Yesterday was epic. There were several moments where I was sure I wasn't going to be able to get out of this kibbutz, but everything worked out in the end.
After writing here yesterday I got ready for my hike. Moti and Jason said to meet in the lobby at 11am and Moti would give us a ride over to the park and set us on our hike. When I arrived in the lobby at 11am it suddenly struck me that both of them had been on the night shift and hadn't slept in god knows how many hours. How likely was it that they'd actually show up to meet me? I started to plan how to get to the park on my own, but at 11:15 Moti showed up. He was flustered because there have been some problems on the drilling platform (broken drills and such--the operation is very close to needing to be put on hold). Jason had fallen asleep so we went and banged on his door, woke him up and brought him with us.
The hike was really nice. I posted photos on facebook of the Arugot Wash, which is a year-round spring that cuts through a decent canyon. It is diverted before it actually makes it to the Dead Sea though. The rocks here are all Mesozoic carbonates (which counts as fairly old limestone). In the lower area of the canyon where we hiked, there weren't any fossils except for a layer with some fossilized algae that looked like circles. I remember seeing similar stuff in Cañon City at field camp. Similar to Utah, the rocks were just so exposed. They towered over us with no vegetation, showing off all the secrets held in their rock walls. The original deposition, how it changed over time, how it was deformed since. It's all very cool and very easy to see. I remember feeling almost uncomfortable in Utah at how exposed the rocks were...it was like driving through the skeletons of a sea floor. This is similar.
We got back to the kibbutz in the late afternoon and I hung out with Elitza, my roommate here. She is a student at Tel Aviv in geophysics and she has one more semester to graduate (they are in the middle of their semester). I had just assumed that she was Israeli, I mean, she spoke Hebrew, is in school here, valid assumption. Then I asked her to look up the weather for the week and she found a site that had several languages, she tried English but it really didn't have much information. Then she says "that's weird because the Russian part has every day with temperatures" and pulled it up. I was like "you speak Russian?!" Turns out she is from Bulgaria and just moved to Israel to study. Go figure. That was cool, I told her I'd been to Varna and the coast. She is from Sofia.
Later on we went to get dinner with Jason and my dad. Jason and I had asked the drill team if we could join them on their trip to Bethlehem that night. Right when I was into my second plate of food we heard that they were leaving in 2 minutes if we wanted to join, so we ran and caught them. Call me a complete idiot, but I did not realize that Bethlehem is in Palestine. Everyone kept on saying that Israelis couldn't come, but I couldn't totally figure out why. So it ended up just being the 7 drillers + me and Jason, 9 people, two little cars. This is when I got to know the drillers well. All nice guys! They are from Florida, Ohio, California and Utah. There is Rich, Joe, "Mohawk" Joe, AJ, Eli, Steve and the leader is Beau. It was funny to be around a crew of guys working decently mindless, physical work. It reminded me of NCC and I felt like I fit in pretty well, although I don't think they realized how comfortable I was with their gross humor and insistence on talking about girls, music and each other.
It was good to travel with a bunch of guys on that trip too, I felt safe the whole time even though they were loud and obvious Americans the whole time. We drove from Ein Gedi to the checkpoint to get into Palestine. There we parked and figured out that we needed to walk through the checkpoint and grab a cab on the other side to take us to Manger Square. There were a lot of tourists, but it wasn't ridiculous. Moti said he heard there were 100,000 people, but I definitely didn't see that many. One of the guys forgot his passport and we were worried he would have to sleep in the car and wait for us, but luckily he got through with his license.
We got into two cabs once we were through and Beau (a Mormon who did his mission in Guatemala and is really good at bargaining) took care of everything. I had to sit on someone's lap because we had to fit 9 in 2 cars. Needless to say, the guy didn't mind. Then this driver took us on an impressive back route that drove all through the streets and hills and avoided all the traffic on the main road.
The first thing we did when we got there was find dinner for the guys, who hadn't eaten before leaving. They all got burgers, fries and cokes in the Bethlehem Peace Center. We then walked around Manger Square for a bit, there was no way to get into any Church because you needed a ticket. We people watched, went into souvenir shops, stood around, watched the military trucks with machine guns circle. Overall it was really good, definitely didn't feel like Christmas I'd say. It was an interesting sensation to be there. On one hand I didn't feel comfortable or safe, just like in any foreign place that is crowded and you are an obvious tourist, but especially here because of all the guns and general tension in the air. I'm also used to using my "young woman charm" around, but I didn't want to do something culturally unacceptable here. Anyway, I'm glad I was with the people I was with. I am glad that I got to go. It's probably somewhere I will never go again. That was also strange, it was the first place that I was aware of this while being there. Most of the time I figure there is always a chance that I will return. Life is long. But at least I got to be at Jesus's birthday party.
So now I have the day until 5pm to hang out, and then go out for my first night shift. I can't decide whether to wander around, nap, read, study GRE (yeah right), or what. Also, I've been sick since Monday and didn't have a voice hardly at all for two days. Now I'm still sounding gross but feel much better. My voice hasn't fully recovered and I have the nasty cough. So everywhere I go and meet people I get that "oooh... are you siiiick?" and have to say "yes, but I swear I'm getting over it" and I'm just tired of being that gross person.