Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Zaniness

Here's my own picture of the Dome of the Rock, shot Christmas Day.

I hope you all had fantastic Christmases!

As I told you, this past weekend I went to Bethlehem. In addition to the enjoyment of spending Christmas with Anne, the awful and constant rain, and the coolness of celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem, it was pretty insane, especially the first day. Here’s what happened: Well, at 10 a.m., I hopped on a bus to (supposedly) take me from Irbid, Jordan to Nazareth, Israel. Arriving at the Jordan-Israel border at about 11, I felt great. I remember specifically thinking that at that rate, I would be in Jerusalem by 2, and I could spend the rest of the day with Anne in Jerusalem. Wonderful! I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Basically, Israel detained me at the border for over 8 hours. Despite my Department of State insurance card, they thought I was a Western activist going to help the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (which might be true in the future, but on this occasion, I was your typical tourist!). I sat, I sat, and I sat, watching tourist after tourist, Jordanian after Jordanian pass through the security. There was a stretch of 3 hours without a single question directed towards me. They claimed they were doing background checks, but I still don’t know what the jack was going on. At least one of the soldiers felt bad for me, and she gave me her meal for the day, so I did eat courtesy of the Israeli Defense Forces. Eventually (and I mean after upwards of 7 hours of waiting), they brought in some special guy for me, which may account for some of the wait. I kept telling him how honored I was that he should come just for me, but he didn’t seem to find the humor. After they escorted me to a separate building, he gave me an extensive search. This was definitely the most intense part of the interrogation, owing only to my own stupidity. I had forgotten to leave behind in Jordan a small Palestinian flag that was in my bag. While waiting, I put it in my sock, out of fear that they’d search my stuff. Gosh, this guy must have had his hands right on that flag, but he never found it. If he would have, I’m certain my Christmas would’ve been in Irbid! I was interviewed by another man about everything from Calvin College, to ‘Marie Vanderwall’ (that was Anne), to my graduate school plans. He even tested my Arabic to determine whether I was lying about that. This other guy just watched me, reading my body-language to see if I was lying. But I passed! It was all ludicrous, although I think I was able to see the humor in it all, rather than being pissed. It helped that the Israelis working there were genuinely nice to me. In the end, I got a 3-month visa- ha, ha, ha Anne!

The fun didn’t end at the border. Nope. By the time they released me, there was no public transportation to the nearest Israeli city, Bet Sheen, and I had to pay a ridiculous taxi fare. At that point, I was in a weird mood, perhaps delirious, and I figured I might as well add to the absurdity of the day. So after failed attempts to hitchhike, as opposed to paying for an ass-expensive hotel, I decided to sleep on a park bench in a Bet Sheen park. For some reason, nothing seemed better to me, and when I initially laid down, I was actually quite thrilled with my lot in life. The idea was brilliant, but not all brilliant ideas turn out so brilliant. Yeah, b/w 10 pm and 3 am, I probably slept a total of an hour or two. I’d constantly wake up shivering, roll over, shift positions to make the coldest part of my body warmer (thus exposing some other part), and pull out my cell phone to check the time. ‘Oh, it’s only been 30 minutes.’ I spent the whole evening wearing socks on my hands and boxers around my face, just to cover every inch. It was MISERABLE! Finally I gave up and just started walking, determined that I would walk around until the bus to Jerusalem came at 7.

In the far distance, I heard music…music means warm indoor places, a rare commodity when it’s 3 a.m., and you can’t stop shivering. It was a karaoke bar, and it was warm, although they didn’t have any warm drinks. Instead, I had to drink a beer, my whole body shaking every time I touched the damn bottle! When I initially entered, some of the folks in the bar were definitely afraid of me (think backpack on a stranger, walking into a public place- their faces actually gave a better appreciation for the extent to which Israelis fear the suicide bomber). I think they eventually came to the conclusion that I was either homeless, lost, or crazy…or all three. I mean, I wandered in shaking, half asleep, my hair everywhere, looking like a deer caught in headlights. But the people were very nice, even giving me hummus for free. There I sat, shivering and eating my free hummus, sitting with drunk Israelis while they sang karaoke in Hebrew. A few of them insisted that I sleep at their place for a couple of hours, on a kibbutz! So, within the period of two weeks, I slept in the house of Bedouins and on a kibbutz. See the attached picture- it actually looked just like bunch o
f small trailer homes or something. Unfortunately, my new friends (the picture is of Aron) spoke almost no English, and I was thus unable to get any sense of how the kibbutz works. All in all, it was a pretty crazy day- not exactly fun, but one to remember!

I could bombard you with more stories, like drinking beer at Ramses’ Burger on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, listening to Anne make what I’m convinced is the most absurd comparison in the history of human comparison-making (really, if there was a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘worst comparison,’ it would win), or randomly running into someone I went to high school with…but I’ll stop now!

To each of you, have a fantastic New Year's! To those going to Mandy Lord and soon-to-be Matt Lord's wedding, I will miss you badly! To Matt and Mandy Lord, it breaks my heart that I can't make it. Know that I'm really pround of you guys, and I love you.


Blogger Scotter said...

The allure of a park bench, I remember sleeping on one in Portland last summer, after my train arrived eight hours late. I remember also being initially thrilled at the idea of crashing on a park bench, but nights are just plain cold. Happy Holidays.

2:12 PM

Blogger Robin Bobo King said...

Oh Scotter, we're such kindred spirits! I miss you man. Happy Holidays to you too. How are you, by the way? Send me an e-mail...or I probably owe you one.

5:13 AM

Blogger katherine said...

i wish i could hear this story in person, or at least on the phone. i don't know anyone else who has such zany adventures. i miss you robin. call me soon!

9:46 AM

Blogger katherine said...

BOOOOORING. update, please!

12:26 PM

Blogger heidi said...

yes robin - please update again soon...

FYI: I was at your Alma Mater this past weekend, went to a Sigur Ros concert, enjoyed it thoroughly. Thought I'd let you know. Hope things are going well!

5:55 AM

Blogger anya said...

this is just to prove to you that i a) have visited your site and b) am capable of reading it AND leaving a message! hope things are well - we miss you around here.

1:31 PM


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