Saturday, January 07, 2006

Walk (drive?) on, O People of God

December 30

We woke at 5.30 and left the hostel at 6. This was quite early and we ended up arriving at the Jerusalem bus station more than half an hour before our bus was due to leave. There was a huge crowd waiting, though, and luckily there were actually three buses going to Eilat. Our bus left promptly at 7, and was completely full. We snacked on bread, cheese, jam, and fruit we had stocked up on the previous day. At Masada we somehow picked up about 10 American college students. We had no room for them—in fact, our bus already had an Israeli soldier lying in the aisle with his gun across his chest, finger on the trigger. The college kids took a long time to get on the bus, and also for some reason required quite a few stops. All this meant that we arrived in Eilat only half an hour before the bus we were trying to catch from Taba to Cairo. We grabbed taxis really quickly and arrived at the border, moved through the Israeli side quickly enough but the Egyptian side was “closed until 2.” Right…that was just the first of many contrasts between Egypt and Israel. (What are these other contrasts? Well, as soon as we entered the Egyptian side we noticed pollution, garbage, smoky buildings, rude and unhelpful people working in various places, an apparently lax work ethic, and the dilapidated state of buildings/roads/buses/cars. Israel really is a Western country that’s just been plopped down in the middle east without any sort of context.) We finally got the border guards to actually work and let us through, and then of course we had the inevitable questions at passport control. What have you been doing? Why? Where are you going? What are you going to Cairo for? You live there? What do you do? oy. We finally got through and then, at the last place we had to flash the stamps of our passports, more questions, including “what neighborhood do you live in? What’s the name of the school where you teach? What neighborhood is that in?” and the inevitable laughter that accompanies an American trying to pronounce the Egyptian Arabic “gh” sound. Anyway, we finally got through all that, but we had missed our 12.30 bus. We walked the 1km to the bus station to wait for the next bus…which didn’t leave until 4.30pm!! And so we waited. For nearly four hours. And then, at last, what a vision did appear! The bus, the bus….and we were on our way home. We arrived around 10.30, grabbed some old-fashioned Egyptian taxis, and arrived home at 11. ilhamdulillah!—our own beds, hot showers, and many memories.

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