26 Feb 2014

°Baby, give me one more night°

It was a weird time after I got back from Israel. I don’t even know what happened. I was so full of positive energy and optimism that I thought it will be very easy to come back `home`. But it wasn’t. There was something inside me that just did not want to let it go. Or was it me?

After a while I stopped questioning. And a little more after that, I knew I need to take action.

So what happened during those almost two months after I got back:
-I got older
-Black Swan 2nd birthday
-Monika, sweetheart as she is, threw me a surprise birthday party
-I brought some cake to work for my birthday, got lots of `congratulations`
-I made my own birthday `party` with good food and some balloons as a present
-My body grew a `friend` and I had to struggle by going to the doctors, achieving nothing, starting to really dislike them, finally achieving an appointment, getting a little incision and finally living `friend` free
-I went to a few seminars in Social Media Week
-30 seconds to Mars concert
-Thai food fest. Making Tom Yum, Pad Thai and then eating a lot of desserts after that.
-Participating in Chinese New Years [one month too late]
-Receiving way too many shifts for work for March [I probably really shouldn’t be complaining].

January is a birthday for my friend’s bar. This year it was the second. So I rushed to the Bulgarian shop that has a little section of Lithuanian stuff, bought a bottle of Starka [his favourite] and we went to the party. I wasn’t up for staying for too long, neither was Wycka, but, almost as always, one beer led to another, one conversation followed the second one, more people were coming in, more people that we knew were coming in and…in the end we closed the bar. But it was a fun night. Lots of laughs and good memories.

The next day I was invited to come to Monika’s place. She said she is gathering some girls from work to have a lunch kind of a thing. I did not suspect a thing. I got into her place, took my jacket off and once she opened the door to her room people started singing Happy Birthday, throwing balloons and blowing soap bubbles. It was all very nice and really unexpected. So we spend a lazy Sunday talking, unwrapping presents [Signe just had her birthday too, so she got some presents as well] and enjoying good curry.

The day before my own birthday I got a few hints at work to bring a cake. I wasn’t supposed to be working on my birthday, but once I got a shift, I figured, that’s the least I can do. So I did it. I spent maybe 5 hours in the kitchen trying to make a nice looking and tasting `ant hill`. I managed. People really liked it at work, I even got a bottle of sparkling wine from my boss and many compliments on my cake. Mission accomplished. And, of course, I made another cake to myself. That’s what happens when you are a bit addicted to sweets. So in the evening after work I made some Pad Thai, Shai came by with bouquet of balloons and Lithuanian beer and we `celebrated` my birthday.

At some point around that time, I felt the same tingling pain right next to my scar, and I instantly knew what that will be. I tried every home remedy to get rid of this `friend`, whatever you call it, lets say cyst. Nothing happened. So, after a few weeks of struggling I went to see the doctor and she told me `it will go away`. That made me really angry. I mean, Danish doctors only know two things – take some painkillers OR it will go away. I knew it wasn’t going away, but I had no choice, but to wait. So after two weeks I got another appointment and this time she finally sent me to a specialist for a little `surgery`. I say surgery, but it’s really more of an incision. I mean, I only got out with two stitches, that not really a surgery, is it?

Anyways, the exact thing happened just like a year ago. I got it done, then I got paranoid it’s infected, I went to see doctor again, they told me it’s nothing, a few more days passed, I went to remove the stitches and that’s it. I’m finally whole again. Woo hoo. Still not big fan of Danish doctors though. But on the other hand, don’t think I can blame them much. After all, most danes go to doctor for every tiny simple problem, which usually do go away or can be cured by painkillers.

This last week here in Copenhagen was Social Media Week, full of free seminars. I only got to it a little too late, so most of the seminars were already fully booked. Initially I signed up for 4 and then canceled one. After the first one, that was pretty crappy, I thought I am not going to risk it. I liked one of them. There was a guy from IBM and another one from some consulting company [cannot remember the name right now]. They had the speaking to the audience skills and really explained the whole thing well, on how business can use social media to be more successful. The last seminar I went to was in UN City. The guy was interested, although some of the things he said were pretty empty. But I liked the UN City. It got me thinking – maybe I should try to get an internship there. They are international people and I can multicultural experience..

At the end of Social Media Week I went to 30 seconds to Mars concert. And before you ask – of course alone. It started pretty well. The supporting band from Scotland was pretty good and 30 seconds to Mars came to the stage on time, managed to get people to jump and dance from the very beginning and it was starting to look like it’s gonna be one hell of the concert. But then it went down a little. I mean, it’s small details, of course, but I guess those matter. At least to me. First of all, Jared [the lead singer] asked to girls to come on stage with him, but since one of them starting gasping air and crying, he gave all of the attention to her almost ignoring the other one. I mean, how should the other one feel in a situation like that? In the end he did hug her too, but still.. Then there was this pretty unoriginal anymore thing with throwing balloons to people. And so on. But in general – songs were good, people were turned on, so in the end I guess you could say it was a good concert.

The next day after the concert we met up with Monika, went to my favourite shop in Istegade to buy some Thai goodies and went to her place to make some good supper/dinner. We were total of 7 people there, two dishes: soup and main noodle dish. We drank Lithuanian beer and two exclusive Belgium beers, one of them brought from monastery. We were all very different people, brought together only because someone knows someone and so the evening went well. People said they liked my food [I could only hope but since half of them went for a second time, I guess it couldn’t have been too bad]

And the day after that we went to a celebration of Chinese New Years. That was a little disappointing. A lot of speeches, then 3 minutes of kung fu demonstration, 3 minutes of ladies dancing, 3 more minutes of singing, then buffet and karaoke, which we skipped. We went for coffee instead. And later on to some coffee place to sit down and relax. It was Sunday after all.

And coming to the present moment, I am here, trying to put the last dots on i’s. I cleaned my sheets, I received a letter stating that I will be quite busy in March, I talked to Monika about possible sport club to attend, I cleaned my room, I bought ingredients to make lasagna [for the first time in my life, so wish me luck] and cake and I think I will start living again. I mean I have to. The time is ticking out.

Shall we?

°To the Holy Land and back°

It’s been quite some time. I just could not figure out if I should put my Israel/Jordan trip here and if I should, should I just copy my diary I was writing during it, or just a summary. And then other things started happening. And then I started forgetting some of them.

Yet, I realised – I cannot exactly move on until I do. So here we go – and we start with the last year.

2013 12 21 04:50
Sucks to be travelling when you are tired and still cannot sleep. Lesson to learn – never ask for a front seat  - there is no way to lift your legs comfortably. That is, of course, is you are a legs-up kind of  a sleeper.
Istanbul’s airport is a little weird. So little people – so many open places. No smoking area – and we are talking Turkey. A country were just a few years ago I saw people smoking in a public buses. No maps of the place or how to get to your gate or anywhere you may want to get. And all the information is given to you in English/Turkish/Russian. Many Russian tourists apparently are coming.
I was going to my gate when a guy in towels with 3 blocks of cigarettes passed me. First I thought that it is probably just one of those New Russians after a fancy airport massage or something. But the closer I got, the more guys wearing the same kind of towels I saw. Now my tolerance level is high, but this is still surprising – what kind of religion (if religion, that is) require men (yes, only men, women look different) to wear two towels – one around waist and another one on shoulders. It’s not just me, it is weird, right? They were going to Jeddah. I think I want to google that.

[I googled. Nothing came up really. Maybe it was just this really weird group (although the whole plane, really??) dressing up like that]

2013 12 21
I find people to be not really smart especially in the planes. On my way to landing in Tel Aviv one chick could not wait to turn on her cell-phone while we were still landing. No, not even just driving to the parking spot, but landing. It’s like saying `oh I am such an important person, I simply cannot wait, I am waiting for an extremely important phone call. I am the center of the universe and without me this world would collapse`. You are just one insignificant prick, get over yourself, princess. And the thing is, I looked at her phone. Plain curiosity. She was texting some guy, who she named in her phone as `love of my life` [so first of all ewwww]. So yes, that is an emergency that could not wait for us to land. Congratulations, you just joined the idiots club. And one more [I wasn't following her, it just happened] at the passport control she said, and I pretty much quote `I am visiting my boyfriend, so I am not sure if I should check the box of a spouse`. I said nothing, even though I wanted to and I tried not to laugh to her face, but I mean come on, nobody married you, maybe no one ever will, what are you doing trying to check the `spouse` box?

Then Tel Aviv airport. I am walking towards the exit and there it is – a fountain. In the country that has so limited water supply, they are building fountains. Is it only me that does not find that particularly good idea?

Finally after the airport, I found a mini bus that was going to Jerusalem [even though it was Sabbath] and found my hostel pretty easily. The owner was really nice and I got my bed right away. So I put my stuff down, brushed my teeth and went to explore the Holy City, baby.

2013 12 21
From the Western Wall a.k.a. Wailing Wall.

I have to say, i expected more. Not sure what more – more people, more wailing, more holes to put your notes in, more spirituality...something. But I did put my own wail. My one wish to be more exact. After all, sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn't.

But starting from the beginning, once I got out for a walk in the city I visited David’s tower, Globe exhibition for climate warming, Armenian quarter [where Jesus and his 12 followers had their last supper], Zion gate, where I was hassled a little by a taxi driver to take an opportunity to go with him to Bethlehem, because, and I quote `Bethlehem is open today`. Sure, like other days the city is closed. Do those people really think I am a complete idiot? Because I am not, parts are missing.

On my way to Wailing Wall I got stopped by this man. He seemed nice in the beginning, but he took my map out of my hand and started `guiding` me to the centre of the city. It became clear to me that this was his way of `offering` me his guiding services and will expect payment in the end. And I am an independent traveller. I don’t take guides in the city where I can walk about perfectly by myself. And I don’t have extra cash for people like that. Especially like him, who did not offer, but basically tried to force it on me.

After about 5 minutes of walking [I was still trying to figure out a way to politely tell him that I am not going to pay for him] he started giving me hints `so I help you to see the old town and then later you can help me with money`. I told him that I don’t have any money (lie, sure, but whatever). He then told me that it was not a problem, because there are ATMs in the city (seriously, some guts to tell strangers when and where to cash out). So I told him that I did not bring my bank card with me. That’s when he showed his real face and started shouting `Oh you are a very actor [!!!]. So what are you going to do – eat and drink from the ground?? Get away out of my face!`. The only thing that I could think about to say was `wow` and he just stormed out. Probably to harass another tourist. At that moment I thought  - well, Holy Land, thank you very much, I feel very welcome by your people.

2013 12 21 19:15 Hostel
I walked and walked and walked and finally I got lost. Got totally lost in those weird turning streets, with no people to ask for directions, no idea where in a map I am and on top of that – no matching names in real life and in a map of the streets. Brilliant.
For a moment there I thought I am doomed.
But then, luckily for me, some Jews came out of the corner and they even asked me if I maybe needed some help. They almost did not speak any English, but they showed me which direction I should go. I was walking back to my hostel and I could not help but be surprised about this city. Streets are turning, changing direction, being cut and then continue in an irrational way, change names and so on. How can one person not to get lost? I did find the hostel though, I met a few people in my room in it, I went for a kebab and started slowly drift to sleep.

2013 12 22

Passing out at 9p.m. paid off. At 7a.m. I was already fresh and ready. A little conversation over breakfast tea in the hostel and I went for more exploring. First I tried to get to big mosque with golden roof, but security would not let me in – Muslims only. Well okay, I can give them that – I look nothing like a Muslim. So I continued walking through Lion’s gate toward the Mountain of Olives. You know, the one where Olive tree caught on fire to send a message to one of those important guys in one of those religions. A little and quite steep climb later, but not before I went to visit a tomb of Mary. Yes, the same Mary that gave birth to Jesus, the Christ. I found myself at a quite a view. The whole old town was visible from there, impressing. There was also a possibility to ride a donkey or a camel. That camel was freaky, it was making noises and faces as if he wanted to murder someone.

After back in the old city, I took Damascus gate and went to the bus station. Sadly not the one I needed. So instead of getting the tickets, I walked into a supermarket [normal one, with prices, not like in the old town] and bought myself some food, for later or for breakfast.

And on my way back to the hostel I missed my turn, because I came back to the Western Wall. Once inside I actually located the location of the tunnels, bought a discounted tickets for 16:10. And went out, wondering if this was the time to start sending Christmas postcards.

So I’m writing those postcards and a guy comes – do you need help? I think I can manage few postcards, thank you very much. But he doesn’t leave. He keeps asking all the same questions – Where are you from? First time in Israel? Blah blah blah. He sees I am writing and most of the time completely ignoring him, but I guess he just does not get `back off` message. Then he asks me if I live with my family. Why is that any of your business? `With my boyfriend` I lie. I find it so much easier to lie and lie in such situations. Is he the same age as you? Why does that matter? Not that you know how old I am, you idiot. `Older` I say. Then he starts asking me all those `are you happy with him? Is he treating you nicely?` crap. Because sure, I am going around and tell random strangers about my real or fictional life. Do those people never heard of personal space and boundaries? Cause they sure could use some of that.

2013 12 22 Wailing Wall
And I am at the wall again. After visiting Christian quarter and grabbing a sandwich with salad I got lost again and so without wanting to be late for my visit to the tunnels, I decided to wait here.

Wailing Wall. Weird thing about it is that it is divided for men and women. Okay, it’s not that weird, it is for a very religious people. But I found weird is that women get much less of the wall than men and there are much more women visiting the Wall rather than men. So every man can actually walk to the walk, touch it and pray next to it, women are forced to be squeezed, pray in a distance or wait quite some time in order to get there.

While I was waiting for 16:10 to get here, I saw some soldiers around. More and more. They did some kind of formation, took the flag down, then back up, listened to some orders from another soldier, sang. It was curious. I did not get any of that, but it was interesting to watch and see, especially when all those soldiers are totally different. Tall, short, chubby, skinny and all young, not much experienced in life.

After that I rushed to the tunnels.
It’s difficult to explain them for the person who haven’t seen them. The main idea is – tunnels are an actual old Jerusalem, because through the time city was `lifted` a few stages. So they take you through old streets of Jerusalem, showing western wall of the temple that was there long long time ago and explain you what the city and the history of it really was. We had a guide. American Rabbi and he was pretty good at his job, he had lots of stories about those tunnels.

2013 12 23
The plan was simple – I go to the bus station, buy my tickets to the south, take tram to the holocaust museum and get back to the old city. Well, that did not happen.

The guy at the ticket office was rather rude. Maybe it was me, maybe that fact that I don’t speak Hebrew or maybe he’s just an asshole. I asked several times if I can buy ticket from Masada (not Jerusalem where I was at that moment) to Eilat. He told me different times for the bus than I knew and I got the wrong ticket. I did not know that there, since all is written in Hebrew, but I had doubts.

So I went to the museum. Entrance to the museum is free and it is very well done. It explains the whole history and pretty neatly. Most of the things that I saw and read there were not news for me, but it is still pretty depressing.

Lithuania has quite a name there. Lithuanian documents, such as marriage licenses are on display, Kaunas’s IX fort is there two, even the numbers of Lithuanian volunteers in SS squads in concentration camps are there. It kind of makes you sort of embarrassed about your own people.

There is also children’s monument and that is quite depressing. SPOILER ALERT – don’t read if you are planning to visit and don’t want to know in advance. It’s pretty basic. Just a little dark room, shaped as a circle and there are a few mirror shelves in the middle with candles on them. And around – countless of mirrors that create an illusion of endless lights, like stars in the sky, as every child that was killed during those times. They also play a record where they state name, age and country of every child that was killed.

So after some depressing time I decided to go back to the bus station and double check with my tickets. Lady at the information office was not very helpful or nice and just pointed me to go to the ticket office. Finally I found a very nice lady who was willing to help me there. She told me it’s a good thing I came, because I had, in fact the wrong ticket. So she changed my ticket, gave me the difference back and even smiled. I adored her.

2013 12 23

I finally sat down to write a few more postcards when another guy came and asked me if he could sit there. Before I answered anything really he sat down. Well, okay, it’s a free park, sit where you want and kept myself busy. What kind of clearer sign do you need from a person, if he/she is ignoring you, there is a good chance you are not welcome. He tried to start a conversation a few times, but did not get much lucky. You can call me mean, but I didn’t show in any way that I wanted company. If anything, I kept my head down and I was writing.

After a few failed attempts he tried `I know you are a good person, you are strong. Like a soldier`. Maybe I am, maybe I am not, but he has no clue whatsoever. So I told him I wasn’t. He tried to convince me that he can see/feel it (I was still writing and barely answering) and told me to tell him about myself, so he could be convinced if I was or wasn’t a good person. Yeah, like I need to prove to every random person who I am.

Once I was done with my cards I stood up and started packing. He went `Where you go? Don’t. Sit`. In a commanding way. I wanted to punch him in a face. No freak is telling me what to do or not to do and especially not him. But instead I wished him a good day and took off.

And while on my way to the post office, o got to thinking. People are always asking me if I am not afraid and isn’t it dangerous to travel alone, for a girl. No it’s not. Even for a girl. You have to be careful of course and band things might happen, but in general it’s not. It is, however, annoying as hell sometimes. You sit alone, minding your own business and then there usually is at least one idiot who decides he wants to be friends with you [or more]. And if you refuse, they get very offensive and mad as if `how can you be so cruel and mean not to become a friend if a person is willing`.. Somehow you end up looking like a bad person, even when you did basically nothing wrong.

Anyway after the post office I was a square full of colourful stationary bikes, so I decided to check them out. It’s some kind of the project I guess, in front of the City Hall. If you pedal on a bike, you can see how much energy you produce. Every bike is attached to something: light, fan, bucket of flowers, meter. I went there at the same time as some Chinese tourists, so of course one of them had to take a picture of me. On the other hand – just one.

2013 12 24

I was still not sure where to gone once I woke up. Israel museum or Bethlehem. But I figured as long as it is Christmas, I should go to a place where Christ was born. So I went to a bus stop, waited for a few minutes, got on a bus for 5.20NIS and got to the Palestine checkpoint in 20 minutes. That was one of the weirdest border crossings I have ever seen or crossed. Israeli officer waved me away when I tried to show him my passport. So then I went through some kind of labyrinth of metal fences and finally found myself in Palestine.

There was a bit of a walk to the churches, the roads were quiet so it was easy to walk. I got to a parade on a way. It is fair I guess to say that it was scouts, drumming and so on. I took a few pictures and went for the churches. That didn’t go as planned, because the main square was getting ready for midnight mass and some guy heard me speaking English, so he took my interview for the radio. I guess you could say I became famous, even if only for one day.

Milk Groto was the first church I entered. It’s a little cute church almost underground in the rocks, not too many golden details. Apparently the stone where some milk dropped from Mary’s breast here and one of the guides even showed that exact rock.

Next one was the birthplace of Jesus. Security guard stopped me, asked me if I was alone, told me I was pretty and also told me I could enter the church. What does that mean? God is a bit judgmental and if I wasn’t pretty, I couldn’t enter the church?

In the church there was a long queue for something and so I decided to take an entrance from the other side, with no line. Once again, security stopped me and asked me if I was alone and let me to go. Apparently the place all those people waited to see was the exact spot where Jesus was born. Now it’s only a golden David’s star there, but still, people go crazy over it.

Once I was done with churches, there was only one thing to cross off the list – Sheppard’s field. I followed the arrow and all I saw was just a neighborhood and a church. Little did I know back then, that this was, in fact, those fields. I kept walking but found nothing of importance. So after I got tired I just turned back and went back to hostel. I learned there that those were fields of… something something.. Bible something, but now it’s just a neighborhood.

On my way back I walked the exact same labyrinth through passport control, got waved away when tried to show my passport and went back to the hostel.

And there I was for quite a show. I just opened the doors to my hostel and there was this chick standing with an enormous suitcase shouting for help. Apparently she wanted someone to help her, because she s not able to carry her own shit up the stairs. Bring less shit when you travel then, damn stupid human being. One of the guys came down. She started bitching and complaining how hard it was for her to get here through all those little streets and that she cannot get it upstairs. Once the guy showed up, she just left it all and went up, like – okay, now you carry my shit. Hold on there, little spoiled brat – this is not a 5 star hotel, here you don’t get to act like that. The guy was smart enough to tell her that he only came to help, not to do all the work, so she rolled her eyes and pretended to be helping. I already disliked her a lot.

But wait, there was more.

Just my luck, of course, she got bed in my dorm room. I was talking to a Brazilian guy there when she started asking everyone for wi-fi password. I told her that it was probably xxx and she ignored me. Then she complained how she does not want to go to reception for it [15 meters. I mean 15 f…. meters]. I told her that password again and she ignored me. Again. Okay, not it was personal. She was reserving a ticket to hell right there and then.

Once she finally got password off some guy she complained how she cannot log in [no one cares, you little whiner] and then requesting other people to log out and log in, so maybe there is a router problem and it is down. I said nothing. At some point we were discussing something in the room about the borders and one of the guys told that he had difficulties crossing to Croatia. She, of course, pretending to be smart ass, started stating how stupid it is, because Croatia is very uninteresting and poor country and no one wants to go there anyway. I wanted to keep silent, but she went on how she would understand such restrictions in `real` countries, like USA, Canada, EU [cause that’s the country]. I could not listen anymore. I told her that Croatia is in EU. She felt a little stupid [one could only hope] but tried to get her ass out of the situation saying `oh.. well I meant, like, you know, real, strong countries, like Germany`. I was slapping her hard in my head with a wet towel.

She was making more of such `smart` comments, but I was ignoring. I had enough of her and getting into an argument with an idiot… Just not worth it.

Once I got off bed to check a passport of Rodrigo, the Brasilian guy she commented `oh you are quite tall, for a girl`. Like seriously? Tall for a girl. What a… I don’t even have words for her. Then she asked me how tall I was. I told her,  1.82. And I’m sure you can guess what next came out of that `smart` mouth `How much is that in feet?`. Bitch, you are one out of 3 countries that are not using metric system and you are not in one of them at this precise moment, learn the basics. And I ignored her, but Brazilian guy had to say `Well, you know, Lithuanians are famous for basketball and a lot of them are tall`. She goes `Oh, you are from Lithuania? I thought you were from Russia`. And this was the end of her.

And, of course, sadly, it wasn’t. She had her enormous suitcase in the middle of the room, blocking other people’s beds. When girls wanted to get to their beds and tried to climb over her shit, she went `careful, careful, I have things in here`. She even had the nerve to roll her eyes and look around the room hoping for an understanding. When she was looking for a place to eat. Started asking everyone if they know a nice Chinese place. Some girl new, but apparently, for a lazy ass princess walking 10 minutes was too far. Other guys tried to be helpful and mention good places around but she went on: oh, I’m a vegetarian. Oh, I don’t like tuna. I don’t like sushi. I don’t like how it smells. Oh I don’t feel like pizza. Eat a shoe then, you spoiled ignorant child.

Even though she disappeared from the room for a bit, she got back. First she asked when is silent time in the room and when I said it’s 11, she complained that it’s almost 11. It’s 9.50 I said, but she clearly did not believe and had to go ask another guy what time it was. Later on she was complaining about somebody’s towel, hanging from the bed [I mean it’s a hostel, what do you expect?]. But she is very sensitive to the smells and that she will get headache and so he has to move that towel. Well, Miss Queen of the Crapland, if nothing is good enough for you, maybe next time you should go to the hotel.

2013 12 28

Next morning I woke up, packed my stuff and got to the bus station to catch my bus to Ein Gedi. The trip itself was not very long or impressing except for some French idiots, who stopped the bus, got in, started screaming at the driver and made him stop in the middle of nowhere. Later but stopped at the entrance of Ein Gedi National Park. I bought the ticket and got in. I still had to get to Dead sea that day, so I really did not have too much time. Me and my backpack, we went up. First to a very touristy David waterfall and then higher and higher till the dry cannon. Views are spectacular and really worth seeing. Big mountain like rocks, gorges, valleys, Dead sea. Very pretty. One path up, another path down and I found myself in the bottom.

After a little walk on a pedestrian path I was already at the Dead sea. I took my time, I ate, I changed, walked down to a rocky beach, floated a little in a very, but I mean very salty water, got back up, took a little shower and sat down to appreciate the view and read my book.

After a little I took a bus to Masada, got to my lovely and perfectly looking guest house, took hot and refreshing shower, awarded myself with a beer and went for an early sleep. Only because I planned on going up Masada for a sunrise the next day.

So early in the dark morning I got up, packed with only water and camera and started walking up the Snake path towards Masada. Climb itself reminded me of Machu Picchu a lot. Dark, people with torches and millions of stairs to get up. And after about 45 minutes I was on the top. No sunrise, since there was too many clouds, though. I walked around, visited every piece of ruins and slowly walked back to the hostel for breakfast. Breakfast buffet was very big and filling. I ate a lot, then took another great hot shower, checked out and waited for my bus to Eilat.

Bus driver was kind enough to drop us off at the border, so with not much trouble we managed to get to Jordan. A short taxi ride to the center and I was there. But it was nothing as I expected. I couldn’t find a diving center, a decent simple hostel or even an internet café. After a few hours of walking and walking I gave up, hit an ATM, took a room from a guy who almost spoke no English and almost called it a night. A little later I decided to walk around the city, but it was mostly just shops and shops, so soon enough I just went into my room and watched Tv. Sad, I know.

The next day, better know as Friday or an off day to Muslims, I got another surprise. The regular bus to Petra is not running. So with some more tourists we took a local bus to Ma’an and taxi from there to Petra. By 11.20 we were at the entrance and decided that we are tough enough to walk with our backpacks. It wasn’t a total disaster. We managed to walk all the way to the monastery, which is in the very end of the Petra and higher up in the rocks. But we did it. And we weren’t alone. We counted maybe 6 more people in the same conditions – hot and carrying heavy backpacks.

Petra itself, despite of it’s expensive entrance, is really something. Most of it it’s tombs, but there are quite a few significant and impressive buildings in there. We didn’t do it all in that one day, although it is possible, if you start very early and are ready to walk A LOT. We left all the heavy climbing for the next day.

Outside Petra, Christina (my new Spanish friend) offered we go to this Valentine’s Inn hostel, where they provide good dinner buffet and I went for it. Short but steep cab ride later we got in, got beds in a 8-bed room, which was very basic and a bit smelly, but good enough for us, sent out laundry to be done and waited for the dinner with a celebration beer. People didn’t lie – dinner was incredible. A few hot dishes, countless salads and very nice people serving it all. We ate like we never ate before.

After dinner we talked a little with two Brazilians and Algerians. Poor Algerians got stuck in the border for 10 hours. Interesting though, that a Muslim country would be alerted about two Muslims coming in. After a bit we were taken inside for a party. A few locals were singing, dancing and trying to get some girls drunk. I wasn’t the lucky one, but Christina got some vodka drinks sent to her.

After maybe 11 we decided to call it a night, since we were supposed to have quite some climbing in Petra. On the top of Sacrifice temple we met Brazilians again and decided to take another, longer path back from it. We chose right, it was much less crowded and more beautiful path. After back to the main road, we followed all the other paths on our map and concluded that our Petra expedition can be considered complete.

Back in the hostel we booked a tour for the next day to Wadi Rum, had the same incredible dinner, talked with other travelers, shared the experiences and places to go.

We had to get up very early in the morning to catch the bus to Wadi Rum. Half of our hostel was there too, going with us, or different direction. Now I don’t want to put bad word for anyone, because I don’t know whose fault is what, but I probably have never had a thing organized so poorly. The bus ride to Wadi Rum village was okay. the guy dropped us off, we waited a bit, got our pick-up and hit the road. We visited few things – little spring, stone with inscriptions, red sand dune, arc of the stones. It was all good, but we did not get much explanation of what is what. The pick up would stop – show us with a finger where we should go and that’s it.

At around 1 p.m. we got dropped off in the camp. The driver didn’t say much, but he said that someone is coming back after lunch and taking us to the other sides of the dessert. Fair enough. But, of course, no one showed up. We just walked around the camp, girls did some yoga, we watched the sunset and that was it.

Since it became extremely cold outside, we rushed to the hall where food was supposed to be served. We waited a bit, but at least it wasn’t that cold in there. And the food, once it arrived, was pretty great.  We stayed there longer, after dinner as well, but it was becoming too boring and too smokey [they probably don’t know how to make a decent chimney]. It was still too early to go to sleep and the sky was incredible with all the stars, so we organized some wood, made a fire in the dessert and stayed around, jumping up and down, sort of dancing, but mostly just trying to keep ourselves warm. We had our fun, but not for too long. The owner of the camp came, told us that people want their quiet time and told us we can no longer play instruments or sing. Well, that’s a bummer. Still it was at least a little warmer around the fire, so we just sat there talking. And then he showed up again, mumbling something in Arabic [some of locals joined us] and apparently said something that this wood cost him a lot and we should not use it. So that was the end of the fire and it was still extremely cold.

I was done for the day. I excused myself and went to sleep. In the tent, which is not that much warmer than outside, but at least you get a thick thick blanket. Sleeping there was a challenge, alright. Completely cold myself, I put cold blanket on me and tried to find peace and sleep. I managed, I think, for a little bit and then again, and again, until sunrise came and I went out to see it. Not for it, but mostly just to start moving, so I would not be that cold.

Once the sun came up and I got some breakfast it became warmer. After maybe one hour of waiting we even got a pick-up and got back to Wadi Rum village. There was no bus as promised to Aqaba [but of course], so we waited one more hour for taxi. Taxi driver was extremely nice, dropped me and Fritz [better known as grandpa] in the center, showed where to look for cheaper hotels and was really not typical.

Fritz went for a hostel and I went for a but to South beach. Since I didn’t dive last time, I was willing to try that beach. I got to the bus stop and taxi driver jumped to help me. After a little while I agreed on a good 3JD fair and got into a car with him. It was alright in the beginning, but then he started telling me I should move to Jordan, live with him and how beautiful I am and I started to be annoyed. I tried to play it cool. After all, he was driving and I was alone. He stopped somewhere on the road, started saying that he loves me and asking for a kiss. Not just once, but many more times. I wasn’t even playing anymore, I was dead angry. I almost shouted at him and started ignoring. That worked, I guess. He started the car again and apologized, still repeating that he loved me. I ignored. Once I was a little diving village, I told him to stop. I gave him money and waited for my change, but he said he wouldn’t take my money, because he loved me. I asked if he was sure and he said yes. Well, hell, that means a free ride, I can live with that. I told him to have a nice day and he responded with `I love you`. Freak.

Once in the village I passed first few diving centers and entered `Nemo Diving Center`. I guess karma was apologizing for the taxi driver. The owner, as I later learned, welcomed me, said I can do a dive today, no problem, gave me tea and offered me some nargile. He lent me his office to change, talked to me and provided with everything I needed. I felt almost like at home.

After a little while, Ahmed, my instructor came, introduced himself, picked me my gear, dressed me and shortly after we went to the beach. I have to say, 3 years is a long way of no diving, I forgot almost everything. And he was very nice and patient with me.

First dive was in the Japanese garden. A little shock of being under water hit me, but I managed. Ahmed took my hand so I don’t drift away and we swam. It was beautiful. Absolutely amazing. So many fish, so many colours, even some snake looking fish, that he made me touch. I screamed, of course, probably scaring all of the divers close by. But it was fun. Total adrenalin rush, but great feeling. It was pretty much as good as in Thailand.

A second dive was a ship wreck. You dive a little to it, but then it’s a very big and old ship. Ahmed took me inside of it too. It was really scary. First of all my fin fell off, then my breathing thing got out of my mouth, because I was too close to a ship. But I managed to react fast in the situation [so proud of myself]. Once in the ship, he spinned me three times and I lost all orientation, and in the mean time he got me into one of those air pockets and that really scared me. But in a good way.

Once back in the center the owner, Ismail, greeted me with a towel and tea, showed me to the showers, then took me to this hotel/hostel place [I guess it’s a shared business] right next to it, where the manager, Rony, gave me a room with breakfast for 20JD, which is really a good deal for Aqaba. I almost instantly decided to say one more night and spend my New Years there.

Everyone was very nice there. I went to the shop and the guy in the shop was very nice. He even gave me what looked like a pancake, but is some kind of Jordanian bread. Then I got free meal at the diving center and few more offers if I needed anything from the city.

2014 01 01

In the evening I read my book, checked my mail, chatted a little with my driving instructor, then the owner of diving center joined, we had a few beers and smoked shisha. Soon enough we moved to the terrace, so we could see the Red sea and watch the sky and enjoy the nice and not too cold evening. We talked and talked and before we knew it, it was already 4:30 in the morning and we went to sleep.

On the last day of 2013 I had some breakfast and decided to do one more dive. What the hell, I thought. I don’t know when the next opportunity will come by. I got a different instructor this time, a British guy and we went to another diving site and it was just as beautiful as Japanese gardens.

After that I did almost absolutely nothing. I took a day off. I was promised to be taken to the city for the New Years celebration and I had no other plans before that anyways. So I walked around, read my book, and just chilled. Once the sun set, it became pretty cold. But since I had to wait for my pick up, I tried everything but to crawl into my bed and hide under covers from cold. By 8 o’clock I started to have doubts, by 9 I started wondering, but by 10 I was almost sure that no one is coming or picking me up and my New Years will be sort of nothing. Not that it was a big deal. By 11.30 I cuddled into my bed and I think I was asleep before the actual New Years happened.

Since I slept through New Years, I was also the first one to wake up. Including the staff. No one was there at the reception or at the diving center. So no breakfast, no checking out, no paying for my dives. Brilliant.

I waited a bit. And then some more. I knew I have a little bit of time, but I wanted to cross the border earlier rather than later. I got breakfast finally, still no Rony to check out though. Finally another guy let me leave the key, I paid what I remembered I should have paid and I was happy at least one thing is off the list. Now if only I could find someone at the diving center. I saw him. The same guy who was supposed to come pick me up last night and take me for New Years celebration. I cheerfully said Well Good morning and before I would step on his conscious, he started apologizing and how he went to visit his parents and fell asleep and only woke up this morning. We laughed about the situation a little, I got some more tea [Jordanian way of meeting people], in the end I paid for my dives, he called taxi for me, I got in and we started going towards the border. The driver was once again, nice. He didn’t try to chat with me, he just left me with my thoughts and I preferred it that way.

Border crossing was smooth. And after I crossed, a couple asked me if I wanted to share a cab with them to the bus station. So I did. Once in the station I got my ticket, waited for my bus. After almost 4 hours of riding through the desert and stopping in every army base, in a bus full of soldiers, we arrived to Mitzpe Ramon. The sun was already down and I knew I don’t have much time to find myself a place to stay in. one hostel was fully booked, another one was full as well. I ended up going back to the main road and getting into this weird looking place. But, I needed a place to stay, so better something then the sky and bench. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. The bed was narrow, but comfortable enough. Blanket was very thick and the owner of the hostel was very chatty and nice. I went out, bought myself one big nice shawarma, went for a little walk around in the desert to look at the stars.

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Since I went to sleep rather early, I woke up feeling fresh and relaxed. There was no one around though. I took a shower, packed my things and still there was no one around. I could have so easily just left without paying, since they did not even had my passport or my details. But of course, as long as someone trusts me, I want not to break that trust. So I left a little note and money of what that one night was worth. German guys from other room also left money in the same manner. I could have just taken their money as well. Interesting, how some people trust random people so much.

After I left the hostel, I went to the shop, where everyone spoke Russian, bought myself some breakfast and sat outside to eat it. I was almost finished with it, when I saw Shai going into the same shop. I waited a bit for him to get out, we got into his car and drove into Mitzpe Ramon. It’s a huge, 40 kilometers wide crater. We did a little walk on a weird black brick shaped hill, then to the piles of colourful sand. The next destination took us around 40 minutes on a dirt road and a bit of walk and climb. Lady at the visitor’s center told us it will be around 3 hours walk, which we did in 75 minutes. You climb there to see some nice view over the crater. Once back in the car, we drove to the mountain Ramon, the highest peak of the crater. It took us two hours to walk to it, make a loop of two kilometers walk to a very good view point of crater and memorial of space shuttle that exploded by launching about 10 years ago. It was a very nice and easy walk, although once the sun went down, it became really cold. I wasn’t sure where to go, but since Shai was driving up north, back to his parents place, I figured I could use a lift to Tel Aviv. On our way we calculated options and settled for the one were I go with him, get my own room and stay at his parent’s place.

Once back in Netanya, we took dogs for a walk, went for a late afternoon, almost midnight snack and one beer. By the time we got back it was almost 2 a.m. and and so it was time to sleep.

I woke up when it was still dark. Only in my room though. Curtains were down and so it felt like night. One breakfast later we got to the center, walked a little in the city, along the beach, one beer (my first Israeli beer) and went separate ways. I went to Tel Aviv and Shai went to Jerusalem with his friends.

Before that I tried calling a few hostels to get a bed in Tel Aviv and surprisingly they were all fully booked. That concerned me a little. But one of the hostels took me in. it wasn’t great at all. But it had bed in it. Shaky bed, for that matter. I was on the upper bunk and if I wanted to turn, the whole bed would shake. But at least I had a bed.

It was Sabbath and after the sunset, so not much to do in Tel Aviv. I just walked a little along the beach and then called it a night. I was tired.

To be honest I didn’t do much the next day either. My hostel was pretty much useless with maps and directions and most of the places were closed anyway. I walked a little, but finally I gave up. I took my book and went to the beach. I read my book, I looked at people, I rejected guys who for some reason wanted to talk to me [or any other girl, I am not saying I was any special] and just enjoyed the last lazy day of my trip.

At the end of the day and after the sunset Shai showed up. We had quite a few hours to kill before my flight, so first we drove a little around night Tel Aviv. Then we went to a bar for a beer. Then we went for a night snack in another little port town. In the end we ended up at his parent’s place again, where I had about 2 hours of sleep. Yammy.

Later that night I had to take a train to the airport, wait in a very long queue, answer all those questions of what I did in Israel and so on. I had my things checked maybe three times and everything was going very slowly. So even though I got to the airport about 3.5 hours before my flight, once I was in a duty-free zone it was time to board.

And that was the end of my walking on a Holy Land. It's an interesting place. Worth seeing, worth touching and experiencing.

Live a little.