May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From Jordan to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,

Zombie hates doing his laundry

October 31—Tristan dressed as a zombie, and was a terrible sight.  J  I enjoyed teaching the large class at the end of the day, and I’m happy that Ryugi seemed pleased with their progress.  I learned so much about the Palestinian/Israeli rift from Ryugi.  Among many things, there are kids who will answer the question, “Where are you from?” with, “I was born and live in Jordan, but I’m Palestinian.” 
Though they have never been to Palestine, they know where their tribe village is and long to return.  This longing has been passed down a few generations now.  I can’t get my mind around the depth of the resentment they feel for having to flee.  Ryugi says that if they all go back at the same time, there won’t be enough room or economic support for them.  And then what will the Jews do when suddenly they are outnumbered and can’t make the country live by the laws of Judaism?  In his position, bringing in a guest dance teacher from Israel would be taken much more as a (hateful) symbolic gesture than a simple act of broadening dance education.  However his colleagues don’t have to worry about issues of sexual harassment, sexual orientation, or the kinds of suits we base policy around because we fear them, as these aren’t part of their culture.  I finally fell asleep after a horror flick on TV.
Les makes dinner

Amatai's kitchen window

Our couches

November 1—Early morning took us to bustling Tel Aviv.  We woke up our host and set up the couches so they were comfy, then went out on the town.  On the train there were soldiers with machine guns; that was shocking.  Amitai’s kitchen view is stunning.  It’s like you’re standing out in the open up high on the 4th floor.  

 His cat is named Shatuli, which is an Israeli phrase, “Somebody drank my…” You fill in the blank with whatever was yours that was taken: “Somebody drank my beer.”  “Somebody drank my wallet.”  Somebody drank my lover.”  Les and I would address the cat, “Hi, Somebody Drank My Stuff,” who was friendly and adorable.  One highlight was hanging out in the dog park watching the action and getting some pets in.

Somebody Drank My Stuff

first synagog in Jaffa
November 2—We rushed to Jaffa, where we took a free walking tour.  It was wonderful to see the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.  We looked at the flea market, the restaurants, the museums, artist’s studios, holy places and the views.

Jaffa with Tel Aviv in the back

artist studios

Door handles

One of the galleries was one of Ilana Goor’s.  It was her home, and the kitchen had a huge window that let gorgeous lighting into the big space that used to be a soap-making place.  She used found stuff in her work, and displayed other artist’s work.  We learned about how the Arabs and Jews do and don’t live together well, and about some of the history that made Jaffa thrive and then destroyed.  The US is quite a different land in that it hasn’t been built and pummeled over and over again like all the places we’ve visited on this trip.   
Israeli Dance

We had an overpriced lunch and dinner and wandered around until it was time to see an Israeli national dance and song troupe.  Our guide had told us about this when we asked if she knew any edgy theater or dance.  It was far from edgy; the best thing about it was that the audience sang along to the songs in between the dance acts.  The folks next to Les also waived their arms and clapped throughout the show.  Also, there was a mysterious black bag on stage in the shape of a body curled up.  We
didn't stay long enough to see what it held, but I hope it wasn't a person, as they had to lie there motionless for the entire first act!  We took an expensive cab back, because we couldn’t figure out how to take the bus back, then we read edgy comic books until we fell asleep (Amitai is an artist for graphic novels too).

Names of graffiti artists

November 3—We went to a graffiti artist’s exhibition after a nice cup of coffee with Amitai and a drill of an emergency alarm for the entire city, where the emergency crews go to some location where actors look like victims and they have to deal with the emergency.  The sirens were scary.  Amitai told us about the work he has done to try to get housing for poor people.  They have cracked down on squatters, and have removed people who are sleeping on the streets.  He organizes demonstrations and attends gatherings of activists to try to make Tel Aviv a better place for all people.  He sees the plight of the Palestinians, and works to make communication and living better for everyone, no matter their religious background.  I admire his chutzpa and tenacity.  So this exhibition of street art was special in that the gallery gave over its walls to these artists to make work.  I enjoyed the range of art, and seeing the themes with which these people work.   
If I give up my arms will you teach me?
Then we made our way through the cinema, through the dog park, through the bazaar, to the Suzanne Dallal Dance center where one of my favorite dance companies lives—Batsheva.  They were not performing, so we bought tickets to a showing of local choreographers.  I loved the movement styles of the dancers.  I had never seen that kind of tension that held the knee straight while the upper body rippled.  The dancers were unique, the music was sound that drifted in an out or was generated by a mic on the stage with reverb.  The second dancer used her fluffy curly red hair to full advantage as she displayed a huge range of delicacy and strength with her head shaking, several dynamic front handsprings landing on feet and butt, and tiny little screams as she poked her own belly and looked sideways.  I was dreaming in and out of the third dance with a live musician and three dancers.
November 4th takes us to Jerusalem!  After having a shockshuka sandwich (tomato sauce and egg in a sandwich with hummus, tahini, parsley, eggplant, chili, pickles, tomato, cucumber and one ball of falafel), we caught the bus to the bus station; it is in a mall.  Any time you go into a mall, there are guards there looking for weapons.  He opened both my packs, but couldn’t get very far in my huge pack.  The bus to Jerusalem leaves every 15 minutes, and the bus was full.  The taxi took us to the home of Itiel and Liron and their little dog Koshi.  Liron took us to the corner-gathering place and we had coffee.  Suddenly it was packed, and they sang happy 60th birthday (including a big celebration cake) to a local guy.  Downstairs is a gallery; locals bring in soup or desserts for the place to sell. 
Then we made our way to the local Friday market for some bread, hummus, cheese and fruit until the official Jews came with horns to close down the merchants who were dragging their feet, because it was Shabbat.  

 Every business (including transportation) must close for Friday night until Saturday night.  The frenzy was exciting as we headed back to munch on some bread, hummus, olives and dates.  Our hosts were very helpful and gave us flowery tea as we worked on the computers.  Neighbors gathered outside our door (very crowded neighborhood—I like it) to talk into the night.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jordan History and Scenery

October 24—We took the Royal Jordanian plane to Amman and were surprised to have to buy a visa.  Ryuji, the dance teacher at the King’s Academy, arranged for a 30 minute ride to the school and a lovely room in their guest house.   

From Our Guesthouse Porch
We were treated royally, had a lovely lunch with Tristan (Theater and Philosophy teacher) and his advisees, and actually got to see their assembly that featured General Tommy Frank and a surprise visitor.   

Though his speech seemed a bit disorganized, he was generous and humble in answering the students’ difficult questions.  It was fantastic to have been privy to that interaction.  The students seem happy, motivated and smart.  

 Ryuji gave us a tour and introduction to the school.  They are committed to helping their students get into US colleges, and honoring Jordanian culture and language while emphasizing what students from ALL around the world can bring.  It’s about 5 years old, growing from His Royal Highness’s experience at Deerfield School in Massachusetts.  I was thrilled to lead a warm up for his first dance class of 2 girls and 1 boy, then watched them perform what they did for parents’ days and work on a structure for choreography.  I re-tweaked my sprained ankle, but stopped before it got bad.  After a scrumptious dinner I was able to witness Ryugi and his students in a technique class.  It was great to get to know the school better through the interactions and passions of these classes.  Up late!
October 25—I loved going to Tristan’s class.  The students were working on scenes and I was offered the opportunity to give some advise about the physical aspects of their performance.   

The Promised Land

Later, Tristan took us into Madaba to see a large map in mosaic form on the floor of a church, and when we came back out, he was being interviewed for Spanish television about the relations between Arabian and US people, the ways of the culture in Jordan from his point of view, and how things could be better depending on the development of more tolerant and diverse views.  He was eloquent, passionate and wise.  I was impressed.  Then he took us to the mountain where Moses saw and was given the promised land.  There is a church here, and there is information that supports the Christian and Muslim religions, but nowhere was there any mention of the Jews.  I was confused until I understood how many Palestinians are in Jordan.  
I love this photo of a cobbler and son; there's so much in it!
I had another minor incident with a young boy who was sweet and silly, I smiled and laughed then as I turned away, he slapped me pretty hard on the arm.  Tristan gave him a little verbal warning.

Dancers at post concert discussion
Ryuji took us to a dance concert dress of an Italian man named Nicola.  The movement was sinewy and serpentine and was titled, “Protest.”  He and his dancing partner went from vibratory vocabulary through the successional/glide-y scale, into a salsa section and a little partnering.  There was a post showing discussion about the meaning of the title and how the body expresses itself in Arabic and English and back again.  Then we ate a traditional dish for dinner that you eat by scooping the food with bread.  Doing laundry in a machine was a highlight.

Ryuji, Tristan and Students

October 26, Les and I went to the prop study class.  They were in duets with an item that they were to develop ways to show this item as something that it wasn’t, without referring to it as the new “thing:” pot as helmet, whisk as umbrella, box as toilet, vines used for whip and prison bars, mic stand as guitar, tea pot lid as hockey puck.  It was a ninth grade class, and they responded well to Tristan and Ryuji’s insightful comments. 

Master Class with Nicola
 I taught a little introduction to contact improvisation before Nicola came to teach a nice master class, then we were whisked away to the finest restaurant in Jordan!  This restaurant was an old home of stone converted to a nice place with a grotto-like garden and male waiters bringing amazing treats to the table.  I loved the lemon-mint drink too. 

"Best Restaurant in Jordan"

Men who made coffee for us along the road
October 27—Les went to class while I packed.  Ryuji arranged a rental car. (OMG driving with signs in Arabic! Crazy driving!) But it wasn’t as bad as all that.  There was one tense time when a bunch of us slammed on the breaks on the sand/heat/wind-glazed road and the guy behind me fishtailed quite a bit.  Yeeee.

Tomato Truck.  FANCY!
Another really amazing image was passing this small pick up truck, and in the back was not a dog, but a CAMEL!  The animal looked like it had been poured into the bed, as it took up all the space, and the dude was casually looking about as it motored down the highway looking toward the back.  Hilarious and so charming! 

 We drove around Wadi Musa by Petra, settled and went on the “Petra by Night” tour.  It was so beautiful to walk the long road down down down to the spectacular treasury by luminaries.  Looking up through the small crack at the starry sky and wondering what features were in the rocks behind the darkness was as stimulating as the music at the treasury (an elaborate façade and building dug into a cliff) and the tea that they served us on long carpets on the sandy ground.  We walked back and bought some hummus and fresh pita that was falling hot and fresh, one by one, from the ceiling in front of the guy bagging the bread.  
Theater in Petra
Treasury carved out of a cliff
Tombs inside the door
October 28—Petra day.  We walked the same route as last night, but able to see more features in the rocks.  They built support for clay pipes that ran the length of the trail to bring water.  I tried to imagine the vegetation being lush at the time of all this activity, and people from all over the continent and from Africa trading and storing things here.   
Camel race!
The valley opened up and all around us were carvings for honoring those in the tombs inside.  They were at ground level and also very high up the mountain; some were ornate and others were holes with borders around.  We walked through those who wanted to sell us things, give us rides, and feed us to the amphitheater that was expanded (removing tombs) and restyled by the Romans when they came.  We climbed a hill and were able to see the city (ruined by earthquakes) in one eyeful.  
The largest part of Petra at a glance (See the video, it's better)
Putting back the puzzle pieces of the floor
There, there were men restoring a chapel mosaic floor.  It was intricate work, with the original artistry that had humor, detailed shading in technique, and a sense of what animals were here and what people did.  Beautiful and awesome.  
Ancient and new

Our campsite
Inside the tent
 Then, since we forgot to bring the phone, and we thought we had lost the phone numbers for the next leg of our trip, we went back to our hotel to look for the map where we had the numbers.  He even helped us look through the dumpster a bit before we found it in my bag!  UGH.  So we called Alena, who has a Deerfield connection (King’s Academy), and who has a business of taking clients into the Wadi Rum desert.   
Heating water for tea on the fire (inside)
Milad in the kitchen: good food
see the face of Prince Abdullah on the rock to the left?
We arrived before dark by jeep at a nice steep canyon where they had Bedouin-style tents where we would sleep (because it was too windy to sleep on the dune), drink tea and eat dinner from one large platter on the floor.  Alena held a wealth of information and immediately we felt a bond over wanting to understand the ways of other people.  She explained that the little boys who turned violent were in a way punishing themselves for talking to a woman.  They had overstepped the taboo of their culture by engaging me in a flirtatious encounter.  I should have remained aloof so that their fantasies about loose Western women weren’t reinforced.  She also shined a light historical and cultural aspects of the area as we stood in the sand looking up at falling stars and bright Jupiter rising.
Alena at breakfast

Look hard for petroglyph at top
October 29—We rose to the whoops of tourists passing by.  A little later camels passed on their way to their “office,” and then a nice breakfast before we jumped in the back of the jeep and softly swept through the desert to beautiful outlooks, bright petroglyphs of camels, goats, men with spears or crooks, caravans and faces, and the place where camels are for rent.

(There are small carvings of Prince Abdullah and Lawrence of Arabia at our campsite.)  My goal for the day was to feel a camel’s foot because of my curiosity when seeing them walk. 

A foot looks like a hoof, but maybe has toes and appears so soft on the bottom.  I got my wish, and finally one camel let me palpate his foot to discover knuckles and toenails (2) and bones on top of a sole that felt like a leather slipper bottom—smooth as can be.  

 One camel was enamored with Les and nibbled on his ear, flirted with air kisses and even grabbed his hat!  She was a beauty.  I thought Alena was fantastic with everything; she negotiated things we wanted to do, took opportunities to show us differences we may have overlooked, and shared stories of her own years with a boarding school. 
It would be great to get a group of climbers interested in (traditional climbing) first ascents.  It would be a magnificent climbing area.  Or, maybe she could gather stargazers together—especially for a meteor shower.
Bedouin home along the road

October 30—Back at the school, it took me forever to put together a movie for this blog, and somehow Les’s camera lost some pretty amazing photos including the camel in the truck and of his weird chance meeting with a student from St. Marks who now works here in admissions.  I’ve been working with contact improvisation with the trio class, which has been a beautiful sight.  I can see how they relax out of the outside eye, and into the sensation of the form.  They transform from fearful and tight to expansive and liquid.  They remind me of our students in how trusting and willing they are to learn something so foreign.  Sweet!
Things I want to remember:
·      The scent of the jasmine around the dining hall entrance reminding me to inhale.
·      The way the students trusted and relaxed into learning a foreign dance style.
·      The camel filling the back of the small pick-up truck riding on the highway.
·      The assembly at the school with high-powered politicians and world leaders.
·      The silence of the desert as we looked out over the expanse.
·      The smooth slide-y sensation of the jeep wheels on the soft sand with camel’s paddy prints.

His Majesty's picture is EVERYwhere

Now, we leave for Israel....
Fancy Dress!