Ketchup Blog Part III


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Middle East » Jordan » South » Aqaba
May 11th 2016
Published: May 11th 2016
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Trip to Tel Aviv

This was quite a spontaneous trip but I love spontaneity! In fact applying to become a Divemaster in Tenerife was purely spur of the moment. As after watching a documentary about SCUBA diving and having an urge to live, work and travel abroad for a lengthy amount of time I applied that same evening to Tenerife Divemaster Academy and paid for it using money I would have easily pissed away on a 2 month trip to South America or something.

I received a message from an old friend who I used to be really close with in my teens as she lived on the same street as me in Liverpool. Rachael is her name and she told me on Facebook that she was going to Tel Aviv for a weekend break in the middle of February. I told her that I was actually planning on visiting at the end of the month because that’s when my visa in Jordan expires and I have to go to the Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv as there is not an Embassy in Eilat which is so close to Aqaba.

Rachael was travelling with her friend Billie from London who she has been travelling with in the past to China most recently. So both of the girls would arrive on Thursday 11th February 2016 and I asked Mohamed if I could go then and come back on Sunday evening. Mohamed is a good guy and I think he thought I needed a break from Aqaba so he told me ‘no problem my friend’. The three of us made a Facebook group which is called BAR as it is our initials combined so that we could keep in touch more easily. The girls were originally going to stay with a friend called Sophia who they knew from China travels but Sophia messaged them and said that she can no longer accommodate them. This was a few days before they were due to arrive so I decided to ask Pavel who is my host from couchsurfing.com, if he could accommodate 2 extra people who were girls. I mentioned girls as he might be more lenient on the idea of 2 girls staying that 2 extra lads. He told me that it was no problem at all! I was to find out that Pavel is a legend and this was the first step in that direction. I messaged the girls and they were overjoyed.

On Wednesday it was about time to pack as I was leaving the next morning. I needed to wash all my clothes so I didn’t actually pack until the morning when they were all (mostly) dry. My towel on Thursday morning was not dry however so I let it chill in the sun for half an hour whilst I got my shit together and ate some Crunchy Nut and Coco Pops. At about 9pm Mohamed was leaving the house to go to the dive centre so he gave me a lift to the border. I said my goodbyes to Mohamed who I wouldn’t see until Monday evening. Jumping out the van I found a bench outside the border which I decided I would take out all of my semi-dry clothes and soaking LFC towel. I laid out my towel and literally just played with the sand making patterns for about an hour until it was acceptable to place inside my suitcase.

This was the part of the journey which I wasn’t too optimistic about. The border cross from Jordan into Israel. For those of you who don’t know I was stopped in December from crossing the border to Israel for 5 hours because they thought I was suspicious. Mainly because I didn’t tell them I work in Jordan because if I told them then they wouldn’t let me in the country, well at least that’s what Mohamed told me could happen. I approached the border gate and was asked to flash my passport, I did and I was told I have to pay a tax for crossing the border which was 50 JD (£50). This is new, I never had to do this in December when crossing the border to Israel. So I decided I would try to casually walk past the booth where I was told to pay and straight to the edge of the country where I would have to cross the de-militarised zone into Israel. I smiled to tall hench Jordanian at the gate who said that I needed to pay the toll. I said to him that it was in there but and to check the database inside on his computer. He went in and was scrolling through the various pages. His back was to me so I decided to quickly pick up my suitcase as to make no noise from the noisy wheels and just walk on through to Israel. He stopped me by shouting something in Arabic and pointing his rifle towards me. I gave him the finger and continued. Just for those of you who don’t realise by now I did in fact by the fee after I was told to by the tall hench Jordanian. I did not ask him to check the database.

After crossing the 200 metre Rhineland I arrived at the border control and pondered how long I would be here for. I showed them my passport with a smile. After the woman at the gate studied my passport she looked at me and I realised you can’t smile in passport photos so I stopped smiling at her and looked gormlessly into her wide sunglasses. She began asking me questions after flicking through my many stamps from Jordan of constantly renewing my visa. She asked me what I was doing in Jordan and I told her I was working there. These are some of the questions and replies that were exchanged at the border.

‘’Why did you choose to work in Jordan’’
‘’Because the Red Sea is one of the best places in the world to dive!’’
‘’Why didn’t you choose to dive in a different country by the Red Sea’’
‘’Because Jordan was the only place to offer me a job’’
‘’Who do you work for?’’
‘’Mohamed Qatawneh at Aqaba International Dive Center’’ (Center is spelt like that in Jordan, damn American influence)
‘’Who do you live with in Liverpool?’’
‘’I live with my mum’’
‘’What was your job in Liverpool?’’
‘’I worked as a Tour Guide in Anfield which is the stadium for Liverpool Football Club’’
‘’What do you mean a tour guide? What did you do?’’
‘’Tourists who wanted to see the stadium would pay to come on a tour and I would show them the changing rooms, Press and media room, the pitch… Stuff like that’’
(I shit you not this is what she said next)
‘’Give me an example of what you would say on a tour at the beginning’’
I cast my mind back to when I was working at LFC in the good old day before the tour route changed to accommodate the expanding of the main stand. ‘’The first room we would take people inside was the Legends lounge so I would point out various players like Ian Callaghan who has played 857 games for Liverpool being the most for anyone at the club’’
‘’How long would you work there for?’’
‘’Typically from 09:00 until 17:00, but it depends how busy we were with the tourists’’

These types of questions ping ponged back and forth for about 30 minutes until I was told to go and sit down and wait in a holding area. I did just that and not long after another woman arrived who asked me further questions mainly about when I was in Eilat in December and I made sure to mention that I couldn’t dive because I got held at the border for 5 hours and that really took up a lot of my limited time. After I said that she seemed to feel bad for me and after a further 15 minutes or so I was told to continue through the border to security control to scan my bags. I made it! I never thought it would take around an hour altogether. I was convinced that I would have to be there for at least 2-3 hours. Happy days!

After making my way to the bus station it was time for the 5 hour bus journey to Tel Aviv baby! Needless to say I was super fucking excited to go and visit a big city after spending 5 months in Aqaba which although I would now consider my home and I’m comfortable there, I became a Divemaster to travel the world and so far I’ve only seen Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba and Eilat in Israel in this part of the world.

During the journey I was passing in and out of consciousness as long bus journeys tend to rock me to sleep. I woke up after a few hours and noticed the land outside my window was lush with green green grass! This may not be a big deal for anyone reading but fuck me it was I was really ecstatic to see the leafy green blades stretching to the horizon. Aqaba is surrounded by desert and so sand is the usual scenery that one would see which can have its beauty but seeing this much grass reminded me of the country I’m from and gave me the feels of warm and fuzziness.

Upon the bus pulling up in Tel Aviv Central Bus Station I immediately headed through security to find the train station as according to Pavel was very close to his apartment. The train station was a short walk from the train station. I was shown in the right direction from locals who to be surprise hardly any of them spoke English. I supposed I am spoiled by the fact most people speak English but I was so used to it. I had to resort to sign language of a train station which if any of you have ever danced to ‘Rolling on the River’ by Tina Turner then you know exactly what I did.

The train also had Wi-Fi so I was able to keep in contact with Pavel and ask him where I could meet him. He told me in his apartment would be ok as he was home and to make sure I exited from the east exit. I did just that and checked my phone to find 2 missed messages from the BAR group, it was from Rachael saying that they were at Savidor train station but they both didn’t know where to go from there. I stood close to the train station to get some internet and told them to exit the east exit as I was there.

I haven’t seen Rachael in a long time so it was really great to meet up again and see what she was up to these days. She told me that she would be finishing her all her studies this year in May and that she was free from then and wants to travel. I invited her and Billie to Aqaba whenever they can and they both seemed pleased!

But idle chit chat wasn’t going to get us anywhere. We had to find Pavel’s pad. We started to walk and actually ended up going the complete wrong direction for about 30 minutes but at least we saw some of the city! After realised how lost we were we asked 2 passers by on where we are and we told them where we needed to go which was Ramat Gan. The couple looked at us in shock and said.

‘’Ramat Gan? That’s in a different city’’

Uh oh! How can Ramat Gan be in a different city? I am sure that Pavel said he lives in Tel Aviv. We just sucked it up and said to them where do we need to go to get there and they pointed in a direction and we set off again.

Further time passed and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it but eventually we did although I’m not sure how! It turns out Pavel lives in the tallest tower in Tel Aviv which would have been much easier if he just told us that because it turns out Ramat Gan isn’t in a different city it’s in Tel Aviv but I think they meant to say it was a different area than the one we were in. We found this a common theme in Tel Aviv. Whenever we would ask an Israeli where our apartment was if we were out in the city centre they would all say ‘oh my god! That’s a different city! It’s so far!’

Pavel lives on the 59th floor (I won’t say the apartment number for all you stalkers) but it was a really great view over the city or cities if you’re Israeli. Pavel immediately gave us all a beer and said to drink. I wasn’t complaining and the drinks were pouring! Pavel converted an old mini fridge into an awesome beer dispending machine which keeps the beer cold from the tap. He makes his own beer from scratch and ermahgerd it was delicious. He started to make it about 3 years ago after Israel started to charge more money on any alcohol sold in shops. Pavel had 5 friends who were also brewing at the time in their houses so he had help. He calls them his 5 advisors as they all told him different ways he can make it and they also helped him with his first few batches. We also had some gifts to Pavel which was a small 3D printed couch made by Billie as she does 3D printing with BAR printed across the seats of it. I also had some 70’s postcards of Jordan that I gave to Billie, Rachael and Pavel.

In his apartment were some of his friends who I think were celebrating a birthday but it wasn’t the person’s birthday until Friday but why not drink beer early? Or why not have two parties! Which is what I assume they were trying to do. Throughout the evening Pavel would say ‘’Hey you are out of beer, can I get you another one?’’. I shoved my glass to him and it came back filled like magic.

After having our fill we hit the town with Sophia and her boyfriend Olly (pronounced like Orry with a rolling of the R’s). We went to a pretty hard-core underground club with strong music blaring through the speakers and filling the dance floor was a swarm of people going wild. Not my sort of place I’m more of an old man when it comes to drinking and prefer the casual setting where we can talk and get to know people whilst drinking a beer that I can comfortably place on a table I am sat next to without fear of spilling it on a dance floor or on somebody else.

MUM DON’T READ THIS PART TO NAN. The girls went to the dance floor after I bought the first round and me and Olly were by the side of the bar trying to talk to one another with the music pumping louder and louder. He made me laugh as he just pulled out a blunt and started smoking it right there and then. Not in the corner of the bar, not in the shadows or even outside. I was shocked and expressed this emotion to him and asked him if he was going to do that here (which he quite clearly was), he said it’s ok. It’s illegal in Israel but if the police come he’ll just throw it on the floor and walk away. I’ve only been in Tel Aviv for a few hours so far and this is my first experience of a club here so I guess I don’t know the rules or customs when it comes to stuff like this. He offered me some but I declined as I don’t do weed. Partly because I don’t do drugs at all really, well especially not in a foreign country in a public place with lots of people but also because I was work as a Divemaster and if for any reason a doctor needs to take my blood if I get poisoned by an unknown fish then he will see what I have been up to and that could have really bad effects on the dive centre and also Mohamed’s opinion on me as a person for doing it.

MUM CONTINUE READING. Afterwards we went to the dancefloor and we all boogied. I never heard of any of the songs playing before. To be honest they weren’t songs, it was just generic electronic music blaring until 3am when we called it a night and the club was starting to close. I don’t really remember the journey home but Olly gave us a lift back.

MUM DON’T READ THIS PART TO NAN. He seemed to be in a fit state to drive and I kind of forgot about the whole spliff thing. I also didn’t see him with a drink so he wasn’t drunk. I think he smokes weed a lot so I thought he must have a high threshold for it meaning the spliff wouldn’t have affected him much. To be honest I’m just chatting bull, I didn’t think about any of these things. Olly offered to take us home and I was too tired to care. I really hope you didn’t slip up mum and that you read this to Nan before she found it on my Facebook wall and read it for herself.

MUM CONTINUE READING. I think we got in at 4am but I wasn’t sure. We were all zombies and we unfolded the couch and crashed out. I was in the middle of Rachael and Billie so I had two girls to spoon which I was quite happy about! As when I spoon for a while I like to turn over but then I can’t spoon that person but having two girls on each side meant I could spoon on both sides!

In the morning I woke up at 7am to the bright sunlight coming in to the whole living room. I got up and closed to blinds to get some extra few hours for the whole BAR crew and slotted back in between the B and R where I belong.

Midday arrived and it was about time we discovered more of the city without getting lost.

This is as far as I wrote and I apologise but I don’t remember anything else about the Tel Aviv visit so my deepest apologies for that!

However we explored the city but most of the time we were lost so we were just kind of ping ponging to great restaurant to another, which are plentiful in Tel Aviv.

I remember speaking about how Aqaba is compared to Tel Aviv. They’re so close to each other but completely different worlds. Tel Aviv is a hip happening city with people smoking weed freely in the streets and generally partying on the beach which was commonplace. The women in Tel Aviv are truly something else though. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not used to seeing women wear shorts anymore or for that matter being actually able to see their hair, but all the women were beautiful. When I say all I mean literally every 4 or 5th woman I saw was unbelievably hot. There must be something in the water.

During the whole trip to Tel Aviv I couldn’t help but think why I didn’t have a job here! Obviously it’s on the Mediterranean coast and not the Red Sea so the quality of the diving wouldn’t be as good but there is not a lot to do/ see besides dive in Aqaba and it seems like there is so much to do in Tel Aviv but not much to do/ see when it comes to diving.

The whole holiday to this marvellous city was basically a good food and good drinking trip, we didn’t have the time or the sense of direction to do many touristy things. The trip back on the bus again I fell asleep but I managed to write down most of this blog above so it wasn’t a wasted journey.


Birthday Party
I spent my birthday in Aqaba! For those of you who aren’t real friends or bad stalkers my birthday was on the 6th March (as it is every year) and I had a BBQ ‘party’ in the dive centre we had some drinks and ate some chicken! There were two Brits who were in the Army and were stationed here for a few weeks to clear up the base. I got a cake and around half of Aqaba turned up. I got lifted up on a chair and nearly fell off and I was swung from side to side.

I suppose a birthday isn’t complete without some embarrassment. Belal gave me the guitar I bought a month earlier and asked me to play what I’ve been learning. Now for those of you who do play an instrument having someone make you play something when you simply aren’t ready and haven’t practiced enough is incredibly daunting, and I had an audience who were expecting something good! I know chords of course but I only really know two songs which are Romanza (fingerstyle) and Half the World Away which I learned when my sister was half the world away working on a cruise ship back in 2011! I have also been learning Come Together by The Beatles (fingerstyle) but I only knew at this point the first 40 seconds of the song. I had a go at playing it without singing of course, I didn’t want to bring all the cats of Aqaba to our Dive Centre.

I can’t really think of anything else that has happened worth noting in the past two months so I’ll leave this blog here!

Sonneday 8th May

Recently I went diving with two British ladies. I was out on lunch on Sunday 8th May and I received a call from Mohamed saying that some customers wanted to see me. I immediately thought the worst and assumed it was going to be bad. I finished my fish and anxiously walked to the center. Sitting in there were two Indian looking girls who were actually from London. One was a dentist and she wanted me to call her Shiv (real name Shivani) which of course is a makeshift knife that are used to ‘Shiv’ people in prison. She didn’t look like the type of person to be in prison, but you know what they say ‘’don’t judge a book by its cover’’. I later asked her if she knew what Shiv meant in prison talk and she didn’t… Southerners are so different to us northerners. Shiv however did judge me as soon as I met her. She told me in the evening when we went out that when, and I quote ‘’I rocked up to the dive centre all tall and with sunglasses in my hair, I looked really stuck up and arrogant’’. Bear in mind I hadn’t spoken a word to either of them at this point but already she thought I was an asshole. When she told me this later on in the evening I laughed it off but secretly I was fuming and I had to get her back somehow… But more on that later. Sonali who was the friend of Shiv was a bit friendlier and didn’t judge me before I’ve opened my mouth. Sonali wanted me to call her Son – pronounced ‘Sonne’ however because it would be spelled Son on my blog I won’t write it as it would confuse the reader, who may think I have a son, I’ll refer to Son (Sonne) as Sonali. Sonali had dived once before around 10 years ago in Egypt, but Shiv had never dived before. They were both a little nervous, as to be expected. But I assured them everything would be ok and they have nothing to be concerned about and of course that they will love it!

They were travelling all over Jordan and were staying in Aqaba until Tuesday morning. I asked them what they were doing in the evening and they said they didn’t know where to go so I asked them if they wanted to go out tonight to a bar. Shiv was hoping for a nightclub with dancing but she didn’t realise that she was in Aqaba, the home of the casual night out. Sonali was a bit more laid back and easy going like me so wasn’t too fussed where we were going. I decided to take them to a new bar which opened and if any of you have read my previous blogs it’s in between Mike’s Bar and Rovers Return. The bar was on top of the Chinese restaurant and it’s called Formosa Bar, it has a nice lounge balcony area and a pool table!

We met at the dive centre at 20:30 and we then left to the bar and got a drink! Sonali had a Gin & Tonic, Shiv had a Diet Coke and Vodka, I had a Sex on the Beach. We just chatted, drank for a few hours about a whole manner of subjects.

I mentioned before about somehow getting Shiv back and it was with playing pool. This was around 22:00 and I could see that Shiv was getting sleepy. So I grabbed my beer (I didn’t really have a Sex on the Beach) and we went inside to play. I wanted to beat her because she thought I was arrogant! Which now that I think about it is a bit arrogant in itself. I regretted challenging her though, as Sonali and Shiv were the only two women in the bar and all the rest were men, therefore of course nobody was supporting me, they were supporting Shiv. Cheering after every shot, giving her hints and tips on which ball to hit next and generally dancing on the tables whenever she would pot a ball. I on the other hand didn’t have any supporters. I tried to get Sonali to cheer for me but she would forget to and after a few minutes was back to supporting her girl Shiv.

I had the tide against me but Shiv managed to pot the black ball and by default I won! I would’ve won anyway OFC but the fact that she caused her loss is more satisfying, soz Shiv. We went to bed at a reasonable hour as we were all getting up tomorrow morning for a dive at 09:30.

They were a bit nervous when we arrived at the beach the next day and were asking many questions but I was used to the questions they were asking so it wasn’t much. Their biggest concern was seeing a shark and Shiv was particularly concerned as she said she didn’t like any animals. Which is a bit odd. Sonali was a bit more chilled (or at least appeared to be) but she had dived before so kind of knew what to expect whereas Shiv had not. When I got them both down in to the water Mohamed was just finishing his dive with Mark who was doing a course and he could see that I would have struggled to take both of them down so Mohamed took Shiv and I was then buddied up with Sonali. The dive was probably one of the best introductory dive I have ever done! We saw a massive shoal of Sardines at just around 1-2 metres deep! They surrounded us at 360 degrees which was really quite amazing as they were so close at around half a metre! They’ve never came that close before. There must’ve been thousands of them and we could only see the sandy floor and the surface of the water, everything around us was just a massive dense wall of Sardines, moving in reaction to our slightest movement. I was making sure to ask Sonali if she was ok before we approached the Sardines as there was so many and she may have been a bit overwhelmed by them all but she handled it well giving me the ‘ok’ signals directly after I asked her if she was ok. Sonali loved the dive, Shiv loved the dive with Mo and I loved the dive!

After the dive we were all still in awe of how great that was! We dropped them off at Berenice Tourist Beach Club but organised a rendezvous in the evening to go out and celebrate! We bar hopped from Mike’s bar to Rovers and ended in Formosa Bar on the balcony. We played some drinking games like never have I ever and I found out some interesting things about the both of them! But I better not mention them here and we just enjoyed each other’s company. After the drinks I walked them back to the hotel and said farewell! They were both a good laugh and it was a shame they didn’t stay longer but all good things must come to an end. We said that we will meet up in future either in England or if we all happen to be in the same country then we will do it then!

I also have a new friend living in Aqaba! He works in another dive centre and his name is Rikki. Unfortunately he's from Manchester BUT to redeem himself he has been living in Egypt since he was 14 so he isn't a proper Manc but he does walk around with a Man U bag. He's an instructor and he doesn't know when he'll leave Aqaba like me! We always cook in his apartment together which is a friggin' palace with gold seats and we watch a load of movies. He doesn't watch Game of Thrones but I will get him into it inshallah!

Next blog I’ll probably write next month as I’m going to the Negev desert in Israel to a festival called Miburn with Pavel. I really cannot wait. I’m going to Israel for 10 days in total from 16th until 26th May and it’s going to be an adventure!

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Tot: 2.209s; Tpl: 0.102s; cc: 7; qc: 46; dbt: 0.0557s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb