A Travellerspoint blog

March 2007

Greetings From the Holy Land

Station 6: Jesus stops to purchase a "my parents went to Israel and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" and other assorted parapehalia.

But Lauren!

Where is Morocco? Two whole weeks there and not even a hint? A whisper. Sorry friends. Alison was supposed to blog about it. But her schedule is crammed with her sudoku obsession and new found friend, "Parasite Pete." She's swamped.

(She's really not swamped. Everytime someone brings up the blog, she get's all "I don't wannnnnna blog, I don't knooooooow what to say, I'm perfectly haaaaaaappy just traveling and not publishing my thoughts for the whoooooole wooooooorld to see!"

Clearly she's exaggerating. I keep telling her that Paying the Bribe's loyal readers really consist of my mom. And Sarah's mom.

Hi mom.

Hi Kim.)

Suffice it to say, we loved Morocco. We wandered through many a market, enjoyed mint tea, fended off snake charmers and quoted Casablanca as often as possible. Even ate at a recreation of Rick's Cafe...of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...

My poor father actually turned down an offer to marry us off for camels, rugs and a lovely home in the old city of Fez. Undoubtedly, he already regrets it.

At any rate, it was relaxing, enjoyable and surprisingly easy to travel through. Though perhaps we're just warped. Compared to India, everywhere seems easy...

We're now coming to the end of our two weeks in Israel. It's really difficult to be ambivalent about this place once you're seen it.

We were alarmed at first. There's something about seeing 18 year olds with ipods, cell phones, acne and hair scrunchies carrying M60s slung across their back. You find yourself thinking..."someone did teach them how to put the safety on that thing, no?"

But the constant tension I expected to feel, the nervousness and fear and hatred is difficult to perceive...at least at first glance. Granted if we had traveled through the West Bank or Gaza, our experience would be decidedly different.

At Nazareth...

But what we came away with is an impression of this tiny place, one that you could drive the distance of in half a day...with more than half of it seemingly unusable, dessert. All of it crammed with people that want a piece of it. The huge number of Christian pilgrims that tromp around the old city of Jerusalem wearing a caps that say "Praise the Lord." The four different sects of Christianity that share the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, with Orthodox priests scurrying around Catholic monks, an uneasy peace among them. The stations of the cross mixed in among the huge market in the Arab quarter, prompting Jamie and Benjamin's classic line, "Station 6: Jesus stops off for a pack of smokes and a scratch card." The Wailing Wall positioned right next to the Dome of the Rock, the Armenian quarter running smack into the Jewish quarter.

Ali at some random station...

Station 7...maybe.

The old city...and a large parking lot, apparently...

But most of all...I've been struck by how functional it is. The images you get when you think of Israel, I expected to see at least 3 explosions, a little rock throwing or at the very least some very pissed off graffiti. And yet somehow...after a few days, those images are gone. And it's hard to imagine you ever had them. And you fall in alongside everyone else who is getting up every day and living their life in this tiny strip of land, despite the dangers and frustrations and injustices.

At the suprisingly peaceful Lebanon border...

Waxing poetic now.

Sarah will flog me for treading on her sacred ground. Apologies.

Stay tuned for the good word from Egypt...

Posted by lbassi 09:15 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Holy Western Civilization, Batman.

Are we in Kansas anymore?

Before I begin, please note:

My charming, talented and altogether extraordinary sibling has been added as a contributor to your friendly neighborhood travel blog. In short, before your very eyes...a briber has been born. And what a briber she is. Travel savvy like its her job, harboring aspirations of writing professionally...and yet, 3 weeks in Cambodia come and go...

And what whisperings are sent our way from Southeast Asia? Nothing. Nada. Ninette. Nien. Not a single, solitary word.

Personally, it hurts. Is she creatively blocked? Strapped for time? Or are we not even a blip on her radar as she navigates through the difficult passages of Ankor?

Not a beg, but a plea...loyal readers, please help her to break the silence. Full court pressure. All hands on deck. Any other sports metaphor/idiom you´ve got. Bring the pain (read: email).

In other news...after a 5 month absence, I´ve returned to Western Civilization!

Musee D'Orsay and other Paris Delights...

Crystal and I at Sacre Coeur...

I spent my first few hours wandering around London Heathrow, relishing in forgotten pleasures, such as Starbucks and trashy tabloids. And Western toilets. And fixed prices. And understanding the announcements on the overhead. The sheer idea of having a complete mastery of what is happening around you. Of being able to ask someone a question, understand the answer and feel comfortable about the meaning of the body language and the encounter in general.

Ridiculous. Where is the fun in that?

In the spirit of such ridiculousness, I give you Paying the Bribe´s first official Top 5 list:

Go West, Young Woman: Putting the shock in Culture Shock...

5. Personal space! Who gives personal space? What do you mean you want me to form a queue? I get waited on by shoving my way up and throwing my money at someone, not by waiting in some archaic line...
4. Everything is clean. And attractive. The bathrooms are attractive. The seating in the airport is attractive. The display of mixed fruit and nuts in the gift shop is lovely. The garbage cans are frankly getting me a little hot and bothered.
3. I ordered a salad that cost approximately $14.00. I could get a 4 course meal in India for that much. I think I just had a small coronary.
2. I blend in. Really. I blend in. People don´t point at me when I walk by. My pants aren´t a major topic of conversation. People aren´t asking to have their picture taken with me...(Not kidding. Mantles all over India have headings like ¨me with random white girl in Amritsar...¨) Complete anonymity. How odd.

And finally...

1. For lack of a more eloquent way to phrase it...dear god, to we produce a lot of shit in the western world.

Please note...this list was compiled within my first few hours in Heathrow. Three weeks later, after covering France and Spain...I feel a little differently. I´m no longer impressed by the politeness of Western man...I´d rather have someone reach out and grab you than have to fend off French waiters with pedophilic tendencies who only seem interested in you because you are legal while still looking about twelve...

I continue to be overwhelmed by the stuff. By the expense. By the self-righteousness and ethnocentrism.

And yet...

Today I shall drink regular water without guilt and run my tooth brush under the sink.

Ahhh...sweet decadence of life.

At last, I´ve found you.

Stay tuned for the Highland Park Hillbillies in North Africa...

Posted by lbassi 09:31 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

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