Sunday postcard from… the Dead Sea, Israel

Hi there!

You wouldn’t believe how early I had to get up today.

Body lagging, feet dragging, air is heavy, my legs are heavy, mom’s spaghetti. I don’t even know what’s that in reference to. It just pops into my mind and pops right back out, floating away with the multitude of other thoughts I may or may not have had this morning. Or night? It was still dark when we started climbing up Masada, an ancient fortress overlooking the Dead Sea and the sunrise. I couldn’t even enjoy the first light of the day, I felt so hazy and out of it. I just sat on the ground, chewing on a carrot and feeling alone. I didn’t know where the rest of my group was; I only figured out after the second stop at the Ein Gedi nature reserve that the Dutch-looking couple I’d been secretly following was not, in fact, part of our entourage.

I’d been up finishing an urgent translation until 1.30 am the night before and then took a quick 36-minute nap before my cruel alarm tore me back into the world and to this goddamned sunrise tour – a fact that I generously shared with anyone around even though they clearly didn’t care. This will surely be a story that I’ll refer my friends to next time they come cooing up about “my amazing life”. I mean, it is awesome that I’m able to work while travelling. But it also means I need to work while travelling. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies and nights with eight hours of sleep.

By the time our little van pulls up to the Dead Sea, I have caught a few more cat naps (my head banging periodically against the sharp window latch on the van) and feel a lot more alive. Would it be weird to go hang out with the rest of the group this late? I decide I don’t care. I hurry after a group of three, all of whom had only made friends this morning – and would not last any longer than that. Such is the life of a traveller.

We agree to go into the lake taking turns, two people at a time watching everyone’s stuff. I help the American girl get some killer shots of herself floating and stroking mud all over herself. Why am I such a nice person? I am itching to hop in myself but somehow I have volunteered to take the first watch.

Finally, finally, it’s my turn. I can’t even wait until the two bathers have reached the sunchairs, don’t even wait around for the Italian law student that has been boring me with his statistics on apartment prices in Tel Aviv (spoiler alert: expensive) for the past fifteen minutes. I make my way to the edge of the water – gingerly but eagerly.

(Side note, I only recently found out what gingerly actually means – I always thought it meant “enthusiastically”. Now I keep seeing it everywhere and (sub?)consciously inserting it into my own writing.)

At -430 m, the Dead Sea is the lowest point of Earth on land. As you definitely already know, it is way saltier than any regular old lake – with salinity of 33%, which basically means that no life can survive in the water. 

The salt also ensures that anyone becomes buoyant. As Pennywise said: we all float here.

I wade in deeper, wanting the first touch to be perfect and magical but barely containing my excitement. Fine, this’ll do. I’m far enough from the hairy grandpas softly floating around and the giggling gaggle of teenagers taking selfies by the shore. I flop down on my back.

And the water carries me!

I mean, of course it does. It’s to be expected. But to experience it for myself, to actually feel it – I feel so lightweight and happy! I feel like a cork, bobbing on the surface of the red wine after someone’s pushed me into the bottle. Carefree and weightless. I try to stand up and find out I can, even if it takes some effort to be able to keep my balance. I lift up one leg, then the other, pretend to be an underwater ballerina. Now even my toes don’t touch the bottom but I’m still standing upright, not sinking below my shoulder blades.

As I’m quietly paddling around and reveling in the sensation, a bucket list I wrote down when I was still a teenager pops into my head. On it were items such as “get a tattoo” (got seven), “go to university” (graduated last year), “sneak out” (I wasn’t and will never be a rebellious teenager), “bake something blue” (???) and “swim in the Dead Sea”. It’s probably been well over ten years since I first made that list; and this dream has been in the making for even longer.

I return ashore just to lather myself up in the famous Dead Sea mud. Since we’ve got here, I’ve seen people walking around covered head to toe in the black mud, looking like something out of Swamp Thing. I squat and grab a handful of mud. It’s better to reach a little below the surface, I notice soon, there the mud is thicker and stays on better as I soap myself up with the dark goo. I feel like a toddler jumping in puddles, digging up earthworms, crawling in dirt. All the while as I’m getting muddier, I can’t stop laughing to no one in particular.

And when I go to wash it off – oh boy, they really aren’t kidding! My skin feels silky smooth, soft like a feather. I can’t stop stroking my arms. The Italian lawyer-to-be floats past and we laugh about it together.

I don’t even like swimming but I go back in twice as the rest mostly hang out at the sun chairs. I think they have some cuts in their skin – if you’ve got any wounds, the salt water burns. I’m okay, though, even though my broken cuticles are tingling a little. I bob around alone, testing the limits of my buoyancy, pretending to be a human cork, becoming one.

If it hasn’t been before, now I’m surely in love with Israel.

How about you? What have you been up to? Hopefully something awesome as well!

Love

Elina

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