dragojustine: (Israel)
Home safe.

Things that I did not expect to happen on this trip:

Negotiating with a Bedouin grave robber
Riding a camel
Going to all four corners of Israel
Having drinks with the Latvian ambassador
Having marriage proposed
Ending up on the terrorist watch list.
dragojustine: (Israel)
Last day was the tour to Caesarea and all the way to the Lebanese border. It’s fun to be able to say I’ve been to all four borders of the country on this short trip. Anyway, we moved way too fast through Caesarea and the incredible crusader fortress at Acco, and I could have skipped the very lame sea caves. But in a way it was good- nice to dip my toes back in nice water one last time. Relaxing note to end on.
dragojustine: (Israel)
Last day in the city, still too sick to walk properly. Took the round-the-city hop-on-hop-off tour buss. Off at Jerusalem mall to buy books, off at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum/memorial. That is amazing- incredible building with view over this huge green valley. The huge room of names, with the Isaiah quote- "And I shall give them in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name… that shall not be cut off". It’s… absolutely devastating. Just... gutting. I really can't. Anyway.

Tightest security I saw in the whole country.

Took pictures looking down from the Mount of Olives, back to Jaffa Gate for some last shopping, last look at the Sepelchre. Franciscans were doing a service.
dragojustine: (Israel)
This was my second day alone in the city. Had big plans about walking along the outside of the old city walls, City of David, Gethsemane. However, I have been getting steadily sicker, and today was all-out diarrhea. Bleh. Sort of bathroom-to-bathroom tour of north side of New City, Rockerfeller museum, down the steep cliff on the East side, Gethsemane, Wall Plaza, Mount excavations (cool!).

Rockerfeller was disappointing- very very old, dated, little documentation, but obviously an impressive collection just not displayed to best advantage. The Mount excavation park area was awesome- from 1st Temple to Crusader levels, and very very possible to leave with a good coherent mental picture of stratigra1phy and changes. Section of restored Cardo, the old sealed up Golden Gates (cool!), bits of the market way that ran along the first temple mount.

Regret the lack of time spent in Gethsemane, but was just too sick.
dragojustine: (Israel)
Organized a few actual tours- supposed to be to Caesarea today, Masada/Dead Sea tomorrow. The Tour company mixed up, though, and didn’t come to get me at 6:00 as arranged. Spent awhile in the very early morning on the phone with them, and they picked me up for a Masada tour today a little later. Not a lot of confidence, but our actual guide turned out great. Funny, knowledgeable and relaxed.

Cable car up Masada, walk around the ruins. Really incredible. The engineering, especially of the water system, is just something else.

The Aussie family I was with had a whiny kid and a shopper mom (so much time in a gift store!) Kid hated the mountain- too hot, didn’t care. Mom spent two hours at a jewelry counter. Then down to a kibbutz on the Dead Sea. Unbelievable hotsprings to a 39C pool- wow! Freshwater pool, and the actual sea. Actual sea water was very strange. Leaves a kind of film. Stings like a bitch on scrapes and girly bits. Leaves you… slipperier than normal water. You feel very strange for a few hours later and then it wears off and your skin just feels great for a day.

All in all, tours like this are easier and cheaper than trying to arrange something on your own but they always move too fast through the interesting bits and linger at gift stores.
dragojustine: (Israel)
First day out alone. Walked around a basic circle of the four quarters- astonishingly mazy, but small, so not too terribly difficult to find your way. Very interesting. Went to the Tower of David museum, on the history of the city. Good museum, with weird sculpture park business going on. Pleasant, quiet, grassy place to spend awhile.

Way back, got accosted by that son of the Bedouin shopkeeper from yesterday. I was too nice to him, and he stalked me seriously creepily all day. Finally proposed marriage, turned out that he wanted an American Visa. Seriously creepy day.

Walking tour to the Wall, Wall Tunnels, Damascus Gate, Via Dolorosa. Kind of an uncomfortable guide- lots of uncomfortable anti-Arab jokes and a weird mishmash of actual history and folksy pseudo-history. Very odd, but got to see the tunnels, Damascus gate, learn a little more about the sepulchre.
dragojustine: (Israel)
Jenny is tired, mopey, overly silent, and easily ripped off. I'm not sure I've seen anyone except maybe Ariane who is this bad of a traveler. However, the actual city is unbelievable. Bus to old city, grabbed random tour guide for walking tour. Ton of time spent in Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It's not what I expected at all, not one beautiful soaring unified building. It is a little maze inside, with levels and layers built and rebuilt and subdivided ever smaller between sects, with styles of decorations and lamps and icons changing radically from Catholic to Greek Orthodox to Roman Orthodox to Coptic to Assyrian to... within feet of each other. It overwhelms the senses, especially the Greek Orthodox parts. The supposed actual tomb is not displayed in all its glory, but tucked inside a tiny cramped alcove heavy with incense and too small to stand in.

Through the markets of all four quarters. The Cardo, the old market street of Byzantium, now a very posh little gallery. Views of the Dome and the Wall. Jenny was tired and sick, had to go back to the hotel at one.

I went back out, explored the little shopping mall at the bus depot and walked down Yafo street (cognate with Jaffa, the port at Tel Aviv). How can she be so unexcited, not want to see anything else?

Trouble getting in touch with Katee. I have crazy dreams, want to follow up on this Rockerfeller internship thing, but feel the chance slipping away.
dragojustine: (Israel)
Up, breakfast, last beach trip, checkout. Jenny ended up finally deciding to come with me for the first few days of the Jerusalem part, and share the room.

Sherut adventure to Jerusalem- the sheruts are those communal taxis, and since busses don't run on Shabbat and actual taxis cost a fortune, they're your only option. Intimidating, but worked out just fine. I was too nervous to try to find a hotel there, so I booked one in advance. Turned out to be quite far from the old city, not where I thought it was, and I could have gotten something much closer for much cheaper. Live and learn.

We took a taxi down to the Israeli museum- absolutely the only place in the whole damn city open. I've never seen anything so dead. But the museum is incredible! (Dustin would love it). Pottery, jewelry, some unbelievable mosaic work, etc. Polish boys were right, though- it does seem highly politicized at points, and there is a rather bizarre almost complete lack of information on Crusader periods.

Also there, the Shrine of the Book. Lovely building, though it doesn't have a clue whether it wants to be a museum or a shrine. Isaiah scroll on display- impressive. Peaceful, with a lot of information on codices and biblical transmission, stuff I wish I knew more about.

Traveling with Jenny is odd. She is very tired, homesick, just wants this whole ordeal over. It's draining. She seems so quiet and unhappy all the time. She only has one day, so I'm trying to let her lead, to let her see what she thinks is important, but she simply won't express opinions or make decisions and just seems unhappy. I feel bad about it, but I'm very glad she's leaving soon.

Last day!

Sep. 1st, 2006 09:28 pm
dragojustine: (Israel)
Last day! Dr. Rowl made a big deal about how today was compulsory, to try to make the Israeli students show up. Didn't work. The ones who are only here because it's required for their degree are incredibly flaky. Instead, it was only the foreign volunteers sitting around with nothing to do. Had breakfast and could go. Got t-shirts, lots of extended goodbyes, etc.

Waited around for D to burn picture CDs, had a very good hotel lunch, then a LONG day at the beach. Absolutely wonderful, though got burned badly. The beach is such an interesting collection of bizarre juxtapositions. Nudist (and rumored gay) beach just around the headlands one direction, crusader harbor with a dangerous falling-in cliff, then the Islamic beach with girls in ankle-length suits and woman wading in full long robes, then rocky local section, then tourist bit with bikinis and ice cream stand and all.

Finally got to see the free Friday night concert at the park- Irish concert in the castle, great fun. Lots of chat with Inara's husband, the Latvian ambassador. Inara thinks she may be able to find me a room next year, may make it possible to come back.

Down to the Marina for dinner at an Irish pub. Incredibly, shrimp and chips. Absolute heaven. Wonderful milkshakes at the Marina too. Talked with D untill late- talking with him somehow gives me big dreams. It's hard to describe, but he makes crazy adventures seem doable. It's unsettling- is that just the presence of a romantic stranger talking, or will I be brave enough to actually do these things?

Can't believe it's over.

Day 9

Aug. 31st, 2006 09:27 pm
dragojustine: (Archaeology)
Last day digging- absolute bulldozer work. More orders to tear out stuff, D apoplectic. Baffling- it seems they've already found justification to come back next year, what's the hurry? Tore through what looked like a coin hoard or offering with pickaxes- 15 coins in spoil heap. Heaven help us. Found out that this is Katee's first dig. Explains so much!

After, lots of hard work taking down the sunshade and storing stuff, largely done by the park guys. Made me feel rather useless. Great swim.

Day 8

Aug. 30th, 2006 09:26 pm
dragojustine: (Archaeology)
Reached mortared wall today- nice squared ashlars, whole nine yards. Katee finally sits up and pays attention. General conclusion is that the unmortared tumble they tore out was from rough wall of Byzantine pit, over Roman architecture. Of course, not enough documentation to prove for sure. Still going at a furious pace- they're desperate to find enough reason to open this site next season.

Greg had me help draw sections in the next trench over. Nice guy, being good to me- really like him. He is a bit of an odd duck though. Not terribly assertive about his subject area, seems like he feels like he's floundering a bit. Has no practical experience, which makes him even more intimidated than he was already inclined to be. Very anal, with a desperate desire to do things right, which of course directly contradicts the "seek-no-conflict" imperative and makes him kind of tie himself in knots. Very interesting to be around.

Finally, the promised "fareval" party held down on the beach. Lots of rowdy guys from the first two weeks showed up. Lovely sunset, Ilan's kids, wife (very young!), dogs... fun.

Day 7

Aug. 29th, 2006 09:25 pm
dragojustine: (Archaeology)
Destruction archaeology continues. D was asked to tear out a whole section of wall tumble (doesn't have mortar, not the wall they're looking for). Didn't even photograph properly. Everybody (esp. D, Carolina, Greg) hopping mad. Greg has good instincts but too deferential to Katee. Katee has no patience. Interesting mix, at the very least provides interesting debates.

Another lovely swim.

Day 6

Aug. 28th, 2006 09:24 pm
dragojustine: (Archaeology)
Lots of new people arriving for this last week. Mother-daughter team, obviously loaded. Daughter is 17, acts 13- annoying and precocious, won't stop hitting on all the 30 year old Israelis, chattering at them constantly about her private high school while they try to escape. Entertaining. Also new- the wife of the Latvian ambassador (very nice!) and a Finnish graduate student by the name of Carolina. She used to be a gymnast, has the body of a Norse goddess, wears absolutely nothing to the dig. Also incredibly nice, works like an ox, knows her stuff- it gives a girl a complex.

They closed the other area, which hit the foundation of the Crusader fortifications and found virgin sand, so we're working with lots of their lot for the first time. They seem to be a tighter knit group, entirely of Israelis, with slight attitudes and smoking habits but big muscles and some experience. Used them to bring the whole area down to the level of the new architecture. Still using total destruction methods- hell with record keeping, nothing matters but the wall.

D and Sh took off to Jerusalem today to see some fresco work at the Rockerfeller museum related to Sh's thesis. D brought back all sorts of interesting news about a fellowship there that I am having wild fantasies about but not the courage to pursue. Sh's last night here, so down to the beach with him for a good swim, drinks, pizza. I've really gotten to like those Polish boys. They're so cute by the beach too- lovely swimmers, and just so EXCITED about the whole beach idea.
dragojustine: (Israel)
Our hotel was right across the street from both the mosque and the madrassa. The call to prayer went off three times while we were asleep. It's eerie- rising and falling and wailing, with no real words distinguishable through the distortion of the lousy speakers they use- hard to even tell the wailing horn apart from the wailing human voice. And it goes on for so long! 20 minutes or more. I had no idea. Then, at 7, all the boys were gathered in the courtyard of the madrassa, singing some form of anthem.

Back to Petra. Walked the stretch from canyon to city that we had ridden before, so we could explore the thousands and thousands of tombs, and the Greek theatre cut into the cliffside (surrounded by tombs, of course). The huge, probably royal tombs in the gorgeous colors were later turned into Byzantine churches, with elaborate Byzantine ramps and stairs and arches leading up to them- but nothing can compete with the tombs themselves, carved straight into the rock. Finally to the elaborately restored Byzantine church just up the hill from the collanaded market street, where D dug when he was here. The mosaics are gorgeous, and the preservation is astonishing. The church was restored so elaborately partly to cover up the Roman brothel found underneath (its mosaics also astonishingly well-preserved, according to D!).

Then just insane-taxi part two back to the border crossing. Jordanian border guards really can't be bothered much- never seen people so laid back. It's scarier going the other direction- bomb dogs and explosive residue checks and x-ray machines and utterly humourless Israeli guards.
dragojustine: (made of awesome)
We got across the border into Jordan this morning- a long but not terrible process, including a rather creepy walk across barbed-wired no-man's-land. Took at absolutely insane taxi ride for an hour and a half (lanes mean nothing!). The desert remains indescribable. We drove past the area used in filming Lawrence of Arabia. It's bizarre- you see the presence of water everywhere. The wadis are these steep water-carved desert valleys- the entire place looks like rivers and flash floods and it's dust-dry. Truly strange. Bedouin everywhere, with little herds of goats, and some donkeys and camels, and their big open-sided camel-skin tents. Hard to believe it's all real.

Wadi Musa is the city outside Petra- grown from a tiny encampment to a city of 30,000 local booming with hotels. But with the war in Israel, there are simply no tourists. Everyone is desperate- the taxi drivers, the hotels, the restaurants. All the ratios between tourists and services were off. We stayed at the CleoPetra (cute) a little family-run hotel absolutely overflowing with the rituals of Jordanian hospitality- the little rituals of tea-drinking and effusive thanks and elaborate conversation- a culture I would not do well in at all, frankly, but is wonderful to experience as a guest. Everywhere you go: "Where from? Welcome American! Welcome to Jordan!"

Petra itself is bogglingly huge. From the visitors' center it is a 20 minute walk to the canyon entrance. It's then over a mile through the canyon into the actual valley, and from there it's another mile or more through the outlying tombs to the Roman city proper- another mile through the city, and another hour's climb up the far edge of the canyon to the monastery. Something like 45 square kilometers. It's so huge that it could never conceivably all be excavated, will never even be well-mapped.

The canyon- Roman road, Roman water-pipes running along the sides with horse troughs, older Nabatean tomb niches and Roman niches everywhere, little stairs leading up to these little goat-path guard stations up top. And the colors! Yellows to oranges to pinks to REDS, swirling and beautiful. The canyon is so high, and so narrow, and the final turn opening on to the treasury is infinitely more dramatic in real life than in Indiana Jones.
dragojustine: (Israel)
Dig finally got really interesting- I pulled out two completely intact oil lamps, and we found a small ladies ring in my square. Ilan is cute with his metal detector. Hillary's square has definitely hit architecture- ashlar wall and floor- which D, of course, also claims to have predicted with his rod. He gloats, Katee becomes obsessed. Probably Roman, finally a reason to come back to this area next year. D gave his little demonstration on how to do a cross-section properly. It's been frustrating that this dig has seemed so unprofessional; I don't think I'm coming away with as much of a skill set as I was hoping for. So this was interesting.

Petra trip finally! I to the Tel Aviv central bus station,which is mind-boggling. Like grand central station- dingy and crowded and dodgy and incomprehensibly huge. 4.5 hours to Eilat. The desert is indescribable.

Arrived and missed the border crossing by 10 minutes, and so had to find a hotel. Ended up paying 250 sh for the dodgiest hotel I've ever seen. It seems to be a place that foreigners stay when they come to Eilat to work. Lots of Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian 20-something men smoking in the hallways.

Walked around Eilat- it's just a tiny wedge of land stuck up against the Red Sea, developed into this beach strip that looks like it's trying to be Vegas. Huge amounts of neon, crappy tourist stalls, etc. Not really an enjoyable place. The water felt stale and the sand was obviously artificial. Lots more interesting conversation at the hotel. The politics of archaeology, differences between here and Europe, how all the foreign grad students (including Greg) just hate the way this dig is going, how inexperienced a lot of the leaders- including Katee and Rowl- are. About opportunities elsewhere, how to break in, how to do this for cheaper. Digs run by the Poles, by D... I think D is doing a big of a little-sister thing with me, but I appreciate it.

Day 4

Aug. 24th, 2006 09:19 pm
dragojustine: (Archaeology)
Worked the entire time today- won't die after all! Finally feel like I might pull my weight. In a relative sense, of course- many of the Israeli students are 22 year old guys who have lived in this climate all their lives and are straight out of the army with obsessive physical conditioning. I have met few guys as strong as they are, but I'm not sure I've ever met any who are able to work that hard, that steadily, in that kind of heat (Erez and Carmel foremost among them). It's astonishing. But, in an "all things being relative" sort of way, I feel like I can pull my weight.

Took over my own little square today- they're pushing the trenches out to the very edge of the cliff. Working next to Erez, who, frankly, I've taken quite a fancy to. Went down to the beach with him afterwards. His English is the worst of the Israeli students- apparently lived away from the city for quite awhile, never practiced. 28. Got out of military duty on a trumped-up psychiatric excuse. He's a fascinating personality with fascinating politics, language barrier aside- very serious with these little flashes of really quite smart humor underneath that I keep missing until they've gone by. Also works like an ox.

Hagi gave the lecture at lunch today- He's the head of the National park, the absolutely huge dark guy with the pistol- radiates "gentle giant," always smiling, loved by all. He has huge plans for the future of this site, which he may never see done in his lifetime. Incredible dedication to it. Really an inspiring vision. It also explains some things, like their obsession with architecture- architecture draws tourists, which is the only way to fund these things. Had some long conversations about how different it is from archaeology in other places, which is much less taken for granted, valued much more for reasons outside tourist attraction. Also about the politics of human remains in Israel, the problems with the Orthodox rabbis- utterly fascinating and strange. I wouldn't have predicted that at all.

Had to do laundry in the tub. Pain in the butt- nothing every gets really clean, and NOTHING ever gets dry. The food has been good- I especially like that yogurt-ish cheese spread and the egg dish in the mornings. But I never want to see cucumbers or tomatoes again.

Day 3

Aug. 23rd, 2006 09:18 pm
dragojustine: (Archaeology)
I dug until 10:30 (official breakfast) today, and had to stop, but I lasted out the rest of the day washing pottery. A morning snack helps- 4 hours hard work without breakfast is impossible. No heatstroke, and straight to the beach afterwards. It's utterly amazing. You go from being hot and tired and sticky and dirty and miserable, and the minute you enter the water you're sure you'll never be hot again. Still a bit worried about my ability to pull my weight at all, though. Need to last to noon tomorrow.

Much interpersonal drama at the dig. I'm sure whenever that small a group of people spends that much time together in a stressful situation, you're going to get people hating each other. Anyway, there's Tom, the truly odd and abrasive woman, and her husband Carmel. They sing during pottery washing, badly-old Hebrew kibbutz songs, I believe. She is a feminist with issues with men, especially ones in authority, and is a bit of an unteachable know it all. Keeps picking fights with all the male area leaders. Carmel, on the other hand, is truly nice and sweet and smoking hot (wow!) and besotted by her. Very odd couple indeed. Everyone hates Yuval as well, an Israeli student who apparently made a reputation as a whining brown-noser at school, doesn't think he should be required to be here, and feels a definite aversion to work (except, oddly, overly destructive pickaxing).

Terrace wall found! I missed the early-dig drama about D and his divining-rod fixation, but he feels incredibly vindicated and it's a bit awkward because we all think he's off his gourd. Not having been there, I can't say whether he actually predicted this wall for sure, but he sure as hell thinks he did, and it's like his very own baby. Seems to be a terrace wall below the Byzantine rubbish pit, possibly for gardens connected to the Roman villa. And there was much rejoicing.

Day 2

Aug. 22nd, 2006 09:15 pm
dragojustine: (Archaeology)
First morning actually digging- there's this urge to prove yourself. Unfortunately, it turns out this is not a very smart urge. Never worked so hard in my entire life. Lasted until 9:30 before I had to go back and wash pots. Talked with Judy and her little group of ladies in waiting- she also is an interesting character, and they seem to have a pretty serious grudge against lots of the other students- lots of petty politics in Israeli camp. Lots of good cultural info. Unfortunately, even though I went back so early, heatstroke already set in and just kept getting worse. At a certain point, you stop being able to think clearly, and you stop being able to drink water because of nausea. At that point Katee offered to drive me back to the hotel, thank god.

Very cold shower and a nap. Also complete panic- if I end up on the verge of hospitalization after working for 3 hours, how in the world will I manage this?

Got picked up for the trip to Tel Aviv University. Guided tour by Oren Taal- saw their huge pottery collection, restoration workshop, restored Crusader fineware from the last Apollonia season. On the way back, bought a bikini (aack! go me) and have a swim. The ocean is absolutely perfect- warm and sandy and salty and calm and perfectly situated for beautiful sunsets- though oddly lifeless and tideless.

Among the foreign students are the two Polish grad students from Krakow university, apparently here because their school might sponsor a group of students to dig the west wing of the castle next year. Mikhail and Prezmek (Shamak. Oh those wacky polish names!). They gave lectures on their research topics at lunch- especially Sh's, Arthurian frescoes in Polish Medieval castles. Absolutely fascinating. Had pizza and drinks with them after the swim, and I'm left desperately wanting to see Poland (unexpected). Tomorrow is M's last day- barely got to know him, liked him absolutely immensely.

Day 1

Aug. 21st, 2006 09:04 pm
dragojustine: (Israel)
Nice airport! Big airy circular shopping area, international arrivals come out in another big airy circular area with a fountain and tons and tons of people waiting for them. I was totally lost, but managed to get someone to help me buy a train ticket to Herzliyya and figure out where to transfer. Can't believe I was that brave, frankly. Soldiers on the train with huge guns- a much harsher bit of culture shock.

Got to the hotel somehow, and barely had an hour there before Ilan called to pick me up and bring me to the site. Nothing strenuous, luckily- I got there just as they finished digging, in time to help wash and sort. Roommate is Jenny, very nice mother of five from Western Washington who seemed to be suffering from a bit of heatstroke. She had also lost her luggage and was pretty distraught about that. Lots of Israeli students but only a small group of foreigners, most notably D and Rhondi, who are both fascinating people with extraordinary life histories, and very friendly. The locals are rather cliquish. Their English is all perfectly good, but they speak Hebrew among themselves and most seem to know each other from school, so that's not exactly an easy break-in.

Already making possible plans to go to Petra with D- that would be an extraordinary bit of luck, to have someone to go with. Finished up the day with an absolutely lovely walk back to the hotel along the beach, dinner. The dinner is with all the foreign students, and it's incredibly enjoyable.

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dragojustine

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