the colors are unbelievable) and started carving things into them, most impressively from about the 6th century BCE on. the Nabateans were cool like the Phoenicians. I wanna get back here professionally as well as personally. :)

ok, and i only have one of Karak, the crusader castle we stopped at on our way from Petra to Amman, where we met Tom, who is doing a world tour on motorbike and who is now hanging out in Cairo for awhile:

and now i must go teach. so i will have to post israel/palestine later! enjoy for now!
  • Current Mood
    rushed rushed

i just wanted to post from NOT cairo....

cuz i always have to put some variation of "Cairo" in the "my location" box below....and i figured I'd shake it up a bit.... ;) anyway, in the last 48 hours or so I have:

- climbed Mt Sinai by moonlight and watched the sunrise from the summit
- gotten into a big argument with the bedouins at the top of Mt Sinai about how they were trying to cheat us and then stayed up most of the night watching my back...
- checked out St Katherine's monastery and what they claim is the descendent of the Burning Bush. That's right folks, THAT Burning Bush. Yeah. The wooden carved doors on the church were cool tho.
- snorkeled myself silly in Dahab, around the "Blue Hole," a coral reef formation that is basically that....a ring of reef around a hole which, being the sea, is blue.
- rode horses on the beach at sunset (im so hopeless)
- fell asleep too early to actually do anything exciting last night. i know, i'm lame. but i will go out tonight. ahem. i hope.

So yeah, the short story is (don't remember what else I've posted on this note and am too lazy to check) Jessie, Catherine, C's friend Marcia and until recently her friend Tucker (he went back to the US today) are traveling thru Sinai (check) and then heading to Jordan, where we will ride (horses of course) thru the desert bordering Jordan/Saudi Arabia, check out Petra (if you don't know what that is, google it now! Awesome ancient Nabatean - c. 6th century BCE - site), and perhaps make it up to either Madaba (byzantine stuff, Mt. Nebo to be climbed - that's the mountain from which Moses viewed the Promised Land before he was told he didn't get to go in nyah nyah nyah) or Jerash (Roman site. supposedly good) before we head into Israel (ok, technically we will be crossing into the West Bank probably. But it's relatively safe. And we will be with a resident of the West Bank, and will head straight to Jerusalem) We will then spend a few days in Jerusalem, possibly hit up Bethlehem and the Dead Sea. It will be good. :)

ok pics to be posted later! And perhaps if you're lucky, some of my philosophical ponderings and wanderings from Mt Sinai. Lack of sleep and spectacular scenery does that to me. :)
  • Current Music
    um...that "ooh baby i love your ways" song...bad soundtrack.