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“You must find yourself before you can know where you belong, yet to find yourself first you must know who you are. However, you will never really know who you are if you are always allowing other people to define who you should be, so be yourself and if you are still unsure of who you are then reinvent yourself.”
― Andrew James Pritchard, Smoke and Mirrors
” Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”
– Alan Alda

Like all good things, stories need an ending. In Search Of deserves to have it’s final ending, the climax as it happened at the time. Here is the beginning of the end of the journey.

 My last days in Switzerland went by both in a blur and stretched out enormously. There was a feeling of storing memories for times to come, but also of seeing each infinitesimal moment as an entire story, just waiting for it to unfold itself. Whereas each individual minute was a treasure, even those things often repeated, they also felt unique in and of themselves.

It was strange that so many different memories could be evoked by the daily routine of enjoying a coffee in the lounge. The smile of the waiter and the bonhomie of the other vacationers as we sat around, reading, talking or silently gazing into the further reaches of forever, each felt in some way part of the other and yet at the same time, as individual as the clothes we wore. It as simple as that. We were together and at the same moment, completely separate.

The last night in Geneva was spent in another type of blur. Good food and wine, scintillating conversation. It was difficult to realise that a few short weeks earlier we had met for the first time and yet now, it was as effortless as if we had been friends for many years. Time flew by alarmingly fast and I wanted to cram as much into it as possible. The feeling of not having enough time made me think of the film “The Langoliers” by Stephen King. Somewhere in the vastness of the Universe were some eldritch creatures gobbling up the seconds as we used them, leaving nothing behind unless we filled them once more by something we had said or done. I found it amusing that I should think of that before I was to board the plane in a few hours since during the film it was just that which saw a catastrophe loom.

Yet the morning came all too fast, and despite my fanciful notions, I knew that the trip would be peaceful enough. As we drove to the airport I knew I was going to miss the glorious scenery, the brisk feeling of the air and the beautiful scents of spring flowers growing everywhere. I said a silent ‘goodbye’ as we drove round Lake Geneva and passed the beautiful swans in their nests close to shore. Where else would I see such an unusual sight?

The flight to Athens was uneventful, as I expected. The otherworldly view of the rolling carpet made by the clouds covering the land below, allowing the mountaintops to peak through was a unique way to end my short trip to Switzerland, allowing me the knowledge that I was eager to return, one day soon I hoped, to finish my exploration of this beautiful country.

#InSearchOf

Alp peering through a carpet of clouds                  Image courtesy of http://www.startribune.com

We arrived in Athens late in the day and after I had collected the luggage I had left in storage, we made our way to the city centre and the hotel. Except this was not the way we had travelled on my last stopover. Liveried staff hurried forward to help me from the car, gathered my luggage and ushered me to the Concierge’s desk. A beautiful, tall and dark haired man explained that the hotel had been booked out by a wedding party. My stomach dropped. He then went on to explain that due to the hotel inconveniencing me I was being upgraded to another room – free of charge, of course! This was completely unexpected.

Dressed in my well-worn, if clean and respectable looking jeans and blouse, I still felt woefully under dressed for this sumptuous hotel. As we rode the lift up, ever higher, I was beginning to wonder if I was being sent towards the heavens for an angelic ride home. Escorted through the door to my room it took all my efforts not to gasp. The room was simply stunning. A magnificent display of luxury met my eyes at every turn as I was shown through this incredible suite. Not only was there an enormous king sized bed with luxurious bedding in the master bedroom, there was also a large and exquisitely appointed lounge and dining room, and an equally opulent bathroom with gold plated taps and the largest bath I had ever seen. I knew what I would be doing later.

Since the wedding party made my dinner arrive late, a bottle of wine accompanied my simple meal. Silk, satin and velvet seemed to be everywhere and the towels were so thick and heavy, it felt as if I could wrap myself up in one and simply fall asleep. A long, luxuriant bath, steam curling round my head, the scent of wildflowers swirling in the steam and I had found a measure of heaven for a time. I finally dragged myself out, wrinkled but so very relaxed that I hardly remembered sliding between the incredible sheets and falling asleep. Thankfully I had requested a wakeup call or I would never been ready in time for the car to take me to the airport. Even paying the excess luggage bill failed to mar the feeling of impersonating Jackie Onassis for a short time.

“We have stories to tell, stories that provide wisdom about the journey of life. What more have we to give one another than our ‘truth’ about our human adventure as honestly and as openly as we know how?”
– Rabbi Saul Rubin

Next Week – Revelations  The final instalment and what it all meant.

Blessings, Susan ♥

© Susan Jamieson, 2014

 

In Search Of…Part 23 Switzerland

In Search Of ….Part 22 – Athens and Geneva

In Search Of….Part 21- Back to Tel Aviv

 

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“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

~

The next day we left Petra on the Kings Highway for our first stop at the ruins of the crusader fortress of Al Karak. It had the feel of a large open town, symmetrically laid out. It was almost possible to see crusaders marching around in full regalia. Situated at the edge of town there was a surreal feel to the place. More than ever history and modern day events lived side by side. Left to ramble over the ruins we wandered over what seemed like acres of ground. It would have been more than impressive in its day.

After the long exploration we drove to a lonely, windswept hill, Mount Nebo, which is believed to be the tomb of Moses and is where Moses looked out over the “promised land”, forbidden to enter by God. A mosaic floor still lies in the ruins of a 4th and 6th century church. This time we were the only people at the ruin and were able to spend quite a bit of time walking around and exploring the area. Looking out across the land it seemed desolate, nothing but sand and rock. It’s hard to imagine it as being “the Promised Land”, a “Land or Milk and Honey”, but seasons come and go and everything eventually changes. It really made you ask why there was so much blood shed over such a barren and desolate place. (It may not have been at the time).

Our next stop was at Madaba still driving along the 5000 year old King’s Highway. Madaba is known as the City of Mosaics. We were there to see the mosaic of the Holy Land which is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George. The church is northwest of the city centre and was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church. Madaba appeared to be a congested little town where every street was twisting one way or another. Of course we had no idea which way we were going and our guide gave a simple direction. “Make sure you can see the person in front of you. Don’t stop for any reason and don’t get lost. Do not stop to look in the shops or talk to the shop keepers. I will not be responsible if you stop. We may not be able to find you”. How much was for effect and how much real?

We did start to lose some of our party, those who were having trouble keeping up. The guide was not interested in moderating his pace and a few of the less fit, who would have enjoyed the excuse to stop and check out the local wares, began to fall behind. Soon it was obvious we were about to lose part of our party and all I could see was a sea of Arab faces, all  clamouring for us to stop and look at the things they had for sale along the street or enticing us to “Step inside and see our wares”.

To say I was annoyed would be putting it mildly. The people who had been the first to tattletale that we were being ‘kidnapped’, ‘arrested’ or grabbed by the Bedouin, made sure they remained hot on the heels of the guide and didn’t look back. The rest of us formed a relay of sorts, a string of white faces amongst the sea of Arab faces, ensuring we could see the person in front and behind. Eventually we made it to the Church and reformed our group again.  Words were spoken, both to the group who ignored the people falling behind and to the guide, who suddenly developed “English amnesia”.  There’s nothing like a goatherd when you need a guide in town!

The trek was worth it to see the mosaic, but the tension spoilt the journey. Strangely enough we managed to get back to the bus using a much more direct route and took much less time. The streets were also much wider and less congested. I wasn’t the only person pondering the strange behaviour of our guide; in fact I was convinced he had taken us through the seediest part of town. We were all relieved we had managed to keep a look out for each other and arrived safely back at the bus.

Once more on the bus we had one final stop, at a souvenir place. Once again, it seemed a place in the middle of nowhere and off the beaten track. They had the most amazing oil paintings done on canvas or velvet. Far too difficult to say no to something so beautiful when we knew this was the last opportunity we had to buy anything in Jordan. One of the salesmen decided to follow Mel and me around the store. It seemed that all the salesmen were determined to sell everyone something before we left.  Of course, this was the land of bartering and it had been fun in Egypt, which I totally forgot to mention. So, smiling sweetly we did the circuit of the store, once, twice, three times before finally getting down to choosing a few things we liked. Then it came time to start the haggling process.

Both Mel and I were travelling elsewhere after our stay in Jordan and the idea of trying to carry framed pictures with us, simply didn’t appeal. I had chosen a beautiful velvet oil of a Bedouin encampment amongst Roman ruins. It was beautiful and I did buy it for a very good price and persuaded him to remove the frame for me.  Then we smiled and asked him to remove the frames from Mel’s pictures.  Our friends were not impressed as they had pictures in frames whilst we had ours safely rolled to carry with us.

Once back in Amman I had the unequaled pleasure of trying to find a pharmacy which stocked the medication I needed. I had miscalculated somehow and I was fortunate to find a pharmacy with a pharmacist who understood English and had the right tablets. As luck would have it she was right around the corner about three hundred metres up the street. However I was pleased to get back inside.

The next day we had a guided tour of Amman. We ended up at the Citadel, the old Roman ruins in the centre of Amman. The Citadel is actually on a hill with the ruins of the Temple of Hercules. Below the Citadel’s southern rim is a stream known as Seil Amman. It is on the south bank that most of the Roman City of Philadelphia was situated. The ruins have a main Forum, Theatre, Odeon, and various shops. The Amphitheatre is the largest in Jordan, and could seat 6,000 spectators. The Theatre area is filled with stalls selling shish kebabs or ice creams as well as souvenir shops. There is also an exquisite example of a Byzantine mosaic from Madaba.

It was a great way to end our tour of Jordan and to end our time together. We had the afternoon to relax, compare notes of our tour together, exchange addresses with everyone and get our cases organised and repacked. Last minute laundry was essential for Mel and me.

The next day Mel was leaving for Mount Sinai, people were travelling home, to Brazil, Canada, the US and the UK whilst I was staying an extra day before going back to Israel. Everyone was leaving at different times so the whole day was spent saying ‘goodbyes’. It had been a wonderful trip and I was looking forward to going back to Israel.

#In Search of

The Siq, Petra

It had been a whirlwind trip, filled with so much history and scenery which at times took your breath away and at others left you wondering why there was so much fighting there. With so much history and so many different cultures all melting into a country and culture it was not surprising that there was the unique diversity amongst the people in the Middle East. From the Byzantine era, Crusaders, Moses and Romans, it was a land steeped in religious doctrines and wars. I felt awed and humbled but with a sense that I was gaining a clearer perspective of who I was, what I believed and where I was heading. It was going to be interesting going back to Israel again. I wondered if it would be as difficult to return as it had been to get in originally.

Next week…..Back to Tel Aviv.

Blessings,  Susan ♥

© Susan Jamieson 2014

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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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