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March 13, 2006
gallery 9After free travel, we're back in Jerusalem, in the Old City, at a convent. The convent is called Ecce Homo, and it's full of sisters and everything. A trip to the roof affords a beautiful view of the Dome of the Rock, and some rather voyeuristic looks straight down to the bustling streets below. We are greeted each morning by a wide array of sounds and noises, including rooster crowing around 3:00, the call to prayer at maybe 5:30, and before breakfast, the chaotic, shouted singing of elementary school kids arriving to class.
Last week was free travel. My group, which went to Antalya, Turkey, included Tim Shenk, Ben Yutzy, Kristen Swartley, Julia Gingrich, Josh Akers, and myself. Our hotel, the Cender (pronounced "Gender"), sat directly on the shore of the Mediterranean, right beside the harbor and a nearly infinite number of car rental stores.
After making a collective group decision to get very lost, we rented one of these cars, actually more of a minivan (a Hyundai "Grand Saloon") for two days. We did this with the help of Golkan, our recent, kind, apparently unemployed Turkish acquaintance. The Grand Saloon took us the first day to Perge, some spectacular Roman ruins, and also many small villages and back roads thanks to our well meaning, but oft misguided sense of direction in conjuction with a rather vague tourist map ("Just get to the coast!" "No, I'm sure we need to turn right here, I recognize this!" "What, the traffic and shoe shops?!").
The second day, we took Golkan's advice and drove to Olympos, westward along the coast. Olympos sits between high hills and higher mountains, on a pebbly beach. Unexcavated Roman ruins scatter the hills - arches, walls, windows - alongside the modern lodging of choice at the site, treehouses. A self-proclaimed backpacker's hippie's paradise, the expansive hostel will rent any traveler a cozy treehouse for 12 lira a night, a deal nearly taken by us, and taken by our Italian backpacker friends, hitchhikers we picked up a good 10 miles before Olympos.
The final day of Turkey was spent crashing a high brow yachting expo with Golkan and trying to touch expensive looking things, visiting the harbor, and slamming poetry that night.
From Antalya we moved on to Tel Aviv for a night, then to Jerusalem and North to Zababdeh, near Jenin, in the West Bank. We met MCCers living there, and spent about a day and a half with them relaxing, meeting neighbors, friends, a priest, and visiting Jenin. The trip back to Jerusalem involved the usual checkpoint hassle, about an hour of waiting for no apparent reason in the sun, an extensive and fruitless search of our taxi, and lots of standing around, radioing, and grimacing.
It was good to see everyone again when we all got back, granted it was only a week, but it seemed much longer. From what I've heard, everyone had a wonderful time, learning, relaxing, and catching up on sleep/homework. And now, back to class.