Bus ride banter – Eilat, Israel

The bus left at 1230am and I found myself seated next to a Israeli soldier who was tucking his gun into the handle of the seat in front of him. We chatted for awhile and I discovered he was from a town called Carmel. Haha. I asked him if he knew why the bus driver and some of the surrounding passengers had laughed at me when I said my name was Carmella. He told me this may be because my name is an Iraqi name.

Well, will someone get the story straight! Over the past year I have been told the origin is Italian, Scandinavian, African, Spanish, Hebrew, now Iraqi? I have decided that it is Canadian. At least this one is. Sure you can have a park, a street, town or even a mountain but what is in a name? Would a Carmel by any other name be as sweet? I need not begin quoting our old friend Will.

Anyway, I told buddy that I have never really seen a gun up close like this and he proudly began telling about how much he liked it and the United States for giving it to him. I wasn`t quite sure how to react to that. I had met quite a few Israelis who were resentful of the mandatory service inflicted upon them but clearly there are those who look forward to it with great satisfaction.

Throughout my travels, I have encountered a fair bit of negativity towards my neighbour and this was one of the very few times that I had met someone who seemed to idolize them. Now I generally try to stay neutral in these discussions but I had to ask him to explain to me how a gun could be considered a gift. I tried to imagine tearing open a beautifully wrapped present on my 18th birthday to find an semi-automatic rifle.

“Just a little something from your mother and I. Now you go out and have fun, Pumpkin..and remember shoot first, ask questions later.”

Yeah right, I couldn`t even fathom it. When I was little I wasn`t even allowed to play with waterguns much less Cowboys and Indians. I am not trying to be so altruistic someone told me once that one of the most dangerous things to have is a loaded gun because it is mindnumbing how quickly it can be turned on the owner.

“But its for your own protection.”

In my world, guns belong under the offensive category and shields are under defensive. In my opinion, a gun doesn`t make one more powerful. Just closer to death. Maybe not all gifts are a good thing…maybe a gift is only as good as its giver.

I arrived into southernmost city in Israel, Eilat, 5 hours later and I stumbled off the bus into the still dark morning. I was told that there was a bus that would take me to the border but when I inquired after it I just got the run around. This is very common here. Hard to get the same answer twice and usually they are not very reliable. Seems like they say what you want to hear but when it comes down to it, chances of them coming through is not so likely. Whatever.

I met Jossef and Doren whom I shared a cab with to the border then after going through the exhaustive security process, I was spit out on the other side. It was only 7 am but the sun was already hot and the flies were driving me insane. I started to resent agreeing to hang with the Israelis because no one would tell me what was going on. I just knew that no one seemed to be agreeing to anything.

As far as I could make out, there seemed to be a problem with how much to pay for a cab to Dahab. I was nearly at the end of my rope when finally we were shoved into a minibus van like sardines. I was convinced they would start strapping people onto the roofrack along with the backpacks and duffel bags. We proceeded to wait another 30 mins in the swelling heat for the vans to shift around so our hotbox on wheels could get out of the heap of disorganization. At least we were away from the relentless army of flies. We finally pulled away and it was all I could do to stick my head out the open window like a puppy to get some relief from the stale air inside our vehicle.

I was facinated by how quickly the landscape had changed over such a short time. Massive sandy heaps in every shade of brown, beige and peachy red lined the road. It was like being a miniature in a colossal sandbox abandoned by some giants` toddler who had begun making dirt piles in an attempt to something greater when abruptly being called to lunch. Welcome to Egypt.

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