Oh my god. I don't know where to begin. It's has been a crazy crazy past days. I'm so behind. We'll have to go in order from the last thing notable, which was the hiking trip to the Negev that Paul and I did.
The Negev and Jerusalem:
Everyone got about 4 days off because a small part on the drill rig broke and they had to wait for it to be shipped from the states, but it was a weekend, and it's international and they actually still haven't started drilling again. So last Friday was our last shift and Paul and I went on the night shift because they needed two scientists just in case they cored, but it took 3 hours to get 30 cm with the broken part so they decided to close operations. The next day was supposed to start my days off before leaving on Tuesday, but we had a field trip with all the students, my dad and Moti to look at the local geology and formations around the Dead Sea that we are drilling. So instead of beginning our hiking trip and having two nights in the Negev, we ended up staying in Ein Gedi that night. The next morning my dad drove us to Mitzpe Ramon where we began our overnight hike. We hiked down the big crater (maktesh ramon), across some cool old volcanoes, sandstone and carbonates, an awesome fold and fault and into some other dry streams. We ended up camping in a spot that isn't officially accepted and unofficially had a fire, but it was totally worth it. It was a clear and beautiful night.
Then the next morning it was surprisingly wet everywhere. My sleeping bag was totally covered with drops of water. We hiked out in a couple of hours and then hitchhiked from the road up to Mitzpe Ramon. We were picked up by an Army guy and his dog in a pick up truck. He ended up taking us all the way to Be'er Sheva, where we caught a bus to Jerusalem. He was great, he told us all about the Bedouin culture, local cool valleys, the desert and his time in the army. We arrived in Jerusalem in the afternoon and walked into the downtown. We were a site. We were covered in desert dust and dirt, probably stinky, with our huge backpacks. We had three goals: 1. Get some falafel, 2. Paul wanted to buy a poyke (a cast iron pot/goblet, what I'd call a dutch oven), 3. find a phone somewhere to call Moti and tell him we were coming. We were successful on all fronts and even got to finish off the night with a walk around the Old City of Jerusalem with Jason.
The next morning I went to the Tel Aviv airport to fly back to New York via Kiev. First of all, I almost missed my shuttle because I set my alarm for an 4:30am rather than 3:30 am like an idiot. Moti rushed into the room yelling "Emily! You will miss your shuttle! You must get up!" and I made it but my driver wasn't happy. Then in the airport I went through a lot of security, and extra security, and checked in, more security and finally got to the flight and on the plane.
I should have noticed things were weird because originally my flight to New York was supposed to leave Kiev at 12:55pm, but our boarding passes now sad at 3:30pm. Then when I arrived to the tiny, horrible airport in Kiev, the flight wasn't listed because they only had listings going up to 2:30pm. Then over the intercom they said all New York passengers should come to the information desk, they herded us to a lounge with couches upstairs and told us that our flight would be leaving at 1am and they would give us food in an hour. This was all in Russian though, and they didn't explain anything in English, once all the other passengers (who were Russian, Kazakhstan and Georgian) calmed down some of them told me in English what was going on. It was horrible. There was no information, no reason, no internet and no way to get information. They gave us a cell phone to take turns to call our families and whoever to let them know.
At around 4pm they told us that we wouldn't be leaving until 7pm the next day. This is when big unrest began. The passengers united and all went down to the information desk and started yelling at the young girls working there. They demanded information, a reason, a flight, whatever. At this point I started to make friends with these Kazakhstan guys who spoke English pretty well. I asked them to keep me updated with whatever was being said since no one was speaking English, only Russian. Then they started to book everyone on flights to Istanbul and Stockholm for the next morning, but still with no prospect of making it to New York within the next day, it would be a day or two it seemed, possibly three. I was totally miserable at the prospect, although I was ready to go to Istanbul, where it was at least a bigger airport and had more flights back eventually. The problem really was that Aerosvit has no sway in flights. They have almost no ability to make anything work or better for the passenger if something goes wrong.
So I decided it would probably be better if I just fly back to Tel Aviv (they had a lot of flights for that) than to go to Istanbul or New York. I was missing my connecting flight to Texas the next day regardless, and who knew when I'd get to New York. My Kazakhstan friend helped me ask the women working on the flights to get me back to Tel Aviv and I managed to fly out on the last flight at 10:35pm. I arrived in Tel Aviv at 2:00am, had my luggage lost and ended up getting a place to sleep with a guy I met on the plane. I started talking to him when we were boarding and sat next to him. He was really nice and he offered that I have a bed to sleep in because he lived with his parents and they had extra rooms, plus he was half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and would drop me off at a bus the next morning. It worked out great, I have been very lucky this entire trip with the people that I meet. I have a lot of built up generosity to share based on what I have received. I think that is important and one of the best things about traveling and life. This trip has definitely been marked by these interactions.
The next day I managed to make it to Moti's house, where Paul was still hanging out because drilling has still not resumed in Ein Gedi. So Paul and I went to the Hebrew Museum and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, the archaeological section and the fine arts section. Then we bought a bunch of ingredients to make Moti's family dinner that night, to say thanks for letting us stay and taking care of us. We made sweet potato gnocchi from scratch, with two different sauces. Obviously it was mainly by Paul's guidance since I've never made gnocchi before, but it was quite easy and I would be able to do it again (and I plan to). It was a nice dinner, then we rented a movie and fell asleep watching it and went to bed.
Today we toured the old city of Jerusalem again, this time in the daytime. Paul had already done it the day I was stuck in Kiev, but he did it again anyway. We started from Mt. Olive, walked down through churches and cemeteries and into the old city where we walked through some underground aqueduct systems and then into the Austrian Hostel where we could go to the roof and see a view over the old city. Then we went to the western wall, past temple mound where the line was too long to get in, and then through the Jewish Quarter and out. We walked to this market that we found on the first day through Jerusalem where there is all the food you could want and just bought whatever looked good. Fresh breads with cheese and spinach, chocolate croissants and cookies, dried fruits and finally a falafel sandwich. I was stuffed. I still am stuffed. Now we are waiting for a couple of hours to go to Ein Gedi, where we should be on the day shift tomorrow (hopefully there are the parts necessary to make everything work again). I do hope to get in some shifts before I leave.