Friday, December 08, 2017

Trip to the Dead Sea

Every year, the company for which I work holds a 'fun day': all employees are transported to a site - normally a country club or a coastal result - for a day (or at least, several hours) of relaxation, mixed with a short speech by the CEO and the awarding of 'Employer of the year' certificates (along with a 500 NIS bonus). One year we went rafting on the River Jordan, twice we went paddling in the Mediterranean. I get the feeling that I've never written about these events, probably because there isn't much to write about them (even though last year I was one of the employees of the year). I often have mixed feelings about these events; even though I know more employees than most (because I travel between all four company sites in Israel), I work with no one closely and so am not friends with anyone. My introverted nature doesn't help much either.

This day is normally in or around September, when it's still very hot but after most employees have had their annual holiday. This year, September came and went with no mention of the fun day; I was wondering whether it had been cancelled when we were informed that we would be traveling to the Dead Sea in December. Not only to the Dead Sea: we would travel on a Thursday, stay overnight in a hotel and return the following day. Those that can do the arithmetic will have realised by now that I came back from the Dead Sea today.

I know that I visited the Dead Sea in (or around) 1992: a day trip for the company (before the merger, when everyone worked in the factory situated in the kibbutz, so a day trip was possible). I'm fairly sure that we visited the area in the mid 1980s, although I'm not sure whether we actually stopped by the sea itself. I cannot recall for the life of me whether I visited the Dead Sea in the summer of 1972 or during my gap year (1973-4);  I imagine that we did as it's not far from Masada and I definitely remember visiting there twice.

Employees from my home factory were the first to arrive yesterday at about 10am, not surprising as we had the shortest distance to travel (about 1.5 hours). After an hour, the coach from Tel Aviv arrived and finally one from Karmiel in the far north. The coach from Haifa had broken down and the people traveling in it arrived only at around 3pm. This delay caused the postponement of the CEO and awards from 11am to 5pm. We would receive the cards to our rooms only at 3pm, which prevented us from certain activities. One person organised a trip by jeep to a nearby historical site, but knowing how much I 'enjoy' riding in a jeep (see our trip to Hersonissos), I passed on this opportunity.

After lunch (fish and rice) in the restaurant, I went for a walk on the promenade, where I took the pictures accompanying this blog entry (I look a bit worried on the left as this is the first time I've ever taken a selfie). Then I went to lie down by the swimming pool for an hour, falling asleep and only awakening a few minutes before 3pm. Once I had the card to my room, I could change clothes and put on my swimming costume. First I swam a few lengths in the hotel pool (it was warmer in the water than out of the pool) and then went to the sea (which was only about 20m from the hotel).

I waded into the water (which was slightly on the cold side) but wondered how I could lie down. There was a metal framework to my side, so I walked over to it, held on and let my legs float up. I was floating on my back in an instant. I drifted around for a few minutes, but realised that I was very tense, so I decided to come out. It was very hard to get from a prone position on my back to having my legs back on the sea floor! A bit of kicking and acrobatics, and I could walk. The sea left a silky feeling on my skin (the Hebrew word normally translates as oily or greasy, but that doesn't really describe the feeling) so naturally I had to shower in my room.

After a cup of tea and some reading, I went to the company meeting, which finished shortly before dinner. After another meal of fish (sea bass fillets), I went for a walk around the hotel area and discovered a row of tatty shops. Coming back, I spend some time in the hotel lobby, talking with my colleagues, then went to bed.

This morning I woke at 6:15, and as silently as possible, got dressed then walked briskly for half an hour on the promenade. By this time, it was possible to have breakfast: I was one of the first people in. After a long breakfast including several cups of tea and chocolate milk, I waited in the lobby until I saw my room-mate; I hadn't wanted to go to the room and make noise, if he were still asleep. Again I changed into my swimming costume then went to the hotel spa: they have a pool which is filled with warm (37 degrees) Dead Sea water - I needn't have bothered going into the sea the day before. This pool is the closest one can get in terms of  'returning to the womb'; I held on to the bar running alongside the pool edge, lifted my legs - and straight away I was floating on my back.

I stayed in the pool for about 25 minutes, which were very relaxing, but this turned out to be a mistake: one shouldn't stay in the pool for more than 15 minutes. After showering and packing, I went down to sit in the lobby; by this time, I was feeling very washed out, which I attribute to my long stay in the pool. Shortly afterwards came the coaches, and by 12pm, I was home. This was definitely the most enjoyable 'fun day' that my company has held.

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