Hannah and Je together

Monday, 1 September 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Seventh Day – Last Day

There was no class on the last day.  The school always told us that the last class is Thursday, but the day before, the secretary of the language centre told us that there would be no class on the last day.  But we just had small ceremony.

I left the house around 10:30 in the morning because the ceremony was at 11.  I asked the family to call a cab, and I paid 20 shekels from home to school.  Do you remember the cab driver on my first day in Bethlehem who yelled at us and dropped us in the middle of the way to the Siraj centre because we refused to give him 25 shekels?  Home-Bethlehem University is 3/4 longer than Siraj-Bethlehem University, and today’s driver charged me 20 shekels.

Classmates.  Lina from Germany, me, Cletos from Ghana, Mateo from Italy.  Anna from Switcherland is not here

Classmates. Lina from Germany, me, Cletos from Ghana, Mateo from Italy. Anna from Switzerland is not here

The ceremony was simple, and I’ve got a certificate.  Anna from Switzerland could not attend the ceremony because her airline emailed her that her flight is changed one day earlier, which is Thursday.  So she went to the airport.  And the Spoken Arabic Level 1 teacher did not show up too.  Anna is from Switzerland, but working in Germany.  She is very nice girl, but also very strong in her opinion and people must agree with her.  Once we were talking about the war, and she was demonising Israel with the number of death in Gaza.  I do not deny that many people were killed in Gaza by the Israeli attack.  I told her that Hamas also tried to attack, they just did not succeed.  Then she mentioned the number of deaths on both sides and said “how can it be the same!”  I also told her it is because Israel has defensive technology and successfully defended its citizens, not because Hamas was better in spirit and mind and refused to attack the other.  Then she became so mad.  I do not understand why so many people especially from Europe think Palestinians are good, but Israelis are pure evil?

A few days before the talk, our classmates, including Anna and I, were talking about airlines.  I said that I am flying with SWISS (Anna was happy), but I think Lufthansa is slightly better than SWISS.  At this point, she became so offended with that.  And yesterday, we were talking again in the class about the airlines.  I told her that SWISS is one of the top airlines.  Then she said with still little bit angry voice, “SWISS air is NOT one of the top airlines.  It is the ONLY TOP airline!  I am not saying this because I am from Switzerland.  It is just the FACT!”  I wanted to ask her to prove it with the numbers and evidences, but I just said, “OK” to avoid her anger.

Gemma from Spain

Gemma from Spain

After the ceremony, some of the students had lunch together.  And there were three people going to the airport including me.  Edward Fox, middle-aged guy from England wanted to join me but was not sure.  And Zoey from rural Illinois wanted to go to the airport with me and she asked me to wait for her in the bus stop for an hour.  Actually she came to the bus stop in two hours.  She is very spoiled daughter, and her father does everything for her even for now when she is in college, and consequently she does not know to do anything.

While I was standing next to the bus stop, the taxi drivers came to me to ask the taxi ride.  I told them that I am waiting for my friend, then they found that I speak Arabic, and became very curious about me.  So I was surrounded by them and talked two hours.  I found that Christians and Muslims have different greetings in Arabic.  Some of the people I talked have multiple wives (the maximum number is four).  Later, they began to shout “Fucking America” surrounding me as if they protest in front of the Embassy.  It was half joke and half serious.  They said no Palestinians like America and they hate it more than Israel.  Later, one of them advised me not to say I am from America but just say that I am a Korean because identifying oneself as an American is not wise in Palestine.

After waiting two hours, Zoey came to the bus stop, and I also found Edward too.  So we three journeyed to the airport together.  The bus was full of Students of Bethlehem University, Palestinians living in Jerusalem.  At the checkpoint, everybody got off the bus, and walked through the soldiers showing the permits and passports.  It was my first time getting off the bus for the checking.  Every time, the soldiers got on the bus.  And because of this, I lost my seat.

Edward’s flight was 9pm, Zoey’s 11pm, and mine was 5am next morning.  From Jerusalem, there are two ways to go to the airport.  Getting a sherut (or shared taxi), and using the public transportation.  The best and fastest way is to use the sherut.  I explained them about both ways, and I recommended the sherut.  But somehow, Edward insisted on the public transportation.  It was about 5pm, and I was kind of worried about his flight, but he insisted.  From the Damascus gate, we used light railway to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.  ANd we waited an hour and got on the bus to the Haifa, and got off at the airport city.  There we were supposed to get on the free shuttle, or any public bus to the airport terminals, but we did not see anything.  And finally we got on a cab all together.  It was about 8pm when we got to the airport terminal.  He ran as fast as he can.  Zoey went through the security check right away  because the security check begins three hours prior to the flight.  Later I met Edward again.  He told me that he missed the flight.  We spent three hours on the public transportation system when we could have just spent 45 minutes on sherut.

Ilaria from Italy

Ilaria from Italy

Here comes small stories from the trip.

My hosting family in Bethlehem has a Hyundai Tucson.  I do not know how they got this, but it must be from Korea.  The owner’s manual is in Korea.  The car speaks Korean (voice activated features and instructions).  The navigation systems also shows and speaks Korean.  And they cannot use any of the advanced features of the car including Bluetooth, multimedia features and navigation.  They just drive.  And they said that they suffer from Korean language.

The family has a daughter, and two sons.  And I stayed in the daughter’s room, and every night she slept on the couch in the living room (she graduated college).  I did not feel happy and comfortable about that.  Except, the hosting family was very good.  They are super nice people.

In Palestine (and probably all the Arab world), mother does everything.  Father cannot do anything about house chores, and children are the same.  once I wanted to do my laundry and asked the daughter where the washing machine is, and she asked me back if they have one.  Five minutes later I found it in front of her room.  The family do not even gather the laundry for their mother.  She goes everywhere to collect the laundry.  When I told another lady that men do half (or more) of the house chores in Canada and America, she was shocked.  And she said complaining about the house chore is not possible and if one does, then she is considered as an evil mother and evil woman.

In Palestine, people live in peace between them, not like in other areas of middle east where they kill each other.  Even Christians and Muslims have no problem living together in Bethlehem.  But in my perception, it is just because they face bigger problem of Israel.

As I wrote above, Palestinians hate America.  Then how about Israelis?  I was told many times from the Israelis that “Do you know we hate Obama?  All Israelis hate Obama”  when I told them that I am from Chicago.  America is fool, spends a lot of money and effort on both sides and being hated from both.

On the trip to Hebron together, the so-called tour guide was talking about Hamas. I was not actually listening because he has no logic in his speech. But Lina, the girl from Germany, told him that it is not 100% that she agrees. Then the guy began to yell at her. She was freaked out, and she stopped talking with him. I think that attitude will never work to make friends. And they need friends.

Yesterday when I was sitting on a bench in the school yard, an old gentleman (he is a professor at Bethlehem University) came to me and asked if I am a Korean.  I said that I am a Korea but I am from Chicago.  He told me that they have two exchange students from Korea every year, and he thought I am one of them.  We talked a bit more.  Suddenly he asked me if I fell in love with a Palestinian girl.  I said no.  He, then, pointing two girls sitting beside me, asked me again “Don’t you think the Palestinians girls are beautiful?”  I told him that I am married.  Well, this is third time that people tried to connect me with someone.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty Seventh Day – Bus to Cairo

Today was very long day, spent most time in Buses.  I got up at five and checked out the Hostel in Eilat.  They packed me breakfast, which I ate for breakfast and also for lunch due to the huge amount of food.

Taba Egyptian Border

Taba Egyptian Border

Because the bus to the border runs from 8am, I had to get a cab.  Israeli exit border was OK, and everybody was in line, everything was in order.  I just paid big money for border passenger fee.  But as soon as I crossed over to the Egyptian border, it was total chaos.  There was no line at all, people were yelling and screaming.  Even the officers yelling at the people.  Sometimes people argued with loud yelling voice with the officers.  There was no line at all.  I have no other words but ‘total chaos.’  I spent about fifteen minutes at Israeli side, but I spent more than two hours in Egyptian side.  But I finally got the Sinai permit, with which I can stay only in Sinai peninsula.

Sherut to Sharm

Sherut to Sharm

Because I need to get the Egyptian Visa, I had to go to Sharm International Airport.  But anyway there was no direct bus to Cairo even though I had the visa.  The Egyptian Consulate General in Eilat opens at 9:30am, then I waste a day.  But if I get the visa at Sharm International Airport, I just waste couple of hours.  Thanks to the chaos in Egyptian border, I spent more than two hours and the bus to Sharm already gone.  The next bus is at 11am.  And I got a Sherut to Sharm, which turned out to be better eventually.

Mountain Area on the way to Sharm near Red Sea

Mountain Area on the way to Sharm near Red Sea

The sherut driver drove as if there is no centre line.  I did not see the Mount Sinai but passed around that.  When I saw the mighty mountains, I thought it is not strange even if a guy tells me that God came upon any of those mountains.

Sharm International Airport

Sharm International Airport

I went to the Sharm International Airport, but the immigration officer refused to give me the visa, but said that I have to apply through any Egyptian Travel agency.  The Sherut driver helped me to get the visa by introducing me a travel agent.  And he waited for me and gave me ride to the bus station for $10.  The other taxi drivers called $25.  While we were waiting for the agent, he said that Jewish Torah and Christian Bible were hand written, but Coran literally fell from the heaven.  And he said “Fucking Hamas,” which is the expression that I heard the most from the Egyptians today.

One thing I notice is that Russian sign everywhere.  And the Sherut driver confirmed me that Russians are the most tourists in Egypt.

Business Class Bus to Cairo

Business Class Bus to Cairo

I rode the Go Bus to Cairo.  When I bought the ticket at the booth, the guy asked me if I want Business class or economic class.  The price was almost double, but I was curious about the business class of the bus, so I paid 160 Egyptian Pound (L.E).  Well, the bus has its own flight attendant, I would say the crew.  And it has large legroom, and it also provides meal, not to mention bottomless coffee or tea.

Egyptian Checkpoint

Egyptian Checkpoint

McCormick Group experienced the Israeli Checkpoints and we complained a lot.  I have to say, that was nothing.  Actually, there was no checkpoint inside Israeli territory or West Bank.  The checkpoints are on the border of them.  We experienced the checkpoint when we went into West Bank and came back to Israel.  But in Egypt, there were dozens of checkpoints, probably every twenty minutes.  It was the same from Taba to Sharm, and from Sharm to Cairo.  And even the Egyptians have tanks and armoured military vehicles at the checkpoints.  Some places, they placed machine guns on top of the hills.

Nothing to See on the way to Cairo

Nothing to See on the way to Cairo

The scene on the way to Cairo was mostly boring.  That was just nothing but dry sands.  This experience is good for just once.

The bus finally arrived at Cairo.  And a taxi driver approached me, so I asked how much it would be to Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Pyramids Cairo.  He said 100 L.E, so I got on.  Then I found that it is not a taxi.  The car does not have windshield wipers, engine was knocking.  He turned the music as loud as it hurts my ears.  And all the cars in Cairo ignore the lanes, and drive crazy dizzy.  Right after he began to drive, he said I have to pay 150 L.E – 100 for going and 50 for him to come back to the bus station.  A month ago, I would pay just saying, “Oh really?”  But now, I am trained by the Palestinians:

Je: No, you said 100.
He: OK, then 125.
Je: No, you didn’t say anything about that. You said 100. Don’t LIE.
He: OK, 100.

And when we arrived at the hotel, he said I must tip him 50 because 100 is for the car, and 50 is for him.  And I repeated the above conversation.

Le Meridien Hotel, Giza Pyramids Cairo

Le Meridien Hotel, Giza Pyramids Cairo

Le Meridien Hotel is nice hotel, but I am not happy with it for couple of reasons.  First, they advertise Free Wi-Fi, but I have to pay for the Wi-Fi if I want to use in the room.  It is only free at the lobby.  Second, Hotels in Israel, the online price includes everything, but this hotel includes nothing.  For example, Gloria Hotel says $110.  Then I pay $110.  Eilat Hostel says $30.  Then I actually pay $30.  But here, they say online $78.60 but when I pay, they charge me $99.  Third, it is too far from downtown Cairo.  I didn’t know it is this far.

Well, today, I trod the African soil for the first time.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Sixteenth Day – Frank Yamada

Dr. Frank Yamada, the president of McCormick Theological Seminary, is also in Jerusalem, Israel.  With a few email exchange, we arranged the meeting.

A Park

A Park

Last night, we finalised the meeting at his hotel lobby 1:45.  But I had to check out at 11am, I went to his hotel earlier than the appointed time.  While I was waiting at the hotel lobby, I found that they have free Wi-Fi.  When I connected the internet, I found an email from Frank that he wanted to meet somewhere else.  So I suggested the Focaccia Bar where I went yesterday.  Actually there were not many choices at all because of Shabbat.  The picture above is a park on the way from the hotel to Focaccia.

With Dr. Frank Yamada, the president of McCormick Theological Seminary

With Dr. Frank Yamada, the president of McCormick Theological Seminary

Finally I met him around 2pm.  We had nice lunch and good talk.  A little after 3pm, I departed my way to get the sherut.  The google search told me some place which was updated 2012.  When I went to information booth today, they told me different place which is way further.  But when I hit the Kikkar Zion, a guy shouted, “Tel Aviv?”  He was a sherut driver.  Usually sherut departs whenever it is filled, and I was the last one, so the sherut departed right away.

Payphone does not like coins

Payphone does not like coins

I went to Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, and went to the bus station where we are supposed to meet by special taxi.  In Israel, there are two types of taxis.  Shared Taxi or sherut, and Special Taxi, which is just taxi in America.  At the bus station, I waited until 4:55 but nobody was there.  Being worried, I wanted to make a phone call by the payphone.  And I found that the payphone need phone card.  Then a lady next to me borrowed her cellphone.  After the phone call, I found that everybody was behind the information booth.

On the bus

On the bus

Unlike the Lachish excavation, we used big bus and drove a lot.

Givat Haviva

Givat Haviva

The camp’s name is Givat Haviva.  It has cons and pros.  It has strong Wi-Fi and TV set is installed in every room.  But it has no laundry machine, and the food is no better than Kedma.

The dig begins again from tomorrow.  I need to sleep soon.

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