violachic: (Default)
Plans have been slightly changed. I will be in Jerusalem one more day and night.

The Old City of Jerusalem is indeed an interesting place. There is a slight air of unspoken tension, but people- Musilm, Jewish, Christian, Internationals alike- interact with each other with an ease you won't see in other parts of the country. It boggles my mind to see T-shirts being sold next to each other in the marketplace, where one says "Peace in Jerusalem" in English, Arabic and Hebrew, and the other says "Don't Worry, America- Israel's Got Your Back!" with an enormous jet fighter on it. But in many tourist shops- and indeed, which shop isn't a tourist shop?- relics and souvenirs of all three faiths are sold side-by-side, although the shopkeeper may be Israeli or Palestinian.

I woke this morning to a combination of church bells, the call to prayer, and the blowing shofar. It was a bittersweet mix.

This morning I walked up to the guesthouse at St. George's Cathedral, to see if there was a CPT cell phone left there, which it was rumored to be, and wasn't.
To get there, I went through the Old City and out the Damascus Gate, which seems to have been turned into one big checkpoint. The Damascus Gate goes into the Muslim Quarter of the city, whereas the Jaffa Gate, where I arrived, is right on the line between the Christian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter. People were exiting the gate with ease, but they were stopping almost everyone trying to get in. I don't know if it is because of the holidays, or if there is a new threat- either perceived or real- that has popped up.

To get to St George's, it is an easy walk up Nablus Road from the gate. Along the way, you must pass the US Consulate. It was open, and there were about forty people waiting to go inside. Here, you could see discrimination starting to take shape; Israelis were waiting in line, Arabs were sitting on a low wall across the street.

Up at the guesthouse, the phone was indeed not to be found. However, while waiting to find someone to ask, I bumped into Mordechai Vanunu, and introduced myself as a new CPTer. I wasn't sure if he was flattered, amused, or embarassed when I laughed and told him, when he shook my hand and gave me his name, that I had recognized him already. I teased him a little saying "I think maybe you're famous!" He responded that maybe, but probably over here only, and not so much other places, except by people working for peace. I said "yes, us crazy people." Luckily, he seemed to know I was joking, and laughed, and said "But good people."

On the way back down into the city, security seemed to have tightened at the Gate. There were police barricades in place, and every single person entering was subject to scrutiny. A woman and her son were directly before me. They checked her ID, and let her go, but the policeman standing there began harassing the child a little bit, like you tease a child in the way you don't mean to be friendly, not letting him pass. The child couldn't have been older than six or seven, but he had his wits about him. It probably wasn't the first time. Seeing this, I stepped forward so I was directly behind the boy, and smiled at him. Seeing me, the policeman let the child through, put his hand up towards my chest to stop me, and barked at me harshly. I looked at him and simply said "I'm sorry, I don't speak Hebrew". He then said "passport!", which I gave him. He looked from the passport to me, and asked me where I was from. I replied "Chicago. United States." He didn't look like he entirely understood, so I said "America". He nodded, as if I had cleared up a great mystery, handed me back my passport, and let me pass.

The shops in the Arab Market, in the streets down from the Damascus Gate, are not anywhere near as busy as they were last time I was here. I know these things can change suddenly, and drastically. Perhaps one quarter to one third of the shops simply are not open. I don't know if this is due to the holiday, a slipping economy, or whatever else may have happened in the last eleven months. I miss the frantic feeling of the packed market. And although the market isn't as busy, the merchants certainly make up for their absent neighbors in trying to woo people towards their shop. I have learned to look straight ahead with a friendly half-smile on my face and say "no thank you, I'm not shopping right now" and keep walking. If you stop for a second, you're sunk.

This morning, I had breakfast from a stand, three small pastries with a chocolate-flavored sesame paste inside. Now, for a bit of lunch I'm going to stop by a fruit stand, and later, for dinner, there is a small restaurant we ate at during our delegation last fall, where I will get a small dinner, perhaps my last piece of meat for several weeks. All these carbohydrates are giving me a headache.

This afternoon, while I have some free time in the city, I am going to go up to the Garden Tomb. It is also on Nablus Road, and I passed it this morning. It is open to visitors from 2p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Then I will have seen the second place Jesus is said to have been buried. I think there is a third, but I don't remember what it is. And then, perhaps, if I have the time, I will either go up tothe Western Wall, or I will try to find the Via Dolorosa. Mind, this all depends on whether or not I get lost. I suppose I should get a map. And bring my phrase books with me.

Until later, peace.
violachic: (Default)
So I'm here. Okay, I'm most of the way here.

I finally made it to Jerusalem, where I checked into the hostel about seven this morning. I did the very thing you're not supposed to do after traveling long distances and changing multiple time zones- I promptly crashed out for about four hours. I'm not all that worried about the jet lag thing, though. Since I don't have much of a circadian rhythm to begin with, couple that with the fact that I'm still beat, and I'm sure I have a nice, healthy 8 hours left in me for tonight.

Checking in at O'Hare went easily, and I managed to move slowly enough and entertain myself so I didn't have a lot of thumb-twiddling time before I had to board. I immediately made friends with my seat-mate, a young Polish girl who had spent the summer doing a work-exchange program at Cedar Point amusement park. She was very interested in CPT's work, and since she is studying Political Science, she really is interested in our Iraq program.

Once we landed in Milan, I braced myself for my thirteen-hour layover. I made the decision to go into the city and see some sights, so I grabbed a map, got a few directions, and hopped on the train. My CTA training has served me well, and I was pleased to find how easily I could navigate their subway system, even though the only word I actually recognized was "fermata". I got off at the "Duomo" stop, and wandered around there for awhile. I didn't end up seeing a whole lot, due to a combination of a very heavy carry-on bag, pouring rain, and my own exhaustion, but I got quite a few shots of the cathedral, and wandered over into the Piazza della Scala, and ogled the opera house. I was pleased to find a monument to Leonardo Da Vinci in the square there. I feel as if I'm taking the entire Leonardo Life Tour, albeit slowly. I have very vivid memories of visiting the Clos Luce at Amboise when I was in France eleven and a half years ago, which is where he spent the last few years of his life, and died.

I got about twenty pictures, which I'll be happy to post and share, once I can get my laptop hooked up to an internet line.

I then headed back to the airport, where I snoozed,watched a DVD on my computer, ate dinner, and did some general thumb-twiddling until our 10:45 departure time. I ended up sleeping much of the four-hour flight between Milan and Tel Aviv, which helped my bearings a great deal. We landed in Tel Aviv at 3:30 am, where I was pleased to find that I breezed through passport control without as much as an askance look from security. I claimed my baggage, grabbed something that vaguely resembled breakfast, and went outside in search of a nesher that would bring me to Jerusalem.

I got dropped at the Jaffa Gate a little before seven. It was eerie, being back there finally, being back alone, and standing around all the closed-up shops. The air was still cool, and the sun was just starting to rise in earnest. It was a beautiful moment, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life. I didn't have the presence of mind to snap any photos, but I believe it was one of those moments that photos could never have captured properly.

The biggest plus to arriving while the shops were closed was how easy it was to find St. Mark's Road. Where it breaks off from David Street (the main road coming into the city straight from Jaffa Gate) is a staircase that during the day looks like it leads directly into a shop (Jerusalem, especially the Old City, can be difficult to navigate- lets just say its not exactly designed on the Grid system). There are quite a few shops that are set way back into the stone, that require some kind of creative access, such as a short flight of stairs, and this turn is almost impossible to find while the shops are open. Heading down St Mark's Road, I wearily buzzed the door at the Lutheran Hostel, and checked myself in for the next twenty-four hours. Although guests are technically supposed to vacate the dormitories for several hours in the morning for cleaning, I found myself unable to be vertical any longer, changed into my pajamas, and collapsed into sleep. Nobody seemed worried that I hadn't vacated.

After a few hours of sleep and a very nice shower (although I forgot to pack a towel- I had to dry off using a t-shirt- I think I am heading out after this to buy a towel), I sallied forth into the city in search of Mike's Internet Cafe.

Which just about brings us up to date.

The rest of the plan:

- Call the Hebron team, and set up for someone to meet me at the servees in the morning, in time for the team meeting.
- Find something to eat. Easier said than done, in this part of town during Ramadan.
- Wander the city. Check out the Arab market. Enjoy window shopping (too early for souvenir shopping- things will get lost or broken before I can get them home)
- At some point, eat dinner, relax, read (in no particular order).
- Sleep early, so I can rise early.
- Check out by 7 am, catch a servees at the Damascus Gate that will take me to Hebron.
- Join team!

And that puts us a little bit into the future.

Whew! That took so long, just for a logistical update! Hopefully once logistics fall into a semblance of a routine there will be more introspective reports. I say "semblance", because I know that A Day In The Life of CPT is never boring.

In the meantime, Shanah Tova, and Ramadan Kareem!
violachic: (Default)
Well, I will admit this, in a Pre-Trip State of Mind:

I'm nervous.

But I'm excited, mostly. I suppose I'm far less nervous than I was a week or so ago.

Navigating a foreign country can be intimidating, I thought for some time. This is the first time I will be traveling such distances alone. I confess I'm not the world's biggest fan of flying- its not a phobia or a neurosis, just a preference- so a transatlantic flight by myself, complete with a transfer in Milan, is just a little daunting.

But then I got a shot of confidence, and realized that I actually did know my way around enough to get where I need to go. I know airports; really, its true in this case that if you've seen one, you've seen them all- different ambiance, same drill. I know how to find a nesher once I'm there that will take me to Jerusalem. I will get off at the Jaffa Gate, and make my way up David Street and St. Mark's Way to the hostel where we stayed last year. The next morning I will find a servees at the Damascus Gate that will take me to Hebron.

Easy as pie! Which is good, because I like pie.

I am nearly packed, in the most technical of senses. What I really mean is that my suitcase is sitting open on my bedroom floor, and I chuck things in it as I walk past. Sunday is the day I sort things out, roll things up, fold them. I am still compiling things that the teams over there want me to bring. So far the list consists of painkillers and candy- I'm not sure what this says about my potential experiences over there!

I will miss my friends and family, my communities over here, my co-workers, my cat. But for the first time in so long, I am thirsting for adventure in my life, and I'm certain to get at least a taste of it very soon.

By keeping this blog, I am hoping to share what I experience and what I learn with a wider audience than if I were just writing letters or emails. I hope that if you find the contents of this interesting, you will share the link with a friend or six. I welcome comments and feedback, as long as they are respectful and mature.

In the desperate search for world peace, this is just one teeny installment of the shortest chapter. But maybe- just maybe- the twelve or so of us who share the next two months will make an impact worth remembering.


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