Not every morning I say this sentence to myself (what could that something be on an ordinary day, a nicer than usually uni cafeteria menu?) but in Israel, I did. I mean, the days when I had to spend the time just by myself and not with my couchsurfers.
The day I went to Haifa, for instance, didn’t bring much, I admit. I hoped to meet some travellers by change yet that chance was, apparently, very slim. It was, without a doubt, a
lovely city nonetheless. Besides, in Haifa I’ve had one of the most absurd “dialogues” even I myself could think of: after taking three different city buses, I was walking, trying to find the beach, and – finally! – an extremely good-looking ice-cream seller gave me some directions. I turned to the street that I thought led to the beach, started walking, but then noticed something that looked like an entrance to…something, with a couple of metal detectors and people, naturally, standing next to them. It was then when this absurd “conversation” happened: “Excuse me, is this the way to the beach?” [a pause that then felt like an hour] “This is a hospital.” “With a small injury,” I thought, “it could be”.
Despite my effort to find the beach in a beach city, the day wasn’t so eventful. Yet I have a couple that were that I want to tell you about.
So, I was wondering the streets of Old Jerusalem thinking I have maaaany more hours ahead before I head back to my couchsurfer’s place. I stepped into a tiny street on the way to the Lion’s Gate when I heard someone ask, “Excuse me, are you looking for something?” “Not really, I thought this was a really tiny street, that’s all”, I said. “Actually, it’s an entrance to someone’s house”, the guy said, and then another voice added, “This would be my house. Can I invite you for a coffee? It’s a traditional thing here, to invite people for coffee”. And then, the second time that day, actually (the first one was having some coffee with an old Palestinian man in his furniture repair shop), I thought, why not to do this, I don’t have any other plans for the day anyway. “Yes, of course” I replied with measured enthusiasm, having no idea to what an awesome day this reply would take me.
After multiple coffees in his cosy gallery, talking about life, travels, politics, and…everything, we continued those chats in his house, on a terrace facing the old city as well as a part of the West Bank wall, where we spent hours smoking and discussing, among other things, what has gone wrong in the development of the global human consciousness that we live in a world where walls like the one we were seeing exist till this day. Later – Mount of Olives, other places, and finally, some drinks in a bar, continuing the topics that, for us, seemed to have no end. Nothing of that would have happened if I had shyly refused his kind invitation and passed his gallery pretending I’m in a rush.
My last day in Tel Aviv – and Israel in general – had a pretty different scenario, yet it was the same matter of chance how that scenario came to be. After, maybe, an hour of walking to the beach, I finally reached it, and was ready to spend at least half my day there, just trying to get some tan (I know, that would sound ridiculous but for the fact that I actually succeeded! Or my friends home were lying to me very convincingly). I took off my shoes, put on a “no-one will see me, it’s OK” jumper on, and started walking on the shore, just me and my bigger-than-ordinary backpack. I swear, less than a minute later, a man with his cure dog comes up to me and says “hi”. What do I do? I respond, of course, with a friendly “hi”, too. We start chatting and walking together, then a coffee invitation comes, and, well, you can guess my answer by now. What that answer led to was spending all my time before my flight together, which included going to Jaffa (another city right by Tel Aviv, or, as I was guessing, “a part of Tel Aviv?”) and even playing pool with his friend in his place (yes, a very geographically-sensitive activity that was). That morning, I was racking my brain, thinking what I would do during all those hours I had in Tel Aviv. Some hours later, I was in a convertible, on the way to an ancient port city. A simple “no, thanks” would have made my day very different – I don’t know what it would have been but I have strong doubts it would have turned out to be so cool.
A summary of sorts? Maybe that’s one of the greatest things that travelling entails: simply not knowing what the day will bring. Obviously, it’s not always that nice. But when it is, it feels wonderful to know you didn’t miss it.