I was still able to count my age on one hand when my uncle told me about the Dead Sea. He said that it was so salty a person could roll on top of the water. And if it entered your eyes or mouth that it stung like acid. To a child whose mind lived in fantasy, the thought of such a place existing was magical. One that only great adventurers would experience. And I knew that one day I’d live that adventure.
Funny are the things which leave lasting impressions on us from childhood. Out of all the stories I was told, lessons I was taught, and experiences I lived, a vision of myself rolling on top of the Dead Sea forever occupied my mind. It seemed as foreign an experience as floating in space – something incomparably unique. And yesterday, after sixteen years of waiting, I found myself with four limbs and stomach being dried by the wind and sun while bobbing in the miraculously buoyant waters of the Dead Sea.
It is rare that experiences live up to ones expectations. And because of that tendency I seldom allow myself to embrace them. However after dreaming for so long of the Dead Sea I naturally was expecting much, and fortunately it did not disappoint me. I felt as though I were a life-vest, or a beach ball. Effortlessly afloat with the greater half of my body visible.
I gave myself some time before trying to live the story I had heard so many years ago. Not sure if I had been told of a fantasy, and was to soon learn that water…is water. But from my stomach to my back, I began repeating the cycle, and with my head completely dry I felt frictionless – rolling as fast as I could to the point where I soon became dizzy.
I wasn’t able to get footage of me rolling. I was so captured by the moment that I had forgotten that I brought my GoPro camera with me. However, I did get some pictures of the dead sea. Ones in which I’m black. Covered from head to toe in the mineral rich clay floor of the dead sea. From which many health and beauty products are produced. In fact, many people with skin diseases or other illnesses are encouraged to visit the dead sea just to bathe themselves in the clays. Then let the sun bake them dry, extracting the toxins from their bodies.
On the shore I stood, looking out across the sea onto the banks of Jordan, thinking to myself, “that’s a check off the bucket list.”
The morning of that same day though I had visited the city of Jerusalem. A place where foundations for many of the worlds faiths, stories, and wars were laid. Coming from an agnostic family, these sites didn’t hold much meaning for me. With a skeptic mind I toured the different parts of the city, the Armenian, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim quarters – often with a raised eye brow brought on by what I was being told.
The beauty of the sites were profound. And it was humbling to have the privilege of seeing first hand such a place as where Jesus was crucified or the last supper room. However, naturally what drew me in more were the odd shots. Empty and abandoned streets, men deep in prayer, and faces. Because when I think back fifty years from now on my time in Jerusalem, it will not be the golden decor above where Christ was anointed, or the tomb of Saint Mary that I remember. It will be the slightly haunting, foreign, and symbolic windows into others faiths that I was able to witness.