R&R at the Dead Sea and some time at the Beach :)

Trip Start Aug 2008
Trip End Jul 2009

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

After a rather intense week(s), Nicole and I headed out by ourselves (we couldn't take the group for another minute) to the DEAD SEA! One of my friends had been over a previous break and told us the best place to go ... Ein Gedi Spa ... she was right! It was so awesome!

The view on the way was absolutely insane. The Dead Sea is located along the Negev desert, and down at the sea, there are these enormous cliffs.

First thing, we caught the little tram out to the Dead Sea. It was a pretty good hike, b/c the sea is evaporating so quickly. They had little markers of where the sea was at a specific year. When I was born, the sea was right up against the spa!

Nicole and I had so much fun floating in the sea! It was crazzzzzzzzzzzzzy! It was almost difficult to walk when you got out far enough, and was really hard to stand up once you were floating.

I'm pretty sure I don't need to mention how salty the place was ... but there was salt EVERYWHERE!

Afterward, we went and played in the mud! It is supposed to have all sorts of health benefits and makes your skin all nice and soft!!

We got done just in time to make our hot rock massage appointments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I seriously considered proposing to the masseuse ... I loves me a good massage!

We relaxed a bit more, before it was time to rejoin the group in Tel Aviv. It was a pretty low key night back at the hostel. We sat around in the lobby and absorbed all the (fast) Internet we could take in. The Israel basketball finals were on TV, and it turns out Dee Brown (from U of I) plays for the Tel Aviv team! All the Israelis were impressed by my knowledge of his skillz!

The next 2 days were filled with beach time and drinking in Tel Aviv. It was good to have a chance to relax, but we still had an overwhelming feeling up guilt b/c of the good time we were having vs. what we had seen.

Almost everyone else in the group left late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Because I flew from Vienna originally, my flight was later in the day on Sunday. I walked around Tel Aviv in the morning, and then headed to the airport 3.5 hours before my flight!

When you walk into the airport (even before you check in), the airport people start asking you questions about where you were and who you were traveling with. Then, they give you a number between 1 and 6, 1 being the safest and 6 being dangerous ... I got a 5! (Part of the issue is that if you're a single woman traveling by yourself, and ESPECIALLY if you have been to the West Bank, you are very suspicious. I guess a while back some women were convinced they were in love with these Arab guys, and they used them to carry bombs for them - unknowingly becoming suicide bombers)

Then, they 3-D scan all of your bags. You go over to a counter where they look at the images they took of your bag, and then search anything questionable from the image (1st check of my backpack/purse). They were really suspicious of my converter. They also rub everything w/ some kind of ion swab and then check it to make sure there is nothing questionable. I passed this section w/ flying colors b/c I had a lint roller in my bag, and the lady automatically assumed I had a dog ... nice conversation ensued.

Once you pass your scans, you check your bag and get your boarding pass. Then you head to your terminal and they search your carry on bags again. First they scanned my bags (2nd inspection), then brought me over to a table where they proceeded to take anything electronic out of my bag (chargers and everything). They sent those though the scanner and my backpack and purse separately through the scanner (3rd inspection).

Then they rubbed all of my stuff w/ the ion detector-thingy again. As the guy was going through my stuff, he came across the jacket to the DVD that I had purchased several days before at one of the NGO's. The back was written in Arabic and English. When he found it, he told his boss and they FREAKED! Within about 3 minutes I was completely surrounded. They proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions about where I had been and why.

Two of the women that surrounded me took my backpack somewhere else to check it, and another woman proceeded to check my purse again (4th inspection). When they came back w/ my backpack, I was taken to a back room where they patted me down. When I came back from there, EVERYTHING in my backpack and purse was strewn across several tables. The lady looked at me and w/ some attitude said, "Sorry about the mess." (5th inspection)

They allowed me to pack up all of my belongings, and they held me there while they retrieved by checked bag from the cargo hold. Then, they took me to this basement room where they checked by backpack and purse while they waited for my checked bag to arrive (6th inspection). When my checked bag arrived, they took EVERY single thing out of it. They rubbed everything down w/ their magic ion stick. I had a poster tube in my bag that had some of the pictures I've had on my wall all year, but it also had some posters from one of the organizations that we visited that said "Boycott Israel." The opened the tube, but weren't able to get the posters all the way out of the tube. Thank God, otherwise I would have been stuck in Israel FOREVER!

After the thorough search of that bag, they escorted me to my plane. My flight was already boarding!!!!

My flight from Tel Aviv to Vienna was about 30 minutes late, and I only had a 50 minute layover. They had announced on the plane, that there would be people to take us to our next gate, but when I got off the flight, no one was there. I asked a lady that worked for the airline and all she could say was, "you better hurry." I made my flight w/ about 2 minutes to spare!
Needless to say, when I got to Amsterdam, there was no sign of my checked bag. All the rest of my stuff that I had shipped from Vienna was locked safely in the school. So, the first night back in Leiden was a bit like camping.

All my stuff arrived the next day and I spent the entire night nesting into my new room. It's really been great being back in Leiden! The weather is so nice, almost cool (which is welcome after a week in insane heat!). My classes aren't too bad, but are a little more work than I had planned on putting in this summer ;)

That's about it from here! I hope you enjoyed my novel about my trip!!
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