July 13, 2008

Megiddo, Day 6 – “It’s ok to smile if you’ve found something pretty”

The weekend went well; it was quite relaxing and filled with good food. I ate five shwarmas. I arrived Thursday afternoon and attempted to find the hostel. I was wandering around back streets of the old city for a while when I saw an old man and decided to ask. I showed him the map, he said something in Arabic, and motioned for me to follow. He took me right to the door and then walked away. The stairs up to the roof were ridiculous. As I walked up the first time, nearly falling, I sincerely hoped nobody went out clubbing and came back drunk because I doubted they could make it up the stairs. I spent the next two hours guarding four mattresses for my room-mates. It got dark and the muezzins started making a beautiful cacophony, must’ve been five at once. I decided to see where everyone was – turns out their bus hadn’t arrived and they just left on a different bus. I took myself for dinner at Ben Yehuda, but there was a suspicious object and the police evacuated the area. I went to some other shwarma place (1) and then back to the hostel. I talked for a while to a teacher from San Francisco who was getting around the country with couch surfing, so I gave her some tips on where to go. Everyone got there at about 9.45 and immediately left for dinner. I promised to keep all fourteen mattresses from the impending arrival of the New Zealand backpackers, and struggled to keep awake. The janitor looked quite a lot like Jesus, including a white robe. I fell asleep as soon as the first group came back at midnight.

I was woken the next morning by the muezzin and the church bells at 4.30, 6, 6.30, and 7. (Conclusion: religion=noise.) We left at 8 and went to a Christian Arab shwarma place with beef shwarma (2). We proceeded to find a cash machine outside the Damascus Gate and ended up seeing the Garden Tomb on the way, where James explained that this could not be the tomb described in the Gospels because it was cut in the Iron Age. I ended up getting cash from somewhere called Aladdin Money Changers on Salahadin Street. We attempted to go to the Dome of the Rock through Damascus Gate and walked through the Arab bazaar. Someone asked Parth if he wanted some coffee and then saw me and did the same. Parth looked afraid and said to me, “It’s not polite to refuse!” Never mind we were in the middle of a busy marketplace and we weren’t buying anything from the guy. He started talking to us while I pretended to sip the coffee. He pointed to a man nearby and said, “See him? He has four wives. Palestinian men are strong. You want to try?” I was struck dumb for a minute, and then Parth jumped in and patted me on the shoulder. “She’s already spoken for. She has a boyfriend at home.” “Yes!” I said. “He’s Egyptian. Tarek.” (I have yet to tell Nabs I used him as a fake boyfriend to prevent further offers of marriage.) “Oh, but Egyptian is not Palestinian,” he replied. I don’t remember how we managed to escape without buying anything. Soon after, Shlomit called and I left the group to meet her. On the way I stopped at the David Citadel to see Asaf, who had promised to help me scan my passport. His scanner still wasn’t working, so the head of technology at the hotel came to do it himself. Nobody ever realized that I wasn’t actually staying there.

I met Shlomit at the bottom of Ben Yehuda. On the way up we stopped at Moshiko for a shwarma (3) and also took some back to the kibbutz. The drive was about half an hour, filled with their usual ridiculousness. At the kibbutz I finally got to meet Ari and also Lee’s grandparents, who are so cute. We saw part of the petting zoo and the cows and ate the shwarmas. Lee didn’t finish hers, so I had it (4). We went for lunch to Chayaleh’s. It was the most amazing house. She’s a potter who makes sculptures of women giving birth and phalluses and have the most adorably naive faces and like spikes for decoration. They reminded me of Neolithic fertility statues. (I think I’d like to write my BA on that, btw.) The house was absolutely covered in them, as was the garden (which also featured an ancient press taken from a nearby field that used to be a suburb of Tel Gezer (tels invented suburbs, you know). Wherever there weren’t sculptures there were antique collections – antique keys, antique scissors, antique weights and scales. The design was sort of Middle East mets Southwest. It was pretty awesome. They had homemade schnitzel.

After that foodfest we went on to Crazy Uncle’s (also known as Menachem). There we had some of the most amazing chicken I’ve ever tasted. I only regret I could not eat more because they’d been feeding me all day. All day people spoke mostly Hebrew – I’m proud to say my comprehension was somewhere around 70%, except when Rafi talked about technology and Menachem and Amos talked at all (they were too quick). Unfortunately I can’t process and think up responses at the same time, so I sat there silently listening. Afterwards I got to shower and sleep in a bed in a room by myself, and when I opened the door in the morning (at 8!) a cute gray cat walked in. Menachem drove us into Jerusalem and we went to the shuk. There was much disappointment and upset over a set of antique keys where they guy refused to bargain with Lee (for me). Fortunately, we found another antique store that also had locks and had fixed prices. I got a lock with a key in it as well as three separate keys, which I plan to hang on the wall underneath the lock. We had shwarma at the same place as Friday morning (5) and then wandered in the shuk for a rather long and disorienting time before reaching the Austrian hospice. It’s a huge building in the middle of the shuk where they speak German and list their prices in euros. We had drinks and goulash and played chess for a while before continuing to Jaffa gate to meet up with my group again.

Today was back to the grindstone (literally – people keep finding grindstones). I fell asleep for a few minutes while digging – I was sitting in the square holding my trowel, and just dozed off when Melissa went to take artifacts to the desk. (Good news – I’ve officially switched into E4.) The best of the day, though, was just before breakfast when I was about to scoop dirt into a bucket and I spotted a bead. Then another. They were small, 1/2 inch, white, with ridges on the sides. We started going through by hand, then Phillipe went to get the sieve. We sieved the entire wheelbarrow and the net few buckets, resulting in a total of 21 small beads (we didn’t find any more big ones). We first thought they were black, white, and green, but when I spit on them to take a picture they turned out to be light green, dark green, and Egyptian (light) blue. I didn’t want to worry about them, so I put them in my pocket for breakfast. I sat down with a big grin and told everyone – they asked what they looked like, and I said, “Like this!” and pulled them out. Eventually I tried to regain composure as they were being passed around the table, but Hugo remarked, “Oh, go ahead – it’s ok to smile if you’ve found something pretty. They are quite pretty.”

After breakfast the artifact registrars took them away and put them in a special box. We found lots more pottery and ash and bones – we might be dealing with kitchen debris. I used the pitish (small pickaxe) for a bit and it felt sort of like a toy after using the real pickaxe. Shame, it used to be my second-favorite tool.

I ran into a tree at breakfast and cut my shoulder. Seriously, there are like six trees on the tel, and I run into one. And I know it’ll scar, too, because it’ll be in the sun.

I took a long nap after lunch and nearly missed pottery washing. Then I skyped Jonathan and went to pottery reading.

I hope I’ve built up enough shwarma in my veins to last until next weekend. Perhaps we’ll stop at a mall on the way to Hazor on Friday and I’ll have another.

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