Israel! Again!

Hello Dear Readers!

Another picture post today, as I spent the entirety of my summer volunteering at a nonprofit in Tel Aviv teaching Arabic. This was an interesting lesson for me. You see, I have always been an idealist, thinking that being a certified granola crunching woman of the land was my calling (never mind my air-travel pollution). So when I volunteered to teach at a nonprofit over the summer I thought a few things.

1. Finally! I’ll be able to make a difference!

2. Nonprofits are what I want to do for a living.

3. I can totally live on a pauper’s salary.

So, to no one’s surprise but my own, only 1 out of 3 of these thoughts was actually true. (#1, if you’re unsure). It turns out that the girl who flies around first class as much as possible isn’t exactly…stoked about working in a non-air conditioned office in 114 degree weather and 100% humidity.

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Pictured: My glorious office

Not that I’m complaining. I mean, I am. But it was a valuable experience, teaching, and I learned a great many things. I love helping people, that’s true.

But maybe I would prefer to help people somewhere cold. In the winter. With warm pajamas. Enjoy!

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I know it doesn’t look like I should be complaining, but It. Was. So. Hot.
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In Netanya, the beach full of Russians.
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Harrison gave me endless shit for hauling these rollerblades through Vietnam so I could rollerblade down the Tel Aviv boardwalk. I showed him by skating exactly once all summer long.
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I even got a nephew!
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Me attempting to take Hebrew classes. !נו
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At Machne Yehuda shuk.

-Carissa and Brit “Basically Snow White”

Flying the Sinai

Hello Dear Readers!

Finals are over, all my papers are turned in (with the exception of my dissertation, which isn’t due until August), and my time in Edinburgh has come to a close.

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It’s bittersweet, but mostly bitter. I don’t feel like I’ve had enough time here, but time moves forward and there’s nothing I can do but go along.

Enough of the moping, though. I haven’t finished telling you guys about Egypt- which was certainly one of the most interesting experiences of my life. After our classes ended we had an extra two weeks in the country itself for…um…studying…purposes. Obviously I took this to mean it was an excellent time to travel.

Now, Harrison and I haven’t seen much of each other recently as we’ve both been extremely busy. So once I knew I had a week off, I thought “Hey! I’ll make the short jump from Cairo to Tel Aviv and go visit him for a week! How hard can it be?”

Well, the answer is: really hard.

In case you guys aren’t up to date on your world politics, even though Egypt and Israel are at “peace” they still reeeeeally hate each other and make it as difficult as possible to connect between the two countries.

This goes for air travel as well as land crossings, so when I attempted to find a direct flight between Cairo and Tel Aviv, I was met with a big fat zero. Honestly, I tried everything I could, but none of my trusty sites served me and in the end I was forced to conclude that I’d need to fly to Turkey first and connect down to Tel Aviv, with a total journey time of around 16 hours each way to make it some three hundred miles.

And then. In a dark, empty, corner of the internet I found mention of a flight. Of an airline, kinda sketchy and secret, with no website and only a hotmail email address with which to contact them. Legend went that they operated once daily a direct flight form Cairo to Tel Aviv and vice versa.

I emailed them and was met with silence. So I had Harrison call their Tel Aviv office (yay for speaking Hebrew!) and they informed him that the only way I would be able to purchase a ticket was in person, in Cairo, in cash.

So when I got to Cairo I rolled up to Egyptair’s office, the parent airline that had purchased this small, secret airline (Air Sinai), and which sells the tickets for this flight. Of course, since they own the only flight in town the ticket price was exorbitant. And yes, I had to pay in cash. I enlisted the help of my friend Shahnaz and together we crept into the Egyptair flight office clutching a wad of bills the size of a baseball.

When I informed the flight agent I wanted a ticket to Tel Aviv, her eyebrows nearly flew off her head, but she let me purchase it and sent me on my way with a paper ticket. (Did anyone know they still made those?)

The morning of my flight I made my way to the Cairo airport, where the flight board registered one flight to Tel Aviv with no specific airline attached. I made my way to the ticket counter, waaaay in a back corner, and stood in line for an hour waiting to check in as the one harried ticket agent attempted to deal with every single person on the flight.

And the plane.

Well, you know that they hate each other. And you know that the Sinai is generally regarded as a lawless wasteland. And maybe I hadn’t mentioned this yet, but the plane flew directly through the Sinai on its route to Tel Aviv.

So it was that I boarded an unmarked plane parked at the wrong end of the airport and flew through the ungovernable anarchy of the Sinai Desert. Twice.

And I made it!

-Carissa “I’m Only Brave Until I’m Stupid” Rawson

Israel- Bits and Bobs

Hello Dear Readers!

We left off most recently with trip reports on Israel, talking about venturing to Sderot and seeing how the people there live their lives in one of the most fortified cites in the world. It’s now been a few months since my (most recent) visit to Israel, but I’ve still got a ton of photos left, so you guys are in luck.

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Harrison made reservations for us at Yudale, the cool little brother of Machneyuda
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Machane Yehuda market at night
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“Dumpster cat,” as Harrison affectionately named him, was missing half his face!
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Seriously, where is his face?
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We spent the weekend in Tel Aviv, which looks nothing like perpetually rainy Scotland

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We even went out to the Imperial Bar, which is literally the best bar in the Middle East/ Africa, and one of the top 20 in the world.

-Carissa “Not Even Slightly More Tan” Rawson

Israel?

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from the sunny beach of Tel Aviv, where I’m resisting a second mimosa because it’s ten am and maybe I should have some self control?

Nah.

Anyway, I’ve been in Israel for the last week, doing tons of cool stuff which obviously I’m going to write about.

First, the fun stuff. How did I get here? *bragbragbrag* Flights to Israel are stupid expensive, so I wasn’t looking forward to dropping over a thousand bucks to haul myself across the world. It took a few weeks of searching, and just as I was resigned to hopping a complicated points-based itinerary through Europe, I happened to see- somehow- a single day of flights out of Boston that were priced at $600 rather than the normal $1200. Even better, the flights were on Delta.

As I’ve mentioned multiple times, the American Express Business Platinum card will give you a rebate back on points redeemed for your chosen airline. For new sign-ups, the bonus is 35%, but I’m grandfathered in (until October) at a 50% rebate. Delta happens to be my preferred airline, so I redeemed 30,000 American Express membership reward points for my flight. This effectively meant I paid $300 ‘worth’ of points for my round trip itinerary to Tel Aviv and back. Yay!

Of course, I still had to get to Boston, but luckily flights out there from San Francisco are very cheap. (And I used points, obviously).

This is the second time I’ve given myself the benefit of the doubt and scheduled a day long layover somewhere in the hopes that I would go explore the city. It’s also the second time that I’ve been a total lazy-ass and sat in the lounge for the whole day while watching Netflix and generally mucking about online. I’m so impressed with myself.

Anyway, here I am, hanging out on the beach and roasting in the Middle Eastern summer sun. Maybe that’s why flights were so cheap?

Up next- exploring Jerusalem, being Biblical, and hiking at the Dead Sea.

See you guys soon!

-Carissa “I’m Literally Melting” Rawson