So I’ve been home almost a week now, and on one hand it feel like only yesterday that I was climbing the hill before dawn, but it also feels like years ago. Flying is a funny thing – it always distorts my sense of time, like my internal balance can’t keep up with moving that fast.
I dozed for most of the first leg of the flight from Tel Aviv, just from sheer exhaustion, but after a few hours I was wide awake and my head was spinning with everything I’d seen and done in the last few days. I wanted to get out my lap top and blog, but the seat I was in didn’t have a power plug. So I thought maybe I’d read, but the reading light above my seat was burnt out. So I tried journaling a bit, in the dark, which turned out to be surprisingly legible when I looked at it in the morning! But it was a very long flight, and I got a little stir crazy.
When we got to Toronto, we had to go through customs, which was super straight forward, pick up our luggage and then check it in again on the other side of the terminal. Our group was down one after customs, as Jenn was driving home to southern Ontario from the airport. We prayed together, and then we were down to a group of 7. Once we were closer to the gates, everyone else went off to the Edmonton gate, and I went on alone to Calgary.
I found I was very lonely all of a sudden. After spending the last two weeks living and working and touring with the same bunch of people nearly every waking moment, it was almost disorienting to be all by myself. We’d gone from a group of 30+ to a group of 10 in Jerusalem, and then 2 left us to fly to the States, and from there we just got smaller. One of my concerns about going to Israel in the first place, without Trevor, was that I would be lonely. I’m very thankful that wasn’t the case, but it made that last few hours of solo travel very strange indeed.
By the time I got to Calgary, I was exhausted. And if you’ve known me much at all, you know the more tired and hungry I get, the more emotional I get. By the time I came through the security doors and saw Trevor, I was in tears over missing the group. But they were partly happy tears too, because I was coming home to Trevor. And then I saw that he had flowers and my Tim Horton’s steeped tea, and that really did it. :)
Thankfully all of my luggage made it, and we headed outside to the car park. We went out the door, and it was so incredibly cold, I started shivering right away. After weeks of 30+ weather, which was hard for the first couple of days because of the humidity, but which I got used to and enjoyed after that, coming home to a temperate half that was quite the shock. And it’s been rainy and gross ever since…brrrrrrr… I’ve been pretty jet lagged too – I did something at work on Friday that was so incredibly stupid I knew it was wrong even as I was doing it, but I was so dazed it was like watching someone else hit the button. (I did manage to fix it, but it took ALL afternoon…oy…)
I’ve been trying to digest everything that happened, and I’m not sure that even four days of reflection is enough time for that, and since I love making lists, I thought maybe a list or two would help in this situation.
Things I miss:
seeing the sunrise
the early morning hike up the hill
swimming in the lake
the excitement of finding something cool
living in community
devos by the lake
experiencing new things
the thrill of looking at something and having a corresponding Bible verse pop into my head
the fresh air
the view from the hill
tomatoes and cucumbers
the laid-back kibbutz lifestyle
seeing a photo wanting to be taken around every corner
the sense of accomplishment as I get physically stronger
the turkey schnitzel
Things I don’t miss:
the wonky internet connection
not getting enough breakfast
the hike back down the hill when I’m super tired
not being able to put anything white in the wash for fear it will come back in worse shape
Touring at break-neck speed
Being too tired to stay up and see the sunset and the stars come out
Seeing all the poor starving kitties
eating a bajillion granola bars
always checking for my passport
Dr. Chambers sent those of us who went with the Concordia Edmonton group a little questionnaire he wanted us to fill out for their future reference, if they ever decide to send a group again, so I figured I might as well share it with everyone, in case you’re thinking of going now! :)
What were some of the highlights of the overall experience (the dig, the kibbutz, the various tours, etc.)?
Tel Dan was my favourite place we went. It was really cool to see an Old Testament site and try to fathom how long ago that all happened. It was so lush and green and different from any of the other places we went – I probably could have spent a whole day there, exploring.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the kibbutz, and how safe it was. It was a fantastic place to stay.
Other then enjoying finding large chunks of pottery, my highlight of the day at the dig site was always the fruit break. That was the best fruit I’ve ever eaten – not sure if it was because of the fruit itself or because of all the hard work, but it was one of my favourite things.
What did you enjoy, or grow from, the most?
I think most of my growth was physical – it was like one of those boot camps you see on tv! I came a long way in two weeks of digging – I still couldn’t haul a full wheelbarrow, but I could walk up the hill without needing a break, and I could carry two buckets full of pottery down the hill at the end of the day. I could also walk over 15 kilometres, when just a year ago I couldn’t walk more then 5 without extreme amounts of pain.
The thing I enjoyed the most was the feeling of community, safety and acceptance. I also really enjoyed being dirty – such a switch to get up, not shower or do makeup, and just pull on old jeans and a tshirt and be out the door. At home, getting ready to leave in the morning is a major production which involves finding clean clothes that match, struggling with pantyhose and makeup etc. It’s really freeing to not have to worry about all that stuff!
What in particular made these such rewarding experiences?
It’s very unusual for me to go somewhere and not have something I’m in charge of or responsible for. It was so, so nice to just be one of the crowd for a change, and be told what to do. It left me free to really relax and enjoy all the new experiences and things that were going on, and let someone else do all the head counting and worrying! I really appreciated that.
What parts of the overall experience did you find the most challenging?
Before I left on the trip, my biggest challenge was my own fears and worries about what might happen. But by the time I’d gotten to Toronto, I’d been able to leave that all behind me.
The humidity was also a challenge for the first couple of days, but because I grew up on the coast, I was able to adjust fairly quickly.
Were the greatest challenges you faced physical, spiritual, emotional...
Definitely physical! Working a dig is a million miles away from sitting at a desk all day, but even that wasn’t as hard as I’d feared. I think I was expecting more of a driven work ethic on the site, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out about water breaks and that the professional archaeologists realize that not everyone works that hard all, or even most, of the time.
What could be improved next time?
The only thing I really wished someone had mentioned was that we needed a different currency for the Jordan trip. I got so much information and so many lists, I didn’t think about the fact that I might need something that wasn’t included in there anywhere. It ended up working out ok, but not having any dinars did cause me some stress.
Sometimes the speed at which we toured was exhausting, and I'd almost rather see just a few things well then try to see everything quickly.
What words of encouragement and/or caution would you want to give to someone who was considering joining the dig in a future year?
I don’t think I would have any words of caution, unless they had some kind of physical ailment that was a concern, or major dietary restrictions.
What would you say to urge them on, if they were hesitating about committing to the trip?
You’ll regret it more if you don’t go!
What would you tell them to be prepared for, that you think they maybe wouldn't foresee?
I’m not sure if I have an answer for this one…everything went really smoothly, and other then the dinar thing, I didn’t wish for anything that I hadn’t packed. But then again, I brought everything except the kitchen sink with me. :)