so in less than two weeks i am going to kabul, afghanistan, for six months. this is my to-do list at this point:
- buy medical insurance
- buy flight and train ticket
- learn some dari
- get cheap jeans?
- get afghan visa in berlin
- buy unlocked phone
- get toiletries in berlin
- buy skateshoes
- get many english books
- buy new lens in berlin? (Canon EF 24-70/2,8 L USM)
it is surreal to think about. i may be using that word (surreal) too often these days, but it just seems the most fitting. perhaps i need to expand my vocabulary but tonight, for instance, we were riding bicycles to the memorial day ceremony in downtown tel aviv and when the air siren signifying the minute of silence went off every single person stopped as though a pause button had been hit. the people in front of us, walking or on bikes just stopped, dropped their arms to their sides and looked down in one smooth motion as soon as the siren started up. scooters and cars turned off their engines. the only signs of movement or change were a golden retriever looking around from time to time and the traffic lights.
another surreal thing is that there is this corner near my friend mati's house here in tel aviv that has a couple toy shops, both with bubble machines or bubble people continually filling the crosswalks. we were walking one day, with the bubble machine behind us going full force, and old men crossing from the other way were squinting and dodging bubbles, completely accustomed to this particular daily obstacle at this particular intersection of the city. when i bring that image to mind it still makes me smile, so ridiculous!
anyways, here are a few photos from our favourite tel aviv neighbourhoods, florentin and jaffa.
at 10:20 PM
out of the hundreds of photos i've taken in the last couple months i decided to put these one up first because it was one of the most awe-inspiring places i've ever been in my life, an experience that can't quite be described in any manner that would do it justice. these photos are of the white desert, in egypt. after a five hour bus trip from cairo through mile after mile of dusty desert, we arrived in the baharaya oasis, which has been one of those places where human beings have lived and passed through on trade routes for thousands of years (in fact, a few weeks after we were there a roman-style mummy of a woman was excavated in the oasis, dating back as far as 31 b.c.). we spent the day touring around in a 4x4, seeing such landmarks as "the salty lake" and eventually ending up having bedouin tea with our driver's mom and sisters inside their home.
that tea with a mint sprig from their garden in it, and small talk complete with language barriers, was one of the very few moments i was actually glad to be travelling as a woman in egypt. in the cities we endured non-stop harassment for our strange appearance. yet in this small bedouin village where "three, maybe four" women out of several hundred can be seen working, and the rest drift through the streets in their burkas with hardly more presence than a shadow, we were able to go into a household and meet some of the women, from age two until sixty, and see their home. the mother looked like a kind, beautiful gypsy queen with wrinkles of wisdom. sitting on the carpet cross-legged, with concrete walls covered in old green paint, struggling to communicate with the teenage sister was also the moment i most regretted not speaking more than a few words of arabic.
travellers have often talked about the strange grey zone that foreign women occupy in muslim countries. foreign women do not have as many restrictions or expectations (for dress, how they act etc) imposed of them as local women do, but they also do not have all the freedoms of men, and certainly not the security. for example, as foreign women in egypt we were exempt from the social mores that would prevent women like those in the baharaya oasis from sitting around talking to male strangers. later that night, as we sat and talked with the young guys who work at the hotel and told them about going to the driver's house for tea they pointed out that it's lucky we were two girls traveling together (for once!) because as men living in the quite conservative baharaya oasis, you can be best friends with another man for your whole life and never see his wife without the burka.
the next morning we set off on the trip to the white desert though, which was the main point of this post. we were in a four wheel drive truck with a sticker on the back saying "desert safary for ever of road" with an italian girl, an american princess and a cairo-born-and-raised guy. our bedouin guide, mohammed, was quiet and efficient, speeding through the desert path to make up for lost time and make it to the white desert before nightfall. occasionally he pointed to various strange rock formations and would say the shapes they are popularly known by, like "the camel", "the chicken and the tree" or "popeye".
the landscape when from dark sand (the black desert) caused by ancient volcanic eruptions, to light beige sand, to stark white rock covering the ground and jetting up into the horizon. just before sunset we got to the centre of what looked like another planet. i never knew such a place existed, nevermind that i would get to camp out under the stars there! mohammed unpacked everything quickly, set up a two-sided camp beside the truck with carpet for walls, a small table and a couple mats, making me think of some opium den of yore except in the open air. he built a fire and started cooking up delicious tajine potatoes and chicken over the fire. i wandered around, scrambling up the "horse head" rock to get a better view of the area, where a couple dozen other camp groups were spread spaciously. after dinner and tea, mohammed walked off into the dark and we sat around the fire until the wood was gone, then laid down in our sleeping bags and looked up at the stars that went on and on forever.
at 9:48 AM
i have long been a blogger. since i was 14 i've had some blog or many, some i never told anyone about, while others were known to friends. i currently have one associated with my name, and to be honest, i don't like writing on it! it's intended for semi-professional use which means i have to be concious that potential employers may not be too impressed with my perverse sense of humour and incriminating anecdotes. more recently though, i realized i just don't want people (or governments) to be able to search my name and read what i've been doing, where i've been traveling. spending time in israel, as i am right now, means that more than a handful of countries may choose not to let me into their countries, including afghanistan, which i'm flying to on may 1st.
politics sure complicate things. and that's the main reason i started this new blog. i hope i can write and post photos more freely here. i will try my hardest to keep some momentum going instead of letting this blog become just another in the graveyard of neglected urls.
at 9:19 PM