The Travel Junkie's Blog
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Journal Entry: Israel
Today's word of the day is 'dochtolim' which means underwear. Why our leader chose this word, I have no idea. But it is a word that pertains to us, right?
Gadi, our guide, is currently explaining to us how the Bedouins, almost 60% of them, live in cities the government built for them and the other 40% live traditionally.
Last night, we stayed in a Bedouin tent, and waking up this morning to see the sunrise over the desert was gorgeous. It illuminated the sand and made an aura over the horizon which set a presence to the Bedouins. Is this what they woke up to every day? In Israel, it is said that the people travel to the desert for peace and reflection. I see why.
At Ben Gurion's grave, we ran into 3 ibeks. Maybe they are spirits watching over Ben Gurion's final resting place. He is buried at the top of a gorgeous lookout. The body of water that it took to make the canyons in this section of desert must have been huge because this is gorgeous, and makes the world seem like a wonderful place. Also, Ben Gurion was clearly a humble person because his accomplishments are not listed near his grave. The passage we are looking at was a passage that would transport things from Yemen to Europe.
There are 3 rules for living in the desert:
1. Do not build a house
2. Do not plant a tree
3. Do not drink wine
These three reason are for the preservation of life (you could die if you drank wine in the desert) and cultural preservation. The Israelis do not want the natural parts of the country to diminish, which is conflictive because Gurion wanted to be buried here in hopes of seeing the desert turn green and prosper.
So...riding a camel was AWESOME!!! Mine was sassy nonetheless, but we sang "Arabian Nights" from Aladdin the whole time, which added some extra affect!
One of our trips got cancelled, so we went to this area in Israel that is basically a large hole in the ground, that, mysteriously, wasn't caused by a meteor, but a big rift.
For lunch, we stopped at Aroma where I had a mozzarella sandwich, hot tea, and an almond pastry.
I'm currently at a lookout that is looking at the entire Gazan strip. 1.8 million people live there which causes a lot of poverty. Israel still provides water and electricity to Gaza, which is interesting because it is a source of power, but also doesn't make sense because most countries would just starve them out or not supply anything to them at all.
According to Gadi, Hamas's funding and headquarters are in Qatar. I'm amazed the US is not involved over there trying to stop it or if they are, why the media isn't covering it.
Now, we are at Talmei Yosef, a farm that grows EVERYTHING. They are the largest supplier of tomatoes to Europe, and I have never seen so many types in my whole life. We have learned about, and eaten everything from tomatoes of different types, cucumbers, carrots, strawberries, honey, oranges, at least, that was what we ate!
Good food, good sights, good day.
The "big hole" in the ground caused by a rift.
The Grave of Views!
The view from Ben Gurion's grave
A ginger tomato that I ate...very tasty!
Travelling with El Al Airlines, from my Journal to Israel
I'm on the plane now after switching seats with a woman so she could sit with her children. Now, I'm sitting next to two gentlemen who are preoccupied with things they have brought with them. Not bad, but it would be nice to have a conversation every now and then.
Our second flight doesn't take off for another nine hours. My flight to JFK left at 9:51am from RDU flying Jet Blue. We will be flying El Al to Israel at 6:45pm. I've heard the security for El Al is intense.
Yeah, intense is an understatement. El Al is probably the strictest airline I've encountered; although I want to be strong and say it was no big deal, a part of me things that this was a preparation for future airlines to come. With an increased level of security across the world, I'm surprised most airlines are not like El Al.
The way it works is simple. To get your boarding pass, you must first talk to the line of interrogators. The person I was assigned was a tall man with a beard who was very stern, straight-faced, and, of course, Israeli-looking.
He first asked me why I was going to Israel, then proceeded to ask me questions about my Jewishness, including the last holiday I celebrated and what about it I liked. He also asked me about Passover and what I like to eat. I just said latkes, which was a total lie, but he bought it. He also asked me about 12 times if I'd ever been to Israel before and if I knew anyone from the Middle East. The first thing that popped in my head was some friends from school, but the last thing I was going to do was explain to him that I know people from the Middle East and that they are not (I'm pretty sure) planning on blowing up the university they worked so hard to attend. I just told him that I'm from a small town, so there is no reason for me to know anyone from the Middle East. Nonetheless, he bought my lie, again, but still seemed suspicious of me because he asked if I knew anyone on the trip. Luckily, a good friend of mine from high school was on the trip with me. So when I pointed to her, he took my passport and walked over to where she was being questioned and came back to my table to "do paperwork." He kept looking at me though, so I think he was still questioning me, and profiling me as well.
When I met my friend at security, she asked me what happened, but saw my look of confusion and explained that when my guy came over he asked her all questions about me rather than asking questions about her. Suspicious? No kidding.
I don't mean to post this to scare travelers, however, I will say that El Al airlines is not your typical let's-take-a-flight-to-Disney-World flight. They mean business, and it makes sense. They have never had an incident on their airlines, and it made me feel even safer once I was on board knowing that they were so strict. As well as safe, the flight was wonderful. The flight attendants are extremely friendly and the food is excellent. But be aware that the Israeli cuisine consists of not-so-typical American food. Especially the breakfast. One might eat salad, plain yogurt, dried fruit, orange juice, and a piece of pita for breakfast. It is nutritious, filling, and definitely an experience!
Overall, by far the best way to travel is via El Al and I recommend it to any traveler.
*Whispering* Alaska- An Overview
Alaska is a place of wonder, in all things simply. If you wonder for something, Alaska is probably the place to do it; in a place of solitude and separation from the rest of the world. A place where your only worries are the bears that lurk the mossy tundra or the mysterious mineral filled water that you might just drink without any specialized treatment. There are no worries of society in wilderness, and that is where I found myself-someone I have been looking for for a very long time.
On the plane ride to Alaska, I met a fella named Kirk who, although was originally from Anchorage, has set out into the world to travel to Bali, the Himalayas, Iceland, Greenland, and other wonders in search of this so-called wilderness. Just from talking in the tail of the plane on our 6-hour flight, he gave me a glimpse of Anchorage life and most importantly, what I might possibly be getting myself into. He said that I might find myself crying at beautiful sites and talking to myself about my values and beliefs...but that wasn't even the half of it. He told me of all the adventure I would immerse myself in through the NOLS program and explained that wilderness is truly a place to experience something far different than anything I had experienced before. But what stuck with me most about what he said was the word "peace." Granted, this guy was a total outdoorsman, but he made a really good point. Maybe I could find peace? Maybe I could find a piece of myself?
When I arrived, I realized I was a day early. I don't know how that happened, but I had no need to worry because I quickly contacted a friend who would be on the trip with me, Elizabeth Andrews. She already had dinner plans, but no need to worry because I would be getting myself into an adventure as is was! The hotel shuttle driver was a guy named Richard. If you looked at him once, you might think he was a stereotypical homeless person with a beat up flannel shirt, tore up moccasins, and faded blue jeans. But I soon found that he was the sweetest man I met during my time in Anchorage. He drove me around the airport, showing me good places to eat, and -what meant the most to me- the slips at the airport for the water planes!
The next morning, Richard offered me his bike. As subtle as it sounds, that is how subtle it was. He just gave me his lock, key, helmet, and bike and said, "Take it for a tour of the city." So I did. I biked along the Alaskan Coastal Trail and saw the most beautiful mountains that I have ever seen in my life (or so I thought at that moment). After visiting the Alaskan Museum and walking around Anchorage, I got a call from a Morehead-Cain Finalist, Nick Curtin, and met him for coffee at a local shop.
That evening, I finally met Elizabeth at a Toby Mac concert in uptown Anchorage. I realized that I was among a crowd of people (over 19,000 to be exact) who would never see what I would see. They would never even think about backpacking 140 miles through the Alaskan wilderness, much less poop in the woods. But that is what I was going to be doing, and everyone that Elizabeth and I met that night encouraged us and motivated us to do well and make it out alive. "Oh man...here we go..." I thought.
The whole NOLS company is insane to me. Don't get me wrong, they are all great and wonderful people, but you can imagine my reaction when seeing these people for the first time. All of the people running the show don't take showers, ALWAYS have a cup of coffee in their hands making them utterly addicted to caffeine, and dress like they were made for the wilderness. At first, a part of me was thinking, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?" and the other part was thinking, "Where have they been my whole life?"I was in for a treat.
My instructors were such amazing people. Ari's parents died 2 months prior and left all of their possessions in New Zealand to her, so she was in the process of getting her citizenship; Adam woke up one morning a few years ago and decided to backpack from Miami to Seattle in less than 11 months; and Mark, well, he was just all around amazing -there are no words to describe him.
The first day hiking was intense. We learned of alder, and the benefits of wearing gaiters, and ended up hiking over 10 miles (a lot for a typical NOLS day) and seeing tons of dall sheep and mountain goats.
So here's a little summary without going into too much detail because let's face it-that would take forever: over the course of our trip, we saw 13 bears (two up close), 160+ caribou, marmots, birds, moose, and many many mosquitoes. We backpacked 140 miles through the Southern Talkeetna mountains and throughout the whole trip I learned everything there is to know about packing the most efficient pack, cooking delicious meals in the world.
On July 4th, we were setting up camp and I looked over the hill and I saw the most beautiful sun I have ever seen. Of course it is the same sun that I see in North Carolina, but I found myself staring at it, and questioning its existence. I was filled with a wonder that I would have never found if I weren't in Alaska at that moment. I remember tears streaming down my face and I just sat there. I stopped everything that I was doing, sat down, crossed my legs and just looked out into the abyss of wilderness. Elizabeth saw me and just came down and sat beside me in silence. She must have felt something too. In that moment, I found myself at peace. I felt neither hot nor cold, I felt neither hungry nor full. I just felt infinite. One of those moments that I couldn't understand but was happy nonetheless. I had a lot of family problems going to Alaska, as well as harsh memories from my past. I have nightmares every night and while I was in Alaska I didn't have them. I knew that the people who bother me couldn't hurt me, and I knew that in the wilderness, society couldn't attack me for what I looked like or what I wore. I was just there, existing, breathing. That was all that mattered.
In the background, you can get a sense of our altitude because the faint gray you see are clouds in the basin of the mountains.
Down the hill, we saw a huge herd of caribou. Talk about majestic...
LIKE I SAID
A typical view of what we saw on a daily basis