-sharing reflections on what I've heard and am hearing, learned and am learning,
from voices in the Holy Land, the USA, and Rwanda-

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"the streets is tricky in these parts here"

It's 4:30am, January 6th.  My phone alarm goes off and I half fall, half roll out of bed.  Quickly stuffing my pjs in my pack, still half asleep, I grab the last of my things and head down to the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Cairo.  Fellow YAGMs and travel buddies David and Luke are already waiting for me.  We've begun our journey back home to Palestine after a cluttered, crazy, and collectively awesome trip to Egypt. 

"Giza in sepia with dog" 
(proper name for the photo I think..)
  While our time roaming around the pyramids, museums, and metro stations of Cairo was an unbelieveable experience, the more eye-opening of our adventures was yet to come.  As you've probably noticed, I've gotten caught up in the concept of time, letting almost three months pass by without allowing you all the slightest insight into my growing love for and appreciation of my community here.  No fear--more blogs to come about what's been going on these past few months.  For now though, let me share my journey back home from my jaunt over to Egypt to give you a little hint into what at least one amazing and outrageous day in my life looked like.  So sit back, and enjoy my ride...

First leg: "Is there a bus back?"
That's right--we headed off that smoggy morning with the mere hope that there would in fact be a bus that would pick us up from outside the Cairo Sheraton Hotel.  We had clearly not planned our return nearly as well as we should have, researching online only the night before about buses back to the Taba border crossing.  The only info we had--"bus to Taba--pick up at Sheraton at 6:00am.  *unaffiliated with Sheraton Hotels.  Book tickets atleast a day in advance."  Whoops.

Coming up to the Taba Border
on the Sinai
 Well, we sure hadn't booked tickets, but we decided to give it a try.  Having arrived at the Sheraton at 5:00am and being reassured by a few hotel workers that a bus should coming (and they made sure we knew it was not affiliated with the hotel), we sat and waited.  Long part of the story short, turns out the bus was to come at 7:30am, meaning we had a full 2 1/2 hours full of anxiety before our trip to the border was secured.  Thankfully, the man in charge of boarding pitied us and we boarded our 8 hour ride across Egypt and Sinai.

Second Leg: "On the border of laughing and crying"
We made it to Taba.  Thankful to be so close to Eilat, Israel (where we knew we could catch a bus at 5:30pm back to Jerusalem), Luke, David, and I made our way to the border control.  Pleased with ourselves that our trans-Egyptian bus trip had gotten us to Taba by 3:00, we confidently stepped into line... at least what turned out to be the first line of many.  Between ill-explained protocal (+45 minutes), a routine passport "extra security check" confiscation (+5 minutes), and having acquired too much coinage in my bag (+15 minutes at screening station), we made it across the border only to arrive at the Eilat bus terminal at 5:35pm.  Yes, that's right--5 minutes after the last bus to Jerusalem headed off into the sunset. 

Third Leg: "Show me the way to go home"
Decisions, decisions.  Should we stay or should we go now?  If January 7th was any other day, an overnight in Eilat might have sounded like a better idea, but in Beit Sahour, January 7th is Orthodox Christmas and I had to make it back for the festivities!  Trudge on we did.  Route?  We bought tickets for the 8:00pm, five hour bus ride to Tel Aviv with little plan of what we'd do after that.  All we knew was Tel Aviv was only an hour away from our homes as opposed to Eilat's four hour distance.  Cramming our faces with bus terminal falafel, we filled our time up laughing at our own absurdity.  (Were we really in high hopes or was it the lack of sleep!?)  The bus pulled away on time, and finding our seats (the very last ones before we would've had to sit in the eisle for the whole trip, whew!) we moved into hour 17 of our journey.

David and Luke, utterly pooped,
but almost home.  (Forgive me guys,
the picture was just too great.)
 Fourth leg: "27, 20, 25 New Israeli Shekel"
Thank goodness we met a very friendly and kind woman on the bus to Tel Aviv.  Becky, who lived in Jaffa and was on her way home with her daughter, was very concerned about how we would get to Jerusalem so late at night.  She even asked the bus driver what our best option would be, walking all the way back to us right before her own stop to ensure we knew we could get a cheap "service"--and thank goodness for that!  We were ready to shell out 250 NIS (over $60) for a private taxi, but upon arrival to the bus terminal, we discovered Becky was correct!  Our hour long trip to Jerusalem turned out to be 27 NIS each.  With each of us paying the service driver 20 NIS more, we got a ride straight to the Bethlehem checkpoint.  Easy as pie, and much cheaper!  With a 25 NIS taxi ride to Beit Sahour (what is normally a 15 NIS trip, I was too tired to bicker...), I made it back in my own bed by 2:30am.  All-in-all, 22 hours on the journey of a life time.  Beat Moses' record at least!

This semi-spontaneous (aka, poorly planned) trip was definitely one for the record books.  Other than teaching me how to successfully navigate across a continental ledge, this trip gave me insight into much of what I've learned/experienced during my time here.  Thanks to trust, community, confidence, flexibility, patience, and having an open-mind, we made it back safe and sound with a lot of pictures to share and experiences to reflect upon.  More reflective blogs to come now that I'm back bloggin' action...

...As I finish up this blog in the midst of the turmoil currently going on in Egypt, I lift up all those living in the region in my prayers, as well as though in Tunesia, Yemen, Lebanon, and Jordan.  May there soon be justice, respect, and peace in these lands!  While my day long venture full of smalls trials and troubles makes for a good story, their struggles definitely put my 1 day of travel concerns into perspective.  May God's peace and love be with them all.

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