Good morning! For breakfast we had black sesame breadsticks with cream cheese in the almost empty jar. Seeing a theme yet?
Today we are going to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Today I will be the championship photographer, as soon as I get the dust off my lens. Note to Self: force Raj to take me to a camera store, as soon as he hauls his ass out of bed. Of us three Raj is the biggest time nazi, and of us three Raj likes to sleep in the most. Go figure.
Mister Sister finally gets out of bed, screaming at us the whole time even though we're fully dressed, ready and waiting. We're used to the fact that Raj just likes to scream. He's like a toy poodle that way, needs to bark to hear his own voice. So with a "Let's go let's go already people! We're on a schedule you know!", we march out the door, down the stairs and into the car.
First stop, falafel. James and I have whined for falafel from the minute the plane landed. In short, we cannot believe how many hours we have been in this part of the world without having a falafel. What's that all about? Raj drives like mad to a falafel place in the center of town, insulting us and our choices the whole way. We have a full day planned and just don't have TIME for falafel, people! Lucky for me the best way to shut Raj up is blackmail, so I threaten with one or two damning scenarios from our school days. Before I know it, he and James are - quietly - in the falafel place ordering our breakfast.
I'm on car duty. He almost got a ticket the night before, see, so my job is to sit in the passenger seat and honk like mad if police person comes at the windshield with a pad and pencil. It's a gorgeous day, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and young, hot busboy from the restaurant has just brought me some complimentary tea and stuffed falafel balls to snack on while I wait. Ah, young & good looking servile male bringing me tasties. I love it here.
We have to forego the camera store because we are running late. Damn. We also have to eat in the car because we are running late. In fact, we have to eat in the moving car because we are running late. If you're having problems picturing what I'm about to describe, just try this: take the most reckless, hissy-fit driver you know and clock them at 100kph in a very swervy part of town while you have a falafel in your left hand and a full cup of hot tea in your right, arm hanging out the window in case of spillage. It was pretty hard at first and I did some toy poodle barking of my own, but I managed better after dumping half my tea in the street.
Next stop, Jordan River. This is where Jesus was baptised. Again, I am not seriously into Christian heritage sites, but when in the area, what the hey? The scenery is gorgeous and if anything, it's nostalgic. Under one condition, though: if at any time we were subject to candle-bearing religious heretics singing "Kumbaya," vamos.
We parked the car, then got on a bus with a dozen or so other tourists, several of them Italian. The bus rolls along while the tour guide gives a very important, factually significant ditty (I'd repeat some of it but we weren't paying attention), and the load of us were dropped off onto a sidewalk in a field where the walking tour began. They don't exactly tell you that this sidewalk just happens to be in the middle of a minefield, but they do tell you that you are very, very close to the Israeli border and that these important landmarks have been "protected" by all means necessary. Or as James put it, "If you stray off the sidewalk honey, do us all a favour and keep running."
The sidewalk leads to a forested area, then a bridge, then another bridge, then the river, etc. etc., you get the point. Our trio was the tail end of the group, and I was the last. And this was it! I could feel it in my bones. The time was right for my own personal tour-de-force. I whipped out my camera - dust be damned! - and prepared myself to start shooting like mad. Just one more thing, and this I'd been waiting for a long, long time.
Hairclip had to come off. Now. Curls have been up far too long and what better place to make a fresh start? Hell, Jesus did it. With my thumb and forefinger I undid it my clip in one fluid motion and shook my hair loose a la Charlie's Angels style, singing "Born Free!" in my head, intending to savour the moment forever.
Then, at that precise moment, the damndest thing happened. My right sandal snapped. Off. As in broken. As in, You've just started a 1.5 hour walking tour in a minefield in some godforsaken desert, and will have to do most of it now without your right shoe.
What the hell? What was this? Were the planetary alignments against me or something? Bullshit! I swore several times (rather loudly) so that James and Raj came running back to see what'd happened. And thus I was reduced to the remainder of the walk with a step 'n slide. Forget photography, just getting through this stupid tour on one foot was priority now.
James was an angel. He carried my camera, took pictures for me, caught me every single time I almost fell, waited with me and missed most of the tour watching me drag along like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Best of all he told stupid jokes that at times had me laughing so hard I was reduced to a crawl. How ironic. Crawling in the Holy Land.
Raj was a miscreant. He did not wait, he did not help, he just rushed ahead repeatedly snapping, "Come, James!", seriously annoyed that his lover was missing even one second of this precious, sacred information. Best of all, he felt the tremendous need to inform me every few minutes or so of fatefulness of this whole situation. He would click his tongue and everything. "This is a sign, kookoo."
No shit, it was a sign to buy better shoes. "A sign of what?"
"You're being punished, kookoo."
"For wearing Skechers?"
"You're being punished for all your sins."
Oh, that was rich. "Are you fucking mental?"
"Do you think it's a coincidence that your sandal broke? Here? It means you will have a very hard path through life! You have to repent now!"
"Said the gay muslim whose parents still think he's straight!"
"You have to repent, kookoo!
James: "Actually, I think it's a sign that you should walk barefoot while I dance behind you singing 'Everything's gonna be alright.'"
Back to laughing, back to the crawl. As for Raj, he is very lucky I was one footed. He is even luckier we were in a minefield. Nikes in a regular field, and I would've wrung his neck.
But then sometimes Raj can be very useful. He knows a handful of languages and when he started chatting up the Italians, James and I just assumed he'd left us because he was embarrassed by our uncouth behaviour and couldn't understand out jokes. He never understands our jokes. Shockingly, while mingling with the fashionable - Raj thinks all Italians are fashionable - he managed to find a way to help.
Raj comes running over to me, pointing to a smiling (and very good looking) man in a striped shirt and says, "You're in luck, this man here is going to try and fix your shoe. He says he's part of the Italian military, and has been trained for all kinds of rough, wilderness situations. He can survive in the desert on practically nothing."
"Does that mean I can have his sandals while he walks barefoot?"
He clicked his tongue again and gave me the 'I can't believe these people want to help you and you're still making jokes you're such a shithead' look, stuck out his hand and I put my sandal in it. Five minutes later it came back, mended with red twine (who the hell carries twine on the Jordan River tour, MacGyver?). Not perfect, but doable. I was so happy to be able to partially walk again I gave Signore a big hug and kiss and at least a dozen Grazie's. And for posterity, he let me take his picture holding my reborn sandal.
We finally came to the site where Jesus was baptised. It was a patch of cracked dirt. It was obvious there had once been a river there, but now there was just a big moisture spot. On the cracked up dirt. Alrighty, then. Ten dinars entry for a dull tour, broken sandals, a minefield and cracked dirt? I don't think so. The tour guide saw we were getting antsy and took us to the "new" baptism site, even if just to see running water.
The Jordan River was actually a river! That's more like it. Sure, it was small, brown, and patrolled by some pinch-faced armed guards a stone's throw away on the Israeli border, but it was a river. The Italians all took turns getting their hands wet and taking pictures, when Raj pulled out his camera and gestured at me.
"I'll take a picture while you cleanse yourself, kookoo. This is your chance to repent."
Cleanse myself? Repent? He was still on that? "Nope. That water's filthy. No repenting today."
Raj tightened his lips and puffed out his cheeks. Then he stomped his foot. Tantrum time. "I've had it! H-A-D it! I bring you here and you don't care about ANYTHING your fucking shoe BREAKS all you do is JOKE and LAUGH you MISS the tour this is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity and if you don't CLEANSE YOUR SINS in the Jordan River RIGHT NOW I'm going to SCREAM!"
If you like your eardrums the way they are, you don't mess around with Raj when he threatens to scream. Fine, then. Cleansing time. I took off my shoes and walked over to the rocks. There was only a small space where you had the freedom to stick body parts in the water, and it was steep. James came over to help and took my left hand. I still wasn't too sure about this. "It's dirty!"
Bossy-pants. I stuck my tongue out at him, right before sticking my big toe in the Jordan River and feeling something murky that I didn't like ONE BIT!
This is Raj's picture: James is holding my hand while my other arm is out. My pants are rolled up, I very carefully have my right toe in the river; my hair is loose and wild. I am looking into the sky, completely disgusted, shrieking for all I'm worth.