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Published: June 20th 2015
Looking out in the Dead Sea
Jordanian mountains in distance
After a truly grueling summer season that sucked up our entire June it was all of the sudden time to leave for our summer tour to Israel and Turkey. Casual. Not to mention work has been beyond overwhelming as we approach Fall application deadlines in just a couple weeks. I met the travel opportunity with mixed emotions - it was clearly the opportunity of a lifetime but also at a shitty, busy time at work and in life and it carried a hefty price tag. I had actually declined the opportunity but upon learning that my $750 deposit was potentially non-refundable I was swayed the other way and said F it, it's Israel and Turkey. How has can that be (leaving ISIS out of this).
Time to prepare before leaving was non-existant. We actually sang a concert in Boston the night before (not pleased, but I has a solo so I couldn't skip) so I worked from home Wednesday to pick up my laundry, go buy toiletries, etc. Thanks to singing in a church that was hotter than hell I also had the pleasure of seeking out same-day dry cleaning for my tux shirt on Thursday at 7am. Thankfully the
concert, body temperature and moisture aside, was worth it. I worked til 4ish that day, went to one last Barry's Bootcamp to pretend I wouldn't look obese at the Dead Sea or on the beaches of Tel Aviv, and headed home to wrap things up and finish packing. Had a slight scare at the airport after it seemed the couldn't find my reservation (shocking, considering I already paid $250 to change my ticket to reflect my actual name Jeffrey Richard, not Jeff - genius move on my part). Anyway beore I knew it I was downing bottles of wine with my chorus brethren at the airport bar as we awaited our 11:45pm departure to Istanbul.
Istanbul would actually be out last destination but because of how the flights worked we were flying to Istanbul first, connecting there to get to Tel Aviv, followed by a 2-hour drive to Ein Gedi. Literally while on the trip the first Boston-Tel Aviv direct flight launches - glad we didn't wait. The flight was relatively pleasant - seating was random within the chorus but I ended up in a decent spot despite it not being an aisle or window. At like 1am we
had a second dinner which I of course ate, and it was one of the better meals I've had on a plane - white eggplant salad with chicken, beef köfte with puréed potatoes and roasted vegetables, a shepherds salad, and a mango cheesecake. I somehow passed on rakı - next flight when it's not the middle of the night. Started watching the 3rd Hobbit movie but couldn't really get into it, so instead I managed to pass out for a few hours before we were all awoken by the blood-curdling screams of a baby. Luckily we were at the 6-ish hour mark so breakfast was served soon after - pretty decent - eggs, roasted tomatoes, green peppers, and potatoes.
After 8 or so hours we landed on time in İstanbul and had a bit under 2 hours before our next flight to Tel Aviv. The airport was pretty shitty, it didn't seem like there was any AC, and the bathrooms were pretty horrifying - not that I was in dire need of using one...A few of us killed time upstairs at a café and soon enough it was time to board. The second plane was brand new with touch
screens that actually worked, USB plug-ins, etc. Turkish Airlines' food continued to be really good. We had a light lunch of tomato and mozzarella salad, hummus and some tomato-y spread, bread and crackers, and a chocolate mousse. We have truly been fattened up between these two flights. The flight was quick, as was the arrival and waltz through customs in Israel. It was then only another 2 hours via bus to our kibbutz in Ein Gedi, more or less a desert canyon oasis near the Dead Sea.
Once there we were greeted by Outstanding Travel, Ltd., a gay Israeli travel company that had teamed up with our tour company. We had a spread of snacks and drinks and basically just hung out at the resort complex, which was kind of like a rustic Floridian hotel compound overrun with cats. I'll have to give it a reassessment once it's light out. The bar had just closed at 11 so the 120 fatigued gay men were less than amused but we made due with some duty-free purchases and eventually called it a night.
The next morning was out excursion to the Dead Sea! The kibbutz was only 15 minutes away
from the part of the Dead Sea accessible to tourists/beachgoers. With mountainous Jordan just beyond the turquoise waters it was a breathtaking scene. It's also the lowest place on earth which was kind of fun. The sulphur smell we were not so into...The water itself was maybe 20 minute trek from the little complex and we opted to walk instead of take the ghetto trolly to burn off the cals from the 800 meals we'd had so far. The experience was awesome - you literally float effortlessly just like they say. Oh and it also turns jewelry black - glad I wore my wedding ring in the water and missed that memo! So far it looks ok - it may just affect silver and mine is palladium. If it gets in your eyes it could also blind you, and obviously any open cuts hurt like a mother. Good times! The water, through, is apparently the densest in the world in terms of mineral content so hopefully it did good things to my skin.
After we'd had our fill of floating around we headed a bit further up to dig into the shallow waters for clay. We then caked ourselves
in it - again for therapeutic purposes. It became a competition to find the darkest, most mineral rich clay and we all ended up with at least three layers as we got jealous of people's darker clay. The plan was then to walk back up and let it dry and clear our pores, etc. before we showered all of the nastiness off in the warm, sulphuric showers.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the hotel pool overlooking the Dead Sea - incredible views are legit everywhere. It was great to actually be able to relax and I'm so happy there is a good amount of down time built into the performance and rehearsal time, plus tourism of course. At 3:30 we headed over to the auditorium for a 2-hour rehearsal which went ok and then headed to another smorgasbord of brisket, gefilte fish, you name it!
Next up is our 9pm performance! Wish us luck!
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