First Work Week!

After a long weekend and a brief party celebration of Purim on a rooftop in Haifa, our first week of practicum began in Akko! We got our hands dirty working on pointing the Ottoman aqueduct and Khan el-Shwarda, had some serious reading regarding the philosophy of conservation, and began our first practical project on the International Conservation Center! Also, we finally got internet in our apartments today! Woo hoo! Now I can finally catch me up on some Walking Dead! Let's check out some photos, shall we?

I do not have any images of us actually working on the aqueduct. I was silly and didn't think about snatching my camera out of my bag. I was too excited to dig in! We mixed together lime mortar and set to work cleaning out the dirt and growth from the sides of the walls. Then we dug in, trowels and spatulas in hand, and filled in the missing mortar! We were severely short on tools and mortar so we ended up having to share tools. Turns out sharing tools can actually bring folks closer together and teaches some good team work when people are willing!

Here are some images from Khan el-Shwarda. A khan is an Ottoman inn. There would be a central courtyard and the bottom level would be designated for the animals and shops. Then there would be an upper story for people to spend the night. There are three khans in Akko, all in pretty bad condition. We were the first people this season to set to work on el-Shwarda! We're pretty much renewing the work from a couple years ago. I will show you some of the work done to the khan before and images of what we were doing this week!

Vaulted ceiling 
Here is part of the khan that has already been restored. They stabilized the pillars because the outside were starting to pull away from the inside. Notice that they had to do some extensive amounts of filling in along the crack in the vault where the two walls were separating. They also used beams to support the two sides of the vault.

Here's Yvonne chipping away at a particularly difficult piece of concrete mortar!
So here's how things start. During the British Mandate, the Brits thought concrete was an excellent choice for refilling (pointing) the mortar between the stones, which are made of sandstone. Unfortunately, the harder concrete actually prevented water from escaping out of the mortar and instead the water decided to wash out the stones themselves. The new preservation plan is to remove the concrete mortar and replace it with lime mortar, which is softer than the sandstone and cheaper to replace. This way the water will instead run through the mortar.

Courtney took a good crack it all too. Actually, we all took turns chipping out the concrete with a chisel and hammer!
Michael was our professional water cleaner guy. That's the official title, by the way. ha!
Once the concrete is removed, we use pressurized water to wash out the dirt and moisten the stones. By wetting the stones, the mortar is more likely to stick to the stones and slows down its setting process. 

Mikhail is peeking out behind the pillar...
 Yay! Clean! The bottom course of stones was repointed some time in the near past and the upper course still has the British concrete. The center course is where we removed the icky concrete! 

Rikka is having some fun pointing!
Then comes the next fun part: filling in the mortar! Notice the blue tubing. When the pillars were built, the stones only formed an outside structure and inside was open. They would fill in the open area, which actually made the pillar stronger. So when we remove the concrete, sometimes we'll see that no original mortar remains further back and only a completely empty space remains. When we find this, a tube is placed in the hole and mortared around. They will do this on each side of the pillar at each course of stone, or at least every other course. After the entire pillar is repointed, they will pump water into the pillar to clean out all the dirt, remove the tubing, and fill in the holes.

Once we finish pointing the stones, we take a brush and stipple the mortar. Not only is this pleasing and looks more "authentic", it also aerates the mortar more and allows for extra areas for the water to seep in, further encouraging the water to wash away the mortar rather than the sandstone.

Ah, a beautiful finished project!
This same day we were given our practical exercise for the ICC building. It's set in an Ottoman rebuild on top of a Crusader ruin that was reused as hostel, another floor added on, and then purchased, abandoned, and repurchased before the Old Acre Development Company got a hold of it and reappropriated it as the headquarters for the International Conservation Center! Part of its purpose is to be used as a teaching laboratory for its students, so we were each given a part of the building that has some serious issues or special interests! I have been given a section affectionately referred to as "Shelley's corner", because it just so happens to be the area hovering over the director's head in the offices. It is looking like everyone's projects have a single point of issue: water damage, most likely coming from the roof! We are all so excited to get into the projects! We did an initial survey of the damage this week and outlined a basic conservation plan! Over the next few weeks we will be adding to our plan and will then execute the plan in the months to come.

Lastly, I'd like to update a new recruit to our little program. His name is Nutters and he followed someone home one day.

King in da castle!
For some reason he really likes our bathroom...
...and sitting on laps and playing!
We've decided to adopt him and our landlord, Nizar, is absolutely thrilled. He told us how he had a cat when he was growing up and seemed excited to have a little kitty running around again in his home. Yvonne doesn't much care for a dirty cat in the house, but he is an adorable little tyke!

For the future, we all have some serious questions to ask ourselves in our relationship to conservation. Allow me to lay them out for you all here. I came up with these while writing up our first weekly abstract. Everyone will take it in turns to do this, and I was the lucky one to draw first straw. Fantastically, Shelley loved my abstract, so I am confident in sharing my conclusions with you all here now:

How do we decide what is significant enough to be conserved? Where is the balance between conservation and restoration? What is too much and what is not enough? How do we preserve, or should we preserve, the past without implanting our own modern concepts into the original meaning? How can we even know what the original meaning was? These, and questions that will arise in the future, are the building blocks to creating our own personal relationship with conservation.


Our Home and Our First Field Trip!

We’re all pretty much settled in in Akko right now! Our house is still being renovated, but our landlord, Nizar, is a wonderful man and is working very hard to get everything organized. Below are some photos of what is already finished. I’m leaving out images of our balcony since everything is scattered out there to clear space for us. Here are a few images:

We have fish!

Our den mother, Ella, hung up some herbs from her garden for us!

The hill on the other side of the bay is the city of Haifa!

Fully stocked kitchen!

So much character

The sculpture shop below us.

This view will never get old.

The ruins of the Templar castle on the port.

The girls' bathroom! We also have a washing machine!

My room that I share with Yvonne, from Ireland!

Whenever Nizar finds something nice to hang up, he does.

After a week of introductions to all the important people of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the Old Akko Development Company, the Italian Embassy, and a slew of other people, we went up to visit the northern border with Lebanon! This was my third trip up to the boarder, but my first time down to the sea caves!

They had a kitschy video about the legend of a woman who was going from the Akko area up towards Beirut somewhere who was forced to marry a man against her will. When she reached this area with the sea caves, she jumped from her horse and threw herself into the sea and was never seen again. The video went on to play the sounds of a woman softly singing while showing images of the waves caressing the rocks and filling the sea caves. Haha. The sites were amazing, though. There was flint imbedded in the rock, and the rock itself was a gorgeous, pure white sandstone.

The Border!

View from the border, looking south along the Mediterranean coast.

The shortest and steepest cable car in the world, apparently. It was scary...

Caves, so pretty...

Here are two of our program leaders: Alison (left) and Ornit (right)

Fossils and flint!

Man, I forget what these little guys are called, but they're like groundhogs but are actually distantly related to elephants. Bizarre...

These are a protected winter flower in Israel. At one point there were rarely seen but now they're everywhere! So pretty...

We had Shabbat dinner with some local families Friday night and it was so amazing! The families were so warm and welcoming and willing to do anything for us. They of course invited us to come any time. The specific family I went to visit had three children and the eldest was married and had three children of her own. She had all boys and they all got wonderful noisy presents for Purim! Haha.

Sunday is Purim, a unique celebration in Judaism. It’s kind of like Halloween. The people read the scroll of Esther and participate in the “blotting out” of the name of Haman, the Persian king’s right-hand man who wanted to exterminate the Jews, but Esther stops him. They do this with noisemakers and they dress up in costumes, probably traditionally as the opposite gender, to show that outcomes can be the opposite of what you expect, just like in the story of Esther. We’re going to a secular Purim Party Sunday night and I am so excited! It’ll be fun!

Monday is the start of our classes and workshops and I absolutely cannot wait! All our introductions got me so excited to get started, and especially to start getting involved with the community. So many changes have happened to this city only in the past 5-9 years to rebuild it and get the community involved in the history of where they live. The city is just too amazing to put into words, but I hope to share with you all what I learn and the experiences that are to come!

Also, it may seem like I am posting a lot, but please don't expect this many! Once I get used to a schedule, I think I will pick specific days to post about the week.


Athens Part II: The apartment, the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, and wanderings

Alright, things are busy already in Akko! I know I promised to update more often, and with more pictures, and I WILL! However, at the moment, our accommodations are still being fixed up (in fact, we put some finishing touches on another room today, success!) and one of the workers broke our internet. Instead, we have to all march down to a lovely local restaurant, called Beit Maha, that offers WiFi.

Ok, now it's time to backtrack to Greece again! First, I will show you some pictures of our room in Athens, then the Acropolis, the ancient agora, some side tracks, and the olympic stadium. In my next post I will tell you all about the idyllic Santorini, so be on the lookout!

Our host was an artist with a shop near the Acropolis, so her home had a unique touch!

Our walk up to the Acropolis, and the Dionysis Theatre (complete with a single spectator!)

Walking up to the Acropolis, surrounded by gardens.

Little ducky watching the show at the Dionysis Theatre

No celebration for Dionysis is complete without wine!

Western Entrance to the Acropolis

Yea, so what? My face looks ridiculous! I was excited about the Parthenon!

Reconstruction work!

Old Temple of Athena

Cats of the Acropolis! This one looks like Fatty!

It's a Greek cat! These suckers were everywhere, and adorable!

The old and new temple.

Church of the Apostles in the ancient Agora.

The Agora was the main entrance into the ancient city of Athens and would have had shops, bathhouses, small temples, things like that.

The Stoa

“The Palace of the Giants”!

Temple of Hephaistos

This dog followed us from Hephaistos

We thought we were going to the Temple of Zeus and stumbled across this creepy place:

Turns out we found the sanctuary of the muses….

This dog followed us up there…

There was awesome graffiti up there.

Then we really found the Temple of Zeus.

Hadrian's Arch

Temple of Zeus
 The Temple of Zeus was built, rebuilt, and added to for something like 1000 years before it was completed by Hadrian, I believe. This this is massive! I'm standing way at the bottom of the photo and you can barely see me!

The Stadium! This was where the first international Olympic marathon ended. That first race was won by a Greek! This also happens to be the location of an ancient stadium. The first phase did not have stepped seats, but rather was grassy and the people sat on the ground. Then when the Romans conquered, they added the classic Roman stepped seats.

At the end of the entrance of the athletes was a small display of all the Olympic torches and official posters for every Olympiad since they were reinstated.

At the end of the day, we decided to go see the Acropolis lit up at night. It was beautiful!

Well, that is all for now, because things are crazy busy and the lack of internet in our house is making it difficult to update.

Next update will cover Santorini!