I’ve been sending post cards to one of the individuals I spent a lot of my time at work taking care of last year. Every place I go I buy her a new one but usually I don’t send them in that country just due to time and hassle. I come back to Nyirpazony and go to the post office near me. The very first time I did this, I looked up the word for stamp and had Google pronounce it for me a few times. Then I practiced until I thought I had it as close to perfect as I was ever going to get. I proudly went to the post office and said “belyeg kerem.” the worker was confused and I repeated again “stamp please.” This time instead of understanding me, she sighed heavily, rolled her eyes harder than I’ve ever mastered, and said to her coworker something like “oh, the American.” She finally finished her dramatic display of annoyance to say to me “tessek (tell me)” The customer next to me watched the whole situation and repeated the exact same words I had just told the post office worker. She then *finally* understood and charged me 400-some forint to send my postcard. She piled my coins on top of my postcard and then looked at me like, “well, what do you want? why are you still standing in front of me.” I walked out of the office and prayed my card would get sent and wouldn’t head right to the trash can. The following times since, I’ve had a different worker help me and she’s been much kinder. She also charges me about 300 forint to send my postcards. I have a feeling the first worker kept the 100 forint difference, equivalent to about 40 cents. It’s the principal of the thing that I’m annoyed about being cheated; there’s not much one can buy with 100 forint. But I can’t say it’s my favorite moment since I’ve been here. At least all postcards have made it across the pond so far.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever followed up with the dog story. You know, the scary lady who chased me down the block to scream about how I never should’ve taken a picture of her dog? (if you missed that story, it’s here) According to Viktor, it’s quite popular to steal cute dogs or valuable dogs. This woman thought I was going to take her dog. Listen, I can really understand being upset at the thought of someone taking my dog. But she thought that I, someone who doesn’t understand how anything in Hungary works, someone who can’t speak Hungarian, someone who doesn’t even have room to put a dog, someone whose backyard a stray can wonder in and out of because the fence has gaps, she thought I was going to take this (best) part of her family. Honestly, I’m kind of honored that she thought I had my life together enough to be able to participate in some sort of mass dog smuggling scheme. For the record, my life is more together now but I’m still not in a dog stealing gang. Although, part time dog smugglers probably make more than my teachers salary so I don’t know if I’d turn down the opportunity if asked. And for the record, I haven’t seen her dog since. It’s still locked up nice and safe out of the arms of this American. Two weeks ago there were parent visit days at school. She was here along with many other parents and I probably wouldn’t have noticed her or why she looked familiar except for the death glare she gave me anytime I was her line of vision. I’m sure holding on to anger like that is exhausting. At least I’ve made AN impression on someone.
So now, for the good stuff. This past week Jena and I went to Israel. I’d just like to take a second to say what is my life. I genuinely can’t believe I went to Israel, I can’t believe the flight was $60, and I can’t believe I spent Thanksgiving at the Dead Sea. It’s not lost on me how lucky or blessed or fortunate I am to be able to do that. But we left Tuesday after our school days to go to Debrecen. Let’s talk for a second how Debrecen is the 2nd largest city in Hungary. Budapest of course comes first with a little less than 2 million people. Debrecen has 210,000. So I knew that the airport wouldn’t be anything special. Well, we got to the airport via the bus after dinner Tuesday evening so it was pretty dark. The only reason I knew it was an airport was there was a single plane (which would be ours in the morning) sitting behind a fence. Nothing else about it looked much like an airport. We walked past some offices for airlines before we picked a door to go in. The security guard there didn’t speak much English but it was enough for him to tell us what door to go in. I want to say it was 9:00 when we got there but I have never seen an airport this empty. There was a single security guard and two other people sleeping there. I’d love to say we had a great night of sleep since it was so quite, but a few people decided to come in about 1:00 am and shout, and then I woke up around 2:00 and this old man was staring at Jena and I. More than a little disturbing. Finally, we were awake when at 3:30AM people poured into the airport for our 6 o’clock flight. It was absolutely ridiculous. We sat there on our bench and let everyone else go through security before us. We sat there so long (people were still going through) one of the security officers asked us whether we were going somewhere or just sitting there. And then made us hurry up through the line so we could go and wait in passport control and still wait at the gate for 30 minutes. At the gate, some woman thought she could smoke in this little room. I have never seen someone so completely dumbfounded as the gate attendant once she found out that this lady smoked in the little room next to the gate. And then the woman got on the plane without a ticket. abosolutely amazing.
We stood in line forever at passport control in Israel. They asked me about 20 questions of how long I was staying there, why I was there, was I going to meet someone I met online here, did I have family here, was I bringing anything someone else asked me to carry, and just a whole bunch of questions no one was going to answer truthfully if they intended on doing something illegal anyway. Israel does not give passport stamps, instead they give a small card on entrance that we had to show at the hostels in addition to our passports. (I’ve never had a hotel check the stamps I’d received at passport control so I thought this was overkill but whatever.) We took a bus from the airport to the middle of Jerusalem and then walked the rest of our way to the hostel. We spent Wednesday taking a free walking tour of the old city of Jerusalem which was very good for a free tour. Thursday we started the day bright and early for what we thought would be a half day at the Dead Sea, but after missing the bus back it turned into an all day trip. Our choices were either to sit there at the bus stop or try and go to Masada (a fortress Herod the Great build for himself around 30 BC). After having had recommendations from 2 different people that this was safe and “everyone does it” the second guy told us we should “stand on the side of the road with our arms out and someone would pick us up” and that’s what we did. Sorry Mom. We 100% did not think hitchhiking would work but after 20 minutes, we finally had a taker. We hoped in the van filled with guys and they asked where we were going. They were so nice to actually take the turn off the road and drive us right up to the entrance which was a good few mile walk from the main road. So we got to see Masada which we would have missed had we stuck to the bus.
Friday was the only paid tour we took. The tour started at the Mount of Olives and finished in Bethlehem and was supposed to last about ten hours. Technically, with hotel pickup and drop off, it lasted eight hours. It was without a doubt the worst and most disappointing tour I have ever taken in any country. I could give a better tour of Alexandria and Petersburg. Not due to content, but instead due to our guide rushing us around, the general disorganization, and disjointed way she gave us information. I could not be more upset that our tour was not good in Israel of all places. I’ve never said this about somewhere I’ve been before, but someday I hope to go back and see the Holy Land better. Friday also started Shabbat. I thought Sundays in Hungary were bad. The public transportation literally stops Friday afternoon and starts again Saturday evening. There were about 5 restaurants our hostel told us would be open during this time. There is really nothing going on. Fortunately, we had a shuttle booked in between hostels and left Jerusalem Saturday morning for Tel Aviv (which still didn’t have a lot going on) and made it in time for another free walking tour. After the tour, we got the best Mexican food I’ve had on this side of the world and then went to the beach and saw what a local told us was a very special sunset. Then we had some hummus and traditional food for dinner and got ready to leave. We took an uber to the airport which was fortunate since we didn’t want to pull out more cash. These exchange and atm rates are the worst. The flight went home went smoothly, on the way there, people clapped when the plane landed, and on the way home people made roller coaster noises as the plane took off and clapped again when the plane landed. Then there was the pushing of other in the plane aisles that I’ll never quite grow accustomed to before deboarding. While waiting in line, two people cut directly in front of me and after about 15 minutes of waiting for passport control, some people decided they were making their own line and took down one of the markers to jump the 30 people in front of them. I miss order, rules, and respect so unbelievably much. None of those seem to exist here anywhere.
Now for everyone’s favorite part: pictures. I’ve done my best to recall the most accurate information I learned on the tours. And when I can’t remember, I used a little bit of google. One thing that was repeated many times was that everyone wants to claim things happened in a different place or slightly different way. So the Greek Christians will claim something happened here and the Syrians will say, no it happened a block over. I can only tell what I was told on the tour, so if you have reason to believe something was slightly different, perhaps this is why. So here are the pictures more or less in order of what I saw during Israel.
Here is the oldest Christian church in the world in the middle of Old Jerusalem. From what I remember from the free tour (and the signs) this was also the location of the Upper Room and was the house of St. Mark.
The guide told us were in the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem when we started seeing these. they aren’t Mezuzahs, but instead candles to light during Hanukkah.
pictures of the wailing wall, temple, mount of olives and the tiny spike in the backyard of the fourth picture is where the guide said Jesus rose into heaven from.
at the locations of Jesus birth and death, there were churches built to honor this by Italy’s Constantine’s Mother, Helena. So right in the corner of the second pictures, there’s the little window area with the drapes hanging in. This is where they say Jesus was nailed to the cross.
Old Jerusalem exists inside these walls. Jerusalem was very defendable as it was on top of a hill. the slits in the walls are for arches to shoot from. This gate is Jaffa gate (Tel Aviv) and is one of the 7th still used today. only one gate is no longer in use.
Here are some pictures of the Dead Sea and the area around it and a couple of pictures from the road while we hitchhiked. It was absolutely incredible to be somewhere I can remember reading about in class when I was little kid. I remember some teacher or another talking about the saltiness and how easy it was to float. I remember thinking how cool that would be. I’d like to think my little kid self would be proud that I made it there. So, you may or may not know that the mud by the dead see is really good for your skin. We were not the only weirdos covered in mud. we may have been the only weirdos who took a picture. Also, either from the mud or just the salt in the water, I actually started to get a pretty good rash and I broke out really bad the next few days. Maybe it’s not a one-size-fits-all miracle mud. The salt is pretty hard on feet, I really regret not bringing my Chacos specifically for this trip. (if you don’t own a pair of Chacos and you do anything active, look them up. they re ugly but amazing) everything in the picture is salt, there was no sand around this sea.
these are from the market in Jerusalem. I absolutely love every market I go to and wish that I did my grocery shopping at one. pictured is candy, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and the cake looking things are called halvah – I think.
This is the inside of the church that was built where Jesus died, and also part of the walk that follows where they think He carried the cross to His crucifixion. Jena’s hand on the wall is supposed to be where he stopped and held Himself for a few moments on the way. Also pictured is His tomb and a few pictures of the wailing wall up close.
This is the church where Jesus was born. We went through the humility door (?) and entered the main area which was under construction. We also didn’t get to see where Jesus was thought to born exactly due to the poor quality of our tour.
House of Simon the Tanner
Some random pictures from Tel Aviv, the really great sunset we got to see, the hummus and traditional food that’s like boiled dough and always comes with an egg, this hanging tree, a view of Tel Aviv’s beach and the rocks in the ocean that is where the story of Andromeda is said to have happened.
Israel was amazing and I hope to go back eventually and see more because I absolutely didn’t see anywhere near enough.