Helen Alesbury writes:
It is the last day. Last day. It is the last day. I just keep telling myself that it is ending, this is when I go off to the airport and leave Megiddo behind. Maybe if I say it enough it will set in before I land in New Zealand, my next stop. Maybe that way I won’t be hit with a sledgehammer realizing too late that it is the LAST day. I think most people find themselves lamenting the speed of time when an adventure ends. “It’s too fast”, “I can’t believe we are done!”, “why has time STOPPED?!”.. etc. Time, no matter how we prepare ourselves for it, has a funny way of sneaking up on us and going the speed we least expect (and usually desire) it to go. But really, what is the normal speed of time? And when it is normal, do we think it is too slow? After three weeks in Israel, I have come to the not-so-startling realization that time NEVER moves as you want it to. That time between morning and breakfast on the tel, those minutes before 8:30 seem to crawl by as if time is taunting us. But, at the same time, we are speeding through the days faster than I could have ever believed. The countless sunrises, over Megiddo, Jerusalem, Masada… seem so much closer together when you look back on them. How did this happen?
Well, to begin with, we all sort of worked hard. Really hard. Potential slave labor hard. Oh-my-God-I-am-so-tired-I-want-to-die hard. The exhaustion that sets in at 8PM and seems never to be cured with sleep creates a mind numbing sensation where time has no control. Day after day of pick axing, digging, burning, sweating, yelling, hitting snooze, eating hummus, hiking the tel, hydrating, clearing areas, sweeping….oh the sweeping. Never has time moved so slowly as when you are instructed to “sweep your square to clean it up”. Honestly, archaeologists seem to have missed that crucial day in 3rd grade about how dirt is DIRT and is DIRTY and is the opposite of CLEAN. We have had some amazing times on Megiddo, during the ungodly hours of the morning when your body is raging against every movement–this is made only slightly better by the amusing fact that the prison down in the Jezreel Valley that we get a view of has morning calls at 7AM…7 seems like such a luxurious lie in, those prisoners have it GOOD. People start asking what time it is around 6, waiting for that “breakfast!” call that seems to never come. Some yell “no! I don’t want to know”, as if they could hide from the unrelenting, overpowering grip of time. You can run, but you can’t hide. Come to think of it, I don’t really know why we were so excited for breakfast…after the tenth or twelfth cheese sandwich with cucumbers and onions at 8:30 AM, breakfast starts to lose its luster, and turns into more of a social hour. In fact, this whole dig is like a social hour. Pottery washing become like the archaeological café, sit and chat with your friends for a time.
In fact, more than that, we have all become a family. In area Q the bonds that have been forged are astounding. I find I keep hearing “did you/they know each other before this?”, as if it is impossible to become so close in so short a time. But, alas, time never does what you expect. I think when you wake up at 4 with someone everyday for 3 weeks, you start something stronger than a friendship, you start connecting. After breakfast when we take the second hike up the tel of the day we all were rejuvenated, fresh and ready to dig. We area Q-ers usually came back to find that Stanley, the resident gopher has left some nice little piles of dirt around the area, as if saying “dig here, you are going too slow”….every couple of hours you hear a “Stanley!” and you know that a new hole has been discovered, and that again time has been disrupted…as cute as he is (we imagined), Stanley is messing with our precious stratigraphy.
It really is amazing how much has happened in the last three weeks, the weekend trips to Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Gezer, the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, Nazareth, Tel Aviv. The incredible sites that we see everyday and may take for granted. I have never appreciated a good breeze as I have in the last three weeks. You can see it in everybody’s face when they stand up, spread their arms and close their eyes to feel the wind…they have NEVER felt as good than in that one fraction of a moment. This week has been spent with silences of just appreciating that we are in freaking ISRAEL on an ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG, followed by a heartfelt “I’m going to miss you guys” as if we are in some stupid teen movie about camp and we have all become best buddies….well, we kind of are. More than once I have heard people exclaiming “is this ACTUALLY happening? Am I going to wake up and this is not really real?”. Clearly this has been a positive experience for all, I know I will be one of those crazy people sitting alone who starts laughing to herself because of something that happened weeks ago…I bet it is going to be something Philippe did. I can just see the fit of hysterics and the looks I will get as I recall the excitement over those damn astragal bones and start giggling while waiting for my flight.
So, as we wind down the last hours and minutes it seems too rushed, time is going too quickly again. I just need one more day, just one more cheese and cucumber sandwich for breakfast with crappy powdered coffee that may or may not have some sort of dirt mixed in (I am going to say it is from area L). During the last couple of days we have been going over what we are going to miss, and how amazing it is that we are all so close and that this has been so great…who knew that 4AM was one of the most beautiful times of day, or that 6AM has its own unique smell that is nothing like 7AM, or how you only realize how hot you are when it cools. You only realize how much fun you are having when it is almost over. Well…anyway I took the liberty to create a list of all the crazy reasons why while we may miss things, it is clear we need to go back to real life for a time before we come back:
Top 10 Signs You Have Been at Megiddo Too Long:
10. You have more than once considered sleeping with your backpack on so that you can literally just walk out the door at 4:40AM…or going in your pajamas.
9. You have started to name the features in your square and have become emotionally attached (“Don’t sit on Shishaq! You’re hurting him!”)
8. The 5 second rule no longer applies to anything. New rule: if it is food….eat it.
7. You think being thrown down the Tel would be cool…and ask Rafi and Paul to push you over in a wheelbarrow
6. You have in depth conversations about the subtle soil change you uncovered that day…and are actually interested in it
5. You forget that people don’t actually bring beer to lectures in the real world.
4. You have started licking bone even when you don’t need to see if it is bone….because you like the taste.
3. You can ID the different areas of Megiddo…by taste.
2. Sleeping ’til 5 AM sounds freaking awesome
1. You start to think of dirt as a spice.
Every once and a while I think about all of the things I am going to miss, the 4AM bus, that early morning trek to the Area Q (yeah area Q!! Exposure, but no penetration), those black millipedes, the ant vortexes, the chocolate bars with pop rocks, the sore hand from holding a trowel for 8 hours, the weekend trips to wherever, the horrible kibbutz food, the great kibbutz food, hummus at EVERY meal, the pub, the lectures with drinking games, the excitement over breakfast, my random-Israeli-candy-bar-of-the-day, sandwiches for breakfast, Turkish coffee, having a guard, the sticky heat, the excitement over finding a small bead, pottery washing, bone washing, Tel tours, tourists taking pictures of us, sleeping on the bus, walking down the tel at 1PM, that first shower you take after getting back, having just eggs and chips for dinner, having no dinner, sunscreen, those damn flies, spider bites, Norma, the undying desire to find a really big wall, the unrelenting urge to destroy really big walls, pick axing, sleeping in wheelbarrows, elevensies, port-a-potties, those white drinking water containers, naming pottery buckets, sitting around with everyone on the last day, enjoying the sun, the Brits, the Israelis, the Norwegian (), the Australians, every person I met, Ian, Philippe and his crazy rock removal, the fact that the wheelbarrow path is the highest priority, watching Cline run around with his camera, feeling gross and dirty, not missing TV, passing out at 8PM, thinking 10PM is REALLY late, Ben’s laugh, Norma’s laugh, Area Q, Area K’s sing along that we could hear everyday at elevensies, Jen’s fruit leather, Marshalltowns, finding bones, the prison breakout sirens, watching the sun rise every morning, the Jezreel valley, hearing Rafi complain, watching Robyn yell at Rafi, hearing Mario all the way in Area Q, dumping stuff down the Tel, the shade, seeing how far we have come since the first day, pretty much EVERYTHING.
So, as the 3 weekers depart and the dig goes on for the 7 weekers (make sure the new people don’t mess it up!) I am reminded of how much I hate leaving a good thing, but then again, change is good, and time will never let us have our way, the 7 weekers will be exclaiming “how did it go by so quickly?!” in no time, and soon Tel Megiddo will have no more diggers and lay waiting for us all to return in 2010, if not for digging, than to at least watch more sunrises and feel one more great breeze….