Noisy Flushing Is Normal

     Happy Hour at some nearby facility has been going strong for two hours. I quite like Middle Eastern rap. Or is it hip-hop? I can never tell. To my Western Music trained ear, it always sounds like something is missing. Oh that's right - three notes of the scale.
     I was the first of our party to arrive at HCEF Ecumenical Center for Research and Development. It doesn't look like an Inn from the outside. But then what does an Inn look like in Bethlehem? Everything is made out of the same stone. Everything is blocky. Cool, in a like not hot way.
     El Al wasn't as kind to me seating-wise as Qantas. 23G was an aisle seat in steerage next to the kitchen so sleep was hardly possible with all the comings and goings. And nothing appears to have been upgraded in their 747s since purchase date, although it all still works. The TV system is one of those 1990s ones that just shows a half dozen movies in a loop. So you can watch the second half of one and then the first half of another. I watched none. However, there was a solitaire game that kept me going for quite a while. I always play the 3 card version. Almost never get it out.
     Noisy Flushing Is Normal says a sign in the loo. Never seen that one before, although, as we all know, it is accurate. Maybe too many El Al patrons had to be treated for surprise second efforts soon after pressing the Flush button. Something about the sign made me want to object. Noisy Flushing is certainly NOT normal. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
     The plane was full of Israelis returning from Thai holidays. Many families and young couples. I had to put that chip in my head that copes with flight attendants speaking in an unknown tongue. Hebrew in this case. Apart from shalom I'm way out of depth. I can say (but not spell) thanks in Arabic, but best not slip that into conversation. Impressed with the taxi driver who drove me from the airport handling phone calls in three languages. Had most trouble understanding his passenger's English.
View from my room
     The lodgings here are excellent. Plain comfortable and modern. Air-con. Satellite TV, 21 channels in Arabic.3 in English. Wonder if they'll show the Rugby Final. Speedy Wi-Fi for free. Better than most Aussie motels, mate.
     We're just behind the Church of the Nativity, the spire of which one could see if my room were on the 4th floor instead of the 3rd.
     I strolled around from 11am mostly looking for an ATM so I could buy some water and postcards. The old city is wonderful and wonderfully commercial. Everyone says Welcome and asks where you come from. I usually answer these days but rarely respond to the follow-up "Come in. Look for Free. Give you a cup of tea." Only one hawker was a bit aggressive, but then I think he wasn't quite the full shekel.
     Had a nice lunch of hummus and beef kebabs with fries. The kebabs did have a little too much resemblance to barbecued kangaroo poos, but fortunately tasted much nicer. Mmmm. Garlic. The local Palestinian beer is a worthy drop too. And served properly chilled too.
Bethlehem Fashion Statement.
     I sat in Manger Square thinking I would photograph the passing parade but ended up having a long conversation with a taxi driver who was hoping to drum up business. Not easy, he says, since everyone comes in big busses nowadays. They arrive like gross caterpillars, led by guides holding distinguishing antennae of various kinds. In and out of the Church in10 minutes. Not my idea of touring. I took his card. Nice young man, well presented and, of course, earnest.
     Now I am to have dinner in a nearby hotel.
     ...
     Mihai Pavel, who visited us in Warrnambool, arrived in time to join me at the "Russian" Hotel--a guest house run by the Russian Orthodox Church. The food was very Russian. 'Nuff said.
     After these delights we stopped by Manger Square for a coffee. On the way back there was a loud volley of gunfire from down in the valley below us. The sound echoed off all those stone walled buildings. A few minutes later, sirens began to shriek. Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, so whatever this was one suspects it was not involving the Israelis. Maybe a bank heist gone wrong? Mihai thought we would read about it in the papers tomorrw. Not unless you can read Arabic.

Comments

  1. Strike! Maybe you should wear protective gear while you are there! You are a brave man eating weird food in a foreign country. Keep your head down!

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