Monday, July 30, 2007

Travels with Spesh

On Sunday night, Dad and Susan stayed at a guest house next door to where we had dinner. The town was halfway to the airport. B1 and I got a ride part way back to Jerusalem with the rest of the family in a big van. They dropped us off when we hit the city limits and we took a taxi the rest of the way. We didn't get back until 2am, which was unfortunate since we needed to leave the house by 8:30am.

B1 was also leaving on Monday, but not until the afternoon. He planned to meet B2 at the Central Bus Station and go from there to a cemetery to visit their mother's grave. Spesh had gone to stay with his parents at the kibbutz and I was supposed to catch a 9am bus to their part of the world. B1 and got in a taxi together around 8:3am to get to the bus station.

We said goodbye there and I had to go through security to enter the station. When I entered, I didn't see anything that looked like a ticket window--just shops and restaurants. I figured out that I had to go upstairs to find the buses. The night before, Spesh had given me the schedule, bus number and platform number. I managed to buy a ticket and make it onto the 9:00am bus. It left about 15 minutes late but arrived 5 minutes early.

The ride was uneventful. I wanted to fall asleep but I didn't want to miss the stop either--it was an express bus and I'd get off at the first stop, "Megiddo Junction." The trip took over an hour, but I was worried that if I fell asleep, I wouldn't wake up. I sat next to a young soldier and he slept the entire trip.

After about an hour an a half, we approached the stop. One of the of Yeshiva boys across the aisle asked where I was getting off (I assume). I said, "Megiddo." He said, "Ma?" (which means "what"). I said, "Megiddo." He said, "Ma?" I said, "Megiddo!" His friend socked him and I got off the bus.

Spesh was waiting for me at the bus stop, which was literally at the junction of two major roads, but not an actual town. I told him about the boy and Spesh said I'd been saying "Megiddo" correctly.

We didn't discuss it, but the plan was to go to Haifa and look around. On the way, we stopped by Spesh's landlady's house. I was dying for coffee since I didn't have time for breakfast in Jerusalem. Spesh said the landlady might offer me coffee. He might have been joking, but when we got to her place she offered coffee and I accepted. It was possibly a faux pas, but the coffee was very good.

Haifa was another twenty minutes down the road. Both of us were beat--Spesh was fighting a cold and I was exhausted, but that didn't deter us. We drove around the campus where Spesh will have a post doc next year. It's an impressive place, with a lot of shiny new buildings. We got hungry so Spesh called some friends to get suggestions for lunch places. We took the suggestions and drove to an interesting neighborhood. We parked and immediately I spotted a place with sign out front, in English, which read "hot spot." I said, "Do you think they have wifi? Do you want to use the computer?"

"Sure, let's bring it in."

I pulled the computer out of the suitcase and we set ourselves up in the tiny café. The one person working there spoke English and gave us menus in English, which made life much easier--even for Spesh, since he didn't have to translate. First we got drinks, then food. The food took a long time to come out but we made use of that time by reading an article about Spesh's activist group on the internet. He was also on the phone almost continuously, which started to grate.

After we ate lunch, we decided to do some exploring on foot. We walked down the block and ran into Haifa's underground cable car system, which consists of one line. Speesh thought it would be fun to take a ride, so we did. We went down the hill to the old city, "Paris Square." The area was grungy, like any old port, and full of Russians--I heard my first (and only) "spaseeba" there.

Spesh didn't like it, but I thought it was great. I like looking at the dirty, falling apart parts of town. It was hot day so we stopped for a cold drink, which we brought back on the train. Speesh said, "You can't do that in DC!" We rode all the way back to the top of the hill, which was two stops past our starting point. Spesh had some doubt as to our ability to find the car again, but I was confident.

Haifa is a beautiful city; green and lush with spectacular views. It's also one of the hilliest places I've ever been. We found step-paths down the hill that were more direct than the winding streets. We walked down several hundred steps, which made my knee unhappy. I didn't mind so much, but the pain wasn't fun. I may have annoyed Spesh by moving so slowing, but walking down steps is one of the worst things for my knee. We also got more drinks along the way. It was a good way to see the city for sure.

We'd already decided to spend the night at the Kibbutz. I actually would have been happy to spend the whole day there, relaxing. Maybe sneak a little vacation into my vacation, but it was not to be. The next day, we had to go back to Tel Aviv so Spesh could run many errands. Oh well.

I would have fallen asleep on the drive from Haifa to the Kibbutz, but Spesh was tired too so I stayed awake and tried to talk to him. When we got back, I washed my tired feet and sat on the couch. Spesh's mom brought us watermelon and his dad asked incongruous questions. His sister was friendly and we had a long talk about politics. I like Spesh's family a lot and it's relaxing to be with them. The parents invited me to some event on the kibbutz, but Spesh declined for me, "Jamy is too tired." It was funny but true.

Dinner was good. Spesh's mom and dad had asked several times if I were a vegetarian but didn't quite seem to believe me when I said "no." They did believe it when they saw me eat the meatballs they served. Yum. Plus, there was cheese to put on them! Civilization indeed.

After dinner, the rest of the family left. Spesh and I hung around and watched a movie. Ah, how I love satellite tv on vacation! I slept ok but woke too early. This whole trip has been a sleep disaster. Oh well.

Grateful for: family.

Tel Aviv: 8/1/2007

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