In Search Of Living Stones

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One Week Out

So here I am, sitting in my room in Brisbane, Australia. Its hot outside and I can hear my two teenage sisters talking about the latest Dr Who episode and what top looks the best on who. I am home.
I’ll talk more about how that feels later.

I’ll start with Thursday night, I got into my nesher, said my goodbyes and farewelled Jerusalem, a city I fell in love with 2 years ago.  And the favour was returned, in a way only Jerusalem could pull off.
People who have been to Jerusalem know that the traffic is enough to make you want to scream.
On this night, when it was so important for me to be on time(and not on Arab time), the traffic was 10 times worse, and roads were closed. So I voiced my concerns and prayed. A lot.
I got to Ben Gurion at 8:40pm, I was supposed to be there at 8, but I had no problems.
I was a bit concerned, as Ben Gurion airport has a reputation for giving people a hard time on their way out. Luckily, they just searched my luggage and let me through. Once I’d checked in, I bumped into my friend Shany, who had stayed with me in Australia earlier this year. It was really nice to see her and we stood talking for a good 20 minutes. She works in security at the airport, so she looked at my boarding pass, saw that my line was full of people and took me to the front of the line, telling her friend to be nice to me. So lovely.
And then I flew for 24 hours.
I landed in Auckland, tired, grumpy and looking like I’d just flown half way across the world. As I walked out with my bags, expecting to simply walk out and catch a shuttle, I spot my sister.
Cassia had flown to New Zealand just to surprise me, so nice.
We got to the hotel where I promptly fell asleep, waking up at 5pm thinking it was 5am.
Finally on Sunday night I get home, see my family, deliver gifts and hug my baby sister.

This week I have just relaxed, unpacked my bags, set up my room and reacquainted myself with the western world. Reverse Culture Shock is a little bit weird considering its your ‘own’ culture. Luckily, I was recommended a great book called ‘Re-Entry’ which is for people coming home from missions trips. It was one of the best things I have done since being back.
To say that being home is amazingly wonderful full of rainbows and butterflies would be lying. Its not.
It has its ups and downs.
I miss the languages.
I miss people, I miss places, sights and sounds. I miss my apartment.
I have to get used to living with 7 other people again.
And as much as I talk about stuff, and try to explain it, people just don’t understand completely. How can they? They haven’t seen it, felt it,  experienced it like I have. How am I supposed to communicate all that?

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The art of finding your place

My feet find their way on the worn cobbled roads
Often graced by pilgrims in search of something bigger than themselves
Once a confusing maze of white stone and merchants selling their wares
Now is the path that arrives me at the door of my house

Words, phrases and expressions can be heard all around
once foreign to me, now recognizable and quick to pass through my lips
Often met with surprise as I try to practice my new found skill
And laughter as they try to correct the way the words roll off my tongue

People, once strangers unknown to me
Started as unfamiliar faces and names
Became acquaintances, friends and family
Quick to offer a smile, a meal, a much needed hug

As I continue to the next part of my journey aptly named ‘life’
I carry these roads, words and faces promising not to forget them
Swearing to tell others of their stories
And desperately trying to remember the meaning of the word ‘bishufak’

PS, it means ‘I’ll see you’

Making Lists

So because I am my mothers daughter and I have started packing, I have made some lists.
A lists of what I’m packing, a list of what I leaving, a list of what I’m not sure about yet, a list of gifts I have to buy, a list of people I need to see before I leave, and a list of last minute things I need to do.
One of the things on that last list is to write this blog and because I love the satisfaction of crossing things off list, here I am.
If you have been following even a tiny bit of my travels here you will have learnt that I have fallen in love with this place, so I am making a list of what I will miss about here:

  • My ‘families’
    while I have made several friends here, some of them have become more than that. These people literally have become my family here, I eat Sunday lunch with their mothers-in-law and drink tea with their extended families. I help prepare birthday parties and clean up afterward. More than anyone else, these people have made me feel welcome and accepted.
  • My friends
    One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t have any friends here, but the people I have met here, both locals and foreigners have become incredible friends.
  • Arabic Music
  • Friday mornings in Bethlehem
    I love walking through, the quiet almost deserted streets on my way to the bus.
  • My bus driver
    So long as I don’t sleep in I have the same bus driver every morning. And  every morning I get a ‘Sabah ilkher!'(good morning), ‘Kifhalik?'(how are you) which I almost always respond with ‘Mabsuta, humdilla'(I’m happy, thank God). The usual response to this by my bus driver is laughter & telling me that ‘every morning you’re happy how is this possible?!‘. Once I even left a bag on the bus which he kept for me.
  • The baker who insists on giving me free bread every morning.
  • Speaking 3 languages a day
    I like the challenge. I will miss the random conversations I’ve had with people in Arabic. Its also fun to be able to know 10% of whats going on when people don’t expect you to understand anything.
  • Saying one word in Arabic and getting responses like ‘inti btikhi Arabyeeee?!'(You speak Arabic?!)
  • My independence, the life I live here.
    Although I’d moved out of home before, I was still living with a family, and going back to my own family everyday. Here I have had to rely on myself completely.
  • Mint Tea
  • Working in the Musalaha Offices
    One of the biggest signs that my time here was a God thing was how much I love working in the offices and how much I love the staff here.
  • Living in the Middle East
  • Conversations with Musalaha staff
    Whether it is a serious conversation about identity and land or an inside joke speaking in accents all day.
  • Dressing conservatively
  • The Muezzin

Things I will not miss:

  • Not being able to flush toilet paper
  • Running out of water
  • Having every car beep at you everytime you step outside
  • Going through checkpoints everyday to get to work
  • Feeling useless in the face of huge problems
  • The footpath doubling as a rubbish dump
  • The smell of said rubbish
  • When Muezzin wakes me up at 4am
  • Not being able to eat/drink publicly during Ramadan
  • People not understanding my accent

Things I’m excited about going home to

  • Seeing my family
  • DRIVING MY CAR
  • Family
  • 3am beach trips with my sister
  • Summer roadtrips
  • Sisters
  • Midnight swims
  • Brother
  • Being able to share my experiences from here

A voice crying out in the wilderness

So I’m down to my last week,
of course I always knew this week would come. You can’t go on a short term trip without think how short that term would be. That doesn’t make it any easier, it doesn’t make the fact I have to say goodbye to everything and everyone.  But I’ll post more about that later.
One of the things I have enjoyed and will miss greatly is the conversations shared over lunch in the office. Naturally, with so many people from so many backgrounds, discussions are bound to happen and they are almost always fascinating.
Most recently we started talking about how someone could be involved with Musalaha but still hold very close to their beliefs of land and ‘chosenness’ which turned into a conversation about staff members and their personal beliefs and how they feel about the land, conflict and the Christian response.
I have often said that the young people I have met here inspire me and keep me passionate and I will carry their stories with me for the rest of my life.
But day-to-day, getting up to go to the office every morning I am kept inspired by the people I work with, they truly are ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ and you will be hard pressed to find many like them in this part of the world.
Its these people that make me believe that there is a Third Option, a both-and way of approaching this ugly, monstrous conflict.
Like the Jewish-American mum who finds herself unable to do nothing when faced with the realities of the conflict for a Palestinian mum,
or the Palestinian woman who is passionate about the younger generation seeking out the ‘other-side’, and gives up her time and energy to see it happen.
The conversations and time I have been able toe spe with the staff here has been life-changing and opened my eyes to completely different ways of thinking.

And so as I prepare to go and I start saying my last goodbyes, I find myself in a weird head space.
Trying to figure out what effect my stay here has had, and whether it has been for better or worse.I know for a fact that it has had an effect on me, definitely for the better, I am leaving a different person.
But for Musalaha Youth, for the situation, for the people, have I had a lasting impact?
Sometimes as just one person, it is easy to feel so small, so helpless in the face of injustice.
I won’t go into details as it is a story for another time but this week I found myself face to face(literally) with the ugly, snarling face of injustice and I was paralysed  I did nothing, I didn’t move. I just sat there.
The guilt that came with that inaction is indescribable, I have always known that guilt is a result of certain actions, but of inaction also? That’s a new one.  And the guilt weighed on me all day, its easy when you can trick yourself that you live in a little bubble where nothing goes wrong and nothing affect you. But the minute that bubble bursts, you’re faced with real life. Its like the song from my favourite Kiwi song bird, Brooke Fraser;
Now that I have seen, I am responsible‘.
So here I am, carrying around this responsibly trying to figure out what to do with it.

I’ll leave on a positive note, last night was my last night at church, and as I sat taking it all in I was able to thank God into bringing into that place. Church has been amazing, I have learnt so much and loved so much simply by being part of the community. One of the worship songs we sang I felt was fitting as I prepare to go back and figure out where to go from here;
Where You go, I’ll follow
Where You stay, I’ll stay
I will follow You

How You love, I’ll love
How You serve, I’ll serve
If this live I lose, I will follow You

Peace.

Finding ‘family’ on the other side of the world

‘How long have you got left?’
is one of my most dreaded questions. I hate it, because then I have to think about leaving this place that has become my home. About leaving my friends, the people who have welcomed me into their lives.

I’m beginning to realize that leaving home, to go back home will be as hard, if not harder than leaving home. I have come to love this place and its people. I love the life I live here.When I think about this, I realize that my time here has been much more than just a visit, or an extended travel, but this has become my home. One of them anyway.

A tourist comes, looks at some stuff, buys some souvenirs eats at a restaurant and maybe talks to a few people. And this is great, I love travelling places and going to tourist sites.
But that is not what I am doing, I have friends here, I have a life here.

For instance, today, I went to church in Beit Jala. A small Baptist church in Arabic, translated for the foreigners by the Pastors son/my friend then we sit and drink coffee over conversations.
Afterwards my friend picked me up and we went to her in-laws for lunch, where we ate Maftool(a kind of couscous) and chicken. Then after hanging out with her son and husband for a while we went to her parents house to drink tea on the balcony.
The lovely thing about this is that I have done this many times, so now, instead of being given the special treatment that guests usually get, I am simply treated like family.
I sit and have conversations with Issa’s(her husband) family half in English half in Arabic over lunch.
And when I turn up at her parents house, I am greeted by her dad who hugs me asks me how I am and calls me ‘Amo’ which literally means Uncle, but is also used to address the niece or nephew(same with ‘mama’ and ‘baba’). And here you call any older family friend Aunt or Uncle, so for me to be called ‘Amo’ is a huge privilege.It means that I have become like a niece. So we sit outside and drink tea with mint while I talk to her nieces and joke about silly things.

And its for these reasons that I will find it incredibly hard to leave this place, this place that has caught my attention. Recently I’ve found myself getting a little depressed and sad.
Its hard to explain the connection and how I feel about leaving this place, but your prayers would be greatly appreciated. Prayers for encouragement, high-spirits and great time spent with those who mean the most to me here would be greatly appreciated.

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My normal day.

I wrote a HUGE blog about the HolyDays recently, but I can’t be bothered posting. If you want to know anything, ASK. And if you are anywhere around me within the next 6 months you’ll hear all about it anyway.

So I thought I’d post what my average day looks like(if I’m not travelling, at camp, or something else);

5:30– I try to wake up, but it doesn’t often happen. Usually I’m awake enough to turn on the hot water, then I crawl back into bed.

6am-7am-Shower-Dress-Read my Bible-Breakfast, if there is time

At 7 I leave to walk to the bus, my walk is usually filled with lots of smiles, morning greetings and sometimes the smell of burning rubbish from the night before.
If I haven’t managed to have breakfast I stop at the local Shrak bakery, where they insist on giving me my bread for free, sometimes stuffing a second into my bag. If I have eaten we exchange friendly waves as I walk past.

7:20 I board the bus,  with my bus driver greeting me;
‘Sabah Alkher'(Good morning)
‘Sabah Alnoor'(response)
Kif halik?(how are you?)
Mabsuta((I am) happy)
Humdillah(praise God)

Depending on the bus driver, the radio will be playing one of 2 things;
Fairuz or Anasheed
Usually I get the second.

7:35 we get to the checkpoint, the soldiers get on the bus and check your ID/Passports. Sometimes you get off the bus and line up outside.

8am I get to the office. At the moment my work is a lot of preparation work. Getting ready for some of our events and odd office jobs.
Often I’m sent to run errands, buying things from the supermarket or mall, this gives me great opportunities to practice my Hebrew.
If my boss is in the office, he will often come in teasing me. Today he told me I should be dancing instead of filing. Then he sang to me.

Between 4-5 I catch the bus back to Bethlehem, usually a lot fuller than in the morning as everyone is coming home from work. This is where most my interesting bus stories happen. Anything can happen, two old ladies can start yelling at each other or you could be given bags of fruit. (this is a common situation, and it is offensive to decline. I personally love it.)

Then I walk home from the bus, stopping to talk to my neighbours on the way.
Depending on what I have planned that night determines whether I make dinner or not. Once a week after work I have an Arabic Lesson at my house for 1 1/2 hours.
Usually, I will end up hanging out at a cafe with friends where we play cards/hang out/talk.

And that is a snapshot into my normal weekday!

22 Years

(and one week)

Last Wednesday I celebrated my 22nd birthday, after being spoiled at the office with pizza, cake and cards I spent the evening in the desert with some friends. The desert was beautiful, we had a BBQ, sat around the fire, drank wine and looked for shooting stars. There is definitely something serene and beautiful about the desert. It was a great way to spend my birthday.

Birthday Bon Fire

As I catch the bus at rush hour everyday, I get to have some pretty interesting experiences. Like talking to someone on the bus about his daughter who lives in Sydney, or over packed buses with people almost sitting on each other.
On Thursday, as the bus stopped at a junction, a woman started yelling at a group of men. She was just upset that they were pushing her, but the toothless old woman in traditional dress sitting in front of her didn’t see it this way. She turned around, and took it upon herself to yell at the first women for yelling(because that makes sense). This turned into a bit of a competition to see who could yell at the other louder. As things escalated, others on the bus tried to get involved to tell them to calm down and stop. This only made the toothless old woman angrier and she started yelling at them. As I’m watching this I’m trying really hard not to laugh at the sit-com-esque scene playing out in front of me. My composure crumbled when the elderly Muslim man next to me started chuckling loudly and tryed to get me to join in. By this point the original woman had shut up and was sitting quietly, so the toothless old woman decided to yell at everyone on the bus. She stood up, took her walking stick and started waving it around in the air, occasionally banging it down on the floor of the bus. By this point the bus driver was having trouble focusing on the road because he was laughing so hard. Even the first woman getting off the bus didn’t deter her, and she kept going until we reached the bus station. Who needs t.v’s these days when you have toothless old women?

Sunday I went to church with some friends, and joined them for lunch, chicken stuffed with rice. So good.
In the evening I hung out with my ‘second family’ and we went bowling. The bowling alley is new in Bethlehem and quite a novelty! Adam(3) is now talking SO much that its hard to get a word in edgewise. He speaks Arabic so well, and I find myself a little jealous. Haha. He also talks just for the sake of talking, at one point he called out, ‘Baba! Ta-al hon hunak!’, ‘Daddy! Come here there!’ haha.

Monday I stuffed envelopes all day at the office, came home and decided to cook some lentils, but needed chili powder. So I ran up to get some from the store, only to find that they only had Paprika. So I decided to make chili con Carne, and needed mince. So I went next door to the butchers, with all the carcasses hanging from the roof and sawdust on the floor. Once I order my mince they offer me a small cup of strong coffee and simply hack a piece off  one of the hanging carcasses and mince it up for me.  I leave happy and caffeinated. Coffee cup
Me and my freshly minced meat

I love living behind a vege store, 2 convience stores and a butcher.
Dinner was delicious. Afterwards I went out with my flatmate and friend for a drink as we sat around a bon fire, wrapped in sleeping bags. Its getting cold!

Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

After ending the last blog with ‘onwards and upwards to another week’ my body decided to get tonsillitis.
Realising that I could hardly string a sentence together, I went home early on Monday. The same day that the West Bank public transport went on strike. I managed to get the check point(via bus and taxi) and once through I was able to call my landlord to come pick me up and drop me back home. Its only a 5 minute walk, but I just couldn’t do it. Luckily I have an amazing landlord.
I spent the rest of the day on the couch feeling sorry for myself, and for once wishing I was back home. I heard a protest outside my house about the rising cost of gas at one point, but I couldn’t move, so I stayed on the couch. At one, particularly miserable point I did beg for my mother to buy a plane ticket to come look after me.

Feeling better(apart from a scratchy throat), on Thursday I jumped onto a bus to The Sea of Galilee(The Kinneret). 2 years ago my family stayed with a family  acquaintance in a huge house with incredibly views of the Kinneret. We all have fond memories of our time here and we talk about it regularly. It really is my favourite view on earth.

Best view ever

Micky, the host, has an open house and often has different people from all over staying. There was a big event on that weekend called, ‘Swim across the Kinneret’ so the house was going to be full. His son, Gal and his 2 friends were there and we got on immediately. We spent most of the night just hanging out and talking, this is exactly what I wanted this part of my trip to be like.
Friday we went for a hike up a rocky hill to a spring, after a short detour(‘to get you hot and sweaty so you’ll appreciate the water’) we found ourselves at a spring coming out of a rock face. In the rock a small door was cut, climbing through the door we found ourselves in a cave half full of water. It was amazing and the perfect thing after hiking up (and down) the hill. On the crags of the rocks there were candles everywhere. We finished the day by eating apples dipped into honey to remind us to have a ‘sweet new year’.

The next day we all woke up early to go down to Kinneret so the others could swim. I was left with everyone’s stuff on the beach to people watch. It was packed, there were over 6000 people swimming. The others finished, collected their Choco(Chocolate milk in a bag), bun and medal and shared their Choco with me. On our way out Gal(around 26-27) spotted the waterslides, and informing me that they were the ‘height of happiness’ ran off leaving me with his stuff and dragging his friends along. I laughed at them, but only because I didn’t have my togs and couldn’t go.

After a delicious BBQ and relaxing for a while, we decided to go down to the Jordan river to jump off a tree. We set off, passing the pilgrimage shop/baptismal site/ restaurant, stopping further down the river. The water was amazing and jumping off the tree was exhilarating. This is also why I was here, for amazing experiences like this. The river was packed with families picnicking on the riverbank. After we decided who could make the biggest splash and were exhausted we sat down for some coffee before heading back. Passing the pilgrimage stop again I thought about how sorry I felt for all the tourists, they pay USD$25+ to be baptised in a small, manicured part of the Jordan river when I get go a few metres down, climb up a tree and jumpinto the cool, refreshing water. Two very different experiences.

So beautiful

SundayI relaxed, and read a book, before setting off for Haifa. After a few change of plans, I was invited to stay at Micky’s for Rosh Hashana(Jewish New Year) and to his daughters for dinner. His daughter, her husband and son had just been to NZ so  they were great to talk to. Before dinner we went for a walk to the beach with Alon(3) but that ended with him telling us that ‘this was the most annoying day of his whole life’.(kids don’t change wherever you go) Dinner was great starting with Alon, Alon’s dad and Gal doing the haka. We ate and talked and wished everyone a Happy New Year.

Haka for Rosh Hashana

MondayI went for a walk along the shores of the Kinneret, sitting under the shade of some date palms for a while. While walking I spotted my second chameleon of the weekend. The first we spent 1/2 hour trying to get him out from under the car after he decided the wheel was a good place to live. After resting I walked down to the Jordan River to go for a swim. I love swimming in rivers, they’re so nice and refreshing. That evening Micky was going out for dinner to celebrate a friends birthday and invited me. It was nice.

Date Palms

Tuesday I relaxed, as it was too hot to do anything and just thinking about walking back up the hill made me cringe. I sat, read a book and chilled. Once the sun started to go down(and the holiday was officially over), I caught a bus to Tiberias, in order to catch a bus to Jerusalem. The ride back to Jerusalem was full of unusual encounters. First of all, on my 3 hour bus ride there was a dog, not some cute handbag dog that Paris would walk around with. This dog was huge!
At the short stop in Afula I spied a guy Maori tattoo, upon asking where he was from I discovered that he was from Titirangi and was working at a kibbutz. And on the bus home I met a girl from Brisbane volunteering at ChristChurch.
I love meeting all sorts of people from all around the world, but its amazing when you meet someone from home.
I am home ‘home’ now and thankful a bed and a space to call my own.

Until next time,
May God Bless you and Keep you.

The good that comes from Nazareth

I know that it has been almost a month since my last post, and for that I apologise.
Work at Musalaha has slowed down now that all our big events have finished. After our 3 summer camps we had 3 overseas trips in the month of August, the Young Adults went to Norway, the Youth went to Holland and the Families had a conference in Germany. Never fear! There is still work to be done  the paper work.

In the last few weeks I have been travelling to see friends with my new found free time, a weekend in Tel Aviv, a few days in Beer Sheva and this weekend I spent in Nazareth. Because I have already seen all the tourist sights, I am simply enjoying my time being with friends.

This weekend, as I said, I have spent in Nazareth with my friend Shadia and her family. Shadia runs the Youth department at Musalaha and I work closely with her. On Saturday I spent the day with her nephews as they practised with their new magic kit. They were hilarious, and I spent most of the time being told to ‘close my eyes'(I didn’t previously know this phrase in Arabic but quickly learnt when they kept repeating it)  while they attempted to wow me with one of their tricks. Hours of fun, made funnier when the tricks didn’t go exactly as planned. Much fun was had alround
Saturday night we had a massive BBQ (in celebration of the newly built BBQ) for which I had been saving stomach space all day.  All round it was a great day of fellowship, fun and food.

Today I went to the Baptist church in Nazareth with Shadia. Thankful for the fact that they have a translation. In church we sang a Hillsong song that had been translated to Arabic and afterwards the Pastor spoke about a New Zealander who lived in Nazareth and worked at the hospital. I love how small the world is.
In the afternoon I caught a bus to Haifa and walked around a little, enjoying the afternoon and buying Knafeh on the way back. I bought the knafeh from sweets shop that I went to with my  family two years ago. Two years ago when this journey started.

The title of this blog is an answer to the verse in John 1:46 asking
What good can come from Nazareth?’

Nazareth holds a very special place in my heart, and for good reason. When I was here two years ago it, was one of the two Arab towns we visited(not counting Jerusalem), in Nazareth we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation(‘just another church’) and went to Nazareth Village, which was far more interesting. While there we had a guide who talked us through all the parables and taught us about how things were done in Bible times. All the while I was trying to figure out if our guide was an Arab or a Jew.

And then we entered the Synagogue.
In the Synagogue our guide spoke about what happened in Luke 4:17-21 when Jesus stood up, took the scroll of Isaiah and read the prophesy. And repercussions of such an act.
What struck me about this part of our tour was that our guide spoke with such passion, such conviction. This wasn’t just a tour guide who had memorized a script. I realized he was someone who lived and breathed this text. Who had a relationship with the author and the subject. By this time I had also realized that he was and Arab.

I was baffled, this idea had never crossed my mind before. An Arab. A Christian. One and the other. To this day I’m not sure why this got my attention like it did, and why it stayed with me.

On the way back to the car I saw a church with a sign saying ‘Jesus is Alive’ in English and Arabic. I took a photo of it and thought about it often.
My experience in Nazareth was the starting point of the adventure I am on now, it was what opened my eyes to the Palestinian church and its existence.
I passed the church today, its still there. I stood in front of it briefly, thanking God for the change he has done it me.

I pray that you have a soft heart, willing to have your eyes opened to possibilities you don’t know exist and that you will be changed because of it.

Onwards and upwards to another week!
Jem

Amman

Last week I travelled to Jordan for a holiday and a Visa run(My visa ran out on Wednesday and I needed to leave, and come back to renew it). Amman is something else! While I’d been to Jordan with my family two years ago, we never made it to ‘Amman. The modern city of  Amman is relatively new, infact, while standing on the Citadel looking over the city you read signs stating that the oldest hospital was built in the 1920’s and the road just below was built in 2005. It was so nice to be in an Arab city that is so modern and delveloped, it is a nice change.

My friend(a Jordanian/Palestinian with an American passport) was also doing a visa run so I was able to hang out with her and stay with her uncle(who decided to go to Egypt a day after I arrived, so we had the house to ourselves). In Amman we went to the movies and a mall. A mall. While there are malls and cinema’s in Jerusalem I haven’t had much chance to check them out yet so this was a treat. H&M were having a sale so we did some shopping and looked at some other stores. I also found a Pumpkin Patch. In a mall, in Amman, in Jordan, on the other side of the world. This got me a little bit excited. We tried ordering McDonalds(they deliver in Jordan). But after several attempts it just didn’t work. What a let down.

Every evening there was a festival being held on the Citadel called Citadel Nights. There was a concert on every night, food and stalls. If Ramadan has helped me appreciate anything, its the summer evenings, its lovely to just sit and enjoy the sights, sounds and smell of the evening. Its like the world comes alive after 8(and Iftar!). I rationalized that this was my vacation, so I shopped for souvenirs and even dressed up like a Bedouin for a photo. At one point a 17yr old girl decided I was her ‘sahibti'(my friend), grabbed my arm, went around to all of her friends and introduced me as such, after walking around for ten minutes she decided that she needed to introduce me to her family as well. Someone very famous was performing that night so the festival was packed! After walking around looking for them for 35-40 minutes we found them in the middle of the crowd. It wasn’t weird, awkward or uncomfortable. I sat with them for 2 hours watching the concert and talking to them. They invited me to have Iftar with them the next day, unfortunately I already had something planned with Areej. I love this part of Arab hospitality.

I also got to hang out with Areej’s family, who just happened to call us before dinner everyday. We never went hungry. We talked, played cards and ate food. At one point we were getting a lift home and my friend informed me that our driver, a relative, was a first cousin of the King. Just casually getting a ride through Amman with the Royal family, don’t mind if I do. On my last night we ate at my friends Aunts house, they were celebrating something(I’m not sure what, they’re always celebrating) and invited their Muslim neighbours to have Iftar with them, on one table there was warak dawali, mansaf and Kanefeh. I think that is what heaven is going to look like.

Thursday morning I woke 10 minutes after my taxi arrived(opps). Luckily I had packed everything and could hop straight into the taxi. I decided to go to the  Sheikh Hussein crossing /North Border,which is not the way I came in and is further away from Amman/Jerusalem. Two days before hand, my friend Erika went for her visa run, to Egypt and when she came back in, they only gave her 30 days to get her stuff together and buy a plane ticket. This had me a little worried,everything about this trip seems to have been hand-crafted by God, but even so 10% of me was a little worried that something would go wrong. Everything went fine, I waited for about 20 minutes while they asked me what I was doing here and where my parents were born. The officials were incredibly nice and friendly, and by the end of it I actually felt like I was genuinely being welcomed, one of the ladies even took her time to write down bus lines and times for me.

I caught a taxi for 50 sheckles that drove 5 minutes down the road to the bus stop, where I caught a 2 hour bus to Jerusalem for 42 sheckles. The bus passed quite a few army bases, and the soldiers going home for the weekend outnumbered civilians 10-1. After the I got over the idea that they weren’t here to check my passport(usually the only reason I see soldiers on buses is to check my passport at the checkpont), I slept for almost the whole 2 hour bus ride. Only to wake up to find my phone stolen. Bummer.