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I wrote nearly every day in a journal on my *delightful* tiny laptop (an Asus Eee, in case you were curious), but that is for later since it almost certainly requires editing and expansion on discombobulated notes. For the moment, a quick overview:

* My first international business trip, and the first time ever using my passport. I have stamps!
* 6 days of notice & prep, 10 days of work, 10 days of last-minute-planned-vacation with [ profile] nakor!
* Got lost driving alone, in a foreign country, where I mostly don't speak and really don't read the language. Recovered. 1 hour trip from airport to lodging took about 3, but I was always in safe places(1).
* Discovered that not being able to read street signs, even if there is later a sign in English, is really distracting. It got better as I started to be able to sound out words, and as I got used to ignoring what I went past too quickly to parse.
* Discovered that camels are the worst kind of roadkill(2). Seriously, imagine a biological AT-AT, crashing in through your windshield. Not cool at all. The signs posted frequently along the road are serious.

* Went to a spa at the Dead Sea. Floated in the water, did not take a mud bath because I was there with male colleagues old enough to be my father who for some reason did not bring bathing suits. The sea is *HOT*! Air temperature was over 39C, and the shallow water was almost too hot to be in. Even the 1m+ deep water was like a warm bath. Went back to the Dead Sea with [ profile] nakor, to a different spot. Still very hot water, sharp salt beach and encrusting on things in the water.
* Did laundry... eventually (3). Illiteracy is the scourge of our time.
* Went to ruins! Roman ones, Byzantine ones, multi-layered "conquered by everyone, rebuilt seven times" ones, still-in-use ones. Lots of pictures.
* Went to Jerusalem and did some honest-to-goodness bargaining in an Arab market! Did not actually lose my shirt, or even all my money, and apparently paid less than I would have in a normal, price-tag-bearing tourist trap!
* Prayed at the Western Wall (without prayerbooks, since I'm not Jewish), attended an interesting (if a bit disconcerting) ecumenical prayers-for-peace service in English, German, Arabic and Finnish at the Church of the Redeemer, and visited the multi-denominational warren of interconnected chapels at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Also climbed the tower of the Lutheran Church, 177 tightly-spiraled steps!
* Saw the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, as well as a neat model of 2nd Temple-era Jerusalem
* Got lost in Haifa. A bunch. Streets so steep that the alleys devolve into stairwells, labeled like Boston(4)
* Saw the Baha'i gardens and (from a distance)(5) shrine in Haifa.
* Swam in the Mediterranean! It was beautiful, turquoise-blue fading out to ... well, ocean blue, just not the slate/green color of the Atlantic.
* Spent a ridiculous amount of time in the airport(6) and then still just barely got through security in time to get on my flight. Lost my little scissors to the final scan, having forgotten that they were in my carry-on bag. Questioned like nine times about why I was in Israel and why I had three suitcases.(7)
* Brought home the World's Safest Dirty Clothes and souvenirs, as they were scanned at least twice, poked thoroughly with a chem-detector cloth a few times, disassembled and inspected by both Israeli security and US Customs, and, when I finally picked them up at BOS, there was a little card indicating that they'd also been poked through by the TSA. I think I was selected for every possible special screening except the magic-scanner-box.

(1)I did better than my colleagues from the subcontractor (who had 3 in their car and all the same maps and directions I did) who got within 10 minutes of the lodging, decided they were wrong, and subsequently drove to the Gaza Strip before being turned around by some nice IDF personnel.
(2) Not firsthand. I arrived on the scene some time after the police had arrived and set up barriers and flashing lights. The car was totally trashed---if no one got hurt, it was a miracle.
(3) The hotel's laundry service doesn't operate on Friday or Saturday, since Shabbat starts Friday at sundown, so when I was nearly out of clothes on Friday morning, I got directions from a colleague and set out for adventure. I spent 30 minutes trying to figure out why the big coin clearly labeled "10" fell right through the coin slot on the machine that appeared to say it took 10s, 5s, and 1s. A nice passerby who spoke only the smallest amount of English helped me understand that I had a 1/10 nis piece, not a 10 nis piece... the equivalent of a penny. After that it was much easier, although I wasted 4 nis because I couldn't read the sign that said that the machine did not give change. I got clean clothes out of it, so a wasted $1 isn't that bad.
(4) i.e. Major streets not labeled at all. Minor streets labeled, but often hidden behind trees or in miniature fonts.
(5) Israel is apparently closed for August. Most of the permanent collection (other than the Shrine of the Book) at the Israel Museum was closed, the Baha'i shrine and the majority of the gardens were closed, and half of Jerusalem was under construction (that might be all the time, I don't know.) Next time we should not go to the desert in high summer, perhaps.
(6) We left Haifa at noon, intending to stop for breakfast on the way, after getting up early to swim in the Med. We missed the place we'd meant to stop, and then I stupidly just kept driving until we were at the airport at like 1500, for 2300 flights. The counter does not open until 3 hours before the flight. Oops. The airport is, luckily, relatively nice. It would have been better to be relaxing somewhere not-an-airport, but as airports go it wasn't so bad.
(7) Since we were on different flights, and mine left 15 minutes after but arrived 2 hours after [ profile] nakor's, we had the brilliant idea of having me check all three suitcases, and him none. That way, he could go home on the T, get the car, and pick me up. As it turned out, this was a terrible plan. The security people were not thrilled with him having no luggage save a backpack, nor with me having three suitcases I couldn't really carry for a 20 day trip. Also, in ATL, I had to claim all the suitcases to go through customs (where I again got picked for special screening, since I had three suitcases and was therefore somehow more likely to be smuggling fruit or something) and then re-check them. At least they had baggage carts for free in ATL. It was nice to be picked up, though!


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May 2013

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