Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Best Dollar I Ever Spent

We were in the Land of Edom where the descendants of Esau grew and multiplied.  It was Esau who had traded his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup.  At breakfast I was prepared to trade my birthright for an egg that tasted like an egg and had the texture of an egg.  For the previous 3 mornings I’d been fooled into taking a chunk of “egg casserole” onto my plate at breakfast only to put a fork full into my mouth and suddenly realize that that wasn’t egg.  Not sure what it was but definitely not an egg.  Not from a chicken anyway. 

The restaurant we were in gave us a buffet breakfast but had someone on hand who would cook you an omelette with the ingredients you chose.  I gave him my order, watched him crack the real eggs, get the ingredients ready and then pour what must have been a cup of oil into the hot pan.  My omelette would not be sticking to the pan or anything else. 

Any.  Thing.  Else.

Back at my table I looked at my shiny omelette for a long time before deciding that it would be wasteful and insulting not to eat it.  So I did.  I chewed but I didn’t need to.  I’m pretty sure I could’ve tilted my head back and pretended it was an oyster and each bite would’ve slid right down my throat.  I suspected there would be repercussions from my choice to be cultural sensitive.

Just as we were about to leave word came that one of our group had received some very bad news from home.  It involved the words, “critical condition”.  Pete filled us in on the details and then led us in a prayer.  We left Aqaba with heavy but hopeful hearts.

We rolled on our bus out of beautiful, clean, safe Aqaba.  We passed giant billboards of the King of Jordan’s head.  Again and again.    It was hard for me not to think of 1984.

Our bus climbed up from the sea to the King’s Highway.  The KH is an ancient transportation and trading route cutting south to north along Jordan on the highlands.  The road climbed and wound around and my omelette made contact with every part of my digestive system as we made our way toward Petra.

Petra is an amazing place.  It changed hands over the centuries numerous times but all the people who came to call this place home added elements of their culture and style to the stone tombs, public places and living quarters.  It’s the Rosetta Stone for architecture and icons.

We walked the Siq:  a winding walk that was cut through the rock by wind and water.   The natural beauty was astounding and the horse drawn buggies that hurtled by us kept you from looking up for too long or you’d become road kill.  As we came to the end of the Siq the Sun was at just the right position to hit the Treasury so that it burned before us with reflected light.  My little archaeological heart wanted to wet my pants.

It’s difficult for me to put into words how it felt to me to be standing in that place, in front of that structure, literally surrounded by ancient history.  There was a dream-like quality to it but if pressed I would have to say something far more mundane.  It was deeply satisfying.  A part of me is acutely aware that I’m living out some rich man’s dream.  Me with little money, no bankroll or uber-salary to afford a trip like this (or any of the others I have been on) and yet, by grace, here I stand in a place I would have never gotten myself into.
And then my omelette found my lower intestines.  Thankfully a small bathroom had been built nearby which saved me from sneaking off into a cave.

Soon after I was wandering around on my own and a very, very old looking local approached me.  “Want to buy coins?” he asked.  He held out a palm full of old looking coins.  I told him I wasn’t interested.  “Ah, you want the real thing!” he said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wadded up piece of tissue.  He slowly unfolded the tissue and showed me some smaller and older looking coins and we were playing “Let’s Make A Deal”.  I’ve got reservations about buying the antiquities of another culture so I passed and he took me as being a tough negotiator.  He wrapped the coins back up, stuffed them in his pocket and said, “Let me show you a funny old lamp.”

From another pocket he pulled out more tissue and as he unwrapped this, a small oil lamp appeared.  I looked closer and the top of the oil lamp had a graphic image that is usually depicted as number 12 in the Kama Sutra.  I looked up at the little old man who had a big grin on his face.  I could see he had four teeth.  “Funny lamp.” And a price, was all he said.  I smiled and said, “It must have been a bedroom lamp.”  Nothing.  He looked at me blankly.  He didn't get it or it wasn’t as funny as I thought. “No, no…” he said and he swore it was ancient.  I shook my head, "No thanks." And I finally walked away as I thought to myself that “Porn in Petra” would make a great title for an article in Archaeology Review.

There’s a saying about highlighting a book that you are reading that once you’ve highlighted 60% of the book highlights are really no use.  I photographed well over 60% of Petra and while it might be psychological torture to make someone sit through all my pics, these highlights still hold great significance for me, even now, weeks later.  Plus, the clock, as I have said before, was ticking and our group had to get back to the meeting back at the entrance and get back on our bus to continue our journey up the King’s Highway.  On the way back up I was met by a class of friendly Jordanian kids on a field trip exhausting their English to greet me one by one and ask me where I am from. Adults with them pass without a word.  There’s something important we lose when we give up our childhood.
As we boarded the bus I was down to my last American dollar with no ATM in sight.  The bus was rolling along with not much to look at outside but desert wilderness and then a little more desert wilderness followed but an incredible amount of desert wilderness.  I popped a couple travel tabs so they could fight it out with the parts of my breakfast omelette that hadn’t found its way out yet.  A half hour later I was feeling groggy but the omelette from hell had clearly kicked my travel tabs butts.  Just as sweat started to break out on my forehead and I was considering an alternative use for my hat, we pulled into a souvenir centre rest area.  To use the bathroom would cost me my last dollar.  It was the best $1 that I have ever spent.  


Monday, March 19, 2012

Border to Border to Border

Late afternoon on Monday, after our dawn at Mt. Sinai, we crossed from Egypt into Jordan by way of Israel. 

There’s a thin bit of Israel that separates the two countries so that meant that we left Egypt, a border crossing on foot, standing in the que for passport control and then walking to the Israeli border about 200 feet away.  At the Israeli border we entered another que while a kid in a polo, carrying an M16, kept guard.  There don’t seem to be any old people in Israel as every one of the guards and workers at this border seem to be under 25.

At the Israeli passport control the young man who looks 12 but must be 22 looks over my passport and then asks me, “Are you Jewish?”  My mind is flying a million miles a second (which is even more kilometres).  I’m trying to figure out, in the space of my inhale/exhale if this is a trick question of some sort.  I smile, “Um, no.”  “I have a friend in Jerusalem,” the young man explains, still looking at my passport, “his name is Metzger too.  You are sure you are not Jewish?”  “Pretty sure,” I say, feeling suddenly guilty about all the bacon I’ve eaten in my life.  He gives my passport one more look and then sends me through.

My travelling companion Greg is not so fortunate.  There’s just something about his last name apparently that earns him a special one on one chat at almost every border we cross on this trip.  Eventually he’s cleared to come with us.  It’s a long process for all of us just to cross this tiny border to get from Egypt and into Jordan.  After a wait by the sea our bus arrives to drive us from the Israeli border and on to the Jordanian border.  Too far to walk that late in the evening, we settle onto the bus for a brief ride.

At the border of Jordan we get out of the bus, get our luggage and start walking again.  And walking.  We pass a young woman at the gate who points us in one direction.  20 feet inside the gate a man points us in another.  MaryEllen, who I am convinced is so good at working things out that she could be the one who finally resolves the problems in the Middle East, gets things sorted for us.  First, passport control.

I step up to the window and hand the young woman, different from the one at the gate, my passport.  She looks at it a long time and then says something in Arabic, at least I think it was Arabic, to the person beside her.  They go back and forth for a few seconds and then she turns back to me.  “What is your name?” she asks.  “Um,” again trying to figure out what kind of sly trickery is involved, “Brian?”  I say it more of a question than a statement which was clearly the wrong way to respond.  “This picture does not look like you,” she says matter-of-factly.  I have no response to this.  What comes out is, “Um, uh, uhm, err…”  She does something to my passport, sticker, stamp, I’m not sure and then she hands it back and tells me to enjoy my stay.

Do I look better tonight?  Fatter, thinner, younger, older?  I open my passport and stare at my picture – which has to be without glasses.  Maybe it was the glasses.  Soon my passport is taken away with the rest of the groups for the next stage of processing while my bag undergoes another round of Xrays that should have me glowing by the end of this trip.

Still in the no-man’s land between entering the border and exiting the border crossing into Jordan we discover a conveniently located gift shop.  With many seats.  The night is humid and warm and we all take turns wandering through the souvenir shop.  When I go in I notice a pile of yellow rocks.  “Amber?” I asked the young guy in the shop.  “No, Frankincense.” He tells me.  “Look.” And he proceeds to set up a little heater and begins to melt this solid looking yellow stone down to a liquid that produces the most amazing fragrance.  This was not what I expected Frankincense to be like from the Christmas story.  I realize now that if I was Mary and Joseph, sharing space with the animals, I would’ve been more excited to see the Frankincense than I would’ve been the Gold. 

I step back out of the shop a little while later and the young clerk follows me.  He spots Hillary, one of the young women in our group.  “Hey,” he says, “Are you travelling alone or are you with your father?”  “I’m with my husband!” she replies.  “Ah,” he says to her, “tell him he is a very lucky man.  Tell him I will give him 3000 camels for you.” which, in Jordan, is about the highest compliment and best offer you’ll ever get.  Later, when Shawn, Hillary’s husband arrives from passport control we tell him about the offer.  “Let’s see the camels first.” He says.

Shawn kept me laughing the whole trip.

Eventually we were all cleared and we jumped on the bus for Aqaba and a night’s rest but not before the same clerk made a similar offer to Peter, who lead our group with MaryEllen, for Mandy, one of the single young women in our group.

The next day we would journey to Petra.  But we would begin the day with very sad news from home.

I've still got a lot to learn but travel is a great education if you keep your eyes open.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yad Vashem

I want to tell you about my visit today to Yad Vashem. 

I will tell my story awkwardly because words do no good trying to convey what this experience was like for me.

I’ve read some great books about the Holocaust.  I definitely won’t say that I’m a “fan” but I am inspired by the stories of the triumph of human beings in the face of horrific evil to choose to keep on living.  Frankl, Weisl, Speigelman and others have been like guides for me.  I thought they had prepared me for what today would be like.

We were not allowed to take photos inside.  This was good.  I suspect that the camera would have acted as a filter or buffer to keep the exhibits of this Holocaust museum at a distance.  Distance is something we must not have in this instance.

I walked into the Children’s Memorial with my group.  It was dark.  They have created a space where they want to balance the obliteration of millions with the names and faces of individuals.  The death of a million is a number to large to process but as I walked in and saw the face of a little girl who could be my daughter, and then another, and then the face of one who could’ve been my son, it became too personal.

Then we stepped further into the dark, farther into the mystery.  I walked through a curtain to find myself in the darkness of night with a series of candles burning at various levels.  These candles are reflected in mirrors set in various ways so that a veritable Milky Way of stars fills the darkness that surrounds us.  And quietly but insistently the names of the 1 million little ones are being read out in the dark.  Slowly.  And you realize that each point of light represents a life cut short in the most horrible ways.

Standing there I thought of the words of our Egyptian guide, Ihab, “to kill a man is to kill his generations…”  Which of these stars would have painted beauty?  Which would have led us into wisdom?  Which would have cured our disease?  Which would have brought peace between brothers?  Which would have composed a inspiring symphony or even just raised a little girl who looked just like her at that age? 

And then I thought of Abraham and the promise that had been made to him, that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  And I felt that I was standing in a reverse prayer wherein the children of Abraham had created and collected all these stars into their hands and held their memory up before the God of promise and said together, “What about these stars?”

And God and I were silent.

I’ve got a lot to learn but some things will always be a mystery.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It Happened Last Monday...

Got up at 1 am from a short sleep and freezing night.  Our little room sort of had heat but not enough to displace the chill in the air.  I went to bed with all my clothes on, plus a sweater.  After an hour I started to feel - I can't say 'warm' - not cold.

Our "wake up call" was someone pounding on our door telling us to get up.  My room mates and I quickly layered clothes and joined the crew heading to climb Sinai by moonlight. The goal: reach the summit by sunrise. We gathered for a drink to warm us up, tea or coffee.  Since I'm off both I had to pass and consoled my self with cold water.  A few people walked in and pulled out their $3 gloves that they'd haggled over at one of the on-site shops.  Someone kindly handed me a white knitted thing that went around my neck and could be pulled up over my ears to help with the freezing temps.

One lady in our group, recently turned 60, was determined to make the ascent to celebrate her birthday. 

We travelled by bus to the main site and then started up on foot to where we'd meet up with our camel (if we were riding) and its handler.  Our guide, a Bedouin, spoke to a group of Bedouin men looking to be hired out for the climb.  In the midst of negotiations a fight broke out among the men and our guide had us move further up the path until they'd "finished negotiations".  The skirmish was over as quickly as it started and soon we were paired up with our camels.

With no experience on camel back before can I just tell you that mine had the tightest seat ever.  The thing in front on a horse's saddle (handle?) was much bigger and was matched on the back by another of the same size.  My butt squeezed in between the two and after some, um, adjustments, I felt ready to go.  The camel lifted up in a rocking motion and only then did I realize there were no stirrups.  My feet dangled at the camel's siees and pressure increased on certain, um, saddle areas that made ongoing 'adjustments' both necessary and challenging.

Despite all that, riding a camel in the dark under a spectacular view of the Milky Way up the side of Mt. Sinai in Egypt was cool.

The mostly full moon washed light over the valley as we started our climb.  Moonlight and starlight both illuminated our path and my eyes adjusted.  I prayed the camel's eyes had adjusted too.

I kept trying to find a more comfortable position. After we were on our way down on foot I saw how I should have been sitting with one leg crossed over in front of me slightly wrapped around the "handle".  Next time.  

2 hours on a camel. No way to get down. My handler had long since let go of my camel and let him/her follow the path up and into the inky darkness.  Hearing sounds that I'd never heard before and feeling an occasional motivating slap on my camel's rump I was both amazed and a little scared.  I wanted to take a picture or have someone take a picture of me on my camel but I was simultaneously terrified the flash would spook the goofy beast and it would take off running into the night.  So I rode and I watched and tried to absorb the moment.  It really wasn't hard.

I looked up at the stars, more than I've ever seen before, and thought of Abraham and the promise God made to him once.  I was looking up into the same sky he looked up into when God told him, "Count the stars..." and promised him a legacy of a people and a land.  And one of those stars had been lit for me.

Then I was shaken out of my contemplation.  Sue, our 60 year old, wasn't feeling well. I couldn't stop my camel and she couldn't either.  I yelled back for him to help her and Angela behind us both did the same.  He heard, responded and took very good care of her. My camel, however, kept going on up on his/her own.  It didn't bother me a whole lot until it came to a fork in the path and I thought, "...well, this should be interesting." But in the dark, with no handler and no light but the stars my camel chose the right path.

Sue stretched, had some water and felt better. She got back on her camel and soon caught up with the handler slapping our camels to hurry along.  We got to the end of the camel path and then started into the hundreds - several hundreds - of rugged, rough hewn stone steps to the top of Sinai.

I walked with Sue. Slowly we made our way.  It was a blessing for me to have someone to take my time with on the steep climb.  This was a time to savour, a once in a lifetime moment and I was in no hurry to reach the top until it was time.  We stopped many times as we made our way up, sometimes resting in silence, sometimes chatting, sometimes making brief connections with others: German, Japanese, Italian – people from all over the world who were making the same journey we were.

We reached the final stop before summit just as day started to break. The colours of the sunrise were amazing as was the way the sunlight stretched across the mountains. The light of the breaking dawn revealed the faces of people of every race, creed, colour, and age were gathered on that mountain top.  Some stood silently.  Some snapped pictures.  Some sat in silent meditation.  Some chased each other around boulders.  Some chatted with travelling companions.  But no matter whom I made eye contact with it felt like there was a connection between us.  It felt safe.  It felt peaceful.

A group of about 10 Oriental teenagers were posing for a picture while one of them stepped out to take the shot.  I asked if they wanted me to take the pic for them and they quickly handed me their camera and smiled.  Then they wanted me to get in the picture with them while one of them took the picture with me as part of their group.

Eventually the moment was over.  There was no announcement, no bell or buzzer it just happened.  Someone started to descend and suddenly everyone was starting to descend.  And just like that, Babel.

On the mountaintop I was thinking of the children of Israel gathered on the plains below.  I thought of Moses on the mountain, how high did he have to climb? When did he know he'd climbed high enough? These hills, this vast empty space, this was the perfect place to gather a people to discover what relying on God and him alone would look like.  Barren. Beautiful. It calls you to solitary contemplation and drives you together to look out for each other.

And then we made our way down.  This time with no camels, we walked the whole way down.  It was different in the sunlight and in the heat that started climbing up even as we were climbing down.  At the base of the mountain all I wanted to do was go back to my little room and sleep.  An event can change your perspective.  It doesn’t take a mountain top but this one has done that for me.

I have a lot to learn and my teachers are Bedouins and boulders.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nebo's Connected to the Qumran

So many stories to tell and yet again I'm at the end of an exhausting but positive day and I'll let some pictures tell the stories for me.

I will be giving you a full account of the journey once I land back home -- or get time on the road -- but for now this will have to work.

The day started early again today as we made our way to Mt. Nebo.  That's in Jordan, for those who may not be familiar, and according to the Bible it's the mountain that Moses climbed at 100+ to get his look into the "Promised Land" and then to die.

Having followed the trek of the "Exodus" out of Egypt, across Sinai and up into present day Jordan (ancient days Ammon and Moab via Edom) I can say with a new perspective that the Land truly appeared to be flowing with milk and honey.  We have been in a dry but beautiful wasteland and coming up to the top of the mountain today it was a revelation to see the lush, green valley stretching out below.  Moses would've wept at the sight.  It was hard not to.

The vista was spectacular and would've been even more amazing all those years ago.  The Jordan river flowing out of the north, a ribbon of blue hugged by fertile fields of green running down into the Dead Sea.  A valley created in ancient times by the shift of tectonic plates so that the hills rise sharply on both the east and west.  This creates an interesting weather pattern that creates and keeps the moisture "locked" in the valley.

I'll spill the beans on the adventures of today later but I will say it ended at our hotel tonight with the manager explaining that this is an "all inclusive" hotel, including all the drinks we can drink.  Milk and honey, indeed.

Brian on top of  Mt. Nebo, standing where Moses stood.
More or less.

This is the view Moses had.  This doesn't do it justice.  More to follow.
In the distance, Jericho.  Behind that, the hills that would one day support Jerusalem.

Qumran, cave 4, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. (accidentally)

A close up of Cave 4.

and this is a "scriptural" olive tree on top of Mt. Nebo for my friend Dede who requested  it!
I've never seen so many olive trees nor have I ever eaten so many olives!

Sorry for the lack of details.  More to come.  Tomorrow is another early morning.  We will visit Masada first and then we make the long drive north to Galilee.  I'm chuffed for both!

I've got a lot to learn but one thing I know is that if I don't sleep I can't learn!  Good night!

p.s.  For those who would like to contribute to the fund that's making my education possible - and thank you to those of you who already have! - you can use the details or the buttons over there ----> to keep making this happen!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Highs and Lows

Yesterday morning I woke up at 1 a.m.  On purpose.  By 2 a.m. I was getting on the back of a camel I'd never met before and started up Mt. Sinai.  Our goal was to reach the summit for sunrise.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Mt. Sinai is the mountain in Sinai where Moses is supposed to have received the Ten Commandments - or Ten Words if we're sticking with the original language - and brought the Law down the Israelites waiting very impatiently in the valley below.

About 300 years ago someone realized the potential importance of the site as a place of pilgrimage for 3 major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  A small stone church and small stone mosque sit on top of the mountain.  Below, at the base, is a Christian monastery that made room within their own walls for a mosque.

So there I was, with about 16 friends or so and about 300 other pilgrims, making my way up the switchback trail to the top.  You could walk the whole thing or you could hire a camel and handler to get you two thirds of the way up where it became too hazardous and narrow for the camels and you had to ascend the rest of the way, the very steep way, on foot.

All before dawn.

Why before dawn?  I have no idea.  But there we were.

I will tell more of the story later, for tonight I just wanted to update you with some pics and a few details.

My Camel and its view.
Great moment from the journey up: at one point on the switchback trail I looked up at the Ridgeline above and riding across it, backlit by moonlight, accented by more stars than I've ever seen, the black silhouettes of 4 camels and their riders ascending the mountain.

Eventually we got to the camel parking lot and had to say good-bye to our new friends.  I may never walk the same way again but the ride was once in a lifetime memorable.

After a slow trek up the 730 uneven natural stone steps to the summit, my travelling companion - Sue - and I arrived.  Sue is 60.  This trip is on her bucket list.  It wasn't easy for her but we stuck it out until we arrived last to the top, but certainly not late.  We arrived just before dawn started to break.

It was an amazing site as the sun made a return and darkness flowed away from the dawn like ink.  The Milky Way disappeared and was replaced by a wash of light that fell over us, over the mountain, the valley and the 400 or  so of us who now crowded together at the summit.  Every tribe, tongue and people group seemed to be represented at Sinai yesterday morning.  Young, old, men, women, snapping pictures, sitting in quiet meditation, running after each other, catching our breath, learning to breathe again.

This is me after the sun is up.  It was cold up there.  Freezing cold.  Worth every bit of the journey though.

This is the view to the North as the sunlight crept across.

This morning we woke up in Aqaba, Jordan.  We got on our bus and made our way to Petra.  There's a lot of story in there that includes 3 border crossings in one day.  I'll save that for another time.  I want to share a couple pics from where we were today.   Petra.  So much to say.  I'll let these cover a few thousand words for me...

The Siq

The Treasury - I stood there and took this picture.  Seriously.

Me at Petra - Indiana Jones' hat.

And here's how we ended the day...
Sunset on the Dead Sea...where we floated as the sun went down.

I've got a lot to learn, but I'm getting there.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Oh The Places We'll Go...

I’ve travelled 6,000 years to the past and back again in the last 12 hours. 

Our day started at breakfast after a night of nausea that I won’t describe to you.  Just take my word for it, when they tell you not to eat certain things in Egypt, just don’t.  At my smallest – and yet most interesting – breakfast ever, I realized that right outside of the glass wall of our hotel restaurant was a spectacular view of the pyramids.  Slipping out I quickly snapped a few pictures and got back in time to load my backpack for the day.

8:30 a.m. and we were headed to the Egyptian Museum. 

Heard about recent riots in Cairo?  Turns out they happened, with some occupiers still camped out, directly across the street.  The government building that was set on fire was right next to the Museum.  It’s blackened, burnt out corpse stared down us as we made our way in and out, testifying to the volatility of this amazing land.  Our guide, an archaeologist, later told us that when the riots were taking place and the fire burned, local archaeologists and other academics gathered at the Museum and formed a human chain around the facility to prevent rioters from getting in and destroying or stealing any of the antiquities. 

The Museum is phenomenal.  It holds artefacts that span the ancient history of Cairo, Egypt.  I thought I knew some things about Cairo’s history but it turns out, not so much.  I’ve seen things today.  I’ve even seen dead people.  I could’ve stayed all day.  We were supposed to only stay 2 hours.  They ended up letting us stretch it to 3.  I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to look first.  After running my hands over hieroglyphics carved into one sarcophagus after another I saw the giant sign that said, “It is forbidden to touch or lean on the antiquities.”  Oops.  Too late!  My fingers had traced the symbol for Horace several times by then – among other symbols – joining a chain of hands no doubt – extending my relationship with the objects all the way back to the original carver. 

It would take weeks to walk through it all and weeks to tell you about all I saw in the few hours we were there.

Here’s the bad news.  You are not allowed to take pictures inside the Museum.  None.  Zero.  And they were watching both overtly and covertly, they had an eye on us.

Almost the last one to the bus, we pulled out and headed for lunch.  We drove down some crazy roads filled with crazy drivers and honking horns.  We returned to Giza (west side of the Nile – Cairo is on the east side) and pulled up to a restaurant that passing by on my own I would have taken for just another gap between buildings.  We walked back, past a huge BBQ pit with spits of whole chickens turning swiftly over hot coals, 3 women sitting by a brick oven making fresh pita bread and back into a garden filled with tables and chairs.  If you’re ever in Giza…

It was a four course meal: appetizers, more appetizers, main, dessert.  Our first appetizers: Egyptian cole slaw, pickled beets, marinated chunks of potato, white beans and babbaganoosh (sp?) with fresh pita bread.  Second round of apps: French fries (Egyptian fries?  Potatoes are a universal food!), round friend balls of meaty goodness, rice & meat wrapped in grape leaves.  The main: chunk of chicken just -  think Swiss Chalet only eating outdoors, in Giza, and incredible spices for melt in your mouth happiness.  Dessert: orange.  Don’t be underwhelmed by dessert.  This was the freshest, tastiest orange I’ve ever had.  It was the first orange I’ve ever had that actually tasted like orange, which makes no sense because, unless you’ve had one of these, you think like me that all oranges taste like orange.  They taste like oranges, this tasted like orange.  I think Martin Buber would understand.
After lunch, we headed to the Great Pyramid.  And I’ll have to save that story for another day.  

I’ve got a lot to learn but there’s nothing like travel and meeting real people from another part of the world to get you educated.

Tomorrow...Mt. Sinai...looking for a burning bush.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Launching Pad

Or how my second journey for a Masters started…

I was just starting my packing on Tuesday when the phone rang.  It was Air Canada.  “How close are you to the airport?” the voice asked.  “Pretty close.” I said.  Anyone who lives in Charlottetown is ‘pretty close’ to the airport.  “See if you can get here within 30 minutes,” I froze, “we’re going to try to get you on the next flight because it looks like your scheduled flight later tonight is going to be cancelled because of this storm.”  The snow started falling the night before and it was getting deep.

As quickly as I could I through stuff into my two bags.  I wasn’t ready to go and the Elusive wasn’t ready for me to leave either.  But maybe this was grace.  Within a few minutes I was done – not sure that I had everything – but done.  We got in the car and made our way to the airport.  The roads were terrible.  At the airport I was told I was “probably” going to get on the plane.  Bag checked.  Boarding pass printed.  Go through security…

Say good-bye to family first.  Leaving was hard.  Leaving “suddenly” made it easier and harder all at the same time. 

I went into the security area and started the security strip tease.  I walked through the metal detector and all was well until the guy at the scanner saw something he didn’t like.  And then I got searched.  Turns out my new travel toothbrush has the same silhouette on the x-ray as a box cutter.  A toothbrush specifically manufactured for travel with an airplane on the packaging looks exactly like a box cutter on their xray machine.  Sigh.

Finally I got to the next room and waited for my name to be called.  It was.  And I joined everyone else on the icy walk to the tiniest airplane I have ever flown on before.  It was like a model that you could put together at home.  The person who seated us was the co-pilot and I’m pretty sure had just gotten old enough for his voice to change.  With the cargo doors open you could see the outside from the inside where we were seated.  I was thinking, “I’m flying out in a storm in a model plane.”  But we did get off the ground and we did make the first leg of my flight that would eventually get me here to Boston.

The next morning I flew from Halifax to Montreal and then from Montreal to Boston.  One sure sign that I need to lose weight, I had to adjust the seat belt on every single flight, making it bigger, not smaller, for myself.  In Boston the hotel wouldn’t let me check in without my group or without M-E, one of our leaders, call Expedia to have them call the hotel to say it was o.k.  So I sat in the lobby and did some homework while I waited a few hours for their arrival.

And today is a new day and a new snow storm and the next step on the journey from here to there and back again.  The next time I blog, God willing, I will either be looking at the pyramids of Egypt or just back from the pyramids of Egypt.  And I’ll probably have adjusted two more seatbelts.  Today I am St. Brendan.

I’ve got a lot to learn and I’m glad I’m having fun doing it!

It’s not too late to contribute to “Educating Brian”.  My Masters goal is still out of reach without a little help from my friends!  The details of how to contribute are on the side thing to the right or you can click on the commercials on this page – every day – and that will help too – no purchase necessary.