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Thursday, June 14, 2007

new roads traveled

Yes, yes. I hate to admit it, but the month of may has passed without a single update, but I would like to inform you all, warmly, that my sun still shines, the beautiful beaches of Israel are still golden, life is still beautiful, and I am perfectly happy sitting down at this small cafe in downtown Tel Aviv finally finding the time to tell you all this:
That we never stop learning, never stop growing, and I'm sure that we never stop having fun. I also heard today from a very dear friend that we never stop fighting the same battles and that the world will challenge us every day. But it is how we approach the challenge that defines who we are and what we will become. Well, I am not only experiencing that now myself, as I try to travel around the world with hopes of understanding the way it turns, and the creation which lives upon it, but am also experiencing it through others. Surrounding Israel, Gaza and Lebanon are both in civil war and I find that at this point in the sentence I have not much to say except this: Same story, same problem: the religious have chosen war over love and acceptance. Is it that simple? No, not really, but the Miss America "world peace", I think, still stands a chance in this world if we open our hearts to a different flavor of living.
But, dispite that, it is from my own experiences that I have learned the most, and for your personal enjoyment, I shall recall a few of my own learning experiences from the last month.
1. If you dont study until exam period, you have to study a lot more then.
2. Dont try to pass someone on the sidewalk if there is no room to pass them, unless you dont mind tripping, and flailing your arms down the street trying to keep from actually face-planting on the cement.
3. Energy drinks...they do give you energy...caution: only use when absoultely necessary (see number 1)
4. Don't assume that crossing from Israel to Egypt is like crossing from Washington to Idaho...some borders may be a little bit less relaxed than others.
5. (as stated previously) mapa and carta are the two most universal words in the world, and can be helpful.
6. If you use your laptop procrastinating on email and talking to friends, you may not have enough battery to finish your homework.
7. When you're closer to the equator and it's really hot outside...those are both good signs that sunscreen is a good idea.
8. Dont leave your aloe vera on your bed in a hostel. Someone may have learned lesson 7 the same day and be a little bit greedy...
9. Make friends with internationals. When you can have dinner with 5 people, and througout the meal, speak English, Hebrew, Danish, Swedish, French, and German, then you can trust it's been a good time.
10. Make sure you sit on the correct side of the street when waiting for the bus.
11. In some parts of the world, ice cream has a tendency to melt faster than others. Beware, even your favorite pair of jeans may be in danger.
12. Even though it's annoying when Israeli's always say "it will all be okay," and dont actually answer your question, things usually do turn out okay.
13. Sushi is delicious, and if you've avoided it for 19 years, you dont know what you're missing.
14. Reminder: Parents are incredible.
15. Never stop asking questions until you know all of the answers.
16. You wont ever know all of the answers.
17. Take advantage of other people's mothers, you can never have too many moms, and they are all amazing. (You know who you are)
18. The simplest email or phone call can make someones whole day, and only take a few moments.
19. Bitterness never accomplishes anything.
20. Learn from others' experiences, someone might have walked in your shoes at some point.

When I last wrote I had just returned from my trip to Europe, which was incredible. If you haven't yet read of the amazing adventures of Aaron, David, and Gretchen, then please help yourself to the previous update, if you would like. After returning home, I soon came to revelation number 1 (see above), which has played a significant role in my absence from the blog. The following 6 weeks were spent with my nose in the books, sometimes literally, often followed by a nice shape of wrinkled pages or a spiral notebook spine gently indented onto my face. My parents can testify that I spent many nights stressed about the amount of work to come. But here I am, alive, and well (except for this nasty sunburn), with another semester done: I made it, and am now onto my third year of college. I can hardly believe how fast my life is flashing before my eyes, so filled with blessing.
If you have been keeping up with all of my updates you will remember my initial response to the not-so-clean room, with the naked white walls just begging me to plaster them with color. Shortly after returning from Europe, David and I visited our friendly neighborhood Office Depot and proceeded to hang up all of our maps from the trip on the walls and hung a large Israel flag under the lamp to impede its brightness. Finally, we had a home! And, in light of this new beginning, we officially named our map room "The Cartorium." Sounds cool eh? Sometimes, depending on your mood, it's nice to enter a place with a name that is yours, let me explain. If you're in a mysterious mood you can invite someone saying: "Hey, you wanna come into my...lair." Or, in other cases, it could be deemed the "land of fun" for more light-hearted experiences. But, The Cartorium has no choice but to highlight our extravagant knowledge, amazing study habits (of course we dont procrastinate ;), and of course, our well traveled high-society life style :) (take this all with a large grain of salt, please, perhaps even a salt lick)....needless to say, we were proud to finally enjoy our home, though it was short lived.
On the week of May 28, I turned in one 17 page paper, took three engineering exams in three days, and followed up with a paper asking us to write about all of the wars of Israel between 1948 and 1982 in 5 pages...yes, I am complaining because the paper was too short! Imagine that!
But the time has finally come, that I am a free man in Israel, yes, a tourist, and can enjoy the splendors of it without thinking a single thought about work, alas, my terrible sunburn (I dont recommend sleeping on the beach).
The only interruption to these 6 weeks of intensive studying was a nice trip to the North with the overseas student program including some beautiful hikes, and some time to reconvene with friends who I had not seen since the studies began.
But that day finally came, June 7th, when my studies were finally over.
As a few of you may have figured out, I like to travel.
What I also like, is to be visited, and to travel with friends and family.
Well, God has chosen once again to give me a little blessing.
My beautiful sister Emily and friend Joy arrived on May 22 and did their best not to distract me through finals. Since then, they have been traveling around Israel with me, and most recently went to Jordan. We traveled around the North of Israel in a rental car and saw many of the sights that we had read so much about growing up in Sunday school.
On Monday morning they left me on my own in Tel Aviv to spend a final week with my friends, and have been in Jordan and south Israel. Today they depart for Egypt. Tomorrow, another beauty in life awaits: my amazing parents are making yet another pilgrimage of sorts....a pilgrimage to visit one of their children across the globe. Soon after their arrival we will also travel to Cairo by bus, to meet with Emily and Joy (I did prearrange the visas, dont worry). In fact, at this point my parents are saying goodbye to civilization for the next 48 hours to be sitting on planes, busses, trams, and taxis to make their way, 10 time zones, to Tel Aviv. I can hardly wait.
So this is my life right now. I'm still in the same coffee shop, having spent a nice week with friends, but also some wonderful time alone. There is jazz music playing across the street, my parents arrive to see me tomorrow afternoon, and my sunburn is slowly making its way to a nice base tan :). I am content. Life has so much to offer each of us in it's own special ways.
In case you are curious about the less "update-ish" part of my life:
Perhaps, for me, I could attempt to write what I think life is offering me right now, a set of goals, per se: this is what is on my mind:
1. Live, love, learn.
2. Study next spring in Singapore.
3. Write the perfect song for Rachael and Tim's wedding.
4. Bargain for a cheap taxi from the airport tomorrow (and impress my parents with my new found Hebrew skills)
5. Decide whether or not to go to Dubai in three weeks.
6. See my beautiful Grandmothers and Granddad soon after I get home.
7. Find a job in Moscow, and pick between jobs in Boston.
8. Learn to be more open to other people's views.
9. Be more forgiving.
10. Remember how important people are, yes, even more important than my schedule for the day.
11. Do laundry (yes, that ice cream stain on my pants...its gotta go)
12. Ask for my bill from the waiter without him realizing that I'm not a non-native speaker.
13. Go hang gliding and skydiving.
14. Enjoy every moment for what it is, and spend life making the most of it.

Good luck.