Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 3: I have a disease... It's called being directionally challenged (location: Jaffa)

So, as I have said in the previous few posts, I am having a large issue dealing with the time difference over here. JET LAG IS A BITCH. I have never experienced that before (at least not in Israel) because I have only been in the country for short amounts of time, and everything was so condensed there was no time to feel tired. However, that is not the case this time around. Thinking that this would be a quite, stay at home, kind of day, I woke up with the plan of watching movies, staying in bed, and taking it pretty easy. Now normally this is what I do best... I'm genetically programmed to be lazy (thank you daddy). However, once I woke up from my much needed nap, I just couldn't stomach staying in. I got in touch with my friend Dana (another graduate student who I met on the flight up to Israel), and we decided to brave the bus system and venture into Jaffa (an old, beautiful port city about 20 or so minutes from where we live).

Now, thinking I was so ahead of the game, I went online and found the bus route that went right from my apartment into Jaffa... However, that was the extent of my research, and when you are in an unfamiliar area, and are as directionally challenged as I am, that is probably not the best way to plan an impromptu trip in a foreign country... OOPS. Dana and I got on the bus, got into Jaffa, and were dropped off on a large street in a primarily Muslim area. Now, this was not a problem since she speaks a little Hebrew, and I speak a decent amount of Arabic, however, whenever we went to ask someone how to get to the port, they would answer us speaking so fast, and all we could really decipher was "go up some, then go left, then walk a little more, then go right...etc." As we struggled to decipher directions we found ourselves in the sketchiest back alleyways, in residential neighborhoods, behind churches, but no where near where we needed to be. Thinking I was being clever I looked at where I thought the sun was setting and said we should go that way because it was West and we needed to go that way to get to the water... Well, again, I don't know my right from left, so trying to figure out North from South and East from West didn't go so well... After some more back alleys, we FINALLY saw a guy with a dog and figured he would be safe to talk to because, let's be honest, anyone who is an animal lover is probably not so sketchy; and BONUS, he spoke English! So after some more wandering we managed to make it safely to Jaffa :-) YAY FOR US. We later found out that had we  just turned down the road we were dropped off on we would have been there... MAJOR FAIL

The first thing to say about Jaffa is that it is simply breathtaking. The first thing you see is the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, and then you notice the gorgeous, cobble stone, Mediterranean style buildings that line the hills. From the top of the hills you have a priceless view. Mosques line the streets of Jaffa, and if you listen carefully enough, you can hear the Muslim call to prayer ringing out from the speakers placed atop each Mosque; I felt like I was back in Jerusalem's old city. Since we had all the time in the world we decided to walk around to all of the big tourist sites in Yaffo. There is a wishing bridge lined with each zodiac sign, a statue of Napoleon (who I guess liked to come to Jaffa often), and a huge square (kikar) filled with cafes, shops, and restaurants.

Feeling that it was time to eat, we stopped at one of the eateries in the Kikar, and decided to split a chicken dinner. The waitresses didn't speak such good English so communicating was quite an ordeal! Once our food came we enjoyed a leisurely dinner, and I even made a new friend. An important thing to note about Israel is that there are stray cats EVERYWHERE (this is no exaggeration). They line the streets, are in front of buildings, are outside every restaurant, etc. you can't escape them! Well, if you know me you know I am not a cat person by any means (and I am very allergic to them), however, as I was eating, this adorable kitten kept coming up to me and staring at me with such big, adoring eyes. Being the animal lover that I am, I had to give him some food (I think he secretly knew I would be the one to cave in since he didn't bother Dana at all; clever creature). Well, once I gave him a little that was it. He was glued to me until two Russians came who were deathly afraid of him so the waitresses had to spend a good 10 minutes chasing him away from the patio area. After a good meal, great conversation about Israel, politics, classes, and so on, we decided to brave the journey back to the bust stop that would take us to our campus. Well, let me just say, I may be directionally challenged, but getting back was a hell of a lot easier!

As we were walking back, about 9:30 pm, we noticed that the streets were flooded with people; people just sitting down to dinner, families taking their children to get gelato, groups of girls going out to the bars and clubs. Well, I guess it is now accurate to say that Israel is a lot like spain. In the middle of the day Israelis have, what is called, "quiet hours"(basically a siesta time), so there nights don't really begin until about 9-10. It was such a mad house on the streets, but so amazing and fun. As we walked by shops the owners would yell "Ahlan w Sahlan" (basically a saying in Arabic meaning "welcome"which is used to invite someone in) or Shalom B'vakah Shah (a Hebrew way of saying welcome), and floods of people would be wandering in an out of each place. The city was so alive and vibrant, it was like being in New York City! After pushing (literally) our way through the people, we found our way back to the bus and made it home with no problem. It was such a fun adventure and I can't wait to go back (especially now that I have my bearings). Plus it will great for me to practice my Arabic there since it is such an integrated city.

And now, as I look at the clock and see that it is 1am, I can only hope that my body lets me sleep through the night so I can enjoy my first Shabbat here! Luckily Friday afternoons to Saturday nights everything is closed in Israel so it forces you to take it easy and relax (which I will desperately need). I need to keep reminding myself that I am here for over a year, and I don't have to do everything right now. But I am glad I did Jaffa :-)

Until tomorrow then!!
Jordana Simone

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