there is something about shoes

A quick story about shoes and mud (that are unrelated)

The other morning a group of us woke up to take a hike. It was a nice morning, a little overcast with a breeze. There were clouds, small patches that drifted somewhat lethargically across a beautiful blue sky. It is almost intuitive to figure out direction here and the shape of the Arava Valley makes it even easier. The valley runs north to south and Jordan is to the west, Egypt to the east.

A note on myself: I won’t wear shoes unless I really have too.

Continuing. On this trip I only brought four pairs of shoes (a lot, right?) and while I was at home they made perfect sense. One pair of birks, a pair of dressy sandals, light cotton sneakers an a pair of well worn hiking boots. On this particular morning it was so beautiful out I didn’t want to wear my hiking boots while on the hike because my hiking boots are so heavy and hot. Long story short, halfway up a mountain my light cotton sneaker completely busted through the bottom. So, halfway up the pile of rocks that count for mountains here I fine myself with only a thin layer of cotton between the bottom of my foot and the rock scree of the slope.

So, for the next few meters I tried several ways to fix the shoe. First came medical tape wrapped around the shoe (long story short, I carry my first aid kit everywhere, there was an unfortunate incident the third day or so on Ketura and I wished I had had it with me then). Due to the abrasiveness of rock a few meters down the path there was nothing but shreds of tape left on my shoe. The next attempt was to tie my shoe back together with a roll of gauze. This worked to a point but eventually the rocks were bruising my feet. On the steep slopes covered in loose rock, this was no fun. Never fear though! My fellow crazy early morning hikers (SAGA – Sofia, Alex, Grace (Carly), Arielle)  had my back. I usually make fun of Alex because he wears these large, leather boots (too warm for 85-95 degrees F right?) but it turns out this day they would come to good use. At the toe of these boots, strapped under the laces is a piece of leather used for decorative purposes. Luckily for me they came out, and so after a few minutes I had this piece of leather covering the hole in my shoe and the whole toe of the shoe wrapped in gauze. It was in this manner I was able to make it down the rest of the mountain. There may be a picture at some point, it was pretty funny looking.

Side note – When I arrived back to my room I realized that, besides my dress sandals, every pair of my shoes are falling apart. It’s ok though, since there is no winter here, I can go barefoot all the time!!

Mud building:

So I haven’t talked so much about academics that I have been doing here. Honestly, I am just getting myself into the swing of the rhythm here, and some of the work is hard to talk about. The program I am doing here at the Arava Institute focuses on the environment and peace building, in particular, talking about peace between Israel and Palestine. As an American I feel that I am somewhat ill-equipped to talk about such issues, especially since I am surrounded by those who have grown up in this area with the conflict. I will leave this topic, for the moment, at rest and tell a short story about the environmental aspect of my work here.

So, as some of you know, I was supposed to be at Kibbutz Lotan this semester but due to unfortunate circumstances I had to change my program last moment and ended up here at Kibbutz Ketura. While here I got the opportunity to create some of my own work, and since Lotan is right down the road (10 minute drive) from where I am I decided to do some mud-building with them, since that is one of the things that I am missing from my previous program.

The other day I had my first experience working on the third layer of a structure that was made of a mix of mud-bricks and old tires filled with trash. These were covered with two layers of thick mud mixed with straw and I was working with some eco-volunteers at Lotan to add the third layer. I believe after this layer the final, smooth coat is added, and then an oil that helps the mud not wash away if it rains (not there is much here…) I am still  a newbie when it comes to this type of building; I will update everyone as I learn more.

In conclusion, this was one of the best days ever! I made the bus (quite a feat, I have a knack of missing the bus) and when I returned back I ran around excitedly, covered head to toe in mud. Great fun. I think there is a type of satisfaction in working with your hands, and the mess that comes along with such endeavors.

More to come soon. As always, if there is anything that catches your interest, let me know, I will write more about it!
much love,

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