There's a lot to be said about the last two days, which really seem like a blur. This whole week seems like it has taken a month, and even things that happened a few days ago seem far away in the past. The day before yesterday (which someone tells me was Thursday) I had a chat with my mum, talked to Ted on skype, and then milled around studying Arabic in a futile effort not to sound like a tourist/ one year old. After that Father Bob and I embarked on our mission to the Old City. We entered through the Damascus Gate again, though this time hung a right and took some back streets up towards the Christian quarter. The shop F. Bob wanted to stop by was closed, so we continued on our way past the Mosque of Omar to the square in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When we arrived the midday prayer call was being played from the mosque behind us, and the noon bells from the church were also ringing, so it was a really cool experience. I have to admit that I really love the sound of the prayer calls from the mosques, I think they're very pretty and, well foreign I guess (for lack of a better word). Perhaps after I've been here another few weeks and get used to hearing them more often I won't be so in awe every time they emanate from the temple towers.
In any case the Church of the Holy Sepulcrhe was really amazing, serving only to strengthen what I'm sure will be a lifetime fascination with cathedrals of all kinds. It's an odd mix of various styles and eras of architecture, since it has been destroyed and rebuilt using its own rubble several times over since it was first erected in 325 AD. I saw all the "site," the Stone of Golgotha, the tomb of Christ in the edicule, as well as the Armenian chapels and Roman Catholic chapels which are also housed inside the larger Greek Orthodox building. The Ethiopian church is on the roof, but we did not go there. After the Church we walked through the Christian and part of the Armenian quarter to the Jewish Quarter, which is an odd looking place contrasted to the rest of the city. All the buildings here were built after 1967, so the architecture doesn't "match" the rest of the city. As we left the Jewish quarter we went through a security gate and entered the courtyard in front of the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall). I also got about as close to the Dome of the Rock as my unbeliever-self was going to get. It's a shame it's closed now, because I'm told it's really stunning.
In any case, all this was followed by lunch at a rooftop cafe which had a great view of the Old City, as well as the Mount of Olives, the Judean Desert, and the Jordan Mountains. When we swung back by the shop it was open this time, and I bought a kefiyah and a little camel thingy (hard to explain what it is exactly but it's very colourful and cute). This was followed up by a nap back at my room and some dinner at the (oddly named) Christmas Hotel down the street.
The next morning I was ambushed however by a phone call informing me that I would be leaving Jerusalem for the West Bank in one hour (not on Sunday, as had been previously planned). I ran to the ATM and got out some shekels, the bookstore for another book to read (it was the only place on the street open becaues it was a Muslim neighborhood and everything closes on Friday for their Day of Prayer), and then hastily packed for the short journey north. Hossam from St. George's took me to Ramallah to meet Fadi. We passed through a checkpoint and then behind the Apartheid Wall to get there. The Wall is hideous, both figuratively and literally. In fact, I found it so ugly that the graffiti which covers it are actually quite an improvement. Some of it was very clever, and I saw several copies of Banksy's stencilled Girl floating over the top with a bundle of balloons around the place. Some other good ones were NEW YORK TIMES! (below), HIP HOP! in upside down giant electric blue block letters, and a rather disturbing one painted next to a double iron gate next to a watchtower which said in a banner "albreicht macht frei." That one made me shiver.
Ramallah was not at all what I expected, but I liked it for that. I have to say that nothing on this trip is what I expected, though part of that may have been that I had no idea what to expect in the first place.
Anyway, we drove through another three checkpoints after Ramallah to drive the 20 miles or so to Zababdeh. The first of these was the only one where we had to shop and show our id to some 18 year old kids with submachine guns, who were texting their buddies before we pulled up. The other two after that are only checkpoints to prevent people from leaving the North to head back down South. The town of Nablus, for example, is completely surrounded by checkpoints - one on every road.
The north is much prettier than the Jerusalem area - there are olive trees and flowering almond trees everywhere, and it is much greener (it's a more agrarian region). The green is like a little slice of home, which I'm starting to appreciate more every day.
I went to the town with Fadi for the youth meeting, of which I understood nothing. Apparently I'm going hiking this Sunday and then teaching an English course the Sunday after that. I'm not sure what they mean by "course," but I guess I'll figure something out. The plan for today is to find a SIM card for my cell phone, and hopefully a computer with internet (this was written in Notepad) so I can try and get in touch with some people as the phone card I bought in Jerusalem won't work here in the West Bank.
Anyway sorry for the long post. I have been uploading photos as I take them to an album on facebook, I will post the link and you can see the album (even if you don't have a facebook account). Some of the information captioning the photos I may have mentioned again here, but I did my best to describe everything I saw. Whew!
Until next time.