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#In Search of....

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

“There has always been, for me, this other world, this second world to fall back on–a more reliable world in so far as it does not hide that its premise is illusion.”
Graham Swift, Ever After
“You’re still alive. Be thankful for that. You can still walk and talk and think. Yes, you feel like shit most of the time, but it could be worse. So instead of sitting in your room waiting to die, why don’t you join in on life until you do die? Dammit! Get off your dead ass and make something of the life you still have left!”
Deanna Lynn Sletten, Widow, Virgin, Whore

~

The luxury of the Cairo Marriott was only a brief stopover in the trip, but one that was a glimpse into ostentatious luxury. Could I have handled more? Well, if I had a huge bag of money and all I needed were casino tables, possibly. However, I wanted more, the real Egypt I had been introduced to as a child by my mother, through her love of the Pyramids. She hadn’t been able to see them personally but her library was an exquisite collection of all things ancient Egyptian.

Our first full day of sightseeing began at the Giza Necropolis – without a sandstorm. What an incredible difference from the last time we were there. Our tour guide Ayman was as well versed in Egyptology as Vered had been in Israeli history. At least we started off well with a good tour bus!  Arriving at the Pyramids we were greeted with a car park which resembled a bus depot. Trying to remember which bus ‘belonged’ to us was no small feat. We were admonished “Not to go anywhere alone”, “Not to go anywhere with the camel drivers”, and finally “To remember that tourists had been abducted, murdered and…worse”.

Suitably encouraged we set off. Ayman walked us around the pyramids and gave us a brief history of the area. This complex of ancient monuments includes the three pyramid complexes known as the Great Pyramids, the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, a workers’ village and an industrial complex. The Pyramids of Giza consist of Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Cheops and Khufu, the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Chephren) a few hundred meters to the south-west and the Pyramid of Mykerinos a few hundred meters further south-west. The Great Sphinx is to the east of the complex. (That’s the travel guide explanation).

After a thorough tour of the area we were given an hour to wander at our leisure. Considering there were no shops to visit, the camels beckoned. Mel wasn’t too sure but after being so strongly advised to “be careful” it seemed an insult not to have a ride. Beside, how could we come all this way and not have a ride on a camel, around the pyramids too?

The camel must have seen me coming and after following the instructions to climb on board I was halfway there when she decided to stand up.  WHOA! Not what you want to happen. From a very precarious perch the tip and sway was alarming, and I was trying to reassure my friend that all was well.  I managed to settle on my high perch and then we had to get the camel to sit down again so she could get on.  I’m sure if you asked her she would tell you she had a grip of iron. Once settled the careful walk began. Did you know they only use female camels because they are more placid? Yes, strange thoughts ran through my mind too.

I think it must be part of the ride because half way around the circuit we stopped and the driver (why do they call them drivers?), asked if we wanted to have the famous photos taken – the one where you look as though your finger is right on the tip of the pyramid? Well, first I had to persuade Mel it was okay to give him my camera… he could have run off with it. Leaving us on his camel? Oh well. That was the easiest part. Broken English trying to ask you to point just so, in order that your finger, held just so (artistically) appears to be on the very tip of the pyramid behind you, just so. The laughter began and it was a long drawn out attempt to get a couple of photos but I was in a good mood so I didn’t mind. Some of our fellow travelers weren’t as amused.  The remainder of the ride was uneventful, apart from the ship on the high seas feeling as we, or rather our camel, sat back down again. Gee Mel did get off quickly!

We must have made an impression with the camel drivers because we quickly gathered a group around us, all offering to show us where to go to get the best photos of the pyramids. Why not? Well, the obvious answer was the stern admonishment not to wander off because of the dire possibilities for a female alone in Egypt. But that was alright because we weren’t alone – we were together!  So off we wandered, about two hundred metres and took some wonderful photos of the pyramids and then with our erstwhile friendly camel drivers. All was well and we were walking back towards the bus when our guide, Ayman came hurrying towards us, concern written large on his face.

A couple of the sour pusses who had seen us wandering off with the camel drivers had hot footed it over to Ayman and told him we were being kidnapped! Honestly. At that particular time I was in no mind to be trifled with – by anyone, particularly someone of the opposite sex. I would have cheerfully chopped them off at the knees. I knew this and I’m sure the camel drivers sensed this, even if they spent a considerable amount of time, in their broken English trying to persuade us to take them away with us!  I did try to take it with good grace but I was really irritated. I could sense how the trip was going to go.

Goodbye to the Grand Sphynx

Goodbye to the Grand Sphynx

The Alabaster Shop

The Alabaster Shop

#In Search of

Breaking more hearts?

In high spirits, (I refused to be crestfallen at this turn of events) we walked back to the bus to head back to our next stop, the Alabaster factory. We couldn’t get into trouble here and bought quite a few pieces to take home with us. The salesmen however were overly eager to offer their services to us…. if we wanted them to run away with us to Australia. I could see a pattern developing. Ayman decided we needed to have an eye kept on us because we might get into ‘trouble’ but, that was yet to come.

#In Search of..

Statue of Rameses 11 at Memphis

Back at the hotel we were advised we would be leaving to go on our Nile cruise early the next morning. This was going to be fun!

Whatever it was I was searching for was becoming  a little clearer. I was leaving more of the old persona behind and finding there was a fun person inside, someone who could laugh and enjoy the silliness of life. I was feeling the awe and majesty of the Pyramids and a sense of the great power and mystery they contained. Yet I knew my search was not over yet.

Blessings, Susan x

Next week – Nile Cruise and ‘arrested’.

© Susan Jamieson 2014

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#In Search of...

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

“Finding oneself and one’s path is like waking up on a foggy day. Be patient, and presently the fog will clear and that which has always been there can be seen. The path is already there to follow”
Rasheed Ogunlaru, Soul Trader: Putting the Heart Back into Your Business
IN SEARCH OF

From my time in the police force I had seen plenty of the seedier sights of life, but not many of the glitzier side of life.  Of course you meet plenty of people dressed to the nines on their night out, many looking down their noses at the intrusion of the police into their inebriated attempts to drive home, but not the “filthy rich” as the saying goes. At the Cairo Marriott, being part of the Omar Khayyam Casino precinct, there was plenty of opportunity to see this “elite” part of society.

After we had safely returned from our water buying expedition we decided we wanted to look around this fabulous hotel.  There was gold glittering everywhere, either on the ornaments, the pictures, the floor tiles or upholstery. Opulence was the order of the day. Waiters seemed to have telepathy as they appeared at the moment we thought of a drink or something to eat. I have to admit, that part was pretty awesome.

#In Search of

Image courtesy of the Cairo Marriott

{(Daydreams) – As she languidly motioned with one manicured hand, her red nail polish glistening from the overhead chandeliers, a file of immaculately dressed waiters flowed towards her, ready to answer her every wish. Her eyes, like polished emeralds gazed at the Major Domo, with a bow he clapped and ushered his waiters off to bring Madam her desired drink. They knew her well.} Well, it wouldn’t be too bad for a little while, would it?

After walking the length of the ‘great’ hallway, absorbing the gold imbued sights, we decided to return to the garden area. The entire front colonnade was dotted with massive garden umbrellas, tables and chairs in precision rows from one side to the other. We found a semi secluded spot and ordered a light meal and watched the world sail past.  As the sun finally sank on another hot day we went to our rooms for a well-deserved rest. I was looking forward to a nice soak in a scented bath. I had already checked and the hotel had an array of items to choose from in the bathroom.

#In Search of

Scented bliss

I don’t recall the specifics of my dreams that night, but I did feel that, at one point, I was woken by a brilliant glow in the room. As I was told to rest assured that all was well, I distinctly heard a soothing voice tell me that I would be safe during my travels. It was a wonderful, peaceful message from Spirit.  I remember a truly blissful sleep and waking up feeling so refreshed, and without an ache anywhere, that I was eager to get into the day.

#In Search of

Baking traditional bread at the Cairo Marriott

We had an early start as we headed off to the Cairo Museum after meeting our tour guide for this part of our journey. We saw the flat bread being baked in traditional ovens by the women as we walked out through the gardens.

After a guided tour from one of the Museum staff, we were allowed a few hours to wander around and see the sights we were most interested in. There was simply too much to see and too short a time to see everything in. I know towards the end of our time there we were almost running as we tried to get past the crowds of people and see as much as possible before we left.

#In Search of

Giza pyramids at sunset

We had a short break before we were back on the bus and heading out to Giza to see the famous light show. After only a short time we could see a huge difference between the westernised areas of Cairo around the large hotels and the Cairo of the general populace. The giggly tour official, who was taking us to this show, was quick to explain that the unrest had forced many of the regional farmers to leave the land and come to Cairo. Unfortunately, they were unused to the modern ways of living. Garbage was thrown into the centre of the street, where an open area, originally meant as an ‘island’ had been worn down by sandaled feet. Down the centre of this refuse littered area was a concrete channel – used as an open sewer by everyone. There was no other word to describe it other than a stench, which emanated from this channel and we hurriedly closed the windows of the bus.

Arriving at Giza we were ushered as a tight group into the ‘stadium’. Rows of plastic chairs had been set up with a central aisle, everything facing the pyramids. We were given strict instructions not to leave the stadium without Mr Giggles, but he forgot to say where he would be since he didn’t sit down with us. I suppose it was ‘old hat’ to him.  The stadium slowly filled up. We all wished we had taken an extra few minutes to get something to eat before we left, but we had no idea we would be sitting around for so long.

#In Search of

Shadows on the horizon

Suddenly there was a great commotion as the piercing sound of bagpipes split the air! To the skirl of the bagpipes a small band marched around the stadium. They were all wearing ancient Egyptian headdress clothing. They marched up one side, across the back, down the other side and formed up along the front of the stadium. All the lights went out and a deep sonorous voice began the story of ancient Egypt.

#In Search of

The sandstorm approaches

However, at that precise moment, Mother Nature decided to step in and honour us with a less than heavenly show as a sandstorm started to blow in. The light show over the pyramids was almost completely blocked from sight. (We had been told the actual light show was quite good, but no-one had mentioned the kilt clad band.) As the storm became stronger people began covering up. Cameras were packed away and after a short time people began moving towards the rear exit. The sand was stinging and managed to make its way through clothing and under the scarves around our heads.

#In Search of

Egyptian clad bagpipe players

Mr Giggles had vanished! Our bus driver had vanished! We were stuck there in the sand storm with nowhere to go and nothing but inky darkness outside the stadium. After a suitable time had elapsed Mr Giggles returned, not terribly happy at being peppered with complaints that he had deserted us in such horrid conditions.  Feeling as though we were carrying tonnes of sand back with us we were a sorry sight as we re-entered the hotel. (So much for making a grand entrance, bedraggled as we were there was no chance of that!)

#In Search of

Our one view of …the Light Show

When I returned to my room I stood in the furthest corner and slowly stripped off allowing the pounds of sand to fall to the carpet. I felt guilty, but what else was I to do? A long hot bath made me feel better and lots of lotion removed some of the redness from the stinging sand.  The next morning we were going on the next part of our tour, a Nile cruise.

Next week……The Pyramids and the River Nile

Blessings   Susan x

© Susan Jamieson 2014

Most recent of my In Search of… series can be found below

In Search of ..Part 15

In Search of…Part 14

In Search of…Part 13

In Search of…Part 12

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In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

The drive to the Ben Gurion airport was straight forward. For the rest of the tour group it was with mixed feelings that they were leaving. We had seen so many delightful things, the history and the way of life in Israel. For me, it was just a hiatus.  After the tour was concluded I was coming back to Tel Aviv for a further two weeks, I wasn’t finished with Israel yet.

What a difference having a tour guide made at the airport. The speed with which we were ushered through the checking in process was awesome, until it ground to an unseemly halt. Both Mel and I were selected to have our bags thoroughly checked out. Why were we chosen? I have no idea. Well, one, we were the only “single young females” in the group. Perhaps rifling through our underwear was part of the thrill of travelling overseas? Finally through we had our tickets, instructions that we would be met at Cairo airport and we were off on the next stage of our adventure.

#In Search of..Airports and Cairo

image from http://www.timesofisrael.com      Searching for the smallest thing

We traveled on Egypt Air this time and the plane gave the impression it might shake itself to pieces before we arrived in Cairo. No-one was inclined to walk around the plane this trip! However, it didn’t take long before we were landing and lining up to go through customs. The tour official who met us was a strange man indeed. He had a high pitched giggle which seemed to pop out far too often. Definitely not a laugh to make you feel comfortable, and then it all began again.

Mel and I were pointed to as we lined up with our luggage. No, they didn’t want to go through our clothes, this time they wished to search us! Much pointing ensued as we were hustled over to two semi partitioned cubicles where the ladies were searched by female airport security staff.  I’m sorry to say I was attacked by the humour of the situation and had an attack of the giggles. I don’t think the very stern looking, short and fat female security ladies found me amusing. At all!  Prodded and patted and twirled around, the prodding and patting down continued and then out came the wand to be whirled up and down our body. I nearly choked in the effort to stop laughing. If it hadn’t been for the tour official running around, his high pitched voice clearly audible where we were, I think we may have been retained a while longer.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from www-demotix-com. Egyptair

Finally released, we collected our bags and made our way through the airport, at speed, towards the bus awaiting us at the kerb. The bags seemed to be dispatched at greater speed into the bowels of the bus, as we were hurriedly ushered inside. Then came the most amazing lesson of all. Transport in Cairo.

I should explain that the main entrance into Cairo, from the airport, had six lanes, three each way. We are all fairly familiar with the road system, whether we drive on the right or left hand side of the road. Nothing however, could prepare anyone for this. The three inbound lanes became six! Two vehicles per lane, and it made no difference whatsoever how large either vehicle was. Pedestrians scuttled madly across this hurtling, screeching, nightmare of metal to reach either the centre of side of the road.

#In Search of..Airports and Cairo

Egypt, Cairo traffic

Stunned silence enveloped the bus as we watched these kamikaze pedestrians risking life and limb to cross the road. Sensing the quiet the tour official popped up out of his seat and said, in his high pitched giggle, “Not to worry, they’re made of rubber, just bounce if they hit the cars.” I’m not quite sure what was more astounding, that people ran across the road as they did or that this person seriously thought we would believe people bounced off them if  hit. Well, they do bounce but it’s not very good for them when they land. The honking of horns filled the air as we made our way to the hotel.

#In Search of..Airports and Cairo

Tourist entrance Cairo Marriott Hotel

What an incredible transformation. We were staying at the Marriott. I know I felt awkwardly under dressed for the reception. Opulence greeted us everywhere we turned. I simply wanted to find my room, bathe and change into something more respectable. Somehow jeans and joggers didn’t seem quite right amidst the gilt and grandeur.  For the first time the group was spread all over the hotel. I was in the far wing, far enough away to need a map to get back to reception, and of course, I got lost in the labyrinth of the hotel. Thank heavens for bell boys.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

Cairo Marriott Hotel and Casino

Mel and I had decided to buy water for our trip and so had arranged to meet in reception after we had time to get our luggage into our rooms and felt a little more respectable. Perhaps it was due to the fact that my room was in the far wing, but it took an age to get my luggage up to my room. In fact I was waiting so long I had time for a coffee and Mel called to find out if I had a problem – Um mm yes, my luggage hasn’t arrived.

Buying water at the hotel was exorbitant, plus they only sold small bottles. We wanted to stockpile sufficient to take us through our Egyptian sojourn. The instructions to reach a shop, outside he precincts of the hotel, were simple. We needed to go down through the rear of the hotel to the “tradesman’s entrance”, then cross the road and turn left, and the shop is on the corner. Simple! Yes?….. No!

Uniformed bellboys, ushers and waiters were delightfully helpful. We found the rear entrance, or should it be exit, with no problems. Then we took a good look at the road. Three marked lanes and six, seven lines of hurtling metal, all heading past us. We noticed, just one of those strange things which happen at these times, that there was not a single vehicle which had even one panel without a multitude of dints in it. I have never seen a more motley collection of vehicles which looked as if they should be heading for the wreckers, and ‘they’ apparently thought pedestrian were made of rubber!

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from http://www.theguardian.com                  Running the Gauntlet

Taking our courage in both hands and a large serving of insanity, we charged across the street during a slight lull (a one car space) and reached the far side. The shopkeepers and their customers came out and looked, some clapped and the car drivers all honked their horns, and waived at the two crazy western women. Laughing we looked round for the shop. No, it’s not here. Wait a minute, right across from where we were standing, back where we had just come from, was a little shop with a sign out front indicating water was sold there. It seems our guardian angels were looking out for us.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from http://www.non-competes.comWater! The ice would have been nice.

It appeared the road we needed to cross was the driveway to the hotel, on the same side of the street. They really didn’t want us buying water outside the hotel. We looked at each other and then at the once more speeding traffic.  Suddenly, one of the other pedestrians strode out into the maelstrom of speeding madness and held his hand in the air. The universal signal to STOP! We cringed, waiting to see the inevitable happen, or if he would ‘bounce’. With a screech of many brakes the traffic stopped, every single car stopped without hitting anything. We hurriedly crossed to road to the sound of good natured calls and waves. Waving back we reached safety back where we started five minutes earlier.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from caieg_phototour149 Promenade, Cairo Marriott Hotel

Buying our water supplies we headed back to the hotel. We decided a cup of coffee and a short respite was in order before we explored a little. We were served coffee in beautiful gold embossed china cups and a Turkish delight that melted in your mouth. Life was wonderful and a short while later, refreshed and glad to be alive we set out to explore the hotel.

Blessings, Susan x

Next Week  – Sandstorms, Light Shows, Poverty and Riches.

© Susan Jamieson 2014

In Search of….Part 14

In Search of…Part 13

In Search of…Part 12

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Lightning Strikes

Circling Storms

Lightning Strikes

It’s been a damned hot day. We had two storms with thunder and lightning strikes. Before that it was hot.  I don’t like the heat.  I may have mentioned it a time or two, perhaps even more. It does nasty things to me, not the least of which is abominable headaches and a cranky disposition. It’s because I’m hot.   It’s almost like lightning strikes inside my head. It’s really difficult to be bright and bubbly when your head is being crushed by an invisible vice and nothing you do makes you feel one degree cooler. I’m positive if I sat on an iceberg I would melt it in short order. Really!

Lightning Strikes

Sunrise with halo

My cousin told me it was over forty degrees where she was this afternoon. She was watching the storms circle her. They circled us too before they finally pounced. Did you know that the atmospheric changes caused by a weather front moving in can cause the unwary to be catapulted into fits of depression, aggression and plain old agony? Then the lightning strikes and it’s like there is a fourth of July going off inside your head, and for a time I still feel hot.

I sound melodramatic don’t I, but I can assure you it’s very real. What makes it worse is that you know what’s happening and try as you may, it’s impossible to stop what’s happening. I have tried for years and I have still to find a way to be cool in the summer.  After all, you cannot stop the weather front from coming over you, although I have been known to pray that the rain be sent inland where they need it.

Lightning Strikes

Weather front closing in

It wasn’t just to avoid the effects of the front moving over me, it was a real desire to let the rain go where it’s needed, but yes, it was also partially for selfish reasons. I’m human after all. I just don’t feel like it when the lightning strikes.

This monster seems to take hold of my head and rational thought dissolves with every crack of thunder and sizzle of a lightning strike. I mean, it’s ridiculous because I love storms. Nice ones that bring good rain and no havoc. I even love thunder and lightning, but of recent times they simply have this effect on me, an unfortunately bad effect.

I’m hot, really hot, I think I mentioned that already but it’s important. Then the pressure builds from the oncoming weather front. So, this nice hot blood which is bubbling its way around my body begins to sizzle under the pressure from the weather front. I truly consider myself lucky if the storm does break over, round or near me because the pressure drops and the temperature usually does too. I get a double present in one go.

Lightning Strikes

Lightning Strikes

Of course the only problem with the storm breaking close by is the lightning strikes.  They never come alone and between the lightning strikes and the rumble and crash of thunder over and inside my head, well, I think a marching band would have a hard time competing against it.

However, the storms have arrived, lightning strikes galore, thunder like a herd of galloping elephants and rain to refresh the land. It’s also brought the temperature down and hasn’t sent the humidity up. So for a short time I can live without the air conditioner on.

~

~

You can see the birds in the trees, they simply fluff out their feathers and off they fly. I wish I could fluff out my feathers…. now wouldn’t that be a sight worth seeing!  Perhaps I should be a bear and hibernate through the summer instead. It might be safer on the humans around me.

Lightning strikes; have you ever smelt the ozone in the air when one strikes close by? It’s really awesome. The afterimage burnt onto your retinas is quite a spectacle too. So you see, I can appreciate the beauty and majesty of a storm. The pounding of the clouds crashing together and the scintillating ozone smell of the lightning strikes, I just hate being a grumpy harpy, especially when it’s outside forces of nature which are compelling this aberrant behaviour.

Lightning Strikes

Lightning Strikes

I’ve seen at close quarters someone struck by lightning. Catastrophic! So I must conclude I’m simply a ninny…letting a little lightning strike cause so much trouble.  If I could ask a small favour though… would someone please turn the thermostat down?

Blessings,  Susan x

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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In Searcdh of...Jerusalem

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

It’s taken a while but I’d like to explain why I use this image for each of my entries “In Search of”, The simple reason is that the title of the work is “Spirit Elements” and it seems fitting for my story. I hope you like it a much as I do.

Once on the coach at the Dead Sea Hotel we traveled through the Hebron Valley towards Bethlehem. After many calls and ‘agreements’ our guide had been given the all clear for those of us who wished to go into Bethlehem, to do so. It was explained to us that it would be our own decision and no responsibility would be held by the tour operators. Since Bethlehem was inside the West Bank, a Tour Guide from inside there had been arranged and he would look after us whilst we were there. There was still a set protocol to be followed to visit Bethlehem. At the time it seemed slightly odd, from the perspective of hindsight it was a trifle more ominous.

The tour bus driver was allowed to drive up to the West Bank access point, whilst the tour guide had to exit the bus a couple of blocks before the checkpoint.  The driver had been given instructions that he was not allowed to leave the bus under any circumstances, although we were not totally aware of the magnitude of that little statement.

Arriving at the checkpoint I noticed the high concrete wall around three sides of the ‘square’ and the shapes of armed soldiers along the top of the wall, all carrying machine guns! An ominous start. The access area looked, for all the world like a cattle grid, or the gates at the entrance to the Brisbane Exhibition grounds. Once off the bus the driver left immediately, and we were on our own. We moved towards our  entrance. There were swarthy looking characters watching our every move. It was increasingly tense as our every move was carefully watched.

At the other side we were met by the West Bank tour guide, Ibrahim. We later found out that the real tour guide was Ibrahim’s son, but since the recent conflict, the tourism trade had been badly affected and he had therefore decided to take the tour himself.  After the time we had spent in Israel it felt like a different world completely. The buildings were, for the most part, covered in steel grills and the windows or glass in the doors was papered over also.  Everything seemed dustier, the people less cheerful and much more aware of our presence. We were escorted to a restaurant for lunch and had little option but to order something. We were not leaving until we had eaten! We saw Hezekiah’s tunnel, the Church of the Nativity and spent some time being closely scrutinised in a large square in front of an official looking building.

The ‘tour guide’ seemed to disappear into the surroundings as we reached the square and we were left milling around wondering when he was coming back.  Finally, he strode into our midst from within a group of soldiers. We were hustled up the street quickly. The very unfriendly looks made for a tense atmosphere. At one of the unremarkable doorways we were ushered inside. It was a souvenir shop which appeared to sell religious knick knacks of a huge number. The women in the store had coffee, sweets and savouries which they pressed on us at every opportunity at no cost. We had been told that as soon as we were ready to leave we should ask the tour guide to radio ahead for the bus to be at the check point to pick us up. The driver was allowed ten minutes to be at the exit and collect us so timing was critical. However, despite being asked by more than half the group our tour guide was in no hurry to allow us to leave, in fact the door had been locked and bolted – for our protection! It soon became apparent that unless everyone bought something from the shop – which he owned – we weren’t going to leave any time soon.

After a hurried discussion we all bought a small trinket and the guide called for the Israeli bus. We made our way back to the gates under the watchful gaze of the locals and a soldier or two. I am rarely uncomfortable when out and about but it was with a very odd sensation between my shoulders that I made my way through the exit. The Israeli bus was a very welcome sight. We drove several blocks away and collected our Israeli guide, which is when we finally learned of the tension surrounding our visit to Bethlehem. If we had known I doubt that as many people would have gone.

From Bethlehem we drove to Jerusalem. It was such a strange transition, driving through lush countryside after the drab and desolate surroundings inside the West Bank. I am not making any criticism of the area, either the people of the place, yet I can say with all honesty that the only time on my trip I felt at all uncomfortable was whilst I was inside the West Bank.  The air of “something about to happen” was very real.

Jerusalem was yet again a completely diverse mix of modern and ‘ancient’. We saw the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. Nothing was as I expected, probably from too many movies. We, that is Mel and I, had an exciting trip to Ben Yehuda mall to find a new suitcase for me. Pulling an empty suitcase over a paved or cobbled area was hilarious. We were so hungry we stopped for Schwarma in the mall. The looks we got were priceless and watching the flow of people as we sat there was enough to write fill a novel. We managed to find a nifty little store that was crammed with everything imaginable and I bought a few laugh a minute items for my children when I got home.

On the way to the hotel   we stopped at a little coffee shop. They were really nice letting me drag this large suitcase inside with us. We had the most delicious chocolate mousse filled with hot syrupy chocolate. It was so delicious I could have scrapped the plate clean!

The next day we set off for a tour of the old city. We walked from the Western Gate to the many churches and the ‘birthplace of Christ’. There was so much to see and not enough time. We stopped for a while at the Wailing Wall and walked the length of the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of the Cross”.  Stopping at a sidewalk café for drinks and something to eat seemed surreal and at the same time so ‘every day’ that I wondered if I was just an observer in a strange land.

After an exhausting day we went back to the hotel and, being the first two in the business centre, Mel and I hit the computers to write home and keep a running diary of events.

The next day was spent exploring further and a haunting visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. It was impossible not to be moved by the enormity of all we saw.  Mere words and photos cannot really do our time in Jerusalem justice. It could easily fill a small book.

The next morning we packed up and the bus headed for the airport at Tel Aviv, the Ben Gurion airport for the next leg of our tour in Egypt. But first we had to get through customs!

All around us was so much history, it was impossible not to try to capture as much as possible so we could have our memories with us later.

It was a beautiful and challenging visit. The two sides to the same coin, but the differences were so great. After the tense and uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem, it was difficult not to make judgement calls….. rightly or wrongly, we were all glad we were in Israel. I felt I had been protected, and I also felt that ‘we all’ would be safe. It was good to have an angel on my shoulder.

I hope you have enjoyed this…. previous chapters are located throughout the archives. Please use “In Search of..Part “..” and you can catch up if you need to.

Next Week –  Airports and Cairo

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image from keithferrazzi.com

I’m ready to admit to having a little brain fog today. Well, if you insist, it’s a lot of brain fog today and I can’t really explain why today is any different from hundreds of others, except, I only had an hours sleep and since I had suggested an outing today I’ve been staggering around like a zombie most of the day. In fact Lucy (above) just about fits the right picture when I opened Word Press and got to my  ‘page’ and saw…..

Like the Three Bears in Goldilocks, “Whose been messing around with my page?”

Stunned surprise and bafflement. I haven’t seen anything to tell me any changes were coming. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a notification, I’ve been really lax with my emails today too. Bright lights hurt my eyes which in turn laser into my frontal lobe. Very unpleasant. Thinking is a painful suggestion. It’s a strange concept, but I need to think to put fingers to keyboard.

So, getting back to Lucy. I could never understand how she became so famous for making such exaggerated faces and having so many foul ups. I think I’m beginning to understand. It’s all a matter of experience. When she was a byword on National television I really wasn’t into slapstick comedy very much.  Very serious person indeed. It almost went with the career I think, or at least it did for me. Until today.

image from araneus1.wordpress.com Singing sweetly in the Jacaranda he looked so beautiful.

We went to visit one of my favourite haunts, the Crystal Castle. It is filled with hundreds upon hundreds of crystals, as you might expect, but in such a display that it takes your breath away. Just wandering through the rooms gives you a heady feeling. Of course it wouldn’t be quite the same if I didn’t pick up one or two little treasures, but that’s just an added perk. Yes, I could easily get carried away.

However, I wasn’t feeling too chipper so we decided to have a light snack and a nice latte at their organic cafe. All produce locally grown, much on the property itself, so I was sure it was going to be yummy. It was, a beautiful spinach and four cheese roll with salad. Delicious.  There are signs everywhere asking the patrons not to feed the birds since it isn’t any good for them. There is also a delicious carrot and walnut cake with cream cheese topping on offer, a favourite from the way it disappeared from the counter.

Yummy carrot and walnut cake, cream cheese topping

This was delivered to the next table to us, a delicious piece of carrot cake. The temptation to take photos is almost overwhelming since the views are incredible and that is what distracted this couple. They moved away from their table to take some photos. In a swoop reminiscent of a diving magpie after a cyclist, a magpie floated down from the Jacaranda tree and landed on the table and promptly set to with gusto.  Of course the first peck into the cake filled his beak with cream cheese! He couldn’t swallow it, he couldn’t open his beak and he couldn’t get rid of it.

He banged his beak left and right on the plate and then the table and all the while the couple were happily snapping away. I couldn’t stop laughing at the sight. It doesn’t sound that funny, but it looked hilarious, so much so I couldn’t hold the camera to get a photo. So the carrot cake will have to do.

So Lucy, I understand all those comic faces. I pulled one when I suddenly saw my page completely different and I pulled a dozen more watching this magpie, especially when the couple turned and saw what was happening. Then I had to pull more funny faces trying to hide that I was laughing so much.  Headache time here I came!

image from blogs.sacurrent.com     Yes, I LOVE LUCY now. 

So there we have it, one sober day (no alcohol included) shot to pieces by a magpie stuck on cream cheese. You simply had to be there.

Happy Sunday people.

Ciao, Susan x

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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Robby Rosella taking a good look at the world.

Robby Rosella taking a good look at the world.

The more chances I had to see the little birds inside the nest, the more excited I became at seeing them finally come out to say hello to the world. We now knew there were two babies inside from the earlier photos.  There was always a lot of pushing and maneuvering around inside the hole (nest) but we could only make out bodies and feathers. Looking into the darkened interior it was guesswork to say how many babies were inside.

What I loved most at this time was seeing how quickly they changed.  You could see  them growing in front of you as their feathers became more colourful and they really started to look more than pink skinned bodies.  Between the parents and last years offspring flying to and fro constantly it made me think of a Rosella highway.

No, I don't think they have to worry about getting fat.

No, I don’t think they have to worry about getting fat.

Then, in the middle of last week I though I heard the sound of something hitting one of the windows. Not very loudly and there was silence after it. Since I was ‘laid up’ at the time, I took myself to the bedroom window to see what had made the noise. I thought something had hit the laundry window but wasn’t sure.

I did not only do a double take but took several minutes to convince myself I was actually seeing what was in front of me.  He was actually six feet away. but it took that long for my eyes to adjust and pick him out next to the rock wall. The Rosella parents have obviously been encouraging them to come out of the nest – at least they were doing lots of talking to the babies after they had fed them, so I’m guessing that was what prompted this.

Now how did I get here?

Now how did I get here?

Unhurt but unsure of what to do he stayed right where he was. Should I try to help him?

I'm just going to look at this funny thing in front of me and pretend I'm back home.

I’m just going to look at this funny thing in front of me and pretend I’m back home.

So, here is Robby, (we think he may be a male from the colourful plumage, but that’s only a guess), sitting in front of the rock wall and looking slightly bemused. He had obviously been braver than his sibling and decided to come out of the nest to have a look at the big bright world, but had fallen afoul of a gust of wind and down he had sailed. My dilemma was what to do. Should I try to catch him and return him to his nest or would he be safe enough until he could get back himself?

The sound of a door closing inside the house saw Robby flutter up into the garden where we could hear him chirping plaintively. Unable to bear the suspense I crept quietly outside to see if he was alright.  There he was hiding under the foliage, standing so still I had to strain to see him. They are incredibly well camouflaged.

If you click on the photos they will open up for a better view.

He must have felt safe because apart from a peak out he decided to stay well hidden under the shrubbery.  The adults started chirping away and we could hear the little fellow answer so it wasn’t long until they started to make their way down to locate him and to feed him.

If you click on the photos they will open up for a better view.

Robby was apparently not ready to relinquish what he felt was a nice safe place to hide. There was plenty of foliage around him since he was in the middle of the Prince of Orange Ixora. I’m sure the fragrance from the flowering Hoya would have reminded him of his nice safe nest too. After a nerve-wracking night, for the human watchers at least, and a brief shower, we resumed an unobtrusive watch on Robby’s progress.

The adults were becoming louder in their calling. Whether they were trying to encourage his brother or sister to come out or Robby to get home I’m not sure, however about mid morning we received another surprise when we saw this.

Two more babies inside the nest.

Two more babies inside the nest.

Ray had seen one make the leap earlier in the day so that meant we had a clutch of four baby Rosellas inside the nesting box. (Does it show we felt like proud parents ourselves)?

That only left the question of Robby. A night on the ground, even being fed by his parents, was obviously not what he was happy about. He began a trek in quick dashes across the grass towards the far wall bordering our neighbours garden.  The grass there was a little higher (late with the mowing, lucky for him), so with his colouring he was almost invisible.

A couple of the adults were calling from the tree and two came down onto the ground to encourage him to ‘make a leap’. Another one.

If you click on the photos they will open up for a better view.

As dusk drew down we were wondering if Robby was destined to spend another night on the ground alone. The adults had been feeding him regularly but it certainly sounded like he had a pep talk after each feeding.  Suddenly there was an explosion of sound, feathers flapping and a whirring as he took off and sailed up onto the roof.  An adult was soon on the scene and from the noise which sprang up a short time later we presumed he had made it back to the home tree. Success!

All the babies are now hopping around the tree, scavenging my Grevillea for honey and filling out nicely. The riot of colour seeing them flitting through the tree is magical. It has certainly melted my heart seeing the family reunited.  Rosellas maintain family groups often and come back to help  raise subsequent clutches of young. It certainly is a beautiful example of the circle of life.

On watch, at home.

On watch, at home.

A happy ending for our Rosella family. No doubt they will be back again since they have claimed the nesting site. I am going to look forward to seeing them again.

I hope you enjoyed our little excitement at the Rosella tree.

Blessings.  Susan  x

© Susan Jamieson 2013

If you missed the first part of the story and would like to catch up.

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