I was sitting at work the other day, type, type, typing away. A pause found me staring out the little glimpse of window I have, too out of reach to really feel like “my” window (and technically in someone else’s cubicle), but near enough where I can tell the day’s weather progression and see an occasional bird.
My mind began to wander…
I began to relive a very specific day in Jerusalem, just Mulch and me, after PSE had ended and we began our time of exploring unknown lands together.
If you go to Jerusalem, you have to visit the Mount of Olives. If you are Mulch and Bethany, you will do it the cheapest way possible.
We walked from our hostel down towards the Old City. That was something I never understood about Jerusalem before visiting; there’s an old part and a new part. And when they talk about the “walls” of the city, walls should be left without quotation marks because they are very much real walls. Like, with real ramparts. I was dumbfounded when I finally stumbled towards the Old City after being sidetracked by bad google map directions. Peering up at the old, stone walls, I finally understood. This is what they mean when they talk about the Old City…
Well, with that cleared up, we walked the fifteen-or-so-minute long walk to the Old City from our hostel down Jerusalem’s version of State St. Our mission; make it to the Mount of Olives, and walk back down the mountain to the Old City (visiting a few sites along the way). I did a walking tour on my first day in Jerusalem, therefore I was pretty confident that if we made it up on the Mount I could lead Mulch on the same tour and (mostly) recall the most important information about what we would see. And we’d save 300 NIS, so…
We wandered past the Damascus gate towards the bus station that serves the Palestinian population, because the Mount of Olives is nestled up in East Jerusalem. And the bus fare was the cheapest option we could find. There we went, past the the Notre Dame Hotel, over the criss-crossing light rail tracks, anticipation in our hearts. It was almost a dance making our way through the bustling sidewalks, covered in every inch with humans—who too were on their own missions—and lined with tables overflowing with khobz (bread) and cheap toys. Side step here, forward step there, lean back, lean forward—always this close to crashing head on to a fellow pedestrian. There were no neat designations between walking one way or the other. Think of a twirling mess of humans all going which ever way they please.
Our saving grace sans cell phones were being the only euro looking folk around. I could spot Mulch from a head above the others, and from his view I’m sure I was easy to locate. Thanks Topo for the very obvious trademark.
Aha. The bus station.
I scanned the names looking for Jabl Al-Zaytoon (The Mount of Olives). No, no, no…YES. Found it. “Aideish itnen?” How much for two? In exchange for our 5 or so shekel we received our two tickets for proof of payment and plopped down on an inconspicuous seat looking like we knew exactly what we were doing. Well, at least I was (trying). I wanted to at least ACT like I was. Mulch had never done this before, I had. So, the ball was in my court.
The bus driver managed to pull out of the bus station like it was no problem, despite the dance of humans happening all around. We began our journey upwards. To the Mount we go!
And we went, but…you see, I had never gone on this bus before. We had a nice van take us up when I went on the tour, and I was too busy chatting it up with a fellow traveler to pay attention to our surroundings as we went upwards. I only remembered where we stepped out and began to walk.
One stop…Two stop…Three stop. Mulch asked me if this was the one. “No. Well, I don’t think so. I don’t remember this.” Still giving the impression that I “totally know what I’m doing, Duh.” Ha. Eventually, we were the last of three on the bus, so that should have been an indication we were hot on the trail of where to get off. Like, we were literally there. The bus driver looked up in the mirror and made eye contact.
“Where do you want to go?” Really saying, “Look, Americans, this is it. Are you lost?”
“Um, the Mount of Olives?” In my most (not) assertive voice ever, because I knew we were ON the Mount of Olives. I just didn’t know where to go for the view.
He understood. “Ha! Get off here! Walk, turn left, it’s there!” He chuckled at us, and we couldn’t help but laugh a little too as we clambered off the bus.
It always helps if you just ask someone where to go if you are unsure, and if there’s one thing I learned throughout my travels in the Holy Land, it’s that most people are eager to help.
“Shokran!” Mulch and I were pros at saying thank you by this point. We waved to our kind driver and began walking in the direction he told us to. Nothing looked familiar yet.
Eventually we rounded a corner and it all flooded back. We had made it! Who needs a tour when you’ve already done a tour and can just take a bus, right? And you have tour guide Bethany (right Mulch?!). We marveled at the sight of the Old City from our vantage point way up high, while equally marveling we were on the real-life Mount of Olives. Our Jesus had been here too.
It was windy up there. That’s another thing that surprised me about Jerusalem; the wind. It may be awfully hot, but the wind, as aggressive as it could be, was often a welcome “breath of fresh air.” Hey, no pun intended.
So, back at my desk in Goleta, CA, I closed my eyes. I felt the wind pushing my bun to the left and kissing my cheek; the sun beating down on my neck, even if its strength was deceptively covered up by the breeze; my heart full of gratitude and love, for this city, my handsome love to explore it with, and all the wonderful people we had encountered on our journey that far. Oh, and a tinge of sadness. Well, that was because I was actually sitting at my desk, and the dry desert air wasn’t real anymore. It was a memory. A good one. I hope you had fun reliving it with me.