Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Boatsurfing in Tel Aviv, Under the Mediterranean Sky

The immigration officer gave me a head to toe appraisal, and nodded in approval.
“Yes, you look like an average tourist, but nevertheless, we cannot let you pass,”, he said firmly and with finality.
It was a Saturday and I was trying to cross the Arava border from Israel to Jordan.
I’ve been trying to reason with Jordanian immigration office to let me cross the border without a visa for the better part of an hour, showing them numerous printed articles reporting that Filipinos can indeed cross this border, provided that I stop in the business town of Aqaba in Jordan first, before proceeding with any further travel within Jordan.
At that point, all my dreams of seeing Petra and Wadi Rum were fading along with the dessert sun. It also broke my heart when I realized that all hotel and adventures fees I paid for my Jordan trip will all go to waste.
Adding insult to injury, the Jordanian government had no choice but to ask me peacefully to walk the the half kilometer gap between Jordan and Eilat, Israel.
I couldn’t hide my shame and disappointment as the immigration officials in Tel Aviv questioned me about my sudden turn-around. My situation was indeed suspicious and it led to a more thorough security check (they emptied my bag, bodysearched me).
It was official. My first-ever trip to the Middle East was a bust and all the highs I’ve experienced during earlier days while roaming around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were overshadowed by this disappointing incident.
I hastily took the first available bus and went back to Tel Aviv, obviously heartbroken and short on funds.
Little did I know, that my fate would turn 180 degrees with a little help from a very generous guy from Tel Aviv.
BoatSurfing in Tel Aviv
I blew my budget on a rushly booked hostel back in the city. I had to skip meals just to stretch my budget and make it last for another three days, before my scheduled flight back to Manila.
Without any expectations, I posted an emergency request on Couchsurfing and within minutes, Elad, a super cool guy, sent by the heavens, offered me a night’s stay at his place.
After an exchange of information and after some chat, we agreed to meet along the Tel Aviv Marina.
All along, I thought that we would be meeting there and we would then proceed to his house. Understand that the marina, is quite near other busier districts of Tel Aviv.
When my host finally appeared, he shocked with me the news that I would indeed be staying inside his boat, “the Grand Illusion”.
Parked at the Tel Aviv Harbor, the boat looked average from outside, Inside though, it can accommodate 3-4 people at the same time, There were bunks at the opposite side of the boat, a kitchen, a study table, and a master’ bedroom.
On that day, Elad was scheduled to accommodate two guys arriving from Slovakia and only offered to host me given my circumstance, which I really appreciated.
This situation, gave me the chance to try out a super cool activity, I never would have experienced otherwise: sleeping on the boat roofdeck, while floating in the Mediterranean, under billions of shiny stars.
The two Slovakians took the bunk beds inside and Elad obviously needed the master bedroom. So I volunteered to sleep under the stars. It was March and the temperatures were dropping to as low as 8-10 degrees Celsius and it couldn’t be more perfect for me.
Sleeping on the roofdeck, inside my handy sleeping bag, the slow rolling waves were gently swaying the boat and it gave me peace.
Staring at the midnight sky, I had the chance to look back on the past days: my fun nights in the city and my ordeal at the border.
Those long hours of introspection gave me the chance to put things in perspective and appreciate the blessings that have come my way.
I realized then, that perhaps, fate postponed my Jordan adventure so I can slow down and enjoy things more. Fate gave me the chance to stop and look back on the amazing sights I’ve seen in the country, the great people I’ve met along the way. I also had a further appreciation on the inherent goodness of people, even those whom you’ve just recently met.
I was supposed to stay for only one night, but it then became three days and two nights. Along the way, I became friends with my host Elad, and became friends with the two Slovakians. Maybe it was their fun personalities or maybe it’s just hard to be strangers in a such a small, contained space.
I also grew accustomed to the life on a sailboat.
Every morning, I would jump down the sailboat using only a metal step attached to the starboard, and then trek to the Marina office to take a shower in the communal, public baths (no heater).
I would jog around the marina and sit down along the harbor as slowly, more and more people head down to the marina and then into the warm embrace of the Mediterranean. Sunets are typically gorgeous in Tel Aviv and the sunsets at the Marina were made especially sweeter by couples (gay and straight strolling down the beach, while holding hands).
Life on a sailboat is a simple one, I have come to realize. Everything you will ever need, you can find inside the boat or they are closeby.
When I first realized I would be staying on a boat, I honestly had some reservations especially about he lack of comfort items and familiar amenities, and they were proven justified. But after three days, all those reservations vanished and I realized that life on a sailboat can actually be a great adventure. All you need to do, is be more open to the simpler side of life.
Yes, my plans for Jordan fell through. But that might have been fate’s plan after all. If not for that ordeal, I wouldnt have experience this unique and amazing joy of living in a sailboat.
At Night
View of the Tel Aviv Marina from above
The Slovakians


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