One: Magnum black, the world’s greatest ice cream bar. Not that I eat ice cream bars so often, but this one is the perfect snack for the road. A generous slab of “silky vanilla bean ice cream” with coffee swirls coated in thick dark Belgian chocolate. Don’t read the nutritional data before eating; they rate one bar as three servings, but if you eat the whole thing, which you inevitably will, it’s 720 calories (which we’ll burn in one hour on the hills ahead of us), 51 grams of fat, 60 of carbs, a few of protein thrown in, and the ultimate health food: fat, sugar, coffee, and dark chocolate. It propels us off toward the ancient fortress city of Lachish, where we turn left to climb up to the border of the Palestinian territories, where we’ll flank the security fence for much of today’s ride.
Two. We often miss a site on the map because we form an expectation of what it looks like that causes us to ignore the reality as we pass it by.
We’re doing a morning side trip at the caves of Beit Guvrin and looking for parking lot A. It’s marked with a gift shop, restrooms, and half a dozen different sites, so I’m thinking like an American that there’ll be a big sign, paved parking, maybe a flag or something. On the left we pass a sign that says “agricultural installation” or something like that, where a bus is letting out a bunch of school children onto a dusty unpaved patch of ground. A minute later we come to a sign for parking lot B. It’s a minor mistake as we take a few minutes to loop around again and reach parking lot A, but I realize the same mistake has led to a number of our navigational errors. On the roadway of life, you read the map, form an expectation, and miss the reality.
Three. Communicate, communicate, communicate. This one isn’t as obvious as it sounds, because when you communicate a lot most people start tuning out your communications. So, I mentioned our destination for the day a few times to the team—Kibbutz Kramim—but I also said we had to turn off on the road to Sansana and then look for Meitar, which is across the highway from Kramim. One of our riders started to turn off the road to Kramim when we reached Sansana instead of riding past Sansana toward Meitar, and another one (actually the same rider, come to think of it), rode past the turn-off to Kramim because he was looking for Meitar. Sounds complicated, huh? When you have the map visualized in your mind, it’s pretty simple, but you have to communicate a lot to convey the picture to everyone else. And you have to let them know you’re communicating something that they really need to hear. Face-to-face contact; eyeball to eyeball. Just reciting the info won’t work, and that’s a lesson for life in general too.
Finally, be straightforward. As we checked into one non-Israeli guesthouse, the receptionist asked when we’d like to have dinner. I asked what the options were and she sweetly said, “Whatever you’d like.” I said, how about 8:00?—because we wanted to visit a site first before we ate. She said that was too late, so I asked for 7:30, and she said with a smile, you can eat at 6:45 and then go visit your site. That way you won’t be rushed when you get there. She kindly and sweetly told us exactly what she wanted us to do, while pretending we had a choice. An Israeli would have said dinner is at 6:45 (take it or leave it). I’m learning to talk in the same way; say what you want and keep it simple and clear. It feels good and works well.
As we were backing out of a parking space last night in our big 9-passenger van (at the BIG mall near Beer-Sheva), a guy in an even bigger van pulled out at the same time, and headed right toward us, making it impossible for either van to pass. I gestured “what are you doing?!” and he started laughing. Then support team member Tamar yelled out in Hebrew (which sounded impressive to me) “Ma koreh? What’s happening? We’re going forward!). The other driver laughed again and backed up. We drove past each other with a friendly wave and went our separate ways. Straightforward communication.