Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ramat Rachel: 3 - Get with the schedule

Ramat Rachel: Rob
Originally uploaded by fifteeniguana
That photo (by fellow volunteer John Vanee) may appear to be Indiana Jones contemplating his latest great discovery, but it is actually me on popsicle break. I think I was trying to decide between cherry and grape. Here is a summary of a day on the dig...

The alarm goes off at 4:15 and you think it's a mistake or a crime against humanity, but you struggle out of bed and try to make yourself
presentable. Then you check that your backpack contains: kneepads, hat, workgloves, sunglasses, camera, water bottle, sunscreen, and cell phone. All set? Good.

At 4:45 you head down to the hotel lobby. In the coffee bar they have set up cereal, tea, milk and something resembling pound cake. Not a very inspiring breakfast, so you are lucky you cribbed some pears from last night's dinner.

The volunteers (100 of them) and staff (perhaps 20?) slowly trickle in and suck up caffeine. At 5:15 you take the five minute walk past the beautiful hotel swimming pool to the archaeological park. By 5:30 your group is collecting tools - pickaxes, hoes, brushes,and wheelbarrows - from the locked containers and starting to work.

It is barely light enough to see but it will be in a few minutes. The
section boss tells you what you will be doing that day. The next three
and a half hours are the most productive part of the day, because it is
delightfully cool and everyone is fresh.

At 9 AM somebody shouts "Breakfast!" We drop everything
and walk (across foot-narrow stone walls in some places) to the potwashing area, which is covered by a huge tarp. Here everyone sits down for the best meal of the day.

In most Israeli restaurants and certainly any big hotel the food is kosher so every meal is either dairy or meat (or parve, neutral,,, but that's unlikely.) Fish is bi, and shellfish , like pork, is taboo.

Breakfast is milche - dairy. This morning I had scrambled eggs, a cheese pastry, sliced peppers, a crisp roll to which I added tuna fish and cheese,watermelon, a yogurt, and tea. Not bad.

After breakfast you go back to work until eleven-thirty when we have fruit break, at our worksites. Today it was plums and popcicles. Then you work until 1 PM when you carry the buckets of pottery sherds back to the big site Then, for a change, you get to wash a bucket of yesterday's pottery which has been soaking in water overnight. By 2 PM you get to go back to the hotel and - the schedule insists - SHOWER before lunch. Trust me, you need the shower.

After lunch your time is your own until 5 or 6 PM when there is a lecture or other event, depending upon the day. (Imagine meeting archaeologists you have been reading about for twenty years and struggling to stay awake during a fascinating lecture, because it has been a LONG day.) Dinner at 7, and then if you are
smart (or at least middleaged) you tumble into bed and wait for the alarm to start the whole cycle over.

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