A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Healing in Dahab

Being in the sleepy town of Dahab, Sinai, on the Gulf of Aqaba, has been a healing experience.
I've been here almost a month, though I've had to check the calendar to confirm that fact,  as time loses significance here. The other day I was lounging around with some free diving friends, and when someone asked what day it was, we were all at a loss for an answer.
I stayed for some time with Couchsurfing hosts, my last on this journey for peace. I'm not sure for how long I stayed with them. The rest of the time I've spent at Sindbad Camp, living in a cabana by the sea. At times I sleep outside, under the stars. Bedouins are employed at the camp, which is sleepier than Dahab itself, and I've made some friends among them. The people who stay at the camp are varied; a few SCUBA divers, quite a few free divers, several travelers; some taking a low budget, relaxing holiday, others passing through on their perpetual world journeys.
One Japanese woman has been traveling for five years, and lived in Nepal for a time. An Austrian woman, Karin Gebauer, is here for a free diving competition at Blue Hole. She's Austria's leading female free diver. A Catalan man is here for his free diving instructor's certificate. He got most of his free diving experience before he knew what free diving was, as a spear fisherman. None of them are what I would call tourists.

While walking with Inge from Slovenia to Turkey, she talked a lot about free diving. She had been in Bali a few years before, overcoming her fear of the water by learning to free dive. This is something like overcoming a fear of heights by learning to skydive.
In Serbia we had a host who was a free diving instructor, and the two of them talked. In Bulgaria we had another free diving host, and they talked about free diving as well. At the time I wasn't very interested.
Now for the past three or four weeks I've been in Dahab, almost by accident, and surrounded by free divers.
Edward and Andreas stop by Sinbad Camp on occasion for something to eat, or to talk about free diving. They're sometimes accompanied by other free divers. They're all from the 'non-competitive' school of free diving, which seems a bit zen, without the negative, New Age connotation. Andreas, a free diving instructor, had offered me an introductory course at a discount, but not having the money for this, his friend, Edward, offered to get me in the water with a few pointers.
A Bedouin has loaned me his extra long free diving fins and mask, and I've been making elementary free dives ever since. I haven't gone very deep, but even at 10 meters, it's nice to glide past the SCUBA divers, who like herds of camels seem to plod along with their humps. "Eat your heart out!" I'm thinking, as I dolphin kick past them on my back.
So after all that free diving talk from Inge-- through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey-- three and a half months-- "Blah, blah, blah, free diving, blah, blah, blah" -- I am by accident experiencing in the warm, cerulean sea what she had related to me in the cold, landlocked Balkans. And now it's my turn to "Blah" about free diving.
Here's something nice to watch about free diving in Dahab, so I won't have to "blah" about it anymore. 

I said, "by accident", because Dahab was a last thought; an alternative to Cairo should I be refused entry again in Israel. I wasn't looking for Dahab, I just wanted anything but that hellhole Cairo. And Dahab was the nearest place to retreat to from Taba Border crossing. And Dahab turns out to be a bit of a paradise.

There is a German woman here who has heard the story of my walk for peace, about it's highs and lows, and about the final disappointment in not being able to deliver the petitions, or even being able to get into Israel. She believes the peace process on this journey is only now beginning for me, right here in Dahab.

While waiting for the final donations to fly me back to Europe, I looked for work. I worked with a metal smith for a day, but we mostly drank tea and philosophized about life. He didn't really need a helper, but was trying to make his friend, Barbara, happy. She'd asked him to give me a job. She also asked a carpenter to give me a job, but we drank tea as well. He didn't need any help either.
Though I am a Quaker, I looked for work as a bartender. I haven't seen anyone drunk here; you'll find the heavy drinkers down the coast at Sharm al Sheik, which is a resort for tourists, and not travelers. The drug of choice here is hashish rather than alcohol, so I feel tending bar in Dahab would be akin to hosting a quiet gathering of friends. But the bars weren't hiring; business has been slow for a few years.
The rest of the world believes Egypt in general, and Sinai in particular to be dangerous places. We all laugh about that here, at least regarding Dahab. Two bombs went off here in 2006, but bombs seem to be going off everywhere at one time or another these days. A few people have been kidnapped by Bedouins recently-- the bad Bedouins, my Bedouin friends tell me-- but even they were treated as guests rather than as hostages.
Free diving friend Edward has come down with typhoid fever, probably from the water, but it's treatable. He should be fine in a week. But the drinking water may be the most dangerous thing here.
I also answered advertisements to volunteer at a couple of small hotels-- I would be paid with room and board-- but they said no. I imagine I may not be young or pretty enough.
And there are no English schools in Dahab open in the summer, so my EFL experience was of no use.

Thanks to some very generous donations, however, I now have my ticket out of here. In Cairo, a ticket out would have filled me with joy, but in Dahab I am filled with trepidation at the prospect of stepping off the plane in Milan. The pace will be double or triple what it is here. There will be rules to follow everywhere I go. I'll have some hosts waiting to take me in for a day or for a few weeks, but I am literally homeless now, and the money that goes so far in Dahab will go quickly there. It will be intimidating.

But I am confident I'll find work to earn the money I need for my next 'mission'.
I'll talk about that on my next, and final "Down to Egypt' blog post.

1 comment:

  1. So, now I know who this wonderful human being is that I met with a few times in Baba Ali's Cafe in Dahab. Best luck my friend...your gentle soul will guide you-as it always has.