July 25, 2008

“Will you explode if you don’t act gentlemanly?” “I’m not a gentleman. I don’t always stand whenever I see a lady.”

Yesterday afternoon we went to Afula to pick up the cars for the trip to the Dead Sea. It was a nice drive – we went south, the road was pretty straight and then we were driving along the sea. There were few other drivers even around to be crazy on the roads, although I was honked at a few times at roundabouts in Afula. We listened to Radio Palestine’s Arabic music because that was the only station we could pick up in the West Bank. Hugo offered a drink to whoever spotted the Dead Sea first – he ended up buying himself an iced coffee at the next gas station. (Oh yes, and the car was bright yellow, and we named it Dame Judy). We decided to go to dinner in Ein Boker instead of at the kibbutz, and it was a wise choice. The hostel was really nice – we decided to split rooms by who wanted to wake up early and who didn’t. I was originally planning on hiking, but then I found out they were waking up at 3.50, and it’s hard enough at 4.30. I just couldn’t do it. Hugo had never hiked it, so I gave him my spot. Sara, Kat, and I woke up at 7.40 and met the others at breakfast. Then we left for Masada and took the lovely and short cable car. The Northern Palace was open after years of conservation efforts, so I got to see that for the first time, as well as a few thing I hadn’t seen before. Kat’s really interesting – she’s 27 and going for PhD in Levantine archaeology. She speaks New York slang with a Polish accent and has dual citizenship; this is her second season at Megiddo, and last summer she did a dig in Jordan. She did her MA at Chicago and lived above Ribs N Bibs. Sara is at GWU, originally from south Jersey, and very into Judaica and Scrabble. I had never really talked to either of them before the road trip.

Since we were following a different schedule than the other car, we decided to have lunch at Masada and then go to Ein Gedi. At Ein Gedi you’re supposed to hike to the waterfall, but we got 20 minutes into the park and plopped into the nearest freshwater spring. (It was probably the best 20 shekels we’d spent – the water was so refreshing, and the mini-waterfall was like a massage.) We stayed for an hour, then headed to the Dead Sea to meet the others at Mineral Beach. It had sulphur springs and all sorts of attractions, but all we wanted was the sea and the mud. We covered ourselves in mud from the mud pit and then went in the sea. I LOVE THE DEAD SEA. I love floating. It doesn’t matter that it burns in unfortunate places – it’s so much fun. Yesterday I scratched myself on a needle I was keeping in my bag to sew it up again, and I couldn’t put my right hand under. To prevent myself from forgetting, I had to keep both hands above water and paddle around with my elbows.

We left at 4 in order to be well in time for the weekly Shabbat barbecue. We were going along fine, listening to Europop on Kat’s iPhone, when we got to the checkpoint leaving the West Bank (or going alongside it or something. I’m not sure where we were on the map at that point. The car ahead of us was just waved through, but the guard asked to see our passports. I had to get mine from the trunk. Then she asked us to pull over to the side. We had to get out of the car, take all our stuff out and put it on the X-ray belt, open the trunk and the hood and all the doors, empty our pockets and walk through the metal detector. I asked if I could have my wallet back, and the guard asked, “Do you have money in it?” No, I don’t keep anything in my wallet. It’s just for show. “Take the cash out, but leave the wallet.” I saw them wiping it down with the gunpowder-detector fabric. We were all miserable except for Hugo, who wants to be a diplomat and was ecstatic that we were having a real border-crossing experience. (Actually, at the first crossing, Kat in the passenger seat was still wearing only a swimsuit bottom and a shirt. The guard asked us to roll down the window, looked around the car for a minute, and nodded us on. It doesn’t count as a “border-crossing experience” if they’re only checking out one of the passengers.)

We stopped at a gas station on the way back to get things to bring to dinner. I bought a chocolate cake in a package, but apparently it was enjoyed. (I was too full because the food was delicious.)

Tomorrow all I want to do is sit at the pool and read. I need more thumb-healing time before Sunday.

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