Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My new twist on cardamom cake

I haven't posted in a long while, as I've mostly been posting on my South Asia focused blog but I had to quickly share this recipe for a cake I experimented with last night for a friend's birthday, which was an unexpected success! The cake is moist inside but crunchy on the top and not too sweet, and it has some Middle Eastern flavors I cherish since my time in Jordan, such as cardamom, pomegranate seeds, and pistachios. It works great on these cold December days when you need some extra spice in your life - and extra sugar of course! I hope you enjoy it!

Cardamom Yogurt Cake with Pomegranate Pistachio Crunch Topping

I couldn't get a nice picture of my cake, but it looked sort of like this. Photo credits go to the Spiced Life. 


For the Topping
·       3 tbsp all-purpose flour
·       3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
·       1/4 cup demerara sugar (raw cane sugar, also called turbinado)
·       1/4 cup chopped pistachios
·       1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
·       1/4 teaspoon cardamom

For the Cake
·   2 cups (152 g) self-rising flour
·   1¼ cups granulated sugar
·   ¼ tsp baking soda
·   2 tsp ground cardamom
·   1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
·   cup vegetable oil
·   2 large eggs
·   2 tsp vanilla
·   A dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice


1.     Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan (or use sugar instead of flour – it gives the cake a sweet lightly crunchy edge and bottom). Set aside.
2.     Begin with the topping: Combine the flour, butter, demerara sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
3.     Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and cardamom. Set aside.
4.     Whisk together the yogurt, oil, eggs, vanilla, and lemon. Pour over the flour mixture and gently mix until just evenly moistened.
5.     Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Crumble the topping over the cake. Bake until the top of the cake is golden and lightly crisp and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached, approximately 45 mins.

6.     Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Serve with whipped cream and a steaming cup of cardamom tea (if that isn't too much of a cardamom overdose for you - it certainly isnt for me!).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Throwback to living on the edge of Israel

I am obviously awful at keeping promises to myself, as I last wrote a blog post back in September and even then I didn't post the planned photo essay of the visit I made to Rosh Hanikra back in JULY 2013! It's been a while, but I have decided that it's never too late - I will finally post about my visit to these incredible caves on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Let me stress that this is very much a closed border. We heard a rumor of a guy who drunkenly decided to take a stroll in Lebanon after getting inebriated in Nahariya. He was shot. So visiting these caves was the closest I would get to Lebanon while in Israel.

Fortunately, this place was only a one hour stroll from the dig site. After convincing a few more archaeologists to join me after yet another exhausting day at the dig site, I had companions to join me on this little adventure.

Eventually we got to the border, where there was a beautiful look-out over the utmost northern coast of Israel.

Right at the look-out is a great little place where you can get slushies and ice cream - perfect on a hot sunny day!

You then enter into the place where you enter into a cable car, which costs 43 NIS and is the only way of entering the site. When we were there it was practically deserted except for a family just returning from the grottoes.

It's a steep way down!

Once you get down you can immediately enter the grottoes, where the incredible turquoise water glimmers like a gem in the dim and damp cave. Memories of "pirate caves" in Malta came to me.

After the little tour around the grottoes, which doesn't take more than 10 minutes, you come out onto a narrow walkway along the gently lapping Mediterranean.

The grottoes have a fascinating history that I had not expected. We were surprised to discover that a railway ran through them! Here is the information they give about these mysterious railway tracks, of course laid by the British (who else?). Can you imagine a group of people from New Zealand and South Africa transplanted to the Levant to build a railway line between Egypt and Turkey? The British really knew how to mix up the world.

Once you have explored the grottoes and the railway lines, you can enter into the final section of the railway that is accessible from Israel (and technically underneath Lebanon), to watch a mildly erotic and comically dramatic film about the myths surrounding the grottoes. Be prepared for the salt water they splash on the audience for "special effects". 

Here is the heavily patrolled border. Hello Lebanon!

Even from the Achziv Field School, we could hear the unintelligible announcements and calls from the watch towers on the border.

On the way back we were fortunate to capture a magnificent sunset!

On a final note, please follow my new blog about my upcoming trip to India. I was fortunate to be awarded the Critical Language Scholarship to study Urdu in India from mid-June to mid-August. To say I'm excited would be an understatement. I hope you join me on my new journey! (Mera safar, the title of the blog, means "my journey" in Urdu)

Yallah bye for now!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Real Indiana Jones and The Return of the Blogger

Yes, I know I haven't written in a very long time. What an awful blogger I am! However, after an intense month in the Middle East and a week of cramming for the GRE in northern Sweden, I was ready for a proper three-week vacation in Stockholm, Germany, France, and Iceland. I decided that I really needed that vacation and I'm still trying to prevent myself from being guilty of letting go for a little while of the billions of commitments I set up for myself.

Alas, guilt got the best of me and here I am, in the midst of the most stressful time in my life, juggling schoolwork, paid work, and freaking out about being a college senior and suddenly facing the enormous treacherous ocean of adulthood, and I decide to start blogging again. Nevertheless, I owe the blogging world a whole slew of posts about my crazy adventures this summer. I owe it to all the travelers who could someday benefit from all the misadventures and adventures I experienced over the past couple of months. It's also a way for me to stop romanticizing my journey and remember that traveling is one of the most mentally and physically taxing things you can do - but also one of the most beautiful and addictive endeavors in life.

The excavation at Tel Kabri in northern Israel was a life-changing experience replete with new friends, new landscapes, and above all new knowledge about our ancient past. Techniques and ideas that I had memorized in my Introduction to Archaeology class back at George Washington University were put into practice and, in the process, made more understandable and fascinating.

Before my trip I felt nervous but excited to embark on this new and rare journey. I had no idea what to expect and both before I left and when I arrived I felt like I had packed all the wrong things. However, a lack of preparation didn’t diminish the fun I had on the dig. The perseverance, mental and physical strength, and good humor of my companions on the excavation inspired me every day to work just as hard with just as wide of a smile. I truly respect the field of archaeology and its enthusiastically practicing archaeologists now more than ever before. I would like to see Harrison Ford try and move as much dirt as we did!

After the first week I already knew how to make pieces of chalky mud fly with a pickax, clear up dirt with a turia and a bucket, run a wheelbarrow full of dirt up a hill laced with tree roots, and carefully shape the sides of a dirt square with a trowel or handpick. Our first probe didn’t seem to reveal anything, so we closed it up for the time being. The next two weeks I started working elsewhere on the dig site, such as trying to prevent an Iron Age trash pit from contaminating with the Bronze Age palace, uncovering a plaster floor, and articulating huge pieces of pottery. You can learn more about what we found at this excellent guide written by one of the participants on the dig:

Tel Kabri: The 2013 Excavations

Throughout the three weeks the skills I learnt by physically excavating were complemented by learning how to measure elevations and differentiate soil and pottery types in on-site workshops, measuring out a square and drawing a wall properly in workshops at the field school, and learning the archaeological history of the site through lectures. Not only that, but new friendships forged on the excavation site were strengthened in evenings by breathtaking Mediterranean sunsets, local wine, Druze pita, and Israeli chocolate. After three weeks had passed, despite being exhausted from pushing myself to my utmost physical and mental limitations, I felt more energized than ever from a newfound passion for knowledge production, new friends, and the exhilaration of getting physically engaged with the earth of civilization’s ancestry.

In my next posts I hope to finish up some stories about Israel, starting with a photo essay of my visit to the incredible caves of Rosh Hanikra, literally on the Israel-Lebanon border, and a 24 Hours in Haifa piece, as well as detailed instructions about how to get to the obscure northern border crossing to Jordan at Beit She'an. I can't wait to relive all of these experiences by telling you about them. It feels good to be back!

WARNING: I am way too ambitious for my own good. I will do my best to keep updating this blog, but blogging falls under procrastination time so all I can promise is that I will do my best. Hugs to you all until then!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Weddings, Warak Dawali, and Water in the West Bank

This post will be a bit different than others. I have a neat chronological timeline of my time in Hebron, which lasted three days in June, but I also took scattered, semi-ethnographic notes while I was there in unconventional prose format, and I will intermittently include them for added description of what it was like to visit Hebron. This post is more political than usual but I want to make a statement that I am not on either side of the Israel-Palestinian crisis - both sides have issues to resolve within themselves and between each other. These are only notes I took to explore different sides of the conflict. 

I got off bus 21 going from Jerusalem to Betlehem in Husan, just past the West Bank border. I didn't have to show any passport, since they aren't too concerned about having people enter the West Bank, only about people leaving. My friend picked me up, since I was staying with his warm and welcoming family, of which there were four brothers, three sisters, and an aging mother and father. They immediately brought over the neighbors baby, and the love in Arabic culture for children was obvious as they swung this complacent little baby in the air and played with him and kissed him. 

I was exhausted after barely sleeping for White Night so I took a long nap in the bedroom I would share with my friend's sisters. One of the sisters had given up her bed for me and was sleeping on a cot for the weekend!

After my nap we went to smoke shisha in nearby village overlooking Hebron.
A public garden in a neighboring hilltop village crawling with children of all ages and women in hijabs delicately wielding the jewelled and perfumed sword of the water pipe, men greeting each other and kissing on the cheek, quickly asking about phone calls and business, always a favor to be made. Everything precious in the West Bank - water, greenery, the lyrical voice of Arab Idol winner Mohammad Assaf singing for his native Palestine - present in one place, including a small area for bumper cars so that children can learn to drive the seemingly lawless Palestinian roads.

My friend told me about what it is like to work in the court in Hebron, where he deals with around 100 cases daily. He got rid of his phone so he could get some peace when he was at home, or else the cases tend to follow him home. As he greeted his friends, they all asked "Where is your phone? I've been calling you!" We also met the groom for the wedding I would attend the next day. 
The fiancé had looked exhausted and expressed that he wished the wedding to be over, that his soon-to-be wife will look like a clown in all the make-up, and he affectionately showed me photos on his phone of his fiancé posing while holding roses on a tan-colored couch, natural and delicate. Abruptly the phone buzzed and rang, and the high-pitched voice, tinged with jealousy as she heard my loud laugh in the background, was discernible. My friend leaned in to me and said "The bride won't sleep tonight because of you." And he laughed heartily.
The groom was accompanied by a good friend, Tareq, who has started a youth organization and tourism initiative in Hebron, and used to teach corporate sustainability and business ethics at the local university. I was invited to sit with the men, and throughout the engaging discussion of business, politics, and history, I would occasionally glance back uncomfortably at the silent mother and sisters of my friend at the table behind us. It was clear to me and to them that the rules are different for non-Muslim Western women, and I felt like I was straddling two worlds - the male-dominated world of business in al-Khalil (the Arabic name for Hebron) and the exclusive sisterhood among the women of a local household.

We returned home as the clock neared midnight, and on the way made intermittent stops for falafel and hummus - anytime of night and day is a good time for a feast! We got back and all sat down to watch TV.
On the television, which is always on, they switch between overdramatized Turkish soap operas dubbed in Arabic, even worse Indian soap operas dubbed in Arabic, Egyptian comedy shows, and Arabic pop music videos. - and of course countless commercials advertising everything you could possibly need for the upcoming month of Ramadan.
Soon enough I was invited into the kitchen and we sat down for a feast. My friend's brother had made his famous ful, a popular breakfast dish of cooked and mashed fava beans served with olive oil, chopped parsley, onion, garlic, and lemon juice. For dessert they served me slices of sweet, dry coconut cake in front of the TV.

After the food the women of the household taught me how to make stuffed grape leaves (warak dawali). They take time and care because you need to carefully roll each grape leaf, so it is a dish that often shows respect and a great deal of hospitality towards your guest.

The next day we woke up to no water, and the long wait for a shower began, which would last most of the day. 
Sitting room sipping coffee or eating fruit and watching TV. They pour expensive water bottles down the toilet in order to flush because cleanliness is godliness but the low water reserves don’t help with this ideal. The moment the women wake up they start cleaning. The mother exasperatedly says “war, war in Palestine, in Pakistan, in Egypt, war everywhere!” as she dramatically gestures at the coup in Egypt unfolding on the TV screen. Her middle-aged son clarifies for me passionately but with a serious look in his eyes that Israel steals all their water and that this is a crime - he points to the ground and indicates the underground water reserves, aquifers on West Bank territory, that the state of Israel purportedly claim for themselves. Here I see a battle of sovereignty, of environment, a war of attrition that requires patience and adjustment to hardship - no wonder the people protest, the hand of a foreign government is heavy-handed, a hand never more visible than when a lack of resources become evident in the homes of the humble middle class.
The mother says “mai alhiyah”, water is life and goes on a rant about how this problem never stops, a dramatic hand gesturing and then covering her forehead - they want me to take this issue to Sweden, to tell people of their hardships so they can get visas to lands with possibilities where they do not have to wait 5 hours for water or to cross a border that locks them in like a jail.
Eventually it is only a couple of hours before we need to leave for the wedding and I still haven't showered.
They take me to an uncle’s house to shower, laughing and smiling to make me feel comfortable and welcomed - it is special to have a tall blonde girl who speaks arabic visit their small and meticulously cared for homes - at the uncle’s house the bathroom lacks a light and we laugh heartily, a joke to be circulated around for the next couple of weeks - but sober faces then tell me this is a good thing, that I experience what life is like in Palestine.
After a quick meal of the stuffed grape leaves we made the night before, we left for the wedding, for which I wore a printed maxi dress and a navy blue shawl draped over my shoulders and cleavage. It was a segregated wedding, so I was under the care of my friend's sisters, who didn't speak any English. We entered the left side of the wedding venue, from where you got a stunning view of Hebron at sunset. Women in chairs lined up facing a stage, where the bride danced to popular Arabic tunes for her groom, who sat under an elaborate floral arrangement, looking nervous but excited. The bride wore heavy makeup and her thin figure moved gracefully as various family members gradually got permission  from a loudspeaker to join her on stage. The groom eventually left to join the men’s party and some women moved to remove hijabs and jilbabs, revealing short dresses, low backs, cleavage, and long hair that they have carefully prepared for this grand occasion. I was invited up to the stage to congratulate the bride.
As the sole (naturally) blonde woman, walking up the aisle to greet the revered bride, standing tall and skinny in her cake-like white wedding dress - kissing her cheeks caked with makeup and saying “mabruk, mabruk”, seeing her lips move and trying to mumble “inti jameela” before I’m guided off the stage, feeling hundreds of eyes of heads covered with hijabs eyeing the light shawl covering my tanned shoulders
At a later point I make the self-conscious walk up to the stage once again to accept the honor of dancing with the bride and the groom's sisters to the one english-language song played in the whole wedding, “Number one” by Helena Paparizou, which is appropriate since Helena Paparizou is actually Swedish. 

After the dance the sisters I'm with tell me there is another wedding downstairs, and we go and check it out. This room is larger, with round tables and a stage in the center of the room. Baby pictures of the bride are shown on the wall, and the plump bride rushes in, dancing energetically with flamboyant arms as she circles her new husband. The sisters talk about how this bride is so much uglier than the one upstairs. Here a pop version of the Happy Birthday song is the only English song played, but I am the only person who finds it funny, apparently the only fluent English-speaker in the room. The groom and bride of this wedding start to feed each other with cake and no one understood what is going on –  perhaps a Western idea they decided to incorporate into their wedding to appear cosmopolitan. The two weddings contrasted each other starkly and showed me that there are very different ways of planning a Palestinian wedding.

After that we went home and ate more stuffed grape leaves, and waited for men to return. Eventually the men came back, bringing my favorite Arabic dessert, kunefeh, which is soft white cheese topped with semolina flour, chopped pistachios and sugar syrup. As always, we watched TV. They brought the neighbor's baby over and the baby danced to Arabic pop songs, his two-year old arms adorably raised, his small body moving to the beat. In the West Bank, they learn to dance before they can walk.

The next morning there was no water again, but I convinced them that it was alright, and we ate breakfast and then waited for Muhannad to finish work at court. I spoke to the mother about her background and why she loves the Quran. 

The mother told me her dad was an Islamic scholar, a sheik, educated at al-azhar university in Egypt - she has 3 sisters and 5 brothers - one of her sisters is in Amman, the other in Saudi, and the third around the corner. She helped care for the sick in her family and therefore never got to pursue an education - but she says she loves science, and she gets it from the Quran. She has read the Quran 13 times and listed her favorite suras for me, and explained what each of those suras mean to her personally - she said they explained life, why there is light and learning and children - she said learning is beautiful. She has only ever traveled to Jordan and Saudi Arabia to visit her sisters - imagine what the world must look like to her, a world without europe or the USA. All she knows of those continents is what she has seen on television.
A breeze from the window, the cry of a baby, the voices of women, the sun and the impeccably clean dirt-colored furniture - the humming and mumbling of an aging mother of seven children - the rhythm of a beat erupting from the colorful TV screen - carpets under my feet and the taste of watermelon in my mouth - the feeling of being alive, in a different life, a new family and a new culture - things work differently here - i respect it, appreciate it, and miss my culture - I want to show these people where I come from, wherever that may be, and I want them to respect and understand my home just as I do theirs...education  is key, and travel is the highest form of education. It is a gift that West Bank residents receive.  
The Prophet Mohammed is quoted as having said “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.”  I wish the modern political framework didnt  fence in such genuine ideals.
During my friend’s lunch hour at court he returned home so his sister and I could go with him to his uncle’s shoe shop. We walked down streets crowded with entrepreneurs trying to sell various souvenirs of Hebron to the passing locals. I appeared to be, once again, the only woman around not wearing a hijab. We turned down a narrow alleyway and came upon the small shoe shop. The uncle was a respected man in the family, thanks to his shoe shop "Sara Shoes", named after his daughter. My friend and his sister greeted the mustached man by kissing his hands and putting their forehead to his hands. After trying on a few pairs on their insistence, the uncle gave me two pairs of shoes as a gift! The hospitality is baffling here. After the shoe shop we returned home, where the mother had made maklouba, a succulent rice and chicken dish turned upside down right before it is served. Once again, I am showered with gifts, as each sister gives me a bracelet or a shirt of theirs.

Eventually it was time to say good bye. My friend convinced the neighbor to close up shop and drive us to Betlehem - shop owners seem to choose their opening hours on a whim here. In Betlehem they took me to see The Church of Nativity, knowing it's a Sunday and thinking I will want to pray. Although I've never gone to a church just to pray, it's the thought that counts and I appreciated it. 

After this I crossed the border - the only non-Palestinian at this austere land crossing - and got a cab to Jerusalem. The cab driver was a jovial fellow, who responded with consternation when I told him I'm at an archaeological dig near the Lebanese border. "You're right by Hezbollah, right by Nasrallah!" He also told me the exciting story of Mohammed Assaf, who fled from Gaza to join Arab Idol and now fills the hearts of the Palestinian people with hope using the power of his voice, that can be heard on radios and TV-screens throughout the Arab world right now. It is amazing the kind of impact one voice can have on a diaspora!

Once I'm in Jerusalem I get a bus to Haifa for 40 NIS, and then walk over to the nearby mall to grab a coffee before I get the train to Nahariya. There, in the popular Israeli coffee shop Aroma, I engage in an intense discussion with a social worker with a philosophy degree who  tells me about Sufi beliefs surrounding the nature of god. He told me to imagine that I'm looking through a window at the sky. If god is the sky, the window glass is religion. This analogy has stayed in my mind. Eventually I finally grab the train to Nahariya and a taxi to Achziv, which I share with an Argentinian jew, and return to the Archaeological Field School in time to get a few hours of sleep before another day of digging.

The next post, which will be considerably shorter, will be about my short time in Haifa, which I hope to post later this week. I will post about my experience of Ramadan in Jordan by the weekend. Tonight the family I'm staying with is hosting a huge party and the scents make fasting so much harder!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

White Night Wanderlust

The excavation session 1 has already ended and I am now settling back into the comfortable familiarity of Jordanian culture. This means I am also so behind in my blogging, but that is partly because there is so much blog-worthy material on this trip! My first weekend in Israel was very eventful, and I had so much to write that I have split it up in two - one part in Tel Aviv and one part in Hebron. This post will describe my experience of White Night, a biannual event in Tel Aviv in which shops, restaurants and museums are open all night and there is live music out on the streets.


The exhausting week of pushing myself to my physical limitations in removing more dirt manually than I had thought physically possible (at least with my lack of substantial muscle) ended with a quiz, a shower, and a mad rush to the train station. I treated myself to an iced coffee, a staple in any Israeli cafe, which tastes more like a very sweet mildly coffee-flavored milkshake. We caught the train to Tel Aviv, which takes about two hours and has excellent wi-fi. Israel has a great train system running punctually and regularly throughout the whole country. The whole infrastructure is very modern and the cost isn't too steep. It's another reason why Israel feels more like a European country placed smack-dab in the middle of the Middle East.

We had all decided to wing it when it came to accommodation, so the first thing we did in Tel Aviv was go hostel hunting. Fortunately one of our staff members on the dig was kind enough to show us the way to a charming little hostel in the American colony, Beit Immanuel, in which you get a bed in a dorm and breakfast included for 125 NIS. The place is tidy, in a quiet neighborhood but a short walking distance from the thumping beachside nightlife of Jaffa. The dorms are spacious and the shared showers and bathrooms are well-kept. When we went to book our beds we found out that the whole hostel was occupied with more archaeologists, in Israel to excavate Ramses' Gate.

After that we ventured in a random direction and ended up venturing like a pack of lost lambs into Tel Aviv suburbia. We eventually used our common sense and moved in the opposite direction, which happened to be on the beach. The benefit of our little foray was that I came upon the best food invention ever: shawarma with mango sauce, for only 30 NIS. Filling, delicious, and slightly sweet – it was the perfect dinner to have while watching the sunset on Jaffa Beach.

After dinner we came upon a free concert outside Jaffa Gate by a band that sounded like an Israeli version of Franz Ferdinand. Although the music was pretty good, the best part was the backdrop of Tel Aviv's heavily developed commercial shoreline twinkling below the historic walled city of Jaffa.

We soon left the concert to explore some more, and an image display outside Jaffa Antiquities Museum of a person pickaxing felt too relatable after our first week of being archaeologists to ignore. Inside they had a free exhibit of miniatures - think dollhouses. The art was stunning, with small rooms, buildings, and scenarios brought to life in the most minute and meticulous detail. Perhaps when I'm retired and not busy writing theses or pickaxing I can become as skilled as these people in creating miniature worlds reflecting and highlighting the beauty of our own experiences and memories.

As we left the Jaffa Antiquities Museum, we passed the Arab Jaffa theatre bursting with commotion. We decided to slip inside and see what the party was all about and ended up being handed plate fulls of Israel's national dish, shakshuka, a spiced egg and tomato dish scooped up with scrumptiously soft slices of challah. It was the best shakshuka I've ever tried, and it was free! The Arab Jaffa theatre also sported some stunning photography made by 10-yr old and 13-yr old bedouin brothers, highlighting the struggles of sedentarization of Bedouins, a historically nomadic people, in Beer Sheba, a central town in the south of Israel.

After having two dinners, it was finally time for dessert: Ice cream! With our scoops of ice cream (I got chocolate coconut and ferrero rocher) we walked around the buzzing Jaffa district, leisurely observing the antics of White Night. 

That is how we came across my favorite bar in Tel Aviv – Main Bazar. This bar has excellent German beer on tap (Paulaner Hefe-Weisen), free wifi, cool decor (not only is the bar made of pianos, but the DJ table sports an old-fashioned hairdryer) and awesome beats (an eclectic combination of indie, world, and electronic) spinning all night long. They even served me pepsi in a glass bottle! 

After getting our fill of chilling in Main Bazar and befriending the bartender, we moved the party outside and danced to the skilled reggae band playing on the street corner outside. We then moved down a block and danced to some ridiculously cool drummers.

Since we had two dinners, why not have two desserts? On the way back to the hostel we stopped in at Abouelafia to buy my favorite Arabic dessert, kunefeh - warm white cheese, covered in stringy phyllo dough or semolina flour, topped with crushed pistachios, and doused in sugar syrup. We also got BluDay, the Israeli version of Red Bull, to keep ourselves awake so that we could make the most of White Night, despite having woken up at 4:00 that morning. We quickly devoured the kunefeh in the hostel and then went to smoke shisha down the street, where we had memorable conversations about where we come from, where we have traveled, and where we are going in life. I finally crawled into bed at 3:00, after having been awake for 23 hours straight.

Despite my lack of sleep, I woke up  at 7:30, bright-eyed and bushy-taild enough to venture down deserted streets to the Mediterranean sea for a morning swim. On the way, however, I did stop to get a large cup of Arabic coffee for 10 NIS. The beach, the flawless sky, and the memories of a beautiful and exciting evening made me feel like the world was smiling at me, as I danced around in the gentle surf of the Med, and packs of surfers perched on their boards out at sea for the first waves of the day. The only other people on the beach were a couple of elderly tourists and two men in motorcycle helmets, fast asleep in the soft sand.

After getting back to the hostel to pick up my things, we headed towards the bus station for phase two of my weekend. At the station I bought three enormous buttery pastries (sounds so good as I am trying fasting for ramadan) at the bus station for 10 NIS pastries. I then grabbed the 18 NIS bus to Jerusalem, followed by a tram to Damascus gate, and bus 21 to Betlehem. The rest of the story, which journeys into the West Bank, is to be continued in the next blog post.