A Dead Sea Appetizer
One of the more interesting ideas our school has is the "Week Without Walls." In said week, the high school students spend two school days doing community service and then three days on a field trip to somewhere in Israel, for a deeper and separate cultural experience of the country. The middle schoolers just do the field trip part. Anyway, it's a nice concept that could lead to exciting new activities and a chance for students (and teachers) to bond in different ways outside of the classroom. In theory.
In practice, most students go with their friends. Those with good attitudes get a lot out of the activity and wish for more. Those with poorer attitudes try to play a garbled gambling form of blackjack beneath the cliff the rest of their group is rappelling on and then get yelled at by the intern teacher when they go back on their word to actually rappel after two hands. Fortunately, I didn't have to deal with any of that...
That said, there's not a whole lot of storytelling to undertake over the trip. We went to a place called Metzuke Dragot, near the Dead Sea and officially in the West Bank, below Jerusalem (a little more on this distinction in my next post). It was a nice little resort complex, and served as a safe base for our rappelling experience. We went to a nearby cliff and rappelled down it a few times. The most challenging part of the whole rappelling bit was the knots they taught us on the first day, knots that for the most part we did not need to tie the rest of the time. Also, the kids giggled a lot when the guides talked about Prusik knots. Actually, the group of 7-8 freshman boys we had on the trip reminded me a little bit too much of myself and my group of friends freshman year, from the ethnic diversity (theirs actually quite larger) to the good-humored/poor taste racial ribbing to the lack of individuality. This tempered my temper, at times. (Also, with regards to the Prusik knot bit - most of the guides giggled just as much as the kids.)
There were a couple other moments of note. The first night, we met up with another group from school that was rappelling about 20 KM south of us, and after a pedestrian drum circle, a high school dance broke out. A group of Ethiopian (or otherwise African; Ethiopians are the most common African peoples in Israel) high schoolers tried to get in to our dance, including one persistent girl especially. She pleaded, she claimed to be from our school but didn't know the name, she begged, and then she resorted to claiming one of the boys from our school, an Angolan, was her long lost brother, and that she wanted to reunite with him. She didn't get his name right even after somebody told her what it was. (It is a tricky name, to be fair.)
On our last night, we went to a spa near the Dead Sea. As such, while the kids hung out mostly in the pool, the spa did offer both a tub of mud to cover oneself in and sulfur springs hot tubs. The SSHTs were hot and smelled like rotten eggs. After about 10 minutes in one, I got out, or right about when I started tasting the sulfur on my lips. (I was warned not to dip my hair in, because then it might stink for a couple days. I mean, stink more than usual.)
After some cleansing chlorine, I covered myself in mud from head to toe. I can't really claim any great benefits of sticking mud on your body, and I only had it on for 5-10 minutes, which is probably insufficient anyway. But I tell you what, smearing yourself in dark mud that you take from a wooden tub of it in the middle of an open spa square at night is as much as it sounds, and then twice more. The whole putting on the mud thing makes up for having to shower in sulfur to rinse it off. Also, the other teacher in my group told me that a guide or someone there told her, "It's best to put it through your hair and on your genitals and everything." Sadly, I only heard about that after the fact...
Ok, here are some more pictures.
This, friends, is the Dead Sea. It's pretty.
A lonely olive tree on our resort at night.
The place wherein we did the bulk of our rappelling.
And for my next trick, we're off to Jordan! Next post, rather.