Play on posthumous, you see
So it's been a while but now I think is the time to reignite the blog before all the memories fade into one hazy politico-binge; and also so that when Penguin get in contact with me (any day now) I can present them with a legitimate ending. Ironically, because Israel was the most interesting country we went to, there simply wasn't the time to document all the crazy things which happened because we were too busy doing yet more crazy things to leave undocumented. I barely even kept up with the diary, but I blame that on running out of space and having to buy a new one - it just lost its poetical edge.
Well, we took the bus from Eilat to Tel Aviv after a pretty easy border crossing with a mildly yet surprisingly friendly guard and a hoard of Bible Tour matching caps. The bus cruised all the way through the Negev desert, with the journey mainly taken up by a silent battle between us and the people in front over the multiple-seat-spanning window blind. Naturally, the British aversion to confrontation got the best of us and so we spent the majority of the hours missing out on desert. Arriving in the bus station, we were struck by how Syrian it all seemed - hectic stalls and bustling people everywhere, not much of this Westernisation that we'd been preparing ourselves for; the only noticeable difference was the sheer number of soldiers generally intimidatingly gallivanting around and knocking their guns into us. Pretty tired by now, we finally made our way outside, found a taxi, agreed on some arbitrary price and arrived at the hostel, only to find out that we'd been scammed already by about double on the cost of the taxi. We were heartily cheered, though, to find out that dorm beds were only $25 each.
Our worst nightmares came to fruition as we got to know the place better. Bright yellow on the outside the hostel may have been, but the draconian buzzer-to-enter system and 24-hour reception desk meant a 1984-style ever-present administration lingered over us; cheap internet ($5/hour), cheap washing ($8 for one washload), cheap pool table ($10 deposit).. The common area was a favourite haunt of the frequently-sighted Right Wing Americans who perpetually commandeered the television set and put on Fox news, "the voice of mainstream America" as we were staunchly informed. The entertainment factor wore off quickly after another well groomed man with his busty sidekick delivered another report about another nameless heartwarming family story involving kids dominated the airtime rather than the apparently uninteresting massacre in Cumbria - well, it's only England, and besides, there aren't any kittens. I definitely remember one of the Republican Club wearing some t-shirt along the lines of "Israel and America, hand in hand, democracy over terrorism", something like that. We felt slightly outnumbered, and our longing for some good old BBC was almost always crushed by a tyranny-of-the-majority style desire for 'unbiased' news (We Report, You Decide). Forget about Al Jazeera, that's for sure.
The first few days we sheltered at the beach for some old fashioned 'liberalism', did some sustenance shopping of kilos of pasta and tomato paste, and watched our money dribble away. We met the people in our room - a guy from Chicago and was heading out to a kibbutz, and took a disliking to us after BJ informed him that actually the Rolling Stones were from Britain, despite what his t-shirt seemed to propagate. There was another guy named Ed, from Texas, who drives a truck and had recently got his citizenship and wanted to volunteer in the IDF despite being old enough not to be conscripted, for the cause, man, the cause. He accused us of being flaming liberals and we retorted that he was an ultra-right maniac, and we got along famously. Most of our conversations descended into politico-teasing, with much jocularity on either side underpinned by an astonishment at the others' beliefs (such as, "They should tear down the Dome of the Rock and melt the gold into Stars of David" - we think he was joking, but were never quite sure..). We found ourselves an ally, though, in the shape of Dylan who was from LA and had done a similar trip to us (and met all the same guys in Lebanon and Syria; more material to support the argument for a class photo of ME Travellers 2010, all of whom will know each other by at most two degrees) and was the least patriotic American I'd ever met. Being somewhat liberal, we latched onto him and travelled for about a week together.
Tel Aviv being quite the party town, we befriended Perfect Vodka - a union that lasted throughout the remaining time on the trip. We were heading to Jerusalem soon and so our final night we planned a big night with a Mexican guy we named Mexico, a Polish named Poland and a South African and her friend, South Africa and Afrikaans respectively. Dylan became LA, BJ was Lebanon on account of his multiplicity of cedar bracelets and AUB stash, and I was UK. Nicknames deployed, we prepared Perfectly and headed out for what was to be the first of many, many messy Tel Aviv nights. Only Mexico, LA and I went out as the others wanted to chill on the beach and after, for some reason, forcing my details upon the taxi driver with instruction to get in contact if he was ever in England, we headed to a club to be rejected on account of being under 27. Who can even tell the time, but the night progressed / digressed with us misidentifying a gay bar (upon arrival, a guy came up to us, put his arms around us and happily yelled "oh my god! You guys are SO gay!"); being confused by a semi-naked dancer on the bar in another place full only of men, which we swiftly left; a swim in the Med at around 6am followed by a trek to the top of a hotel to see the view of the town; and falling finally asleep to the dulcet tones of Fox at some point in the morning. It was an unpleasant bus ride but we got there in the end - another few full bag searches later and we were home and dry in a great hostel a few minutes outside the Damascus Gate, ready to collapse and prepare for the unprecedented absurdity that is Jerusalem.