Friday, July 18, 2008

I Share One Computer with an Entire Village

That's right, there's technology in Israel but not at Kibbutz Mehanayim. One computer amongst fifty or so of us, and the internet is rarely functional. And that's ok - rather refreshing - but it does put a damper on blog upkeep. So, I'll make you a deal: today, blogging live from the internet cafe behind the Greek Orthodox church in Nazareth, I'll give you a quick update, then when I get to Jerusalem in two weeks I'll start telling the stories of all that has been happening. Don't worry: I won't leave anything out.

First, Rahmer: shuttle bus/public transit buses the world over, it seems, use the same upholstery supplier. I'm not joking. Every morning at 5 a.m. I get on the bus that takes us from the kibbutz to the dig and think of sitting on that bus from Newark and laughing our asses off because the upholstery was exactly as you had predicted it.

My day =
4:15 a.m. wake up
5 bus to the dig site, we're in A3, near the temple/palace at Tel Hazor, and it's the smaller of the two sites; I very much like the 9 other people I dig with.
5:15 - 7 dig dirt, do bucket chains (yes, we haul the dirt ourselves), listen to the Beatles.
7 tea, coffee, cookies - the cookies are fantastic, and since we're such a small group we get as many cookies as we want - area M only get 2 each...wah.
9:30 breakfast = hardboiled eggs, cucumber and tomato salad, olives, pickles, cheeses, yogurt, pudding, sometimes a tuna salad.
10ish back to work.
1 p.m. stop digging, pack up our stuff, head down to wash the pottery that had been found that day.
2:30 back to the kibbutz for lunch (kibbutz food needs an entry unto itself.)

After lunch I shower, wash my dusty dig clothes by hand and hang them to dry in the sun, then write in my journal for a while. (Yesterday I napped, which was weird, but I was low on sodium so exhausted. I now pour salt into my palm and lick it while on site - sounds nasty, but it really helps.) Then:

5:30 p.m. Pottery reading, when we go through the previous day's finds and try to determine what we have based on the sherds. I'm still learning but I can tell a bowl from a cooking pot from a storage jar. There's still more work until I can recognize the era in which they were made, e.g. Iron or Bronze Ages, etc.

7:30 Dinner (see above, re: future kibbutz food entry).
9ish in bed.

And I love it. I'm working in the hills of Naphtali, I'm thinking and working and sweating and eating some pretty shitty food, and meeting some very incredible people. Today, Sarah from Britain and Joelle from Belgium and I are in Nazareth and tomorrow we head to Mount Tabor in the morning so I can research the area for my thesis.

And my time in the cafe is up. We're going to hunt down some real food.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Good Morning, Starshine

As a quick follow-up to yesterday's post, the reason that The Other Boleyn Girl was mentioned was because I had rented it on Thursday and Julie and Brandon had come over to watch it with me (when I should have been packing, but that is now a mute [moot? boot?] point). When we had finished watching and making fun of it, I said, "watch this be the movie on the plane," not realizing that entertainment technology on international flights has advanced since I'd last travelled over the Atlantic about 6 years ago.

Mundane daily stuff: Daniele, last night I used the cloth awesome bag you gave me. I now have to learn how to say in Hebrew, "no thanks, I don't need plastic." I couldn't find my soap this morning so used the hotel's liquid stuff, kept in a dispenser in the shower a la public washrooms ("shampoo and body gel"). I can't imagine using it in my hair and am angry with myself for not hunting for my soap - I smell like hyper-masculine industrial man. The breakfast buffet at the Olimpia was more like a salad bar - but they had warm hard-boiled eggs and the coffee was pretty good. There wasn't any cream so I used the milk that was meant for cereal and it came from this huge, clear plastic urn with a nozzlething at the bottom like you would see on a coffee urn at the Legion. Overall, a restful sleep in my supercold airconditioned room until an overwhelming, all-consuming hum from construction trucks woke me up at 7:45. I can't (won't) complain, it was a great alarm.

One thing I wanted to talk about was Tel Aviv itself and what I've seen so far. On the drive in from the airport, there are all of these beautiful buildings that are empty with broken windows. I thought of Montreal and the approach into the city on the train, with all the warehouses; it feels very strange to say that these buildings are empty because they had witnessed violence, been bombed. I say 'strange' because it's not a statement I've ever made before; it's a statement that's not a part of my background or experience and being the polite Canadienne that I am, I fear insulting the building (like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut) by assuming automatically that it has suffered an horrific experience. And, I've never seen a bombed building in real life before, and don't watch the news so, adding to the naivete, is the fact that I'm no expert.

It's sad and empty, mostly, and on the approach to the hotel, where all the tourists are, the buildings exhibit more evidence of life: laundry or palm trees or patio umbrellas on the balconies of the apartment buildings. Very few of the apt buildings I've seen here are more than maybe 6 stories high; the hotels dominate the skyline in this area. It seems like the buildings are trying very hard to be clean and they keep scrubbing but there's this haze hanging over them, like no matter how many times you take a cold shower in the summer's heat you'll still be hot and sticky and sweaty and humid. The air is thick and kinda stinky, but the wind from the ocean is clean and cool and rare.

And now, I will contact my friendly cabbie to take me to the bus station so I can get to Hazor. I re-packed all my bags and am down to the two monster suitcases, one monster backpack and my purse. Oh! The first panic moment of the trip: I had put the last lock on the suitcases - *click* - and realized I had locked all the keys in that bag. Insert expletives here. (see - I can navigate without saying 'fuck' all the time!) I stormed around the room - How could you be so stupid? - when I remembered the extra keys in the knapsack. Stupid turned to clever very quickly...

I am dreading the bus trip, but it will be over soon enough. Another thing to deal with, get through and land on the other side of. I need more coffee.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just as Hot, Twice as Humid

The calm I had last night before getting on the plane for Tel Aviv is still here. I'm in an internet cafe at Mapu and Ben Gurion Streets, about a ten minute walk from the Olimpia Hotel, my home for the next 18 hours.

I wasn't bumped to business class, but did have two seats to myself - very sweet - and a very quiet flight...because everyone was sleeping. I didn't have any pharmaceuticals to help my sleep, but I did snooze a little and all in all, the time passed quickly. With those little screens on the seat in front of you, you can CHOOSE what movie you want to watch. The Other Boleyn Girl was included in that list...I caved and watched "Definitely, Maybe" - pure shit, don't waste your time. But! On a very cool note, in the genre 'Canadiana' the first of your choices is...wait for it..."Maple Flavour Films"! Mazel tov, Michael, you've made the big time! Who needs a distributor when you're a featured flick on international flights with aircanada? I didn't have any problems with my ears, as I have had in the past. Maybe I'm growing out of it, or it seems to me that I'm always in the most pain upon landing if the flights are too close together, e.g. going to NYC for a weekend. At any rate, I drank lotsa water and chewed my gum and it worked so I'm happy.

The flight was on time, and I was in my hotel room by 7:30 pm in this time zone. (note to self: find out what timezone this is...any ideas out there?) While at the airport, the Ministry of Tourism desk is right beside the carousels so I got my superheavy bags from hell (did i really need to bring the yoga mat? yes! yes, i did!) and then the man at the desk hooked me up with Olimpia. (it's killing me to spell it with an 'i' not a 'y'.) It was kinda funny, I go up to MofT dude and start my usual pleasantries, "Hi, how are you?" and he just looked at me - not unfriendly, but with this, "you approached me so what do you want?" look. I got to the point, he helped me and here I am.

The hotel clerk, Michael, pointed me in the direction of the cafe and to a little supermarket. I picked up kiwi yogurt, hummus and flatbread, nectarines, apples, pomegranete (sp?) juice and water. I spent 75NIS = 25$Cdn. So far, comparable. It was so much fun trying to navigate the labels in Hebrew, and seeing all the different foods.

Ok, speaking of different foods, I'm now starving. I will hopefully be online at the kibbutz. A big shout out to Dan - wouldn't you know it, they're playing James Taylor here, now. And, while I'm shoutin' - thanks to the fam, and to Julie, Daniele and Brandon for coming to see me off. And thanks to everyone else who couldn't make it to Pearson but were there in spirit.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Big Day

Today I fly. Last night, at around 12:30 a.m., I was looking at my empty suitcases and backpacks on the couch and at all my stuff in piles around the living room and thought, 'no problem - tons of room.' At 3 a.m. I gave up and went to bed. I'm trying to be hyper-organized and arrange everything according to dig/school stuff. Not happening. I'm just going to shove it all in wherever it fits and deal with it there. I like it.

I just spoke with my mother and told her I was blogging when I should be packing. We had a lovely conversation; I'm pretty sure she hung up relatively quickly so she could have a good cry. I've promised not to tease her when she gets weepy...

My thesis statement, for those who want to know the theoretical essence of my work:

Deborah and Jael in the biblical narrative found in Judges 4 and 5 are two characters who have received very little attention in recent biblical, mythic revisionist literature. As women depicted positively as a leader and saviour of their people, they are anomalous characters in the patriarchal narrative of the Hebrew Bible, if their story is indeed a recounting of actual historical figures. If, however, the narrative is based on the older mythology of the surrounding Canaanite culture, Deborah and Jael as mortal archetypal characters can be interpreted as a usurping and grounding of the violent, divine feminine aspect of this culture’s war and fertility goddesses to promote and legitimate the biblical authors’ monotheistic worldview. In a work of feminist fictional mythic revision, comprised of a series of interconnected short stories and poetry, is the opportunity to provide the ancient voices of these narratives an updated interpretation, and a further opportunity to explore the power and relevance such voices still hold for a modern audience.

And now, back to my packing. The next time you hear from me, I'll be writing in the Holy Land. Have I mentioned how much I love saying that?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I've been told recently that I should have started blogging about this when the process began. Here's the Coles Notes version.

In September 2007, I began my Master's programme in Interdisciplinary Studies at York University. It had been decided during the initial meeting I'd had with my committee the previous May that a year of study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem would be fantastic both for my thesis research and for my overall education. So, in January 2008 - the winter/second term of my studies - I began the application process both for the academic program and for the scholarship package provided by the Canadian Friends of Hebrew U. I was accepted as a Visiting Graduate to the Rothberg International School of Hebrew U in Jerusalem, with a full scholarship.

Then the nitty-gritty of it all set in: a student visa; a new home for the very lovable Shadow; renting my apartment for a year; obtaining permission from my home university for a year's leave of absence, and subsequent re-instatement upon my return with the original entrance scholarship there intact; graduate student housing in Jerusalem; finding the funding to participate in at least half of the six week archaeological dig at Tel Hazor. It's all done. The last spectres hanging over me are a paper due for the previously mentioned prof - that is fodder for another post, since I seem to be having many more problems finishing it than I had anticipated (and the guilt about this is killing me - but, on the other hand, it's not like I've been idle. But the perfectionist in me beats myself up for it...grrr - bad graduate student. Bad.) Plus, in the next two to three days, I have some loose ends to tidy up for the rest of my committee, get my shit together re: packing, and see a few more people to say b-bye. Yikes.

Now, I've been told by the incredible Rahmer that I must post what I'll be doing while in Israel. She's been suffering, you see, from not knowing exactly what I'll be up to while there, and this is bothering her because she feels lost when others ask her what the scoop with me is. She confided in me that her usual response is, "Well, she's doing something really cool but I don't know what it is." Don't worry, sweetie, you're not alone! Others have expressed just such a dilemna to me recently. So, I will outline below what I will be doing, as far as I know it now, until the end of October. This will be the physical aspect of the plans; the outline of my work regarding my thesis will be included in a very-near-future post.

July 11: fly to Tel Aviv; land on 12 July.
July 13: arrive at the kibbutz guest house near Tel Hazor after 2p.m. to begin a three week adventure weilding pick-axes and hauling rocks at the largest archaeological dig site in Israel.
August 1: dig ends.
August 3: arrive at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University; move in to graduate students' residence.
August 6: Ulpan (Modern Hebrew Language Immersion Program) begins.
September 25ish: Ulpan ends.
October: no classes because of high holy days recess; head to Egypt for two weeks.
October 25: classes begin.

We'll leave it there for now. It hasn't yet set in that I'm going to be in another world in another four days. I know that my world, personally, is going to change and I'm so excited to see how.