Hiatus over. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything at all, and I gotta admit I kinda lost track of this blog for a little bit. It has been a busy stretch of weeks. I finished my two week vacation in style, and came back to a hectic work schedule that’s increasingly being filled with extra curriculars… One of those I hope to debut within a month.
I have a lot to catch up on and probably not enough time or words to go through it all. So I’m going to do my best to recap the last few weeks succinctly; one or two highlights from each. My plan was to spend my two weeks entirely in Jordan, but as usual, that didn’t happen.
After hearing how easy it was to get into Jerusalem- only 50 km away- I had to give it a shot. And from there I detoured to Tel Aviv to catch up with my friend Stan from high school who I’ve only seen in bits and pieces in the last few years. And from there back to Jerusalem for a couple days more, and pretty soon I only had a handful of days left in my vacation and hadn’t done the only two things I had earmarked as musts; Petra and the Wadi Rum desert of southern Jordan. What was supposed to be two weeks in Jordan was 10 days in Israel and 7 in Jordan.
Yes, Amman and Jerusalem are very close to each other… as the crow flies. It wasn’t as easy for me. Two separate taxis and two buses just to get between the two cities should be enough of note for the oddly complicated logistics of such a short distance, but what ended up being poignant foreshadowing was the Jordanian man I was talking with on the bus as we crossed the Jordan River into the West Bank telling me that as an American I could expect a longer stoppage than most others.
Over seven hours to be exact. I was flagged almost immediately as a person of interest, and taken first to a room by myself and received a soft interrogation for a half hour and than four other, ‘heavy conversations’ over the course of the next 5+ hours. I raised almost every sort of red flag for them. I had just bought a head scarf in Jordan that I didn’t yet know was in a color pattern associated with Palestine. I had my four inch knife on me (when you live in Iraq, you make sure you take everything with you every time you go on vacation… hence my knife).
My passport has Turkey stamps (they don’t like those) a Sierra Leone stamp (not a fan of that either), and of course, several Iraq stamps (they really don’t like those). So, I was checking several different boxes, and questions in my various interviews ranged from the ages of my siblings to my duration in Sierra Leone and business liaisons in Iraq. In their eyes I was raising red flags over Hamas, Ebola, and ISIS. I got the impression that they knew the answer to every question before they asked. And I think I can check foreign detainment off of the bucket list.
I’d never heard of Jerusalem Syndrome before. It’s an affliction, or more belief that a person can develop wandering through Jerusalem, being amidst all of the ancient shrines, holy sites and various locations of worship. One with Jerusalem Syndrome comes to believe that they are themselves a holy individual, or that they are having an intense religious moment or epiphany brought on by their immensely symbolic surroundings. No, I did not get Jerusalem Syndrome, but I could see the triggers everywhere.
I won’t delve into any great detail about my personal religious affiliations, but I do think of myself as a strongly empathetic person, and seeing the reactions, the emotional or spiritual releases of other people in the ‘holy city’ was a very powerful thing to witness.
The Weeping Wall, Dome of the Rock, or Church of the Holy Sepulchre do not have the same affect on me as they might have on others, but to watch people, whether someone specifically or people in general react in the ways that they did when coming face to face with places of such resounding importance to them… it was moving. Unlike anything I’ve seen before.
After Jerusalem I caught a bus to Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv, much like Amman, was pleasant for being a city that I had no preconceived notions of whatsoever. Everything was a fresh experience without any expectation. Tel Aviv had an unreal night life. Almost every night I was out dancing, and never to the same club twice. The clubs resemble each other only in the sense that they were mutually unexpected; the ritzy restaurant with a re-appropriated basement, a warehouse, a random alleyway… and every single one had an amazing atmosphere.
By my last night in the city, I couldn’t even muster the energy to go out one final time. What time wasn’t spent dancing with new friends was spent on the beach playing Matkot, my new favorite game. All it takes is two players, two paddles, and a small rubber ball. It’s a non-competitive sport; the objective being to keep the ball in play, back-and-forth, as long as possible. My four days in Tel Aviv were in many ways the highlight of my vacation, the first time I felt like I had truly unwound in many many months.