Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gone Swimmin' in the Dead Sea

As you may or may not know, I had the opportunity this summer to go on a birthright trip to Israel with my sister and 40 other young Jewish folks from all over the country. I was in Israel for almost 2 weeks and I still cannot believe that I haven't yet written one blog post about it. Shame on me. But that is all going to change now, and here is my first post about the trip: my experience swimming in the Dead Sea.
I have to admit, going to the Dead Sea was one of the things I was most looking forward to on my trip to Israel. Of course it's not the most cultural or religious experience that one can have in the state of Israel, but being able to literally float on a body of water is certainly one of the most intriguing and unique experiences anyone can ever have, and so I was definitely excited about the prospect of visiting the Dead Sea.

By the time we arrived at the shores of the Dead Sea, the sun was blazing in the sky and we were all hot, sweaty, and exhausted from our sunrise hike up Masada.
(here is me passed out at the top of Masada, exhausted. It's only 7am and we'd already been up for a couple of hours!)

But after a week of sweating our butts off in the Israeli sun, I was invigorated at the thought of taking a refreshing dip in the Dead Sea. I was so excited about it, that I was actually the first one of our group to head out to explore.
I tip-toed into the sea, careful not to cut my foot on the ragged salty shoreline. As soon as I reached the water though, I turned around and gave a startled look to my friend Greg. He had been to the Dead Sea before, and had not warned me about what I was about to encounter.
Refreshing, it was not! Having a background in chemistry, I probably should have known that a body of water with such a high salt content would retain a lot more heat than your average ocean, but to be honest, the thought never even occurred to me.  In my mind, I pictured myself floating on top of something resembling the Mediterranean or Andaman Sea, turquoise blue, cool, and comfortable. Kind of like my experience in Thailand - but more buoyant and with a lot more Jews....
But swimming in the Dead Sea was an entirely new experience - probably unlike almost anything you can find anywhere else in the world. The water was hot; like bath-tub hot or even a cup of coffee hot, and it was anything but refreshing. I imagine that swimming in the Dead Sea would be really nice in say January or February, but certainly not in the middle of July.

If I had taken a closer look at the shoreline, I might have been able to guess all of this, it doesn't exactly look refreshing, but I was so excited about going for a swim that I completely missed the obvious clues. After all, the name "Dead" Sea doesn't exactly sound inviting!
I quickly got over my initial shock at the temperature of the water, and kept on chuggin' into the sea. Once I reached about waist high, I started to experiment with floating on the water.
Although I've known about the phenomenon of the Dead Sea since elementary school, I don't think anyone could have ever prepared me for the actual sensation of floating on the water. It's absolutely incredible - and I had fun for a good 10 minutes just enjoying the novelty of it.

The most bizarre experience of all was that once we got out to a depth of about 4 1/2 feet, my friends and I were no longer able to touch the bottom of the sea at all! We were too buoyant to reach our feet all the way to the bottom, despite the fact that we were almost a foot taller than the water was deep. So we just "stood" there, completely erect, shoulders and heads bobbing above the water and marvelling at our own buoyancy.

Once all of the novelty wore off, I was able to take stock in my surroundings. Not only was the water exceptionally warm, but it was so thick with minerals that it actually had an almost syrupy consistency. It literally felt like swimming in a vat of warm baby oil.  My skin was soft and slimy and I became acutely aware of a couple cuts and scrapes on my body that were now stinging from the exposure to all of the salt.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, we made our way back to the shore and into the shade of an umbrella. Our skin was feeling nice and smooth, and we were just hanging out chatting about our individual experiences and perceptions. All of the sudden, somebody walked out with a vat of Dead Sea mud and set it down next to our table. So of course, we began to cover ourselves head-to-toe in the world famous  mud.

The mud was warm and slimy and we all enjoyed giving ourselves our own personal spa treatments. We covered our entire bodies - including our hair - and then walked around in the sun for a while until it all became dry and crusty, to make sure that our skin had absorbed all of the nutrients. 
We couldn't actually go into the sea to rinse off because (1) it's not very refreshing and (2) you can't put your face into the water because the high mineral content will make your eyes burn, so we headed to the outdoor showers to get cleaned up. The mud was everywhere and it turned out to be no easy task to get the mud out of my hair. (such is the price for beauty!)

Finally, after we had scrubbed ourselves clean, it was time for that refreshing dip I had been anticipating all day. I turned my back on the bleak shores of the Dead Sea
and headed for a refreshing dip in a chlorinated swimming pool! Now, I know what you're thinking... "WHAT!? You were at the Dead Sea for what could possibly be the only time in your life and you spent the afternoon at a swimming pool!???" And let me tell you, I was thinking exactly the same thing.

Except for the fact that the Sea was so uncomfortably hot that I couldn't take floating in it for more than 10 minutes at a time. And let's not forget that we were in the middle of the Israeli desert in July - the heat was brutal! The pool was just calling my name! 

And so I spent the rest of the afternoon splitting my time between the cool and refreshing pool and the uncomfortably hot, but nutrient-rich Dead Sea. I have to say, after spending all of that time in the water and covered in the mud, my skin was radiant. My legs were smooth and soft, my hair was silky and shiny, and my cuticles (which are typically dry and unattractive) were visibly healthier and moisturized. The Dead Sea definitely lives up to the hype, and if I lived any closer to it, I would probably go by once a week to keep my skin soft and youthful.

If you are considering a dip in the Dead Sea though, here are a couple of tips:

1) If you have any open cuts, they will sting when you're in the water so avoid picking scabs or biting your nails in the days leading up to your big swim
2) Don't shave your legs for a couple of days before you go into the sea (it will also sting!)
3) Do NOT dive into the water, you absolutely want to avoid getting the water in your eyes if at all possible
4) Don't wear any silver jewelry into the sea, it will tarnish
5) Consider wearing an old swim suit into the water, and definitely rinse your suit out thoroughly after swimming
6) Do NOT pee in the water!!

Other than that, feel free to enjoy the Dead Sea in any way you wish! I certainly did!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How To Be Alone

I have been spending a lot of time alone these days, as I am unemployed and most people in my life have things that keep them occupied during the day like work, school, baking, baby sitting...  and so I have to say that I was touched when I found this video on one of my friend's blogs.

When you're unemployed, it's easy to waste an entire day watching TV or surfing the Internet. No one is around to make you get up, or make you feel bad for sitting on your butt. But it's really only when I waste away my day that I actually feel alone, because when I spend my time productively - exercising, going for walks, writing in my journal, reading books, studying Chinese, or working on obtaining employment - I'm not really alone. I'm spending time with my best friend in the whole world: myself.

Really, I'd like to think that I'm a pretty cool person to hang out with. What a lucky schmuck I am to be stuck spending my days all alone with myself. And although it can be infinitely frustrating to be unemployed, I am trying really hard to value this time and be productive, because once I do find work, it will (hopefully) be a long time until I once again have all this time to just hang out with myself.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flowers, Photographs, and.... Parking Meters???

Almost as soon as we arrived in Taiwan, I made the decision to carry my camera with me every where I went. It turned out to be a good decision too - a great many of my blogs were born from pictures I'd taken in the most unlikely places. I got so used to having my camera on me that even now that we're home, I almost never leave the house without it.  

I've learned over the last two years that a simple trip to the dry cleaner is enough of a reason to have my camera; you never can predict when you will come across something unexpectedly beautiful or completely photographable. 

Take, for example, this beautiful church on Colfax Ave. caught in the late afternoon sun against a perfectly blue sky
or Aimee's reflection in Jess's sunglasses

but mostly these days, I just take pictures of flowers. I never really paid too much attention to flowers until I started photographing them. Now, I can't get enough of them. I am constantly amazed by the variety and beauty of flowers. Mother nature is infinitely more creative than any human could ever dream of, and these days I make it a point to stop and smell the roses on a daily basis. Here are some of my favorite flower pictures from the past few months:


Today, as I was walking down the street, camera at the ready, I came across something completely unexpected and absolutely delightful: a parking meter wearing a scarf.
This may come to a complete surprise to some of you, but I had actually heard of this before. It's called urban knitting and it's apparently a form of "graffiti." I don't know if I saw it online, or in a book, but I had certainly never seen it out in the real world before.

And here I was, on the 700 block of Grant Street, when I came across an entire row of decorated parking meters!

What a pleasant surprise! I love it!!! What a great start to the weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Denver Cruisers

Picture if you can, 1,000 clowns riding bicycles through the streets of Denver. Sounds a bit creepy, right!?
Last week, I was one of those clowns, and it was awesome!
Denver Cruisers has got to be one of the most fun things I have ever participated in. Every Wednesday hundreds, if not thousands of people get all decked out according to themes like, “bubble wrap, duct tape, and cardboard,” Knights and nighties,” “hobos and hillbillies,” and “Pirates, Sea Men, and Mermaids.” Then they grab a 6-pack and hop on their bikes headed for a wild ride. This is not merely a bike ride, this is a full on bike-party.

Last Wednesday, at about 6:00, Ashley came over to my place to get ready to head out for the evening. This weeks’ theme was “clowns.” With a little face paint, some fancy socks, and a pair of suspenders, we spent the next 45 minutes sipping a cocktail and transforming ourselves into some pretty cute clowns.
Then, we were off to Jess, Robin, and Matt’s place where we met up with 7 other clowns for a little pre-gaming action.
Another cocktail and 30 minutes of catch phrase later, and we were ready to head out to Casselman’s bar to get the party started. As Matt loaded up the saddle bags of my bike with a 12-pack, everyone else grabbed their own “road sodas” and we were and headed to the streets.
Instead of water bottles, our bikes toted Busch Light tall boys for the 15 minute ride through the city, all the while, Jess’s portable MP3 player was broadcasting two albums worth of clown circus music purchased earlier that day on iTunes.
The night had just started and already I was having a blast. As we approached Casselman’s bar – the starting point for the weekly cruise – our 10 person group began to pick up members. By the time we arrived at the bar, we were travelling in a pack of 15-20 people, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next. The street outside of Casselman’s was packed with 100’s of bikes and the inside looked like a clown convention gone bad. PBR tall boys were on sale for $2.25 each and 4 or 5 tables were set up for beer pong and flip cup.

We hung out for about an hour, and good times were had by all!
 Ashley and Justin
 group shot at the beer pong table
the sisters, jess and robin, were two of the creepiest clowns out that night

Finally, it was time for the actual bike ride - we all hopped onto our bikes and made our way through town. The destination was the "circle of death" at Civic Park near the capitol. I have to say that I'm glad I was on a bike and not in a car because the traffic was moving painfully slow and I would not have been a happy camper if I was actually trying to drive through that mess! We sat at some intersections through 5 or 6 green lights before it was finally our turn to move on, but we had music playing all the while and everyone was having a good time.

Finally, after what seemed like a pretty long bike ride, we made it to the circle of death. Again, I was just astounded! Even after seeing all of the bikes and people at the bar, and then riding down the road with that incredible mass of bicycles, I still could not believe how many people had congregated at Civic Park. It was incredible.
Mostly people just loitered around, hanging out, sipping on beers, and having a good time, but there was also a significant amount of people who were partaking in the infamous "circle of death." These people were all riding around and around in circles inside the amphitheater at Civic Park. I was absolutely AMAZED that there were no serious accidents!!! Especially since Jess was walking through the circle backwards in an attempt to creep out the riders! (which I think she succeeded in doing)
Although many or even most of the people out at the park were headed back to the bar after the circle of death, this was where we ended our evening. We hung out at the park for a while chatting away and taking in the whole scene, but around 12 or 12:30 we decided it was time for to take ourselves home. It was a Wednesday night after all, and most of us (present company excluded) had to get up for work the next morning. 
I have to say dressing up in costume with a massive group or people and riding around on bicycles is an absolute blast. Throw a bar and a couple beers into the mix and you have the makings of a fantastic Wednesday night! I don't know who thought of this whole thing, but it's absolutely fabulous and it's something that I will definitely be partaking in again!