Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rolling in the Deep

Salaam! I’m back in Jerusalem now wrapping up the final 6 weeks of the program after last week’s amaaaaazing trip to Jordan! There’s so so much to share about the trip so I’ll stick to highlights for now…

For months now I’ve been writing and thinking about those “other” and “normal” themes. I’ve been noticing how so much of what I think of as so “other” from me I actually experience to be far more “normal” than I thought I would, once I get up close and personal with it. Such was the case in Jordan, an Arab country. For example, our first day there we stayed at an Eco-Friendly guest house and going on a hike with several Jordanians and an Egyptian. So, there we are, wandering the wilderness walking side by side as Jews, Israelis, and Arabs. In the conversation we shared, which was just like any conversation I’d have with friends at home, I was so moved by how much more we had in common and our collective enthusiasm around that. On the flip side, it saddens me to think how on an individual basis none of us really know each other but so frequently hear members of our nations speaking of the other with so much hate. It’s understood, it’s complicated, it’s sad, and yet it’s still so hopeful.

Speaking of “normal…” Despite the peace treaty, there’s nothing much really normal about the relationship between Israel and Jordan. As such, our security measures required us to refrain from speaking Hebrew, not tell anyone we were a group from Israel, our Israeli members were asked by our leadership to lie about their nationality, and it was definitely not a smart move to engage in political conversation about the Middle East, even with each other, in public. The relationship between Jordan and Israel reminded me of middle school friendships. It was like Jordan was a part of the popular crowd, which hated that loser Israel, but Jordan was the nice one in the group and willing to quietly befriend Israel as long as Israel didn’t show too much enthusiasm or speak too loudly about the friendship. Understanding that this relationship is complex, I don’t illustrate this analogy to criticize it, rather just highlight my critical thinking about it. Really, I mean that.

So, the food. Really? It was ridiculous. Best hummus I’ve ever had in my life. Probably the most hummus I’ve ever had in my life, too. The tahina was prepared differently with water, yogurt, and onions mixed in (I will be living off that when I get home), the falafel was super tasty too, and generally, I’d say we all ate pretty well :) Ah, and perhaps one of the most memorable moments out at lunch was in Petra when the waiter offered 500 camels for me to be his wife. Well, it was only 13 years ago when my family was offered about 25 for me so if there were no other indicators to prove I'm moving up in the world at least now we have one.

There’s so much more I want to share about some of our visits, but, we were actually told we’re not able to release any information about any of the individuals we met with because several of them could be at risk of losing their jobs if it’s known that they met with a group from Israel. How bout that? So… those good stories will have to wait til I get home and can tell ya’ll in person.

Finally, the last day Phil, Rachel, Gabe, Amy, and I stayed on for a day trip to Petra. It was so so much fun! I have to say though, I still think it has nothing on Hampi given that Petra has so many tourists, is so expensive, and is also so big that it lacks the intimate environment Hampi has, but still it was worth every penny and every minute spent there. The whole trail is 3.5 km and we made it all the way there and back over the span of a full day. There were lots of laughs, mini adventures, and lots of climbing along the way.

Well, I could talk for hours about the Jordan trip and how much I loved it but I think some is best saved for my return home. In the meanwhile stay tuned for the final 1 or 2 blog posts from my year overseas adventure!

Much love,

P.S. I almost forgot one of the most exciting parts about the trip was how much of my Arabic came back! I also learned a few additional fun words and phrases: Zaki is what you say to express the food that you're eating is good, Al HaKefak (also used as slang in Israel) means as you like/wish/so desire/etc., mumtaz means perfect, and finally itcharrafna means nice to meet you :)
P.P.S. Pix aren't uploading so check out my album on facebook and also see the pix I'm tagged in on Amy Milin's album.

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