Today was incredible.
Those two spaces are for intensity and to symbolize some sort of a cliff hanger, but just to leave you hanging a little longer, I will write of Jerusalem in the next paragraph. I've received numerous emails asking what I'm doing in Tel Aviv, which, I guess, merits a little bit of explanation besides "school." Tel Aviv University has around 200 overseas students this semester, 196 of whom are in a regular study abroad program like anywhere else. For the first year, Boston University (yay BU) is pioneering it's third engineering-specific study abroad program (the first two in Dresden, Germany and Guadalajara, Mexico) allowing engineers to go abroad while not losing ground on the rigorous engineering requirements. So, there are four students from BU in the program, which may prove to be a little awkward when there are four students to a professor, but I am looking forward to the new experience. None of us know hebrew, though some of the other overseas students have various skill levels. We spend the first month in Hebrew school (Ulpan) and then begin engineering in late February. I really hope that my time in "level 0" hebrew will push me to a usable ability by the time that I leave. So, that is why I am here :).
Now, on to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem invoked an interesting feeling. It's filled with walls. I first felt a great sense of excitement, but as the initial excitement wore off, I was looking at a world of division. Jerusalem is a place of sadness and hope. Being a center of so many religious beliefs, it seems like it should be a place of joy, but unfortunately, it is not. And i was thinking about how in religion, it is truly the pursuit of happiness through a god and a peace of mind that we all seek by having an answer for life's most unanswered questions. A place that is based upon faith is so dominated by fear rather than peace, hatred instead of love. I am reminded of a verse in the bible that says that these three: faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest is love. What I saw was hope and faith. Jerusalem is a city of hope, but not of love. A city of faith, but not of peace. The most important element, not only to religion, but to our world is love and my goal is to infuse just a small portion of love into my world, so that somehow I can make a positive difference in the healing of hatred and anger through my love.
On a more, travel-junkie kind of note, for those that are interested in my less philosophical diatribes, what I loved about Jerusalem was white. The city is made with Jerusalem stone so every wall is made of a light sandy colored stone making the city look so beautiful and clean. We spent most of the day in the old city walking through all but the muslim quarter of the city which I plan to see later. The church of the holy sepulchre was quite the place to visit. It felt very spiritual yet, being in a group of students almost completely Jewish, it was difficult to take seriously. I was glad though, to be able to see these places of such important religious meaning. For me, I was awestruck to see those places, but it still is faith which makes me believe what I do, and so the places functioned as a sort of reminder and made me very thoughtful. I hope that when I return to Jerusalem I can see these places in a less tour oriented way and really grasp a more complete and meaningful picture of what it all means. We also went to the wailing wall, which, though a Jewish icon, was the most meaningful location to me. To see true passion really stirred my heart. The tears which have been shed on that wall are so visible in the faces and spirits of those who were there. Pretty amazing place. We also drove to a few lookout points to get good pictures and give a more complete view of how the city is set and historically how it has grown. We spent a while at one spot looking down from a jewish village, which, for years, was only a spot of shooting and death. A wall now protects the village from their arab neighbors. From the same point we saw the end of "the wall" separating Israel from Palestine. It is not yet finished and ends in the outskirts of Jerusalem and is followed by a fence. These walls which cover the city all represent some sort of division. It is a beautiful and divided city.
Jerusalem was last Wednesday. Today is Sunday. I've spent a few days at the beach on the beautiful mediterranean. I cannot complain :). I've also been exploring various parts of Tel Aviv and Jaffa and am growing to love Israel more and more each day. This is truly an amazing country. Today was my first day of Hebrew. It was hard, but I am also very excited about beginning to learn. Perhaps I'll have some fun things to say to you all when I return home.
For those of you who want to chat, I'll have internet sometime soon in my room, I hope :).
For the first night in over a month I can honestly say I need to go study.
This update was very difficult to write as the feelings I felt in Jerusalem were very hard to explain, but I trust that a portion of what this place means has been passed on from me to you.
I hope all is well with all of you. Thanks for reading!
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Today was incredible.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Hello and welcome to the second episode.
I arrived in Tel Aviv around 2 in the morning on Monday, only to have to sit in the airport for 6 hours until a decent time to arrive on campus. Thankfully, free wireless internet saw me through and I made it to the end of my journey: a slightly messy and uncleaned apartment that has already offered me some charm which I can call "home." It's white dirty walls and paper-thin mattress', cold water and no heating only fade away as the beautiful mediterranean sunlight floods in the window and the sounds of the school children nearby are welcomed into my ears. There's more to life than marbled bathrooms and clean porcelain toilet bowls. There's the palm trees that greet my every glance down my street. There's the man who barely speaks english in the kabob shop who takes such delight in being able to use his few licks of broken english, and there's the open-air markets which, through my travels, I've come to love so much. I can say life has offered me a lot. I am so glad to be here and to begin making "home" of this place. Orientation was today as well as a hebrew placement exam, which, I'll be honest, would have placed me in the 0- group if it existed, but alas, the 0 group shall be my home. I have become friends with the local supermarket and have become accustomed to multiple stares as, instead of reading labels, I am forced to peer into the small clear openings inside of containers to determine the contents of the packages on the shelves. Yay for pictures eh? Our apartment is now furnished with a shower curtain, mat, 2 bowls, and 2 cups thanks to the trip to the market, and my most favorite purchase, a blanket. Thanks to my wonderful sister, I have a sleep sack with me to use as sheets which she got in Africa. What I failed to recognize was that, though I am in a palm tree infested environment, it still is winter. Needless to say, my first night in Tel Aviv was spent cuddling into a small ball wrapped in warm pj's and a sweatshirt trying my hardest to keep my eyes shut (jet lag may perhaps play into this equation as well). All of these things said, I must say that I am so glad to be here. Every place has its ups and downs and I am glad to take warmth in the good things surrounding me. I am delighted to enjoy the differences in this culture and begin to immerse myself into a new world of which I know nothing. Hopefully my Hebrew will begin to be useful and my ability to interact with this amazing place will be greatly increased.
Tomorrow I am taking a day trip to Jerusalem led by our counselors which is very exciting and we start our Ulpan (Hebrew school) on Sunday (the beginning of the week).
I promise not to send updates so often that they get boring, but I thought many of you would be curious as to how the first day went with all of its new changes.
If you have made it this far, thanks for your interest and I hope that you continue reading as I continue writing this "email story."
Here's some info for those who are interested, if you recall, in the last email cookies were mentioned :)
I currently have to go to coffee shops for internet, but soon will have it in my room for those of you who want to talk to me online (msn, aim, skype), but if you have that burning deep inside of you to give me a call, here's the scoop:
If you want to call, phone cards are probably the best way to go. I've used pennytalk in the past, and it works quite well. It's about 13c a minute to call me and likewise for me to call the US. So, skype is great, but it's good just to talk to someone every now and again :).
This is my number, complete with country codes and all:
The School for Overseas Students
Tel Aviv University, Carter Building
Ramat Aviv 69978, Tel Aviv, Israel
I hope all is well!
Posted by Aaron at 8:01 PM
Sunday, January 21, 2007
I'd like to welcome you all to the story of Aaron Seaman's life :) as I stroll across the world. I'm sending this to people I thought and hoped would be interested, so if you're not interested in receiving my updates, or know some people who might want to, let me know so I can edit my mailing list. If you want this sent to a different address you can tell me that as well.
After a trip to France to visit Emily, a trip to Nepal and southeast Asia to teach, and another trek across Europe, I am officially on my fourth voyage overseas.
I'm currently sitting in a botanical garden and city library in the center or Warsaw, Poland. After almost missing my flight out of Spokane, WA and a long six-hour layover in Chicago I have arrived. As most of you know, my final destination is Tel Aviv, Israel for school, and no, I am not lost in the middle of Poland. I was fortunate enough to have a 12-hour layover in Warsaw, or as the locals spell it, "Warzawa" and am here from 9am to 9pm, how convenient! So, now I can officially add Poland to my list of countries I've visited, and countries I'd like to visit again. In about an hour I'll be embarking on a city tour in order to get a quick glance at Warsaw, Poland, and world history.
I hope this email finds you all well. I'll be updating when I can. In the next update I will include a mailing address, in case you want to send me cookies, flowers, presents, and any other extravagances :), and a phone number.
I'll also try to be online when nearby to my computer at school in Tel Aviv.
Posted by Aaron at 7:34 PM