Last Monday I had to turn over the keys to my rocket cart and put the ankle to the test, which I must say was bittersweet. I finally got over the humiliation of driving the cart everywhere and started to enjoy the convenience, the thrill of driving, and appreciated resting the ankle. On the other hand, without the cart I was happy not to be as handicapped by the ankle and enjoyed my newfound ability to walk places and ride a horse.
The paradigm for the first few days of the program last week comprised of: checking out a sustainability issue up close and personal in the morning, lecture with the professor at the Arava Institute of that field in the afternoon, followed by a variety of eating, napping, hanging at the pool, and reading. The issue lineup was archaeology, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy.
Accordingly, Sunday began with an early morning field trip to an ancient farming archaeological site. My dreams of becoming the next Indiana Jones and tearing it up in the field of archaeology were pretty short-lived in my adult life, lasting only for a few months during freshmen year. I got to revisit the field of archaeology and my old dream a little on this trip and full disclosure: the climbing down a tunnel into a system of underground water tunnels was intriguing and it was a great opportunity to marvel at ancient technologies and water management methods. What I was less intrigued by, however, was a three-hour lecture with a number of slides of local ancient art that contained phallic or vulva depictions. How much have people really changed from then to now?
For sustainable agriculture we got to check out Ketura’s experimental orchards. The key question/objective of the kibbutz’s efforts out in the orchards: can we find a sustainable way of doing permaculture here? Any answer to this question needs to address the Negev’s biggest constraint—water.
Our orchards tour started with one of the kibbutz’s oldest and biggest industries: date palms. Other highlights included seeing the revival of biblical plants like frankincense and myrrh (sorry no gold plant!) and argan trees. This tree is worth mentioning because first it’s in my shampoo, and second, it grows naturally only in Morocco and is they type of tree that the goats are famous for climbing and hanging out in. Argan trees can survive with very small amounts of water, has delicious oil, and can be used for a variety of purposes including medicinal and cosmetics. Morocco seems to follow me everywhere.
Our renewable energy-dedicated day included a tour of the Arava Institute’s renewable energy experiments—a tour we had previously received the week before but this time with much more in depth and interesting information. The theme of the day was Carbon-Free Energy Future. One of the projects going on here is developing a way to tap in to hydrogen power through oxidation.
Overall, last week was a blend of hands-on learning and lectures. You can’t beat learning outside and using your hands, but the value of the lectures lied in giving a more academic presentation and putting things into perspective. The two teaching methods together proved a very interesting learning experience and was a refreshing way to shake things up. After all, that was a large part of the draw in coming here.