A few more days within the working city of Haifa, a few more adventures. We walked long distances exploring vast vegetable markets, endless plains of colour and texture, shouts of sale, an old truck rattles over the patched black road, our arms heavier with bags of produce for the travelling family. My bartering techniques floundering against the solid rock breakwater of a skilled merchant, full price paid yet happy anyway.
We struck conversation where we could and discovered the secrets of the city, generosity seemed common here as our presence invited gifts of food and drink and sugared treats for the kids. We sang through the streets and the town began to recognise and accept us.
From the aftermath of the group coffee ritual Corey, Heath, Elsie and I walked the opposite direction from where our feet normally took us on daily exploration. Through the terraces we trod and culture we gazed – cactus gardens, rock walls, flat sandstone roofs hosting flower beds of satellite dishes – the view was the same but oh so diverse.
Downhill we walked, seemingly with intent of the ocean shore but more common perhaps the ease of movement down the steady slope. The suburban road ended to a small public garden and footpath and through it we came to a yellow sandstone walkway cut in angles against the steep mountainside, from here the quartet leaned on tubular metal railing and enjoyed the gusty view and after a while took the path onward.
We could hear music and the jovial shout of youth further down the hill, empty beer bottles sat on the enclosing wall of our route and we eventually came to an opening, a rest area, where a group of teens sat in late afternoon gathering. There was a moment of uncomfortable sizing broken shortly by our engaging eyes and joyous smiles, the language barrier was vast and both parties reverted to charades of communication in effort to find common ground. Through pleasantries we made haste to exit and continue our effort downward.
The coast reached, the Mediterranean sea, we crossed the road at a well populated skate park and endeavoured to make way to the water. Alas the grassy parkway where we stood was cut off from the water by a high fenced railway seemingly extending further than where we were willing to walk. We sat on the soft grass and unpacked store-bought delights for a picnic with flowing conversation to the movement of the sun.
The day’s colour was changing and we were feeling the cold, time to return home, up the hills, through the streets lined with sandstone and slate, dodging cats, smiling at strangers. To the bottom of the steep stairway we arrived and could hear the impromptu party we passed on descent. The music was hard, a techno beat pumped out along with a Hebrew or Arabic word on repeat, if we understood the language it may have had cause to excitement however to us it sounded somewhat like “DAGGER DAGGER DAGGER DAGGER” – with the fall of the sun, the knowledge that these guys were probably drunk by now, and that we were in a strange land our uncertainty and insecurity spiked, I wanted to avoid the place and go around but Corey convinced us to go through, we followed his bold lead and moved up the steps.
Several black motorcycle helmets now sat on the walls of the walkway, as we entered the space we saw one of the teens managed to ride his black motorcycle up the scores of steps, shaved head, dressed in black he chatted up the girl sitting sideways on his bike – “DAGGER DAGGER DAGGER DAGGER” now blasting in our ears. We grinned sheepishly as we walked by, all four of us close together in a line and hilariously dance-walked our way through the gauntlet, eyes straight ahead and avoiding all attention trying to be as non-threatening as possible. We made it, and laughed ourselves silly at our performance of cowardice and then laughed all the way home.
Stories told around the kitchen table launching usually with, “what happened to you guys today?” then long periods of nonsense philosophy amidst the sharing of food, jokes and laughter, we played music, built plans and felt excited for the following days.
Heath’s birthday, we hired a minivan and drove atop Mount Carmel to watch the sun go down, the ten travellers gazing at the vast diffused wash of fiery colour, the sky once blue, long ago black with stars now entirely yellow, then entirely orange, darkening in colour for another ending day – the glistening ball disappeared under horizon taking the once rich hue with it and the world around us dimmed in turn.
That night in the kitchen a unanimous decision to pack up and head to Jerusalem was made, we shared a last somewhat tired night in the guesthouse and for me the idea of my bed became a very early reality. The next day we packed our bags, an air of purpose filled the house, we moved as a group, a loving family, and left home in search of adventure once more. A black VW Transporter filled with strange and smiling travellers careered down the motorway, memories in wake, dreams in focus – Jerusalem the intent, all open and uncertain.