I really wanted to ride a camel in Israel.
During our group meetings in the weeks prior to our departure, we would often throw out requests for activities and desired sites for our personal and collective itineraries. I think maybe the only thing I suggested was that I wanted to ride a camel. “I want to ride a camel,” I said at the last meeting, looking Lee in the eye. “I want to ride a camel and I want to ride it in the desert.”
I just searched for the word “camel” in my GMail account. On May 1, I told the group that I wanted to do a camel tour in the dessert, and I would even do it alone if it came to that.
I guess I just had visions of me sitting on a camel, having the time of my life. Maybe wearing a Sari, which I know isn’t an Israeli outfit, but I can’t help my visions.
I didn’t get to ride the camel.
I didn’t get to ride the camel and I only care a little bit. It would have been fun to ride a camel. I would’ve had a memory that lasted me a lifetime. But I’m not a camel girl. I didn’t even try that hard to make the reservation happen. In fact, the second Bligh offered to make the call, I let him have that responsibility. When he said the number didn’t work, I just accepted my fate.
I’m just not a camel person. I’m not a desert person. I’m not even that good at staying in hotels — they don’t disinfect their rugs after every tenant which means I have to wear sandals inside. The shower curtains always end up attacking me and sometimes I kind of panic and feel like they’re trying to slowly murder me, enveloping me in their disgusting, moist grasp like they’re the titular character in some sort of terrible B-level horror film. It’s Curtains For You, or something.
I couldn’t even go three weeks without giving myself a manicure. My first Israeli purchase was a set of sunglasses and a bottle of nail polish. I then went on to buy two more pairs of sunglasses. I averaged a pair of off brand sunglasses a week during the trip. I have a serious $20 or under sunglasses problem, but even I can recognize that one a week is totally inappropriate. Looking back, I think the only thing I bought more of than that was water and hummus. I’m not a camel person.
I didn’t get to ride a camel, but I did get to see a shooting star while floating in the Dead Sea at night. I befriended other 20-somethings at a dive bar in Jerusalem and have been exchanging a few Facebook messages with them since we left. I haggled at a market in Old Jerusalem, and then I haggled a dozen more times. I experienced what it was like to ride public transportation across the entire country and how it feels to witness military personal walk on board with their intimidating guns when we had to stop at the various check points. I got smoked up in Jerusalem by a young man whose name I didn’t learn until long after I settled myself into his apartment and I didn’t even get murdered. That, my friends, is a story that I will write up soon. I karaoke’d “Losing My Religion” in the holiest fucking city in the world with a Chassidic convert who turned out to be not-so-Chassidic, judging from the way he tried to touch my face when I told him I was leaving the bar with another person. Did you see that sentence? I SANG KARAOKE. ME. THE GIRL WHO GETS NERVOUS JUST EXISTING IN PUBLIC. When I walked down a street alone on Saturday afternoons, I was the receiver to “Shabbat Shalom” a few different times. I’ll never forget the first time it happened — it was our second Saturday there, and even though it was just two words from that Chassidic stranger pushing his child’s stroller, it felt like acceptance to me.
I even got to experience the public health care system on a super anti-climatic trip to the emergency room. How’s that for real culture immersion? I’m just going to pretend that little jaunt was me getting really in depth with my research on Israeli culture.
I’m wary to label things as “life-changing.” I’m 24 — my life is always changing. I’m kind of a mess of a human being. I spend most of my time feeling like I’m in the middle of an extremely slow moving tornado. All of the parts that make me, and all of the people and items that do the same, are slowly swirling around me, trying to find where they fit in. I’m almost the person I want to be. I’m almost the person I want to be, I’m just waiting for the pieces to settle in. I’m in no rush. You can’t force a jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit into the puzzle. Sometimes you need to move on and work on a different section. Even the chaos of a 5000 piece puzzle has a system. Start with the edge pieces, move your way in.
I’m wary to label things as “life-changing,” but I don’t see how my trip could be anything else. I have yet to process what it really means for me, but I do know that I’ve never felt so damned lucky in my entire life. I’ve never felt so grateful.