Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Anniversary Tour--Jerusalem

Today is the official one year anniversary of this blog. Thank you for reading.

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I must admit that I was both surprised and impressed that my Gone Gaming friends actually made it to Israel at this time of distress. It was nice to see friendly faces from abroad.

Tactfully, we avoided talking about the situation and politics. I took them for a visit to some of the main sites of Jerusalem: the open air markets, the beautiful buildings, churches, mosques, and museums, and of course the old city and the Western Wall. I got a passing boy to take a picture of us in one of the tunnels near the Western Wall:

After that we started walking back to my place to play some games.

To get to my house from the old city, you have to pass some interesting areas. Here are some things we saw on the way:

Right outside the Western Wall plaza, we stopped to observe a commotion. There were dozens of Arabs trying to load three camels with different types of goods. I couldn't see in the bags, but the bags had printing on them, so I discovered that they were tobacco and coffee, and also some corn, sugar, and some sort of barrels of ink. The guys were trying to load them onto these three camels, but not all of them would fit. And the camel drivers were arguing that they could only take one type of good, and only as much as would fit onto the camel's backs (some camels looked stronger than others). There was a lot of muttering, and one guy said that he was going to go get his own camel. DW was disgusted with the whole affair, for some reason.

A little further down the road, we came upon some electric workers trying to install new power poles. Jerusalem originally ran off of small generators, and then as those generators got worn out, the electric company needed to buy larger and cleaner generators. Rising fuel prices and shortages also dictated what type of power generation was appropriate for that year's work. Shannon seemed intrigued.

Eventually we came to Sultan's Pool. Sultan's Pool often has big fairs of arts and crafts, and today was no exception. Major arthouses each try to provide the nicest facilities, services, and amenities so that local artists want to work for them in this type of public atmosphere. It gives them prestige, I guess, and they can also sell off the paintings and sculptures when the artists are finished. Fraser and Melissa bought some pretty stuff for their kids.

Also around Sultan's Pool was a large concession area. Some big fat important person was traveling around from stand to stand eating things. Everyone wanted to look at him, but no one had the guts to actually go into a stand while he was in it. They always waited for him to leave a stand first, before they went in. One thing about the concession stands is that the larger your group, the faster you got served. If there were three or four groups in front of you, you might as well go somewhere else. Joe tried to squeeze past some of the lines, but that got us all thrown out.

There were also some stands of people selling souvenirs. These are also kind of strange. They take things out of their bags one at a time, waiting to see if anyone wants to buy the lot. If the lot gets too big, they just junk the whole thing and start over. Eventually, after they make enough for one day, they just get up and leave, without selling anything else. Very curious. Brian bought some Armenian looking wooden camels, only to find out that they were made in Alaska.

Although some of us were anxious to get home and play games, we passed by the Cinematec. Some of us were tired and wanted to see a movie, so we watched some long fantasy trilogy; I forget which.

After the Cinametec you pass the old Railway station. We saw a lot of workers laying tracks around in preparation for the new train line to Tel Aviv. As they lay tracks, they would roll barrels of stuff back and forth on them to each other. Some were obviously better track layers than other, while some were better at moving the barrels. There were also guys in charge of bringing out new barrels and dumping them, seemingly at random, at each work station. Mary wanted to keep watching the foreman and we had to drag her away.

Just a little detour brought us to the Emek Refaim market. It's a lovely place with home grown and cooked foods, local artist's goods, and tables full of spices. It's funny to watch some people shop. There was this one guy who tried to buy some spices, only to discover that he didn't have a bag to put them in. So he put back the spices and went to buy a bag, only to find that he didn't have any money! He went home to get money, bought a bag and put a spice in it. He wanted to buy more, but he didn't know how to carry it! So he went home again, brought his son, stood his son on the side, and every time he bought more spices, he would put it in a bag and hand it to his son. Very amusing to watch. I wasn't interested in shopping for spices, however.

The market itself is rather interesting. It started out as some small stands, and then paths grew and it spread out to make more stands. Meanwhile, the new stands got bigger, pulling in more income. But the customers can be capritious. Some days they will keep hitting the same stands over and over, ignoring the bigger stands. Other times they will spread out equally. And there are always soldiers walking around.

Finally we walked along Derech Hebron. Derech Hebron always has new stores popping up. Investors are always looking for stores to invest in with their limited resources, so when stores open up, they try to buy shares in the store. Anyone with a simple majority earns all the revenue from the store - so they invest enough, but not too much. This leave them vulnerable to other people suddenly getting more shares then they have. Israeli laws prevents direct investment in a company that others already own, but people get around it by buying neighboring stores and then merging them together. After the businesses close, the investors go and count their money and start all over again.

Well, it was a long walk, but we made it home. Then we played some games, but I forget which. That night we went back to the airport and flew to Mary's house in South Dakota.



GrillTech said...

You should have taken the Harley.

Gerald McD said...

So, will there be some tour tee-shirts available, when this is all finished?

This is fun. Looking forward to the rest of it.