I went on another school sponsored excursion recently. This time we went to a local town. I thought for sure that we wouldn’t be home until later because of the long list of things that would see, but it actually made for a very relaxing day!
Our first stop was the local community center. They have a lot of neat things going on there. One summer they did a kid’s camp using reclaimed doors from houses that had been demolished. On each door the kids told their story through pictures. Some had things like their wishes (a Barbie doll), others their dreams (seeing past the wall) and still others their memories.
In another portion of their building is the original soap factory. This city is famous for soap! In the wells they would stir up huge vats of soap for sale. The soap was traded all the way to Europe! Mostly with thanks to the Germans who built a railroad to the city in 1903.
My favorite part of the trip was the library/bike swap. They have collected children’s books and bikes through donations. On a regular basis there are volunteers who come in to read stories with the children and make a craft for them to take home. The children are to take the craft home and re-tell the story to their parents. There were books in both English and Arabic. I even spied Harry Potter! The kids can take a book and keep it for as long as they need. (Kinda like my library at school, they don’t track if kids bring them back. If a kid keeps a book, it is probably because they like it and it is one more book in the house for anyone in the family to read.) But the really neat part is that however long they spend reading, they get the same number of minutes to “check out” a bicycle! What a great way to encourage kids to read! I could really see this working well in some communities in the US.
After the community center, we wandered around the old part of town for a while. The city has done a really good job labeling the historic areas of town. One of the neat things that I would have missed without a guide is an old fashioned apothecary shop. Hanging on their ceiling is a 200 year old crocodile! Along the walls are bottles and bags of ingredients. 🙂 Lastly we were able to enter one of the original Turkish baths. No pictures here, but you can take my word for it that it is really neat. We were able to take pictures at a newer Turkish bath that has (ironically) been converted to a candy factory for Turkish Delights. Now, I’ve never had a fresh Turkish Delight before. But unfortunately the German students who I was standing by had never heard of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (plus there are apparently tons of Turkish bakeries in Germany) so the coolness of the moment was lost. I did rather enjoy it personally though.
On a side note, I realized this trip that the majority of my life experience is dramatically different from the rest of my classmates. I’ll touch on it later, but there are a lot of times that I am quite the “odd man out.”
At this point, we took our first eating break of the day. I did not grab a picture at the restaurant but we split massive appetizers/dips that came with pita bread. Because they ordered for the table, we stuffed ourselves and still only paid 15 shekels each (about $3.75)!
Immediately after this stuffing meal, we went to try the other reason the town is famous! Kanafa! Ok, this is cooked upside down. The thin cake cooks on these enormous pans, then a white cheese (it tastes similar to goat cheese, but really light flavored) is sprinkled on top. Then the entire concoction is flipped and sugar is caramelized on top. Honestly if I had known what was was in it (cheese and sugar, yuck!) I would have skipped. But in my ignorance I ate it anyway and, wow. It is really good! I had some not fresh and it isn’t the same, but hot and just cut it is fantastic!
They pass out plastic plates of the stuff and everyone eats it there and you just hand them back the plate to wash when you are done! It was incredibly cheap. I bought some to take home to Dan and it was like 15 shekels for a 1/2 kilo, or maybe a 1/4 kilo. I can’t remember.
Next we visited Jacob’s well. I’m going to have to admit that I had forgotten the New Testament connection to Jacob’s well before the trip. In my defense I don’t remember calling it “Jacob’s Well.” When we arrived, our local guide described it to us this way: This is the well where the woman refused to give Jesus water. <Now let that sink in. Do you know the story?> Here is where I realized that my life experience was completely different. In a room of 20 foreigners from western Europe and East Asia, I was the ONLY ONE who knew the story.
Because I don’t know any better, I interrupted the guide and said that I would need to check, but I was pretty sure that she didn’t actually refuse Jesus water. Quick check on my online Bible app and, yeah, she didn’t refuse EXACTLY. The quick version of the story is that the disciples headed off to town to get food. Jesus asks the woman…at the well…if he could have some water. She says something like, “Who am I that you would ask me for water? Don’t you know I’m a Samaritan?” Jesus replies that if she knew who he was, she would be asking HIM for a drink. Then he goes on to explain the concept of Living Water.
The guide was interested, it wasn’t how he had been told the story goes. And yeah, he was right that she never did actually give Jesus water, but it was more because they got distracted. She LEFT her water jar to go to town and get her friends to meet him, so he could have grabbed some any time he wanted.
It is interesting to me how things are misinterpreted or maybe just interpreted differently. It is a good lesson in keeping your ears open and really listening to your neighbor. Also a lesson in fact checking before you repeat something! A story to me that seems so simple was turned to be something else. How many stories do I hear that aren’t quite what they seem either?
But lesson learned! One of my classmates pulled the bucket up 40 meters to draw the water so we all got to taste the water that Jesus missed out on. 🙂
The church was really pretty also. It is Eastern Orthodox, not Catholic like most of the churches. It is also new but built to model an old church.
The last thing we headed to at the end of the day was a craft market that we happened to catch. It was cool to see and I probably should have done more shopping! They held it in the traditional market where caravans would bring their livestock and goods to trade. We only had 15 minutes so we were quick, but I snagged a new embroidered headband for Maggie and another gift for when we return home!