Friday, January 17, 2014

West Point and Jordan - Israel Week 6


Last night, I landed in Chicago with the men and women's basketball teams for our game today against University of Chicago.  It is very exciting.  I originally meant to post this on Thursday, for Flashback Thursday but I did not finish it on time nor did I have good internet for most of the day.  However this post starts with the WBB trip to West Point.  Honestly, I have been working on this post for a while  and when I started it (for reals) I did not get too far because I  loaded up netflix and clicked on Resident Evil...I have always wanted to get into that series but I started to watch it and o-m-g! It was so scary...20 minutes into it I turned it off... but it still haunted me last night (basically I did not sleep well).
But in other news, I loved that the team went up to West Point (it is about an hour outside of the city).  It took over an hour to get near the Army base/college and then we had dinner.  Eventually we got to the base and then got a tour by a former WBB player and also got to see our former assistant coach (who is now an assistant coach at West Point)!  The game was great and it was their third conference game.  They are now 3-0 in conference! good for them! And they leave today or tomorrow for Annapolis (MD) for the Navy game which is very exciting!  I wish them the best of luck.  Here are some photos from the trip:
This was the restaurant we ate at, just outside of the army base at westpoint.  It was nice to see that just a little ways outside the city (about an hour driving from the city) you can get a ton of food for so little money!

And now, I worked on this before practice as well as after practice but I think that I can finally share my photos from Israel (which was the trip I took during my 6th week of living in Jordan).  I loved my time there, especially for the food, ac and just exploring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  The culture and people are incredible and I honestly could see myself easily living there! I just loved it.  I have begged my parents to go back with me and hopefully we will get that opportunity in the next few years!  I stayed in hostels and traveled with my good friend Si, who I also lived with in Jordan and also had taken Arabic classes back at NYU with!

The days leading up to our trip, which we had planned since like the third week of living there, I was really sick.  I had constant migraines (light sensitivity) and heat stroke and I had been unable to eat or really move, since we did not have AC. The day of, some of the professors recommended against going since I was really sick but I figured if I could get into AC I probably would be better off, and the professor from NYU even said that if I died in Jerusalem, at least I could get buried there...I guess it is not as funny as I thought it was at the time but we were pretty miserable from the heat that it seemed funny.

So after morning classes, Si and I (and some other students) caught the Jet Bus to take us to Amman and an hour later we were at the bus station where we had a driver waiting for us to take us to the border.  We had heard that it would be best to get a driver (not a taxi) to take us to the border so there would be a set fee and also this way we would not risk angering certain people.  The ride to the border was much longer than I thought it would be but it was pretty scenic (though I have no photos).  The driver dropped us off at the border crossing and we went through the Jordanian checkpoint but were told we would have to wait for the next bus to take us over the crossing.  I kept asking how long till the next bus and they kept telling us 15 minutes... 2 hours later (and sitting in the 110 degree heat) we finally got on the bus (little anger here but: why should they send a bus every hour like they say they should when they can just wait for last call - last trip across the border and then send us, if not to only make us pay the 99 US Dollars to become  VIP which would get us into an air conditioning room while we wait for a driver to take us across the border... which we, as college students, all refused). To say the least I got more sick and it was so hot that my phone (Iphone) was damaged in the heat - like the pixels melted/broke or something so that I had lines going vertical down my screen.  Finally we get across the border, through the bomb checks and what not and get through visa checkpoint and I could not believe we were in Israel.  Granted, we had to wait for a shared taxi (sharta I think?) to fill up, and there was one very angry woman who did not understand why we had to wait for the car to be filled before leaving the border but eventually it was full and we were off heading into Jerusalem.  It was very exciting but not much to see since it was so dark.  We got let off, where we were told was right by our hostel, but I can't say for sure we were because we wandered for some time through the old city before eventually making it back to our place but luckily in the night it had cooled off some.  I also got to see the Wailing Wall lit up at night and see how Jerusalem was like at night!
We stayed at the Abraham hostel (link here) -- we booked it through and Si and I were able to stay in a private room while some other students opted to stay in the dormitories.  Not big but did the job and had AC (big deal)! As soon as I was able to cool down, I almost immediately started to feel better and we were able to venture out and grab food.  I cried when I was finally able to eat some real food and relax a bit.  It was really nice and the food was so delicious!  I did most of my shopping and eating on Ben Yehuda Street and that is where much of the night life revolves around! Jerusalem is such a crazy city because there is such a mix of old and new, but it works! I honestly could easily see myself living there or anywhere in Israel.  I really loved my time here.  Below is some pictures from my tour with Si and a family friend of hers that offered to give us a private tour of the old city.  We started out on the roofs and it is pretty clear to see the different quarters (Jewish, Arab, and Christian) and you can also see how the territory has been divided based on the last few wars/treaties.  It is very interesting to learn about the politics and history of the nation.

Those are views from walking to the Old City and then walking on top of the Old city.  This last picture is from when we came back down to the main level of the old city (though many people do use the roofs to get around, or so it seemed) and we walked into the Christian Quarter (though it appears that most Christians are leaving, and I believe the quarter is mainly the Greek Orthodox sect but they have been selling their buildings and leaving).  I got to see, what is believed to be the sight of Jesus' burial and a fabulous church! Pictures below:

afterwards, we continued the tour and visited some other ancient sites inside the old city (or around it) and visited another part of the wailing wall where you can write a prayer on a piece of paper and stick it in a crack in the wall.

These are some images of food we ate/saw! The first one is from our breakfast in the outdoor mall by the old city and we ate at Aroma (which I love in NYC and had no idea it was an Israeli company) for breakfast.  Did you know that there is no Starbucks in Jerusalem?  They tried to open one there but there are already so many fabulous cafes/coffee shops that it was not profitable so it closed down!  Actually, a really famous coffee drink in Israel is Ice Coffee (Ice Kaffee) which is like iced coffee but in slurpee form.
Now these are photos of the Shouq.  It is an incredible marketplace and really large.  In the back is a famous bakery called Marzipan - we got there right when they were bringing out the goodies from the oven and it smelled divine! I wish a photo could capture that smell in a photo!

The face of happiness! 

After spending a full day in Jerusalem (two nights) we caught a bus from the bus station (after eating at the most delicious food - Shwarma right now at a gas station right by the bus station...supposedly the best in all of Jerusalem .... and I have to admit it was pretty darn delicious) to Tel Aviv.  One of the most shocking things I saw and had to get used to was seeing kids my age and younger carrying automatic guns in public places and on buses.  It was quite different from what I was used to and shocking but it also made me feel safe in an area that isnt necessarily and also showed me how these people need to live.  It was very impressive.

Our hotel was a block away from the beach and I could not have been happier.  Luckily Si knew all the places to go and see and where to eat! One night we got fish right on the water and it came with so many salads and what not I barely had room for the amazing fish.  And I found a place very similar to 16 Handles - froyo and they had such amazing food and it was across the street from the hotel... I ate thre 6 times in three days (was it three or two?) ... they started to recognize me! I am telling you, I had not eaten well in some time because I had been so sick in Jordan but these 5/6 days away was a life saver and helped me survive the rest of the time back in Jordan.

We decided to return to Irbid, Jordan on a Saturday - Shabbat (since classes started up again on Sunday) and most public transportation is shut down for Shabbat so we had to pay extra money to get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a shared taxi and then again extra money from Jerusalem to the border crossing.  This time we had AC but we still had to wait a while before they took us back over the border to Jordan and to catch yet another shared taxi to the Jet Bus Station to take a bus back to Irbid.  So lots of traveling.  To put it mildly, I was very sad to leave Israel - I actually cried.  But I made a promise to myself and with my parents that I would return and to take them to the places I have seen and also perhaps explore some of the places I did not get to visit like the Dead Sea and Tiberius (aka Sea of Galilee).

There is so much I wish I could share but I don't know if I could accurately describe my experience or my feelings that I had while I was there but I am not the same person that I was before I went to Jordan and even from the time I was in Israel.  It was an incredible time.  The last two weeks, Si and I talked about returning to Israel to visit the Sea of Galilee (Tiberius) but we were both so sick from the heat that we actually got to a point where we just needed AC - I mean it was late July and the heat was bad and it was Ramadan (so like no stores were open during the day but it was like a major party at night so I also was not sleeping at the right times) but we go to a point where we were soaking towels in water and freezing them and that was a way to keep us cool enough for a time to sleep but eventually we would over heat and have to switch out towels.  Later on we learned that because we were on the top floor, the heat was even worse!  We moved into our friends living room two floors down and it made over 10 degree difference... all of a sudden we could sleep but we did not do that until the last week!

However, for the next two weekends we found a boutique hotel that was in a very posh area and we literally stayed in our room, watched the Olympics (in Arabic) and slept and ate good food!  And during the day if we did leave, we escaped to Rainbow Street to one of the few places that was open during Ramadan, during the day that is, the Turtle Cafe a foreign expat coffee shop! It was our way of surviving...but we learned to enjoy it even though it had a cost (for our parents)!
To be honest, I was pretty discourage and sad about my time in Jordan.  There was so much more I wish I could have done and learned but at the same time my body did not let me do much ... I became almost nocturnal because the heat would bring on my migraines during the day so I would knock myself out with tea or sleeping medicine or some painkillers and then wake up at night and do work/read/watch was my bodies way of coping I guess. All in all I lost about 15 lbs during my time in Jordan but don't worry ... I gained it all back!  But luckily, my neighbors back in NoVa introduced me to a Jordanian family who planned to visit Amman toward the end of Ramadan and they showed me (and Si) a different side of Jordan that I had never seen.  They took us up to the Amman Citadel at night during Ramadan and we were able to participate in festivities, listen to live music and eat good food and enjoy good conversations (and I was not scared to be seen in ordinary clothing).  It was a good experience.

I am still glad that I went.  I am a different person and I have both many good and bad experience.  I wish I could have done things differently in certain scenarios but I don't believe I could have changed how I handled things then.
Thanks for reading!
With joy,

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