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Paradise on Earth

I took the bus to Dahab. It wasn’t that bad and the ride was only 2 hours or so, so it could have been a lot worse. They had the AC blasting when I got on the bus, but then decided to open all the windows – and then shut it off, which (imagine this) caused it to get really hot. On the bus, I met Karen, a Danish girl who had done quite a bit of traveling herself. Her parents had bought a house on the beach in Dahab and she was meeting all her friends there for a nice month long vacation (still studying). She had an extra room and said I could have it. Hell yeah!

My plan was to get moving early the next morning toward Israel, but I ended up falling in love with Dahab. I was thinking that Sharm El-Shekh would be a good place to go on vacation, but I realized that it wouldn’t. Dahab is a nice little beach city that isn’t developed at all and they are just barely beginning to get a few good beach front backpacker restaurants and net cafes. It’s very relaxing and not crowded, and the diving and snorkeling is better than in Sharm. The restaurants are cool – basically, couches and cushions under umbrellas right on the beach. The food is cheap and there is coral 20 feet out from the shore so you can just snorkel over to it and observe the thousands of different types of fish and corals. Just across the bay, you can also barely make out the sandy mountains of Saudi Arabia in the distance. It was awesome. We all went snorkeling that evening and just hung out, had dinner and smoked sheesha. The next morning, we got up late and had breakfast at the beach and then snorkeled all day. When I went back to the house to get something, I noticed that my hammock had been stolen from the palm trees, so I tracked down some kids and offered 10 pounds (a little under two bucks) to the person who could “find” it. They found it. I always knew that money talked – but it never ceases to amaze me how many languages it can speak.

I got thoroughly burned that day, which I noticed back at the house and after reading for a bit, we headed back to the beach for dinner and more sheesha. I met Waleed, the guy who takes care of the house when Karen and her family aren’t there and he was a really cool guy. That night, after watching the moon rise up over the mountains, we headed back to the house and spent the evening eating popcorn, drinking beer and making jokes.

In the morning, I woke up and checked my email to see what the plan was for Israel with Zach. It turned out that his parents were on vacation in Eilat, on the border of Egypt and Israel, so we arranged for them to meet me because they might be able to give me a ride to Haifa. I took the bus to Taba and after a few hours was at the border with no Egyptian pounds. I had worked it out so that I would have no extra money when I left and would thus not waste any with bills I didn’t need.

Well, that bit me in the ass because I needed 2 pounds to cross the border. I had to run all around with a Brazilian guy in the same predicament to find someone who would give me some pounds for a dollar. So once I got that squared away, I went through customs and they searched my bag, thinking that my Maxim magazine was porn. When I finally made it out, it was time to enter the Israeli side. I met an Israeli girl inside the customs on the Egypt side and we chatted as we walked the 200 meters of “no man’s land” between the two countries. I told her about my plan for “Caseystan”.

What is Caseystan, you might ask? Well, seeing as these two countries aren’t doing anything with this land in between them, my plan is to conquer it and start my own country. I’ll let the US put a military base on it so I have protection and I’ll just slowly take chunks out of the other countries as I amass my empire. I’m sure it will be slow going, but you have to start somewhere, you know? I mean, wouldn’t it be impressive to have “ruler of small middle eastern country from 2005-present” on your resume? I’ll be accepting citizenship applications soon.

So we walked across the border and into the Israeli side and were then subjected to an hour long search. They rub a cloth over your bag and scan it for traces of bombs. They x-ray your bags, then search them and take out the electronics, then scan them again. Then search them again. Then rub the cloth over them again. They were really curious about my passport seeing as I had so many stamps and spent 20 minutes interviewing me about my trip to try to trip me up – but it really just turned into them trying to ask me about my trip, “I’m just asking for myself…is it hard to travel for two years???”

But eventually I made it out and Zach’s dad was waiting for me on the other side. We waited for his friend to come with the van and while we waited, I watched a guy and a girl walk naked along the beach looking at rocks. It looked like it was kind of awkward and they were just looking for an excuse to be naked together in public. I imagined the conversation was like this:

Girl: “Look at this rock!” Guy: “Yeah, nice rock. Look at this one!” Girl: “Yeah, that’s a nice one. Look at this one!” Over and over, until they both eventually said in unison: “So are we going to have sex, or what?”

I asked Zach’s dad if this was normal in Israel.

“In Tel Aviv or Haifa, no. But here at the beach, ehhhhh, maybe.”

So the guy came with the van and Avi (Zach’s dad) took me to his hotel to meet Zach’s mom and so that I could get a shower and rest. It turned out that they had no space in their van and couldn’t take me to Haifa, but would take me to the bus station and let me stay in the hotel until that time. So I did. Zach’s dad lent me 200 sheckles and we split up. I had to hang out at the bus station for several hours and it was cool just to see the people here interact.

The first thing you notice is that everywhere you go, someone is suddenly recognizing someone else and running over to them with a huge smile on their face. This country is really small, and seeing as everyone has to serve in the military, everyone seems to have some sort of a connection to everyone else. The next thing I’ve noticed is that the girls have stunning faces, but they all seem to have a bit of a belly. I don’t know why, but it’s not so bad. Israel is a relatively new country and the people in it came from a lot of countries to start it up – and the mix isn’t so unattractive. This place seems really social. Everyone talks to everyone, even strangers it seems and it’s quite comfortable. The cities look like any other city in America and so that’s not so different.

After three hours at the bus station, I hopped on the bus for a 6 hour journey from midnight to 6:00AM and Zach met me at the bus station and brought me to his house. And so here I am.

I’m tired. Time for bed.