Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The End of Jerusalem, and back "home" in Cairo

This is a few days outdated...but here you go anyway. :)

Our two weeks in Jerusalem are over and we’re now back in home sweet Agouza. It was amazing while it lasted though. We got to have Shabbat dinner with Jewish families one Friday we were there, and visit a service at a local synagogue. The guys looked great (mostly, hilarious) in their kippas! I was amazed by how Western that whole experience was. The synagogue felt just like church – except they were speaking Hebrew, and women and men sat on separate sides of the room. And Shabbat dinner. Wow. The family who hosted me was from the states, and their house could have been anywhere in suburban America. Except that after dinner they took us out to the backyard and showed us that the green line (Israeli borders pre-1967 war) basically ran through their property. In some ways the whole thing was really removed from the conflict, except they were literally living in the disputed territory. Crazy. We spent a day touring the Galilee, the Golan Heights, and Nazareth.

We went into Haifa to meet Elias Chacour, who is the archbishop of the Greek Catholic church for the Galilee (and author of Blood Brothers – read it!). He was great! That afternoon we went to Jaffa and Tel Aviv, and enjoyed wading in the Mediterranean. We also found the best playground ever in Tel Aviv – the US really should make playgrounds for adults and get rid of all the ridiculous liability rules. J Tel Aviv ended with our first and (in sha allah) our last medical emergency. We were heading back to meet the bus, and Mariel was jumping along the metal pilings in the parking lot. She slipped and hit her head on the next one. Those were some really terrifying moments – at first I thought she was laughing at herself, but then she rolled over and we realized she was unconscious – her eyes were unfocused and she was moaning. And then there was a huge crowd of people around us – MESPers and random Israelis who were throwing blankets and water at us. Someone called an ambulance, but it took awhile to find us. She eventually came to, but she was really disoriented. She thought that Sam’s name was Tim. And she didn’t remember anything about being in Tel Aviv. She knew who wrote Metamorphoses though, so we figured she was ok. She wound up with a massive bump on her head, a sprained wrist, and cracked rip, but other than that she’s ok now. She even remembers everything right up until she actually started jumping on the posts. I’m guessing next semester’s MESPers will get long lectures about jumping on posts – we were going for an amendment to the Covenant/safety rules…Mariel might have pulled it off for us.

We also spent a second day in Bethlehem – we went back to Holy Land Trust, the Church of the Nativity, shopped (it was our last day in Israel/Palestine, so we spent our last shekels), and toured some housing developments. We ended the day by going to dinner with Palestinian families, mostly from Beit Shahour. It was great food, but the whole thing wound up being a little awkward because our family spoke really limited English. And our Arabic, of course, still sucks. The guy showed us some sweet olive wood carvings that he’d done though. The next day we had to stuff everything into our suitcases – we’d all bought way too much stuff, and had a hard time getting it to fit. And then we got to drive from Jerusalem to Cairo. We left at 8am and didn’t get back until 11pm. We spent a couple hours at the border (mostly because we didn’t want them to stamp our passports so that we have the option of travelling in the Middle East again without getting a “clean” passport. They let people do this all the time, but it takes longer) but still, it was a really long drive.

We got to Cairo the day before Thanksgiving, so we spent Thursday going crazy cooking and baking for our Thanksgiving potluck. Kareema cooked 2 huge Turkey’s and a ton of mashed potatoes, and we brought everything else. I was really impressed with MESP’s culinary capabilities. We wound up with all the traditional thanksgiving food, except pumpkin pie since you can’t buy pumpkin in Agouza or Mohandaseen. You can apparently get it in Maadi, but no one had time to go all the way out there. I made pie – without shortening, a rolling pin, or an oven with a temperature gauge. It wasn’t the prettiest looking thing, but it tasted good. Anyway, it was a fantastic thanksgiving! We know each other well enough by now that it felt like a normal big family gathering, complete with the random Aunt or Uncle whom you really love but don’t ever know what to say to, and the cranky sibling-in-law….we were actually fighting over those titles. J We went around the table and had everyone say what they were thankful for, and ate a lot of good food, and played cards. For Thanksgiving in Egypt, it was remarkably normal. The next day made up for it though – it was a Muslim holidy...They were slaughtering animals in the streets. We learned that a gun shot just means another cow died. There’s still puddles of blood everywhere.

Since then, it’s just been working on papers and my debate. The debate was this morning, so now I can just focus on papers. 1 down, 3 to go. It’s scary how quickly this is going to be over. I’m really not looking forward to saying goodbye to MESP. After living so closely together for 3 ½ months its going to be rough to not see anyone again – maybe ever. In a lot of ways I’m really ready to go home. I miss my AK people, and my SPU people, for that matter, so much! But now I’m just going to have a 3rd group of people to miss…great.