The Country Home

Trip Start Jun 02, 2012
Trip End Jun 19, 2012

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Monday, June 11, 2012

 I'm writing this entry out of order, so bear with me.

Last Saturday was a pretty shitty day.  At least it started that way.  I had planned an entire day trip with Mr. M and his wife to visit the Dead Sea and then stop at their house in Jericho for a late lunch before calling it  day.  In the end, I was called into the office on Saturday to meet with the team to help organize the remaining documentation.  I was in a pissy mood and everyone knew.  The worst of it was that I wasted 6 hours sitting in the office with nothing to do.  I finally got tired of baby-sitting and told them to send me the documents when they were ready; there was no reason for me to sit in the office any longer and I was leaving.

Mr. M and his wife picked me up from the office and because it was now so late, we skipped the Dead Sea and went straight to Jericho.  Jericho is about 30 minutes from Ramallah, probably a little longer because of the winding road down the mountain into the valley.  It was an incredibly scenic drive.  We passed numerous Bedouin villages, and there were vistas that on a clear day you could see all the way to the Dead Sea and the Jordan border.  The road left something to be desired.  It was in desperate need of a pave job and during some of the more perilous curves and more perilous heights, the guard rails had been pilfered and used for scrap by god only know who.  I was not a fan.

As we descended into the city of Jericho, we passed through a checkpoint reminding us Israeli citizens were not allowed into the city since it was under Area A.  Entering the city, there was so much lush greenery that it seemed misplaced against the brown, sandy, desert backdrop!  Because of the hot, dry climate, Jericho produces many of the regions bananas, oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.  There were plants of this kind everywhere.  There is an underground spring that farmers utilize to irrigate their crops and water isn't a concern for this small community.  The roads were also neatly paved thanks to a USAID-funded project that IRD implemented. 

Mr. M drove me around the city showing me points of interest.  We stopped briefly at the ruins of Jericho (proudly marked by a sign that claimed it was the oldest city on earth), the Mount of Temptation, then through the city center (which was nothing more than a ram-shackled vendor stalls around a tired traffic circle), by the famed Sycamore Tree, and then on to their country home.  As a tourist, I think this is one of the cities worth skipping, and would recommend that you proceed directly to the Dead Sea, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Arriving at Mr. M's country home, I really felt like we were in another world.  It was a cozy cottage surrounded by well manicured and well maintained fruit trees.  Grapes grew on a trellis that created a make-shirt carport in front of the house.  The nearest neighbors were on a neighboring hill.  It was quiet and peaceful.  He'd made a few improvements to the house including installing a modern bathroom and re-doing the kitchen.  His wife has an affinity for Texas and proudly displayed a small Texas flag on the wall.  I was very happy to see that!

His wife had prepared a homemade lunch of stuffed grape leaves (using the grape leaves that she'd picked the previous week from the trellis), roast chicken, stuffed squash filled with minced meat and saffron rice, fattoush, and yogurt.  It was fantastic!  We sat on the porch under the fan and slowly ate our lunch.  All of the annoyances and frustrations from the morning dissipated.  The food was wonderful and the company was great.  After lunch, I helped his wife collect more grape leaves and then rested on the porch as the cooler evening breeze started to roll in.  We had a glass of mint tea before we packed up our things and headed back to the city.  It really was a neat experience and I was happy that they shared it with me.  He said that they typically come every weekend with their children and their children's families in tow.  He plans of putting in a swimming pool at the front of the property for everyone to use during the hot summer months. 

Tired from the fresh country air, I took a long shower after getting back to the hotel and started packing up for my trip to Jordan the next day.  The whole time I kept thinking that those were the best stuffed grape leaves I've ever had in my entire life.
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