Friday, October 12, 2018

Traveler, Know Thyself

People were commenting "Amazing photos!" on my previous post and I was all like "Huh?" I went back and looked and thought, "Wow! I actually saw that stuff!" Which, well, you'd think I would have already realized, but no. Because here's the problem with traveling in the Middle East: there's too much to see.

This stuff is EVERYWHERE
Seriously. You're walking around and by the time you've viewed your gazillionth stone wall from antiquity in the space of an hour, you're all, "That's nice. But where CAN I get some coffee here?" It's just too overwhelming. You walk up a modern-ish city street and realize that the building you're standing next to is pretty darn historic-looking, and hey - so's the one on the next block! And over here! And pretty soon you've got a camera full of pictures of stone buildings and you have no idea what they all are.

Look, I never said I was good at traveling, okay?

Theo rented a car a few different days and drove us all around. We saw I don't know how many interesting stone villages perched on the sides of mountains. But it was enough that we stopped noticing them. We saw mile upon mile of breathtaking desert hills (I've got the photos to prove it); but, sadly, we got used to those, too. So what stands out is the weird stuff, like the Chinese restaurant menu printed in Hebrew (we ate there in Be'ersheva):

At the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, what caught my eye was not the stone manger where the Baby Jesus (supposedly) lay in swaddling clothes or the centuries-old paintings on the walls, but the thoroughly modern vending machine just outside the old stone walls of the building:

Baby Jesus never got a soda, I'm pretty sure 

Food took on an overarching importance during this trip. Yom Kippur, we inadvertently fasted, because I was trying to act like a savvy traveler by purchasing food at a deli counter in the local souk (market) the day before. That evening, after the sun had gone down and all the stores had closed, Susie and I sat down with great anticipation to our little feast, a variety of salads and pickled vegetables and some bread. "We'll have enough for tomorrow, too!" I announced happily, proud of my ingenuity.

This is what disappointment looks like.

Reader, we hated it. All of it. Nothing tasted right to our American palates. And now we were staring down the barrel of an entire day with NOTHING TO EAT (except for the hostel breakfast, which Susie was becoming sick and tired of). To add insult to injury, 2 youngish guys sat down next to us at this point and pulled out their own dinners: a pint of Ben and Jerry's each, and also a bag of chips.

I repeat, American ice cream and potato chips. People, this was the equivalent of waving a juicy beefsteak in front of a couple of very hungry puppies.

They both enjoyed their repast as Susie and I tried not to stare too longingly in their direction. We were both thinking the same thing: Why hadn't we done that? After all, there was a convenience store right next to the hostel (closed now, of course). But no - I had to be trying to act like Miss World Traveler and shop where the natives shopped.

And that, my friends, is when I gave up trying to impress myself and Susie with how to be a traveler. Because, really, I'm not. Not a good one, anyway. I don't know what half my pictures are of, my stomach was dying for American food halfway through that trip, and watching me try to figure out the Israeli money was enough to erase Susie's last shred of confidence in me.

And, yes, as soon as that convenience store opened the next evening, Susie and I were in there, buying some Ben and Jerry's. It's a good thing to live without pretense, right? Tell me I'm right.


  1. It's true that you stop noticing the beautiful if it is front of you all the time. I have a feeling I would have starved on this trip.

  2. Note to self: do not travel to the middle east! Beautiful, yes. But I would not even know how to ask if some of their food had gluten in it.

    This reminds me of when my brother and I traveled around Europe over Christmas break while living in Ireland for the year in college. In Italy, my bro Pat was all about getting a great big, authentic Italian meal. We couldn't speak a word of Italian and we ended up with a small bowl of something like spaghettios. He insisted on eating all remaining meals at the McDonald's because he understood the portion sizes, etc. He was NOT my favorite travel companion.

    Those are some incredible pictures though. What an adventure!!! Susie is a lucky kid to have traveled so far.

  3. You are one smart cookie (🍪 dough ice cream?) anf I support you 100%. I'm currently traveling in the US and I would gladly eat ice cream right now. Unfortunately my traveling companion is Mr. Sugar-is-evil and he also believes in tent camping in october at 5,900 feet elevation. Brrrrrrrr...

    1. Adding here that I detest blogging on my phone!

  4. I've been to Europe, but never the Middle East, I've ended up with something unfamiliar more than once. Luckily it was never something I couldn't/wouldn't eat. Now, olives...there is a food I dislike immensely.

    It sounds like you had a wonderful trip, despite the time of hunger. And yes, the photos are amazing!!

  5. Now I am convinced I have to see this in person. Goodness. I am feeling for you on the no food/ fasting thing. We do a 24 hour fast once a month in our church to benefit the poor, and it was today. I had to wait an extra hour today because my husband was meeting with someone and I thought I was going to die! Haha Gives you an appreciation for those who don't have food regularly I guess. But yay for Ben and Jerry's!

  6. I have always wanted to go to Jerusalem. Although now if I ever do, I will know just to start out with the Ben and Jerry's and the chips! I sort of had a similar feeling in Ireland. "Oh look. Another 1000 year old castle."

  7. Years back I went through Norway with relatives and took a fjord tour. We went from exclaiming over every amazing view to saying flatly, "Oh, look, another waterfall." You get jaded when it's all amazing all the time!

  8. That's like people that live on the beach but never touch the water lol

  9. Love the post title! It's so true. My daughter and I spent a week in DC after she graduated from college this May. She booked us an Airbnb, texted an UBR to take us to the Airbnb and learned how to navigate the trains. I tried to stay positive (through 6 out of 7 rainy sightseeing days), help when I could, holed up in the bathroom each evening to give her some space while I cleaned each individual pore! And also stepped in to fund tours, meals and coffee! We had fun but were both happy to return home.

  10. The second time we took the boys to Italy, we started in Rome. I was so excited to play the tour guide ... I had maps, maps of the Colosseum and Pantheon, and a knowledge of history I couldn't wait to share! The first afternoon we were headed to the Pantheon, and as we turned a corner and entered the piazza I pointed and said, "Oh, look guys, there's the Pantheon!" The VERY NEXT SECOND my husband pointed and said, "Oh, look guys, a McDonald's!" Guess what they were most excited about? Guess who was most annoyed ;-)

  11. You and Susie have the best adventures together! It must have been torture to watch those guys scarfing ice cream when you were hungry though.