We Deserve Dessert

One fine sunny day in Malta, we congratulated ourselves on having found a nice lunch restaurant with decent meals at good prices. Buoyed by our responsible frugality, we figured a quick dessert at the nearby coffee shop was most definitely in order. We deserved it.

It was hard to choose between the various assorted pies, pastries and ice creams sumptuously displayed in their counter, but after careful and conservative analysis we wheedled the selection down to our favorites.

Our joy was great. Although perhaps tampered by a first-hand lesson in the law of diminishing returns.

Ship of Fools

While in Northern Cyprus, we stayed in a hostel right next to a harbor.  It was filled with boats taking day trips out to sea for snorkeling and sailing.  They were about 10 boats to choose from, operated by different companies, all of which were foaming at the mouth to rip tourists off.

We picked one, grabbed our towels, suits, and sunscreen and headed out to sea.

When the boat anchored for the first time a group of young Turkish men on board started migrating to the deck.  What happened next is hard to describe, but I will do my best.

The first guy to venture into the water was wearing a life jacket the size of a small life raft.  He walked down the ladder until the water touched his toes and then proceeded to squeal like a little girl.  I couldn’t understand exactly what he was saying but I would have to assume it was something along the lines of “Holy shit, this water is cold. I’m a huge vagina and I look like a total douche bag wearing this ginormous life jacket around my neck.”  He went on for another couple minutes before the next guy decided to go for it.  He stood on the rail of the deck and leapt, smacking into the water with a full belly flop.  No one had a reaction to this except Gabriel, Sylviane, Pascal, and I who in unison winced and said “oooooo.”

Clearly the guy didn’t warn his friends to avoid jumping in like that because three more people, one by one, all jumped into the water, arms stretched wide and legs going limp, like they were jumping onto their fluffy pillow top mattresses.  What was going on here? We were all staring, mouths gaped open in shock at this spectacle.  The kicker for me was when one of them jumped into the water with a lit cigarette in his mouth, only to surface looking legitimately upset that he just lost his smoke.  Meanwhile the first guy in the life jacket is still freaking out on the ladder.

Now, I would say for the most part I am a really nice and non judgmental person.  I don’t like making fun of people and always stick up for someone if they are getting picked on (even if it’s a complete stranger.) So it was just as shocking to me as it was to Gabriel when I turned to him and said “I’ve never seen so many F’ing morons in my life.”

Gabriel then fell over backwards laughing.  I think traveling with three Frenchmen is beginning to rub off on me. Oye…

Gabriel’s Comment [using Vader voice]: Your training is almost complete. Soon, you shall join the French side, and feel the full power of Gallic derision. 😉  Seriously, though, who dives into the sea with a lit cigarette in their mouth? That said, it’s entirely possible they made fun of us as well. Or, more specifically, Sylviane, who immediately after saying “wouldn’t it be funny if I slipped while jumping off this wooden railing” and was warned “be really careful not to slip” by Julia, proceeded to try to stand on the railing, slip, and plummet arms flailing into the water. We suspect she might be part Turk.

The Lone Jew in Jerusalem

When Gabriel brought up the idea of going to Israel on this trip I got super excited.  I’ve been a few times before and was very enthusiastic about returning for the unlimited amount of hummus and Jews.   Gabriel, who has traveled all over the world, had been saving Israel for the perfect opportunity.  Now that he had a miniature sized Jew in tow, the trip was a go!

My original plan while in Jerusalem, was to spend my days casually roaming through the markets, eating everything in sight, and reading on the roof top terrace of our hostel while Gabriel, Pascal, and Sylviane took tours through the old city.  Since I had just done the Birthright trip a few years prior, I didn’t feel the need to do any more toured trips around the area.

I should have known better.  The next thing I knew I had been booked on the “Holy City” tour.  I’m not convinced that I ever actually said yes to doing this, so as far as I was concerned I had been kidnapped by three Catholics.

I awoke the morning of the tour (my second day of the trip) after only having slept a total of 3 hours due to jet lag (this would make a total of 6 hours slept in the last 72 hours).  I felt wrecked.  I tried to make really pathetic whimpering noises in order to get out of it.  No such luck.

When we met up with the group I quickly realized I was the only Jewish person out of 30 people.  We were in Israel for Chrissakes!  Where were all the Jews?!?  Well, at least I knew for sure the guide was a Jew.  His name was Adam Cohen and I was positively certain he had a yarmulke under his baseball cap.  I stayed very close to Adam, feeling it would be best if we stuck together on this one.   He didn’t say so, but I knew he felt the same way.

We started our tour in the Jewish quarter.  While Adam poured his knowledge upon the group, I nodded enthusiastically along with his words, pretending like I obviously already knew all of this (false).  When Gabriel, Sylviane, or Pascal would ask me a question about Judaism, I answered them as any proud Jew in Israel would: I made something up.  Unless you ask me how to make matzo ball soup from the pre-made packaged box or what lox is, I won’t know the answer.

However, the Jewish portion of the trip was quick and before I knew it we were pulling into the Muslim quarter.  I immediately ditched Adam, covertly covered my nose, and whenever Gabriel started to speak in French with his siblings I made sure to throw in some very enthusiastic “Oui’s.”

We finished off the tour in the Christian quarter doing a quick walk through of Jesus’ last steps (this was not included in my Birthright trip.)  There was a deep indentation on one of the walls that Jesus supposedly touched.  Adam said the indentation was from millions of people touching that same spot over time.  Cue the oohs and aahs.  All I could think was “holy germs, I hope people have hand sanitizer on them!”

5 hours of walking later we are standing in front of the Holy Church of something.  I’m beyond exhausted and severely dehydrated.  I’d stopped paying attention to Adam and started to daydream about how much I wanted a bed, air conditioning, and bowl of hummus when apparently my knees gave out and Gabriel caught me mid-fall.   We found a bench to sit on inside of the church to get me out of the sun and heat.  Here is a picture showing the depth of my feelings.

The day was very informative, filled with fascinating  history, and a great opportunity to see how all these religions and traditions intermingle in one small area. Ultimately, the most important lesson I learned from the day:  I need to work on my whining abilities in order to get out of things.

Gabriel’s Comments: Apart from Julia fainting outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (why can’t they call it Holy Tomb so we all know what they’re talking about without Googling and how to spell it??), which the faithful waiting reverently in line clearly thought was Julia overcome with excess religiosity (which I’ve been teasing her about since), my favorite moment was Julia whispering to me in the church that all the monks were glaring at her because they knew she was Jewish. I told her that was nonsense and that they were simply noticing that she was strutting around half naked, and that I’d been ogling her too.

Julia’s Response:  I was NOT half naked.  I had long pants and a tank top on.  I would have happily put on my long sleeve shirt had Adam told us to, but he didn’t warn us!!  Anyways, if you want to talk about “half naked” talk to your sister who walked around the holy city in a tank top and the tiniest little shorts I’ve ever seen.  I have head bands bigger than those shorts.

Sylviane’s Response: Wait, I thought we’d agreed never to discuss this again! It was hot! I didn’t knoooooow!

The Time Has Come Again

The time has come again.

This trip should be really great, because Gabriel’s brother (Pascal) and sister (Sylviane) are joining us.  Three French siblings and a Jew!  It’s gonna be awesome!!   However, I do think it’s necessary to point out a few of my concerns:

1.  I’m slightly concerned that I will have difficulty keeping up with them.  Traveling with three people who can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes is very intimidating to me.   Maybe I’ll just keep them sedated with tranquilizers on a regular basis.  That should put us all on the same playing field of sleeping for 12 hours a day and then doing a very leisurely activity in the afternoon.

2.  We are traveling though the Mediterranean, which coincidentally is where almost every single one of Gabriel’s ex-girlfriends come from.  He loves women with dark hair, olive toned skin, and unique noses (aka huge schnozzes).  Since we are traveling through areas where ALL of the women look like this, I realized I’m really going to have to be on my game in order to keep his eyes on me…Good thing I’m bringing my very best cargo pants AND a moisture-wicking dress.  I should be golden.

3.  My biggest fear of all is Sylviane, her camera, and Facebook.

The first time this happened, I woke up to Facebook emailing me that she had tagged me in a photo.  Panic typically sets in when I get these emails because the odds of looking good in someone else’s photo are not good.  People put up pictures that they look good in and usually don’t notice while everyone else around them is caught in the middle of chewing food, sneezing, blinking, or picking their nose.  So when I got the email that morning, I shot out of bed and ran to my computer to make sure I approved of the photo.

I did not.

Here is why.  It has nothing to do with Sylviane’s photography skills (which are great) and everything to do with a few of my unfortunate genetic traits.  First of all, no one should be allowed to look at me from a profile view, let alone photograph it.  My nose took up half of the picture (thanks for the nose, dad.)  The other half of the picture was occupied by my 25 chins.  This fantastic genetic trait comes from my mom’s side.  Every time I see my mom next to her sisters I start playing with the extra skin under my chin, whining slightly while awaiting my fate.  It apparently doesn’t matter how good a shape you are in: gravity is a bitch on the body.  For me it’s going to make my nose droop down to my chin and my neck fall to my waist.   I’ll have to remember to keep a good pair of cargo pants and a moisture-wicking dress around so at least my clothing will be still be sexy.

The second time she posted a picture of me wasn’t any better.  It was of me sleeping against Gabriel.  My neck was hinged at the weirdest angle and it looked as though my mouth was latched on to his neck like a sucker fish cleaning the side of the aquarium.

We were sitting in a coffee shop with her boyfriend while I explained to her why I untagged myself again from the picture.  She thought it was cute and then turned to her boyfriend to ask what he thought of the photo.  He said “Ohh, it was NBD.”  Literally, he said the letters N, B, and D.  When I didn’t understand him he said it stood for “no big deal.” I told him to stop speaking to me in teenager and use his big boy words.  He hates me.

The point is, I’ve got my eye on you Sylviane!

Gabriel’s Comments: Have I mentioned that you have the most fabulous nose? 😀